Where the Hell Have You Been?

when will you return signage

I’ve been asked this question by old friends a lot lately. My answer is simple: I got a real job. Yep, you read that correctly. At the ripe old age of 47, I got one of those jobs that require you to be there every day. All day.

The bad thing about this job: It has massively curtailed my wanderlust. I have a brand new passport – acquired in January – that has yet to receive a stamp. And it won’t do so until early November. But that’s ok. I’m still traveling – armchair style, of course. If you know me well, you know that I read voraciously. I work my way through three or four books at a time + a variety of online travel journals/blogs. Of late, I’ve turned more to travelogues – the Sand in my Bra and Other Misadventures rather than the Eat, Pray, Love kind – in order to curb my wanderlust. It’s that job thing again.

The good thing about this job: Massive amounts of freedom. I’m teaching history, economics, government, and creative writing. I am free to design my classes and curricula, and the work-life balance thing is a priority. It also helps that my students are amazing. They are bright and funny and creative and quirky and are out to change the world. I love that I have a part in shaping their minds and that I get to share in their intellectual discoveries on a daily basis. I am truly lucky.

So as my first year in a “real job” winds down, I am looking back on it with a great deal of gratitude. There was a difficult period of adjustment – especially in getting accustomed to so much structure – but I have learned a lot about my work, my gifts, and myself. After a summer of reading and writing, I will be looking forward to heading back into the classroom in the fall.

In the meantime, let the summer reading begin. Stay tuned for my list. I’ve hit the sale table at Politics & Prose, a pop-up used book sale at Columbia Heights, the Little Free Library on my street, and the free shelves of books in the alcove of my local public library in Petworth. Yes. I’m well stocked.

They Call Me A Hipster

San Marco - June, 1989
San Marco – June, 1989

But I’m really a Gen-Xer. Somewhere along the way, a hipster and someone from Generation X got conflated. I’ve thought a lot about this since I recently moved to a heavily hipster neighborhood in Washington, DC. They remind me of that old film, The Blob, which is actually quite apropos as hipsters dig all things vintage. But here’s the thing: we Gen-Xers are the original hipsters. Like them, we drank black coffee in cool coffee shops – Bohemians in the 20s and Beats in the 50s made that popular – and rejected mass clothing, music, and food in exchange for something cool. We just craved something different, something that was more about hanging out drinking coffee and talking about our dreams while our contemporaries hung out at the mall. It didn’t have to have a name or a book or a movement. It was just called rockin’ your own style.

We shopped in thrift stores and reclaimed a 60s sort of Samantha & Darrin Stephens style in the wake of the shoulder-padded, gold lamé shirts, blue eye shadow, and spiked bangs that pervaded 80s fashion. I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and my friends and I wanted no part of that brightly colored extravaganza of Dynasty & Dallas fashion. My sense of style was honed in the overflowing racks of vintage silk dresses, pencil skirts, Bakelite jewelry, chunky glasses, & faux mink stoles of La Di Da, a vintage clothing store in Five Points. I went to prom, but I did so in a 1950s silver moire taffeta tea length dress, outstunning even Cha-Cha DiGregorio. We hung out at Einstein-A-Go-Go, the bona fide CBGBs of the South, and saw bands that would later be seen as the progenitors of alternative & grunge music. Yes, I saw Jane’s Addiction and Nirvana in this little dive bar for $5. Although the food culture certainly wasn’t what it is now, we found our favorite little joints and only went to the chain restaurants when we were with our parents. Coffee and French pastries at Café on the Square in San Marco, followed by walking to the nearby river and singing Simon & Garfunkel songs late into the night, was our favorite. Now if that’s not hipster, I don’t know what is!

We Gen-Xers had experiences that digital native hipsters could only dream of. This is not to say that our generation was better than theirs, but instead to highlight the fact that we Gen-Xers have gotten lost in the hipster fray. We’re still here, and we’re still über cool. We’re a little older and a little wiser, but we’re still rockin’ our own style and living life according to our own terms.