Sunday, June 4, 2017

Madly In Love and Broke As Hell

I remember the first time my Aunt Beth ever spoke of her glory days.

I had no job, she told me, I sold jewelry to get my first apartment, and I had rent-to-own furniture. 

I did not know what rent-to-own furniture even was.

I'd go in once a month to see my furniture, she told me, I'd wave at it and tell it how pretty it was. Then I'd turn in my payment once a month until it was paid off and I could take the pieces home. 

As a product of my fortunate upbringing, I could not understand such a thing. I mean, what did she sit on for all those months?

Lawn chairs. 

It puzzled my anxious heart even then, as I have always been a planner in desperate need of as much control as possible. How did my Aunt Beth even get by?

Well darlin', she shrugged, You just do what you gotta do. 

I've probably lived my entire life by that statement since that moment. You do what you gotta do. Never a word so true. And we revisited the story of her furniture the night before I left for Tennessee; the night before I was to embark on my "glory day" part of my story.

"I'm a little anxious," I admitted, "Excited. But anxious."

"Oh darlin'," she smiled again, "I think you're about to experience the best part of your life."

It's strange to think of what my life was like only a month ago. I had a routine. And I was comfortable. I was celebrating the end of student teaching with my cooperating teacher's baby shower and 21 incredibly enthusiastic five-year-olds, all wound up and ready for summer. I was tossing my hat in the air, receiving a diploma from Missouri State University and praying that I had passed my teacher certification exam. I was looking forward, never backwards; excited to move to my first metropolitan area, excited to have my first apartment completely to myself, and excited to be able to go out with my Nashville music man whenever I wanted.

I was applying to jobs every day, updating my resume at every turn and anxiously awaiting phone calls for interviews. Any time anyone called from a 615 area code, I would mentally prep myself for the tone I was to answer the phone and the things I wanted to make sure I said before meeting the principal in person.

The 615 calls always ended up being a telemarketer, or my apartment calling to say they'd fixed the locks on my door, or the pharmacy up the street telling me my prescription was ready. I always ended up more stressed than I was before. Go figure.

But nearly a week ago, I was cooking out of an electric skilled plugged into my living room outlets via extension chord (since my kitchen outlets didn't work), when my boyfriend walked in with a surprise. I froze when I saw the little round Kate Spade box in the corner, attached to a small envelope with my name on the front in Dylan's handwriting. A designer gift from my music man who was, while more established than I at that present moment, was by no means in the most comfortable position to afford such a thing.

The envelope contained a letter explaining that I was worth a little extra money, a little extra time apart, and a little extra struggle from a long distance relationship. It was a letter to remind me that we had made it five months through the most transitional part of our lives, and that there was certainly no intention of giving up this time around since we had already lost each other once. It was a letter to remind me that if we had reconnected after five years and done all this in only five months, there was no way to to fathom all that could happen for me, and for us, in the next few months. Or the next year. Or the next five years.

And so I found myself sitting on a blanket atop a cold apartment floor, adorned in golden spade earrings, eating chicken and rice with the love of my life. One small lamp was on because my electric bill came with a start up charge, and a bottle of champagne was poured into coffee mugs to splurge and celebrate my move since we saved money by eating last week's dinners together. I made no money that week, and I didn't know where rent would come from if I didn't get hired soon.

But I was hopeful.

And years from now, when my music man has won a Grammy for his productions... or when I am recognized as an educator who established schools in third world countries... or when sparkling wine can be more of a regular occurrence because finances are comfortable... I will still remember this night over all.

No fancy Italian restaurant can beat this. No five-star vacation can beat this. You do not make these memories employed. Or on a comfortable budget. Or in a furnished apartment with your electricity on.

Apparently you have to be madly in love, and broke as hell.

So here's to my new adventure: to everything it does and doesn't entail. Here's to my romance: full of spontaneity and more joy than I thought could ever come from another person in my life. Here's to my past identity as a failure: the suitcase college grad with a Bachelor's degree and a teaching license going unused; and here's to my identity as a present victor: the girl who will never stop fighting to care, to love, and to teach. (And to pay her rent.)

Would I have a job earlier if I had stayed in Springfield, Missouri? Maybe. There's no way now to know. But one thing is for certain...that particular life was not meant for me. Oh yes, it has been made very clear that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Madly in love.

...and broke as hell.
This is part 2 of the Suitcase College Grad series.
For part 1 of the trilogy, visit The Suitcase College Grad
For part 3 of the trilogy, visit Today Is The Day!

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