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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