Starting Over

A few months ago things changed for me. And before you ask, no I did not have some magic epiphany moment nor did I just wake up with some world view that provided this “change”. No, instead I had three things happen in my life that really did change the way my life would function moving forward.

In the first week of May I graduated from college with my bachelor degree. That’s right, I finished that 120+ credit hour degree that I have been plugging away at for the last four years of my life. While I think I may have actually blacked out the moment just before I walked across the stage to get my diploma until I was back in my seat with fellow graduates, it was an amazing experience that I was able to experience with my family, my best friend, and my boyfriend. I finished that degree and I will forever have that to my name.

The third week of May was a little less happy than that first week. (And yes, that is a huge understatement.) That third week of May brought the end of my long term relationship with someone who, no matter how flawed our relationship was, I thought I was going to be with forever. (Ha, don’t we all?) When he pulled out of my driveway I’m fairly confident that some piece of me shattered with the crunch of the gravel on his tires and I still haven’t quite found that piece again.

Regardless of that somewhat debilitating heartbreak, in the last week of May I moved into my very first home that I purchased by myself. Gross basement, strange carpet glued to the floor, dirt colored kitchen cabinets and all it is mine and that move out of my childhood home was a huge step for me. And at the time, just week out from what felt like the worst day, I did not feel ready to be able to deal with everything that came with home ownership.

But now it’s almost three months later and while most days I still have to convince myself that I can breathe on my own, it feels like these massive shifts in my life came at the right time. I may not know what to do about the fact that for the first time in my life I will not be starting back in school in just a few weeks, but I am moving forward and finding the things that I am passionate about again. I may be single for the first time in a long time, but I am finding that there is a difference in being alone and feeling lonely. I’m learning to embrace what I have here and now. My house may feel too big for what I need sometimes, but filling it with the sound of a close friend laughing and being real while helping me paint kitchen cabinets for hours makes it feel a little more like home.

These changes haven’t been something that I’ve enjoyed from the start, but I’m learning to love where they are taking me. This work in progress is actually starting to progress a little. And let me tell you, it feels good.

growing up

An interesting thing happens when you find yourself on the edge of adulthood. True adulthood, not just the adulthood that we think we hit when we turn 18. The mortgage, loan, buying a house kind of adulthood is exactly what I am talking about. The thing that happens when you find yourself on that brink of the “true” adulthood is that you realize just how little you know about the way the world works. Here are a few things I wish I knew when I started this whole process:

  1. There is no shame in the game when it comes to asking people you know for advice when getting a mortgage. I had no idea where to get started, and even though no everyone’s advice should be taken seriously, hearing what other people have gone through helps prepare you for the dark hole of getting a loan.
  2. Looking for a first house/apartment/property for yourself is actually kind of fun. For me, I lucked out and found a tiny starter home fairly quickly and fell in love with it.
  3. Once you find yourself in the process of getting a place on you own, the responsibility immediately falls on your shoulders and there is an unsettling amount of phone calls to be made. But once you have contacted five different home inspectors, you begin to feel like you actually know what you are looking for in a home and pest person. *queue happy dance*
  4. You get to pick all your own paint colors when you get the house of your (affordable) dreams. As in, no one can tell you to not pain your walls green and blue and yellow or whatever other color you may want to splash on those walls.
  5. There is a certain point in time when a panic attack will set in because you realize it is really time to completely move out of your childhood home. There is something about taking down those last photos and finding the little blue heart your mom painted in your desk nook to just make you question why anyone grows up. There are so many memories in that place that it is hard to peal away from it for the last time before you officially move out.

This whole process is terrifying to me, if I am being honest. I’m just trusting the process here and hoping that being a work in progress will be what pushes me through. I don’t know how anyone who is afraid of change goes does anything new like this. It all feels like a shot in the dark, a leap of faith, and the worst nightmare all while being the greatest new adventure. It’s something else. Here’s to this new, scary chapter.

Travel Throwback Thursday: Part 1

Almost ten months ago I was able to go on the trip of a lifetime with a group of classmates from my university. For fourteen days, we traveled through Europe exploring cities, landmarks, art and more surrounding World War II. It was the first plane ride for several people in our little group and certainly was the longest plane ride that practically all of us had been on.

When we stepped off the plane in Dusseldorf, we were all the farthest away from home that we had ever been. It’s almost comical to read through my journal from that first plane ride because my thoughts were all over the place. I was writing about how the plane wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be and about how it was the longest that I would spend away from my boyfriend since we had been together. At one point about six hours in to our flight I wrote, “Am I supposed to feel a certain way about going to Europe? I feel like just saying ‘I’m going to Europe’ makes me sound pretentious but I worked hard to be able to do this so I don’t think that’s fair. Maybe being on the plane this long is making me worry about things that don’t matter, like how I am ‘supposed’ to feel about being in Europe. All I know for sure is that I can’t believe we’re finally on our way” (May 12th).

I am so glad that I actually wrote in that journal every day we were gone. There are things that I had forgotten that are found in the pages of this blue notebook that I get the chance to relive because I wrote it down. Little things like how I was panicking about being the only person who had to check a bag because American Airlines had smaller restrictions than our first flight, or how empowered (and silly) my travel buddy and I felt getting to go to a local mart and pick out German junk food for dinner instead of eat out late.

My favorite part of re-reading what I wrote during that trip is to basically get to watch myself fall in love with each place we traveled. When I was writing about our little convent in France, you can practically see me fall over in love with the chiming bells in the courtyard and listening to the sound of nothing but wind through my cracked window at night. I fell in love in Europe in a way that I had never experienced love before. It was a love for the physically places I got to see and experience, a love for the people  whose stories we got to share, and a love for travel that I don’t think can ever leave me now.

It is ten months later and I still get chills when I think about stepping foot into Sachsenhausen. I still wonder who stayed in that same small room in the convent before me. I wonder who else walked down the streets of Berlin and all the lives that were changed because of the wall that our group witnessed from behind a fence. I wonder what other (then) 21 year old had taken the same path I had at Harlaxton feeling a little lost because of everything we had seen in two weeks. I wonder so much more because of that trip that I am sure that I will be forever indebted to the curiosity sparked because of those two weeks I took to go see these places while in college.

Tonight, I’m going to enjoy looking back through the rest of this travel journal.

Tomorrow, I’m going to continue to be a work of progress just trying to see as much of the world as I can. IMG_1604.JPG

Stories with Strangers: Part One

Today I met an incredibly interesting woman (at a reenactment festival no less). She was selling silver jewelry that she had made herself, all remakes of actual pieces found from the era the festival was celebrating. I visited many vendors throughout the day, but this lady immediately grabbed my attention. She had her jewelry in cases on half of her table and her work space on the other side.

At first she just smiled at me (and, being polite, I smiled back) and I looked at this basic silver medallion necklaces she had displayed, each with a single symbol on it. She told me that each of the symbols are connected to an Indian story but that she only tells the story to those who buy them. Things started getting interesting though when she began telling me about her little work space.

“See these?” she asked, pointed at a small collection of half finished medallions. “My favorite part of these events are when people stop and actually talk with me. Most start off just watching me intently while I’m working on some of these. Then some of them start asking questions about what I’m doing. A couple times today people have stayed interested long enough that eventually I just hand over the press. It’s amazing what someone can do when they take the time to learn something.”

Picking up one of the half finished medallions, I said “Do you have a lot of people interested in how you make these things?”

“Actually, working these events is what gives me hope about people. Forty years ago I learned how to make these things the same way they do when they ask about what I’m doing,” she said.

I asked her how she learned to make jewelry.She seemed surprised that I asked.

“Do you really want to know?” she asked, her eyebrows up in surprise. I told her that I am an English major in college and one of my favorite things is hearing other people’s stories. With a smile, she started in on her tale. As it turns out, she is from Arizona and when she graduated college with a degree in education, she was placed in a school on an Indian reservation teaching skills that third graders should know to the kids on the reservation. Her neighbor at the time was a silversmith and she was entranced with the pieces he was making. The man let her observe for a few days and she asked as many questions as she could think of. Then one day he told her that she just needed to go make them herself and figure the rest out on her own.

From that point on she started making pieces and selling them to those on the reservation. She said that eventually she became one of the people to go to for silver and turquoise jewelry because normally other natives would produce pieces when the produced pieces: never necessarily on a time schedule. She, on the other hand, had what she called the “white people touch” and got things done as needed and whenever they needed something from her.

She made a bolo tie for the chief and  a wrist cuff for the funeral of a boy who had been killed on the reservation and every day pieces for whoever wanted them.

This woman had continued teaching in a couple different areas for the next ten or eleven years before she just got burnt out on it.

“That’s what they don’t tell you in school,” she said, “they never teach you how to take care of yourself so you can continue to do the things you love.”

She quit education and went back to school for computer programming, all the while traveling around and learning new silver smithing techniques.

“I will tell you that this was all by choice though,” she said. “I made the choice to not have a husband or kids or any of that. I followed what I loved. I saw things that some other people would never believe. But it’s a choice and not necessarily an easy one.”

Along with her choice to not have a traditional family, she also just learned to follow her passion and at one point that passion was making ferret jewelry.

(Yes, that one stopped me up short too.)

Her booth was called “Dancing Weasel” and apparently that is the Indian name she gave herself. She is the proud “mom” to six ferrets which she also makes jewelry for. Everything she was telling me just made me want to stop looking around the festival for the rest of the day and just hang out with this woman to hear her tell stories.

When she had told most of her story about her jewelry making, she gave me permission (I think jokingly, but she was too cool not to actually write about), to tell her story.

“You can embellish it all you want,” she said, the creases by her eyes accentuated by her smile, “There’s no way to tell if anyone would believe it anyway.”

The real kicker came when she told me that she had cut off a mans head before.

Now, before you think she is some sort of murderer or crazy person, let me explain.

Apparently at some point she had gotten a position as an anatomy lab instructor and they had a lab with several human cadavers to work with. When they were “finished” their study with them she was told that the local hospital had to take care of the remains and the cremation and all that came with it. Because it was her first time in this position, she asked around and found out the the hospital would send a container for the remains and then someone would come pick it up when she was ready.

She told me she though, okay great that seems easy enough.

Wrong. When the box came, it was only a little longer than two pieces of paper placed end to end and the body? Well, it was larger than that.

“I had a really hard time with it. To be honest I wasn’t sure that I could do it,” she said.

When I pressed for what happened next, she said with a laugh, “Well, I just did it.”

“It took me a while, but once I saw it just as flesh and bones and recognized that the human soul and what made it a person was gone, I was able to see past what I had to do,” she said.

Now, this may seem like an incredible story and like something that couldn’t have actually happened, but I’m not creative enough to make this up.

Before I left her booth she took my hand in hers and told me it was a delight to talk to me and that I should never stop asking questions.

We finished making our rounds at the festival and before we left I felt like I just needed to buy one of her pieces to remember this day with. When I got back to her booth, the first thing she said was that it was my turn to tell her a story now.

I told her about how this year I was finally able to leave the US for the first time and visit Europe studying WWII. What was interesting about this part of our conversation was that she kept asking things like “How did being there make you feel?” and “What changed in you when you saw that?”. Everything she asked just made me realize that we all should be more like her, more inquisitive and curious. More open to new things and to really going for what we are interested in.

I’m not sure if any of you would even care about this encounter, but speaking to hear was the highlight of my day. She was the perfect example of how we are all works in progress and I hope that I can be at least half as interesting as she is one day.

(I also purchased a hand made ring from her while I was there. I like the ring but I love the story that comes with it more.)

noise

Recently I have made it a habit to spend a couple hours before my classes start at Panera Bread drinking tea and (hopefully) working on homework. I’m in a fiction writing course right now and for some reason being alone in a busy place like this makes me focus just a little bit more than usual. Along with getting caught up on classes that I have managed to fall behind on so quickly, I have gotten to witness this flow of life in this place of business.

Truthfully, I never would have expected to see quite so many business men meeting here during “brunch” hours, although I’m sure the decent free wifi has something to do with that fact. I also wouldn’t have assumed so many of the older generation would frequent this place, often ordering just the soup or small salad with petite cups of coffee. It’s almost reassuring to see all of these people interacting in tiny ways: glances across booths, doing the small dance around each other at the “pick up order here” area, and once that I have witnessed, purchasing the coffee of the person behind them in line just because.

Humanity amazes me. (I realize that that is probably why I study the humanities and English in college). Somehow the constant chatter of voices, the smell of coffee and baked goods, mixed with the clinking of silverware on plates just makes for a pleasant place to study. A study in literature and a study in human nature. I like it here. If I weren’t so content to just sit in this corner table by the window alone, I would think that more people need to sit here and experience what I am experiencing. It’s that feeling of being in a new place and being completely at home in it. We are all strangers, and yet we are sharing a meal or a drink with the forty other people visiting this place.

A professor of mine said that eavesdropping isn’t bad if it is for research and I’m taking the liberty here to call this study in people my own nonfiction research. Sitting here now, with feint light seeping in through the blinds in front of me, I’m content to feel at home with these strangers, drinking my hot tea with my laptop in front of me. We are all works in progress here.

End of Summer

There is something about the end of summer that always feels like it is the time for changes to happen. The start of school, the changing of the seasons, the new air breathing  life back into the house that has been stuffy from summer humidity for the past three months. For many people summer is the time for new experiences and big plans, but for me, this fall changing of the season is where it’s at.

I officially only have two semesters of my undergraduate career left. This fall semester has already seen more changes happening or falling into place than I expected but for the most part, these changes are extremely exciting to me. I have a new internship with an academic journal on campus called Field: a Journal of Arts and Science as an editor for the research committee. Two weeks into the semester and I already have two of my senior research projects at least generally decided upon (and a great partner and mentor set up for the senior capstone project). I made the admittedly difficult decision to resign from my previous position of assistant editor of the campus newspaper after looking at my goals for this year and realizing that this role was no longer a way for me to grow. I have plans in motion to hopefully start a committee to better fund-raise for international travel groups at my university. (This is especially important to me after being able to go to Europe with my campus this past May. The experience was life changing and I want more students to be able to afford to go on these trips.)

Now, not all of the change that is happening is great and I think that is just the nature of these epic periods of change. We have to take the bad with the good and just keep pushing forward. And now that I know I have genuinely good people in my life it makes me even more confident that no matter what happens as this chapter continues to unfold it’s going to be a good year.

I’m hopeful. And maybe that is what I’ve been needing the most. Hope. Maybe this work in progress isn’t over yet.

part 2: berlin

IMG_1644Outside Tacheles

 

Germany was the first stop on our two week excursion and honestly, we couldn’t have stayed in a better city. I loved every moment of it. Basically all of our time in Berlin was spent walking all over the city while we checked out different historical sites. We didn’t have a chance to look up some of these sites and buildings until we were either back at our hotel room or actually back home after the trip. One of my favorite buildings we passed on that first day was covered in graffiti and posters and honestly just caught my eye and I couldn’t stop staring. On the side of it, in giant letters, it simply said:

HOW LONG IS NOW

It wasn’t exactly posed as a question but didn’t necessarily seem like an existential sigh either. Once we were home a few of us looked it up and it it is called the Tacheles building. Apparently it used to be a large shopping complex and then switched hands pretty rapidly for a few years. The Nazis used it as a central office for the SS and was abandoned after the war. Now it is covered in graffiti and while it is still in ruins and locked up, it is a pretty awesome building to check out. My only wish is that we were able to look at the inside of it too.

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HOW LONG IS NOW

The longer we were in Berlin, the more in love with it I became. Almost unnerving at first, the quiet even in the streets was a welcome change. This was a city that had so much activity happening around us, and yet the sound of life wasn’t overwhelming like cities like New York and even Indianapolis can be. Instead there is a hum of activity constantly around you, something that pulls you outside and makes you want to explore. Even though our first day was mainly spent just walking a solid 10 miles on what seemed like the the same two roads back and forth, it was a pretty neat experience.

I could really use recommendations on what to do the next time I travel to Berlin though because we were only there for three full days and there is more to the city than what we were able to see.

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Transportation:

One thing that I absolutely loved in Berlin was the public transportation. We took just about every time of public transit while we were there: trams, the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, buses, and taxis. Even with the obvious language barrier because only a few of us knew enough German to be dangerous we all had no problem getting around during our afternoons and evenings that we had free to go off on our own (except actually in small groups because no one travels alone).

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There was only one incident where a friend and I got on the wrong tram and ended up going about twenty minutes in the opposite direction of our intended destination. At the stop we ended up getting off at we saw this store front that just had “Who Killed Bambi?” written on it. In our slightly anxious state (because we had no idea where we were) it seemed almost ominous. We got in the first taxi we saw and drove away. It wasn’t until we got back to the hotel lobby that we realized that the “Who Killed Bambi?” storefront wasn’t graffiti but instead was an actual clothing store. Other than the moment we realized we may have gotten into a vehicle that we weren’t sure if it was an actual taxi or not (spoiler, it really was a taxi) the time we spent on Berlin’s trains, trams and other transportation vehicles was seamless. We were grateful for that because traveling with a group of 16 isn’t always the easiest to manipulate.

new adventures

An introduction (?):

A few weeks late, but the first month of this summer I flew over 16,000 miles on two trips that took me to five countries and six states of the United States.

I had the opportunity to start traveling the world and in it-in a word-left me speechless. When we were staying in Berlin I was online and came across this:

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” ~ Ibn Battuta

I had written it down and forgot about it until we were staying in a convent in France and I was flipping back through that notebook. The whole time we were on this trip I had the feeling that somehow I finally had something to say and there was an urgency in being able to put words to paper. Staying in that convent was almost unreal, like time stopped and somehow being disconnected from everything else made other parts of life make sense. The bells from the church tower would ring out every hour but it never felt like time was passing. Instead, the bells were just reminding us that we are alive and with that, reminded us that we needed to act like it. Like a heartbeat, like a predictable reminder. In a way I think all of us on the trip needed the reminder.

Before I ramble more about being alive, I should get back to the experience of actually traveling for the first time. Something tells me that this blog is probably going to turn into a place for me to share stories from those three weeks until I feel that there are no more words to use to bring them to life.

From the beginning:

When we boarded that first plane-the one that would take us across the Atlantic ocean-I was terrified. It was only the second flight I had ever been and knowing that air travel is more safe than road travel was only a tiny consolation. When we finally landed in Dusseldorf, it was difficult to not be the anxiety-ridden, ground kisser as I stepped off the plane. We had a (very warm) layover before our flight to Berlin and it was amazing to know as we sat on the floor of the airport that that was the farthest away from home I had ever been. After flying through the air for basically nine hours and using a plane bathroom for the first time, I was relieved, excited, and so ready to be in Berlin and officially start this crazy new part of my life.

“He who travels has stories to tell.” Gaelic proverb

There are many more stories to be told about these weeks of my life. I know that there was more to be said in this post, but sometimes good things come to those who wait. And you, you stranger on the internet, have some stories to be told if you hang around a little while longer. I have traveled. I have come a long way to be here. I am a work in progress and I have stories to be told.

the power of a resume

When filling out the all-powerful resume as we look towards graduation and the need for a “real” job, how do we figure out what characteristics matter? Are you task-driven, friendly, and eager to please? I tend to find that these words are hardly telling of the reality that you can’t know a person until you really know them.

If you look at my resume as it stands right now, the word “organized” can be found at least once. But really, I only typed out those letters because it fit the mold that I was following offline on “how to build a resume”. Do employers actually care to know about the fact that I compartmentalize my life to the point that some days I don’t even know who I am without plugging into one of the predetermined parts of my life? Am I workplace-Allyson, school-Ally, or friend-and-family-Ally today?

Does my future employer care that sometimes being organized in my mind means that all my socks aren’t matched together but they are at least all in the same drawer in my closet? Does the ability to keep files where they are supposed to be and only lose a pen to write with once every couple weeks or so make me capable of handling the job I am applying for? Am I allowed to still keep the random assortment of items cluttered under my bed and still call myself organized?

All of these questions are crowding up in my mind as I try to sell my soul to the highest bidder for when I graduate college. I have a year left of this and already the possibilities are thoroughly underwhelming. How can my communication skills make me a better person when I would prefer to not have to use them at all? Do I really need to format my GPA to somehow reflect the type of student that I am? Will it manage to tell the human resources department that because I am capable of pulling an overnighter and still get a perfect score on the final project I am also capable of working responsible hours in their office?

We have been taught about the art of the interview and the importance of our grades and resume for our entire lives. Jobs are something that you have in high school but at this stage in life we are supposedly supposed to be working towards a career. The almighty trophy for the end of our schooling should be in reach when we walk across that stage at the end of our four year term. I just don’t know who decided that one sheet of paper decides who we are and what we are capable of.

And yet… Here I am, once again scouring the internet for tips to make my resume shine above the others. I am looking for that perfect job that allows me to hear people’s stories and write them down. I want to document the parts of history that would go unnoticed otherwise.

Here’s to looking past resumes and seeing people for who they really are. Here’s to a work in progress.

(mild) success

two weeks ago i finished something i never thought i would be able to accomplish; i ran my first 5k.

now, you may be sitting there at home thinking that 3.1 miles is nothing to celebrate. you may even be thinking that people do this all the time so there isn’t a reason to celebrate. while those things may be true, here’s where you are wrong:

i never thought i would be able to participate in an actual race. where people run. for more than two seconds. without dying.

and yet… i finished. i ran (and i’ll admit, walked some) and i crossed the finish line in five fewer minutes than i had ever completed that distance before. i sweat. i wanted to quit. i was freezing (because it’s march in indiana and the high that day was only 37).

honestly, the feeling of running up the last hill, rounding the corner, and then crossing that finish line and seeing my friend cheering me on and capturing the moment for me was indescribable.

“you are only confined by the walls you build yourself.”-andrew murphy

for as long as i can remember i have only been able to doubt the ability of what i’m capable of. negativity ran in my family and i was as prone to it as anyone. this was a milestone for me and i can’t even express how good it felt to go home that night and know that as small as it may be, i accomplished something. my only goal was to finish, and i did that.

i’m hoping that this is the trend that continues this year. my friend who is helping me get in shape is gently pushing me to set more goals. the next one is a 10k. and if i can do that, my goal is to do a 15k. and from there there is almost nothing holding me back from going for the half marathon this november. i have time. i have the desire to. i want to.

so if i follow through on the next goal of a 10k, i hope it means that by the end of this year i’ll be able to talk about making it through the big 13.1 mile push.

this is me, a work in progress. don’t give up.

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