. . . Mother’s Day was two weekends ago, and, as you might recall, my family has become
obsessed rather fond of taking tea together. We’ve gone to a few fussy-but-still-cozy tearooms for full tea service before, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite things in the world to do. There’s something so very soothing about eating a bunch of tiny sandwiches, lots of sugar-laden things, and sipping warm, delicious liquid. So, for Mother’s Day, I decided to plan my dream Mother’s Day tea and, for the first time in months, invite my parents over to celebrate with us. We’d set it up outside, naturally, on our comfortable back patio and ample outdoor dining table overlooking all of our hard work in the raised bed garden and listening to the sounds of the birds and the wind in the trees.. . .
. . . Once upon a time, in what feels like a different life, I co-owned a boutique wine shop with a small upscale cafe, where I was the executive chef. I served everything from wine-inspired appetizers, pizzas, and soups/salads/sandiwches to 5 course $150 a head wine dinners. But, during this time, I also had two very small children. The hours were awful, the stress was great, and it was the middle of the Great Recession. As much as people loved it, they could only buy so much wine and fancy food, and so we closed in Fall 2010, and I was honestly relieved. I became a stay-at-home-parent until my return to higher education once both kids were in kindergarten. . .
. . . As a liberal arts professional, I strongly disagree–education is about learning to think critically and communicate that thinking out to an audience. We are fond of reminding everyone that the more you learn the less you think you know, the opposite effect of the bucket approach. Moreover, truly effective education helps a learner position themselves as a life-long learner–someone who understands how and why they learn, which necessarily involves metacognition and fostering an environment that encourages learner agency, a word that means a learner is responsible for themselves and exercising intrinsic motivation.. . .
. . . A few years ago, just after I graduated with my MA, I was was asked to participate in a panel discussion for incoming graduate students. One of the students posed a question to the panel about self-care, and balancing work and life in grad school, and everyone turned to look at me because everyone knew this was in my wheelhouse. My scholarship is situated in the realm of emotions, embodiments, and community relations, so the notion of wellness is folded in to my scholarly pursuits. Indeed, I had spent a lot of time in grad school focusing on care, whether for self or one another. And as an alumni turned faculty member, my perspective should have provided insight and encouragement. In short, I should have nailed the answer. Instead, I completely fumbled. Like, not just a little. I catastrophically fumbled. I actually said something to the effect of, “I had so much to do that the idea that I was also supposed to stop doing all the things to take care of myself became a source of guilt, perpetuating a severe anxiety loop that seemed inescapable. . .
. . . This does not mean there will not be pain. This means that love, in its very nature, is painful. It requires a bending, disturbing, and at times a breaking if we are to set against another enough to work the body. Love is patient and kind, as the famous Bible verse starts, but it’s also sweaty and hard and inconvenient and self-sacrificing. It means listening without forming a response in our heads and hearts. It means perspective-taking. It means acknowledging our own culpability, failings, and short-sightedness. It means encountering another’s emotions with empathy and compassion–with a desire to understand. It means we do not need to “allow for” or even “account for” difference; it means difference is the constant natural state of our world. We need to learn to dwell within it with one another. . .
. . .And those plans are really what this post is about. We bought our current home almost 11 years ago on my 29th birthday. We couldn’t afford much, what with it being a recession and us having been happily surprised with two young children as Brian and I were both struggling to finish our undergraduate degrees. I had been told I was probably infertile, and then came Chloe, much to our delight. But, it meant not accepting the study abroad at Pont-Aven France for Brian. It meant me not following along. It meant leaving our downtown townhouse with little space and a high price tag to move in with my parents in a northern suburb. It meant me taking a break from school so Brian and I could play “trade the baby,” with me working evenings as a chef while Brian finished his degree during the day. By the time we saved enough to buy a home, Liam was crawling, and Chloe was a toddler. We celebrated Liam’s first birthday and Chloe’s third a few months after moving in. Dear reader, I will be 40 in May. . .
. . .The idea was straightforward, even if we knew ahead of time it would be a full weekend of work: 1) rent the chipper 2) back Brian’s truck up to the fence, 3) unload chipper, then 4) use chipper over the course of a 24 hour period to get as much done as possible because it’s somewhere around $250 a day. To best describe this process to you, I think it’s easiest if I provide a list in problem-solution (if there was one) order, then some commentary in between. Yes. Let’s do that.
Problem 1) The only local rental place with a working chipper is 30 minutes away. This is not convenient, especially since our strategy was to get the chipper late in the day on one day and return it the following afternoon, making it supposedly easier for us to manage our time (no one wants to hear a chipper going at 8am in the morning and we like our neighbors and want them to like us back). We’ll now have to start earlier in the day on the second day than we would have liked, and finish far sooner than planned to leave enough time to return it. . .
. . .I do not remember what my young self expected to experience, but I do remember the first feelings I had upon entering the reservation. I don’t know that it exists in word-form, but the closest I can think of might be an odd mixture of feeling like a trespasser, feeling guilty because the word reservation seemed somehow wrong and also loaded with meaning, and yet also feeling completely dumbstruck at the reservation’s beauty, vastness, and mostly untouched and unspoiled nature–a nod to the romantic notion of the American Indian. I spent the next week encountering a series of firsts: first time I was ever the minority, being one in a handful of white people in a room, first time I was ever a guest in what felt almost like another country, first time I was expected to do real physical manual labor, and the first time I had encountered in the flesh the reality of what my books had shown me–the reality that I, as a white person, was culpable in this story. . .
Life and Comedy
. . .Alright. No problem. It’s just one round-trip to campus and back. I’ve got a water jug, which I proceed to stick my arm out of my window and fling helplessly at my windshield periodically in order to be able to see. Only it freezes as soon as it hits the windshield even with the defrost going full-blast, the salt on the roads is thick, meaning my windshield is getting more and more caked with grime, and now my wipers have decided that RIGHT NOW would be a fantastic time to pretty much stop working altogether. They only clear a small fraction of windshield, which just so handily happens to be almost at my eye level, so at least there’s that. I cock my head to one side and duck slightly, but I can still see what’s directly in front of me.. . .
. . .So into the job search I went. I spent hours reading about resumes and cover letters and trying different templates and comparing with other people on LinkedIn. I created a professional portfolio website here on WordPress. I tried to make the LinkedIn algorithm work by interacting meaningfully on posts and “creating content!” so that employers could know what I was about. I applied and applied and applied and wrote and wrote and wrote: cover letters that are unique and speak to the bullets listed in the job description, resumes tailored for each position–“don’t make recruiters go searching for why you’re a good fit!” (but isn’t that their job?!), message recruiters on LinkedIn, but only this way and not that way and most of them won’t respond but you also have to network! Networking will get you a job! But it takes me all day every day to fill out an application because I have to link to my LinkedIn, upload my resume, and then fill in each individual blank that requires all the exact same information on LinkedIn and resume, but won’t autopopulate. So, I guess I network in the evenings and on weekends now? (hashtag: social saturday!). . .
. . .I’ll leave you with a final word about human behavioral biology, bias, and the system we’ve designed to hire people. I’ve been seeing a lot of wise and worthy calls on LinkedIn from recruiters, jobseekers, and content creators for hiring managers to “screen in” instead of “screening out.” This isn’t just hyperbole, but biology. When our brains label someone as “out” or “them” or “not in,” our brains go to work in all sorts of unconscious ways that impact everything from how we feel to how we make decisions about that person (see, again, Robert Sapolsky’s Behave). If you’re screening for “culture fit,” and screening out, you will only ever screen in the people who are most like you, whether that’s race, gender, class, or any other identity or category marker. . .