The Noodle Edges

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged last, years actually.  Too long without hitting the “publish” button. Almost two years of living in my own apartment. Another year of full time work. And everything in between. I know, it’s been a bit.

For a while I battled through the idea of how to professionally write a blog. In July, I will have worked in my current position for three years. I found there’s a fine line of what’s acceptable to post and what’s best left off the web. For example, in the beginning, all I wanted to blog about was the fact that I didn’t think I deserved my job, I wasn’t prepared for it, I couldn’t handle it, etc. I’m sure those words wouldn’t be comforting to my supervisor who might stumble upon pages that sometime read like a virtual diary.

After I got past that fight (with myself), I moved into a seemingly unexciting time. People would ask how life was and all my answers revolved around the ever-so fashionable greige cubicle walls, “work is busy” or “work’s been going well,” as if my 9 to 5 was all there was to my days.

And eventually I came to a time where my heart ached and I couldn’t figure out why. What was missing? It was writing. I grieved for the time I would sit on my bed or couch and hear my fingers type what my mouth couldn’t speak. The thoughts that jumbled too often in my mind used to slide easily onto the screen.

But in the that time, there were words, sentences, blogs in the making that wouldn’t let go. The ones I woke up thinking about, the ones I shut out for too long with excuse after excuse, those are the letters that stuck. And my brain couldn’t take the mess, I imagined words looping around themselves like a bowl of noodles with no end. It’s a hunt for the edges of my thought processes.

So here I am, back to my first true passion, trying to find the end of the noodles, or at least the pieces I can sink my teeth into.

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I am a Strong, Independent Woman

I am a Strong, Independent Woman

“I am a strong, independent woman,” I repeated in whispers as I stared myself down in the bar bathroom.

I was holding a receipt with my name and number, preparing/forcing myself to walk, poised and confidently, out of the bathroom straight up to the guy sitting at the bar.

I am a strong, independent woman.

Eventually I handed the receipt to the guy who I haven’t seen since, but I did it. I took charge, I stuck out my hand and said the line my friend had rehearsed with me (the same friend who actually wrote my name and number on the receipt too, so in reality my only job was the delivery and I must have bombed it).

I am a strong, independent woman. Those words have been spoken more often than that night, and typically with more successful outcomes. Mostly, I’ve tried to convince myself I was this strong and independent woman in the process of renting my own apartment.

At first I thought it was no big deal, people do this all the time. People get jobs and get their own place – easy. Well it’s been quite a journey for me. Sometimes I think to myself, how have I gotten by all these years? How did I not know you have to sweep before you mop or what to do when something falls down the drain? Or the first time I saw mud on the floor and immediately thought “who tracked mud into my house.” …oh that must have been me. I’m finding out there’s certainly a learning curve.

I had to command myself to have confidence when I signed a year lease against my better commitment-phobe judgement, and then later that night when I sat in my room trying to pack up my life thinking – what did I just do?

The morning I moved I was wide awake, I couldn’t sleep. I played it off as excitement when really I was freaking out. Am I a strong, confident woman? Can I live alone? Every time I say this sentence that has become my mantra if you will, I imagine Emma Watson. She probably lives alone. She probably has no qualms giving out her number or choosing what color to paint her walls. She is the vision of woman power.

So in my head, I picture Emma (we’re on a first name basis in my imagination) ruling the world with grace and love and authority over her life. And if Emma can have this grace and love and authority, I can too.

One thing I’ve learned besides the obvious housekeeping chores and painting techniques, is that in order to take advantage of my life I need something else other than authority: humility.

Sure, I am a strong, independent woman, but I still can’t lift an entire couch by myself. I suddenly don’t know everything there is to know about utilities or setting up the internet. And I still had to call my mom to get recommendations on cleaning supplies. I am learning along the way that I cannot do it all.

I had this idea that I would do everything by myself, this is my apartment and I want to make the decisions, I don’t need help. I can hang pictures by myself and use power tools. I can carry bags of dirt up 30 stairs alone. I can rearrange everything in the house in the middle of the night only to put it back where it was.

But there will always be times when I need help from others.Strong, independent women need their friends and family too. I know I need mine. And I’m sure Emma needs hers.

I’m learning that seasons of growth almost always come hand in hand with seasons of humility. And that’s okay too.

The Silent Battles That Shouldn’t Be

I wasn’t writing much this winter. I would try to blog, sit in front of a new notebook thinking maybe if I had clean lined paper I would be able to think. Later, I summed up my case of writer’s block to no words. I just didn’t have anything to say. I wasn’t doing much of anything exciting, I was living a life of routine so what would I have to write about that?

I challenged myself on January 1st to a year of “quiet,” whatever way quiet may take shape in my day-to-day life. It was in these quiet moments I noticed not a blank mind, but a racing one with too much to say.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say, it was that I had too many words.

I thought about this terrible phrase – you don’t eat an elephant whole, you have to eat it bite by bite. Gross, I know, especially since my love of elephants run deep and the thought of taking a juicy bite out of the side of a giant animal sickens me a bit. The idea is true though, I couldn’t tackle the “Disease of Too Many Words” all at once, it would take time.

So my poor and once flawless notebook was the victim of my disease’s side effects. I started writing, and once I started I couldn’t seem to stop. Page after page, I was working through pulling the words I had stuffed away for later, up and onto paper.

Some days I would write something down and when I came back to it hours later, I was surprised at what I had written. Was this really how I felt, where did that come from?

But I guess when I’m honest with myself on paper I need to be honest with myself outside of it too.

One repeating theme (now I’m imagining a classroom full of students going over my life like a book report) is this fear that I don’t want to be forgotten. I don’t want to be left behind, the after-thought. I don’t want to live my life in such a way that when I’m gone no one remembers me. That conversation with myself lead into how I wanted to be remembered, if what I wanted was for people to remember me.

It was this cycling thought-process of me whining, to recognizing my complaints as just that, complaints, to working at changing them.

Eventually, I broke it down – myself and my fears – to unveil that what I was experiencing was loneliness. I was feeling alone, and forgotten was the next step. I found myself with barely a handful of friends and some superficial acquaintances, but really I was alone.

In all honesty, once I admitted how lonely I felt, it may have made it worse. A pity party ensued with me on this island sad and alone with a bundle of balloons. How do you pull yourself out of a pit? How could I leave the lonely island after realizing I was stuck?

I’d like to tell you I suddenly snapped out of it. *Poof* And then all is good.

The answer was far more painful than a magical change of scenery.

I say painful because I want to be true to myself with how I felt. I would like to look back and say it was easy and simple, but I know that’s not the truth.

I dragged my feet for a while. I stayed on the island with my mouth willingly zippered shut and the only phrase that slipped through was the murmured, ‘I’m fine’ nonsense.

The day I decided to make a change, I didn’t want to. I didn’t even know I was going to until the words were being pulled out like a magician’s tied handkerchiefs that kept coming and coming with seemingly no end. That was the painful part: admitting to someone beside myself and the notebook pages my real feelings.

Once I had confided in one person, it was easier to find the handkerchief words again and pull them out one by one. The catch was that all this time I was under the impression I was the only person who would understand. I’m the only one who feels lonely, I thought. I’m the only one who doesn’t want to be forgotten.

Seeing those words on paper, I have to laugh. Like really? How could I have possibly scrounged up this idea in my head that I was the only person on this earth or even in my friend group (the one I believed had left me behind) who had these feelings?

As I revealed to my friends where I was at in a real and honest place, I was surprisingly understood. Other people knew what I was saying, some were feeling the same feelings, some were in a similar season.

I wasn’t alone anymore. I was surrounded by people who never judged or even joined my pity party. Instead, they were tossing down the ladder to help me out of the pit I had put myself in. They were the rescue boat to my abandoned island (that wasn’t actually abandoned).

All too often, I hear of people, who have these secret, silent battles. They have been struggling, trying to work through something on their own for a while. Maybe, like me, they have been in denial there was really ever a problem.

I can’t help but think though – what if I had told my friends sooner, what if my fears weren’t shoved down deep into hiding, what if I had opened my mouth to share my feelings and at the same time, opened my eyes to see that this season of loneliness wasn’t a new thing. I wasn’t the only one with these thoughts and fears.

Maybe then, the silent battles wouldn’t be silent any longer. Maybe then, the battles wouldn’t be fought alone on an island, but rather fought side-by-side with the ready and waiting army. Maybe then, the healing could have begun.

I read a historical fiction book recently about a woman and her sister who were alive during WWII. They each had their own part in hiding and saving people during that time, but years had passed and the woman had hid this piece of her life from her children. Now, she is older and her family never fully knew the woman she was. She has this moment of self-awareness that has stuck almost annoying by my side since:

“I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now, I think perhaps I’d like to be known.”

Like this woman, I think I too, would like to be known.

 

 

On French Fries and Shutting Up

I stopped making new years resolutions years ago when they just didn’t work for me. I get that it’s a convenient time to start something, but really, come spring (or sadly, February) how often do we keep them? I have other posts about how resolutions suck for me so this isn’t new.

Last year, I decided to set goals rather than resolutions. There was only one on my list I really wanted to keep:

Eat Healthier.

Note: that does not say Healthy. I didn’t rule out cookies or candy, I just wanted to try to eat healthier. I have a sensitive stomach that has a tendency to act out at the rudest times. Like seriously stomach, just let me eat this entire pizza in peace for once.

Anyway, for the goal of eating healthier, I had this theory with fast food places. Since my weakness has always been french fries, if I went without french fries, would I still want the Big Mac? I craveeeee fries – curly, thin, waffle, sweet potato, whatever I just need them with every meal. Or I did.

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The answer was NO. My theory was correct.

I went an entire year without french fries (minus the time I forgot and put an Arby’s curly fry in my mouth and spit it out, forcing myself to believe the salty goodness that touched my lips wasn’t delicious). In turn, I went an entire year with only the occasional fast food stop.

Sure, I kept my “New Years Goal,” more than that, I learned about myself in the process. I learned I do have self-control, I can live without the greasy and fried foods that are quick pick-me-ups, the desire for the thing I gave up did go away even if it took months. And I learned that goals take one step at a time no matter how big or small.

After learning what I did from my goal in 2015, for 2016 I wanted a word instead of a phrase. One word I could look back on, try to better myself in some way with or even just float back to now and then. The word that kept sneaking back to my mind:

Quiet.

I’m not the quietest person or the most gentle. I don’t need silence to work. Quiet isn’t always my thing. But in the 9 days of 2016, I’ve had to continually remind myself to SHUT.UP.

Don’t be surprised if I end up getting “shut up” tattooed on my arm, because the amount of times I have had to tell my brain, my half of the conversation, my immediate comebacks to shut up has been enormous.

In order to enjoy the quiet, I have to go out of my way at times. I’ve interrupted my day for a walk or a trip to my car or a lap around the office to step back, breathe, and just be for a minute.

For this year, I hope the lessons keep coming, and I never stop growing. In the quiet (and sometimes the loud), I want to push forward. I don’t want to stall in the pit of negativity or be complacent with the greasy fry goals I had. Another year passes too quickly.

May this be the year we not only watch for opportunities for growth but go looking for them one step at a time.

Also, I’ve had fries twice now since the ball dropped and who would have known, they still are just as fried and just as stomachache inducing.

 

My Arrival into No Where

A few weeks ago I took the ferry across Lake Michigan. Dad and I hopped in the car, drove to the port and traveled in style. We surpassed the hours stuck in traffic and traded in the air conditioned comfort of our car for a few hours at sea (lake).

IMG_3463And my, was it worth it.

Only a short while later, we were happily at a michigander’s cabin in the woods. Surrounded by nature on the opposite side of the lake, I fell into a deep sleep that first night with not-so-distant memories of the boat ride.

I had made my way during the journey across to the top deck for about as long as it takes to snap a perfect picture while fighting 40mph winds. But before I made my way back inside, I paused.

Still on the horizon, just barely, was the Milwaukee skyline with a sunset backdrop. It was in this moment I breathed deeply, closed my eyes, and thought, “Everything will be okay.”

You see, lately, I’ve had a bit of a revelation. For months after graduation, you’ve probably heard me blabber about being succumbed into this strange in-between phase. The longer-than-expected season was extremely frustrating to me. I wished I could arrive, be in this place where I had things figured out and was actually normal – whatever that means.

Eventually, I moved out of my childhood home and began a full time job – or as I’ve heard some call these types of activities “growing up”. The more engulfed I was in this world I had tossed onto a pedestal, the more I realized this in-between season isn’t just a season. The feelings of needing to arrive never vanished, they’ve loyally stayed by my side. I haven’t been able to shake the thought that I just don’t fit into some normal mold I thought not only existed but everyone except me was inside.

I’ve learned more than my trusty notebook worth of information at my new job, however, there are certain words that are repeat offenders in my book. We’re all learning. This notion that I have to “arrive” is a big, meaty bologna sandwich.

No one has arrived!

Project managers I believed to be without fault have unfolded their secrets, revealing they, too, feel not good enough some days. Supervisors who create flawless spreadsheets don’t always have the answers. And fellow coworkers also spill coffee on their favorite shirts.

So how had I given myself this never ending to-do list? Why had I been so confident that this in-between season would magically disappear?

Somehow, I found myself with these questions, consistently circling my morning and night. Without a reasonable answer, I was left with hopes I would arrive at this place that didn’t exist, a place I had created for myself.

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Now back to the boat and that paused moment in time. I’m on the deck, the wind rushing through me with swift reality checks at each blow.

I realized, I may never “arrive.”

I may never get to that “normal” feeling.

I’ll never have everything figured out.

and with the next gust came the biggest reality check:

…who does?

The Frames of Life

For those who know me, you see I wear glasses every day. Well, I do have contacts but I’m not a big fan of them. They dry out quickly, they blur, and sometimes when I go to take them out I seem to scratch my eyeball somehow. So I’ll take a hard pass on contacts unless absolutely necessary.

I don’t just wear glasses though because I hate contacts. (confession: when I write it’s usually word vomit straight from brain to keyboard so I can’t hold back my feelings, even if I sound crazy in this next sentence) I wear glasses all day long for that moment at the end of the day when I get to take them off.

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Do you know what I mean?

Silly, I know, yet so true. I tolerate circle frames and that nervous twitch I have to readjust them every day to bask in those minutes post-glasses removal. It’s the moment when I take my glasses off I truly cherish because it doesn’t matter if I can see clearly anymore. I don’t have to focus on anything for hours – I can let my brain and eyes rest from the strain I’ve put on them when I’m away. I can take my glasses off knowing I’ve had another day well spent.

It’s been two weeks since I made my way up into the full time working world. That’s right, 9am-5pm I can typically be found in my cubicle, at my desk.

Ironic, yah?

It’s like I’m living another person’s life. I was the one bucking the system, sticking my nose up to the idea of financial stability, business casual dress – or really anything besides yoga pants, and breaks around the water cooler.

And here I find myself doing just that.

It hasn’t exactly been the weekdays I’ve daydreamed about – adventuring around and getting to take mid-morning brunches just because, especially since I’m making the transition from caramel macchiatos to clients and conference calls.

Yes, it’s different and scares the bajesus out of me. I don’t know how to be an adult! I don’t know how to be a project manager. I’m basically still an infant.

For some reason though there are people out there who trust me to do this job, who trust me to oversee projects and be coworkers with people twice my age. This job is not what I imagined but it’s also oddly comforting.

It’s comforting to have stability and a cubicle I can call my own. I’m becoming more confident in this role I never thought I would hold.

The other comforting part? Every night when it’s that time, you know – that time – I take my glasses off knowing I accomplished something good that day. It may have been exhausting and I may have gotten that 2pm slump I hear people on TV talk about, yet I got out there and tried.

I make the choice to put my glasses ON every day and concentrate, focus on this thing we call life and that includes the work part of it.

So it’s been the past two weeks that I’ve slipped my glasses off with ease and a grin because I’ve found that sometimes the places in life we never thought we would make it to are actually within reach.

Tossing the 5 Year Plan

Five years ago, I was a child thrown into the world post-high school. I was waving goodbye from my dorm with a tad too much excitement, eager to grab hold of my future. Finally, I could leave high school behind and pursue all my dreams.

Five years ago, I wanted to get out of my hometown. I wanted to be a Psychologist. My daydreams were full of events and ideas I believed would instantly build me into my ideal, adult self. I knew what I wanted my life to look like.

Five years ago, I had a plan.

Then life happened. The unexpected hit – just as I should have expected it would. I went to college, gripping tightly to these dreams I had created. As the years passed, my plans drifted, my grip loosened, and I delved into a world of unknowns. I changed my major, my friends shifted with the seasons. I was losing sight of the plan and what I wanted for myself as I flowed through time.

Five years ago, I would have never imagined myself back in my hometown following college. (Yet, I probably wouldn’t be surprised to find myself in a coffee shop)

It’s been a year now since I graduated college. And it’s been a year of this strange what-am-I-doing/what-is-my-future kind of thinking. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll be quick to realize it was a difficult year. Job searching is exhausting. Multiple jobs drain your energy pretty fast. Living with less than a handful of life direction and a whole lot of discouragement sucks.

My year was full of ups and downs, many of which stemmed from jobs oddly enough. I’d stand up tall with positivity: “Alright I have a vague idea of what I want/could do with my life.” Shortly thereafter I take a leap of: “I applied for this position I’d be perfect in and am nearly qualified for.” And then I trip and fall over the: “I haven’t heard about the position so they hate me and I’m going to be broke forever.”

I was asked in a job interview, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Shoot. Ask me anything but that! I’ve rehearsed about every other question I could possibly be asked minus this one.

I blanked, knowing when I look into my future, all I see is a version of that terrifying Macbook pinwheel that spins and spins forever when a webpage is trying to load.

“Loading” is my future.

So obviously, nothing was coming to mind I could share with this woman. Not one thing. Five years from now? I know how old I’ll be and that’s about it. I’m sure the company would have liked to hear a city or an exact career path or some life goal I’d like to conquer, I still couldn’t muster up anything close to the perfect answer.

“Honestly, I don’t know.”

And there blew my chances at that job.

Where would I like to be in five years? I don’t know – I stopped planning for it. It hasn’t exactly gotten me very far. I plan and life happens and my lists are left dragging behind me with weights of disappointment.

Five years ago I had dreams before reality hit.

Five years from now, I’d like to have dreams. I’d like to have some things together (note: in reality, let’s say I’d be happy to have 40% of things together). I’d like to be smarter and wiser with life’s scars transforming into strength and knowledge.

A lot has changed since I graduated high school five years ago. (another note: It wasn’t all bad like it may sound.) The bad is sometimes what sticks the most, unfortunately. The good though, are thankfully flavored in between, just at the right time. When I need it the most, the days of laughter and spontaneity, friendship and fun prevail, reminding me that the bad doesn’t last forever. Life won’t always be like the last searching year of my life.

Five years from now, Ms. Interviewer, I don’t know where I’ll be or what my job title is. I don’t know if I’ll be married or have children. The loading pinwheel might still be spinning. What I do know is that plans can only get you so far. This last year has allowed me to see the future will be a mystery whether I plan on it or not.

(And in my most professional voice) Thank you for your time.