Thursday, December 3, 2009

Worst Decade Ever?

Jeannine wrote a post about the possibility of this decade being the worst ever (she was prompted by this post, which was prompted by this Time article). I hadn't thought of the past chunk of years as a decade until a few weeks ago, which is odd, because as I read Mary Biddinger's recent post , I remembered that I used to spend lots of time analyzing decades as they came to an end.

Worst decade ever? For me personally? As always, it was a mix for me. There were the great national tragedies, some of which affected me more deeply than others. Hurricane Katrina wrecked my area before moving on to New Orleans. If there had been no Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Wilma in the same year would have been the big news story.

Those national weather stories came in the same year as my mother-in-law's long, lingering, horrifying death-by-hospital.

Yes, if I never have a year like 2005 again, I'll be happy.

But even in the midst of that hardship year, there were happy times, like returning to France with my parents, and taking a driving tour of our early years together. I was born on an Air Force Base in France, and it was a treasure beyond price to drive through that landscape with my parents, all of us significantly older. To hear them tell those stories of their (and my) early days was such a treat.

This decade has been one of great turmoil, with the various mass slaughters, the wars, the economic implosions. Yet for me, personally, I've been lucky to avoid having anyone I love killed in any kind of conflict. While we've had economic ups and downs, my family finances have been enough to cover the bills and save a smidge.

I spent part of this decade as an adjunct, which made me convinced that I'd like to never do that again as my full-time job. But if I had never adjuncted, I'd have missed out on being a professor in the English department at Florida Atlantic University, where I taught 19th century British literature to English majors. They were perhaps even more excited about the literature than I was. I'm used to being the only one in the room who cares about literature and wants to talk about it. But in those FAU classrooms, we had rollicking conversations, and often stayed a bit after class to continue the discussions. It was a rewarding experience, and I miss it deeply.

I took a job at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale when I was desperately tired of adjuncting and in need of financial stability. It, too, has turned out to have benefits I wouldn't have imagined when I took that job. I got to create and teach a variety of creative writing courses, which I enjoyed almost as much as the experience at FAU. And I've had the opportunity to move into administration.

I've had publishing success, like the publication of my chapbook by Pudding House Publications. I've had publishing disappointments, too, but they pale in comparison with the satisfaction of my chapbook.

My surviving family has had health scares (my dad, in particular, has endured some cancer battles that made me shudder) and trials, but most of us are still here, and my sister's son has been more of a delight than I could have anticipated.

I know that I'm very lucky. I'm keenly aware of all the people who have suffered deeply, and their experiences remind me to be grateful for my own good fortune--and to try to alleviate the suffering of others too. I'm lucky to be able to give time and money in my continuing quest for social justice. In this Advent time, I look to the time when all will have enough, and there will be no reason for news stories that analyze the past decade as the worst ever.


jeannine said...

Aw, Kristin, sorry I was so depressing! I'll be back to more cheerful posts soon...

Kristin said...

I didn't really find your post depressing--but you have been through quite a lot, so you'd have the right to write a depressing post.

Thinking about the past decade and its troubles is enough to send any of us into despair, frankly. Hard to focus on the good . . . which is why I wanted to write a post to give it a try.