Thursday, June 9, 2016

Going East of Eden

"All great and precious things are lonely" - Steinbeck, East of Eden

... Tomorrow, I leave on an epic adventure.

There are a handful of things that I feel anxious about on the eve of this adventure. I haven't really camped by myself before. And I haven't really camped for more than a weekend. And I haven't really camped without reservations, without a solid plan. And yet here I am, about to drive off to Glacier National Park, by myself, for a full week. I'll camp on the way out and the way back, and generally be on the road for the next twelve days. Which I've also never done before.

To be fair, I didn't plan for it to go this way. Since this is my big Year of Thirty, I thought an epic trip to Glacier National Park would be a great way to celebrate three decades. In the past couple of years, I've taken to traveling on my birthday weekend with friends, going on little trips here and there that force exploration of nearby places. And why not go big when you're turning thirty? So I pushed the date back for snow-free potential and invited everyone I thought would want to join. I picked solid dates, made solid plans, and was hopeful. This would be my big adventure full of games and friends and beauty.

But life got in the way, which is apt to happen when you must wear the mantle of adulthood. One by one between new jobs and new babies and new houses and obligations, I found myself facing this epic celebratory adventure alone. I didn't expect everyone to come, but I also didn't expect to be alone. I only halfheartedly planned for the possibility, when I probably should have been more serious about it.

And yet, that seems to be life, and this is just the next adventure and challenge. I've grown in my ability to adventure, from camping now and again with friends in college, to moving across the country to unknown places, taking trips throughout the Midwest, and now attempting to relish adventuring to the unknown for the hashtag-yearofthirty. Why wouldn't I do this alone, on top of all the other uncertain, unplanned, and unexpected things this year has contained? As friends develop relationships and families and we all settle into adulthood, I've got to learn again to make my way, to continue to embrace adventure even if I'm the only one going. I've done this before, I'll do it again, and I'll leave for it tomorrow. It's just that this time, it looks different.

And so it's okay. It must be okay, and it will be okay. I allowed myself the disappointment so that I can take up the challenge. No better way to learn than to go. To do. To jump in, all in, and embrace whatever comes. I don't have everything planned except what needs to be known (though I have purchased and packed everything I think I could possibly need because you can't completely shake out the Christy). I'm an open book for an epic solo adventure in a beautiful place that is only just the beginning.

As long as a bear doesn't eat me first. I'll let you know.

One exciting purchase: freeze-dried food kit. I am so excited about this because I get to make my own meals! It even has leek flakes! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

April Showers bring May, and Summer, Flowers

I feel noticeably better today, almost intensely so, than yesterday. Yesterday, as I struggled to appreciate, as I wanted to cry, as I got angry at sadness.

I became angry, because what do I have to be sad about? I had just come off of three days full of birthday celebrations. Friends joined me playing board games, drinking wine, made me cake, gave me thoughtful (and incredible) gifts, made me pancakes, joined me in Milwaukee for ice cream, bought me drinks, went dancing, drove me back, then celebrated again. Friends sent me cards and letters and notes and texts and reached out in all these various ways to say, Happy Birthday (or, I Love You). It was fantastic.

I love my birthday with the enthusiasm you'd expect of a child, and have for as long as I can remember. Age has not diminished the excitement that builds towards April 9th, except that I've learned to no longer count the days down from 100. However, I have wondered why I care so much about my birthday, when it seems most children grow out of the crazed excitement. I've lost a job on my birthday, had a pet die when younger, and even missed out on an anticipated adventure, yet still been steadfast in my excitement for the day. And why?

I think it's love. I think that my birthday is the one day of the year when everyone reaches out to express their feelings for me, in little and big ways, all at once. With Happy Birthdays, with cards, with cakes and gifts or nothing at all. I can, without shame, dwell and smile and celebrate in the love and admiration. I can expect these things, and I can enjoy them. I can be loved, and love in return, and it feels normal and okay.

And maybe this should feel normal and okay everyday. Maybe I shouldn't need one single day to feel okay with being loved, with being important to people, with being a friend that's appreciated. Maybe I can work to see this type of love in the everyday, in the small ways, in the texts and the notes and the adventures that don't fall on April 9th. And maybe that sadness is this. Maybe it's knowing what could and should be, and how that deep kind of thoughtful, heart heavy work is never done. Some days I may cry in the face of nothing to cry about. I may not see or appreciate or believe what I'm told, what I know is true. But at least on those days, I can remember birthdays. And birthday like days. And all of those little ways we're connected, that we love, that we're human with each other.

Everyday can be celebrated like my birthday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring in Southern Wisconsin, storm headed our way.
Last night in the absence of sleep, I started thinking about my tattoo. Efforts towards clearing the mind were, as usual, unsuccessful. Finding the post where I first wrote about it, I remembered the reasoning, the adventure that took us there, and the words of meaning behind it. I can still trace my fingers along the bumpy lines, thankful and not regretful of the odd little leaf on my shoulder. Those words and that meaning still hold true today, reminding me that it will, as it was before, be okay.

Lately, the air feels restless with spring as the weather bounces between warm days of sunshine and cold days of dreary. I'm hesitant to celebrate spring, despite the swelling buds and sprouting seeds. I can look back on years of Facebook posts to find jubilation at the first outdoor run of the season, of the warm kiss of sunshine on the skin, of excitement for what's to come. But this year, I just don't feel it. The dreary grasp of winter seems unshakable, and sinks in with the other odd things of note. Like my waning perfectionism. Usually I don't wait until the last minute. Usually I take time to put my best foot forward. But not recently. There's trash still left in my car, weeks later. I am seemingly fine hastily putting together something that will work. I frequently show up late to work, and seem less worried with punctuality. I've stopped playing with calligraphy, haven't picked up my knitting needles in a while, and seem only to get lost in books and internet distractions. All little things that wave like little warning flags to tread careful on this ledge. Tread ever so carefully.

I'm going on my fourth year and fifth winter of the Midwest, a majority of that now in Wisconsin. Luckily I first landed in Iowa, with the friends and community of Decorah. That first summer remains the most magical of my lifetime, filled with adventures and all of what makes life burst forth with love and friendship. But summer ends as winter comes, and so did my time in Decorah. Luck landed me a job in Janesville, working a position I felt lucky to have and made to do. Life settled into normal expectations. I found less community, but solid friendships that were more of what you expected out of adulthood. I began to enjoy being alone, and grew stronger into myself, in my emotions, in my being. I could take care of myself, which was important as my friends got married, had babies, and life moved forward.

And I adventured. I found friends. I found hobbies. A few short relationships. I did my best.

Somewhere along the line, I developed the idea of the five year plan. In five years, I would figure out if I wanted to settle down permanently here or move on to something else. That five year mark would involve a serious endeavor towards non-apartment living and accepting the long-term inevitability of where I am. But two years in, there was a massive budget cut made to the UW-System. With a shift in organizational structure, job security was on the line. A year later this January, newly revealed plans put me squarely in the 'ah fuck' party. With further uncertainty of my job existing next year, I realized my timeline had moved forward. And what the fuck do I do now? Continue to wait it out, hoping a position exists somewhere in Wisconsin? Someplace where I can build a friendship base again, successfully date, and find a settled place to be? Or do I look for adventure elsewhere? Do I open myself to opportunities, make a plan to pack up my things and my dog, and head someplace to do it all over again, all over in a new place? Fuck. I hate unanswerable questions.

In any case, I plan to do both. One will work before the other, I hope. But - uncertainty. Uncertainty is the hardest for me. Not knowing where and when, what next. And having that uncertainty, the "me and my dog moving forward" take on the cusp of turning thirty. When I thought I'd have it settled. And here then, I find myself on that ledge. Unable to sleep as my mind frantically runs through everything. But I realize I'm okay because of my friends. Because of where I've brought myself personally. Because despite the unknowns, it is okay, and it will be okay, even if it doesn't look great. I can, and I will, have bad days. And I won't be the shining example of hopes and dreams I wish I could be. But I will be okay. I will always be okay. Just as that leaf reminds me. Change happens, but I am still here. Permanent as the leaf on my shoulder, but able to shift as the seasons do. And as I've done before, I'll make it through again.

I'm incredibly thankful for my friends. For board games and farmer meeples. For sharing books and dog walks. I'm grateful for adventures near and far, for parks to explore, for Nerd Nite talks and chances, baby pictures and manicures, letters and postcards, dinners, everything. Waking up today, I realized how much these small things have carried me through, kept me safely on the ledge. Keeping me hopeful, helping me believe in myself and what can come, keeping me from falling into the dark places I was before. Yes, Decorah was magical. But I was lost in a deep, painful loneliness that I've worked hard to get out of these past few years. Those demons aren't vanquished, and they regularly rear their heads to dance with my heart and mind. Especially as of late, when so much is uncertain. And I turn thirty, so soon. But I have tools, methods, and words to help myself, to keep myself from being lost. I've built myself a basement, a safe space, a net to land on, an anchor to keep me too far from shore. This time the storm is coming, but it feels different. Change is ready, and it doesn't feel so frightening. The ground feels so much more solid. And so I'm grateful. Thank you, friends. Thank you for carrying me through. Thank you for the love, the support, the net. Thank you.

hello, blooming cactus. thank you for the flower.