My husband and I spent a large percentage of last summer watching “Parks and Rec” on an inflatable mattress in Western Canada. Despite being a wonderful source of entertainment that makes my husband sentimental more than real life makes my husband sentimental, “Parks and Rec” also serves as an excellent relational tool. Characters succeed and fail, break up and get married, lose jobs and gain jobs. When I told my high school improv team that I was leaving CCHS for a new position at Camp Roger, I sent them this Gif of Leslie Knope, riding in the back of a car, saying “The only thing I’m 100% positive on is that I want to stay AND go.”
It’s beautiful when art reflects reality.
I am in what psychologists call “Lifestyle Flux” (note: I made up that phrase). Everything in my life recently changed. It is like the metaphysical version of puberty. I got married this summer. I took a new job. I hiked a ridiculous amount and at one point I could actually kind of run a mile. These days, I primarily eat vegetables.
It is terrifying.
I’ve finally reached the stage in life where I’m beginning to sprint (ok… jog… ok… ride in a motorcycle sidecar while sipping a Bailey’s and coffee…) as far as I can from idle chit chat.
I love talking, which, incidentally, was my very first full sentence. “Any excuse to speak” has long been listed among my favorite hobbies, but suddenly, I flee from small talk, because it requires frequent, casual, polite… lying.
“So, how’s the first year of marriage going?”
“It sure is an adjustment, but it’s great so far. We have our ups and downs, but it’s fun to figure those things out together.”
REAL ANSWER: “Being married is really actually the flippin best thing ever because GUESS WHAT. YOU’RE NO LONGER ENGAGED. Holy hell. Don’t get engaged. Skip it. SKIP IT, I SAY. It’s all the responsibility and commitment without any of the sharing Netflix, and it suuuuuuuucks. If anyone ever proposes to you, say yes, and then immediately speed dial the pastor that is most likely to commute to your location within ten seconds to complete the ceremony. Our relationship has gone from a vortex of passive aggression and way too much driving to FREAKIN LIVING IN THE SAME HOUSE AND PLAYING ELABORATE PUZZLE VIDEO GAMES UNTIL 2 A.M., all in a matter of a year. Puh-leeeeease.”
“Do you miss teaching?”
“Well, I don’t miss the grading.” *laughs like a pre-Jack Rose in Titanic*
REAL ANSWER: “I go into crisis mode every other month, usually on a night after improv practice, where I lie in the fetal position and cry because I’m sure I’ve destroyed the Lord’s plan for my life. Brent pats my back comfortingly and reminds me that I am, in fact, a psychopath who cannot accurately interpret her own feelings. I moan into my memory foam mattress that I should be there because I love those kids and they need me and I want to teach Beowulf and what have I done. And just when I’m certain that no one in the academic community will ever take me seriously again, I remember that I have a myriad of opportunities to develop various multi-dimensional curriculums in an outdoor classroom, and I stop breathing through a bag.”
“Do you like your new job?”
“Just like any job, there’s a learning curve. I’m still trying to figure it all out and do the best I can. Some parts are a lot of fun, and I don’t have to grade any papers.” *chuckles audibly*
REAL ANSWER: “Why do people ask this question? OH BECAUSE YOU CARE ABOUT ME, IS THAT IT???!!! ….Well. Yes. That is a pretty good reason… But here’s the THING. The first year of a job is CRAZY because you never know exactly what’s going on, and everything feels like it’s happening in fast forward. One minute you think, ‘I just got paid to eat a s’more,’ and the next you’re saying ‘I have been standing in the rain for seven hours, and I can no longer feel my underwear. Perhaps it just dissolved.’ And you know that no job is perfect, but your job is a little bit magical. But you also know that you love pretty much everything in the world, so you hate that you can’t do everything in the world all at the same time and why don’t people understand that.”
Whatever happened to college, when all the small talk revolved around questions like “What do you think of Season Two of Firefly?” and “How many Lucky Charms shapes do you think I can fit in my pants?”—questions you can answer with responses like “Will you be my best friend, because it’s cool to be nerdy now?” and “Let’s create a complex algorithm. Aiden, FETCH THE CHARTS!!”
Perhaps just in typing all of this, I have broken the Small Talk seal, and I will now just start sharing all my true feelings with my kind and friendly acquaintances. Maybe that would be better. There’s also a possibility, however, that they aren’t as well-equipped as my husband to bring me lactose-free ice cream and remind me that I am crazy and I am loved.
We shall see. In the meantime, I’m going to go find a high school junior and ask where they hope to attend college.
Lauren (Boersma) Harris (’13) is a spontaneous, idealistic, independent, fierce, over-thinking, damaged, adventurous, ordinary megalomaniac with a healthy sense of self-worth and a high word count. She has been a teacher both indoors and outdoors; she loves improvised comedy, backpacking, and writing, even when it’s required.