Dry Runs

After moving back to Michigan, S and I decided we wanted to be engaged in our community and in the natural world that was immediately around us.  One of the things we missed most during our time away was being able to hike and camp in the way we had up north.  So when we moved back, we decided to become backpackers!

After spending hours of researching and reading and wanderlusting after Instagram we finally had a warm December day in Michigan  and were able to take our new gear out for a trial run.

All Trails helped S find a 2 mile route through a wooded natural area near our home, complete with hills enough to make my quads burn (it turns out that carrying 25lbs on your back up and down is harder than it looks).

We had a great time and it felt amazing to get outside with our gear for the first time.  We’ve got a long way to go if we eventually want to complete a 20 mile hike along the cliffed-edge of an island, but we’re on our way.

Follow our adventures on Instagram at #midwesterneronthemove

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1 Year After Finding Home

I’m sitting on my couch, watching a true-crime show and talking back to my cats when the meow for me.  S is out for the evening, with friends.  And I am content. Finally.

January 8th 2018 marks 1 year since S and I drove into Michigan via US-23 North, a caravan of a 16ft Penske and my old Chevy Impala.

January 8, 2018 – Entering Michigan

It had been a hectic month: In early December 2017, S and I both received job offers in our home state and so we decided to leave South Florida; in less a month, we packed up our stuff, gave notices to our jobs and turned in the keys to our apartment.  The 3-day drive was emotional and exhausting and, in a way, exhilarating.  S drove with his dad in our 16-foot moving van, towing his car, and I drove my Impala, with my cats in their deluxe carrier in the back seat, meowing most of the time.  I was tired and I was cranky; I was sad and cautiously hopeful. But I was out of this place that had nearly suffocated me.

Feeling reflective, I’ve been looking back on photos and writings.  I see a different person than the person I am now.  In the past year, I have sometimes felt disappointed in myself that I didn’t explore more, adventure more, or embrace it more – I see photos of people I knew in Florida, adventuring and traveling, and wish that I could have done things differently.  But the truth is that I just couldn’t: I couldn’t engage any more than I was because I felt so broken, so lonely; I couldn’t seek out new adventures because I was maxed out on experiencing new-ness; I couldn’t even enjoy the people who came to visit me from my home because I was so anxious about when they would leave again.

Upon starting my new job in January 2018, back at the hospital I had left when I initially moved to Florida to be with S, colleagues asked about my time in Florida: Why did you move back? Did you like it there? What was it like? I spoke generally about my experience: “It wasn’t for me”, “I missed home”, “I’m glad to be back”.  Every time I gave one of these short, curt answers, I felt dread that my time in Florida was useless and desperately hoped that I someday could look back on the experience with some sort of fondness.  A mentor once said to me that you can choose to learn from even the worst situation, and thats what I wanted.

In recent months, I’ve began to describe the experience more honestly.  I’ve also began having nightmares – that I’m back in Florida, that I’m lost in the place I worked for there – and the more I talk, and the more dreams I have, the more I realize the great impact that this chapter had on my life.  And in beginning to share and process, I’m finding that the feelings of fear and depression are dissipating.

The view during my commute in South Florida
The view I have now. 

I’m certainly not done processing; many of my experiences in Florida come back to me regularly, but I’m getting there.  I’ve surrounded myself with family and friends, found an employer that I feel is in line with my own morals and values, and have begun to find hobbies that get me out in the community.  We are still adjusting to life here of course – we’ve somehow lost much of our winter clothing and S still hasn’t found a job that is as fulfilling as the job he left in Florida.  We are just doing life together, with our friends and family close by, in the place that we love.

Welcome, 2019. I’m ready for you.

 

Letter to an Addict

*This article contains references to addiction, violence and sexual abuse and may be triggering to some readers.

 

My dear friend,

I am writing to tell you that you are loved.  

I know you feel like the world is against you.  I am sad and I am angry that you made the choice you did, again.  I wish you would’ve reached out for help, or told someone you were struggling.  I wish you wouldn’t have turned to that needle again, but I don’t understand, I guess can’t understand, and so I will just keep loving you.  

I know you’re hurting.  Or, I should say, I can only imagine how much you’re hurting.  You’ve lived a whole life of hard and hurt, and that’s only what I’ve seen on the outside.  I know that you’ve experienced loss that most people can’t even imagine. I know that you learned that violence was an effective way to be heard, that love means passion, and that sometimes passion hurts.  I know that people used you, when you were too young and innocent to know that no one deserves to be used. I know that you found that the needle takes away pain when it feels like there’s no way out.

I also know that you’ve fought for your life, for your whole life.  

Please don’t stop now.  

I hope that you can someday know that you are worthy of support and that you are deserving of all of the things that might help you to heal.  I hope that someday your family, your son, your life will bring you more joy and comfort than the needle ever can. I hope that you can someday see that you are greater than this disease called addiction.  I hope that, someday, you find peace. Until someday, I will hold these hopes.

And I hope that you remember, through whatever comes next, please remember that you are loved.

 

“Addiction is a complex disease, often chronic in nature, which affects the functioning of the brain and body. Addiction can be effectively prevented, treated and managed by healthcare professionals in combination with family or peer support.” — Center on Addiction (https://www.centeronaddiction.org)

“Repeated drug use changes the brain, including parts of the brain that enable you to exert self-control. These and other changes can be seen clearly in brain imaging studies of people with drug addictions. These brain changes explain why quitting is so difficult, even if you feel ready.” — National Institute on Drug Abuse (https://www.drugabuse.gov)  

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for information and resources.  (https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/)

Clarity

2 weeks ago S and I were packed up and on our way to the airport to catch a flight back ‘home’ to the Midwest for a family wedding.

Okay, the packing up wasn’t quite that easy… Hurricane Irma was headed for Florida and so not only were we packing for a trip, we were also packing the cats into airline-approved carriers, preparing our apartment the best we could, and purchasing last minute supplies.  It was hell.  This was the second time in year (we left in October 2016 because the path of Hurricane Matthew was unclear) that we were fleeing our home and not knowing what we would return to.

Fast forward a hectic 48-hours: we made our flight, arrived at my in-law’s home, and were relaxing in the perfect fall weather.   It was g.l.o.r.i.o.u.s… a welcome break from the pre-hurricane humidity and heat.

The first night I was home, a best friend gave birth to her first baby and invited me to visit her in the hospital.  I was so honored to be invited into this intimate space and to be able to meet brand new Baby R.  Our other friend joined us there and it was such a wonderful reunion.  In the year that S and I have been gone, both of these women have endured pregnancy and given birth to beautiful baby girls, adding two new little loves to our group.

The family wedding was wonderful.  We caught up with old friends and family members, answering lots of enthusiastic questions, like “I love Florida, isn’t it great!?”, “Don’t you love the weather!?’, “Do you know what an adventure that is!?”, “How’s your work?” and “I bet you don’t miss Midwest winters, do you?”.  The short is this: I wish I did; I’m always hot; It should be; I miss my old one; and yes, I really, really do!   Not the answers people want to hear.. but I wanted to be honest.. and, in conversations with S later, I learned that he answered as honestly as he could too.  We didn’t hide anything in pleasantries; no more “it’s great” or “it’s been a big change” just to move the conversation along.

Over the past few months, S and I have come to the conclusion that we do not want to stay in FL forever.. or even for more than a couple of years.  It’s just not our place.  So we have began discussing other places that cold be our place: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Colorado.  Our bedroom wall is covered in pro/con lists, information on cities in each of those states, and ideas of things we want in a new home.  We’ve talked to family and friends and colleagues.

And then we got stuck in Michigan for 10 days.

Due to Irma, our flight back to Florida got canceled and, due to the thousands of people trying to get back, our flight couldn’t be rescheduled for a week.  So, we scheduled drinks with friends, dinners with family and even met up with old colleagues.  It was filled with reunions, community, and comfort; it was laughter and tears; it was “I’ve missed you”s and “no, really, how are you”s.

Everything we have been missing, needing, craving… was right there.

It’s not as if nothing has changed in our year away – babies have been born, weddings had, houses bought and new jobs acquired – but even so, our people were there, welcoming us back, happy to have our company.  It’s been a long time since we’ve felt we belong.  And it was so good.

It’s suddenly become very clear where our place, our home, is: it is with people who bring us comfort, and with people who we can offer comfort to; it is with people we can celebrate with, and with people we can grieve with; it is in a culture we know and understand and feel comfortable in; and it is back in the Midwest.

Almost instantly, it wasn’t a question of where we should go. It is a question of how soon we can get there.

The Power of Kindness

A colleague of mine, let’s call her Lynne, recently shared with me that she is leaving this branch of our company and relocating to another office across the city.  I had been hearing stirrings of this and had been having anxiety since the second word began to spread, but couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I was having this reaction.  I’ve worked for the company for only 9 months.  I work with Lynne intermittently – a couple of times each week, or so – and it’s not like we have become close friends.  But I could not get it out of my head, that I might have to work at the company without her, and then she confirmed it, and my stomach dropped.

Where was this reaction coming from?

About a year ago, my partner and I relocated from our home in the Midwest to Southern Florida and the adjustment has been hard. To say the least.  The cultures in the respective areas are completely different and, as I work in public service, directly with members the community, I have had to learn new ways to greet people, to communicate, to interact.

If you’ve ever tried to learn something new, you know that it can be exhausting to get up and try again, remember that one thing, and (to be frank) fail over and over again at the new thing you’re trying to learn.

So what is it about Lynne’s leaving that has created such a reaction in my core?

What I know about Lynne is that I can ask her any question, bring her any concern, and she will try to understand.  What I know about Lynne is that when someone makes  a mistake, she doesn’t make fun – she helps to make it right.  What I know about Lynne is that she shares her knowledge with those around her in a way that helps people to learn; that she is humble and soft-spoken when it matters, instead of boastful and self-serving; that she is welcoming  and open-minded, rather than exclusive or superior.

What I know about Lynne is that, above all things, she is kind.

Lynne’s kindness has meant the world to me over the past 9 months.  It has kept me from falling apart some days, and I am going to miss her kindness.  I don’t know how long I’m going to live in this city, or how long I’m going to work at this company.  I don’t even know what I am having for dinner. But I know that I can continue to seek out kindness in others, to encourage it, foster it, thank them for it.  I know that I can commit to being kind.  Because we could use more kindness in our world anywhere we can get it.

 

 

 

27 Goals for my 27th Year 

In just a few days I will celebrate my 27th birthday.  I’m glad to be leaving 26 behind – it was a year of trying hard to be brave (moving across the country), facing fears (exploring a new culture) and firsts with S (moving in together), but it was also really lonely (moving across the country), really uncomfortable (exploring a new culture) and really REAL (moving in together).

Nonetheless, I believe in celebrating birthdays, so here are 27 things I want in my 27th year:

  1. Cut out things that make me unhappy.
  2. Learn to say ‘no’ to things that I know won’t add to my happiness.
  3. Be proud of the boundaries I set for my happiness (and stand by those boundaries!).
  4. Do more of what makes me feel good.
  5. Be proud of doing the things that make me feel good – even if people think they’re weird, even if people think they’re stupid.
  6. Ignore people who think my “good things” are stupid.  That’s stupid.
  7. Focus on getting stronger, rather than getting thinner.
  8. Embrace whatever my “stronger” or “getting stronger” body looks like, simply because it’s mine.
  9. Release myself of other people’s unhappiness – it’s not my job to fix it.
  10. Remind myself, kindly, when I forget that it’s not my job to fix it.
  11. Release myself of regret from past mistakes or failures.
  12. Actually, don’t even call them failures.. call them “lessons learned”.
  13. Embrace the place I’m in  –  wherever that is: try the language, do the activities, jump in (the Atlantic Ocean).
  14. Also, embrace the suck  –  acknowledge that, even though this is where I am now, this isn’t where I’ll be forever.  Take comfort in that.
  15. But don’t wallow in the suck – this place isn’t for me, make a new plan, move on.
  16. Keep being brave – if this place isn’t the place for me, explore someplace else.
  17. Be honest, stay true, do the kind and right thing – even when it’s not the popular opinion.
  18. Just be kind – before anything else – because we all need kindness.
  19. Most of all, be kind to myself.
  20. Keep facing fears – keep trying to reach out to make connections, keep trying to find places to fit and love.
  21. Build up a bit of a skin – every attempt to make friends and find places to fit won’t be successful.  That’s okay.
  22. Adventure!  Small adventures, big adventures, whatever – just adventure.
  23. Try new foods, or experience cultural foods – a small adventure.  Quesadillas and spicy shrimp tacos will always be available.
  24. Travel – leave the country for the first time!  Travel to the place we might move next.  Travel home.  Travel to the next town over.  Travel anywhere.
  25. Get that tattoo I’ve been wanting for 2 years.
  26. Paint my nails – painting nails used to be so relaxing and meditative for me, but I’ve gotten away from it.
  27.  At the end of 27, focus on what I did well this year. ♥

 

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In a conversation with a good friend today about my struggles to adjust to South Florida, feeling lonely and missing the familiar, she said something that I found extremely sobering:

“I know that stuff is important, but the cost is your happiness.”

_____________________

I’ve always been a career-focused, forward-focused, movement-focused (FOCUSED) type of woman.  I’m not one to be stagnant or “wait and see” or “figure it out” – I don’t even like to be in the same room as people like that because I just can’t function that way.  The ambiguity makes me anxious and uncomfortable and craving an answer.

[In 7th grade, I was quite unhappy after not making the cheerleading team (twice), so I spent the next summer creating my own training program, working nearly every day to improve my flexibility, jumps, and motions.  That fall I made the middle school squad – I was so proud.  By my sophomore year of high school, I was on the varsity team and during both seasons of my senior year, I was captain of the varsity team.  I have always refused to take no as an answer.]

______________________

After moving to Florida with S and being faced with, what felt like, pitfall after pitfall, I fought hard to make this place work.  I read books, I reached out, tried to meet people and make friends, tried to focus on my career, tried to think of this place as just a “temporary home” in order to ease the pressure I felt.  But it’s been clear that I’m not settling in the way I hoped.  And so S asked if I wanted to try someplace else.

I’ve been so focused on making it work here, that, while I have fantasized about going someplace else, I didn’t think it was really an option right now.  But S has opened that door for me.

Suddenly the pressure (specifically the pressure I’m feeling to decide about a 5 year contract at my company) doesn’t feel quite so high.  I also am acutely aware that I have to wipe the phrase “I have to ___” from my list of excuses  – because I don’t have to do anything.

So, is it a failure if I couldn’t make it work here?

Can I “refuse to take no for an answer” by rejecting a lifestyle or location that isn’t making me happy?

 

Tethered to Home

Tethered to Home: A reflection of exploring new and missing old. 

 

I am pulled back like the hard snap of a rubber band;

Pushing forward, stretching, seeking the new, before being yanked backwards yet again.

 

Tethered, I am reminded, to what I left behind,

No matter how hard I tried to charge ahead.

The advance was bogus anyway, right?

Fake it ’till you make it, right?

Because I am tethered.

 

Sometimes I am thankful,

Because I’ve reached too far into the new, so far,

And I crave the astern.

I grasp for the tether, feeling my way blindly,

Because this is all unfamiliar.

The tether gives me relief,

Comfort,

A moment to catch my breath.

 

And as soon as I catch my breath, I am thwarted.

I wanted growth, evolution, transformation.

I wanted to make it.

On my own.

Without the tether.

 

I can’t be tethered forever,

Can I?

 

So I lean forward again, into the new.

But perhaps more slowly this time,

Inflating little by little.

Expanding the new, little by little,

And checking behind me,

Because the tether is there if I need it.

Home is there if I need it.

 

via Daily Prompt: Tether

Homesick

What do you do when you feel homesick, disconnected, far away?

Really, I want to know.  Because I don’t have any good answers today.

I figure I can embrace it (#lovewhereyoulive), distract myself and push it away or wallow in it.  I briefly think of calling friends from home, but this is just public wallowing.  I’m a little tired of trying to embrace South Florida (because it feels like I’ve tried and tried and tried).  I realize that feeling ‘home’ doesn’t develop overnight, but today I’m over it.

[I’m going to warn you right here that this entry doesn’t come to any conclusion about what the answer is.]

So in my wallow-ness, looking for some sympathy, I google “living in wrong place”:

Laura Donovan writes about her realization that NYC was not the place for her: “I realized then that NYC had turned me into the absolute worst version of myself”, she writes.  Donovan writes that you know you’re living in the wrong place if:

  • You’re always dressed wrong
  • You hate the weather
  • You always want to get out
  • Everything angers or upsets you
  • You blame all of your problems on the city
  • You don’t fit in with the culture
  • It doesn’t offer your favorite food
  • You hate the transportation situation
  • The benefits don’t outweigh the downsides
  • You’re always wondering what the heck you’re doing with your life

OUCH.  Thanks for the gut punch.  The lines about hating the weather made me laugh because this has been my complaint from day 1 – we moved into our apartment on a 95* day in August, and because S (a wildlife biologist) works outside in said heat and I work in an air-conditioned building, I have nothing to complain about.

But the cultural aspects have been so, so difficult for this Midwesterner to adjust to.. “Some thrive in cities like NYC, but I was a mess there”, says Donovan.  She’s right on point here – sometimes I think the no-rest, party-hard, in-your-face, focus-on-glitz-and-glam culture in South Florida is slowly driving me crazy.  What’s been particularly hard is realizing that some people really love this city – my work colleagues, many who are natives, love this culture – they seem energized by it, excited to be a part of it.  And I just don’t get it.. 

Grace Edwards writes that “living in the wrong city for your lifestyle and personality can steal your peace, negativity effect your career mobility, social options and finances”.

She says you know you need a new city when:

  • You need a different pace
  • The weather is killing you
  • Local activities bore the hell out of you
  • Your career can’t thrive where you are
  • The people suck
  • The housing prices are astronomical
  •  You can’t stand the commute
  • You’ve always wanted to move but are too scared

One thing I’m proud to report is that I don’t feel afraid to move again – we moved once, across the country, away from everyone we knew, and it didn’t work out.  And we survived.  This outcome, while less than I had hoped for, at least makes me feel resilient.

But I often feel that the people suck.. and that’s a shitty realization.  It’s not that I feel the people here are less or that the people from where I’m from are better, it’s just that I often feel that the people here are choosing to be rude or inconsiderate or selfish, and so it’s hard to have unconditional positive regard for the people I’m surrounded by, as experience has shown me otherwise.

Emma Lord reflects that sometimes a change means moving to a new city, state or timezone, but sometimes a change just means moving to a different area of the same place.  She says that “you know yourself well enough to know when you are in the right place, and when it might be time to consider a major change”

Lord’s list of “signs it’s time to move on” are:

  • You get major FOMO living where you live now
  • You went on a trip and were sad to leave
  • There are too many bad memories attached to where you live
  • You are constantly asking your friends who moved away what it’s like
  • You are hesitant to make long term commitments where you live now
  • You’ve talked about moving before
  • You have major road rage where you live now
  • Your career goals would be better served elsewhere
  • You want to be closer to your family
  • Or, you want to move further away from your family
  • You don’t agree with the points of view for your state
  • You are too hot/cold or can’t take the weather anymore
  • You just need a change

Oh man, I totally have FOMO.  I have been brought to tears at the thought of missing my friends getting engaged, have babies, and move on with their lives – because I imagined doing all those things with them – I expected to be there for all of it.  And then I expected to still be a part of it even though I wasn’t physically there.  Don’t get me wrong, I send the new mommies and babies all kinds of obnoxious gifts and visit when I can, but it’s just different.  And here’s the kicker – I also have fear of them missing out on my life.

I love that Lord brings up that it can be exhausting to consistently feel like you’re fighting when it comes to culture or opinions of a city – “although I’m all for sticking around and fighting the good fight where it most needs fighting, it can be too upsetting to live in a place where people have drastically different views than you, or where you’re surrounded by mindsets and moral codes that feel unshakably problematic to you”.  PREACH, girl!  I have been feeling this a lot lately – like I can’t beat ’em, but I can’t join ’em either because it’s against my moral code.

I can identify with a lot (okay, most) of the thoughts the authors have listed as reasons to consider another city.. which is a little distressing, as S and I had planned to stay in our current city for a few years.

Still, Lord’s reflection that “Change is not as far out of reach as it can sometimes feel” brought me a little bit of comfort.

Eat Local 

Through S’s job, we met some friends who invited us out to breakfast.  They chose an authentic Cuban restaurant.  A little leery of the new-ness, we said yes.

Accepting the invitation to the restaurant accomplished a few things:

  • Building relationships with new friends
  • Eating local and supporting the local economy
  • Exploring the area
  • Existing in the culture of our city

We met these friends through S’s work and felt liked we clicked with them right away.  But even so, making friends is like dating again for the first time – it’s awkward, embarrassing and anxiety-provoking.  These friends were relaxed and knew the area, and so we asked for their ideas about where we should meet, with the caveat that we wanted to try something unique.

Cuban toast and cafe con leche (I’m told I ate the toast incorrectly.. can you eat toast incorrectly?).

We met at a local cuban restaurant and tried the local cuisine – cafe con leche (strong, strong, strong coffee with milk), cuban toast (flat hot bread with butter; the taste would remind you of sourdough), and croquetas (ground ham and cheese coated in breading).  On our way out, I grabbed a pineapple soda (my favorite thing of the morning).  The food was unique in flavor, texture and ingredients.

I loved watching the people come and go from the restaurant – many who appeared to be of Cuban descent and most appeared to be locals/regulars.  It wasn’t my cup of tea (er.. strong coffee..) but it was worth the trip.

After leaving the cuban restaurant, we headed downtown because our new friend had heard about a gelato place she wanted to try.  We parked a few blocks away and walked the short distance to the shoppe.

There is nothing as good as gelato on a humid, 98* day.

Can you live off gelato?  Because.. WOW!

This place was run by an Italian family.  The waitress made a comment about how she was still learning the language -her Italian accent was heavy and she was sometimes difficult to understand.  It was so refreshing and relieving to encounter someone else, albeit different, who was adjusting.