The Simple Life

by Tabitha Kidwell

Two years ago, I was basically trying to live two or three lives at once. I was teaching full time, coaching track, training for a marathon myself, going to grad school classes at night, studying for the M.A. exam, volunteering at church, and, oh yeah, trying to have some kind of a social life. I needed, like, 35 hours in a day. This is more or less how I spent most of my twenties, which is how I managed to run 4 marathons, earn a masters degree, and get nine years of teaching experience (in 6 different countries!) before my 30th birthday.

Now, I barely have enough activity to fill one life. I really only need like 16 hours in the day. My contract only requires me to teach 14 hours a week, and, through scheduling genius, my classes are only on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. I still do 3-4 workshops, conference presentations, or other special projects per month, but after 16 months here I can kinda go on auto-pilot for those and usually repurpose something I have put together in the past. I’m training for a marathon again, which is good since otherwise I would basically have no reason to wake up on the 4 mornings a week I don’t teach. Most days, I work out, go to campus to teach or just put in an appearance at the office, have lunch, go home and do “work” on my computer until about 6 PM, then watch Mad Men DVDs and get in bed to read by about 8:30. Out of compulsive devotion to “working hour” norms, I force myself to sit at my computer “working” most afternoons, but “work” could include any of the following: lesson planning, presentation preparation, report writing, job searching, e-mailing, travel planning, blogging, posting pictures, looking at my friend’s babies on Facebook, catching up on celebrity gossip, and watching cute cat videos on YouTube. The hours between 2-5 PM are some of those I would totally be willing to give up. I don’t really mind this life. It’s fairly stress free. My house stays clean and my laundry gets done, thanks to my housekeeper. My house is quiet and I cook and eat whenever and whatever I want (well, not whatever, given that red wine, kalamata olives, sea salt and vinegar chips, etc., are nowhere to be found). I sometimes turn down social invitations based on the contents of my fridge. Dinner Friday? Sorry, I have plans (AKA leftovers). I can’t let that expensive jar of pesto sauce go to waste, can I? At the moment, life is clean, neat, and easy. I always get 8 hours of sleep and I always finish my to-do list. I really enjoy the peace and solitude.

But something about it doesn’t really seem right. It seems a little like a descent into an obsessive compulsive focus on routine and order. This is the first step to becoming a hermit who lives in a cave or a lady who dies at home and gets eaten by her cats. This isn’t real life. Real life is coming home to a sink full of dishes, an overflowing trashcan, a lost TV remote, and an empty carton of milk in the fridge. Real life is staying too long at happy hour with your friends and having to meet your running group just a little bit hung over the next morning. Or a lot bit. Real life is going over to your cousin’s house to watch the season finale of The Bachelor only to find that your crazy Uncle Bob has erased it and you have to go over to your cray Aunt Noreen’s house to watch it (side note: the more stories I tell about my crazy Uncle Bob, the more I realize that everyone has a crazy Uncle Bob. But most don’t have a crazy Aunt Noreen too. I’m lucky like that). Real life is thinking you are going to spend a Saturday afternoon catching up on grad school reading until your sister comes home with a slip ‘n slide and you realize you have to host a cookout. Real life is thinking you are going to stay in for the evening but instead going to a party at your neighbors house, meeting a C-list celebrity, stealing a car, and waking up in Montreal dressed like Carmen Miranda. All of those actually happened to me! (Okay, not the last one, but I feel like it could have.) I feel like real life is on pause right now. The past two years have been relaxing, healthy, and a good chance to read The New Yorker every week. But I’m ready to get back to real life. Who knows what adventures await me? I’ll have to find that Carmen Miranda costume.

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