Saturday, August 24, 2013

I Gotta Be Me!

Two things. It's our last full day in Maine and I've been reading Nathaniel Philbrick's _Bunker Hill_. Both things are reminding me that I have to be myself and not try to imagine that others have it all figured out.

Being in Maine I keep thinking about how people manage to have a summer home. I'm not talking about wealthy people who have summer mansions, but ordinary people who somehow manage to have these places on the water to which they retire in the summer when school is out or when they are done with work and are enjoying their retirement years. I keep wondering how they do it and, here's the rub, what's wrong with me that I can't make that happen.

It's just that I so enjoy waking up each morning to sun shining over the ocean, the waves gently lapping, and no sounds of traffic. I absolutely love that this writing -- the thing I most love to do -- is the sum total of my work. This is my job while I'm here and isn't that the perfect life.

I have to remind myself that were I to own this cottage, there would be other things on my mind. The stopped up toilet would be a nagging issue, the lack of heat, the loose nails needing to be pounded down, and I would absolutely have to do something about the driveway and the loose shingles. I would still enjoy my days here and love being able to write on this deck with the morning sun, but it wouldn't be the same vacation. It's easy for me to forget that in thinking about what is going on with my life. The only way to have the vacation I'm having now on a permanent basis would be to have people who service the place for me and that is something more than what I want. I don't need wealth.

So I have to remind myself that this vacation is a vacation and that while I can't have it last fifty-two weeks instead of one, I can incorporate aspects of it into the other fifty-one weeks of my annual living. It's lovely to look out over the ocean, but it's also something to be in our dining room at home as the snow piles up on the trees.

The thing I'm after isn't location, location, location, so much as a way of thinking and being and feeling. That sort of thing, I'm betting, isn't location specific. Sure, it's difficult to have the same feeling as I do now near the ocean, but I don't have to have the same feeling, I just need a good feeling. That can happen anywhere I choose to make it happen.

Then there's Philbrick's book about the beginnings of the revolution and those founding fathers who have always seemed to me beyond genius. How, I've wondered, could so many great people have been gathered so tightly together and done something so phenomenal as to create the founding documents and started the United States on its way? And along with that comes the worry that I am not achieving any kind of greatness.

Here's the thing: the Revolution produced greatness. Yes, those people were spectacular, but they were made so by the circumstances in which they found themselves and through the choices to rise to that occassion. There's no telling what a person will do when the circumstance demands it.

My life, by comparison, is quieter by far. There is no George III to oppose, no country to be built. Instead, there is the Common Core Standards, APPR, standardized testing, and the like that are tearing down the profession of teaching. Perhaps there is a revolution there in to which I can enter and rise. Perhaps not. Either way, trying to compare myself to John Admans is a losing game. The idea is to be myself even though that seems so ordinary.

But that's how I think I'll find extraordinary: by being the person I am in the place I live and moving forward. Who knows, maybe I'll end up with a summer home on the water and the means to enjoy a cup of coffee on the deck every morning while I write. Maybe too I'll have found a way to lead a revolution and build something extraordinary in the face of adversary. Whatever I do, it begins with knowing myself and being happy with who I am rather than itching to become someone I read about in a book or who owns a cottage by the sea. It begins with being me and continues as I write on.