D.E.B. up and out early -- no lazy lie-in together for us today. The Darling English Boy is in the studio this morning, recording a demo CD with musician pal, Ewan. D.E.B. and Ewan have formed a folk duo, part-time only, just a hobby at this point. They are quite good in fact. Went along and heard them at the Warwick Folk Club, the other week. That was fun!
So, I find myself at home alone with "the furry girls" (Lucy & Lily). I am in fact pleased to have a bit of "me" time. Its been quite a hectic week. Okay, not anywhere near NYC-hectic, but hectic for me nonetheless.
I received a call from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on Thursday afternoon offering me my first lecturing gig with them. A bit of short notice as they needed me to fill in for a lecture on Saturday morning. Yikes, I thought. Thankfully, a lecture on the performance history of A Midsummer Night's Dream was all that was needed. A joy for me, really. I am completely at home with the material, my angst was centered/centred on the logistics. It was a question of prep time -- always a dilemma for me. Prior to getting "The Call," I had planned to spend my Friday at the Throckmorton Literary Festival at Coughton Court. I was dying to go along to the Festival as it looked to be an extraordinary event, and a chance for a bit of research for the new idea for a novel that is currently rolling around my head. The question was whether I would forego the "research" visit to Coughton Court, in favor of prepping for the Dream lecture. This dilemma was/is far more existential than it seems. At the moment, in the midst of this new and exciting life, I am routinely pulling myself in two directions.
As an academic, I have written and published a number of "scholarly" works. Basically, three (3) very good, learned, and highly over-priced books that few people have read, and even fewer have bought. And like most academics, I have dreams, hopes and ambitions beyond that. As I told the D.E.B. when he first offered this incredible opportunity to me to have the space and time to "rediscover myself as a writer," I said to him: "Let me just assure you, I am not sitting on the next Harry Potter..." (To which he just smiled "that smile," and hugged me.) But, I do have a story inside my head that I really want to tell. And, as J. K. Rowling once said, oh, so, wisely, I think, all one must do is: "Believe in your story." Whether anyone else will believe it, or believe in it, is of course another very significant matter to contemplate, but I think Rowling is right to suggest that that initial belief and commitment to ones own idea/dream, etc. is vital. However, while I am taking these tentative steps into the "real writers" writerly world, I can hear the serious, uptight, respectful voice of academe crying out: "But is it scholarship? Is it tripe?" and, "What a waste of a first-class education!"
To be honest, it does feel like "play" -- my dreams of writing fiction. And surely, at my age, at this point in my career, I should be doing more "meaningful" work. But, its funny isn't it? How the word 'meaningful' changes over time. I have worked very hard over the years. I worked my way through graduate school temp-ing, waitressing, whatever I could find. And comforted myself with my lofty and "meaningful" goals. I was then lucky enough to score some freelance teaching gigs, built my resume, got my Ph.D. and tah-dah! Academe! But something was missing. There was a place inside me that no matter how much joy I gleaned from teaching -- and joy I did glean, daily. And God, I did and do love my students, each and every one! -- but there was what felt like a hole in my soul. A feeling that I was not and had not been utterly true to myself. But I stayed on the treadmill, kept running the race, the years trickled by and "the hole" just got bigger and bigger. Then, the classic female dilemma: family or career? Biological clock, and so forth. Then, again, the classic life dilemma: do what you love, or shoot for success -- as often these two are not the same thing.
As my 39th year loomed in the distance, I feared my destiny had been set. I would end up alone, and disappointed, single, but successful in the City. But all of the changed, in a heartbeat. As sickeningly sweet, the English would say "twee," as it sounds, love changed everything. Yes, it is a huge gamble. As friends and family have (and continue to) lovingly remind me, I have taken a unimaginable risk in packing in my job, packing up my life, and moving to England on a promise of love. But, what is life without risk?
Living on the edge, as I now do, I decided to follow my gut/heart and spend Friday at Coughton Court. And what a day it was! Difficult to explain here, but I had what I'd like to think is a "writer's instinct" that I would be inspired by the surroundings at Coughton Court for the story I want to write, and I was absolutely right!!!! And I met some fabulous people there to boot. Excellent, excellent day. Research, of a very different and interactive kind.
Came home, completely exhausted, didn't get started on my lecture prep until around 9 PM on Friday night. Yikes, again! Panic set in almost immediately. What was I thinking! Pratting around Coughton Court all day when I should have been prepping...I burned the midnight oil, got the lecture together, and then tried unsuccessfully to sleep. D.E.B. woke me at 7:00 AM with a cup of tea on my bedside table, just as I had drifted off to sleep. Darling that he is, he rushed about taking care of the "livestock" and cooking breakfast as I fretted about what to wear. I entered the kitchen to be showered with much-needed praise, and was handed a fresh cup of tea and a hot bacon buttie (sandwich). The poor boy had no idea that at this point the very thought of food had me on the brink of hurling. He then drove me into Stratford-upon-Avon and dropped me off at Starbucks (Yes! There is one!). As I walked down Henley Street with my Grande Soy Latte in hand, I realized I was going to be okay. I also realized -- and not at all in an arrogrant way -- that I probably have forgotten more about Shakespeare and A Midsummer Night's Dream than these kids will ever know. (Okay, most of it is probably just useless information and mindless trivia, but still.)
So, as it turned out my first lecture for The Trust was for a delightful group of "Drama Majors" from the Midwest. Sassy Americans. Excellent. Just my sort of crowd. They were warm, attentive, engaging and receptive. Of course, it is, as they say, like riding a bicycle. And I really like this bicycle, it's all new, red and shiny!