(em)brace yourself

It’s been about a year since I decided to leave teaching. I don’t remember the day, but I do know I was in Guatemala, working on teacher certification forms for the state of Georgia, when it hit me very abruptly: I didn’t want to do this anymore. I closed the various files, website pages, shut my laptop, and went outside into the sunshine. I have not returned since.

In a panic, I’ve dabbled a bit in teaching art again. I had a part-time gig for three months here in Atlanta and again, realized my time working with kids in the classroom was up. I’ve had moments of weakness and desperation for a “meaningful” title and income stability and decent benefits and toyed with the idea of maybe, just maybe, applying for a position with Atlanta Public Schools (or some other similar entity.) But I also return to my senses, rather than to the classroom.

Despite my (tenuous) confidence in this decision, I have still found myself feeling a little too lost, too widely scattered. In my year as a non-teacher, a lot of time was spent desperately trying to make money, however possible (that masters degree was quite expensive, and I’m still paying for it!). Several months in Atlanta included my juggling anywhere from 2-4 jobs or internships. Seeking: money, and, a better, more meaningful title. Because, I am not a career server.

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Alone? Alone!

I dragged myself out of the house yesterday for my long run—4.5 miles. It was my day off, I was tired, my feet hurt from working all weekend, but I knew it was the only day this week I’d have the time to run that far. The sky looked a little ominous, but weather reports said I had about an hour before the show.

1.7 miles in , however, the rain started. Followed by low rolls of thunder, followed by the kind of wind that pulled rain out of the sky in sheets and curtains. Something that resembled a small river was flowing and churning downhill beside me as I ran on a rapidly flooding sidewalk. I remember thinking: I could turn back now, cut this run short. But then I thought: fuck it. I could stand a ferocious downpour. And so I kept running, my feet splashing through puddles the color of rust thanks to all that red Georgia clay in the soil. I erupted into laughter, into joy, into love embodied, into love running down the street in the pouring rain. I felt like such a badass, strong, unruly woman. And I loved myself in that moment in a way that, for most of my life, has been difficult, if not impossible.

It reminded me of a whole slew of things that have been on my mind lately. Namely: love and the shroud of mystery that surrounds it. This past winter, I briefly dated a guy who was bad for me. He had many good qualities, but ultimately: he was dishonest, selfish, and uncaring (or: just plain mean). It took me about a month to figure out just how bad—and while I wish it had only taken me one day—one month is much better than a year or two, which is how long it has taken me in the past. In the midst of trying to extricate myself from that mess, I went to the supermarket feeling rather sad, mopey, and alone. I had the glum outlook that I’d “never find anyone.”

But wandering the aisles, a rebuttal sprang forth from my heart, and it said: “so what?”

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Honestly? I don’t like how this year sounds. It sounds too old. It kinda terrifies me. It sounds like a number, that, many years ago, came with different pictures attached. This is not only not what I’d have imagined my life would look like at 34–this is outright not what I would have wanted. But, it is what I have, and it’s the only life I’ve got. So, instead of bemoaning how this isn’t the way I wanted things to go, I’d better make the best of things.

I did let myself wallow a little bit. It’s always healthy to feel how you need to feel, so long as you don’t become trapped in an unproductive place, or in a mindset that leads nowhere. It’s not like my circumstances are terrible–there is a lot of good in my life and I’m in a better place now than I was a year ago, but this is still not what I would have wished for. But is life ever really what we “wished” for? Some parts are fantastic, others blow. For everyone, I think.

Sometimes, when I look at the landscape that is my life, there is a desire to find the single point on the map where “it all went wrong”. I want there to be a point up to where I could reverse it all and rectify everything. But I have trouble untangling my past so neatly. I think I find the point after which it all went downhill, but then I see that there was also a lot of good that followed aforementioned point. For example, I often wish I hadn’t gotten my Masters Degree in Education–but had I not done that, I’d have never been able to get a job in Ecuador. I’d have never learned what I did about the American educational system and poverty and institutional racism–and that is knowledge and experience I’d never want to lose. I’d have never met all the students who changed my life and made me grow. This Masters-less Katie might indeed be happier, more “successful” in the arts, married, living in some cool house with a leafy garden… I could go on and on about all the things this alternate Katie might be and have–but it’s quite pointless. It’s simply an impossibility to be anything than what we are; there is no turning back time, nor is there any guarantee that an alternate route would guarantee me a “better” life at present. And even if it did, I’m not sure I would actually change anything. What would I lose in the process? What would I have to give up in order go back in time and undo things I wish I had not done? I am not willing to find out.

So if I’m not going to dwell on past mistakes, or on present circumstances I don’t like, then what can I do?

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Festivity Tree!

Below are some images–in progress but mostly finished and in its home for the month of December, of my painted festivity tree for Colony Square ATL. It was a LOT of fun to ideate, draw, and paint 🙂 My themes reflected, a little bit, our ever-present connection to the natural world, and to each other.

Body parts

Every city I’ve lived in, long term, has felt like some part of the body to me. Guayaquil felt like a heart, and I found myself often listening for its beats. Sometimes they eluded me, other times I was caught in the midst of them, unable to hear anything else. Rochester was bones, stacked oddly, a woman lying on her back, one leg extended, the other knee bent, foot on the earth. It was a hollow place, for me, and when I recall it, it’s often from the perspective of standing in that ribcage, wondering where the organs were, and looking out, all around me.

Atlanta is like a pair of lungs. Huge, beastly, heaving lungs. Its breath is audible, at times becoming an almost mechanical or accordion-like wheeze. The exhales, to me, are particularly satisfying; an orchestra of noises, of diminishing weight, of momentary release, all cascading into a few seconds of perfect quiet. Until, of course, the lungs begin to expand again.

I’m not sure what any of this means, except, perhaps, that maybe I’m crazier than previously suspected.

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