Thursday, August 26, 2010

Identity Crisis

Anyone who has even dabbled in psychology knows that phrase “major life events.” These include things like marriage, divorce, death, birth of a child, a child leaving home, a move, starting a new job, and so on. According to the experts, experiencing any one of these events can cause great stress in one’s life. If this is indeed true, I should be the perfect candidate for an all expense paid stay at a mental institution or at least deserving of some good drugs.

Today marks the one year anniversary of my divorce being final. Thankfully, that process went smoothly as has our life since that point. In fact, when Mike is in the states, we all still live together. I know that we are fortunate and under different circumstances things could have been much worse and thus very stressful. For almost a year I was a divorcee.

Now I am a bride. I’m not sure if it is the act of getting married or being married that is supposed to be the big stressor. Being married again has not been stressful. It has brought nothing but joy. I won’t deny that we did quite a bit of running around like chickens with our heads cut off in the week or two before the wedding, but we were busy, which does not always equate to being stressed. I think that much of the stress associated with weddings comes with feeling like you have to make too many different people happy with how the whole thing is executed. We were lucky that we didn’t have anyone to please but ourselves. Though I am not generally a self-centered person, in this instance, I made sure I got exactly what I wanted in terms of the wedding itself. We were very fortunate that many of our friends were willing to help make things perfect for us. Mike even came home from South Africa to take part in the wedding.

We took Offspring No. 2 to Tennessee last weekend to begin her freshman year of college. So now I am also an empty-nester – except that Offspring No. 1 is home for a month before beginning her final year in Chicago. Admittedly, it will be strange having no children around. The piles of laundry will diminish logarithmically. The kitchen will look the same in the morning as it did when I went to bed the night before. I can have black beans and rice any night for dinner. My shoes will be in my closet when I want to wear them. There won’t be chocolate chip cookies waiting for me when I get home late after rehearsals. My computer monitor won’t be decorated with Post-it notes that say “I love my mamma.” Okay, maybe this is a little more stressful than I thought . . .

I also started school this week. Though I am not really starting a new job, the beginning of every school year brings with it new challenges. It usually takes a full week of classes before I know for sure what I am teaching and who is in what class. This semester is no different. Fortunately, thanks to a new law enacted by the Texas legislature, I had to have my syllabi done in June for every class that I could potentially teach this fall. Though I was not happy about having to do this back then, it did cut down on what I had to do to get ready for this semester. When we arrived home from Tennessee late Sunday night, I simply hit print on all my syllabi and I was ready to go Monday morning. However, when I got to school Monday morning, I realized that what I had failed to do was change my name on them.

Because I was required to submit my syllabi in June, before Weber and I were married, I used my previous name. In my haste Sunday night, I never thought to change them to reflect my married name. That I didn’t even think about this change is kind of funny since I spent the entire weekend hoping that TSA would let me on the plane with an airline ticket with my new name printed on it, an official Texas ID with my old name and a strip cut off the top of it, and only a photocopy of my new Texas ID. I carried with me a copy of our marriage license just in case I had problems. I am happy to report that all airport officials seemed convinced that I had sufficient documentation to prove who I was or who I am and they allowed me to board the plane.

Back to school . . .

Because I teach three courses of a four course sequence, I have some of the same students from one semester to the next. That makes learning everyone’s names a little easier . . .or so I thought.

As my Theory III class convened, I was talking with a new student. In came a student whom I had had in Theory II last spring. He introduced himself as “Sam.” “Sam?”, I said. “Since when?” He was not Sam last year. He continued with, “You know my other name. Sam is easier; it is my middle name.” If he wants to be called Sam, I will call him Sam.

This discussion of changing names provided me with the perfect segue to clarifying my own name issues. I explained that I had gotten married over the summer and though “Sam” knew me as Prof. Elliott, my name was now Prof. Baker. Sam stated that he wasn’t sure that he could go with my new name. He allowed as how he thought that perhaps it would be easier for him if he could just call me “Maurice.” I don’t know why this is his preferred name. I didn’t ask. I just accept that it is.

I also don’t know where adapting to a new persona falls on the stress meter. I suppose I will find out.

For now, n theory only,