Putting Down Roots

Someone asked me recently, “Are you putting your roots down here?”

I almost threw up on the spot. “Absolutely not!” was the first thing out of my mouth, like I was denying a curse or some ridiculous accusation. Me? Putting down my roots? No, just no.

You see, I grew up an adventurer at heart.

I wanted to see more of my neighborhood, my city, the country, and eventually the world. I’m not a homebody – although I do appreciate a warm bed. I grew up wanting to search the world, not looking for anything in particular, but looking for everything at the same time.

I wanted to see more. Even if I love Lake Michigan and our hometown charm, I can’t help but think, “Somewhere out there people are waking up to the mountains, touring The Lourve, biking cross country, and riding elephants.” It might not always be in that order, yet it always makes me jealous. And when these experiences make me jealous, they give me more motivation to do them myself…soon. Putting my roots down, settling down somewhere, it was barely even an option. There’s so much more to see.

It’s not like I haven’t seen the world either, because I have. I’ve taken a train through the Alps, hiked around Italy, gotten tea time in England, spent summers by both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. I’ve lived; my life has not been sheltered. Yet with my eyes exposed to the outside (the midwest) world, I’ve known there’s more out there and the idea of settling down has never been near.936676_10151641435904810_685137423_n

At 23, my friends are all over the place. Some married, some with kids, some still in college, and some just in between. Some put down roots and they’re still alive. They still adventure and breathe fully. And I think that’s okay.

But, hold tight while I roll up my honesty sleeves for a hot second, I think my roots are down. As much as I’ve been nervous of letting go of the searcher in me and being in one place for over 9 months, putting roots down isn’t as scary as I once thought. Putting down roots isn’t bad. It’s not something I should fight against, I know. Little by little, I actually think I’ve been putting down roots and parts of myself all along.

I don’t think I’ll stop being an adventurer anytime soon, or ever stop wondering what else is out there. What I do know is that when it rains for days on end, my mind floods with memories of the UK (and the roots I left there). When the sun seems almost permanently bright, San Diego (and those roots) don’t seem so far away. Hiking in my own city certainly isn’t Italy (or the roots I left there), but Lake Michigan doesn’t seem so bad anymore. It’s all perspective and it’s all a choice.

I’ve put down roots a lot of places, and get this, it didn’t hurt me. Sure, pieces of my heart are scattered, but they have made my heart bigger not broken. The world and it’s adventures have pierced me straight on and I’m okay with it.

But here and now, in this place, my friends, my roots are down.

xx

Still an adventurer at heart // now available in a slightly more vulnerable, rooted addition

Where the Rubber Meets the…No, It Gets Thrown Out

This thing happened today. I went running. outside. in March.

That wasn’t all though: I went running and it was sunny and I threw my shoes.

I guess… I should explain.

When I was growing up, my mom used to yell at me for crossing my arms. “Defiant” is what she called it. “Don’t cross your arms in front of me, young lady,” I can still hear her say. It was apparently a sign of disrespect, stubbornness and a whole lot of sass. I tried to get out of the habit over time (the arm-crossing, not the sass :) ), except when I wanted my mom or another adult to know I was mad, then I would cross my arms more often. It was sort of my own childish way of slamming my bedroom door, but in front of their face.

Eventually, I outgrew that surly teenage, cross-your-arms-defiantly phase and started learning how close minded I became in that position. Overall, crossing your arms seems negative to most people anyway. I tried to stop.

Well, lately – and I’ll be honest here – I’ve figured out that ever since I moved back home in September, now 6 months ago,  I’ve been walking around from job to job, room to room, day to day with my arms crossed.

It’s like I’m a teenager again and my parents have forced me to go somewhere and I decided that if I have to be there, I certainly will not put on a happy face for it. I’ve moped through days sad, upset and with a whole lot of sass. No, I didn’t want to be here and I wanted everyone to know just how miserable it was for me. I’ve been unwilling, defiant, arms-crossed and close minded about this season I’m in.

I lived in a place of paradise with a dream life, next to the ocean, and consistently sunny days. It was a season of adventure and newness. It was a season I looked forward to until it changed. And when it did, when things stopped going my way, my arms found their way back into that comfortably negative pose.

I’ve learned along the way that you don’t make friends when you say No to every invite and you can’t leave your house if you never open the door.

It’s like this season I’m in is where I make decisions that will change my future. It’s where the rubber meets the road, except not really. It’s more like where the rubber gets thrown out on its ass and decides to change.  The moment of truth – if I was going to continue to cross my arms and not enjoy my future (whatever it holds) or learn to accept it – wasn’t waiting around any longer, it came with a vengeance, demanding a decision.

Today, you must decide. Displaying photo.JPG

So, back to today, where it’s the first, 45-degree day on the opposite end of winter and my running shoes are lodged in the back of my closet, way in the back with the rest of my optimism.

I looked out the window for what seemed like ages. Do I dig my shoes out or leave them there for another day when the sun returns? And then I made the choice.

I grabbed my mismatched socks and my $12 Target Kids running shoes (suck it to everyone who’s ever laughed at my infantile shoe size) and I opened the door.

I stepped carefully over melting snow and waterlogged drains. I slowly and metaphorically uncrossed my arms, taking in every ounce of sunshine I possible could and happily welcomed the positivity.

Today, I chose the future.

It doesn’t have to get to the place where the rubber stubbornly meets the road. Instead, the rubber can decide to get up on its own, open the door, and say “Hello” to the road ahead.

Growing Expectations, or Killing Them.

I used to think growing up meant a lot of things.

Independence. Glamor. Older. Wiser. Full of Direction.

Growing up means you know how to make a pot of coffee (and drink it).

Growing up means you can eat pizza and donuts all you want and have no curfew.

Growing up means you know what you like and don’t like – for the most part. (I still can’t decide how I feel about water chestnuts).

Growing up means you have it all together.

Growing up means a lot of things, right?

I used to think a lot like Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30. Once you make it passed the awkward teen years and the mean schoolgirls, you hit 30 with style, or as Jenna says, “30, flirty and thriving.” And only after the magical fairy dust settles, transforming Jenna into the so-called fabulous 30 year old, does she realize it might not be all she’s dreamed it could be.

I’m not 30. (whew, thank heavens I am NOT 30 yet.) Nope, not 30. I’m a few weeks shy of 23 and being a grown up hasn’t quite matched up to what I had dreamed.

I never sat around picturing my 20s, or held tightly onto a fashion magazine hoping I would magically become like the pictures, as Jenna did. But I did have expectations.

I had ideas of what my 20s would look like, of what me as a “grown up” would look like. As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t figured more of life out. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned it’s not really about figuring it all out. It’s not about supposedly knowing what an adult looks like. It’s not even about living up to who I thought I would be when I was a young and naive preteen.

To me, growing older has been more about me letting go of what I thought this season of my life would look like. I don’t want magical fairy dust or Jenna’s wishful dreams of adulthood. I think I’d like to proudly become older knowing I’m choosing to do it my way rather than the way others are telling me.

I’ve had many suggestions on how to change my perspective to make more money or get a husband or find a real job. I’ve had plenty of those ideas, but I’ve only had maybe one or two comforting and unknowingly very welcoming “It’s okay’s.”

I’m here to tell those who are like me and in the in-between, those who are unsure and undecided, those who have only felt discouragement lately:

It’s okay.

It’s okay to be where you are. It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to leave behind your expectations of what growing up looks like. It’s okay to be figuring it out.

It’s all okay.

Windblown Changes

There’s a window at the coffee shop I work at. Behind the barista’s counter, behind the dishwasher, there’s one, big window facing Lake Michigan. In the summer, the baristas gather near the window during lulls, hoping for a cool breeze, some relief to the beating heat. The window was wide open then, with a barely-there screen separating the outdoors to those stuck inside the working walls of espresso machines and surly customers. During the summer, the window stays open all the time. It has to be jimmied shut (I mean, I’ve heard a hammer and a crow bar are sometimes necessary) so we aren’t allowed to close it. No questions asked, the window stays open until it gets cold. Sort of like turning on your heat, you wait until you just can’t wait anymore, probably when there’s already a foot of snow, a frost advisory, and you’ve had to shovel once so far. That’s how our window is, once we close the window, it stays shut for the winter.

Last week, I came into work and it was some time before I noticed something was different. The other baristas swore everything was the same, but I had this feeling, something was out of place. And then I saw it… the window. The window was closed.

I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but my heart twinged a little. I was hurt. The window was closed and no one told me? How did this happen so soon, it’s only November!

Later, I found out the owner had walked behind the counter one night when the weather dropped below 40 and made the executive decision to shut the window. Obviously, she didn’t need my new-employee approval to close the window, but she could have asked, right?

I don’t mind change. I actually kinda like it. The newness, the fresh looks, the brand new challenges that change bring, they keep me on my feet. But I only tend to like change when I know it’s coming, when I have time to talk myself into it, consult my faithful lists, and prepare accordingly. When I know it’s coming, I like change.

Somehow though, every year, more specifically every three or so months, I’m surprised by seasonal changes. They hit me like a slap in the face. *Ouch* How come no one told me it was already time for the leaves to start falling? Or, I didn’t get a personal invitation to spring? Or, I just wasn’t ready for the window to be closed. The kind of change that hurts.

Graduating college felt something like that. Sure, it was inevitable for me, like the seasons, but I just wasn’t ready yet. I wasn’t ready to actually see the window be closed, even though each of the baristas had told me at one time or another that we don’t touch the window and when the boss finally does, the window is closed for good. I wasn’t ready to actually graduate and find my successful, career footings, even though professors and meetings and final exams were all building up to the culminating graduation. I just wasn’t ready yet.

Yes, I had time to prepare. Plenty of time in those four years, actually. It happens to other people all the time! They graduate, they find jobs, they move on. So how is it different with me? I had my trusty lists, I talked myself into it, but then what? Then I got rejection email after rejection email. One after another, employers were passing on what I had to offer. My encouraging motivation and excitement for finding a steady, full-time job was thrown into the wind with each “Thank you for your interest, but…” line I read. I just wasn’t ready for that yet.  No one told me what to do if I can’t find a job. No one prepared me for how to get back up on your feet after hearing so many reasons why I’m incompetent or unqualified. No one told me what to do or how to handle this seasonal change.

I shouldn’t be expecting a personal invite to winter, like I shouldn’t be expecting a handwritten instructional guide to “the post-college, job-searching, in-between-life” months (or years). It just happens. And when it does happen, we figure it out.

Sometimes seasons change, whether we are ready or not, and sometimes we work at coffee shops with windows that shut. We put on a coat, we apply for another dozen positions, and we keep going.

___

P.S. I probably should mention, as you may have noticed already, I changed my blog’s name (yes, again). The title now reads, “Steeped in Sunshine.” The phrase comes from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist:

“Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing.”

More than Dickens poetic description – and my love for a well-steeped tea – I know all too much how the sun and the seasons can affect moods and emotions. I think rain or shine, snow or sleet, our lives have the opportunity to feel steeped in all the sunshine life has to offer us. We can live each day as if it’s the sunniest, most perfect day there ever was, and that’s how I want to live: Steeped in Sunshine.

Thanks for reading today, on this ironically dreary day.

-Al

Barista Virgin No More

I recently started working at this quaint, Californian coffee shop. There’s a bike on the wall, more gluten free items than any other food, and wooden everything else. It’s perfect and I love it. Just one thing: I’ve never been a Barista. This may have slipped my mind when I asked the owner if they were hiring and she said, “Yes we are, can you be here at 1?”348s

I didn’t think it was that important. The owner seemed to think I was fit to enable coffee addicts that believe Starbucks is too mainstream. (Amen!) I faked it until I made it, or until my boss asked me for a Cafe Breve and I didn’t know how to begin.

But after three days of training, memorizing Pinterest charts of different coffee ingredients, and deciding whether to greet customers with “Morning!” or “Welcome,” I’m in. This Barista virgin is one no longer.

Need a cappuccino? I’m your gal.

Need an americano? Call me up.

Need a frappuccino or an upside-down half-something macchiato? Get out.

But for the rest, this girl knows her way around the espresso machine.

Living in a place you plan on leaving

Living in a place you plan on leaving

Oh so very true. “If people divided up their life stories into chapters, all they would need is a suitcase.”

Sucks to be Sam

If people divided up their life stories into chapters, all they would need is a suitcase. Skip the narrative and just dig through the contents. Forget the setting and the characters and the scenes. Look at the baggage tags, the corny tourist t-shirts, the souvenirs and the different kinds of sand, dirt and dust that collects in the edges of the suitcase.

You can gather a lot about a person’s life and what they’re about based on the things they jammed in the suitcase to bring back to loved ones and the places they’ve been. But that’s mostly with vacations, semesters abroad or internships in a different city.

Suitcases that plan on making a return home are very different than the ones that don’t. These suitcases are the real chapters in people’s lives. These suitcases are less about where their owner has been and more about where they’re going. Because…

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Success, Moving, and Hot Beach Bods

So, let’s talk about California living for a bit. Born in Michigan, grew up in Wisconsin, I’m familiar with the four seasons. These almost always included the common blizzards, cloudy skies, tornadoes, and storms. I’m a Midwestern girl in love with greenery and the outdoors, living a life I would compare to an eskimo.
 
You don’t think so? I walked to class everyday in college. Through the disastrous winters, I bundled myself up with no skin to show. After that, it’s almost like I’m scarred from the cold.
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Now, California – people don’t joke. My first few days were cloudy and that was like their winter. It’s a new thing, but I think I can handle it. And the beach boys? Oh yes, they’re here, and everywhere. Lots of them.
 
If this is what life after college is, than I’ll say it’s not horrible. And yet, I’m nearly jobless and in between homes, so this may not be an accurate view of that “real life” people talk about.
 
I can live anywhere for a short amount of time, I’d say. I have options. If the beach will have me, I would accept. If L.A. opens its doors to me, I would say yes. Southern California, that’s something I could live with.
 
The successful part? I think that just comes with time. I’m okay with the fact that I’m not flowing with money right out of college. I don’t know anyone who is. For right now though, I’m happy with this post-college life, a new adventure it sure is turning out to be.