BY REBEKAH SELLERS (MACOMB)
“So long you chaps. You’ve been damned nice.”
– Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
This past February, my husband and I took our first vacation since 2018: we went to Key West. Since we visited Ernest Hemingway’s home on the trip (and our 6-hour return flight turned into a 10-hour flight with an extra 4-hour layover), I downloaded my first Ernest Hemingway novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” to read in the airport. Something about it really resonated with me, and I finished it by the time we were home.
In a nutshell, the book is about a group of young American expatriate friends whose lives have been upended by WWI and they are more or less transients living adventure-to-adventure across Europe. During their travels, in seemingly innocuous ways, they end up having brief but meaningful discussions about life’s purpose and trying to find the best way to spend one’s time on earth.
I identified with the theme. This was a much-needed vacation, not just because of the micro-and-macro pandemic-era traumas we endured, but also because in 2019—the year I became a referee—my husband decided to go back to school for his PhD. Between 2019 and 2022, we were both working full-time, teaching part-time, and he was in school full-time. We could not manage to schedule any downtime concurrently. We looked forward to the time when my husband would be done with school and teaching at one job full-time so we could coordinate our breaks. Life was moving fast.
In the fall of 2022, we got our wish: he accepted a full-time tenure-track position…at Alma College. (If you don’t know where this is, ask Tyler Martinez, he would love to tell you about how wonderful his alma mater is!) As happy as we were that he only now had one job and no more grad school, it meant we were no longer living under the same roof during the week. So, for the past year, we have been maintaining separate homes, seeing each other only for weekends and holidays, sharing “custody” of our two dogs and cat, and making the best of it so we could both work our dream jobs.
In this dream job as a referee, where so much focus is on what has gone wrong in other people’s relationships, you really gain appreciation for what is going right in your own. My only problem was that my “right” was 130 miles away most nights of the week. In the book, the narrator’s (Jake Barnes) unrequited love (Lady Brett Ashley) says to him about being lonely: “It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.” Truer words were never spoken.
With what we do, we must be hard-boiled about an awful lot during the daytime. An awful lot. If you have someone in your life who handles you with soft-boiled gloves the rest of the time, you’re pretty lucky. I am pretty lucky.