A Year in D.C.

I’m not quite sure that the cemetery they decided to rest your ashes in is actually in the center of Queens.  But standing in front of the majestic mauseoleum, I can see the Manhattan skyline. I see rows of graves on a pleasant incline, a few grand trees offering shade.  On one side of the cemetery is a Queens stuck in the past and on the other side is Queens embracing the future.  The two of you, in the center of it all.  I know you didn’t come all this way to stop here.  I know you would tell me to live.  Breathe deep and then run.  Go and don’t be afraid.

It’s coming up on a year since we left New York.  The decision to leave our life in a hectic city and try out a new, slightly less, hectic city has had it’s highs and lows.  I’m amazed at how a huge disappointment led to a year of learning, exploration, and what feels something like “Chasing the Sun” here in North Virginia/D.C.   I’ll admit, it is not the calm, wooded scene I thought we were looking for.  In fact, a few weeks after we moved here, we were visiting family in North Carolina, enjoying the silence, and hubby says, “I think we made a mistake.”

But it hasn’t been.  Not for either of us.  I gained a whole new perspective in education by working with a forward-thinking school.  It was the jolt to my teaching system that I needed.  Privileged or poor, middle schoolers are in an “all about me” stage.  I got them to see the value in their unique talents and how it makes a positive difference in the world.  

My husband left his accounting job in New York and delved into filmmaking.  Once a hobby, it is now a blossoming career.  He filmed an event recently and I asked him, “Did you enjoy it?” and he quickly responded, “I would have done it for free!”  He filmed Rita Moreno at the Kennedy Center and completed a film program at George Washington University!  Makes that ping-pong table at his old office look really pathetic.  A recent comedian commented that Immigrants have 4 career choices – Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer or Accountant.  I get why he thought being an accountant was a good idea…ok, no I don’t.  Accounting sounds boring as hell.

And the kids?  My 4 year old is studying art techniques and swimming full time.  The 2 year old has perfected his station as Daddy’s best buddy, Mommy’s sweet angel and his Big Sister’s worst nightmare.  He studies trains and dinosaurs at length and can list creatures of the Jurassic better than he can recite his ABC’s.  They’re fine even if, for a while, they kept asking when are we going home? And why does it take so long to get to Gabby and Sophia’s house now?

As I write this, I’m not sure if we are staying or going.  We hope to be going, but still no confirmation.  Staying will be expensive – it’s no cheaper to live here than it was in New York.  In fact, it is more expensive as our kids need private education until they’re both 5!  The cost of pre-school here is somewhere up there with the cost of college tuition.  But staying would mean more learning for me and more career development for him.  Our kids…I’m not worried about keeping them home a bit longer.  I can’t see my 2 year old sitting in a classroom anyhow.

Grandma, Grandpa, I can’t say I will visit you here often because, I know you’re not here.  You’re somewhere beyond the sun, soaking in the rays, hand in hand. You’re looking at me half smiling and half laughing because you already know what will happen.  Your children all left at some point.  Two joined the Navy.  Two went home to Ecuador.  The two girls off and married.  Each and everyone came back, eventually.  Even the one uncle, the one who headed off to Texas and seemed to never come back – he’s back now.  Now! Even though you’re gone.  And I don’t think he’s leaving again.  It’s not even about New York.  Screw New York.  it’s about you.  We all just want to be near you.  Someday, I will be back too.

So what has life been like in a new city?  What’s it like to pick up and leave New York after  30+ years of living there?  The series of posts to follow will give you an idea of the ups and downs of moving your family to a new city, DC, and life outside of New York.  

Grandma, Grandpa, and Mom in the 1970’s.

I’ll be channeling Sara Bareilles as we go as she seems to be singing my soul right now.

https://youtu.be/hNkmQmh3zww?list=RDhNkmQmh3zww

Chasing the Sun – Sara Bareilles

It’s a really old city

Stuck between the dead and the living

So I thought to myself,

Sitting on a graveyard shelf

As the echo of heartbeats,

From the ground below my feet

Filled a cemetery

In the center of Queens…

You said, remember that life is

Not meant to be wasted

We can always be chasing the sun!

So fill up your lungs and just run

But always be chasing the sun!

All we can do is try

And live like we’re still alive

All we can do is try

And live like we’re still alive


***Update***

Confirmed to depart for my 1st teaching job abroad on August 3rd!

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Dear Mr. Mrs. Ms. Dr. Nancy O…

I guess when you’re sending out hundreds of offer letters, you don’t have time to figure out who’s a he, she, post-grad, or other….but who cares?  I’m going to Abu Dhabi!!!

My hand has been wrapped around my phone so much over the last month that I think I’ve developed arthritis!  I keep checking, refreshing, and texting my interview buddies – just waiting for an offer.  Finally, it came today!

12:30 pm There is a buzz on the google+ and facebook groups – people getting offers after weeks of uncertainty!  I’m not really the type of teacher to have my phone out all the time, but this afternoon I had to keep checking.  

2:20 pm My email came and I could not hold it in!!!

2:21 I start skipping around the classroom and telling the kids I won a trip to Abu Dhabi!  Really, not the finest teaching moment, but there are just some things you cannot control-Utter Delight being one of them! They cheer for me and they groan when they realize it’s in the summer and not next week.  I forgive them and continue jumping for joy!

2:30 Students are dismissed so I text my husband in all caps.  Hubby knew this was coming and is just as thrilled as I am!

My sisters, however, remind me of the reality that is living oceans apart.

2:35 I text my sisters, Lisa and Nat, “I’m Moving to Abu Dhabi!”

2:40 Lisa’s reaction is a series of crying emoticons.

2:45 Natalie’s reaction is”But we’ll never see you…” followed by a shocked-face emoticon.

2:50 Lisa texts, “My babies will be 4 and 6 when you get back.”

I have to retract something I wrote earlier about being deserted…I wrote that I live miles away from friends and family and hardly ever see them.  This is still true, but in perspective, I see them a whole lot more often than I’m going to be over the next few years.  Baby Z just had her 1st sleepover with her cousins and loved it!  Last week, when I needed to visit the doctor, my friend Maria was able to watch the kids for a few hours.  When Baby Z gets sick, Grandma Gigi makes the drive over at 6 am to take care of her so I can still go to work. Grandma Ellen cannot go more than a few weeks without seeing us and the kids. My work BFF, the other Nancy O., occasionally crosses the bridge from New Jersey just to have lunch with me!  None of this will be possible when we’re on separate continents!

Then there’s my best friend, Denise and my goddaughter, Jelisa, and a family that has intertwined with mine over the last 28 years.  Throughout this past summer, we would meet at the pool or beach and Denise, who is SuperMom, brings all the things I forget (paper towels, sunblock, lunch).  D says, “It sounds exciting, but we will miss you.”  Jelisa’s reaction, “But I’m supposed to be their babysitter!”

Isn’t this what I wanted?  Yes.  It is going to be amazing for us.  Is it going to be hard?  Yes.  I did not “win a trip” to Abu Dhabi.  I got a new job.  It’s going to be work.  Fortunately, it is the type of work I love and a challenge that will fortify my career.  Will I miss New York?  Yes.  The people here are amazing.  We’re family.  We will visit.  We will be back.

In order to teach in NYC, sometimes you have to go away for a little while.  Get some perspective.  See what it’s like on the other side of the world.  For anyone who has worked at the same place for many years, you start to feel like it’s the same old thing and you’re running on repeat.  My students deserve better.  So I’m going to come back renewed and better than ever.

There are, however, plenty of incentives to stay.  But I can’t even think of those when I haven’t even been there yet.  Like I told them at the interview, we’ll have to see how it goes.

PS – It may seem that I’ve left out Mom, Dad and My Little Brother, but their reactions deserve a whole post all to themselves.  Coming soon!

*feature photo inspired by the post American Teacher in Qatar at www.phillygirl77.wordpress.com