Category Archives: life

these four walls.

I’m sitting on the floor of my bedroom, surrounded by the books, shoes, and birthday cards that represent my memories over the past two years. Slowly, all of these things are beginning to move into boxes that will be stored at my parent’s house, suitcases that will travel with me to Washington, DC, or bags to be donated. My room is emptying, and the walls are becoming bare.

It’s all slowly slipping away; life as I know it is slipping away, and I’m going with it.

I’m making to do list’s that seem never ending of tasks both big and small that need to be completed Before. Before what? Before the After I don’t even know how to imagine. I’m crossing items off my list, but I don’t know how to quantify the things that really matter. Instead, I focus on the things that I can: haircuts and health insurance, bills and boxes. I focus on this room, on somehow finding order through folding, sorting, and brushing away dust.

I look around at this tiny bedroom full of furniture borrowed from relatives and purchased at thrift stores, and I think how strange it is that this physical space can symbolize so much to me.

In the beginning, this room was freedom, blessed independence that I paid for on my own. I was proud of it, and I was proud of myself for learning how to fight my own battles.

The room quickly got messy, which was comforting at first, but later exhausting as clutter and unending noise dragged me down. I worked to make it neat with freshly laundered sheets, organized papers, and shoes lined up in a row, but I was just seeking perfection I’d never find.

Later, there were nights when this room was too much space, as pictures on the walls reminded me of the distance from those I love. I felt lost in it all; I didn’t know how to bear the weight of it on my own.

Then, there were the days when this room was desperately, never enough room to grow. It seemed to shrink each time I stepped inside. I couldn’t find space to breathe or to give myself a break. Simultaneously, my twin bed felt too big to be alone in and too small to contain my dreams.

If these walls could talk, they wouldn’t have any particularly exciting or scandalous stories to tell, but they could tell my story. It’s a story I think is common for most individuals in their early twenties: feeling like you’re playing a pretend adult, navigating the professional world and the confusing ideas of networking and “business casual attire”, long phone calls with friends who live too far away, hitting the snooze button again and again, inner wrestlings with self-doubt through scribbled journal entries, and going to sleep with a smile on your face because of small victory. This room has been witness to all that and more; it’s seen laughter, tears, doubts, prayers, and many questions.

Oh, the questions. I’m still working my way through those, as I sort through my possessions. Somehow I need to figure out what stays behind, what goes away, and what comes along into the After. I’m slowly disassembling this life, and I sort the pieces as I go, wondering where they’ll fit next and where I’ll fit next.

This room has meant so much, and these four walls have summed up this stage of my life, but they can’t come with me. I’m slipping away; I’m leaving them to start something new far away from all that’s familiar.

I still don’t know exactly what that new life will look like, but that’s okay right now. One of the lessons of this room has been accepting that I need to follow my path even when I can’t imagine what’s next. But, I do hope this next room has space for a bed bigger than a twin. I may not feel like an adult quite yet, but I think I’m ready for that.

on long distance friendship and delayed gratification.

A little less than a year after graduating from college, my friends and I decided that we should start writing a traveling notebook together, chronicling our post-graduate adventures that have taken us separate ways. (Obviously, our idea was loosely inspired by the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie/book.)

Since there were ten of us participating in this project, we decided on two notebooks that would rotate around. They would travel around the country in alphabetical order, and each person was supposed to keep the notebook for a week and mail it on.

Well, our pace has slowed, but over two years later, the notebooks are still going!

And boy, what have these notebooks seen: interviews, first jobs, resignations, unemployment, underemployment, promotions, heartbreak & breakups, engagements, new boyfriends, applications, a whole slew of post-graduate degrees (DPT, MSW, JD, MA, MS, and a soon to be PhD and MD), published authors, tears, laughter, struggles, questions, friendship bracelets, mix CDs, Irish bookmarks, cross-country and cross-continent moves, apartments, and SO many address changes.

Life has kept us from being in the same physical place over these past few years, but the notebook has helped to remember that we’re all still navigating this winding road together. It doesn’t make it less difficult that we aren’t all actually together, but it does sweeten the blow a little bit.

It takes awhile for the notebooks to travel these days; something about life getting in the way. So, by the time the notebook arrives, I usually already know most of the things in it; very little in it surprises me these days. But that doesn’t stop the excitement I feel when I see that familiar package in my mailbox.

The fact of the matter is, I don’t live in the same place as most of my best friends anymore, and I probably never will again. They have scattered all over this country, and soon I’m going to be scattering even further with my impending move for graduate school. But the notebook makes me feel less scattered. There’s a beauty in realizing your relationships are dependent on more than proximity to each other, that they go deeper than just the superficial things.

In a time and age, when I can text and send snapchats and post Facebook messages, the notebooks make me feel grounded. It’s delayed gratification at it’s finest, when I have to wait a few months to read the words someone wrote about something unsettled and know that it’s now settled. I can read about people feeling lonely and know that then that all changed. I can flip back through their pages and remember who we’ve been before and where we came from, and I can know that I will continue to be supported by them. The notebook feels permanent when the rest of life feels transient. 

And I’m so incredibly grateful for these ladies and the ways they continue to make their presence known in my life.

ch-ch-changes.

Over a 3.5 week period in August, I will be…

  • leaving my full time job
  • packing up my entire life into boxes and suitcases
  • moving out of my apartment with my two roommates
  • turning over the keys to my car
  • saying a lot of “see you later’s”

And then, I’ll be…

  • getting on a plane to fly to Washington, DC
  • moving into an apartment with new roommates
  • unpacking some of those suitcases and boxes (some are going to live with Mom & Dad, thanks!)
  • exploring a new neighborhood
  • getting a Washington, DC metro card
  • starting school for the first time in four (!!!) years
  • starting a new part time job

I will be leaving my job, apartment, neighborhood, city, beloved home state, family, friends, car, gym, routines, favorite bars and coffeeshops, my walks at Tower Grove park, all of it.

That’s really exciting because I’m about to do something really awesome. But it’s also really terrifying in some moments and really sad in a lot more.

Because even though all of these changes are exciting and wonderful, they are still change. And all change inevitably means some kind of loss is going to take place. And every loss needs to be mourned adequately.

it’s memorial day weekend!

To me, Memorial Day weekend has come to mean one thing over the past few years: ROAD TRIP TIME!

Two years ago, I was prepping to head to Portland, Maine with my JVC community members and most of the rest of JVC East to spend the long weekend together. One of my favorite memories of that weekend? The drive there with Maggie and Cristina, stopping at Sonic (a novelty in New England… not so much here in the Midwest!), and blaring Maggie’s mix CDs that became the soundtrack to our summer together.

Around this time last year, I was really missing JVC, so I did what I do, and I impulsively bought a plane ticket to Boston. Things worked out just right, so I ended up making another road trip with Maggie up to Maine to spend part of the weekend with some of our (now) FJV friends.

I decided to forego another impulsive plane ticket to New England this year (although it was a tempting idea), but I couldn’t pass up a prime road trip opportunity. I’ve got work today, then a few things to take care of tonight.

But tomorrow morning, I’ll be waking up early, hopefully running to the farmer’s market for some strawberries (real talk: I’ve been craving these since last June), gathering my snacks, and packing up my car to spend the weekend in Nashville with my best friend!

Our plans for the weekend tentatively include: going out on Broadway, paying a visit to the Bluebird Cafe, hanging out in East Nashville, lounging at her apartment pool, and more.

I’m already loving this Memorial Day road trip tradition.

just say yes.

I’m realizing life is defined by our choices whether to say yes, please or no thanks more than almost anything else.

And this time, I’m saying yes.

The other thing? Being interested, acting like it, and pursuing those interests—in relationships, friendships, work, and everything else.

We’re so afraid to show interest because of the fear of rejection, but I’m committing to saying yes more and more and more. (And more no’s too—none of this non-committal in-between nonsense.)

the city will change you.

So, despite the love I feel for Andy Grammer’s new song, Back Home, I do take issue with one thing about it. As he says in the chorus:

See, we won’t forget where we came from
The city won’t change us
We beat to the same drum
No, we won’t forget where we came from
The city can’t change us
We beat to the same drum, the same drum

Because here’s the thing: the city can and WILL change you, whatever the city may represent to you (for me, it literally is the cities I’ve called home these past 6.5 years).

The city will break you, it will make you question yourself, and it will leave you with bruises and scars. It will also make you feel alive in completely new ways.

That doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten where you came from.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t find your way back home.

But it does mean that these places you go, the things you experience, they alter you in one way or another. It’s inevitable, and it’s often irreversible.

That’s not a bad thing; in fact, it can be a good thing because growth is necessary to life. For me, I’ve learned to see home with completely new eyes: both the good and the bad.

So cheers to finding your way back home, but remember that you can never go back to exactly the same person you were when you left. While the core of you may remain the same, you’ll always keep changing. And that’s completely fine.

 

you must make time to dream.

You would think that it would be easy to find time for the things you love… if only that were true. For me, as for most of us, it’s frequently the opposite. I’m so busy doing the things I have to do that frequently I don’t make time for the things I love to do.

The things I love that I don’t do often enough all have one thing in common: they allow me time to slow down, to breathe, to think, to reflect, to get out of the routine of go, go, go. Reading makes me stay in one place and get out of my own head and into someone else’s. Writing helps me process the jumbled chaos of my life. Taking a walk (and running when I briefly tried that; it’s not for me) allows my mind time to relax. Even more so than carving out time to read, write, or take a walk, I have found that I also need intentional time to dream.

While life is often driven by busy, busy, busy, how are we ever supposed to know where to go next if we don’t set aside intentional time to process those ideas? To let them sit in our heart? For me at least, I need that time. (See also: Hi, I’m an introvert.)

There are somethings I can do without and it doesn’t bother me much in the long run (TV, movies, etc.), but keep me from these other things for too long, and I stop feeling like myself. I need the downtime. I need the space in my mind where I’m not frantically running from one thing to another: from work, to the gym, to home, to cooking dinner, to showering, to meeting friends, etc. etc. etc.

When does it stop? For me, it stops when I make it stop. When I say, no, let’s reschedule. When I give up a workout. When I forego elaborate meal plans and grab whatever I can from the fridge. When I stay home on a Friday night. Or (and this is the perfectionist in me who thinks I can do it all) when I just become more efficient.

Oh, but what a trap the idea of efficiency is. Because no matter how fast we work, there are still only twenty-four hours in a day. I can’t be everything and do everything, but I’m learning that I can be something, and I can be it well.

Much has been written about the cult of being busy in America, and it’s the truth. I can’t tell you how many times over the past year and a half that when someone has asked how I’m doing, I’ve simply answered busy.

The sad thing about that is a) it’s a poor answer and b) it wasn’t even always all that true. Sometimes my busyness was nothing less than a search for an answer that would satisfy the average person. “Everyone understands busy,” I thought. “Everyone likes to hear busy.”

When most people ask how you are doing, they don’t want to hear that you are sometimes really happy and sometimes really sad, that you’re struggling, that you don’t always know if you’ve made the right choices.

The truth of the matter is that I made myself busy for a long time because I was scared to be alone, to be lonely. As a single person, I do a lot of things by myself, which can be both good and bad. When I first moved back to St. Louis, I didn’t really know how to cope with spending so much time by myself, so I made myself busy. I started working out regularly, I started volunteering, and I got involved with a bunch of organizations. None of these things are bad, and at the time, it was certainly what I needed. But a year and a half later, I’m starting to realize that maybe I need to slow down a bit.

Maybe now I need to make more time to dream, to write, to be in this space.

Maybe I need to give myself permission to stop glorifying busyness.

Maybe I just need to make the time to dream.