Twenty Three Years and Counting

Twenty three years ago, I entered the world.

I’m torn between feeling very old and very young.  On the one hand, I’m not a student anymore, which means adulthood is here to stay.  On the other, I frequently get mistaken for a high schooler when out in public.  Which is both annoying and flattering.

But hey, twenty three!  Two years past being able to legally drink, two years until I can rent a car.

My brothers were home the other night to celebrate.  We had family dinner, opened gifts, ate cake, and watched Inside Out.  I got a new sweater and scarf, two free passes to my local ski hill, and Howl’s Moving Castle on DVD.

As far as birthdays go, this year isn’t exactly dramatic or exciting.  I mean, last year there was a blizzard.  Two years ago, I was in England.  Today, I’ve got a board meeting and a long slog of office hours.  When work is done, Mom and I are heading to the cities to do something fun, which will keep me going through the bore of work .

I’m excited to not be twenty-two.  It was definitely a tough year, filled with rocky friendship moments, endings, and transitons.  I’m looking forward to a year that is bigger, brighter, and filled with possibilities.

Twenty three years and counting, here I come!

Writing into the Unknown

In general, I’m the kind of person that, once I know what I want, pursues it wholeheartedly.  I see my destination and nothing stands in my way.  Perfection is an impossibility and failure is inevitable–bearing this in mind, I push forward towards my goals.  This mindset has led to participating in the Minnesota State Speech tournament in high school, becoming part of Program Staff at camp, spending a semester studying abroad, and graduating college with top grades.  Once I know what I want, I form a strategy.  Step by step, I find a way.

But what happens when I don’t know what I want?

How do I push forward if I don’t know the direction?  People from all sides, from family members to strangers, are bombarding me with questions.  “Where are you going, Amelia?  How will you get there?”

To the world, I must look incredibly foolish.  Here I am, a twenty-something college grad living at home with no notion of where I actually want to go in life.  To cope with the unknown, I’ve resigned to taking things one step at a time.  I take the opportunities before me and hope that they lead me where I’m supposed to go.

A lot of my perspective on my future has to do with my faith.  I feel like God is deliberately keeping me in the dark.  I know that He has a plan for my life that is better than anything I can come up with on my own.  I want to pursue that.  When it comes down to it, I DO know what I want out of life.  I want my purpose and reason for living to be for God.  I have inklings of what I think He wants me to do.  I feel like God wants me to return to Europe–it’s always there, nagging at the back of my mind.  I also feel like God wants me to write.  But what does that look like?  Where in Europe should I go?  What should I do there?  How will I get there?  What should I write?

How do I pursue the unarticulated passions of my spirit and meet social expectations?  How do I balance blind faith with the pressures of stepping into full-fledged adulthood?  How do I move forward if I don’t know what I want?

I’m making this up one step at a time.  I’ve got two jobs right now.  Both will be done by Christmas.  Once Christmas has passed, I’m attending Urbana, the largest student missions conference in the world.  After that… Who knows?  Maybe, at the conference, my passions will finally be articulated and I’ll have a clear path.  Maybe I’ll find a missions organization to partner with and be on my way to wherever I’m supposed to go.  Maybe nothing will happen at all and I’ll find a full-time job and move to the cities.

I hate, hate, hate appearing foolish.  I hate the disapproval that comes from not having it figured out.  I hate that I know my extended family has conversations about what a hopeless floater I am behind my back.  The other day, my mom said something to me to the effect of, “Amelia, it’s really hard on us to see you like this.”  To which I responded, “It’s hard for you?  Try being stuck here.”

I know there will come a time when the pieces will align.  I know that I’ll end up somewhere.  Some days, I’m really positive and optimistic about the future.  Today isn’t really one of those days.  Moving forward is hard when I don’t know when I want to go.  For the time being, I suppose all I really can do is ignore the pressure and step blindly in a direction.

I’ve asked a lot of questions in this post that I don’t have answers to.  But they’re questions that need to be asked.  These things need to be articulated.  In an earlier paragraph, I stated that I feel like God wants me to write.  What does He want me to write about?  My answer: THIS.  I need to put my frustrations into words.  Maybe, as the unknowns solidify into nouns and verbs, I’ll find that my passions are finally articulated.  Maybe, through the act of writing, my destination will present itself.  I’ll continue to write until I find out.

Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash

Weekend Coffee Share: Tired, Overwhelmed, and The Oh Hellos

If we were having coffee, you’d know right away that I am a mess.  My week was awful.

You see, I’m not a crier.  I’ll go for months and months without shedding a tear.  This doesn’t mean I’m not emotional–I definitely am.  My emotions just don’t manifest in tears very often.

That being said, I’ve had FOUR meltdowns this week.

Three happened in my car.  The first of these took place after the first training session for my new job.  The second was this morning on the way to church.  The third was an hour or so ago on my way home from church.  The other sob-fest happened over my bowl of Rice Krispies cereal on Tuesday morning.

As I said, I am a mess.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my new job is proving more stressful than anticipated.  I’ve finally got most of the day-to-day things under control, so my time in the office goes fairly smoothly.  But there is so much I don’t know or understand.  I have zero experience with finances, bills, invoices, payments, etc.  And, suddenly, I need to know how to do all of these things.  The people who are supposedly there to help me have proved only marginally useful.

I spent the entire week doing my best to stay positive and keep afloat.  Two of my nights were sleepless ones.  The while time, I thought that, if I could just get to the weekend, everything would be okay.  HA.  JOKE’S ON ME.

On Friday, I had to go in for my second training session while the rest of my family went to the movies.  Which TOTALLY sucked.  My little brother was home from college and I wanted to spend time with him.  I got to the office a bit before seven, as planned.  At 7:08, I got a text from the lady training me (who used to be in my position) saying she would be there by 7:30.  She didn’t end up getting there until almost eight o’clock.  Which meant I spent an HOUR of my Friday night sitting alone in a cold office playing games on my iPhone because I forgot to bring a book.  Because of her tardiness, we weren’t able to cover all the information and now have to meet again on Tuesday evening.

So that all sucks.

If we were having coffee, you’d know that my fourth and final meltdown of the week happened because I almost got into a car accident on my way home from church this morning.  But thinking about that just makes me more depressed, so we won’t go into details.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I saw the band The Oh Hellos live on Thursday.  It was, by far, the highlight of my whole week.  The show was INCREDIBLE.

The first opener was a band called Family & Friends and it was obvious that it was their first tour.  You could feel their enthusiasm oozing from the stage.  Their expressions were wild and excited and you couldn’t help feel it too.  It energized the whole crowd and set the tone for the entire night. When the headliner finally took the stage, we were all screaming before they played a single note.

If I could transport myself into the past, I’d go back to being in that crowd on Thursday.  It wasn’t very relaxing, but boy it was fun.  My friend and I let loose and went crazy.  We sang along to all the words we knew.  We cheered.  We raised our hands and clapped.  I completely let loose and danced, jumping and flailing awkwardly, losing myself in the music.  Gosh, it was a blast.

You see, The Oh Hellos are a phenomenal band.  They make music not for profit, but because they’re passionate.  Their passion is evident in every note.  Their music is clearly rooted in Christian faith, but they’re not a Christian band.  Their instrumentals are rich and flavorful and all the songs have deep, sophisticated lyrics.  I’d gush about how awesome they are more, but it might be better to write about them in other posts.  (So stay tuned for that.)

So, yeah.  Aside from going to the show, it’s been a pretty crappy week.  On the bright side, things can’t get much worse.  If you don’t mind, I’m going to go curl up under a blanket with a comfort book and go into hermit-mode during the remainder of my day off.  Later, though, I’ll come back on WordPress and would really love to hear how your week has been.  What would you share over coffee?

The Oh Hellos during the finale of their set.  SO GOOD.
The Oh Hellos during the finale of their set. SO GOOD.

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

Disorganization is the Worst

I started a new job this week… oh boy is it stressful.

My first training session was 2.5 hours from 7-9:30 PM.  My predecessor essentially sat me down, showed me programs on the computer, and told me stuff.  Aside from lists of computer passwords and such, there was little to no organization.  No concrete list of “These Are Your Tasks”.  Just a bunch of do this, do that, call this person, figure this out.  Here you go, Amelia.  Have at it.

My brain needs structure in order to understand things.  Throwing information at me and plunging me into a situation does nothing but render me overwhelmed and stressed.  I got home at ten and went straight to bed.  It took me until midnight to fall asleep, mostly because I gave up trying and transported myself to another planet reading Andy Weir’s The Martian until midnight.  Even after that, I didn’t sleep much.

Since the job was left vacant three weeks ago, an overwhelming amount of emails, phone messages, and mail have been piling up that need to be addressed ASAP.  However, in my current semi-trained state, I don’t feel comfortable or confident addressing half of these things.

So I am going to do what my brain knows best: compartmentalize and prioritize.  My first priority is making sure I’m up to speed and comfortable with the various software and programs.  Once that’s done, I’ll figure out what needs to be done NOW.  I’ll make lists of what I don’t know and save the rest for another day.

My goal is, by the end of the job in a couple of months, to add some organization.  If I can get to a point where I can make a concrete list of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, I’ll be satisfied.

Now on to actually making sense of the chaos.  Wish me luck!

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.

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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.)

When You Write Young (Writing 101, Day 17)

Today’s Writing 101 assignment involves digging into your drafts and work with something uncompleted.  My burst of inspiration brought me to the stack of old journals in my closet.  Paging through the woes of my high school self, I couldn’t help but think of a post I had written several months ago.  In Writing 101, we’ve been doing a great deal of writing (go figure!), which has me thinking a lot about what it means to be a writer.  I think that this post lines up well with what I’ve been learning as a writer and blogger.  Since I’m short on time today (I’ll be posting about why later this week), I thought I’d share that post.

Here we go…

It’s amazing to look back and see how you grow as a writer.  But more on that later.  First, a story.

One of the traditions of my high school’s marching band was giving personalized gifts to the graduating seniors at the end of the year indoor concert.  After my final season, one of my good friends bestowed upon me a notebook covered in cats.  He offered the following explanation: “We’re giving you a journal because some things don’t belong on the internet.”

Recently, I hung out with my old high school buddies.  Sitting around a bonfire reminiscing about times that we really don’t miss, the marching band senior gifts came up.  I had completely forgotten the incident.  It was one of my fellow graduates who remembered my gift and the above explanation.  How he recalled such a specific quote, I have no idea.  But I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

When you start blogging at the age of fifteen, you make some blunders.  And, often times, those blunders affect people.  Enthralled at the freedom of calling a corner of the internet my own, I was not always wise with what I shared on my blog.  (Mind you, those were back in the Blogger days.)  Although I always tried to be careful not to give names–anonymity is really important when publishing personal information–keeping my drama off the internet sometimes didn’t happen.  What’s worse… keeping that drama away from the eyes of my friends was an impossibility.

Often times, I’d turn to my blog to express myself in times of conflict with friends.  I’d vent a bit, then go on with my life.  But then my friends would find out and that’s when things got messy.

At the time, I didn’t think much of my senior gift.  In fact, I thought so little of it that I didn’t even remember it happening.  But it’s amazing what hindsight can do.  I now see that there was a bit of a barb to the gesture–that my friend was being funny, but also critical.  He didn’t like what I had to say in such a public arena and used the situation as an opportunity to get me to express myself in a more healthy, private place.  (The sad thing is, I didn’t take the hint.)

As much as I hate to admit it, that friend was right.  Four years later, I agree with his statement wholeheartedly.  Some things DON’T belong on the internet.  Self-expression is a wonderful thing, but what one sees as nothing but blowing-off-steam soon blows out of proportion.  What is meant as a personal rant suddenly becomes incredibly public.  There’s a line and, if you’re not careful, you’ll slip across without even noticing.

I’ve grown a great deal as a blogger over the years.  I wish I can say I skipped the rough patches, that all was smooth sailing, and that I never crossed the line (excuse me for all the cliches)… but that’s all a lie.  When you write young, you make mistakes.  Looking back, I regret the hurt I caused my friends.  But what’s done is done.  Anything I do now can’t change what is cemented in the past.

The only thing you can do is grow from your mistakes, watch your words and best of all, learn to love your journal just as much as you love your blog.  And never, ever, stop writing.

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.  Find my original post here.

What’s Wrong With Being an Introvert? (Writing 101, Day 16)

People are always surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert.  “Really?” They ask.  “You seem so…” Fill in the blank:

  • Socially adept
  • Outgoing
  • Normal

In general, there’s a stigma surrounding what it means to be an introvert.  Introverts are the shy, awkward loners who sit in a corner avoiding people.  I can’t count the amount of times someone has criticized another by saying, “They’re just so introverted!”

But the thing is… none of this has to do with being an introvert.

Introversion is seen as a negative trait when, in reality, it’s nothing of the sort.  It has nothing to do with being socially awkward.  It has to do with where you get your energy/rest.  Extroverts gain their energy from being around other people–thus, they are seen as more social.  Being alone drains them.  Introverts are the opposite.  Being around people drains them and they refuel by doing things alone.  Another misconception is that you are either one or the other.  I tend to see introversion and extroversion not as categories, but as a scale.  On a scale of Introvert to Extrovert, where do you land?

Found this useful graphic on Google. Yay Google!

I’ve always been an introvert, but it’s been a journey figuring out how to take care of myself.  Because, opposed to popular belief, I actually really like being with people.  When I was younger, I’d hang out with large groups of people all the time.  While on church or band trips, where you’re surrounded by people, I didn’t know that I needed to pull away.  Because I didn’t know how to take care of myself in this aspect, I’d find myself experiencing bursts of crabbiness that did nothing to help my friendships.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand my introversion much better.  I’ve learned that removing myself from company and spending time alone is necessary to my mental health.  I now plan “Me-Time” into my schedule.  If I know I’ve got plans with friends or other social activities, I make sure to have time the day afterwards where I hang out by myself.  If I’m going on a big trip where I’ll be surrounded by people all the time, I sometimes go off on my own while everyone is hanging out.  Working at camp for three summers is a huge challenge for an introvert, but I usually managed to find time to sneak off on my own to re-fuel.

On the spectrum, I fall just to the left of the middle line.  I’m an introvert, but I’m less introverted than many of my friends.  I have found that too much time in my own head isn’t necessarily healthy. If I’m alone too long, I get angsty and lonely. That’s where the spectrum mindset it so useful. Because I’m aware, I’m very careful to balance  people time with me time. This involves making plans with friends a few times a week while keeping enough nights free to be alone.

I love being an introvert!  Most of my favorite pastimes require no company and the hours I spend reading, writing, and painting are what I most look forward to in the day.  Sometimes, I feel like I live for the few hours in the evening where I retreat into my own little world.

Where, readers, do you fall on the spectrum? Are you an introvert? Extrovert? Or a bit of both? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Moments of Transition (Writing 101, Day 13)

As I stood in the crowded hallway clutching my trapper-keeper, the writhing in my belly felt less like butterflies and more like a jar of wriggling worms.  I huddled near the haven of my locker, cringing as the unfamiliar bell clanged, longing for the safety of Mrs. Klinke’s fifth grade class.  But the happy days of recess and snack time were gone.  Unfamiliar faces pressed in from all sides.  They all seemed to know each other.  I took a deep breath.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

“All right, girls, is everyone in their bunks?”  I watched as my ten-year-old charges clambered up under sheets.  An occasional fluffy stuffed animal could be seen, clutched tightly to the campers’ chests.  “Lights are going out in five… four… three… two… “ I flipped the switch to a chorus of giggles.  I groped for my flashlight, finding my way to the counselor’s bunk.  Wiggling into my slippery sleeping bag, I pulled out my journal and pen.  Eyelids heavy, I began to recount the day’s adventures, scribbling memories into the wee hours.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

The air felt stale, like plastic and greasy pizza.  The sun had sunk beyond the prairie horizon hours ago.  You couldn’t see them, but plastic packing boxes littered the floor of my new dorm room.  Clothing and books were piled on every free surface.  The endless stream of faces at the door had finally ceased.  Huddled in my lofted bed, I listened as the stranger who I now lived with snored noisily and tried not to think about the way my parents held hands as I watched them from my fourth floor window.  I blinked back tears.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Pushing against the surge of people outside the Tube station, I stepped into the unexpected sunlight.  I thought it always rained here?  A tall clock tower gleamed ahead, proudly surveying the stately streets.  A pang of pleasure surged in my chest.  I would recognize this place anywhere.  After a lifetime of dreaming, I had finally crossed the pond.  My face broke into a silly grin as I stepped in with the crowd.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Hunched slightly from an afternoon of packing apples and harvesting pumpkins, my fingers dart quickly across the laptop keys.  My eyelids feel sluggish, product of too many hours at work and too little sleep, but I continue to write.  In the next room, Dad’s voice orders everyone to be quiet so he can hear the weather report on the news.  Mom calls from the kitchen to make salads for dinner.  I’m about to respond when an unexpected softness brushes my calf and I look down to find my yellow cat, Paco, watching me expectantly.  With a sigh, I hit “save” in my document and reach down to give his head a scratch.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Today’s assignment was to write a series of vignettes.  I chose to capture different times of transition throughout my life, starting with my first day of middle school and ending with the present day.  It’s been a long time since I did any kind of creative writing.  What do you think?

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

To Stay or To Go (Writing 101, Day 12)

All I ever wanted was adventure–to leap into the unknown–to cut ties with everything familiar.  I wanted to lose myself in the wider world and, in the process, truly know what it is to live.

But I don’t know what doors to knock on.  I don’t know how to maintain responsibility whilst plunging into adventure. I’m considering applying for a big-girl job in my home town because student loans must be paid somehow. I’m making this up as I go along.

Am I settling?

Will the chance to leap come again?

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Am I the only one who hated today’s assignment?  I feel like fussing with word count sucked my inspiration rather than fueled it.

There is Always More to Learn (Writing 101, Day 5)

My younger brother recently turned twenty. On his birthday, we jokingly pointed out, “You’re not a teenager anymore, Sam. You no longer know anything.”

It’s amazing how age and study decrease your sense of importance.

Recently, I graduated from college and, if I learned anything in my four years at the University of Minnesota, Morris, it was that I am incredibly small. There is so much, no, too much to know. Even in my area of study, literature and writing, I feel like I know nothing.

If I decided to get a doctorate in literature, accumulating deep knowledge of texts and cultures from times gone by, it would take the majority of my twenties. Even then, my knowledge would be limited to a single subject—Victorian novels, Renaissance drama, Romantic poetry. I could study for years and years and barely scratch the surface… and that is in my field!

There are so many avenues I wish I could have visited in college. If I could go back, I’d up my Communication minor to a major and take as many rhetoric classes as possible. I’d insert a minor in Art History just because I love the subject. I’d delve into more History classes. I’d take another course in Gender, Women, Sexuality Studies, simply because the topic is culturally relevant and fascinating.

But college is over. Maybe I’ll go to graduate school someday, but that’s at least three years down the road.

Education truly is a gift. Through it, you learn how small you are. You learn that your point of view is one of millions. You learn to empathize with those who are different from you.

But academia is only one kind of knowledge. Now that I’m out of school, it’s time to pursue other studies—how to be a responsible adult, how to be good to my family, how to blog well, how to keep strong in my faith, how to take joy in every day. The biggest lesson is learning what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.

The beauty of education is that it really never stops. Inside or out of the classroom, there is still so much to learn.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.