Reverse Culture Shock & Moving Forward

Everyone always says that the hardest part about going abroad is coming home.

Slowly, I’ve been getting used to being back in America.  At first, it was WEIRD.  It’s the little things about your own culture that are the oddest, the things you only notice when you’ve been away for a long time.  Used to everyone speaking different languages and a wide variety of accents, I found myself wondering why everyone sounded the same.  American accents are so bland!  Also, accustomed to the reserve of most Europeans, I found the open friendliness of Americans strange.  “Why are all of these people being so nice?” I wondered.  “I don’t even know them!” Continue reading

Dear New Year

Dear New Year,

There are so many things I don’t know about you.  But, then again, there are so many things I don’t know about me either.

Up until this point, my life has been predictable.  Go to school, get good grades, go home for breaks, work in the summer, and so on.  I’ve always known what the next year will bring.

When I look at you, New Year, I see a vast unknown.  I see the path beneath my feet stretching into a fog.  All I really see is what is directly before me.  In a way, I see you, but I don’t know what you will bring.

Where will I go?  What will I do?  They seem like such simple questions, but the answers are blank.

I’m excited to see you, New Year.  I’m ready to take the leap into the unknown.  I’ve been waiting and wondering about where I fit into this big, beautiful world.  I’m ready to find out.

I have never been one for resolutions.  I don’t like empty promises.  I avoid concrete vows that never actually happen.  But I’m all for having hopes.

This year, I hope to grow in my relationship with God.

I hope to get closer to figuring out my place in the world.

I hope to know myself better.

I hope to be a good daughter, sister, and friend.

I hope to take care of my health–physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I hope that I will be better at giving of my money, time, and love.

I hope to better at empathizing and seeing things from the perspectives of others.

I hope that, wherever I go, I will make the world a little brighter.

New Year, even though I don’t know what you have in store, I welcome you with open arms.

All my love,

Amelia

photo-1444492892076-4e4f86ad703b

Tis the Season: Holding On to Memories

Growing up can be a jarring experience.  You move out into the world and, suddenly, everything you’ve ever known is different.  After a while, you get used to it.  Life is fluid.  That’s just the way the world works.

Some things, though, never change.  Like Christmas.

Although we’re not exactly warm and cuddly, my family has always been close.  We push each other’s buttons and drive each other crazy, but have always enjoyed spending time together.

Christmas has definitely been different this year, with Grandpa in the hospital.  But, in many ways, it’s still the same.  As I said in yesterday’s post, no matter what happens, Christmas is still Christmas.

Many years ago, before college, I had a moment one Christmas when I realized that it wouldn’t always be like this.  There will hit a point when we’re all grown up and have families of our own.  We’ll be too far away to come together like we always have.

I’m thankful that this hasn’t happened yet.

But don’t know what the future holds.  I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing a year from now.  I don’t know if I’ll be home for Christmas.  So I’m bound and determined to make the most out of this year’s holiday.  I’m going to soak it all in, from the decorations to the carols to the time spent with family, and make memories that will last.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!  I’m very thankful for each and every one of you.  I wish you joy and blessings this holiday season.

christmas-ornaments


Tis the Season is a yearly holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Adjustments

I’ve been reading a lot lately… as in I just read a fantasy trilogy that is 2,000+ pages in just over a week.  (Yes, I’m insane.)  It’s easy to get lost in a world that exists only in your head.  You just turn the page and turn the page and turn the page until… well, until there are no more pages.

Books have been very important to me as I’ve adjusted to my new job.  They’ve given me the chance to step out of my position and into someone else’s shoes.  You see, I’m so tired of feeling physical stress coursing through my body.  I’m tired of not knowing what my duties are because I’m only half trained and have no supervisor.  I’m tired of dreading Monday.  I’m tired of being pessimistic and crabby.  These things aren’t ME.

Adjusting to changes takes time.  I’m on my way, but not quite there yet.  Hey–at least I’m no longer bursting into tears over my breakfast cereal.

One of the best pieces of career advice I’ve ever received was from one of my professors while studying abroad.  She was a quirky little Irish lady with spring-like brown curls and I adored her class.  One day, while in her office getting help on a paper, she said: “It’s okay to not know what you want to do.  The important thing is finding out what you DON’T want to do and go from there.”  (For her, the number one thing to avoid were jobs that required hair nets.)

With this in mind, my new job is very illuminating.  In addition to all the professional skills I’m developing, I’m learning a lot about what I don’t want in a job.  I don’t want to be in an office alone–I need a job where other people are involved.  I don’t want to work in a Chamber of Commerce.  I don’t want to own a business.  I don’t want to do anything that involves finances.  I want a job where I report to a boss, receive proper training, and am given clear expectations.  I want a job with structure–with a checklist of tasks and responsibilities, with a set start and end time.

My mom is starting to ride me about figuring out what to do next.  Which doesn’t do much for my stress load.  I genuinely want to move on.  But I feel like I’m not free to do that until we find a new Executive Director… which could take some time.

So I lose myself in the pages of books.  I spend my evenings in someone else’s mind.  I breathe in, breathe out, and wait for the day I’m adjusted enough that I no longer need to escape.

I’ll get there someday.

Weekend Coffee Share: New Jobs and College Visits

If we were having coffee, we’d be bundled up in sweaters sitting outside.  The world is a painting of reds, golds, and browns–the leaves are just past the peak of color and are starting to fall.  I’d suggest taking a walk to enjoy the crisp air and crunch of leaves under our feet.  If your hands are cold, bring your cup with you.  It will keep you warm!

If we were having coffee, I’d let you know that I HAVE A NEW JOB!  You are now looking at (or rather, reading the words of) the new Interim Director of my community’s Chamber of Commerce.  Of course, the job isn’t permanent.  It’s only for a couple of months while the Chamber looks for a new Executive Director.  I’m just there to fill in and give the board of directors time to find a good fit for the position.

The frustrating thing, though, is I hope to start tomorrow and still have no idea what the job looks like.  I know I’ll be addressing the emails, phone messages, and mail that have come in over the past few weeks.  I know there are meetings I’ll have to attend–mostly to take notes.  I know that I now have keys to the building and a desk in the old Historical Society building.  But I don’t know what my days will actually look like.

My goal is to meet with the former Executive Director sometime in the next couple of days in order to learn the job.  The problem is, she’s not a very competent communicator and doesn’t really understand what I want from her.  She keeps texting my mom (who is the Vice President of the board) about it.  Mom passed her my contact information so she and I can figure it out… but clearly she’s stressed and confused because she hasn’t actually contacted ME yet.

It will all come together.  Hopefully we will be able to meet.  If not, I’m pretty good at figuring things out.  If all else fails, I’ll go to the office tomorrow (after all, I DO have the key), poke around for a few hours, and hope the info I need is lurking in a desk drawer or computer file.

If we were having coffee, you would know that I visited my college town for the first time as an alumni!  I didn’t think I’d be making the trip to Morris any time soon, but my old Bible study co-leader organized a retreat for the group and asked if I would be able to come as a guest speaker.  My old roommate, Alli, and I founded this Bible study four years ago and it was one of my favorite parts of college.

Selfie with everyone at Pomme de Terre Park, featuring the signature Morris wind turbines that provide energy to campus.

The retreat took place at someone’s house.  I was delighted to find that almost everyone in attendance were original members of the group.  We had art night on Friday–which was a fun exploration of acrylic paint and Canadian rom-coms.  On Saturday, we ate meals together, went on a prayer walk in Pomme de Terre Park, and watched Friends on Netflix.  Alli and I gave our talks, which both went well.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my trip to Morris has me feeling incredibly blessed.  As an introvert, I find that the best kind of people are the ones I can be with for hours without feeling drained.  Hanging out with these girls was like that.  I’m not close friends with anyone in the group, but that really didn’t matter.  We’ve spent so much time throughout the years laughing, making memories, and discussing faith that friendship comes naturally.  Being together again felt just like old times.  I can’t remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did.

My faith hasn’t been flourishing since leaving Morris in May.  It hasn’t been growing, but it hasn’t been receding.  I know that there are lots of important things going on that I can’t see right now.  This weekend was a wonderful reminder that God has big things ahead and I’m right where I need to be.

Now the time has come to turn things over to you.  How has your week been?  What would you share over coffee?

This post is part of a link-up at Part Time Monster

Whimsy & Climbing Mountains

Some days, the future feels like a looming, messy mountain that I don’t know how to climb.  I’ve been in a period of transition for the past six months–suspended between one area of life and another.  There are so many roads, so many possibilities, and the constant pressure to know my route.  “What are you doing now that you’ve graduated college, Amelia?”  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  “When are you going to have things figured out?”  I do my best to push aside the uncertainties, but some days it just eats at me.

Today, though, the future feels whimsical.  I don’t know where life will lead me.  I’m not planning it out.  My strategy is to take things one step at a time, starting with this day.   If I can figure out the now, I can cross the next bridge when I come to it.

This evening, my mom and I had some quality Mother/Daughter time.  We went shopping, saw a movie in theaters, and had dinner at a restaurant.  It was so much fun to get away from work and just soak in life.  The drive home brought deep conversations about life, faith, and the future.  Our talk got the gears turning in my mind, which lead me to writing this post.

Recently, I came across the following quote:

“Whimsy doesn’t care if you are the driver or the passenger; all that matters is that you are on your way.” Bob Goff, Love Does

There are a lot of great things happening in my life right now.  Tomorrow, I attend a board meeting that will solidify my first big girl/real adult job.  It’s not a full-time position, nor is it permanent.  It’s a a door that has opened unexpectedly–I didn’t apply for it…  It just sort of happened. But it’s perfect opportunity to gain professional skills and get me from one place to the next.

The future is still there and it is still very much unknown.  But right now, the mountain doesn’t seem so daunting.  From where I’m standing, the mountain is beautiful and I’m starting to see the path.  I can’t wait to lace up my boots and start climbing.

There are so many things I’m unsure of.  But I know one thing: I’m on my way.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset
I’m normally not a taker of selfies, but yesterday was so sunny and lovely I couldn’t help myself. (Also, it was a good hair day, which is rare.)

On Growing Up

These days it feels like every time I open Facebook, someone I know has either gotten engaged, married, or pregnant.  When it started happening a few years ago, the people were my brother’s age–older, more mature.  Now, it’s my peers who are tying the knot and starting families.

Every time this happens, a little pang goes through my stomach.

I still feel like such a kid.  In my head, I’m still that ten-year old girl who often asked herself: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  In the eyes of the world, however, I’m a legal adult starting a career.  You would think that three months of farm work and endless time spent in my head would help me put two and two together.  But I’m still relatively clueless.

I’ve thought about a lot of things.  It’s my dream of all dreams to do Christian ministry work in Europe.  But I’m beginning to see that dreams don’t happen overnight.  Any European plans are likely to be down the road.  What, then, shall I do in the meantime?

Should I go back to school and become a teacher?  Should I take the GRE, apply to grad school, and become a librarian?  Should I just take a random job, just to start somewhere, and reevaluate?  If I do the last option, should that job be in my home community?  In the cities?  In a state far away?

So many questions.  So few answers.

Why is growing up so hard?

Time for some Real Talk.

Hey there.  Amelia here.

At the camp I used to work at, Real Talk is what we call deep, heart-to-heart conversations about things that matter.  This post has been churning around in my head for a long time.  The words have finally formed into coherent sentences.  So let’s just dive on in.

I seem to be in a bit of a slump.  The dog days of summer render me lazy, unproductive, and a bit disheartened.  I’ve lost touch with so many things–my faith, my goals, and even my blog.  I find myself going for days without opening my computer to avoid facing the inevitability of adulthood.

These days, I spend a great deal of time in my head.  My job entails endless hours of field labor, so when I’m not marathoning the Harry Potter series via audiobook (for the tenth time), I find myself asking questions.  Mainly…

What next?

Where?

When?

You see, during the past year, I finally figured out what I want to do with my life.  I feel called to pursue a life of Christian ministry in Europe.  Although I didn’t attend a Christian school, I’ve got plenty of experience under my belt due to three summers working at a Bible camp and heavy involvement with campus ministry.  I spent a semester abroad in Europe a few years back and, ever since, feel a tugging in my heart to go back to serve.  My English degree has made me a good writer and grammarian, has given me a sharp analytical eye, and has shown me that most of the world’s problems can be solved through learning to see things through the eyes of others.  (Or, as Atticus Finch says, walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.)

But I’m still left with questions.

What next?

Where?

When?

Doing ministry in Europe can mean a LOT of things.  Really, it could mean anything.  Teaching.  Translating.  Secretary work.  Counseling.  I’d add more to the list, but the possibilities are so endless that I don’t even know what to write.  Poking around the internet for potential jobs only makes me more frustrated.

I don’t know where to look, but I feel it.  I feel the call to go.  And it’s maddening not knowing where I’ll be going.

What irks me most about the whole situation is that I’m afraid of looking like a failure.  I’m afraid people will look at me and see the stereotypical college grad who lives at home and isn’t going anywhere.  When people ask me what I plan on doing with my life now that school is over, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can be honest with them.  I say, “I want to do ministry in Europe.  What that means and where that will be, I don’t yet know.”  But the responses… I hate the responses.  Most people are polite.  They smile, nod, and wish me the best.  But behind their smiles, I can see the doubt.  “Good luck with that,” their eyes seem to say condescendingly.  “That’s the type of thing people dream about, but never actually do.  You’re not going anywhere.”  It’s downright disheartening.

I’m definitely in a slump… But I’m trying.

I have a job.  Yes, it’s working for my parents.  Yes, it’s below my education level.  But work is work and every bit counts in the face of student loans.

I read.  In addition to marathoning Harry Potter on audiobook, pounding through a 700 page long fantasy novel on my Kindle, and slowly creeping through the copy of The Silmarilion I received for Christmas, I’m currently reading the book Get Wise by Bobb Merrit, pastor of the church I attend with my family.  Based on the book of Proverbs in the Bible, Merrit discusses how to make wise choices.  When I finish, I plan on picking up The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now by Meg Jay.  My older brother read it when he graduated college and gifted me a copy for Christmas.  Talk about relevant books for a season of transition!

I blog.  In fact, to get me out of the WordPress aspect of my current slump, I signed up for Blogging 201 to help give me tasks to work on.  At this point, any kind of goal feels like a valuable one.

I do other things–I pray a lot.  I spend time with family and friends.  I recently saw one of my favorite bands (Rend Collective) live and have tickets to another concert (Brandi Carlile and Iron & Wine) in a few weeks.  I saw an outdoor, in-the-park production of Hamlet the other day.  I go to movies.  I make art.  I try to get enough sleep each night.

My biggest step in the Europe plan has been registering for Urbana, one of the largest Christian student missions conferences in the world.  Taking place every three years in St. Louis, Missouri, it’s a gathering of over 16,000 young people who are interested in missions.  It’s a five-day event spanning from Christmas to New Years, filled with speakers, seminars, worship, and fellowship.  Hundreds of missions organizations come and set up tables.  For a girl interested in dedicating her life to missions in Europe, it’s the perfect place to go.

The problem is… Urbana is in December.  It is currently July.  Which means… I’m stuck where I’m at for five months.  I don’t want to get a full-time real-adult job if I’m going to be gone for such a big period of time.  Plus, I don’t want to lay down too deep of roots.  This means getting my own place, buying a car, etc. are out of the question.  You see, when the opportunity comes to go, I want to be as free as possible.

So I’m living at home.  I’m guaranteed a job through November.  I read, I blog, I pray, I do things.  I wait.  I wonder.  I spend time in my head.

Despite everything, I know that I’ll get there.  If missions in Europe is something I’m called to do and I’m willing to go, there is no way God won’t provide the chance.  But being in the slump, the in-between, the transition is absolutely maddening.

So there you go.  That’s what’s going on in my life at the moment.  Thanks for listening.

Next stop, Blogging 201.

TBT: Words from my eighteen-year-old self

This afternoon, I spent some time looking through my very first blog.  (Yes, it still exists.  No, I will not provide a link.)  Most of the time, when I think about that blog, I shake my head in shame at fifteen year old Amelia and ask, “Why did you think that was okay to post on the Internet?”  As I perused all the old posts, however, I found one that stood out.

Four years ago, I was a high school senior.  All I knew about the future was that I was going to Morris in the fall to major in English.  The rest was a mystery.

Here are some words by my eighteen year old self.  Mind you, it’s not a very organized post.  I go off on random tangents.  What can I say?  I was eighteen and hadn’t studied how to write well.  High school writing classes are a joke.

But I think, overall, I hit the nail on the head regarding what it feels like to be on the verge of moving on.  Life moves quickly.  If you don’t take time to capture the little things, you will forget about them.  A lot of what I say continues to resonate.  Because the little things matter and, in no time at all, they will be gone.

Anyways, just read it.  I liked it.  Maybe you will too.

It’s approximately 10:54 P.M. and I just finished watching the movie Morning Glory with my family.

My response:
OH MY GOODNESS.  THE GUY WHO PLAYS RAOUL IN PHANTOM OF THE OPERA IS IN IT.  AND HE HAS SHORT HAIR AND ISN’T UGLY.

Shocker, I know.

Anyways.  I feel like I haven’t offered anything deep and insightful to the world lately.  Every day is just the same old routine.  Get up when the alarm goes off, pedal through another day of classes, and then spend my afternoon and evening twiddling away on the computer and consuming books.  I haven’t written any poetry in ages.  I haven’t hung out with my best friends outside of school since prom.  I can’t even find something better to do than hang out with my family on a Friday night.
I’m not saying that spending time with family isn’t a good thing… it definitely is.  I just feel like I should be savoring my last few weeks of high school, you know?  I should be out raiding WalMart or star tipping.  I should be laughing so hard I’m almost crying.  I should be sitting around a bonfire reminiscing about good times and making vague plans for the future.

But, you know what?  I’m not.

Right now, it’s 10:59 P.M. on Friday, May 13.
I’m sitting on my bed, typing on my mom’s crappy old laptop, thinking about Rachel McAdams and the guy who plays Raoul.  I’m thinking about the purple dress my mom bought me for graduation.  I’m thinking about Le Morte d’Arthur and all the ways Sir Thomas Malory describes knights valiantly slaughtering each other.  I’m thinking about Morris and I’m thinking about what life will be like on my own.  I’m thinking about getting my third perfect score on a College Sociology test in a row.  I’m thinking about the picture of babies in egg cartons I found in a magazine.  I’m thinking about how, yesterday, I was sitting on my phone, and it suddenly goes, “It’s a fez.  I wear a fez now.  Fezzes are cool”, and I was surprised because I forgot that I changed my texting ring tone to this.
I’m thinking all these things and wondering why I don’t just stop my fingers from typing.  I’m wondering why I’m still going on and on and on about things nobody probably cares about.  And if nobody cares… then I’m wondering why I’m still blabbing.

I guess I think of this blog as my life story.  Every month is another chapter.  Every post is another page.  Maybe I keep writing about all the random crap going on because… one day… I’m not going to remember tonight.  I’m not going to remember watching Morning Glory or those three perfect Sociology tests or hearing the Eleventh Doctor’s voice coming from under my butt as I read Le Morte d’Arthur.  Tonight will fade away and blabbing on is the only way I can keep it from getting lost.

It’s like dreams.  When you first wake up,  they’re clear and fresh in your brain.  As the day goes on, reality takes over and the edges become blurred and fuzzy.  You try to tell someone about your dream and find yourself saying, “I remember it was exciting and crazy and didn’t make any sense… but I just can’t figure out what it was.”  The only way to make sure the dream lives past ten o’clock in the morning is by writing it down the second you wake up.

The same can be said for memories.  One day, even a year from now, what is real today isn’t going to be a reality anymore.  In a year, I won’t be a high school senior with only a few short weeks left.  I won’t be living with my parents.  I won’t be sleeping in the bed I’ve always slept in.  I won’t even have this crappy laptop to write on.  These days, these meaningless days where all I do is wake up when the alarm goes off, pedal through classes, and twiddle away time on the Internet will be nothing more than a memory.  They’ll be a reality that has come and gone.

Don’t you get it?  I need to write about my life.  I need to write about seemingly meaningless days.  I need to write about parties and friends and ordinary experiences.  If I don’t, I’ll move on to the next reality and forget.  I’ll wake up and, by ten o’clock, my senior year will be nothing but a fuzzy blur in the land of days gone by.

It’s now 11:18 P.M.  I’m sitting here, typing away on my mom’s old, crappy laptop, covered in the soft, fuzzy blanket my aunt and uncle gave me for Christmas, and thinking about dresses and movies and King Arthur.

Welcome to my life

Looking to the future and finally having some answers

About a month ago, I wrote a post where I posed the question: What brings you life?

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately.  I mean, with only a few months left of college, it’s to be expected.  People keep asking me what’s next.  I keep telling them I don’t know.  Just now, though, I realized that I DO know.

I want to do something that brings me life.  I don’t want a job to pay the bills.   I want my work to be my passion.  I want to feel a sense of fulfillment at the end of a week.  I want to do something I love so much that I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I got lucky with college.  During my final years of high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to major in.  People ask me why I chose to be an English major and I answer them, “I’ve been an English major my entire life.  I just didn’t know that is what it’s called until I got to college.”  I didn’t chose English for the career track.  I became an English major because it’s the only major I imagined myself pursuing.  And, although there have been rough patches (I’m looking at you, Virginia Woolf class), my studies have spurred my passions and brought incredible life.  But it’s not what I want to do forever.

I now stand at the brink of another crossroads.  Where do I go after graduation?  What should I do?  The answer is clear: I need to find what brings me the most life and I need to do that every day until I die.

At this point, I have a good sense of what that is.

Above all else, my time here in Morris has taught me that, although English is something I love, it’s not something I want to do with my life.  When I look back what stands out the most is spiritual growth and involvement in ministry.  Over the past four years, God turned a quiet girl with her identity in a box into a confident, passionate leader.  Being involved in IVCF, prayer ministry, Bible studies, and (of course) working at camp has done more for my career than any professor in any classroom.  He’s given me a taste for service that leaves me longing for more.  All I want to do is serve God with my life.  I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I’ve realized lately that I feel the most fulfillment when I’m pouring into people.  It’s my favorite thing.  There’s nothing that brings me more joy than praying for others or meeting one-on-one and giving encouragement.  I love taking the lessons I’ve learned and the things God has spoken to me and passing them on.  It’s such an amazing experience, helping others draw closer to Him.

That, friends, is what I want to do every day for the rest of my life.

Now I just have to find someone willing to pay me to do it.