Blinking and missing.


It was August, and my parents and I were eating pizza at Lou Malnati’s at the start of my last semester of college. We moved in my things to my house, set up my room. I put my things in the cupboards.

And I blinked.

Then I took all the things out of the cupboards. I packed everything up. We ate pizza again. I put on my cap and gown, walked across the stage to get the piece of paper that promises that my diploma will come in the mail soon, and went back home, where I dumped all my things on the floor.

A lot happened in that blink.

It was the fastest semester. No, not just that. It was the fastest three and a half years of my life so far. I know it’s supposed to be grossly accelerated from here on out. If the past 16 weeks were any indicator of how fast the rest of my life will go, I’ll be 30 in a couple blinks and 75 pretty soon after that.

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My dad and I drove the car full of mugs, cheap Ikea furniture, secondhand pots and pans, and memories back to Minnesota today while my mom and sister and brother-in-law stayed to explore the city more. Well, there wasn’t room for them in the car. They’ll fly out tonight. 12360323_1242163975799098_3339200538979599758_n

In some ways it was easy to leave because I’m interested in sleeping longer and not feeling like I have 1400 projects on my mind all at once. And knowing that I am headed into a life with no homework is beautiful.

But I left behind good friends, like the one pictured above and the ones below.12370815_916864838390791_2212852046981748676_o

And too many others. Housemate friends, co-worker friends, professors who became friends and mentors, even the friendly cashiers at the neighborhood grocery store.

My mom asked if I wished I had another semester left last night. There’s a part of me that wants to keep learning in a group of students with a professor and to stay in my campus house. Sometimes my eyes start leaking because that life is still part of me and wants to be lived, to some extent.

“You should feel sad. Of course you’ll miss it. It’s better that way.”

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I will miss college, though I know just a few months ago I was ready to be done and move on into a fully adult life.

I’ll miss the community where it’s better to not know the answers than to give them confidently. It’s better to ask and ask and ask. I’ll miss the conversations in the philosophy and English departments over writing and ideas and stories.

I’ll miss the atmosphere of spontaneity and public transportation, being able to be in a part of the city I’d never seen before (or had seen a hundred times and still loved) in less than an hour without having to brave any traffic.

I’ll miss being able to leave for work five minutes before I needed to be there, wearing whatever ! felt like wearing that day. I’ll miss working with students and the connections that came there, even when the students were working with me by force and making it apparent that they weren’t interested.

I’ll miss the three flights of stairs to my advisor’s office, not because those stairs always make me out of breath but because I always came down them feeling like I had something new to think about and feeling affirmed either in what I was working on or in my choice of major. I’m thankful for all the conversations in his office and knowing that I can always go back.

I’ll spend a little grieving time. That’s important. I’ve got to know what I’ve left to transition well. (BIG SIGH BECAUSE I HATE TRANSITIONS) And I’ll look forward to what’s ahead.

Tonight, that’s mostly sleep.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

Wait.

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.

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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?

Conversations with a nursing major


Living with someone typically brings interesting conversations. I saw a Buzzfeed article earlier today about 50 things you say to your roommate all the time that you’d never have the occasion to say to anyone else. Much of my conversation with Liesel revolves around meals, whether we’re talking about what we’re going to eat or talking while we’re eating about what we’re eating. Then we’ll talk about what to eat next.

It’s college. Food is one of the few enjoyable things we have time and funds for.

Many of our other conversations, however, are about our homework. Things like, “Did you know that…?” and “In my class today…” So I’ve gathered some interesting knowledge about nursing. Some of our more hilarious conversations, though, are the ones about her practical/clinical assessments and assignments.

I kid you not, these are all real conversations that have happened in the past two months.

Liesel: “Do you wanna see my syringes?” Who asks that?

Me: “No.” (picture Grumpy Cat here)

Liesel: “Fine. I’ll look at them myself.”

Liesel: “Can I palpate your stomach?”

Then she proceeded to do a full abdominal examination. “Okay, now I want you to take a sharp breath in so I can feel your liver.”

I didn’t even know where my liver was, but now she’s felt it.

Then, all those weird nurse-y techniques that help them to know if you have some sort of horrid lungs disease: “Every time I touch you, I want you to say, ’99’ or, ‘blue moon.'”

Me: “99……99…..99…..99….Blue moon….99…..99…. 69? No…. 99….”

It’s like I got stuck counting and just couldn’t quite get to 100.

We have a habit of giving each other back massages about once a week, mostly because it feels good and partly because studies show that getting a massage increases your self-efficacy. We’re all about that. This past week, Liesel learned about the lymphatic system and how to assess its health. On Friday, massages were happening, and something felt strange. Suspicion. I am not being massaged; I am being examined. “Are you assessing my lymph nodes?”

“Maaaybe….”

Stranger things have happened. She’s just impressed that I could tell. I’m just not impressed with her sneakiness. It’s good – she doesn’t need to be sneaky.

She’s taken every pulse I could possibly have in my body. Did you know you have a pulse in your foot? I suppose that’s obvious if you think about it, but now I know for sure. I’ve got one.

She asks me if she can take my blood pressure like it’s an enormous privilege to be able to do so and compliments me on my blood pressure.

Thank you, thank you. *Takes bow.*

Despite all her incredible medical knowledge though, we still have fun self-diagnosing on WebMD.

“Liesel, I’m dizzy. What’s wrong with me?”

Instead of trying to impress me with her real clinical knowledge, she pulls up the website.

“Have you had a child recently?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Aspirin poisoning?”

“Nope.”

“Heat stroke.”

No response here because we’re both laughing so hard it’s silent besides gasps for air. This was on a day with negative temperatures.

All this to say, we don’t have many dull moments around here, and I will be very thoroughly assessed for heartbeats, lung sounds, and healthy lymph nodes (oh, yes, and the existence of my liver) this semester.

Giving up planning.


Since I last posted, I discovered (through another google search) that Obsessive-Compulsive Planning Disorder is a real thing.

All of a sudden, I felt fewer warm fuzzies towards my tendencies to plan and plan and re-plan and think ahead and plan and make three different plans in case one doesn’t work and an alternative for those. Then forget all the plans because I didn’t write them down and make a whole new plan from scratch.

In fact, it made me want to set aside my planning and pretend that all those symptoms didn’t fit me.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. I can live my life without a plan. Well, sort of. I can live without a five-year plan. I can live without a one-year plan. I can’t live without my day planned out, but that’s a different story.

I’d like to say in contrast to all the parallel symptoms I have with OCPD that I like to fly by the seat of my pants sometimes. And that most of my life has ended up going completely differently than I planned.

Thought I was going to be a teacher.

Thought I would go to school on a coast.

Thought I’d go to Scotland to study abroad.

Thought I’d be a Communications major.

Thought I’d graduate in 2016.

Never thought I’d have three jobs in college.

Never expected to be a book copyeditor by the age of 19.

Never expected to have seen nine countries before my 21st birthday.

Never expected to see God flip all my plans on their heads. As often as I think I’m a compulsive planner, I remember that my planning is fruitless. Some people say you shouldn’t plan without God’s involvement, but I’ve found in my life that I’m really just banned from planning at all.

I live in a kennel (though my kennel is big and includes all of my present reality) and am not allowed to jump into my actual future until 5 seconds before it strikes. Then the gate is opened and I scurry around in my new territory.

I think puppies and I have a lot in common.

The space beyond the gate is so much more spacious than what I had imagined and planned. It’s always brighter and more abundant and crazier than I could have planned.

So perhaps my limited planning does have a purpose, in helping me contrast my small ability to give myself opportunity and imagine the possibilities with the options God comes up with that I never even considered.

So I’m curbing my planning and waiting for the abundance to show itself. I’m halting my Google binges and asking God to maybe give me a hint of what He had in mind – or to at least give me the faith and patience I need to wait and to prepare me in the meantime.

I guess you could say this Lent marks me giving up planning. I didn’t plan to say that at the beginning of this post, but it seems appropriate and perhaps something I should practice as a sign of trust and faith. More prayer, less planning.

Finals week: defined in pictures.


Finals week. It’s becoming a cliché. We all use up our yearly quota of complaints in just a few days. We eat more junk food than we should and sleep less than we should and procrastinate more than normal.

That is, of course, unless you aren’t in college in the 21st century. Oh, you aren’t a millenial?

You don’t know what finals week is in this day and age?

It’s time for some meme education.finals rich

This is how many people feel during finals week. The stress of studying for an exam that is weighted to 50% of one’s grade induces hopelessness. The only solution? Do your best, and if you fail and end up unable to graduate (not that that is the normal course for those who fail finals, but we’re entitled to a little hyperbole here), you must find a neurosurgeon to hitch yourself to upon being kicked out of student housing.Jesus finals

Finals week reminds us all of the power of prayer. Take a deep breath, croak out, “Help, Jesus,” and feel better. It’s not like a cough drop – it’s a reminder that someone else is in control, and it’ll help us stay calm… until we forget again.finals pointing

This is the perpetual mantra. Finals week? Naturally you must forego everything but your studies. Give up sleep, friends, jobs, social work, the soup kitchen, your sanity, eating (unless it’s prepackaged and bad for you).emperor finals

Then we have the attitude of those who never study, even though they should. We all wonder why they’re in college. Sometimes we even ask them. They still feel the pressure of finals week, because this particular brand doesn’t want to fail – they just don’t want to put in any hard work.baby finals

This is how we all wish we felt – like we had a handle on all the things that are heading out way this week.elf finals

Let’s be real. No one says this. liam neesen finals

We’ve all had a metaphorical phone call from Liam Neeson. It’s dark, his voice is menacing, and terror ensues.
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Then there are those who complain without trying to actually accomplish anything. They are the ones I personally have little patience for.politicians finals

How we all expect the professors talk in their communal gatherings during the holiday season. “They thought it would be on material we actually covered! HA! What a lark!”ryan gosling finals

Sometimes we ladies send this to each other just as a reminder that some hunk somewhere believes in us. We all know Ryan Gosling has no idea that we exist, but it’s a nice thought that he cares about the average college woman.sleep finals week

Popular misconception. I always sleep during finals week – maybe less, maybe less soundly, maybe while tensing every part of my body so I wake feeling rather uncomfortable, but at least I sleep.time wisely

And then we get to the truth. Half of us right now are watching something we’ve already seen before on Netflix. A quarter of us are in the library (half of them are studying, the other half are just staring at their notes to try to download information without putting in effort). An eighth of us are in study groups, trying to make up for what we don’t understand by feeding off of others’ knowledge, and the other eighth of us are posting about our stress levels on social media.

No matter where we fall on the meme scale, we will survive this week. We might even thrive if we actually apply ourselves and keep on swimming.

To my fellow finals week sufferers: keep on keeping on. It will be Christmas soon.

Bookish.


If I wasn’t certain of it before, I am now. Not only am I human, but I am a bookish human. The word “bookish” seemed offensive to me at some point in my life, because it seemed flat, like oh, well, you’re bookish, so you’re like a book. You sit on a shelf and only get down when someone specifically requests you. You smell like paper and feel smooth and flat, and people have to care to read you. 

Now I’d like to redefine “bookish”. I currently have eight books sitting on the floor beside my bed. Three of them I am currently reading, and five of them I anticipate starting in the next few days.

Then there’s the bookshelf at the end of my bed: half full of books I’ve read and loved from all stages of life and half full of books I have yet to read. Venture to the living room to “my couch” (apparently Liesel and I have our own couches… we naturally gravitate towards different ones), where two other books sit. On the bureau, there are two more books.

In the quantity that some people keep boxes of tissues or lip balm or air fresheners, I have books. And they are as useful as lip balm, tissues, or air fresheners, though for different uses.

Bookish: (adj) sees books as a portal to living a meaningful and full life, possibly wishes for glasses in order to look more intelligent, feels at home in a library or bookstore, may quote books or paraphrase interesting readings without prompting or invitation.

I’m bookish. Man, college really is a time of self-discovery.

Walking, catalysts, and pans.


Update on the pans, in case you (like my Canadian friend) were wondering what transpired there: they were in the very bottom on a box all along, somehow obscured so that I could not find them.

I’m not in Austria anymore, but I was thinking back to before I left today. I remembered how I didn’t know what to expect and mostly pictured a lot of walking, coffee, trains, and classes. And German, though I didn’t realize how much. Then, when I arrived in Austria, I saw that the pretty, old buildings I expected were there, along with the trains, the German language, the classes, the need to walk, and plenty of places to get coffee.

And then there was the excess of free time, where I realized that I have a big part to play in creating my reality. Who decides my schedule? Oh, right. I do that. There’s a certain amount of responsibilities and assignments and requirements involved in that decision, but I decide. I decide how I get places and when I go. I decide when I don’t go and what I do instead.

It’s both a freeing and frightening reality.

So, today, thinking back to my days of walking around Graz and (as Thoreau might say) “sauntering” from place to place without a goal in mind, I took a walk. I started walking and eventually gave myself a direction. Sure, the buildings were all brick, and there was a heck-of-a-lot of sirens and honking and cars and dust and people, but that’s Chicago. It was a different kind of wandering. Still the kind I need to do to foster creativity (I’ve found that walking is integral to my writing process) but just in my current setting.

I found myself in Lincoln Square, then decided to walk into the book store, where I spontaneously picked up a Billy Collins anthology and bought it, asking the clerk if this book store is hiring. Then I took a lesser known route home, trusting the Chicago grid to get me where I need to be.

You can wander anywhere, and you create the kind of life you want to live, to an extent. If I want to be the kind of person who up and walks to an adventure, then I’d better start being that person.

Sometimes, you’re your own catalyst.

Leaving again.


Leaving seems to be a theme for me. I leave home. I leave school. I leave home again. I leave Austria. I leave home again. I just keep leaving.

I mean, I could see this as “going.” I’m just going somewhere. I’m going to arrive in another place. But to go, you have to leave. 

And you have to pack.

*Sigh*

Packing is becoming the bane of my existence. Not that I can’t do it well, but it’s exhausting, mostly because I obsess over what to bring and if I remembered everything and if I am using all my space as efficiently as possible. Do I really need that sweater? What’s ratio of how many times I’ll wear that sweater versus this sweater? And if we factor in the amount of space that each takes up and if I have enough hangers in my apartment (and if they’ll get wrinkly if folded) and if the weather in October will warrant the wearing of such a sweater and the temperature of the rooms I’ll be having class in versus my body temperature as I’m climbing the stairs to that class, will it be better to have this one or that one?

Welcome to my crazy mind.

I usually get too tired to actually calculate and weigh my options, so I just take both. Or neither. Depending on what we’re talking about. 

Also, Liesel and I still have no idea where our pans are. If you know, please tell me. 

I understand why people never leave home, sort of. Especially if you’re just a little bit high maintenance and high stress. You could be much more sane if you just stayed in one area. However, I have decided that I need to leave. Leaving is my theme song, for now. I’ll be back, but I need to leave first. 

So, without further ado, more decision making about apparel and decor and hangers and furniture.