Today, I received this email from a now, old, friend. It made me smile from ear to ear. I am so thankful for the friendships I built at a little boarding school in Princeton, New Jersey. Hearing that it’s Hun’s 100th Birthday makes me proud. Then, I also realized that there is no school that I am an alumni of that I am more proud to be an alumni of than Hun.
There are certainly things I miss about the North. One, is the honesty and realness that is the foundation of friendships there. In the Southern hospitable climate, where everyone is nice to everyone, and everyone avoids confrontation like the black plague, witty, sarcastic, realness if often amiss. For anyone who has the honor of being friends with Lucy Obus, they know you are guaranteed witty banter, a shocking dose of realness and a unparalleled loyalty.
June 21st, I am leaving my cocoon in Oxford and flying into Manhattan to spend some time with some of my best friends in the world. We don’t talk often. Our lives couldn’t be more different. However, as this email confirms, we always jump right into realness and laughter, and as I spend most of my days here in academic solitude that blessing is ever apparent.
Of those friends I am excited to spend substantial time with, one works as a events coordinator and fundraiser for the Lincoln Center for the Arts, one is a fashion designer, one is a costume designer for television shows, one is an actor who just saw her name on the Big Screen, and another is the director of HR for a booming advertising firm. I love to brag about all of them because they all had such distinct, specific dreams and they are all on their way to making those dreams a reality.
My life has certainly diverged from this pack. I went South to a huge state school. I didn’t particularly thrive in this setting but I did fall in love with a southern man from Jacksonville, Florida. Now, I teach 10th Grade World Literature. I have discovered the thing which brings me to life and makes the time fly, and that is teaching marginalized students. I don’t feel I need to grasp for much more at this point.
Certainly, my life is not glamorous like my friends who grace the streets of Brooklyn and Hell’s Kitchen at night. I am not chasing fame, the limelight, celebrity donors or business recognition. I am not even climbing any sort of business ladder. I get paid 1000$ a month no matter what I do or how I perform. I am not particularly proud of my academic accomplishments and am quickly becoming disillusioned with the whole of academia in which I use to trust and hinge much of my identity. I am just happy right now to not have to work an hourly job.
I seem to have landed somewhere I certainly never expected to land. And for some reason, this email I received late at night got me thinking about how I got where I am and how I seem to be so at peace with where I currently rest. Right now, dear reader, I am laying on a comfy twin bed in North Oxford, working as a graduate resident, spending most of my days planning a normal life with a very humble guy in the small city of Athens, Georgia.
Truthfully, there is a part of me that wishes I could drive down 95 with my dear friends to visit our old alma-mater. We would have a lot of laughs and we would walk affectionately across the stage that linked our hearts. There is nothing like driving down Interstate 95 at night. Now that I think about it, they might take the train instead, in which case, no music will be heard collectively, which is a shame. Mia always makes great mixes. I know I am still a 25 year old girl, and I occasionally pine for these type of magical nights. When I saw Matilda last week, there was a fraction inside of me that tried to plan how I would audition for some show on the West End and how I would spend my summer as a artistic London bohemian. But those impulses fade now quicker than before.
However, what has surprised me most about my return to Oxford city is how content I am doing hardly anything with my day to day.
This is what I did today. Don’t judge me too harshly, I did spend the day prior travelling late into the night.
1.) Facetimed with Judge
2.) Worked out
3.) Read a couple of chapters of Woolf’s Night and Day
5.) Listened to a Sermon from St. Aldates about Singleness
6.) Social Networked
Did I mention I didn’t even get out of my pajamas until 4 PM? Did I also mention that around 9 PM I took a “nap,” which I spent must of my day in major rest mood. I didn’t hang out or have a conversation with anyone of substance. Still, I was very happy.
What I guess I am trying to figure out in response to this email, is when did my jealousy of an urban, creative, people-packed life wane? When did I stop fighting so hard to be on top of academia? When did I stop obsessively planning my safararis to remote places? Why don’t I feel this desire to go out on the town every night here? It’s not just that I “grew up.” I think it’s also that I fell in love and as much as I have resisted the sacrifices of falling in love, I am slowly realizing that I don’t want much more than to have Judge by my side when I wake up in the morning.
If I hadn’t found Judge, where would I be in my life right now? Possible finishing law school, or working for the state department in some ‘Istan or very possibly, I would have moved to New York City and been travelling to Hun’s Centennial weekend with my friends. Do I sometimes hate that my heart pines for a man who currently is bed-ridden on North Avenue? Absolutely, I have hated that. This is why I have felt the need to journey back to Oxford and begin my doctorate part time and plan long weeks in NYC with my friends.
Still, as I currently am living with 20 law students, many of whom are finishing up their third year of law school and are MY AGE, I’ve been surprised that I am not more envious of their lives. One of my friends in the house just found out she got her dream job working as an attorney in DC. When I heard that news from her this week, I felt nothing but happiness for her and not one ounce of me thought, “I wish that was me!”
Have I lost my drive and ambition? I don’t think so. By the Grace of God, I believe I found contentment. I fell in love with a humble man and then I fell in love with a very unconventional classroom.
I am aware that right now, according to Social Media, my life does look glamorous. Hell, I just traveled to Rome, I toured London with a Cambridge professor, and I went to Shakespeare’s birthplace on his birthday and celebrated under fireworks with a large British crowd. Sure, my life does seem to be ever expanding, but if you could walk inside my mind and heart, it feels very simple and at peace. It feels very small. It feels like a comfy room.
What do I want? I want to marry Judge. I want to serve him and love him forever. What do I love to do? I love to show students who have been forgotten and who believe they are dumb, that they are wildly exciting, intelligent, creative and strong.
Have I lost my dreams in this strange new domestic desire? No, one day I know I will teach in the mountains of Afghanistan, absolutely. I know I will start schools there for girls. I know I will be a “scream in the streets.” I am sure that will come with a sense of new adventure and wild excitement in time. I am sure I will “jump off that cliff”when it’s time with confidence.
But right now, I don’t feel any need or restlessness. More than ever before in my life, I know what I want. I’m ready to “settle down” or “settle up.” I want to get to Athens and join a small group of people in their 20s. I am ready to jump off the cliff of simple commitment and an anchoring routine.