1979: I turn 22

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1979: At the beginning of the year I get serious about what next. My father tells me I should be a lawyer because I love to argue so much. Which sounds cool, but I’d rather teach French. Except I doubt there’ll be many trips to France on a teacher’s salary. If I don’t like the law, I reason, then I can teach French. Harvard rejects me by return mail. I stay #6 on the waiting list at Yale for months. As Assistant to the President I plan and organize trustee meetings. Dean Rusk, a 1931 graduate of Davidson, is on the board. He advises me to go to school in the state I will practice. You’ll meet the people you’ll be working with the rest of your career. Then the French Department advises me they have an available teaching spot in France for the next year–teaching English 6 hours a week and lots of vacation. T and I talk about it. He votes for France. So do I. Re law school, I defer. We have an efficiency apartment in Tours. No car. We walk everywhere. Even with daily pastries, I lose weight. 63 Americans are taken hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran. The French don’t care for President Carter. My students want to know the lyrics to “The Sultans of Swing.” I listen to the song over and over again, trying to get the words right.

38 days to 60


Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver

8 thoughts on “1979: I turn 22

    • Hey to you in England, Sarah. You’re living pretty marvelously yourself! As for your question, I don’t see this as the start of a memoir but you never know… I am liking the compressed form, though. Nice to hear from you.


  1. You must cherish the memory of that year. If nothing else, being able to eat pastries every day AND lose weight, clearly you were living right. Did they dislike Carter for the same reason so many Americans did, b/c he had an accent they associated with Hee Haw? I mean seriously, they didn’t see him as an improvement over the turmoil of Nixon’s wake? Did they not understand Reagan as the threat he was?? (Or maybe he hadn’t emerged on the scene yet–those were the days when campaigns were confined to only a year, on the surface at least.) You can’t please those Euros! When I was 11 I saw Carter giving his concession speech and I thought he might cry. My father was a Reagan man (heavy sigh) so I’d made a little sign and was cheering for him, but then Carter looked so sad, and his words were so sad and sweet, that I began to cry myself, and wished with all my heart that he had won after all. I think of that now as my first awakening to what is right in the world….

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    • I definitely have never forgotten the pastries with no weight gain! As far as Carter, I think they saw him as weak because he was unable to bring the hostages home. Being an American in France that year was not as pleasant as it had been my other visits–but it was still France so it was awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, yes. I remember the hostage crisis very well, despite being so young at the time, b/c it dominated the news so much. I remember everyone feeling so befuddled and frustrated about why we couldn’t just get them home. And then there was that awful, botched mission… ugh. That brings back terrible memories, including he nightmares I had during Reagan’s first term about nuclear holocaust. Thanks, 1980s! And welcome to 2016, terror of nuclear holocaust!

        Can’t end on that note. Let’s think about the pastries. The only trip I’ve ever taken outside the U.S. was to France, and I ate my share of pastries in those 9 days, believe me, and ALSO came home thinner than I left. Mmm. Magic.

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