It's storming today. I was planning on having a lie-in this morning, since come May 1st, I intend to get back on a semblance of a regular schedule and back to some kind of actual academic work, but the thunder rumbled loudly enough that it scared Bergie into crawling under the covers, which he never does. That scared me awake, because there was something under the covers touching my feet and it was moving, which then frightened Bergie, and after that, I was awake. But I got up and checked the weather, and there wasn't even so much as a severe thunderstorm watch, and I shook it off and figured I'd take a nap later.
But I was amused with myself this morning as I poured my coffee, because when did I get so blase about storms? At this point, there has to be at least a tornado watch before I even start getting worked up about things, whereas I used to start panicking at the very thought of possible tornadoes. Now I just get pissed off because it usually means I've had a migraine until the barometric pressure dropped.
And it finally occurred to me. This is what living in Tennessee has done to me (for as anathema as it is for a Kentuckian to move to Tennessee. The only thing that might have been worse would have been moving to....Indiana.) It's been almost five years, and I'm graduating with a doctorate in English literature. I remember having a conversation with Dear Husband at one point--would I ever feel any different, or any smarter--when would things change? When would I feel like a different person? And it's only when I compare myself to five years ago when I came here that I'm starting to realize that I am. Maybe not new, but hopefully improved?
- I don't flip out at storms quite so badly anymore. I still watch the radar, but that's because it's fun, and I like weather. (I think I'd have been a meteorologist in another life.) After living through the floods and spending a night in the bathtub my first year here? I'm generally okay unless the wind gets really bad.
- I really hope I don't have quite the chip on my shoulder that I had when I got here.
- I'm excited about teaching again.
- I've learned to be candid and open about having a mental illness, rather than hiding it, because I've learned that by being candid and open about it, I've been able to better help others who need it.
- I have learned that there are some things that I stand for and that I absolutely will not back down on.
- I have learned that I miss little churches. We never have found a church that really fits us here, not like Our Savior did. That said, you can always hear God in the music at St. Paul's.
- I hope that I have become more patient. I feel like I don't sweat the small stuff so much. I think I've learned to control my temper more.
- Sometimes the people who come running in late and sit down next to you in orientation end up being your best friends.
- The dept. secretary will totally confuse you and your bestie, and that's kinda awesome.
There are parts of this process that have completely, utterly sucked. Graduate school has seen me at the emotionally lowest parts of my life. It's seen me depressed, angry, bitter, self-loathing, hating myself and everyone around me, convinced that I could not do this thing I had set out to do and ready to give up in more ways than one. And yet--through late night phone calls, hugs, promises, neck rubs, talking it out, helping reprioritize, taking me to the doctor, quitting a job far away and coming home because I needed him to, holding on and not letting go, checking noises downstairs in the dark, cooking and ironing and cleaning the litter boxes, I've been able to do it, because of this--this great tree of a man, who stands tall and solid and straight, with roots so deep he'll never be shaken and with branches that reach out and shelter and protect. My husband is a great oak tree, full of life and vitality, steady and strong, and if there is one thing I have learned in the last five years, I hope that it has been to appreciate him the way he deserves.