Archive for ‘Life in America’

July 31, 2014

Welcome to DC!

by Tabitha Kidwell

Tomorrow is move-in day! I seriously could not be more excited! I’m having elaborate fantasies about really banal things like hanging my clothes on hangers, putting food in the refrigerator, and closing the door to my own room. Since I closed up shop at 222 W 2nd Ave three years ago, I haven’t really had my own space. Yes, I had a sweet little house in Indonesia, but it always felt temporary. And, yes, my mom and step-dad have very generously let me live with them for months at a time, but most of my belongings were still in boxes at the back of their crawl space.

So I’m excited to unpack my belongings, but I’m excited for the abstract things, too. Since 2014 started, I haven’t been in the same place – like, sleeping in the same bed, leaving a toothbrush on the sink – for longer than 10 days at a time. In India, I was shuffling between the rural school and the volunteer house in the city. On the Camino, I was moving every day, with all my belongings on my back. And since I drove to DC on July 5th, I have been shuttling between friend’s houses, sleeping on couches and in guest rooms. (Thanks, guys!)

As you can imagine, this has started to wear on me. I felt a real urgency to get here and get settled – I could have stayed in Columbus this month, but I just wanted to be here, starting the life I’ll lead for the next 5 years. I looked at some apartments whose leases started immediately or on July 15th, but the one I ended up choosing didn’t start until August 1st, so I found myself in limbo for a few weeks. I wanted to put down roots but had nowhere to put them. I wanted to start a routine but didn’t really have anything to do. I found this really stressful and overwhelming, and I think I went through a bit of a depression. I had a week or two where everything I tried to do seemed insurmountable. I couldn’t imagine being able to grocery shop and cook for myself. I didn’t have the energy to go out running or even wake up before 10 AM. I just didn’t feel like myself. To make things worse, I went to the first meeting of my “research team” at UMD, coming into the half-finished research, and didn’t understand half of what we were talking about. I had a minor panic attack walking back to the metro that day, with the five long years of grad school looming impossibly before me. I thought I had been looking forward to the idea of staying in one place for awhile, but it suddenly seemed terrifying.

So I blew this popsicle stand, and that helped a lot. I took the megabus up to New York to throw a bachelorette party for my friend Claire, visit my friends Libby, Iris, and Kate, and go to a wedding in Jersey. After a week away with good friends, I felt really excited to come back to town. As we drove into the city, I realized “I live here now.” I felt like I was coming home. And after tomorrow, I will actually have a home! A home with no furniture*, but you’ve gotta start somewhere.

*correction: I just found a futon on the sidewalk with a “free” sign, so I think I’m pretty much set.

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May 18, 2014

Bucket list Bucketful

by Tabitha Kidwell

I write a lot of blogs while I’m running – it gives me the time to reflect and put my thoughts together. I often come home from a run and sit down at my computer, still sweating, so I can capture the words while they are fresh. I stopped running at the end of April because I had a twinge of plantar fasciitis that I wanted to let heal before doing the Camino de Santiago in Spain. So that is why I haven’t blogged for awhile.

Or maybe I just got busy.

Or lazy.

In any case, I’ve had an eventful month since my last blog about India. I have been to Kuala Lumpur, the Perhentian Islands (off of the Malaysian coast), Columbus, Chicago, Paris, Dijon, and Taizé. When I talked about my plans, people would always say things like “I’d love to go to India,” “One day I’ll learn to scuba dive,” “I’ve always wanted to go to Spain,” etc. It’s really not fair that I get to do it all at once. I’m like the fat kid at the bucket list buffet. Normal people spend most of their time looking forward to experiences like these (I know this because I have in the past been a normal person myself). I feel really blessed to have the life that I do, a life whose path seems to lead me to incredible experiences without very much effort on my own part.

I’m certainly not going to complain about this, but it has resulted in the strange predicament of looking forward to an exciting and unique experience while I was already in the midst of an experience that was exciting and unique in a completely different way. While I was leading English camps in Indonesia, I was excited to get to India. While in India, I couldn’t wait to get home. Once I got home, I spent all my time planning and shopping for the Camino de Santiago.

I learned a lot from each individual experience, but what I learned from having one after another was to stop putting any effort at all into wishing time would move faster. Time moves fast enough without our willing it forward. There are three parts of every experience: first, looking forward to it in the future; then actually living it; and then looking back on the memory. It’s beautiful when the experience is still ahead of you, when you can imagine how it will be in a million different ways. 999,999 of those possibilities disappear as soon as it happens, and then the happening is far too quick, and the memory far too faint. I hate that this is how time works, that it steals our present and seals it into the past while we are distracted by the possibilities of the future.

So, after a year with a lifetime’s worth of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I have learned to enjoy every moment for what it is, without nostalgia for the past or longing for the future. I’m not just talking about milestones, vacations, or dreams-come-true. Every moment, no matter how banal, is still once-in-a-lifetime. Sunday afternoon at the grocery store, the Tuesday morning commute, Friday evening happy hour – these might happen all the time, but each time is unique, and together, they are the building blocks of our lives. If we spend our time wishing for the next experience, we might end up with no more than a pile of bricks. By treasuring each brick as it comes, we can be sure to build something beautiful.

January 9, 2014

Six Months at Home

by Tabitha Kidwell

It’s hard for me to believe that the past six-months at home have already come and gone. I kept saying that this was the first time in my life I had “nothing to do” – i.e., no job or school to keep me occupied. As it began, I imagined it being a time of relaxation, soul searching, and afternoons spent with a cup of tea and a good book. I thought it would be a good opportunity to stop always “doing things” and learn just to be.

Well, that was a nice idea. I very quickly filled up the time with work, friends, family, yoga, and errands. My soul remains unsearched and many books unread. I often felt very busy even though I had total control over all my commitments. Though it wasn’t the relaxing time I had imagined, I think it was still a really beneficial period. I’m really glad I took the time to actually go visit grad schools; if I had applied to the schools I thought I wanted to go to a year ago, I would have ended up in completely wrong programs. I’m also glad I had time to devote to important relationships in my life: it was wonderful to spend a week withmy sister before her wedding, and I will always cherish all the time I got to spend with my Nana Bets. I even got to try my hand at business with Christmisc. I think I’ll stick with education, though selling ugly Christmas sweaters would probably be more lucrative.

And even though I was busy, I did have a lot of time to think, especially once I started spending a lot of time in the car popping from thrift store to thrift store in search of holiday garb. In the past, I might have spent that time thinking about my next lesson plan, troublesome students, papers I needed to write, or even just making my grocery list. Without all that, I had lots of space to just think about life. I spent a lot of time indulging my nostalgia. I thought about the hot summer nights spent sitting outside at Graeter’s in high school. I remembered how beautiful it was to walk around Miami’s campus in the autumn. I felt sad going back to the places I used to go when I lived in the Short North. I thought about ex-boyfriends and why things had gone wrong. I even contacted a couple of them just to see what would happen. Conventional wisdom would tell you that the impulse to call up an ex-boyfriend is best ignored, but I’m not about to start following conventional wisdom now. It was actually a really valuable experience. When we met up, I could see why I had been interested in them to begin with – I enjoyed their company, and really liked them as people. But it was clear to me that I didn’t want to see them again, that our relationship was in the past and belonged there. And I realized that was a good metaphor for all the things from my past that I found myself thinking about – it was lovely when it happened, it is a beautiful memory now, but it is gone. More than anything, I feel like I’ve spent the last six months tying up the loose strings of my life. I feel healed, whole, and ready for whatever the future will bring. Which I guess, in the end, is what I had hoped to achieve… even if I didn’t realize that’s where I was headed.

December 30, 2013

Where are you going?

by Tabitha Kidwell

The last three posts answered the common Indonesian question Dari mana? (Where have you been?). Now, I should probably answer the equally common question: Mau ke mana? (Where are you going?). These questions seemed odd to me when I first arrived Indonesia – why did people care so much about my comings and goings? But I eventually realized these are basically just small talk, and weren’t inherently odder than asking How are you? when you don’t actually care. These questions, being fairly straightforward, are actually also much simpler to answer.

Usually, that is. My future has been up in the air for the past few months until plans all finally fell into place a few weeks ago. I’ll be going to Indonesia for the month of January, helping to lead Access micro scholarship camps like I did last year. I’ll do the national camp in Jakarta, then head all the way to Manokwari(Papua), Ambon, and Kendari in Eastern Indonesia for three regional camps.

Then, I’ll head to Pune, India to volunteer with Deep Griha, which has had a long partnership with my church in Ohio. I’ll work with the teachers at their English medium school to improve their English teaching. How exactly I will do that is unclear as of yet, but I’ll figure it out when I get there. What I am imagining is leading sessions where teachers workshop their language lesson plans, with me helping by providing resources, activity ideas, and English correction as needed. If I find when I arrive that that would not be helpful whatsoever, I will make a new plan.

I’ll be in Pune for 10 weeks, then I’ll go to Kuala Lumpur to spectate for some friends doing a 70.3 triathlon. My friend Jessica and I will travel somewhere around that area, then I will fly home at the End of April. And then I will know where I am going to grad school, and I will move to wherever that is. I got accepted at Maryland, so the decision is between there and University of Michigan. The future is much more clear now, and I’m very excited for it to become the present!

December 9, 2013

Where Have you Been Part 3: Christmisc.

by Tabitha Kidwell

Probably the most exciting thing I have been doing recently is opening Christmisc., an ugly sweater pop-up shop. Actually, let me revise that. It’s probably the most exciting thing I have ever done. That’s saying a lot – If you’ve read the rest of this blog, you’ve seen how many exciting things I’ve done!

This all started with a conversation my friend Nate and I had back in August. Nate owns Pursuit, a men’s clothing store that specializes in selling slim-fit suits to college kids and young professionals. Nate is the best spotter of trends and opportunities I know, and he saw that young guys were going to Macy’s and Men’s Warehouse to buy the same poor-fitting, low-quality suits their dads and grandfathers buy. Pursuit filled that gap, and it is doing great in its third year. Having also noticed how hard it is to find ugly sweaters in thrift stores this time of year, Nate would stock up on trips home to Wisconsin in the summer. He sold them out of Pursuit the past two Christmases, and could barely keep them in stock!

So, last summer, Nate mentioned to me how he was too busy doing his actual job to get sweaters for this Christmas. I pointed out that I was unemployed and a great funny-clothing enthusiast, and a brilliant idea was born. I spent most of the autumn buying sweaters at thrift stores all over the place. Nate told the boss what’s what (not all that hard when you are self-employed) and got out quite a bit himself, too. Even by October it was getting hard to find sweaters in stores; there are lots of other dealers looking for them to sell in vintage stores and online, where they can go for as much as $100!

We spent two hectic weeks in November setting up the store in the vacant storefront next to Pursuit. The landlords love Nate, who is the only local tenant, and realized that the store would bring in a lot of traffic, so they gave us a steal on the rent! After hours of painting, building, sorting, tagging, cleaning, decorating, wassailing and decking the halls, the store was ready to go for its soft opening on November 20! Okay, maybe not quite ready to go – we had a few kinks to work out before our grand opening on November 22:

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Since then, it’s been a jolly whirlwind. We knew people would love the store, but we were unprepared for how MUCH they would love the store. Some people literally freak out when they walk in. I’ve heard “This is the best store ever” so many times I don’t even care any more. Ha! Just kidding, I still love it! It’s so fun watching people getting excited over all the sweaters and Christmas apparel we lovingly selected. Nate compared it to an adoption agency – we brought these sweaters out of desperation to get them to people who will love them as much as we do!

So, if you’re in the market for an ugly sweater, you’d better get in to the South Campus Gateway soon! They are going faster than we ever imagined! We’ve been featured in Columbus Underground, Business First, UWeekly, the Columbus Dispatch, and Good Day Columbus. We were on Channel 4 with Monica Day this morning, too, so the sweaters will be disappearing faster than Frosty on a warm day!

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December 8, 2013

Where Have you Been Part 2: Nana Bets

by Tabitha Kidwell

Another activity that has filled my time recently is spending time with my grandmother, Nana Bets. Last summer when I was deciding whether I should go to El Salvador or not, she was a major factor in my decision. My grandfather passed away 3 years ago, and since then, Nana Bets’ memory and functioning has decreased. She had basically stopped driving, was overdue for doctor’s appointments, hadn’t been eating much, and wasn’t getting out as much as she used to. I felt like I needed to spend a few months in Columbus with her to get caught up on all that and just spend time with her. I’ve gone over to her house every other day or so, gone to movies, brought food over, went to the hairstylist, took her to cataract surgery, and went to MCL more times than I can count. I’ve turned the heat back on after she accidently turned it off, got the microwave off of child lock, fastened her shoes, and taken her shopping. I’ve been surprised by her walking around he house naked. When she forgets how to do simple tasks, I find myself angry with this person who is no longer the independent, powerful grandmother I remember. It’s been time consuming, too– at times it felt like a part time job – but I feel really honored to be able to spend the time with her. When I was young, especially after my parents got divorced, this is basically what she did for us kids. She was always there for me, and now I can be there for her.

And it hasn’t been all me helping her. These six months have been rough for me, too. I have great friends here in Columbus that I did make plenty of plans with, but in the two years I was gone they got married, got pregnant, made new friends, started new relationships, and generally moved on with their lives. I don’t exactly fit here anymore, and I’ll be leaving in a few weeks to probably never live here again. So when I found myself without anything to do on a Saturday night, it was easy to push away any loneliness or self-pity by bringing over Panera and watching the Golf Channel with Nana Bets. It reminded me of Laura Linney’s character in Love Actually, the one with a mentally ill brother who called all day long. She was so consumed with that relationship that she couldn’t make any others. At a time in my life when it doesn’t really make sense to make new relationships, focusing my energy on Nana Bets helped sustain me. I know that she won’t be here much longer – in fact, and the Nana Bets I knew is already slipping through my fingers. Spending these months together has been a gift for both of us.

December 1, 2013

Where Have you Been Part 1: Freelancing

by Tabitha Kidwell

A standard greeting in Indonesia is to say dari mana?, or, as my students would often translate it, Where are you from? At first, I would answer with a confused From Ohio… (you know, just like the last time you asked). But then I realized they meant to ask something more along the likes of Where have you been? After 6+ weeks with no blog postings, maybe you, too, are wondering where I have been. Well, I have been very busy, and this is the beginning of a series of posts telling just what I have been up to.

Throughout the months of September and October, I spent a couple of hours a day searching the project listings on two online freelancing sites: elance and odesk. People looking for freelancers can post jobs on these two sites, and freelancers place bids telling how quickly they will do a job and what they would charge. I really enjoy the process of applying; trying to sell your qualifications and undercut the other bidders can be a really fun competition. I would rather bid on projects all day than sit down and do the work. Unfortunately, you are only paid if you actually, you know, do a project. And I have done quite a few, including:

Editing college application essays
Editing academic papers and case studies
Translating a legal contract from Spanish to English
Translating a government report from French to English
Translating vacuum instructions into French and Spanish
Translating self-help articles from Bulgarian to English. (I was very clear that I do not speak a word of bulgarian – they said that was fine, they just wanted me to cut and paste into google translate and then clean up what came out. Hey, if the price is right.)
Calculating a Brazilian student’s GPA for his application to American grad school
Researching scholarships for a high school senior in Illinois
Writing online English language arts lessons aligned to the new Common Core Standards
Writing reading comprehension quizzes for the Children’s Poet Laureate’s website
Teaching English via Skype
Writing a general English curriculum and a TOEFL prep curriculum for a start-up language teaching site

It’s been interesting to do such a variety of projects, and I’ve made a couple thousand dollars, which isn’t bad for two months of part time, flexible work. There was definitely a learning curve to it, though. You have to get make your profile appealing to people, take arbitrary “skills tests,” and find the right niche. You also have to figure out what jobs NOT to apply for or accept. There is a lot of shady stuff going on on these websites, including:

Doing people’s homework (Of course, no one says it in so many words, but there are lots of posts for “read these articles and give me a summary,” “answer these 5 questions,” or “write an essay on this topic.”)
Enabling plagiarism (Again, no one says as much, but there are tons of posting looking for people to “spin” articles, meaning to rewrite them line-by-line so they can’t be found by plagiarism checkers)
Writing dinosaur porn (I don’t think I need to comment on that. I wish I were joking.)

There are also less nefarious clients, like the many hapless writers looking for editors for their self-published eBooks. I only search the “Writing and Translation” postings, so who knows what is going on on the IT, Admin, Design, Legal, and Sales boards. I just hope it’s not dinosaur porn.

October 15, 2013

iLove my iPhone

by Tabitha Kidwell

I can’t believe I made it through my last post without mentioning the single most important thing to happen on my trip: I bought an iPhone!

Up until then, I had a flip phone, and I loved being able to decisively pop it closed when ending a call. When I did finally make the switch, I actually felt really sad! I had comically obsolete phones for so long, it had become part of my identity. Luckily, as my dad pointed out, I am still behind the times with my iPhone 4s. Rather than be locked into a contract, I paid cash upfront for the phone and got monthly service with t-mobile. That way, I can put my number on hold and use the same phone abroad whenever I travel. So I bought the 4s once the new 5s and 5c knocked it down to $450. To help with my crappy phone nostalgia a little more, I put the new phone in an otter box so bulky that makes it look like a VHS tape! I also searched for an app to make that noise a flip phone makes when it closes, but, shockingly, it hasn’t been invented yet.

And, honestly, I got over the loss of the flip phone real quickly once I got used to having access to the world at my fingertips! Everything is so easy and wonderful with the iPhone! Some updates from the 21st century:

I now have something to do when I’m out with friends and everyone else is on their phones. Though I’m not totally sure what they are doing on their phones and I mostly just check out the stock photos and backgrounds.

I have joined Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Spotify, Tinder, Pinterest, and Strava. But I don’t really know what each is for or who has time to look at what other people post let alone keep up with their own posting. Also I learned that on LinkedIn, people can see when you look at their profile, so it is really not ideal for the stalking of ex-boyfriends. (Which is of course the first thing I used it for.)

My favorite app is One Second Everyday, which lets you compile one second of each day, so you can watch a year in 6 minutes and a decade in an hour. After seeing Cesar Kuriyama’s TED talk, I knew this would be the first app I purchased! Here is my one second a day video since getting the app:

As you can see, life with an iPhone is pretty exciting! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to post this blog to 7 different social networks.

September 30, 2013

Grad School Tour

by Tabitha Kidwell

I’ve just gotten back from an 11-day, 1,500 mile road trip that took me to visit 4 PhD programs, my dad, 2 cousins, my step-brother, 3 former college roommates, 2 friends from Indonesia, and 2 babies. Doesn’t sound like I had time for all that, does it? Now that I think about it, I do feel pretty ambitious. In fact, this blog post is also fairly ambitious, so I won’t judge you if you just skip to the end right now.

Oh, still here? Great! So, the main purpose of the trip was to visit grad schools. I tried to start the grad school search last year from Indonesia, and got totally overwhelmed – every website looked the same and I felt like I couldn’t even begin to sort out which would actually be best for me. Plus, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in an education program, or applied linguistics, or second language studies, or TESOL, or one of the other variations on the theme of language teaching. I’m so glad that I decided to wait a year, even if I feel like my life is on hold right now. If I had applied to the schools I was thinking about a year ago, I would have ended up in a program that was totally wrong for me! Better to take a year now and end up in the right program rather than rush into somewhere where I would be miserable for 5 years… or 6, or 7, or more! Actually visiting programs made it all so much clearer.

I started out at Indiana University, which was great. At Indiana, they actually have two doctoral programs that touch on foreign language education: Second Language Studies, in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Literacy, Culture, and Language Education, in the School of Education. I talked to faculty from both, and learned that the SLS program focused more on non-traditional language learning and adult learning. Given that my interests are traditional language learning in a school environment, it was clear I belonged in the School of Ed. This is too bad, because the most promising source of funding is associated with the other program. Still, they were great hosts and planned a busy visit for me – I even got to visit a class on foreign language teacher professional development, which pretty much exactly matches my interests. The department had a great vibe and it was clear that there was a supportive community. But it’s in Bloomington, Indiana. I met up with my cousin Brendan, who is a senior there and president of his fraternity. “What do you think about living in Bloomington?” I asked. “It’s sweet!” he said “The bars are always packed, there are always huge parties!” “Ok, but you do realize I’m 31, right?” “Oh, yeah, right… yeah, that would suck.” So that’s a drawback. The jury’s still out on IU.

Then I continued on to Madison, Wisconsin, which definitely would not suck. It is such a fun town, surrounded by lakes, with lots of fun neighborhoods to poke around, and no shortage of good cheese and beer. I stayed with Autumn and Esteban, two fellow fellows from Indonesia, and it was a treat to see them on American soil! The University of Wisconsin had the same situation as IU, with a Second Language Acquisition and a World Language/ESL Education program, and it was again clear that I belonged in the latter, though it seemed easier to take classes from both programs. The education program seemed good, and I think I will probably apply to UW!

After that, I swung through Milwaukee and had dinner with my college roommate Sebass and her two little girls, then drove to Chicago to stay with my cousin Kelly and her boyfriend. We ate pancakes, went to the OSU bar, we went to another bar, I told fortunes, we got pita pit, we went running. It was a bit of a blur. We also met up with my step-brother and step-sister-in-law (is that a thing?) for the Bears game, which I gather is an important thing in Chicago.

Then I continued on to East Lansing, Michigan, where I stayed with my dad. I wasn’t thinking too seriously about Michigan State, but thought I would go talk to the program director since my dad works with her and had already talked to her about me and, hey, you can’t hurt anything by making another contact, right? At Michigan State, the only program that was quite right for me was the Second Language Studies program, but it seemed like a great program with a strong chance of getting funding! It was clear that there was a lot of support for graduate students and a good community. But it is located in East Lansing, which, after years of visiting my dad, basically seems like Bloomington with a mall. So we’ll see about MSU.

So then (almost finished here) I went to Detroit, where I stayed with Gibbons, my college roommate (I will insist on calling her by her maiden name until… oh, forever) and her husband, Mr. Gibbons (not his name). We had a blast going on a couple of long runs, hanging out in Royal Oak, and going to Beerfest at the Detroit Zoo (tigers love beer). I also made it to that school up north. As a born and bred Ohio State fan, it is difficult for me to say this, but… I LOVED MICHIGAN. Shh, don’t tell Brutus. I kinda just visited U of M because it was on the way – they don’t actually have any program specifically focused on language learning. I would be in a “Teacher Education” program there. But I realized I already have a B.S. and an M.A. in foreign language education, and I want to be a teacher educator, so a Teacher Ed PhD might not be a bad idea. Also, they said the words “guaranteed tuition, stipend, and healthcare for 4 years for all PhD students.” And they clearly had a strong and supportive community. And Ann Arbor would be a really fun place to spend the next 5 years! So, with apologies to Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, and Urban Meyer, Michigan might just be my first choice at the moment.

After a little jaunt through Cleveland to see my friend Michelle and her newborn son Henry, I was back in Columbus. Now it’s time to start applications – definitely to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Maryland, and maybe a couple others. It’s funny, before I came home this summer, I pictured myself going to grad school somewhere exciting and urban. When people asked what PhD programs I was interested in, I rattled off a list including Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, Columbia, NYU, UPenn, BU, Harvard, Georgetown, etc. Now that I am home, I picture myself somewhere calm and midwestern. Part of that is related to the type of program I want – big state universities are where you can find big schools of education with a variety of doctoral programs and – very important – funding. But it also is related to the fact that I’ve been far away from home for the last two years and now I don’t want to go so far away. I’ve gravitated to schools and places that are comfortable and familiar to me. I was born in DC, within metro distance of UMD; my dad lived in Wisconsin when I was in high school and college; and you cannot be grow up a Buckeye fan without being acutely aware of the existence of Michigan. My life has been, and will be an adventure, but there is nothing wrong with having adventure somewhere familiar. Say, somewhere with beer, cheese, and Big Ten football.

September 11, 2013

Tabitha’s search for meaning

by Tabitha Kidwell

I just got back from a great week spent in San Francisco visiting my friend Katie and cousin Jimmy. I had originally bought the tickets with the intention of visiting the grad programs at Stanford and UC Berkeley, but as I researched more in the meantime, I realized neither program was quite right for me. So I went on long, exploratory runs, ate Indonesian food with Katie, and got drinks with Jimmy, but mostly spent my time wondering “why am I here?”

I’ve been having thoughts like that a lot recently. Without a whole lot to fill my time, I often end up wondering about the meaning of life. Not in a suicidal or depressed kind of way, just in a general, perplexed manner. If I were working, I would say my life was focused on improving the lives of my students or making something meaningful with my colleagues. Married people can say it is about building a relationship and a life together. People with kids can devote their lives to their children. But I don’t have any of those things. As someone who is unemployed and lives with her parents, what, exactly, is the point of me?

I realize this is a very Anglo-Saxon, protestant-work-ethic kind of problem. I should just chill out and watch all five seasons of Breaking Bad already. I’m trying to cure myself of this nagging, self-doubting affliction through careful deployment of French wine, Indian food, and Latin American novels. But what appears to work best is finding things to do that remotely resemble work. It seems that am a work-a-holic who needs to define myself by my work, and my drug has been cut off. So I’ve tried to find substitutes, like helping with my sisters wedding preparations, researching grad schools, and running my credit history.

But the truth is, I’ve been so stressed out by having nothing to do that I haven’t gotten much done. It seems like I’ve been home a long time, but today only marks two months since I arrived home from Indonesia. That makes me feel better about not really doing anything besides getting my head on straight. Two months seems like an appropriate amount of time to do that. The “return culture shock” has been harder this time than in the past – I spent the first few weeks confused and intimidated by life in America, then I embraced it, then I rejected it (remember when I was going to move to El Salvador?), then I basically went into hiding and felt overwhelmed by the crushing amount of free time. But now I feel more like myself. I feel capable and powerful. Today, in a bit of a maniac rush, I made a profile on an online English teaching website, set up visits to 4 grad schools, and pounded out a first draft of my Statement of Purpose. So now I have a purpose. Once I revise it, I’ll tell you what it is. Maybe I’ll throw the meaning of life in there as a bonus, too!