Enjoying the process

The idea popped into my head a few months ago. Walking as fast as my short legs could carry me down the street, I stopped short at the smell of fresh flowers blooming on a nearby tree. That led me to wonder how many other subtle beauties I was missing out on, simply by rushing from place to place without taking time to enjoy the process of getting there.

The last few months, as I’ve subtly (and, okay, not-so-subtly, at times) alluded to, have been full of transitions – some transitions were expected, others blindsided me. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that life is a constantly shifting series of transitions. As soon as you are accustomed to one thing, another changes, and you begin to adjust again.

Rather than looking at the changes and transitions with disdain, as my routine-loving-self used to, I am making a conscious effort to change my outlook to something more positive. Rather than hating how much time I spend on my own, I remind myself to enjoy this solitude and make the most of it now. I’m certain there will be moments in the future when I’d give anything to have a night to myself or some peace and quiet, both of which I have an abundance of right now. Rather than longing for the pre-planned, linear schedule school provided me with for countless years, I am working to appreciate the uncertainty of my future and see it as a big, beautiful ball of potential that I can push in any number of directions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to parade my newfound attitude around like it’s a fool-proof plan. I still have many many moments of uncertainty and discomfort, but I am (oh-so-slowly) learning to lean into those times instead of avoiding them. When I embrace the awkward moments, I find I learn more about myself and am forced to grow in a way that I never was when I played it safe. They aren’t called growing pains for nothing – growing can be a painful, grueling process, but the rewards of fresh perspective and happiness make the pain worth it for me most days.

Packing and its metaphors for life

I really, really hate packing. Always have, for as long as I can remember. I barely thought about packing for my first year of college until the week I left. I didn’t start packing for study abroad until the day before I boarded my plane. Now as I sit in my room with clothes strewn about and stacks of books and stuff everywhere, I circle back to those moments with a question in mind:

Why? Why the resistance to packing, to getting organized (something I usually love) and moving forward?

Well, for starters, there’s the physical and emotional baggage that comes with packing. I never really thought about it until today, how often I try to avoid my past. They don’t call it baggage for nothing – many times I stuff things from my past deep down and carry them with me, bearing their unresolved and unacknowledged weight for so long I forget what life is like without them.

Packing brings all of that to the surface. There’s that scarf he bought me that I put in the back of the closet when we broke up – now I’m forced to take it out, examine both the scarf and my feelings, and pack it up properly. There’s the card she wrote me before we drifted apart – now I read the words and feel strange, like I’m eavesdropping on a conversation.

I avoid packing just like I avoid conflict and sadness – they’re painful to address and even though it’s childish, I always hope if I ignore them long enough they’ll disappear. It never works, and instead adds to the ever-growing pile of things I’ll “deal with later.” Then the pile gets so big it topples over and I have no choice but to deal, because I’m learning there’s never a good time to deal with anything. It’s easier to face life head on, pains and all, instead of dodging one bullet and getting pummeled by a semi-automatic later on.

This isn’t to say I’ve given up my childish ways. Clearly I haven’t – you should see my room right now. It’s so symbolic of all the emotional baggage I have yet to work through. But I feel like this connection of emotional and literal baggage is a step in the right direction. Acknowledging (and not hating) where I am (literally and figuratively) is the first step, and making a game plan from there is the next one.

So this is me, taking a deep breath and acknowledging where I’m at – lots to go through and deal with – and hoping that soon I’ll know how to proceed from here.

And just like that, spring is here

This winter was a tough one.

I felt pretty good going into the second semester of my senior year. I thought I had it all figured out, I had done everything right and this semester would be about coasting. Then my boyfriend – yup, the one I thought I’d be with forever – broke my heart, and everything changed.

There is a tree outside the window of my bathroom. Every morning since August I’ve looked out the window to see what the weather is like, how I should dress for the day. Throughout this breakup process, I’ve found symbolic significance in things that wouldn’t have mattered to me a few months ago.

We broke up in the winter, and as people outside my window huddled up and braced themselves against the biting winds, I curled up inside myself and braced myself for another wave of pain, tears, fear. I was in a dark place, but I took small comfort in knowing I could cover it up with disdain for the awful winter weather.
One particularly difficult morning when I was looking out the window I took a good look at the tree and told myself that by the time that tree was blooming, I would feel better. It was a promise I made with myself and even though I didn’t fully believe it, I tried my best so I had something to hope for.

This is the coldest spring Wisconsin has had in years, some have called it an extended winter. This morning I looked out the window and noticed the buds on the tree had finally unfurled to reveal ripe new leaves. Spring, like so many other things recently, has taken on a more personal meaning. Spring means rebirth, healing, blooming. While I certainly won’t say I’m all better now – the void I’m trying to fill is five years deep, I know it’s going to take a while to feel “all better” – I am healing.

This winter was a tough one.

My perspective on nearly everything changed – friendship, family, relationships, pride, my self. I didn’t believe anyone when they told me time was the only thing that would help. But they were right – well, half right, anyway.

Time has helped a whole lot, but I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without my support system. My friends and family have carried me through this in a way I never knew was possible. If I ever doubted their love before, there’s no way I could after these last few months. It took the loss of my core relationship, the one I had come to define myself through, to make me realize how many other fantastic people I’m fortunate to have in my life.

Spring is here, and I am so glad.

Lists, lists, lists and committment

[photo cred]

Lists, lists, lists. I make lists of things I’m going to do every day. Blogging used to be on my list a lot more often, but honestly I’ve been a little intimidated by it lately. I am so impressed by other students who maintain consistent blogs, and I’m scared I can’t keep up.

The reason I’m updating right now, finally, is that I committed to it.. I joined a mentorship committee for PRSSA and we met for the first time last night. One of the things we did was set goals for ourselves – one personal, one academic and one communications-related goal. Can you guess what my comm-related goal is? Getting back into blogging. I shared my goals with my mentee, Corinne, and it’s been pulling at my mind ever since.

So here I am, blogging world. Making yet another return, and a promise to be here on a semi-regular basis. No more daily posts like that crazy fun kick last winter, but you can expect to see me around these parts at least once a week.

Some goals are to communicate better so my writing reflects the person I am in person. Too often I feel like I write way more formally than I speak. So let’s try for a conversational tone, shall we? Also, I’d like to touch on broader issues that other people can relate to. We’ll see how I do.

See y’all soon!

Three tugs

Now that I’m home after a whirlwind summer in Chicago, I feel as if I’m being tugged in three different directions – the past, present and future – more strongly than ever.

How have you managed the way the three cardinal directions of life affect the way you live?

Past

[photo cred]

Coming back to my hometown is always interesting. Since college I’ve become accustomed to walking and bussing it everywhere I need to go, so being in a place where a car is necessary to do almost anything feels somewhat confining. The town where I grew up is small, suburban and vanilla. It has its charms, especially for people looking to escape the rush and noise of city life – like my parents were when they moved here in the ‘90s – but that rush and noise is exactly what I crave. Being here makes me realize, just like that one quote says, even though the town and people here seem so different from before, it is really I that have changed. The past is, at times, stifling.

Are you ever overwhelmed by your past? Scared you’ll revert or regress back to a previous version of yourself, just to fit into your surroundings?

Present

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After a summer of more work and less play I couldn’t be more excited for my last year of college. After hearing the same words repeated by countless people, I’ve got it through my head that I need to make the most of this year for all that it is: One last year to soak up the joy of few real responsibilities, the company of friends I will be unlikely to see as often after graduation, and an opportunity to prove myself one last time before I enter the work world. The present is exciting.

What are you most excited about in your daily life? What things make you jump out of bed in the morning, and fall asleep content at night?

Future

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As I mentioned before, this summer involved work. Real-world work. My experiences in an agency setting have taught me a lot, but also left me with some things to think about. What is the best path for me after graduation? I am taking what my superiors and co-workers have said at face value, but am also listening to my inner voice. Life is short – where would my first years in the real world be best spent – a large agency, a small start-up, or somewhere in between? I’m excited and anxious to meditate on these thoughts that are sure to linger for the next few months. Whatever path I end up on, I know one thing – I want to start in Chicago! I fell in love with that city this summer, and so it seems fitting to start there. The future is beckoning.

Have you ever found yourself living for the future? How have you found success managing to value each present day while still working toward goals in the future?

Confessions of a lapsed blogger

I’ve spent these last two months in Chicago alternately tethered to my computer and kitchen table (during the all-consuming online class stage) and then getting as far from that antisocial reality as I could, going out and taking advantage of every opportunity available to me in this big, beautiful city.

Many people manage to show up to their blogs despite the general busy-ness of life. I have not yet mastered that. But because I can’t shake the instinctual urge to write about or compare something I experience to something greater, I’m going to keep writing.

For the last month I’ve avoided being on the computer, because that’s what I do all day, and frankly, it’s ruining my eyes and I resent every second I spend outside the office being on the computer, because time is running out.

Yes, time is always running out in life – a finite series of adventures we’re given to either experience or pass up – but my Chicago time is running out. No promises on showing up to write a lot in the next two weeks as I brace myself to leave my favorite adventure yet.

Perhaps it’s a sign of my immaturity or naïveté that I can’t commit to writing down and sharing my thoughts. There are so many ideas that are constantly contradicting themselves and vying for mental real estate, I can’t even remember how many lists, articles and posts I read daily.

How do you filter through the hundreds of ideas, facts and new points of view you’re presented with daily and decide what is meaningful and what is not worth mentioning?

Oh and P.S., here are some photos of the summer.

Lunch field trip to Sears (NOT Willis) Tower.

First visitor (Julia!) and first trip to Green City Market.

Shared one quality crepe in Milwaukee.

A private acoustic show with rising stars Chiddy Bang.

Beautiful home for the summer.

The Blackhawks' victory parade downtown.

Showing some Chicago love

Norman Mailer called Chicago the last great American city, and Sarah Bernhardt called it the pulse of America. What is it about this great city that has captured many a great person’s love and affection?

For starters, here are a few things that have made this girl happy after just a few short days:

Freebies

There are dozens of free activities going on each week, and I’m going to try to take advantage of as many as possible! Armed with a Chicago Plus Card I’ll be exploring the Chicago Blues Festival and contorting my body into painful positions at a free Saturday morning yoga at Millenium Park this weekend.

Food

Oh the food. And I’m not talking about Starbucks every three blocks. I’ve spotted restaurants selling food from countries I’ve never even heard of. With Taste of Chicago coming up at the end of the month, I can’t wait to try more.

Sports

People here are living and breathing the Blackhawks. Skyscrapers light up at night with the Stanley Cup logo and the Hawks logo is prominently displayed in many storefront windows. Coming from a passionate sports community already, seeing Chicago’s support for their team is something I can appreciate.

Energy

The air is alive with the energy of people constantly moving. Everyone walks with a purpose. While that was initially intimidating, now that I’m beginning to feel more comfortable I enjoy being a part of the purposeful mass movement of Chicagoans to the city’s downtown offices every morning.

My job

Everyone I’ve met seems to be excited about what they do, and I’m excited to join and learn from them. The internship program is awesome and our intern class is made up of some great people.

Why do you love the city you’re in? What made you choose it?

[photo cred]