New Year, Old Habits

Last Tuesday my husband and I married after a whirlwind process–an elopement with immediate family planned in five days. Though friends and family members expressed surprise, the decision was a long time coming. We had discussed marriage for months, ultimately deciding the act–more than a lavish ceremony–mattered most to us.

Fast forward almost a week and I’m already thinking about the future–again. Two acquaintances have started businesses–personal chef and jewelry maker, respectively. I envy their freedom, creativity, and discipline.

Because my husband is a PhD student, we are largely dependent on my position at a local college. In the meantime, I am most passionate about what I call my “own” writing. My biggest piece is my MFA thesis-turned-self-published novel. With the New Year, I’m reworking it, focusing less on mental illness and more on coming of age themes. I’ve started approaching small publishers with the new idea.

For so long–almost a decade, really–my identity was tied to Something Else–purchased home (condo in Connecticut), partner (boyfriend of three years-turned-husband), good, well-paying job.

Within twenty-four hours of marrying, I was eager to change my last name to my husband’s–his one wish, our sole nod to tradition. For a moment I fantasized that changing my name would be an elixir, vanquishing old habits and hangups.

For instance, for a long time I’ve said This Was The Year I’d Write More–not just blogs and the occasional essay published in the occasional minor publication, but real work. I blamed “life” when it got in the way–my job, my preoccupation with marriage or a new, better apartment in New York City. (It was an adjustment returning from my mother-in-law’s home replete with fireplace and mountain views to our place–the mysterious coat of ceiling plaster on the bathroom floor, the perennial leak in the room adjacent to the foyer, yellow stains seeping through fresh white paint, etc. etc.)

Each time I’ll back away from the computer, too tempted to surf Zillow or StreetEasy with their promise of refurbished, overpriced Manhattan studios or Westchester one bedrooms. We can’t afford to pay more rent; we can’t afford to move. I remind myself our place is ‘for now,’ that it’s safe, that it’s convenient, that it boasts walkable amenities. My husband loves the quiet and the space, the hardwood floors.

Although packages exist to consolidate name changes, I’ve now chosen to keep my maiden name for professional purposes–at least for the moment. There is also much to “do” first: managing my condo and reducing debt a priority.

The real work (in addition to writing) is pursuing the forgotten hobbies–picking up the camera my parents bought me last Christmas and approaching a photographer friend for tips. The real work is deepening new friendships. The real work is to keep volunteering. The real work is inside of me, not outside of it. And on I push.

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