What Do People Do With Their Lives?

Its been pretty silent here since D-blog week. Warsaw was wonderful in every single possible way. I knew it would be when I got off the airplane in Modlin, a 45 minute ride from the city center, and stepped onto a bus to find the driver blasting Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman!” An endearing little Polish teenager pointed to the seat next to me and asked “chair open?” as his friends laughed at him. The rest was pierogis, happiness, history, and these majestic little squirrels that eat from your hand:

PolishSquirrel

Since then its been a lot of the same late spring, early summer nonsense. I’m doing the annual what am I doing with my life? song and dance. A long, long time ago I began my undergraduate career as a nutrition major with plans to become a Certified Diabetes Educator. It wasn’t long, however, before I became an English Literature nerd: moody, broody, threatening to have James Joyce’s face tattooed onto my forearmNow I teach English and try not to melt in the Madrid heat and while I’m content–happier than ever, even–I’m hoping to change tracks. I am happiest when I’m writing, editing, or lip-syncing along to Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls.” On people: I love them but often dream about arriving to a desk and quietly starting my day with a cup of coffee. Y’know, at a job that involves social interaction but also lots of solo time.

I don’t regret having studied literature. I’d go back and do it again, all grown up and less given to dramatics. I just wish that I’d honored my scientific side a bit more or learned how to program a computer (translation: I wish I had one of those more marketable, better-paid skills). I’ve always been interested in working in Public Health/Diabetes Education but I also think I’d be fairly content working in something totally unrelated, like as a potter’s apprentice or silent actress, given it allowed me the time and the means to dedicate some of my free time to working with the diabetes community. I’m not an expert in anything but I’ve always felt that the best public health and policy workers would have ample firsthand experience as patients. But where to start? And where to get the money? And the time?

What do you do with your life? Do you like it? Will you be my career counselor?

Move More, Ruminate Less

The last time I referred to myself as “a runner” I lived in an almost-arctic Steel City and I was angry at everybody. I ran in the cold and in the rain and after snowpocalypse when the streets were empty and the snow still white. My legs were firm. I was always surprised when I saw them in the shower. They looked like they belonged to someone else.

Quite a few years have gone by since then. I live under the sun in the center of Spain now. The most intense training I do on a regular basis is carry groceries up to my apartment (which, to be fair, is a fifth-floor walk-up, aka: no joke).

My winter vacation was strange. It rolled along without melancholy until one day I woke up ruminating on all the things I don’t have enough of: money, time, close friends to call for coffee. I lost my appetite, dreaded the mornings, wrote mostly of dreams, felt useless, and wished I was working. People call this “the winter blues.” I called it if I see one more bulging bag of gifts, I’m going to lose it. The only thing that might possibly have satisfied my homesickness (aside from going home) would  have been a dance with a Philadelphia Mummer. Any Mummer would have done. Wishing a Dunkin Donuts barista Happy Holidays! may also have have sufficed.

Those feelings spilled over into the new year and finally into a work week that dragged on and on, into mornings I greeted begrudgingly and nights I wondered why the hell it was I’d decided to move again? Eat your fruit & veggies, drink watertry to go to sleep earlycall somebody, go outside. Those things help. This morning I woke up late, fed and dressed myself, put on red lips and headphones and headed to Dunkin Donuts. To-go coffee has always been my remedy for homesickness in Spain. It feels wasteful and silly–and it is. But drinking from a cardboard cup once a year is worth the relief, however momentary it may be, that mediocre coffee and its memories of home provides. Cup in hand, walking through my new city, my favorite neighborhoods, I thought of running. Of solitude. Of those days when I didn’t mind the weather, when I ran to release, when I learned that my body existed for reasons other than being hated.

I have to train againI have to remember what that’s like.

This time around I’ll learn different lessons but run for the same reason: to remember how much exists outside of me, to live in words other than should, could, and would.