I woke up to coffee, oatmeal and Katherine Gregor's lovely lovely review of I Woke Up In Love This Morning on Smashwords. Now I'm watching a documentary Animal Planet did on mermaids. I can't think of a better way to start the last day of my thirties.
The months before I turned thirty I remember feeling so nervous. I remember thinking, God, what's the matter with me? I wanted so much to BE SOMEONE, to have a book with my name out there, to be a success. At the time I was working on a novel that I knew was good but it was missing a plot. And an ending. Otherwise, it was a great, great novel. But that no plot/no ending deal were big issues that weren't going to be resolved anytime soon.
So I was half dreading, half looking forward to my 30th birthday. My birthday I woke up and I remember not feeling sad or thinking here's the failure who doesn't have a book out before she's thirty. I woke up so excited and thinking, Oh thank you, God—my twenties are over! I was ready to grow up, ready to figure out what to do next.
I realized that I needed to figure out what I wanted. I wanted to go back to school. But I also knew I needed a job as well. Hmm. This was a problem. Aha! People were always saying I was good with children. I could be a preschool teacher! The month after I turned thirty, I went back to Diablo Valley College and signed up for classes.
My first semester was crazy, but in a good way. I wasn't that nineteen-year-old who felt like she was going to fail school and it was the end of the world. I already saw the end of the world six years before when my grandfather died. Everything else that happened to me was gravy. It was different this time. I was different this time. When one of my teachers announced that we would have group tests, I thought, Oh God, it's junior high and I'll be chosen last.
Yet the minute school ended, a girl ran up to my desk and said "Can you be in our group?"
"Oh good!" She looked so relieved. I just sat there thinking, Wow, it's that easy?
Being a preschool teacher wasn't meant to be. It wasn't the children, ironically—I loved them. It was the adults who had teeny-tiny control issues. I decided to go with what Goethe said and commit. I applied to Mills College and got in. At age thirty-two, Mom, my cousin Sericea, her husband Matti (along with my six month old nephew) drove to Mills with some furniture in Matti's truck. I was going to live in a dorm. Me in a dorm. Who would've dreamed it?
After I got my room key, I'll never forget the five of us in the elevator, and I thought how did this happen? We didn't say anything as I walked down the hall, then I stopped at my room 288. I looked at my name on the door. I looked at Mom and Sericea. They knew it had been a long strange trip getting to that door. Matti who was holding my mini fridge said "You can open the door anytime."
I opened the door.
A year later my aunt called my mom. I had moved back home to save money but was also taking housesitting gigs in Oakland. She told us that Sericea's next door neighbor was looking for new tenants for her house in Lafayette. The rent was a thousand dollars a month. Would we be interested? Um, yeah. Yeah. Six months later, we had a graduation party for me in the backyard.
It wasn't always easy. Life happened several times. Electra, my beloved cat I had since I was seventeen, died. Kathryn, the woman who owned that house, died six months later. Yet I kept on going. I wrote, I started a blog. I started getting published on a regular basis. I found another place to live.
It hasn't always been easy. I've had losses the past couple of years that brought me to my knees. But I am still here. I don't know what will happen during my forties, but all I know is I'm hoping ten years from now when I'm about to be fifty, I look around and think wow, I'm still here. That's all anyone can want.
This is a poem a friend of mine sent to me today by Ron Padgett:
Excerpts from "How to be Perfect"
by Ron Padgett
Get some sleep.
Eat an orange every morning.
Be friendly. It will help make you happy.
Hope for everything. Expect nothing.
Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.
Don't stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don't
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm's length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass
Wear comfortable shoes.
Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.
Plan your day so you never have to rush.
Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if
you have paid them, even if they do favors you don't want.
After dinner, wash the dishes.
Don't expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want
Don't be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.
Don't think that progress exists. It doesn't.
Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don't do
anything to make it impossible.
Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not
possible, go to another one.
If you feel tired, rest.
Don't be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel
even older. Which is depressing.
Do one thing at a time.
If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for 20
minutes. you will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and
Do not inhale smoke.
Take a deep breath.
Do not smart off to a policeman.
Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.
Do not go crazy a lot. It's a waste of time.
Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to
drink, say, "Water, please."
Take out the trash.
Use exact change.
When there's shooting in the street, don't go near the window.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries