Waiting to testify and balloons

Yesterday I came home from the senior philosophy thesis defenses to find my bed full of balloons. You just never know what’s going to happen around here. I needed a nap, though, and balloons weren’t going to make that easy, so I put them in the crib with all of Mia’s little stuffed animals that have been there for when you’re stressed and just need to hug a small stuffed guinea pig (Webkinz, if you’re familiar with those). It’s a happy crib.


My housemates were celebrating with balloons because that was it for me. I defended my thesis that morning, turned in my last paper, and boom, undergrad done. One minute you’re having a controlled panic (maintaining an only half terrified look on your face while your stomach and brain dance around in a frenzy) about this hour-long defense of your work, and the next you’re done with all of your college work.

By some miracle, all of my housemates were free last night. So we went out for pizza (naturally). And then after that Kristin came downstairs, “Oh, we forgot something! This is the second half of your surprise.” Then she hung four Mardi Gras necklaces on me. “We’re so proud of you.”

I’m done.

So today I’m unanchored. Nothing is due today. Nothing will ever be due again, not here. The only thing on my schedule is graduation rehearsal this evening, and picking up my regalia. I have to pack, but nothing else is going on.

These are the strangest days, the transitional ones. There’s a new reality to wrap my mind around. Going homeGetting a job (someday soon).

Maybe no transition in my life has quite compared to this. I’ve been a student since I was 5. The last 16.5 years of my life have been progressing from one step of education to another. I know everyone has a moment when their education is “over” (but it’s never over when you can read), but is it always this strange?

I’ve introduced myself for the past three and a half years as “Ashley: English and Philosophy major, student, North Park, intern, writing advisor…” Now I’m “Ashley: person.”

It’s not quite an identity crisis, but I wonder when I stop telling people what I majored in. When does that stop being relevant? Probably a few years into career work.

I’ve been sort of dreading this transition for a while now, thinking about the uncertainty and having to answer all the questions. People ask because they’re curious and because they care, not because they want to pressure me into having a plan, but I’ll still have to say that I’m not sure what’s next.

This is the part where I tell you that I know God has something good in store. But it’s also the part where I tell you that I don’t know what and I don’t know when and I don’t know when I’ll know anything for sure.

This is the part where I start to testify. I remind myself (and you) of all the strange ways I’ve gotten employment and been called to things in the past:

  • through a freelancing website
  • through my mom’s friend who had all the connections
  • by asking on a whim if someone needed me to work for them
  • when I friend asked on a whim if I’d work for her
  • through a random job posting that sounded cool
  • when someone approached me and asked me to replace them
  • through an ex-boyfriend’s mom
  • by having someone refer me to all the people they know

It’s always through people, and it’s always not exactly what I expected. And it’s ALWAYS been good (though in different ways and doesn’t always feel like it right away) and right on time.

So this is the part where I remind myself (and you, if you’re here, too) that something good is on the way, and it’s worth being faithful for. It’s worth telling people that I’m hopeful and confident that God is going to provide the right opportunity, and until then I’m just applying and making connections. Then, when he does, we’ll all see that it was worth it.

When the world tells me that I need to be stressed and worried about this, and when my own body and mind tell me I need to be anxious and fret over this, I remember how little that has ever done for me. I acknowledge the legitimacy of the feeling and remind myself that God is for me. And for you.

For Genovia

I have papers to keep working on. Oh, the papers never stop. They are important and good, and I’m going to do them soon. I’m not procrastinating… not really.

These things are important, but I’m graduating in one week. That brings with it lots of feelings, so I’m taking some time to be sentimental. Space for the feelings. These things are important.

Of the things I’m most going to miss about college is my house. Not just the physical house, although I’ve grown accustomed to its slanting floors (it’s about 100 years old), strange lighting, scary basement, and squeakiness. It’s a lovely place to live. Really, though, the girls who live here are what I’ll miss and the sassy, spirited nature of the place.

The house I live in is called Genovia, after the made-up country in The Princess Diaries. This is for a number of reasons. 1) We possess a Princess Mia.

Here she is, taking a walk with the cardboard cutout of Mr. Bean that she and her sister Zoe brought with them to our house. Yes, those are Santa Lucia candles and braids on his head. He’s perpetually ready for Advent.


So, yes, we have a royal Mia. Also, we would like to be a sovereign nation. Mia’s the aspiring filmmaker of the group, the one who filmed our house music video (still to be edited… cough cough, no pressure there) and has a fabulous appreciation for bright articles of clothing like shorteralls with sunflowers on them. We affectionately refer to her twin sister, Zoe, as Mr. Robitussin, fictional Mia’s gloomy writer neighbor who sighs a lot, but really, Zoe’s much more sunny and pleasant than he is.

wp-1449862001517.jpgSee? Look at that smile. Zoe and Mia comprise the most creative part of out household. They’re the artists, the ones who paint portraits of cultural figures that decorate our living room. Also, they made that ear of corn. So talented. Zoe also makes glitter pasta (defined: covering pasta with glitter… pretty self-explanatory) and models beautiful hair styles.


There is an empty liter bottle hidden in her hair there. She’s also taken over 1,000 Buzzfeed quizzes. I have so much admiration for this girl. wp-1449860872087.jpg

There’s a slight difference in height between us. But no matter. We appreciate each other’s heights.

Our household has a unique affinity for wearing all gray, commonly known in millenial communities as a “groutfit” (gray + outfit = groutfit). In fact, our Christmas picture exemplifies this:


(I AM wearing gray. It’s just charcoal.) Note Kanye in the background with the Santa hat. Cred to Zoe.

These girls have become so special to me over the course of the semester. You’ve already met Liesel, who was already special because she lived with me for a year and a half before that and shared all those memories that you can only have with someone you live with. Our roommatehood has only gotten more rich by the addition of the other four girls.

Here she is, still making fabulous faces for the camera as always.wp-1449862447539.jpg

Liesel and I realized recently that many of our best moments have happened in a kitchen, often while doing dishes together, which shows you that we use a lot of dishes and that we bond over strange things. It makes it a special friendship though, which I like.

That picture introduced you to Kirsten, whose nickname is Pansy because she gets cold way before most people (went to a soccer game in September wearing three pairs of pants) but can really take stress like a champ. So she’s tougher than we usually give her credit for. She has so many wonderful talents, like being able to wear Mia and Zoe’s grandma’s old wig and looking marvelous, practicality, witty social commentary, and taught me that avocado in stir-fry ain’t bad.wp-1449860858880.jpgOur house has this thing called THE CRIB, which is the best thing we ever thought of. It’s two love seats put together into a giant nest of couchiness. We do just about everything we can in it.

In fact, look, we all fit in it together, all six of us!


Yes, that’s a selfie stick in employ there. But “who’s the lovely lady in the gray bathrobe?” you ask.wp-1449860849068.jpg

This is Kristin, our Britain aficionado. She’s our tea drinker. She’s the type of girl you expect to just be sugar and spice and everything nice (which she is), but then she surprises you with a fabulous snarky comment at just the right moment. It keeps me on my toes. We’ve been watching (and generously criticizing) cheesy Christmas movies this past week.wp-1449860837638.jpg

Christmas in Genovia has been so joyful. Kirsten and I tried to make snowflakes one Friday night. Hers kept ending up in multiple pieces when she unfolded them. We’re still not sure what went wrong. But she did eventually get some whole, beautiful snowflakes.wp-1449860811033.jpg

Zoe’s glitter pasta in progress in the background there.

We started out this semester by taking this picture out in our yard (featuring Mr. Bean in the window, where he stands sentry). Since then, we’ve kept our house remarkably well cleaned, thanks for our chore chart, we’ve eaten so many cookies/cakes/pies, endured fruit flies together, come up with secret hand motion greetings, added a massage table to the living room, supported each other on hard days, celebrated each other’s accomplishments, taken ALL the Buzzfeed quizzes, put our assignments on the fridge, shared the milk (which almost no one in our house actually drinks), laughed over everything, fangirled over Adele… and Enya… and Josh Groban…, oh, and so much more.10458014_369321243277689_1954141538538575038_n

Yes, this is that chore chart. You know how those craft things that would allow those two wheels to spin independently if placed in the center is called a brad? Well, we took it to the next level. We named our chore chart Brad. So then Brad’s the one telling you to do your chores.

But then it went a step further, and we all became famous Brads.

And we never actually used a real brad to hold it together. That’s a twisty tie.11908589_10154155101028066_145061068266792457_o

Now chores are called Brads. 12109770_890853834325225_5248503989298033863_o

Three of us are from Minnesota and three from Illinois. This cookie originally was shaped like a boot with a spur, but then magic happened in the oven, and this came out.11951208_369321043277709_333203359514223251_n

We’ve taken typical prom pictures with Mr. Bean. We’ve moved him from window to window and heard countless stories of his presence scaring passersby (mission: accomplished).

And we’ve surprised each other with food, multiple times. It’s the best kind of surprise.12360299_394123060797507_6366327293415970261_n

This picture is probably how I’ll remember this semester.

Laughing. Together.

When your studies and the world in general and life circumstances are enough to make anyone sigh in despair or stress, it’s been the biggest gift to have this house of girls who laugh and can make each other laugh. We can be serious, too, but there’s been so much joy and humor in our lives that it tempers the sadness or disappointment well. It’s been a safe place to cry… and laugh until you cry.

To Genovia: you’re all my favorite. Thanks for making this semester pretty much the best.

On taking it.

I’ve been working on a big paper for a while now, my senior thesis for philosophy. Those words are an understatement. Substitute ‘big’ with ‘time-consuming, confusing, frustrating, and important’ and substitute ‘a while’ with ‘three months’, and you’ll have a better idea. It’s not the be-all and end-all of papers. People write dissertations all the time. It’s not the hardest thing people have ever done, but good grief. It’s hard enough. And it’s lonely because it’s hard to bring people in on concepts you barely understand that are complex and basically in another language.

I’ve been wading through the philosophers I chose to write about and questioning whether or not I’m capable of writing anything of value on them. So many deep sighs. So little understanding. I didn’t get a single thing out of that entire chapter. I have to read it again. And again. And again. Okay, now I think I understand the basic premise. Implications? No idea. Probably aren’t any. I didn’t know it was possible for something to be so abstract.

I sent it to a classmate for peer review. That helped. My peer had questions, and he pointed out some spots where things in my paper made sense.Writing was never meant to be a solitary process. Sure, you may write in your closet, but coming up with a quality product needs other people.

I talked it over with another student… for about an hour. That helped. She had questions. I had a few more answers than I’d had during peer review.

I thought I had an epiphany. I think I sort of did. I wrote more. I edited what I’d written. Gosh, this is like sending my messy room to someone. But I sent it to my professor anyways.

He saw where I was going and helped me come up with an outline. *Deep sigh of relief* The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter.

Then, as I was about to take my paper and leave his office, he said, “You’ve done good work on this.”

Was that good work? It was work, I think. It took work. It must be good work if the product is a little bit good. Maybe it shows the work. This brought relief, too. Maybe I won’t disappoint all my professors!

I sent the paper to my friend who is also a writing advisor and asked her to point out any parts where it didn’t make sense. You need some sort of initiation to these kinds of papers–not that it’s too smart for anyone, you just have to have some sort of exposure to the language to be able to follow the philosophical arguments. It’s foreign lingo.

When she responded, she told me she was impressed, that I was intelligent.

I’d like to think so. But there was a voice in the back on my mind when she told me that that said, “It’s not that you’re smart. It’s that the language is fancy. It’s that she hasn’t had time to read this kind of stuff because she’s in freaking nursing school. She’s just being nice. You have such nice friends.”

I often think that voice tells the truth. (Well, it’s right that I do have nice friends, and she’s one of the best.) The voice feels like it’s keeping me humble. It’s keeping me on earth, where if I let myself think I was intelligent, I might get a head too big to fit my graduation cap on. (and now it’s too late to get a different size. Not good. This could be disastrous)

But that’s not humility, is it?  Humility doesn’t require that I downgrade myself or deny what others have said in efforts to build me up. Humility asks that I think of myself less, that I look for ways to build other people up, and that I accept the praise offered me when it is given with grace.

I’m just going to take it.

I’m going to accept what she said, file it away in that file of things people have said about me, and decide if it’s true later. Maybe it will be true some days and in some cases and not in others. I’m going to accept that my professor says I did good work, to file that away in the file of tasks that others have affirmed and keep trying to live up to the affirmation.

This seems like a healthier response. Also, it’s finals time, so let’s face it, genuine affirmation is always a lovely thing. And when I can accept it, I bet it’ll be easier to give.

Burned toast saves the day.

It was Kirsten’s birthday yesterday. You remember how we celebrated Kristin’s birthday (don’t get confused, look at the spelling of those two names again) by creeping into her room in the dark with breakfast?

We haven’t had another in-house birthday since then, but we also celebrated the end of cross country for Mia and Zoe with a surprise party. We like surprises here, especially when they mean food.

So naturally, Kristin got the idea to make Kirsten an ice cream cake about two months ago. She’d been plotting for weeks to make sure we would have enough people home when Kirsten was at Zoology.

We baked a cookie in a cake pan first and put it in the freezer to cool before we could put the ice cream layer on top.

Then we had a problem.

“It smells too good in here! She’ll be home in ten minutes”

“She’s going to know! She can’t know”

We sprayed febreeze, but that wasn’t enough to get rid of the delicious cookie smell. The surprise had to wait until 10pm, when the majority of people would be home, so the house could not smell. Mia and Kristin had washed and put away all the dishes related to cookie baking, so that part was taken care of. But what to do about the smell.

Zoe suggested warming up some of her super sharp cheddar in the microwave, but we weren’t sure it’d be smelly enough to cover it up.

So we burned toast.

Not only did we burn toast, but to make sure that none of the first floor would smell of delicious cookie, I took the toast in the tongs and waved it around. Burned toast smell reigned supreme.

We were so concerned about Kirsten coming home and catching us putting the ice cream layer on the cake and smelling the cookie, but it turns out she didn’t come home when we thought she would. We even had Zoe stand on a chair while Kristin and I hurriedly spread ice cream around and crushed Oreos. But no Kirsten. She came home much later, after all the evidence had moved.

So technically it was all for nothing. But it wasn’t all for nothing. We made memories.

And she was surprised by the cake.


We’re more than multitaskers

Today is one of those days where I had a lot to do and got a lot done but still have more. It’s been harder and harder to want to dig into these analytical papers I’m writing since I’m doing them all at the same time.

I was not made to multitask. (can I get an amen?) Hallelujah, I was made to do one thing at a time.

Right now it doesn’t matter how I work best. It matter that I still need to finish these papers. And they still need to be as good as I can make them, not because I need good grades at this point, but what’s the point in finishing if I’m not going to do it well?

So, it’s time for a pep talk. Maybe you’re trying to do everything at once right now, too. Tis the season of trying to do too much, right?

Hey, there, you? Can I have a minute? Can you put down the balls for just one minute and stop your juggling? We’ve talked about this before, how it doesn’t all depend on you. Yes, rest in that.

It will not all fall apart if you stop in the middle of the day to take a power nap. The world will keep spinning, and when you get up, you’ll feel stronger on your feet. Everyone will not turn on you if you take a snack break or put down the thing you’ve struggled with for a couple hours already. You’ll go back to it soon enough.

I know you think everyone else is getting more done. Maybe they are. Maybe they’re super-doers. But you just do what you can, one thing at a time. Chunk it up, is what my mom always said. So you do this little section of that today, and then, it’s done. And you save that little section for tomorrow. And you do little sections of everything until you can solve the puzzle.

Yes, this is Wheel of Fortune. Buy a vowel, guess one letter at a time, and when you’re ready, close the whole project off.

Yes, there are things you can’t do today. You can’t finish everything today. But that’s not worth focusing on. What can you do? One piece.

The other day my friend sent me a picture of an entire pizza with the caption “Every pizza is a personal pizza if you just believe in yourself.” That’s the spirit. And take it one slice at a time.

You’re capable. You’ve done things before. Maybe not this, maybe not all these, but you can do it. You’ll do. You will.

Just one thing at a time. To misquote the Bible, “We’re more than multitaskers.”

We’ll take the motivation as it comes, right? We’ll do what we can and maybe even a little of what we thought we couldn’t. And we’ll make it through.

Marker for growth of some kind.

One of my good friends from high school, Emma, is visiting me in Chicago this weekend. She’s sleeping on my couch, and we’re exploring things I haven’t yet seen in my time living here (There. Are. So. Many.). And we’re going back to things I love.

We were standing on a train platform waiting for a train back to school late last night (late for me, which means before midnight and after ten), both of our feet tired from walking and standing for hours.

“Four years ago, we were still in high school,” she said at one point in the conversation.

It has been four years, hasn’t it? We’ll have our five-year reunion next year. And for the rest of our lives, we’ll be getting progressively farther and farther from high school.


This morning, when I woke up, Facebook told me I’d posted this picture four years ago today.

My acceptance letter. There I am, in my (likely) post volleyball practice splendor, proudly holding the envelope that means I’m going to college in the city where I wanted to be. In my letter jacket.

Almost everything in that picture is changed now. I suppose the only thing that’s the same are the acceptance letter (which I still have… some day I’ll throw it away) and the fireplace, which is made from stone.

My letter jacket no longer hangs on my body but in the coat closet at my parents’ house. Our family room (pictured behind me) has been painted and rearranged (twice) since then.

I haven’t played volleyball since that last game of my senior year. (but just saw on Facebook that my alma mater’s team is going to State! Finally, someone achieved the dream.)

I haven’t yet figured out what exactly is different about me in the intangibles. I mean, visibly, my hair is a slightly different color right now, I have two more piercings than when I started college, I think my face looks a little different. But what you can’t see? I’m not ready to identify that.

I eat more protein now. Eggs! Beans! Who knew I could have such a diverse palate? I’m my own chef. I’ve tried making new things – and sometimes failed miserably.

“You know this place,” Emma said last night, after I said I thought we needed to walk west in order to get from State to Dearborn. A small feat, but I thought, yes, sometimes, I do. I’ve gotten decent at orienting myself in Chicago. Not fabulous, but decent. I can navigate the brown line and most of the north side pretty easily and can get to either airport without a problem. That’s something. I can get to any part of the Loop.

Sometimes I walk a mile in the wrong direction after I get off the train, realize my mistake, and walk back. So I know some of this place, and I’ve gotten better at walking longer distances. And worse at double checking the direction.

I know I write about different things now. I’ve thought sometimes about if I should start a new blog, get a fresh platform. Some of my posts are from 2011, yikes! That wouldn’t be a big deal if I hadn’t been 17 that year. Some of the posts are cringeworthy. (but hey, I can still write cringeworthy posts)

But it’s true to the process, both of learning to write and growing up.

Today feels like a landmark. Four years ago, today, I was just beginning to be a part of college, just starting that process of figuring out what I wanted to study, who I wanted to be, and how I’d fit into a new place. And now, I’m 41 days away from reintegrating into the place I left – but a different version of it.

I can’t say much for certain about what has changed in those years, but I’m marking today. We can tick it off of the wall as growth of some kind.

Good is on the way

I sat at my dining room table in the seat where I can see out the front windows and watched a guy rollerblade past.

It’s November 4th, and he just rollerbladed by in a sweatshirt. The sun is shining, and the leaves are still on the trees – some of them even still green.

I had a thought yesterday, Today is a perfect day. I felt like I had to check myself because I never say perfect and mean it. Perfect is a nearly unusable word since nothing ever is.

But yesterday very nearly was. Not because of what happened but because of how it felt. (even though it certainly wasn’t a bad day- I spent a few hours of it working at the chocolate shop near campus making oreo turkeys)

We’ve had cold weather here in the past few weeks. Not too cold, but the wind got pretty strong and cold there for a few days. It’s hard to feel light on those days. I mean, you can feel light because it feels like the wind might pick you up and dump you a few blocks away, but lightness of heart is harder to come by.

Those days are cloudy. Nobody skips.

Nobody rollerblades.

Yesterday and today feel light. The weather has hit 70 both days. We’ve worn short sleeves and sunglasses.

It feels like a gift, a concession for the cloudy days and a reminder that you never know what good thing is about to come your way.

I’d like to live like good is coming more of the time.

Yellow leaves, or none, or few

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
I think of this poem (Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73) at the start of every fall. I know it’s fall when the leaves start swirling in little eddies on the sidewalk. I’m pretty sure the leaves only do that here in Chicago. The wind is more shapely here.
I think of it because every fall there is something in me that is dying, some false sense of self or others, some faulty perspective, and other things going dormant.
Yellow leaves, or none, or few.
Maybe we’re all feeling a little thin right now, like the upcoming onslaught of winter (or whatever else is ahead) is too powerful. The leaves are yellow, not living, about to fall off. Or they might be all gone, leaving no protection, no sign of life. Or maybe we’ve still got a few, just hanging on and quivering as the wind gets colder.
In me, I’m seeing the twilight of a day, my years in college.
As the yellow leaves fall and swirl in the pavement, I think of what I’ll do when the twilight ends and night begins to signal a new day.
Shakespeare got it – it’s hard to love something well when you know you have to leave it soon. It’s why we check out during the last ten minutes of a long lecture, only to come back for the last line and the dismissal. It’s why when you only have 12 weeks left of school you’re hesitant to make new friends or invest in newer friendships.
It doesn’t seem worth it to pour in and leave.
It’s why I wonder if I should have taken a lighter course load, to go more gently.
But Shakespeare reminds me that loving well when someone’s about to leave can be meaningful. And perhaps the leaver can make it more so.
This is a struggle always. Always. How to stay where you are and love it well and love them well and stay.
I’ll let the leaves remind me to stay and hope Shakespeare would be proud.

Hurricanes or juggling

In my world right now [and a few others who are in the same boat of seniorness], it’s hurricane season. The wind is blowing faster and faster and the windows weren’t boarded up well enough, so they’re threatening to let the wind in. If you open the door to the crazy outside, your papers will all fly away and meet their end in the wet and blow.

Sometimes I feel like I’m out there, waving like one of those inflatable wacky waving tube men and trying to get stuff done. And sometimes I’ve gone deep down into my bunker with a flashlight, a snack, and a notebook and checked something off my to-do list.

Then I come back to the main level with the boarded up windows that are about to burst at the seams and realize that the candle I left burning is about to set the house on fire.

This is all metaphorical, I hope you know.

I would use the analogy of trying to juggle a bunch of balls so I could say I “dropped the ball” and mean it, but when you drop a ball, it bounces and you pick it back up again and are fine. Sure, you have to stop juggling for a minute, but all hell does not break loose.


That might be more accurate.

Because when I forgot that my bibliography was due last week and read the wrong chapter in my textbook and felt all the insane-crazy-exhausted-woman-irritation at the people who didn’t show up for writing appointments, the world didn’t fall apart. The wind didn’t sweep everything away. The boardwalk wasn’t buried under tidal waves; the house didn’t burn down.

The balls just fell on the floor.

To be fair to my overreactive self, it’s hard to stop juggling when you’ve started. Why stop? You’ll only have to get everything going again.

I didn’t do homework for two whole days this weekend. Two whole days. And I came back to school a new woman, feeling actually capable and relatively calm. What did I do in those two days?

Watched movies with friends.

Ate with friends.

Explored the downtown of a suburb with friends (read: small, manageable, not this monstrosity where I live)

Fulfilled a dream of about four years of getting my nose pierced.


Lounged with friends.

Played touch football with friends (which means that even though I’m mentally rested, some less often used muscles in my legs are hurting… but it’s a good kind of hurt) and scored a touchdown.

Went to a farmer’s market with a friend.

Laughed with friends.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Friends are important. Also, stopping your labor for time with friends is important. No, I can’t spend everyday doing that. And I’ll definitely get back up to the level of crazy I was at Friday afternoon, but it’s so nice to come down from there for a little bit.

I’m going to remember that I’m a juggler and not a hurricane survivor. I’m going to take breaks. (watch me, I’m taking a break right now!) I’m going to work hard and stop working temporarily.

And I’m going to sing this song every couple days, because it’s hard to sing it and not feel good: 

You, too?

Smoky day.

Strange things are afoot today. I still haven’t figured this out, so I just keep telling my housemates about it.

I need answers, and I may not get them.

I put on a shirt today, as I do nearly every morning, and discovered midway through the Pope’s address that it smelled like smoke. Like tobacco smoke. Like I’d gone out back and smoked a pack then sprayed perfume on myself to cover it up.

I assumed it was the shirt. Did I go to a smoky, flowery place while I wore it last? I’m pretty sure I didn’t wear it for long last time, so I didn’t wash it. But… wouldn’t I remember that smoky place? You can hardly smoke anywhere these days. Not that I’m put out by that. I don’t smoke. So why do I smell like it? Did I hug someone who smokes? Like a really long hug?

I spent half a day in the shirt then went back home and changed, thinking that would solve the problem. I couldn’t take it any longer. It was messing with my head, making me question everything.

Changing the shirt didn’t help much. Maybe my skin absorbed it, because the new shirt and cardigan smell the same way, just a bit less strong.

My overactive imagination wonders if there’s a medical condition where you start smelling like a cigarette then spontaneously combust. Or if smelling smoke means you’re going crazy.

It’s a pervasive smell. It stuck with me, for whatever reason, and it reminded me of the day my friend Ellen spoke in chapel at my high school, probably during my junior year. She spoke of campfires and how she loves that smell. It sticks on her clothes and in her hair, and she never wants to wash anything touched by campfire smoke because she wants to be able to smell it forever.

She compared it to the way our lives should be saturated by God’s presence in it. That He should stick to us, and when people get close to us, they should smell Him. It’s a good metaphor because smoke is one of the strongest and most recognizable aromas. It’s also a good metaphor because, like the smell of smoke, it’s stuck with me all these years.

So now that I smell like smoke, I also wonder if I smell like Jesus. Hopefully the latter smell is stronger.

And hopefully the former will go away soon.