Friday, July 16, 2010

Reflections on a Year That Didn't Exist

It's been a year now, since I moved to DC to embark on a fictitious year in a life otherwise totally planned out. A full year since I stepped out of the hallowed doors of academia for a brief hiatus in the "real world", a place of employment and dating outside the ivory towers I've so long considered my true home. For the most part, things have gone according to plan.

I got a job, though not nearly as menial and low-paying as I had anticipated. Oh, I am most certainly NOT complaining! I am very grateful for the employment and early promotion that pretty much fell into my lap within a month of moving here; such luck I did not expect nor deserve. And though the plan to work full time and not write papers has succeeded brilliantly, what I did not anticipate is the relationships I would form within that work context. The paycheck and benefits are nice, but the people have stretched me, challenged me, and improved me. There once was a little girl from Minersville Utah, and I'm not that little girl anymore.

I took a fencing class, too. I never expected to come out a world-class Dread-Pirate-Roberts-Style fencer, but I would be lying if I said I didn't harbor a certain illogical hope. That said, what I did learn in that class was how uncomfortable I am with my physical abilities. Whether I can do something well or not, I am terrified and mortified at the idea of someone seeing me do it. This made the course more than a little difficult for me at first, but over the weeks I was able to loosen up about it. Eventually I even learned to enjoy it. I would have expected my fencing style to be someone reticent, slow paced, and even retreating. In reality, my fencing strategy turned out to be along the lines of "Attack! Attack! Attack again! MustnotlethimhitmesoIwillhithimfirstattaaaaaack!" Not always graceful, but unfailingly aggressive.

I did not learn to tango, unfortunately. So this form of dance must remain on my to-learn list. I did learn a little bit about 18th century dancing technique, however, and a little more about swing. About the former I still know relatively little, but I did attend a short dance lesson in George Washington's assembly rooms at Mt. Vernon. As far as dates go, that one will remain one of my favorites. Hot cider, gingerbread, and dancing instruction aside, I highly recommend taking a moonlit stroll through George Washington's private garden with your significant other around Christmas time.

I also highly recommend swing dancing! East-coast swing, to be more precise. I'd learned west-coast style before but the lindy-hop seemed at once too complex in its basic step and too simple in its variations thereon. West-coast has a simpler basic step and allowed more improvisation thereon. I learned all of this, of course, on another date which ranks in my top dates of all time. This time, set the stage in the 1950's. Picture an old amusement park, with a carousel and bumper cars. Imagine a ballroom packed with couples, jiving to the groove of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and other similar tunes as played and sung by a live band and appropriately costumed singer. And of course, when it gets too hot inside with all the dancing, you'll just step outside and wander down to the swing-set where you'll talk and laugh and watch the stars and fireflies. Then you'll dance again, of course, and race to the carousel where you'll ride matching ostriches and hold hands. And when it's all over you'll go for a malt at the Silver Diner, and then he'll walk you to your door like a gentleman. And this time-traveling year will feel even less real then before.

I had also hoped to cultivate a disinterested approach to watching politics unfold in DC. I came here an independent, and independent I remain. But I had wanted to be an observer, sort of like taking my anthro training into my political life. And it is not that easy. I find myself drawn into political discourse, fascinated by both sides but undeniably pulled to the left. I will probably never register as a democrat, but I wonder if I'll ever seriously consider voting republican at all. The protests, the arguments, the rallies and the speeches fascinate me. But I cannot remain aloof to it all. I take sides, have opinions, and argue back. Someone, somewhere, a lofty anthropology professor probably, in a tweed jacket, will laugh at my naivete. Lesson learned, oh young fool! It is not as easy as it sounds, particularly when, unlike your stay in India, you actually understand what is going on.

Overall, this year feels like such a resounding success to me. It wasn't as I had imagined it, and that is as it should be. So, now, time to pack up right? Time to tie off any loose ends of the year-that-didn't-exist and finish up preparations to resume my real-life in academia. Scotland awaits!

Except, you can't plan everything can you? Sometimes the world surprises you. Life surprises you. Sometimes, despite all your best laid plans a boy walks into your life and turns your best laid plans on their head. True, sometimes that boy is a republican. But sometimes that boy is also incredibly smart and funny and good. Sometimes that wonderful boy asks you to marry him.

And sometimes you say yes.

1 comment:

annalisa said...

Jen! Congratulations to you and Jeremy! I am so happy for you! I'm glad it's been such an awesome year :) Do you have a date yet?

Life seems to never turn out as we plan it. But it's all good!