We got a kitten. 

We had cats when I was a kid but I don’t really remember them ever being this small or active or requiring this much attention. My mom probably does. 

Last Saturday, the boy and I brought home our first eight week old baby kitty. Well. My first eight week old. He raised his now seven year old cat from about that age. We named the tiny black hairball Obi-Wan and he’s been hanging out in our room 24-7 with a few very supervised breaks to meet his three older sisters. 

I have an absurd amount of respect now for anyone that raises a human infant. This kitten keeps me up all night. His accoutrements cost $100. He’s already got an eye infection that requires daily attention and I need to buy medicine for. He meows at the top of his lungs if you leave him alone for more than fifteen seconds. He eats stuff he shouldn’t if I’m not paying attention. I worry that when I do manage to fall asleep at night, I’m going to accidentally roll over and smush him. He hasn’t destroyed any of my stuff or peed on the floor yet but I imagine it’s only a matter of time. 

And at least with cats you get to leave for a few hours and run to the post office and get a haircut and have lunch with your friend. With human babies that is significantly less possible. 

Jeez. 

This has been an observation of the difficult of raising small anything and my repeated respect for anyone (looking at you, mom) who has more than zero human babies. 

ALSO LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS UGH. 

I followed my dreams and I made it through 49 days: a story about being poor and the concept of a calling

I hated my last job. Besides the remarkable level of boredom that comes with waiting for a phone to ring for eight hours, the incompetent management and poorly organized department made me loathe walking in there every day. I eventually got to the point where I was sitting at my desk reading Batman comics all day because they weren’t going to stop me and I didn’t have anything better to do. And also I made pretty good money and there was unlimited free coffee and popcorn and a full gym and pool in the building.

Last Christmas, one of our cats started getting sick. Really sick. She wasn’t eating, she was lethargic, she couldn’t hold her head up, she would throw up at the mere smell of food. She came down from 10 pounds to 6. When you’re a cat, losing nearly half of your body weight is basically a death sentence. But $1200, an esophageal tube, and thrice-daily gruel feedings through a syringe later, she’s okay! She’s doing much better. Actually she’s spoiled as hell and she has me and the boy wrapped around her little paw finger because she almost died and she gets whatever she wants.

I digress. Since the boy worked an hour away by train and I worked 11 minutes away by car, it fell to me to come home early every day, wrap her up in a towel, and dispense the daily medications and attempt to get some food into her without also decorating my entire living room with it. I fell in love with it. Animal healthcare. This is it. I’m going to do something that matters and I’m going to hang out with critters that I like infinitely more than humans and someday I’ll go to vet tech school and this is IT, man.

Due to my charming personality and ability to clean up just about any dog bodily fluid without throwing up, I got myself a kennel job. I started on March 21st.

It’s May 8th and yesterday I started job hunting again. Because, as it turns out, living on $11.50 an hour is ridiculously hard. I don’t make enough to pay all my bills but I do make too much (about $80 too much actually) to qualify for social services in this state. Our fridge is empty because I can’t go grocery shopping and the boy doesn’t have time. I’m going through some really scary health stuff right now that’s 1) forcing me to only work half-days at work and zero money is worse than eleven money and 2) is going to require some expensive testing to resolve. If it can be resolved. Nobody’s quite sure yet. My phone bill comes out today and when it does, I will have 21 cents to last me the rest of this week. I need to buy food for my cats. I need to pay my car payment. I have to come up with rent for next month.

You always hear “follow your dreams, the money doesn’t matter” or “the money will come.” They don’t tell you about the part in the middle before the money comes where the work is great but you can’t pay any bills off with loving your job.

It’s now May 10th. I’ve had two phone  interviews for a company I’m really excited about and they seem to be really excited about me. They asked me to officially come in and meet everybody and make sure I’m a good fit for the team, and that’s usually a good sign. Plus it’s in the city and that’s super exciting. I’m letting my hopes be high but I’m not counting on anything quite yet.

As my psychiatrist pointed out, I couldn’t have picked a field with more emotional triggers for me if I tried. She was absolutely correct. Even beyond those, I’ve had a really hard time accepting this decision to move on. I thought I’d finally figured it out. What I Was Gonna Be When I Grew Up. But I’m starting to learn that there isn’t really a final answer. No mystical wizard is going to appear out of the shadows and tell me, “Yes, this time you’re right. This time you have finally landed upon the thing that you should do.” The religion I grew up with talked constantly about ‘calling’ and so I figured I would eventually find mine and Just Know. That never happened. (Needless to say, I’m a pagan now and I’ve had about forty callings in the last decade.) In the end, this is all up to me. Yes, I have what amounts to a corporately useless college degree but I loved getting it and I worked really hard and I learned a lot of really important skills. I landed a job in the IT world because my resume had the word manager on it and no other reason and so for the last five years I’ve worked in technology even though I was never quite convinced that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

I don’t know if I’m supposed to be doing anything, actually.

Something else came up recently that I’m not ready to talk about yet* but it gave me a different perspective. The work itself doesn’t have to be magnificent or world-changing if the reason you’re doing it is magnificent. And magnificence is not limited to curing cancer or ending slavery or solving global warming. Small-scale magnificence is a real thing and it is so important to be able to recognize it.

All of that ramble is to say at least I tried. I learned some stuff about myself (I do actually need enough money to live on, I still don’t like big dogs, I like having nice things and good food to eat) and in the end, this didn’t work out. The next thing is just beyond the riverbend and I’m ready to get to it.

 

*Mom, I’m not pregnant.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. 

I wrote this on my phone, so sorry if the formatting is screwy. 

In 2014, I got my first retail job. One side effect of that was working a ten hour shift on Black Friday. So after driving back to Ohio to have Thanksgiving with my family, I promptly turned around and headed back to Chicago. 

Shortly before exit 123 on I-65, I hit black ice and lost control of my car. At that rate of speed, I don’t think steering into the skid would’ve done anything at all. My car slammed into the concrete supports for an overpass. The impact blew out most of the windows and dented the drivers side door shut. My glasses flew off, the plastic airbag cover cut my neck, and I promptly went into shock. 

Fortunately, someone else had recently left the road (purposefully) and their pickup truck was parked where they could witness my accident, get me out of the car (I thought I couldn’t get out because the door wouldn’t move), and talk to my parents on the phone to let them know what had happened. 

Anyway, the tow truck driver who came to rescue my poor car was also an EMT and he checked me out and decided I didn’t need to go to the hospital (wrong). I ended up going to the doctor anyway a few days later due to headaches. They diagnosed me with tension headaches and sent me off with some narcotics. So I went back to work. I went to class. A solid week, I functioned normally. And I worked in an Apple Store. It was crazy busy and loud 100% of the time, especially right before Christmas. But the headaches didn’t stop. So I went to a different doctor. And yes, I did have a concussion. 

After a week of laying in the dark listening to Harry Potter audiobooks on extremely low volume and eating meals delivered by my college friends, I was better. Panicking, sure, because I had to take incompletes in every single class and this was the fall of my senior year. But better. 

Since then, I’ve had trouble remembering things. My vocabulary isn’t what it was. I have to write everything down. I have to get all instructions at least twice. My routine in the morning has to be exactly the same every day or else I forget important things like my meds. Yesterday I spent 20 minutes in the cat food aisle at Petsmart reminding myself over and over “seafood pate” and I still managed to take home the wrong stuff. It was like I looked at the cans I picked out and the labels said seafood pate and then by the time I got home, they had changed to grilled seafood. Fortunately our wee beasties will eat just about anything and didn’t find the texture change too off-putting to stuff their faces. 

I spend a lot of my time feeling really really stupid. Brain damage is a big scary term but sometimes I wonder if that’s what happened. I used to have a mind like a steel trap and I really don’t anymore. 

There are alternatives, of course. I’ve read that this is a common symptom of anxiety because my brain is basically in overdrive 100% of the time and details tend to slip. It could also just be chronic distraction. Yes, I am blaming society (haha). But seriously, I can’t keep up with the amount of stuff there is to pay attention to. Twitter is my political news (I read NYT and the Guardian), Facebook just takes up space, Snapchat is the best way to stay in touch with my teenage sister because that’s what the kids do these days, Reddit is just a conglomeration of everything. I work ten hours a day. I just can’t keep track of everything but I wonder if trying has caused some unbalance in my brain. 
All of this is to say that I think I need to give myself a break. So far that looks like giving up Facebook for a month. Maybe longer. Whittling down my Twitter follow list. Deleting Reddit. I’ll take a book to work to read on lunch instead of browsing the internet. I’ll find some mindfulness exercises to do. And I’ll plan to write (here or elsewhere) every day. Truth is I might never get back to where I was. The old noggin might have been hit just a little too hard. But I can still try. 

On Chasing Dreams and Blah Blah Blah

Has it really been a year and a half since I posted here last?

Sorry, loyal following. (Sornt)

Relevant things to know going forward.

  1. I quit Apple October of 2016 and almost immediately found myself employed at a local MSP (basically contract IT).
  2. One of our cats got very sick around Christmas of 2016 and ended up requiring surgery, extended hospitalization, an esophageal tube for feeding, and medications multiple times a day. Since the bf works an hour away by train, her care and nursing fell to me and in the process of all that, I discovered a desire to pursue veterinary medicine and so promptly applied to school, got in, quit my job, and got a job at a clinic. Posts following will be regarding that particular journey, because there’s a certain bittersweetness to actually caring about your job.

 

I wrote something about love a while ago. Something about how the reason we love love stories so much is they never get into the nitty gritty things of life. You get the wooing and the passion and the honeymoon phase but so rarely do you get the dirty socks and the grocery shopping and the mouthwash in the sink and the silly petty fights over changing the DADgum toilet paper roll. Following your dreams is kind of like that, at risk of sounding cynical. Maybe it’s different if you get to be Taylor Swift (plot twist: I am not Taylor Swift) but nobody tells you about the monotony or the physical exhaustion from being on your feet all day or the bruises from large scared dogs not wanting their nails trimmed or the heartbreak of accepting a tiny cat body from a pet dad who woke up that morning to find that his companion had crossed over the rainbow bridge.

I’m writing all of this now because today I had to come home sick and the thing about being an hourly worker is when you’re not at work, you don’t get paid. And sometimes when you do get paid, it’s not enough to pay for everything you need it to pay for. In the last few months, as I told people I was voluntarily taking a 50% pay cut to abandon the IT world and instead care for ailing kitties and dogs all day, the constant refrain was “well, as long as you’re happy, the money doesn’t matter.”

Y’all, the money matters. I’ve had a better time at work in the last two weeks than the last five years put together. I feel like I’m doing something that actually matters in the grand scheme of things and that’s important to me. But y’know what else? That doesn’t pay my rent or my phone bill or my medical bills or put gas in my car or feed my cats or keep my electric on.

There is not at all a point to this post tonight. I’ve just been applying for very unfortunately scheduled jobs this entire day and I’m tired and I’m going to be tired for a long time.

But I got to hold a two week old kitten yesterday so I think everything’s gonna be okay.

 

A Letter To the Administrators of Providence Extension Program in Mason, Ohio

There is a distinct possibility that time and anger have exacerbated my memory of my days at PEP.

I remember the first two years being okay. I remember the day I teased Max for not knowing when to turn his paper over and it somehow came out obnoxious and grating. I remember playing basketball in study hall, back when people were allowed to sit together. I remember a sleepover with Danielle and Alyssa, laughing ourselves silly until 4am watching Youtube videos of squirrels drunk on fermented pumpkin. I remember my 17th birthday when the two dear friends I had left made a crosstown scavenger hunt for me that ended in a surprise gathering at the theater for a showing of Sherlock Holmes.

And I remember, at least vaguely, the night a few weeks after our tenth grade year ended, when a person that I thought was one of my best friends opted to tell me over text and the course of several hours that I was one of the most hated members of the (very small) class. I still carry a terrible fear of abandonment that started that night. Six years ago.

And that was the night I started cutting.

Junior year was the beginning of the end. Senior year was the end. I don’t remember what all happened because I wasn’t sober for most of it. Don’t blame my parents for that. They did try. I remember coming to class smelling of cigarettes, forced by a rhetoric teacher who treated us like toddlers to give improv speeches about what finally meeting Jesus would be like, as if I, a suicidally depressed teenager had any concept of what a happy life after death looked like. I left that class in tears. And I’m sure that nobody really thought, “she can’t imagine what being loved by Jesus is like because she’s so sad and lonely.” More, “Wow, can’t even get through a 60 second speech. Way to be.” That same teacher told me one time that if I needed her, if I needed somebody to talk to, that she was there, and the one time I asked for it, the one time I tried, she didn’t answer.

I knew she was a busy mom with two kids. But you know what you shouldn’t try and do if you can’t actually do it? Promise to throw an attention-starved teenager a shred of hope.

I remember one time I was hanging out in study hall, messing around with my younger sister. I stole one of her shoes and ran across the gym, near the table where the administrator of PEP Mason was chatting with the parent monitor of the day. A boy from her class (so at least five years younger than me), charged across the gym, came at me from behind, and shoved me so hard I hit the floor and slid. In front of the administrator of PEP Mason and the parent monitor of the day.

Who both looked up at me, made eye contact, and went back to their conversation.

Yes, let’s teach the young Christian men that putting their hands, even jokingly, on a woman who’s not expecting or inviting it is okay.

Let’s teach the young Christian women that there is, in fact, nobody in their corner.

You gave me a history teacher that told me it was my duty as a female person to get married, make my husband happy, and have babies.

You gave me a history teacher that told me asking questions was the arrogance of youth and used his precisely 120 minutes a week to attempt to brainwash us all against the evils of rock and roll and feminism. Who one time decided to wax poetic on the “ideal American beauty” and pointed out different girls around the room as fulfilling that beauty or not fulfilling that beauty. Guess where I, a short, brown-haired, brown-eyed woman, fell on that range. Guess what telling a 15 year old girl that American men will not find her as attractive as her blond classmate has to do with history.

You gave me a rhetoric teacher that took my writing, my senior presentation, the last great joy of my life, and gave me a D for reasons I still don’t understand. My classmates who saw me give the speech were shocked. My mother, who is a sweet, kind woman, shouted “what the fuck?!” when I called her in tears after picking up my grade. I know I did good work on that project. I know I should have gotten better than a D. Especially if you’re going to give an A- to a twenty minute speech about how sunday afternoon football is emptying the modern church. That was the culmination of his six years under your tutelage? And you were proud of it?

I look back on my last two years at PEP with a kind of self-loathing horror. No, I should not have turned to alcohol. I should not have turned to cigarettes. Or started cutting. Or sneaking out. I should have done my homework. I should have slept more. I should have tried.

But also, to this day, I am stricken with anxiety.

To this day, I am faltering under the weight of a depression that, if understood by any other member of the Program, was certainly not talked about.

I leave rooms when they get too loud. I left my high school graduation for fifteen minutes to smoke a cigarette and stifle sobs against a lightpost.

I pause my workday once a week to have my Traditional Sunday Afternoon Fifteen Minutes of Hysteria in the bathroom. I drink too much, even now. And I still don’t sleep, but now it’s not because of the 5 cans of Nos I’ve had today, it’s because I ruined my adrenal glands from drinking 5 cans of Nos a day trying to stay awake for days at a time in high school because the nightmares were worse than the exhaustion.

Rarely in my time at PEP or my time at Wheaton do I remember looking at the community around me and feeling as though I could be real with them. When I was real with the people at PEP about my struggles and my suffering, I was told that I was uninvited on the senior trip because people’s mothers were not comfortable with my existence near their children. When I was real with the people at Wheaton, I was met with concerned nods and quiet “mm-hms” and no mention of it ever again, because doubting Jesus probably means temporary insanity and you’ll be back to normal by chapel on Friday, Valerie, you’ll be fine.

I assume with some acidity that there is a proper Christian way to suffer. I assume that there was some particular way that I could have presented these torturous nights that I went through that would have made my classmates and my teachers more receptive to the fact that there was a member of their community who needed something more.

Some of them had been my friends since we were kids. Best friends. The kind of friends you stay with when your parents are in the hospital with your new baby brother who turned out to have Down Syndrome. And I guess, I guess I just wish that someone had asked me if everything was okay.

And not believed me when I said it was.

Why couldn’t you all just read my mind?

And I just wish that I had known I was being selfish and obnoxious before another teenage girl felt that she needed to tell me about it. I wish I had stopped. I wish I had been a good friend.

And I’m sorry I wasn’t.

But if there’s one thing you get out of this (I assume with some acidity that my credibility was ruined when I admitted to the underage drinking), I hope it is that ignoring mental health issues, especially in teenagers, especially in Christian teenagers, is going to kill somebody someday. It almost killed me. You cannot in good conscience maintain a teacher who takes their time and authority in a classroom where they are meant to teach history and spends it criticizing the physical appearances and hopes and dreams of the teenagers, especially the teenage girls in his class. You cannot in good conscience ostracize the children in your community as soon as they behave in a way you don’t like. Mrs. Lange and Mrs. Treft, depression is not contagious. I was not selling your children drugs. Letting me go on my literally-once-in-a-lifetime senior trip would not have made either of them turn into me. And I’m not even going to touch on how you let my brother’s classmates abuse him because that is an entire other matter and today I’m just talking about me.

You voluntarily take responsibility for the education and worldview of other people’s children. And you voluntarily, repeatedly put those children in situations where their opinion is not heard and their stories of mistreatment are ignored. How many students came to you with stories about Mr. Clayton? My sister was literally removed from your school so she would never have to be exposed to him again. And yet he still works for you. You, PEP Mason, support him in his treatment of your daughters. 

I left the Church sometime in the last two years. It was gradual. One day I woke up and realized that I didn’t remember the last time I went to church. I didn’t remember the last time I’d cracked a Bible open. And I didn’t miss it. The thing about feeling terribly alone is that no matter how many times grown-ups tell you that Jesus is there for you, it doesn’t make him any more there for you at 3:30am when you’re staring at the wall for the fifth hour in a row because you can’t sleep out of fear. What was wrong with me? Did I just need to believe a little harder? Be a little less lonely? Take just one more step into the unknown? I was always told that “God was there in the darkest times,” and I’d say I had those and He wasn’t.

I lay part of the blame for that at the feet of the PEP Mason staff and teachers. There is only so many times a kid can be told that she is part of a community but only as long as she conforms perfectly to their expectations before she decides to get up and find a new community.

Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Marinkovic, you were the exceptions. Thank you for everything you did for me while I was trying to hit the finish line of high school. There were more than a few nights there when I thought I wasn’t ever going to see it. But you helped me. I still talk about you both as being hugely influential people. You saved my life. Thank you. And Mrs. Swedes, I don’t even think you work there anymore, but thank you for the unending times you tried to help me with pre-calculus, even as I skipped your class and slept through it. Even if the math never came to me, your grace has stuck with me. I studied so hard for the Wheaton math competency exam and I passed with flying colors.

So I went to two Christian colleges. I got my Bachelor’s in English Literature, no thanks to that rhetoric II teacher whose name I’ve shamelessly forgotten. I got two cats and nine tattoos. I work for Apple as a technician and I’m really good at it. I’m finally in therapy for my mental issues, which, incidentally, do go back to before high school. I drink my decaf coffee black and my occasional beer expensive. And I did quit smoking, finally. Not the kind of graduate PEP is happy to point to and say, “Look we did that,” but you know what? In a lot of ways you did.

IMG_0826

This Week’s Experiment in Adulthood

I have a very strange relationship with money and a very strange relationship with food. This combination leads to me feeling like I can’t spend money on anything (including food) but I still go buy fast food for lunch at work because I’m hungry and my job requires blood sugar. It also leads to me basically living on macaroni and cheese at home when I do bother to cook.

So last night I was hanging out with my boyfriend, who really enjoys cooking and experimenting with new foods and is just in general a food guy. We made thai pork lettuce wraps with a peach applesauce chutney that were actually kind of unbelievably delicious and also only took half an hour to prepare and cost us like 18 bucks apiece at the grocery store for the ingredients.

And I woke up this morning inspired. I remade my budget, doubled my grocery fund, quartered my “someone else cooked this food” fund, and broke out the cookbooks. Meals for this week are planned, ingredients bought, and there’s something called a fiesta nacho bake coming out of my oven in about three and a half minutes.

It was admittedly not super easy to spend $60 on food. I went to two different grocery stores to get the best prices on stuff and I did not buy anything that came prepackaged in a box.

I’m 22 and I’ve been a very anxious person for a very long time and sometimes I just have to give myself a pat on the back for being a functioning adult today.

Also I brought home paper bags and my cats are about to have a seizure they’re so excited. See below.

IMG_0497

on tattoos, music, and not being like everybody else

This is long.

When I was about…oh, maybe 14 or 16 or somewhere in there, I had this very romantic view of myself. I was special, you see. I had all these dreams of foggy-breathed mornings brewing coffee in absolute silence atop mountains. Of staring out of train windows in foreign countries and walking through cobbled streets, smiling quietly over the solitary knowledge that I didn’t belong there. I was going to live alone, maybe forever, cause I don’t need no man and I was going to be self-sufficient and have two cats and my own apartment and drink coffee, black, and think great deep thoughts and know great deep things. I was going to be Bilbo and Frodo, Lucy and Susan all tied up into one, Satine from Moulin Rouge and Christine from Phantom, green-skinned Elphaba and poetically teenage Anthony Keller.

I have had the foggy mornings (it was instant coffee) and the foreign trains (I got very lost). I have my apartment (I don’t live alone) and I drink my coffee black most mornings while my two cats yell at me for more food or more ear scratches or whatever cats are into these days. Sometimes I think great deep thoughts. I have a degree in knowing great deep things.

But.

I am not exactly what you would call special. Sure, I am special to some people in this world. My parents would say I am (hi mom!). My sister would. My boyfriend would.

When it comes down to it, I am yet another 22 year old tattooed church-abandoning college-educated American white person working full-time retail. I drink too much. I have terrible eyesight. I’m not especially artistic. I dye my hair and wax my eyebrows and sometimes I paint my nails but I’m not very good at it. I have lyrics tattooed on one of my wrists. I have angel wings on my back. In a lot of ways, I am a stumbling, stuttering cliche.

Now to the point.

When I had that romantic view of myself, I thought I was the only one who felt that way. I was “different” from “all those other people.” I had a particular relationship with Music and Adventure and Pain that nobody else did. In some ways, this is true. In other ways, it is not. All this is to say that I wish there was a way to take those abstract feelings I have about life and music and form them into tattoos and add them to me. I want to remember that I am special, even if I’m not, and I want to remember what I wanted when I was little, even if I already got it and it’s not too late to get the rest.

I wish I could go to an artist and say, “Look, here is this song. When I listen to it, I am 12 years old and sitting on a hill in a campground across from the Great Sand Dunes National Park and watching a storm roll in over the sunset to our left and the stars come out in millions to our right. I am 18, three months short of graduating high school and 100% intent on ruining my life, snowshoeing to the top of a mountain, alone, and sitting there in the silence on a fallen tree, making the decision that this world will never take my heart. I am standing, arms outstretched, at the very edge of the Aran Islands, 300 feet up with no guardrail. I am spending 48 hours alone in the woods of northern Michigan, with nothing but a tarp, two strings, a Nalgene, and my sleeping bag to keep me company when the storms come. And I need you to take all of that and put it into one picture and then put it on me. Please. Thank you.”

I used to read magazines aimed at teen girls and I would tear out all the pages that had to do with self-improvement (mostly recommended skin and hair products) and keep them in a meticulously labeled binder that I intended to someday use as  reference as I slowly became the most perfectest Valerie there ever was.

Well, I’ve given up on that idea. The most perfectest Valerie doesn’t exist and even if she did, she’d be hellishly boring. I have my tattoos because I have stories. This one’s for the panic attacks I had while I was spending my very first semester of college in a country 3500 miles away from my childhood home. This one’s for the end of my self-harm addiction. This one’s for the constant reminder that I am an adventurous person and I should indulge the pants off of that. This one’s for the day I decided to let myself be an emotionally vulnerable person. This one’s for the end of my engagement and the start of the life that came after that. This one’s for the day that I realized that I was less Lucy, more Aravis. This one’s for the summer I found out my brother is addicted to heroin and how I had to be something for my family that I never wanted to be. And this one is to tell me that the safe option is not always the best option.

I still cry when I listen to certain music. I still shout and gasp out loud when I read poetry because it’s just so good. I still want to be more than I am, to do more than I do, to hang onto the idea that a teeny voice in the throng can still say something worth hearing. And I have come to terms with the fact that I am not The Only One who feels these things.

It’s better this way.

Dat Wanderlust Doe

Following my graduation from college a couple of weeks ago, I moved into a new neighborhood in Chicagoland. I knew literally nothing about it beyond the fact that the rent was cheap, they allowed kitties in my apartment complex, and it was 12 minutes from work. Also my boyfriend let me know that it’s one of the less stabby areas of Chicago. So of course I was sold.

Up until a few months ago, I was counting down the days until graduation because it was also the number of the days until I got the hell out of Dodge (aka the Midwest) and frolicked off to Seattle to not be in the Midwest anymore. I miss the West. I miss hills and fresh air and walking up and down mountains just to say I did. But then I got a great job and met a nice man and heading out West to live out my Kerouackian personality flaws fell a few slots on the priority list.

This morning I was driving home and because I still don’t know how to get home from places, I had Waze guide me. And it decided, I guess, that I needed to see that Chicago has more to offer than really tall buildings and a fantastic hockey team and craft beer. Because today I got to find out that there’s a giant forest preserve 20 minutes south of my apartment that has a ton of hiking trails and fishing and lakes. It’s like somebody cut a little slice of Colorado foothills and parked it right by me.

So obviously I’m ridiculously excited about that. Like “how quickly can I acquire a tent and is camping allowed in them there hills” ridiculously excited.

But this being the year of the ass-panther, it seems to me that it’s about time for another adventure, a la Bilbo Baggins. So I’m planning a road trip. At least I think it’s going to be a road trip. It might be a plane trip. But I’m going west. Going to go visit my brother and his gal and my best friend and her frond and maybe actually finally see the Pacific Ocean.

There are two phrases that I repeat to myself a lot. One is from the Pixar movie Up and the other is from the Disney movie Chicken Little. 

Adventure is out there.

and

Today is a new day.

Comments

Hello lovely people,

I’m going back through and responding to some of the lovely people comments you’ve left me. I realize for some of these it’s been multiple weeks since you left them but chances are good that I would love to continue the conversation.

Thank you for taking the time to say things to me. That means a lot.

-T-

I’m really bad at doing this every day. It’s also hell week of my senior year of college and I have two ten page papers and a fifteen minute presentation due in the next seven days and this is my last day off work for a good long while. So forgive me.

T is for Trains. T is also for Time. Both. Both is good.

I effing hate trains. I like riding on trains well enough, except on the weekends when the Bears get their asses beat and then riding back from the city is like wading through a frat house for an hour. But trains in general. Bleh.

When I was a little kid, we lived right across the street from train tracks. Four or nineteen times a day, a train would blow through, horn blasting like the conductor had just figured out which button it was, and I would have to drop everything and plug my ears until the stupid thing went by. Sometimes we smashed pennies on the tracks. Mostly it was just kind of a pain. It did not instill in me a great love for the novelty that is trains.

Now I live right across the street from train tracks. The horns don’t bother me, if they ever even go off. No, now it’s when I’m leaving for work and a freight train has to go by at the speed of mud and I waste ten extra minutes staring into space or trying to figure out why the guy in front of me got a vanity plate that says MOR CWBL.

Or tonight, when I was driving somewhat frantically to pick up my friend who was stranded and the light would turn green…and then the barriers would go down…and just as the train went by…the light would turn red. I kid you not, this happened three times in a row. While I was sitting there quietly cursing the poor timing of the universe, I wrote this blog post.

And then I realized something.

Me sitting there bitching to myself about how the stupid train was wrecking my whole entire day was not going to make the stupid train go by any faster. In fact, it would take precisely as long as it took and then it would be gone and I could go about my business. Getting all grumpy about it didn’t make any sense. In some way, I guess I was at the train’s mercy, though the response was all mine.

There is not some perfect ending to this where I suddenly relax and let the train go by and everything’s okay. I wish there was. I’ve been up for 18 hours at this point and I am a tired, stressed out, grumpy camper. The train was a terrible inconvenience. But I think this way I can remember for next time that it’s not the end of the world if I’m inconvenienced a little as I go about my life. Maybe next time I’ll take the opportunity to just sit in the quiet for a few minutes, because I never get to do that, and collect my thoughts and prepare for the next thing. Maybe I’ll try and read the graffiti on the boxcars. Maybe I’ll finally realize that the guy’s license plate says MORE COWBELL and laugh quietly to myself for about twenty minutes.

Chances are good that you too have been terribly inconvenienced in one way or another today. It’s a pain. I know that. We all know that. But believe me when I tell you that it’s a lot easier to get past the inconvenience if you’re not sitting there stewing in how much of a GD inconvenience it is.

I have to get back to my papers now. I hope you’re all having a lovely night just chockful of cowbell.