I have not been a useful blogger in these last months, but then again, I don’t know if that matters.
Is my life supposed to be complete, fulfilled, satisfactory, now that I have this expensive, shiny piece of paper?
December is often a time for reflection – it’s the end of the year.
For me it’s always been doubly so – with my birthday at the end of the month it’s the end of my personal year as well.
This year is even more – I graduated in December a year ago. Hashtag baccalaureate, k?
Since before I can remember, the my hometown church has ended its Christmas Eve service with Mannheim Steamroller’s rendition of Silent Night while everyone stands in a circle around the darkened sanctuary with candles flickering. As I stood there tonight, I pondered the shifting of generations. Girls I went to high school with now stand with fidgeting munchkins, stepping into the role of wife and mother. Meanwhile the children we babysat are now the high school leaders, singing boldly, volunteering often, and carrying the community on their shoulders.
It’s been a ridiculous year.
Traveling the world, traveling the United States. Getting promoted, my work shutting down. Independent to dependent to independent. Painting and crocheting. Writing and reading and being on three different phone plans. Everybody moving. Also, Reddit. It’s a thing.
I move to Denver, CO in a week. A new year, a new state, a new bout of trying to figure out this life after college. I’m on the cusp of something big, the edge of growing up as I leave my college town.
For once, I don’t have much to say. My ponderings have all been written in journals, or discussed with friends. I’m at peace.
’twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…
Just over six months ago, I shook hands with Sally Mason and turned the tassel at my commencement ceremony. Here is an obviously classy picture of Michelle and I to show our excitement with our empty folders.
Just about three months ago, that empty folder finally was filled with my diploma and certificate.
In between these two events, I used another very important document. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t go back to Europe until I saw either California or New York – it was a shame that I knew another continent better than my own country. I’ve kept that promise… I just went to New Zealand instead.
In the four months since returning from a month wandering around Narnia, I’ve been doing a lot of coffee-things. Trying out the new position of manager at my coffee shop: admin work, fixing broken machinery, training staff and trying to learn more myself, geeking out at roasteries, writing a new menu, getting cafe crushes when I travel.
Oh, yeah, I’ve been traveling, too. Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin. I may not have made it to the coasts yet, but I’m finally learning my own Midwest through weekend excursions.
And learning, lots of learning. Audiobooks when I’m in the car, print books when I’m in the library, even trying my hand at learning how to code when I’m on my computer. Note, I said trying. Regardless, I’m tickled to have the mental energy to learn about things just because.
Life’s kinda cool, you know?
April 6, 2013
I’m a twenty-something.
Well, probably not yet. I’m still in school, so socially it is probably still okay to state my age. But still.
A little girl wandered up to me the other day, grandfather trailing close behind, and told me excitedly, “Guess what! I am four-and-three-quarters!” She was rather unimpressed when I told her I was 22, and regarded me suspiciously until I added “and a quarter”.
I don’t remember how old I was when I stopped adding those qualifiers. Probably somewhere in elementary school where “quarter years” stopped being important, then middle school (oh dear, did I stretch it into high school?) when “half years” faded away. (Oh, don’t judge! I know exactly when my half birthday is– being so close to Christmas, my parents definitely let me celebrate something in June to make up for it!)
Now, as the culmination of my education creeps closer, I find that even the whole year is becoming irrelevant. I am a 20-something: approaching the age when the college bubble bursts and reality begins. I’ll become a young professional, working 40+ hours a week, being stable enough to get a business card, likely moving into an apartment and knowing I’ll be there for more than a year.
I overheard someone relating how they knew they were growing up:
When I was a kid, if glass broke, my daddy was always there. “Stay back,” he told me. “I’ve got this. You’re safe.” But now, if glass shatters, I’m alone. There’s no one beside me to protect me from the shards. I sweep it up myself, and if I cut myself, I clean up the blood and try fix myself best I can.
We’re growing up.
I’m a twenty-something.
What does that even mean?
It means I’m afraid.
It means I’m excited.
It means I’m about to be lonely– again.
It means I’m about to make new friends– again.
I can’t say that I’ve ever super related to a Taylor Swift song. But I finally heard one that wove itself into my mantra.
It seems like one of those nights
This place is too crowded too many cool kids
It seems like one of those nights
We ditch the whole scene and end up dreaming instead of sleeping
We’re happy free confused and lonely in the best way
It’s miserable and magical
Tonight’s the night when we forget about the heartbreaks, it’s time
I don’t know about you but I’m feeling twenty-two
22- Taylor Swift
I feel like I’m at a point in my life when everything is wide open.
When I’m alive and accepting of the fact that I’m weird. When I make friends in coffee shops, run into strangers on the street and walk away with stories, when street musicians play the soundtracks of our lives. It’s a time of transition– finally accepting that I’m letting go of childhood, but unsure about how to embrace adulthood.
It’s a time of late nights and early mornings. Long conversations and lots of chocolate. Deep questions and belly-bursting laughter. What is this crazy thing called “today”? Can I grasp that instead of fearing the future or mourning the past? Can I salsa dance and karaoke, serve coffee and write lab reports? What world is my own?
So many questions.
But I guess that’s the point of being a twenty-something: learning answers one mistake at a time. So raise your glass, fellow wanderers. Take solace that we’re all making this up as we go along. And in the meantime, anyone down for an adventure while it’s still socially acceptable?
March 8, 2013
My roommate is one of the most profound people I know.
One of our ongoing conversations is the idea that we live in a fanfiction.
You see, neither of us are what you would call “Main Character” material. People aren’t innately drawn to us. We pass quite peacefully under the radar and can be entirely invisible in the midst of a conversation. Perhaps we don’t even register as “supporting characters”. We’re simply the wandering minstrel, or the wise hermit, or even the local baker. (For pity’s sake, I’m a barista! It’s essentially the same character in modern worlds: everyone knows of me and depends on my craft to survive the day.) Our lives give depth and reality to the Main Character, but even the author doesn’t really care about our history.
Enter angsty teenager.
Perhaps in canon, the author mentioned us briefly. This teenager extracts us from our epic novel and plops us into the 21st century. Bewildered, we look around and try to figure out what’s going on.
She writes in adventures and impossible happenings, connections and unreal similarities. (Am I presenting too much of a stereotype, assuming that our fanfiction writer is female?) For a brief, wild moment, these side characters are thrust into the limelight. Seen. With dimension. With purpose.
And just as suddenly, as Angsty Teenager discovers a new topic, the fanfiction comes to a screeching halt.
Where does that leave these characters? Scrambling desperately. Fighting to keep striving in the direction they were headed. But that’s what it becomes. Every friendship is a fight: pursuing, initiating, trying. Reality weighs heavily. And the souls grow wearier and wearier.
Is it worth it? I just want to hide, says one, looking for a comfortable hole. I just want to flee, says the other, searching for a way to escape. “It’s all my fault,” they both sigh. “Not worth fighting for. Not worth protecting. Not worth chasing.”
The weary soul. Lonely. Afraid. Bitter. Angry at this Angsty Teenager for giving them false hope. The scars, so carefully disguised as beautiful tattoos, are ripped open. Not nearly as healed as we gave them credit for. The wounds, still infected, are so painful to clean out that we pretend they don’t need to be.
“What if we could build a time machine? Go back before it all began.”
Well, what if you could? Would those scars really go away? Or would your demons just bare another name?
It is at this point in our conversation that we look at one another. And the fear creeps in. Realizing that this, right here, is vulnerability. That without meaning to, we let someone in, past those walls. Those paper thin walls, painted to look so strong, but no one ever drew near enough to put them to the test. And that right here, if we had that time machine, we would give it away. For our own scars, painful welts smarting with new attacks, are nothing. But you… you don’t deserve this. Take this magical machine, go back, and be free. I’ll be fine: you, though, you need to be free.
If you dive in your hole, I’ll dig one next to you. For what it’s worth: don’t run. For you see, I don’t need you. But I want you to stay. I want you to come. I can survive without you. But that doesn’t mean I want to.
Maybe we are in the wrong story. Maybe it hurts, and we are weary. Maybe we’re tired of fighting for others when no one ever fights for us. Maybe it’s okay to cry. Maybe it’s okay to be weak. Maybe it’s okay to be lonely. Maybe it’s okay that this story has no plot. Maybe it’s okay that the embers are fading. Maybe it’s okay that Gaston really thinks he’s doing what’s best.
Maybe it’s okay. Because someday our angsty teenager will try again. She’ll scrape away all the stupidity and her pen will be fresh with new experiences, new skills, and new perspectives. A more mature writer, she’ll bring us back on track. And we won’t have to try so hard. We won’t have to die to feel alive. We can just be. We can be alive.
Friendships– relationships– are painful.
But maybe, just maybe… they are worth it.
When does a girl become a woman? I’m wondering if I am going through that process right now. All my life, I have tried to keep up the beautiful mask. That my life is put together. That I don’t struggle with anything or have any issues. That I am never lonely, angry, confused, bitter. That I always have the answers. That I have a lovely, pure heart.
It’s a weary mask. It is a heavy burden. To always be put together. To always have my life appearing whole and unbroken, when inside I have always been dying.
Overwhelmed by myself, I threw my story at someone the other day, too weak to care. Tired of being called authentic, tired of being called genuine when my soul and heart were so dirty and tattered. As I shattered the pedestal I had been placed on, I waited bitterly for the shock, the disappointment, and the separation. I waited to be left alone, as I no longer matched up to the ideal.
But you know what happened?
She said, “I love you, anyway.”
She touched my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, “If anything, I love you more now that I know the truth about you.”
“This is being genuine,” she told me. “Nothing you can say or do will make me love you less.”
And I began to cry.
“This can’t be real. She’s crazy,” I thought to myself. So I sought out another woman, and another, and another. And these four women surprised me so much.
“I love you even more now than I did before,” they all said.
Instead of being thrown away, shunned for not living up to the perfection, I was cherished. Stunned, I wept. As my weakness and struggles, lies and liabilities came to light, I was loved any way. Not because of what I’d done, but simply because I was me. Broken, imperfect, and loved anyway.
I held my scarlet letter to the light: pains from the past and present, wounds that had never healed, struggles that had never been faced, and emotions that had never been confronted. Broken. Confused. And somehow, through it all, I am beginning to release the shell that has bound me, the cage that has kept me, the mask that has shielded me.
I am on a journey, discovering who I really am. How to be genuine. How to be authentic. How to be alive. It is scary, and I have cried more in the last month than I have in the last 3 years combined. But with every tear I cry, I feel as though I am releasing the façade. I am beginning to breathe. My soul is awakening. Who I was is not who I am. I do not yet know what I will look like at the end of this, but I know that she is going to be more alive than I have ever dared to dream of. It looks like this broken girl is finally letting go enough to start to grow into the woman God is preparing me to be.
August 31, 2012
Because I have far more important things to think about, the world wide web is treated to the introspective ponderings that have been plaguing me for the last several days so that they will stop hounding me.
Following so far? Good.
I’m just a well-dressed wreck
I’m just a made-up mess
Working hard, trying to keep everybody impressed
All the while, falling apart on the inside
Stephen Curtis Chapman — Broken
I despise the question, “How are you?” Several of you have been treated to my venting sessions regarding this statement. In American culture, this phrase means little more than, “I acknowledge your existence, moving on…”
In some ways, this question turns us into the biggest liars.
“Fine, how’re you?”
I ask it sometimes at work to my customers. Sometimes they give me a, “Good, I’ll have a tall classic mocha.” Sometimes they say, “I’m alright, how’re you? I’d like a grande dark, no room.” Sometimes they are surprised, take a second to blink, answer and order. Other times they completely ignore the question.
I tend to fall into that last category, even in real conversations.
See, the thing is, people ask it but don’t mean it. Most of the time, they don’t even realize they have asked a question. It is acknowledgement of existence, much like, “Where are you going?” or “Have you eaten?” in Chinese culture.
In conversations with people, it is my habit that I will not ask the question, “How are you?” unless I have both the desire and time to hear a legitimate answer. If both of those are in place, I tend to push for more than a knee-jerk answer. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’m guilty of following the same pattern, but I try not to.
Life isn’t easy.
We are too busy. Too distracted. Too focused on ourselves. What I have to do next. Where I have to be. My world extends to my fingertips, and we view our fellow man through foggy glass. They are there, but not clear enough to care about what is going on beneath the surface.
This makes it very easy to lie.
Have you ever thought about that? Seriously? Why do you ask people this?
It’s moments like that when I’m honest. It really isn’t that hard to get me to open up.
The thing is, no one ever asks.
And most of the time when they do, it is easier to deflect the conversation, redirect it. Or answer, “Fine, how’re you? No, really, how are you?”
Then I’m safe. My soul stays tucked away. No worries about actually answering that question. No actually having to think about life, analyze it, and be honest with myself. At least not today.
Because when someone actually does ask, then I go into psychoanalysis mode and I ponder the question for days.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programing. Acoustic and Articulatory Phonetics, you’re next in line!