Category Archives: the life-changing things

wherein i may or may not be completely insane

This morning I woke up at 6, paced around the house, waiting for other people to wake up. I made tea hours before I’m usually even awake and read the newspaper. This morning on the front page of the New York Times was an article about race riots in southern Italy. This isn’t exactly what I needed to see first thing this morning.

Ok, enough being coy. This morning I had to wake up in (what are for me) the wee hours for a telephone interview in a far-away time zone: in Milano, Italia, at the training institute for my teaching certificate. I will find out later today, which is really within hours, since it’s already late afternoon there. Calling 6 hours into the future is a good analogy for how surreal this all is for me: if I go for this course, it will start in exactly one week. On a different continent. Apparently this is how I do things.

A few days ago, mulling over this possibility, I looked through some old things and found a little notebook I kept on my last trip to Italy. It was a long weekend to Rome that I took by myself, spur of the moment, while I was studying in Barcelona. It’s filled with more organized lists of the places I went, and the sites I planned to see, and there are also random things I wrote down — sitting down by a fountain here, stopping for a cappuccino and to duck out of the sun there. These are the words that are the real snapshots of that trip, the letters often veering off into messy diagonals, written in haste. One of the things I wrote was:

The best things seem to happen to me when I just let the wind take me where it will.

I suspect this might not mean too much to someone else. That’s the funny thing about the ideas you write down really “in the moment” — reading them back yourself, even years later, you’re taken immediately back to that spot, the visceral feeling of it, the words sink in. It’s like a cliched phrase that you hear a million times but it doesn’t mean anything to you until you have the experience yourself. But to my eyes, these simple words say a whole lot, about who I am and I how I decide and do things, how I phrase it passively: things happen to me. I always think that I should have a better decision-making process, that I should consciously and concretely know what I want. I could be making a horrible mistake here. I try to gauge how crazy people think I am when I tell them, to see if this idea really is insane. I’m hesitant to tell many people at all. But maybe the way things work for me is for them to just feel like they fall into place on their own. And this thought is enough to push me, to just say yes.

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PS: Check out today’s post on Ivy League Insecurities, which touches on a very similar theme, and helped me figure out how to put these thoughts together.
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decisions and pins in the map

I’ve never been good at making decisions. Big ones or small ones, though it’s the big ones that are more daunting. I never had that rebellious streak as a teenager; my mother came up with a lot of suggestions for how to spend my summers, and I usually took the advice. There were several trips, through my school and the Experiment in International Living to Mexico and Spain doing volunteer work, living with host families, and sometimes taking language classes. Not surprisingly, these trips changed my life, shaped the definition of who I am and how I see things. Just about anything you do at that age does, but especially when it’s something you really love. It got me interested in learning languages, travel in general, understanding and integrating into other cultures, and perhaps most importantly, social justice and my expectations for my life and myself. It set a standard somewhere in my subconscious, that work has to have some kind of purpose, whatever it may be. Maybe that’s why I’m so fickle with jobs and life plans and what I want to do now.

Perhaps it all started with her recommending those trips, but I’ve followed in my mother’s footsteps in many ways, without ever consciously deciding to, or any pressure from her. I can only explain it as “the way things worked out.” She majored in French Literature and I in Spanish Literature, she spent a year abroad in southern France and I spent mine in Barcelona. Not everything has been the same: when she was my age my mother had already been married for two years (eek). Her next step was joining the Peace Corps with her first husband and teaching English in South America. And now here I am… contemplating moving back abroad to get a teaching certificate to do the same, possibly very soon. Continue reading