My Census form arrived a few days ago, and I filled it out right away. When I pulled the big packet out of the mailbox, I was excited, thinking I'd been chosen to do the Census that asks more detailed questions. Yes, I'm a Civics Geek that way--I'm also the person who doesn't mind waiting in line to vote. But no, the short Census form is now a booklet--was it in 2000? I don't remember. I'm sure it wasn't in 1990. And I'm almost sure that in 1990, it didn't ask all the questions in both English and Spanish. Do people living in places with less ethnic variety get this bilingual form too?
The first time I ever filled out the Census, in 1990, I filled out the longer form. I'll probably never be randomly selected to do that again.
As I was bubbling in the circles, I took a minute to think about the changes that have happened since the last Census, since the first Census I filled out. In 1990, I'd been married for 2 years, just starting a Ph.D. program and scared to death, not doing much creative writing. In 2000, we'd lived in South Florida for 2 years, I was adjuncting a variety of places, but my husband had just gotten the kind of job his MPA prepared him for. We were hopeful. I hadn't published but a handful of poems.
Now, I have a chapbook published, with lots of poems published in a wide variety of places. I'm Chair of my department. We're still in the same house, which I wouldn't have expected back in 2000. I've never lived in any house as long as I've lived in this one. I've never lived in any town as long as I've lived in this one. I think my general outlook is sunny and hopeful, and my spouse is usually fairly upbeat too.
As I bubbled in the circle about housing, I realized how lucky I am to have a house that I can afford to maintain--although with each year's insurance bills (regular insurance and windstorm, which total over $4,000 a year, and we're still underinsured because it's impossible to buy that much insurance), I wonder how long we'll be able to cover the big bills. But each year it works out. And I know it's largely a matter of luck, as well as careful planning. And I'm grateful.
As I paged through the Census form, I realized how lucky I am that only two of us live in this house. I know people who take in boarders to make ends meet. I know people who are supporting a variety of family members by taking them in. So far, our family members are holding their own. We've avoided that stress. We won't always be able to avoid it, perhaps, so I'm enjoying this time now.
Where will I be in 10 more years? I'll be 54, my spouse 55. I imagine that the retirement age will be 75 by then, so I'll still have 20 years of working life ahead of me. I hope I have a book with a spine by then--or two! Will I still be working in my current job? What new art forms will I be exploring? What new technology will we be enjoying or cursing?
It will be here before we know it. Let me get back to this poem that's been percolating.
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