Our living room is crammed full of all of our worldly possessions. We pick up the moving truck today and head to Dallas tomorrow.
Ahead of us stretches the rest of our lives, and I’m kind of terrified.
* * *
I’ve made my peace with Abilene. I’m leaving on good terms (though it was touch and go there for a bit after I got back from Europe–Abilene really didn’t like me so cultured!), though I can’t say I’m sorry that I don’t have to endure monthly dust storms anymore.
Abilene has been a transitional space, though certainly not lacking in meaning. In Abilene I moved from being a kid to being an adult. I learned how to rent my own place and how to set up utilities. I learned my profession–how to research, write, and teach. I moved from being a VERY single and awkward kid to being a VERY married and awkward man. I have gone from being on my parents’ dime to (along with Amanda) being responsible for taking care of myself. Words like “mortgage” and “children” regularly enter our conversations.
Abilene has been a good training ground, a kind of controlled environment where failure is not catastrophic. This has been true in all the aspects of my life that I draw meaning from. I explored faith and God and religion, finally finding myself. I learned how a university operates, able to see things both from the administration’s perpective and the faculty’s perspective. I was carefully guided as I began teaching and researching, giving me a solid foundation as I move into PhD work. And Abilene has been an excellent place to live out the first year of marriage, surrounded as we have been with established friendships and community.
Perhaps, in the end, Abilene has been the place that I locked in my essential self for the future.
* * *
We will be in Dallas for at least five years since that is the length of my PhD program at UT Arlington. But we intend to buy a house and settle down in Dallas; I hope it is the place that we spend the next seventy years.
And as I look into the future, as I imagine what life will be like in ten years, I realize that my life will be more open-ended than ever. Certainly, I do not have all the freedom in the world. I am married now, and our futures are inextricably tied together. But my (and our) agency only grows with time.
I guess what I mean is that I have had a singular vision of my life since I was sixteen. I have intended, since junior year of high school, to take a PhD in English and teach college students. I have known, for the last eight years, that I would be in school until I was nearly thirty–that I would climb to the academic pinnacle. I have always known that what I am best at is school. And, though I never intended to come to Abilene or, once I finished my BA, actually do my MA at ACU, it hasn’t been difficult to make those decisions.
And yes, of course, I got married (something I never really thought about when I envisioned my future), but marriage, in my mind, has not been a location or a context so much as a condition.
But when I look into the future, I realize that I have only two years left of course work. Thirty-six more hours. And then, of course, the comprehensive exams and dissertation. But still: only two more years. And then, after that, I will be fully responsible for my own studies. The further I go into the program, the more I will determine my research projects and the articles I will write. And, looking past the dissertation, I realize that I where I teach, where I find (hopefully) a tenure-track position, will be guided pretty much by me. And my interests.
The decision to be at ACU was easy–that was where my best friend was going to college. Staying for my MA was easy; ACU was the only program to offer me funding. Even going to UTA was an easy decision since that is the only PhD program that admitted me. And what about all of the other decisions?
Amanda and I will adopt a child or children at some point. We are interested in fostering. We also want biological children. Amanda and I want to buy a house. She is thinking about going back to school to (perhaps) get her DNP.
But, from now on, the buck stops with us. We will decide. And we will take responsibility for those decisions.
And that is the terrifying part.
And it is incredibly exciting.