A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
In reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls this month, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the compromises Jeannette’s family is willing to make for their values. They never really had enough food or a home that was decent and warm because Jeannette’s parents were unwilling to compromise their idea of independence and truly doing what you love. With Rex, it’s more of a problem with addiction, but with Rosemary, she is unwilling to compromise her dream of being an artist to take care of her family by becoming a teacher and doing well. She won’t sell her land in Texas because she believes that land must be kept in the family even though it’s worth about a million dollars. It’s made me think about the compromises I’m willing to make.
These thoughts have led to the rather uncomfortable truth that I’m unwilling to compromise on a lot of things. I’m going to move in three days, not counting today, but I’m moving to a place that’s probably too expensive and too nice for what I actual need. I’m in constant pursuit of the idea of perfection, which to me is sustainable and green living in a sleek and stylish space that looks like something from a magazine. I’m all about the details and finding just the right thing. I do the same thing with how I dress.
So, here are the compromises I am willing to make. I have not bought everything I’ve wanted to for this apartment. I’m waiting to buy a dish set that I’m in love with and silverware that matches. I’m not buying brand new tables and chairs and bar stools. I’m not buying the things that I know would give me the satisfaction of creating the ‘perfect’ space, because I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that it’s okay to not have the perfect space. It’s okay to live like you’re twenty-two and, while you graduated debt free, you graduated with nothing. I’ve had my moments of weakness, like when I bought a tablecloth, table runner, and cloth napkins from H&M, but I’m learning to live without. I’m learning to be happy with close to perfect. (I also haven’t bought any books yet this summer and I’m constantly surprised by myself at that.) I’m starting from square one and I’ve had the luxury of living kind of on a budget because my parents have always been able to cover for me. I don’t want to do that any more. I crave that independence and these upcoming months (especially the six weeks I’ll be teaching before I get paid) terrify me, but I’ll get through.
In the same vein of learning to save money and actually stick to a budget, I’ve given up traveling this summer. I’m not going to visit my friends or go on the crazy road trips I’m dying to take. In becoming a runner, there are so many half marathons in devastatingly beautiful places I’d like to run, but I’m not signing up for them. I’m waiting. Training to stay in shape. I’m waiting to take these trips until I can actual afford it and enjoy it more because I’m not worried about the cost.
After graduating college, I thought that my days working fast food were over too. But, I had to compromise and fast food, despite its bad rap, has always welcomed me back with the open arms of a dysfunctional family. I’ve been working at Arby’s the past couple of months and as much as I am looking forward to tonight being my last shift, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t enjoy parts of my job. Yes, there’s still that little bit of shame when someone I know, a professor or kid I knew in high school, comes through the drive-thru or up to the front counter and I feel this desperate need to explain myself and what I’m doing there. I tell people I have a real job. That I’m a teacher. Yet, Arby’s is a real job too. It’s work and obviously it seems to be doing some good for society because people keep coming and eating there. Arby’s also donated pounds of roast beef to the Crazy Horse Riders when they came through on their trek back to Pine Ridge. That’s something I’m proud of. I also work with highly intelligent people. I work with a CNA and a LPN who’s going to school to go into law enforcement. I work with kind people. One of our managers just bought us pizza the other night with their own money just because. Another had to move to Idaho to take care of her ailing father. So, I might not miss it, but it’s been a good compromise and I’ve enjoyed my time there.
These are tiny compromises in the big scheme of things, but they’re also the ones I’m struggling with the most. I’m not bothered by the fact that my family will be eleven hours away in Missoula after they drop me and my stuff off on Saturday. That’s an alright compromise. Distance I can do. It’s learning to live with an imperfect life that’s teaching me a lot.
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No One Here But a Writer Who Gets Up and Try
Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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Stefan Falke photographs artists who live and work along the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region on both sides. All photos © Stefan Falke (use with written permission by the author only)