Hey, I'm sorry if we haven't talked in a while and I'm sorry if you've been avoiding calling or writing because you don't know what to say. I can't lie, this is a hard time for us. Nathan and I are being put through a really big mental/emotional strength test right now and while we both feel confident we will come out on top, the bumpy road there is making us kind of car sick.
Here's the deal. We are finding out the people warning us over the past five years that the job market for PhD's (theatre in particular) is brutal were not lying or exaggerating. We've been frequently warned the chances of landing a good, steady job right out of grad school are slim at best but have been soldiering through, choosing to label those people "Negative Nellies" (well I have anyway) or that with a little positive thinking and honest hard work, we would beat the odds. We used all of our savings to move out here and have lived off loans (aka accrued a ton of debt) with a lot of help from government assistance (aka lived as frugally as humanly possible). Sometimes I feel a little guilty about how thoroughly my kids understand what I mean when I say "No, we can't get that because we don't have any money." Nathan has worked so much and so hard that most days we only see him for an hour each morning before he heads off to the library. We've made the most of all of this because we had a finish line we were headed for. For four and a half years, we've been saying our hard work will be rewarded when he graduates. His tireless efforts would for sure translate into a great job and we could move on to the next chapter.
Don't get me wrong, we've had a blast out here and feel lucky to be able to show our kids you don't have to have a lot of money to have fun and feel good about life. I didn't just tell you all of that so you could feel bad for the life we've lived out here because it's been a gift in countless ways. I wanted to explain it all so you could understand why traditional attempts at cheering someone up may not work on me right now. One of my sisters found that out this morning as I countered all of her bright sides with "yeah, but"s (sorry Rach!). It's reminding me of the days leading up to Owen's birth. One of my midwives asked how I was feeling and I told her I was feeling nervous about going into labor. She said "Why are you feeling nervous? You can do it, you've done it before and in the end you'll have a beautiful baby!" I knew she meant well, and I agreed with her but I just laughed and said "Because being in labor is AWFUL! Yes, the reward is great, but it SUCKS getting to that part!"
We are plugging away and finding little happy moments in our daily life, thanks mostly to the kids. We are getting our ducks in a row for our "Plan B". We aren't getting drunk in the corner while gorging on fast food and chocolate...not every day anyway. In other words, don't worry about us. We are going to make it work and enjoy life along the way, it's just that it's taking a lot of extra effort to do so right now. Sometimes, seemingly harmless everyday things can get me all teary when they remind me of our situation and that is exhausting. Yes, at times it's sad and disappointing and scary but Nathan and I are no strangers to overcoming such challenges so we know we can do it.
Thinking back on the person I've been for the last few years reminds me of how I think of the college me. The one who thought she knew everything about life. There's no way that girl could have accepted how humbling life can be until she lived through it herself. Similarly, I've realized that while I'm a little embarrassed about how naive I've been during this chapter in my life, I know I couldn't have believed those people who warned us of this challenge until we were actually in the middle of it ourselves. How can you blame us, I suppose? Thinking negatively about everything wouldn't have changed the mechanics of our journey, it just would have made it a whole lot more unpleasant. Still, it's hard to face which is why I've probably not jumped at the chance to pick up the phone to call anyone and talk about it.
Imagine you're running your first marathon. You are shuffling along and have reached mile 25. You're going to make it. You can't believe it. After the months of training and the grueling miles behind you, the finish line is just up ahead. Then, a stranger ambles up next to you from the sidelines and whispers in your ear, "Sorry but there was a mistake in the mile markers. The finish line isn't for another ten miles" and then slips off into the crowd again. Or, for my fellow Amazing Race fans...imagine you reach the mat and Phil says "You are team number 1!...(dramatic pause)...however, this leg is not over. You are STILL RACING!" I think it's fair to say you would need a minute to adjust to that. That's where we are right now.