Are You Still Reschooling Yourself?

Aside from “So how’s Mississippi?”, the most common question I get these days is, “Are you still reschooling yourself?” I’m never quite sure how to answer that.

The project completion date is technically June 15th, marking the end of a full school year, so yes, I’m still officially reschooling. I think the question gives me pause because Reschool Yourself is gradually becoming more of a lifestyle than a finite project.

The fall was about looking back and processing the past. The spring is about moving forward, and figuring out what kind of lifestyle I want to lead. I’d originally envisioned the spring as an intensive period of travel and self-directed study. However, I came to realize that I was craving stability rather than nomadic adventure. I decided to postpone any major travels and move to the South, which is one of the best places to plant roots.

So: Am I still reschooling myself? I’m not blogging nearly every day, like I was in the fall. I’ve let the fundraising alone for a while and haven’t been doing much to spread the word about the project. However, day by day I’m still chugging along with my intentional reschooling. I think about personal development every day and have been jumping at the chance to try new things. I’m building freelancing work that will ideally support me soon, and I’ve been experimenting with various work schedules. I’m practicing making decisions by asking myself, “Will this action bring me closer to my goals (balance, happiness, etc.), or farther away?

One of our culinary creations: tuna with all the fixins.

One of Darren's and my culinary creations: tuna with all the fixins.

Most importantly, I’m learning by trial and error what makes me happy. I’m taking care of myself, prioritizing sleep, exercise, and healthy eating before work. I’ve been doing things I enjoy every day, incorporating activities like music and yoga into my weekly routine. Darren and I cook and eat most of our meals together, which I love more than words can say. We also make time to be couch potatoes for about an hour on most nights, usually watching an episode of Showtime’s Dexter on DVD. I’m so grateful to live with Darren, because when left to my own devices I tend to work myself into the ground and deprive myself of the things I enjoy. Having him around keeps my crazy in check. Darren follows the philosophy “Work to live; don’t live to work.”

I’ve been writing for the Jackson Free Press and BOOM Jackson magazine as much as I can, and I’m still getting the hang of juggling multiple articles. Freelancing here has plugged me right into Jackson culture, and I like interviewing because it fulfills my need to ask a million and one questions. I love highlighting issues I care about and promoting local businesses and community initiatives. I’m not making anywhere near a living with my writing yet, but thankfully the project donations will stretch for a little while longer until I am. While it can be stressful, living without frills has helped me to see what I really need to live comfortably. It isn’t much. Not having much disposable income has also taught me to prioritize my spending and realize that money is just a tool to buy the things that make me happy. Organic food. Yoga. Eventually, music lessons and travel.

As always, I don’t want to give the impression that things are now perfect for me. I still get anxious and overwhelmed. I’ll futz around on Facebook for a couple hours in the morning and get mad at myself for procrastinating. I’ll freak out about what I really want to do for a career, and whether I’ll ever be financially stable. But the freak-outs are fewer and less frequent. I have faith that I’m getting my life on the right track, and that Jackson is the place to do it. Here are the highlights of my reschooling over the past three weeks.

A lot of my friends here are talented musicians who play multiple instruments. It’s common for house parties to turn into old-time music jam sessions like this one. Music here is more about building community than performing perfectly, so people are welcoming to beginners like me. I’ve learned a lot by just following along.

I’m normally a Christmas-and-Easter churchgoer, but the first Church of American Music event caught my attention. A bunch of local musicians organized the nondenominational gathering in a beautiful little church set in the middle of a field. They played popular hymns like “I’ll Fly Away” and invited a local community member to speak. Afterward, the ad-hoc congregation had a potluck lunch and sat around “pickin’,” which seems to mean improvising with music together.

The porch at the Church of American Music where my lovely friends Julia and Melody taught me a few songs on guitar.

Pickin’ and Paddlin’ outdoor music festival. Canoeing was much more intimidating than I thought it would be. The canoe wobbled precariously as we nudged it into Mayes Lake, and it would have headed straight for a collision if not for Darren’s steering. Once we got out onto the water, we had a peaceful journey and exhausted our arms with the paddling.

Many of you know that even though Darren and I don’t have a real pet, we have an imaginary one: Mr. Prancywaggles, a prissy purse dog. I enjoy threatening Darren that imagination will become reality, so I cuddle every Mr. P.W. that struts my way. At the festival were two Pomeranians, Trixie and Precious (Mr. Precious Prancywaggles!), so cute that I kind of wanted to take them home for real.

Printable grocery list. I got tired of reinventing the wheel every time I went to the store, and forgetting to buy certain things. I made a spreadsheet of typical items, printed a few copies, and hung them on the fridge. When we run out of something, I circle it and then take the list to the market. Also on the fridge is a list of the meals that we want to make during a given week.

Our dream of getting a bread machine finally came true this week. I felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve waiting for it to arrive in the mail, and when it did last Friday I baked three delicious loaves to celebrate. I don’t know when I have been more excited about a purchase. There is nothing like waking up to the smell of fresh bread and eating warm, thick slices. Baking at home is not only better for the health, but it’s also cheaper. It costs under $2 for us to make an organic loaf and nearly $5 to buy one, so the machine will pay for itself quickly.  Sadly, this particular machine’s internal bread pan got stuck after the third loaf, and we may have to exchange the thing for a different model. I am still grieving.

Cinnamon apple swirl loaf. Oh. Yes. I substituted chopped Fuji apples for raisins, and they tasted amazing.

I made my first batch of yogurt for the first time since I moved out of San Francisco last July. It’s easy with a yogurt maker, which cost me around $30, and the yogurt has way more of the good-for-you digestive bacteria in it than the store-bought version.

After having to toast bread in the oven for months, we were excited about bringing my toaster all the way from California. Apparently because of jostling during the move, the left-hand lever stopped latching. Instead of defaulting to buying a new toaster, we set out to fix this one. Through a combined effort, Darren and I dislodged a bunch of crumbs embedded in the coils. It works now, good as new. This is the beginning of a beautiful do-it-yourself lifestyle.

Darren’s been growing a bit of produce, like basil and lettuce, in the house since last fall. On Saturday, we took the gardening plunge and bought 12 plants ranging from rosemary to aloe. We’re going to build a wooden vegetable bed outside soon. Although I’m notorious for killing plants just by forgetting about them,  I’m committed to changing my ways.

One of the main reasons for driving my car cross-country was to bring my full-sized digital piano to my new home. It fit perfectly in the spare room I use as an office. I figure I’ll have to play more often now that we dragged it so far.

I’m unpacking in increments and feel much more at home now that I have my books here. Not all of them, for sure, but the important ones.

I invested some of my Reschool Yourself technology budget into a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to attach to my laptop. My neck had been killing me from craning down at the small screen every day, all day. I took to balancing my MacBook on top of my laptop bag as I typed, which looked ridiculous and wasn’t sustainable. I resist making big purchases for a long time, but I’ve learned that investing in my physical health and efficiency is worth every penny.

I still have frequent growing pains as I make the transition into a new city, career, and lifestyle. But I’m getting closer to living the life of my choice, without complaints or regrets. When I feel any doubts creeping in, as I know they will, I’ll take another look at these pictures. All the evidence is there: I am still reschooling myself, and I have a feeling that I won’t stop suddenly come June 15th.

Comments (6)

  1. Margaret

    I love this post! Window on Melia-World! And canoeing is awesome. You don’t know what intimidating in a canoe is until you’re watching alligators sun themselves while you slide by in that canoe. For serious: Louisiana bayou.
    What an extensive post- about musical events, about continuity, about the move and the newly-sprouted mini-goals it’s produced, about a new garden (yay!)… of course your life isn’t perfect, Melia. If it were, you’d be baby Jesus. But it is FULL. Of. Life!

    Reply
  2. Gilliebean

    I love this. I think it really captures how reschooling is not just a year-long process, it’s a complete lifestyle overhaul. I love hearing about all the fun stuff you and Darren are doing in Jackson. Y’all have such a great network of cool, creative people, and I’m happy you’re trying all kinds of new things.

    Try not to worry about having freakouts every now and then. We all have them, no matter how “stable” our lives are. What matters is you’re rebounding and not getting paralyzed by your stress. I’m trying to do the same– Brian’s been good about talking me through my breakdowns and helping me figure out what manageable tasks I can do each day.

    Reply
  3. Melia

    Margaret, you went canoeing in the Louisiana bayou? Gutsy lady.

    Exactly, Gill, Reschool Yourself is more of an ongoing lifestyle than a finite project. What’s cool is that a lot of the hopes I’ve had (e.g. “I’d love to learn to garden someday”) are effortlessly happening here in Jackson. There’s just a lot of cool stuff going on here.

    Whenever I rebound from a mini freak-out, this expression comes to mind: “The master is not one who never falls, but one who never fails to pick herself up again.”

    Reply
  4. Keetha

    I have a lot of thoughts on this post – pardon the epistle:

    One of the things that I like so much about this post, and about all your posts since you relocated to Jackson, is how darn happy you seem to be where you are.

    Mississippi is not without its problems – believe me – and locals tend to fixate on those. Jackson, in particular, seems to have image issues. I love the way you’re enjoying and celebrating your new locale – you seem eager to learn and open to traditions and ways of thinking that maybe aren’t so familiar.

    Secondly, I enjoy reading about your quest – what you’re wanting to do and the steps you’re taking to make it happen. The tone of your posts suggest that are very happy and content and so often I think when people feel that way and try to convey it, they come across as smug and/or critical (“I’m living this way and am happy so why aren’t you? Oh, I know why; because I’m better than you, that’s why.”) yet your writing doesn’t alienate. Instead, I really respond to it as I’m on a journey myself (aren’t we all) and am finding myself happier and more content now than I’ve ever been.

    It took realizing that if I want to live the life I’ve always wanted, I need to simply live the life I’ve always wanted. PROFOUND, I know.

    I think I’ve gotten off track…Anyway, thanks for reminding me that there are a lot of great things about where I live and thanks for posts showing how you’re doing what you want to do.

    Reply
  5. Melia

    Keetha, I couldn’t have asked for more gratifying feedback. Thank you for taking the time to put it into words. I’m relieved that I’m not sending the message, “Hey, everybody, look how superior I am!” I want to show that I’m on a path with regular ups and downs, as I always will be, but it’s on the general upswing. I’m making progress, and by that I don’t mean achieving more, or producing more, but rather doing more of what I enjoy doing. It’s something that I knew how to do at 5 years old but have to relearn at 28.

    It’s important to me that other people are able to see themselves in what I’m doing, and that they share their own experiences on the blog. I like the feeling that we’re on a shared journey.

    When people look at me funny when I say I love Jackson, I rattle of a list of the things unique to this city: a culture of collaboration, low cost of living that allows you more relaxation, a healthy pace, etc. Things that I’ve wanted for so long, like the ones described in the post, are finally happening here. It’s almost magical. There’s so much potential to make an impact here, whereas in San Francisco I often felt as if I was reinventing the wheel.

    YES, at some point we need to stop planning and dreaming of “someday,” and just start living the lives we love. The Buddhists are right: nothing exists besides this moment. Not the past, not the future, just *right now*. Look forward to hearing more about your own adventures!

    Reply
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