Yesterday as I was getting in the car to drive to work, I had the music turned up and this song shuffled on. A grumpy man across the street glowered at me and I gave him the biggest grin and decided it would be my song of the year. I would like to say goodbye permanently to guilt and shame, to my tendency to apologize for my existence, to false good-girl compliance, and embrace being maladjusted, both in the Dr. King sense and in the regular way. So:
Forty was the year of friends. I realized my dream of being best friends with Amy, and while that may not be the move-oniest thing, it is certainly a source of joy and my favorite pleasant work boredom. I’ve gotten closer to my church friends, made poetry part of my life again in a small but significant way, and had the best friend-life since probably middle school. There was a spate where all of my friends lived in other cities and though I still love my far-flung family of pals, I’m glad to have expanded to those who can just barge in or, as my next-door neighbor did this morning, surprise me with spontaneous festiveness.
This was also the year that I truly loved being single, where getting in my own little world has been the best and happiest treat, whether I’m writing, painting, organizing the shelves, or just snoozing on the couch rewatching Gilmore Girls again.
And for making my own little world so pretty, the MVP award definitely goes to my apartment. The story of how I got it is how I want to let life be more often: One Sunday morning I was all grumpy because my divorce apartment was filled with cigarette smoke from the creepy downstairs neighbor. I was so crabby I couldn’t even deal with finding a parking spot at church, so I came up to the prettiest street around to take a walk. I overheard my now-landlord talking about showing the place and I stopped, butted into her conversation, and came up the driveway to see. The walls were painted a hideous pumpkin orange, but she said I could have any color, and she got my robin’s egg blue exactly right.
This is the first place that ever really felt mine, the place I most truly belong. In the mornings, I open the door and let the cool air in, stand there with Frannie and see how many morning glories bloomed. It’s a still and safe place that reminds me of the countryside I grew up in, but with an independent bookstore three doors down.
The apartment became the home of Fun and Games Poetry Class, which was definitely the biggest and happiest accomplishment of the year. That I made money for praising wonderful writers and helping them bring out their best work feels like such an incredible gift. I’ve written them so many thank you notes already, but the curiosity, generosity, and imagination at the heart of my poet pals is a force of nature and I’m honored whenever I’m in their presence.
The same goes for my made-up creative coaching careers. That my friends have trusted me with something as personal and delicate as their creativity, that I get to foster breakthroughs and encourage indulgence and celebrate expression at my own kitchen table is a dream come true, and I would love to see it expand in the coming year.
I’ve already said a lot about the year’s losses, but they need a little paragraph. It still hurts that classroom teaching didn’t work, that I’m not able to work for justice in the way that I wanted to. The harsh, tenacious, beautiful lives of my students still haunts me, will never leave me, and I hope that I can honor them in this new life. As soon as one more clearance comes in the mail, I’ll be back writing poetry with the library kids, so that’s a start. Though the panics of school haven’t left me yet, I know I’m getting stronger.
And okay, I’ve put off writing about him long enough, there’s a guy. It’s too soon to tell what we’ll be to each other but he is a man. He makes plans, he takes me out on real dates, he remains unfazed when the darkest parts of me come out. He lights me up. I don’t want to say more or I’ll jinx it, but it’s nice to be hanging around with someone who makes sense for me—it was a long way to get here.