Adulting: 8 Tips for Graduates

Adulting. verb. “To behave like an adult; to do things that adults regularly have to do.”

Megan Sugden Photography print to 8x10 (33 of 83)

Photo by Megan Sugden Photography.

Dear Andrew (and other graduates),

Welcome to the real world. I’m still not sure how you got here.

When I graduated from high school, you were a pipsqueak with chubby cheeks and shaggy hair and a propensity to laugh until you cried.

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You still laugh until you cry, and until recently, you had even longer, shaggier hair. But you also look like a sort-of adult, and you run faster than I can, and you stay up later than any of us. You’ll wear a mortarboard on Saturday, and the women in our family will cry, and you’ll be so glad to be done.

Then the fun begins.

Henceforth you must be an adult, or at least pretend to be one. Adults have to do hard things. For example, they must get out of bed even if no one forces them to do so. They must ensure that they eat, because no one else will buy bread when it runs out. They must do the laundry, at some point, maybe. Target will tell you which hangers to buy, and your advisors will tell you what classes to take. But only your oldest sister can tell you this – the random list of advice that you will probably never read (but definitely should. Oldest sisters always know best.)

  1. Learn how to cook at least one thing well. You will sometimes be asked to bring food to events. Or, perhaps, you might someday want to wow someone with some nice home cookin’. (Guys – girls are really, really impressed by men who can cook.) Have at least one recipe that you know won’t embarrass you. (If you really are hopeless, Ghiradelli brownie mix works miracles.)

 

  1. Track your spending. You really need to. I didn’t do this until after college, and I wish I would have started sooner. Seeing cold, hard numbers and realizing exactly where you throw your hard-earned cash is sobering.

 

  1. Find a hobby that is not Netflix. Binge-watching is easy and entertaining. It is not fulfilling. You will be a happier (and more interesting) human being if you step away from the screen for a while and actively participate in something. Sing. Lift weights. Paint. Yarn-bomb trees in parks. Start a paintball league. Bring back planking. Take walks after dinner. Just do something.

 

  1. Meet deadlines. You don’t run the world (yet). That means that you need to respect other people – and their time. Showing up on time and meeting deadlines makes you seem mature, which is especially valuable if you aren’t so certain that’s true. It also saves you money. Let’s be honest – no one likes late fees.

 

  1. Do not begin a new relationship in your first semester of college. In your first few months in a new place, you need time to adjust. You need time to establish a solid friend group. You need time to let yourself change and adapt to your new surroundings. Don’t spend all of your time pursuing one person and neglecting the rest of your life. You need healthy balance and other healthy relationships to be ready to date someone, and trust me, it will take all of your energy to develop those in your first semester. Make yourself at home, then work on snagging that dreamboat.

 

  1. Remember your need for community and find it. We are not meant to meander through life alone. We need community. We need people to watch movies with on Friday nights, to laugh at dumb YouTube videos with, to sit in coffee shops with. Get out of your room, to events and churches and clubs and classes, and talk to people. Take the initiative and ask someone to grab dinner, or to attend a hall event with you, or to toss a Frisbee with you. You are not bothering them or wasting their time by asking them to spend time with you. People want to make friends, generally, and you are an interesting person who is worthy of being someone’s friend.

 

  1. Do not compare yourself to the Internet. Your life must amount to more than your Instagram feed or your number of Twitter followers. Otherwise, the most enjoyment you will get from a walk around the lake or a nice latte or a brunch with friends will be the likes you get on photos afterwards. That’s a piddly amount of enjoyment compared to the quiet thrill of being present in the moment and enjoying your life as it is, not as you want people to see it. And when you get snarky and jealous over the person who’s Instagram famous, remember: do not compare someone else’s public life to your private life. They don’t post the snapshots from the nights when they are convinced they’ll be single forever, or that time they failed a test, or that argument they just had with their girlfriend, or those times when they were so homesick they could cry. We are all human. We all have terrible days, and we all have good days. Filtered pictures do not change that.

 

  1. Know that everyone has one really terrible college semester. Mine was fall semester, freshman year. I didn’t feel like anyone truly knew me, or like I would ever find my place on that big college campus, or like I was any good at anything. I literally counted the days until I could go home at each college break, and I sobbed every time I had to return. But I kept showing up (I was paying tuition, after all), and tried to form deeper relationships, and gave myself grace. And like all terrible life seasons, it got better. If you’re going through one of the nasty seasons, you will not stay there forever. Things are not hopeless. Hang in there.

 

Many blessings to you, Andrew, and to all of those headed off on new adventures. May the transitions be smooth, the chances to do laundry for free be frequent, the backpacks light, and the memories stupendous.

Adult-ish

Adult-ish. adjective. Describing a person who is becoming more mature and working towards becoming a Real, Certified Adult. When Real, Certified Adult cars are handed out is unsure: legal drinking age? Marriage? Parenthood? I’m confused. You’ll see.

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The current mystery of my universe: I am becoming an adult.

First it was the apartment. Then the sensible shoes. Then the real job, with paychecks and responsibility.

Now it’s the car.

A few weeks ago, I took the final road trip in the Nimbus 2000. I snapped a picture at the gas station before driving onto the interstate. It was awkward.

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Six hours later, we cruised into the dealership together. A test drive was waiting for me.

When I left the keys in that old green Alero, my new car smoothly accelerated onto the highway, my brother tested the Sirius XM trial, my grandpa listened from the back seat, and I felt a twinge of sadness.

There was some misplaced affection for that vehicle.

Three summers ago, I had been desperate for a car to drive to my Ed placements. This one had appeared, in need of repairs but within my very small budget. The name was fortuitous. I was rereading Harry Potter, the car was made in the year 2000, it was my first set of wheels like Harry’s first broomstick – we officially dubbed it the Nimbus 2000 on its maiden flight. The car even came with its own set of curses – a malfunctioning security sensor that randomly delayed its starting, jerky acceleration, strange groans that started coming towards the end.

But I could get myself to Target. I had my own bag of sunflower seeds in the console. Wheels were freedom.

I started driving the long road trips home rather than bumming rides that got me close enough. Harry Potter audiobook casettes and Scotty McCreery played through scratchy speakers. When my sister joined me, she would sleep across Minnesota, then we’d tell stories and pass Angie’s kettle corn across the console. When our brother was there, he put up with our chatter and we filled up the trunk.

The car didn’t start once in the winter, the last night before the boyfriend moved out of the dorms and to Washington, D.C. After I’d called my dad in a panic, she started. We drove around the neighborhood, hunting for Christmas lights, then stopped at a park. We sat on the swings, holding hands, hoping she would start again. She did. Mostly.

After the boyfriend moved, I picked him up at the airport every few months. We’d hoist his suitcase into the trunk and hug in the parking ramp. He always wore his sports coat to keep it from wrinkling, and I stashed the airport receipts with pens and lip gloss in the dash.

Things are different now.

Sometimes the long drives home have company. Sometimes my breaks from teaching don’t align with college vacations, and I spend six hours alone with podcasts. The boyfriend lives closer now. His apartment is a 28-minute trek across the city. The drive still feels too long.

The car is different now.

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It’s called the Firebolt. It’s pretty. It has a CD player. It requires consistent payments, and hopefully not consistent repairs. It starts reliably.

I don’t know what adulthood is, exactly. But it’s beginning to feel like the pursuit of reliability. Reliable income, reliable relationship, reliable car.

If that’s the case, I’m going to fail.

(We all are.)

I used to joke about the required prayers to start the car in the morning, the encouraging dashboard pat when we moved forward at green lights. I thought those would be unnecessary with an upgrade. I thought they’d be unnecessary when I got my life together.

But cars and lives that haven’t fallen apart are miracles. They sure aren’t my doing. (I’m still not convinced I could change a tire.) I can’t guarantee my shiny new car won’t rust or break down. I can’t guarantee my safety or that of those I love. I can’t guarantee my students will learn. I can’t guarantee anything. Except that I will lose control at some point.

Those prayers are still necessary.

And somehow they work. Things break down. We may wreck things. Very long detours and even longer waits in traffic may delay us. But we still arrive where we were meant to be. Maybe stressed, maybe bruised, maybe late, maybe grateful, maybe dead tired. But we get there.

That’s the mystery I won’t ever solve, no matter how adult-ish I become.

 

 

 

Surprised

Surprised. adjective. To have discovered unexpectedly; being led or brought unaware.

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Student teaching is over. After a week, I’m still blinking, looking around in wonder.

Back in November, when this last leg of student teaching was beginning, I clunked through the transition. I didn’t feel ready for new: a new school, a new group of faces to remember, a new schedule to learn, a new (earlier) start time. Everything felt overwhelming. But I had to go. So I put on a brave face and downed some caffeine and showed up.

The first day was okay. The next day was better. Then, slowly, middle school surprised me.

I grew to know the students in that windowless ELA room. Not just their names, but their personalities. Which ones should not sit in a pod together. Which ones would always volunteer answers, and which ones rarely would. I learned that one kid would like to be famous for eating the most gummy bears in a year, that most think the best teachers give out food, that some twelve-year-olds are stressed by unnecessary noises just like me, and that 7th graders are curious about topics ranging from what’s inside a bowling ball to how planes stay up to “how the world started (besides Jesus)” to whom they’ll marry. I overheard conversations about whether or not Bill and Hillary Clinton are married, about “dabbing,” about how eye size doesn’t change from the time a person is a baby until they’re an adult. Their spurts of wisdom, of enthusiasm, of vibrance, made me grin.

I began to take over more responsibility. My cooperating teacher was gone one day, and it was me (plus a sub) against the world. We survived. The kids didn’t go bonkers. They might have even learned something. We started a research unit. I circulated the room during work time, answering questions with my hair on fire. The hour blazed by and I was not bored once. The teacher shoes began to fit, molding to me. I liked them. It was harder than expected to give them back as my nine weeks ended. For once, I felt like a real teacher. My cooperating teacher had told me early on that I was doing well. It took time for me to actually believe her. But I began to.

One of the miracles of teaching is the hidden growth students sometimes make. The blossoms don’t appear immediately, and their blooms take unexpected shape. When I was leaving, one of the boys from my hardest hour came up to me. He had been a quiet one, distracted, reluctant to write unless he could dictate his thoughts. I thought I had annoyed him more than anything. “I’m really sad you’re going to be leaving,” he said. “I am too,” I said. Then I found a thank-you card from him in the pile I received. It was short, neat, written by himself. It touched me more than most. Among the other notes, another girl had written a sweet, thoughtful letter. Among her sentences: “You always helped me when I needed it, you were sooo cheerful and happy and it honestly made my day better.” She, too, had been quiet in class. I had no idea.

On that scared morning at the beginning, I did not anticipate any of these exact things. I couldn’t have. That’s the stickiness of new adventures. Though I suspect that good might come, I always always always want to know precisely what to expect.

It’s undoing me right now, now that student teaching is done, now that I am waiting. Waiting on everything. On my plans for tomorrow and whether I’ll have a sub position or not. On my plans for next month and whether I’ll have a job. On my plans for next fall and whether I’ll be here or across the world. I long for sketched-out plans for my relationships, for my career, for whether I’ll be able to pay rent at the end of the month. Instead, I have nothing concrete for the rest of my life.

But I’m learning, with agonizing slowness, that not knowing, that openness, that waiting, leaves room for God’s surprises. When I let go of my narrow visions of what life could be, it creates space for him to work ordinary miracles. My loaves and fishes look like groceries and job openings and friendships and a car that mostly works.

The unknown, the waiting for assurance, scares me. But so do all great adventures, if they truly deserve the word. I can trace God’s unexpected hand in these past nine weeks of student teaching, if I look. I’m choosing to trust that, in this new season, he’ll surprise me again.

Graduation

Graduation. noun. The receiving of an academic degree; a ceremony marking the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. See also: commencement.

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Dear freshman Anna,

On Friday, you graduated from college.

Right now, you think this day will never arrive. And when it finally does, you will not have high expectations.

On the morning of graduation, you will be a cranky monster. The day will seem anticlimactic, since many of your friends will have already graduated and you’ll have four weeks of student teaching remaining. (You’ll stick with that double major you’re doubting right now. It will be painful sometimes, like when you have to continue student teaching even after graduation, but hopefully it’s worth it.) Worries about being late and not wearing the right thing and still having to go to school on Monday will be overpowering. You might have accidentally say “Can we get a move on?” out loud during rehearsal.

But graduation day will turn out to be surprising and complicated and sweet. In fact, your whole college experience will be surprising and complicated and sweet.

Right now, the campus buildings are still becoming familiar. You still don’t remember exactly where the registar’s office is (much less what a registrar does). In four and a half years, those halls and classrooms and sidewalks be stamped with memories.

You’ll spend hours in that office in 3rd floor Naz. That professor intimidates you now, but eventually you’ll work for her and she will find out all of the details of your life. You’ll learned the value of a juicy red pen and write sentences about a grapefruit named Ruby, who will go on dates and have picnics by the lake.

You’ll pound out workouts in the gym with the basketball team. You will be forced to play intramural volleyball games at 11:00 pm, and you will barely tolerate it. During the basketball season, being a freshman benchwarmer will knock the perfectionism right out of you.

You’ll live in Hartill 254 and 255 and 155 and 259. Now, you tote an Audrey Hepburn poster and a vague hope for community as you walk into Selah 2. You will find: some of your dearest friends, 2 staffs of Hartill RAs who will share stories and laughter and birthday cards and movie nights, a hall of girls you’ll lead and love for a year, much late-night conversation, brownies eaten straight from the pan, and the ability to hang decorations without nails. Your sister will live in two of those rooms a few years later, and that fact will amuse you.

On the island, you’ll swim on warm evenings and canoe on spontaneous dates. In a few weeks, your hall will go stargazing there, and when you’ve finished singing worship songs, you’ll accidentally witness a boys’ dorm initiation. An entire hall will streak by in their boxers, jump in the lake, and run back, yelling. They will never knew you were there. (You’ll also live in an apartment with the RA who organized this stargazing trip, which will be a random gift from God.)

You will not do much homework in the library. When necessary, you’ll find the tables by the big windows passable. The people-watching is the best there. Don’t go upstairs, where it’s too quiet, unless there’s a nice guy who you need to study Chinese with.

You will never establish one precise spot to sit in Maha, though you’ll prefer somewhere the right side, a few rows down. You’ll sing worship songs every Friday, and learn the names of people you will never meet as you scan their IDs, and tell 500 freshman about your search for identity. In this same auditorium, you will graduate.

On graduation day, you will walk in behind the World Languages banner, though you could have fit equally well under English & Literature or Education. You will feel a flicker of accomplishment when the president congratulates you for your honors, when you move your tassel and become alumni. Your boyfriend will surprise you after the ceremony. (Yes, you will get a boyfriend, if you follow the library and Chinese studying instructions.) You won’t be expecting him for another five days, and you’ll almost lose your mortarboard when you see him walk toward you, bearing flowers. One your current roommates will be there, catching the ceremony between her brother’s hockey games. She will have shared endless YouTube videos and buckets of support with you in the past years. Your family will take you out to dinner at one of the coolest restaurants in St. Paul, a former warehouse with tall skylights and excellent salmon. You’ll forgot your car on campus and the Public Safety officer on duty won’t ticket you when you call and beg for mercy. You still won’t like talking on the phone. The day will end with Sebastian Joe’s ice cream cake, a sweet finale.

Right now, as a baby-faced freshman, you think that this graduation day is a magic ticket to being a competent adult. You watch the seniors, who walk around campus so purposefully, and assume that in four and a half years, you too will have everything figured out. You think that you might have a job lined up, or the promise of a ring by spring, or maybe even style.

Hate to break it to you, honey. But at graduation, you will still feel as clueless and uncertain as ever. Right now, you value your own efficiency, discipline, and ability to excel. You place your identity in those things. In four and a half years, you won’t anymore. You’ll lose confidence in your own merit. You’ll realize how messy life is, and you’ll lose hope that working hard can fix everything. But you’ll gain more important things. You’ll find composure in front of a class of middle schoolers. You’ll discover passion for investing in relationships. You’ll gain definition in your cheekbones. And the things you’re learning in life are just beginning.

Every graduation speaker will tell you that commencement does not mean end. It means beginning. (Pretty sure you said this in your own high school graduation speech, actually.) It’s horribly cliché. But it is also true. You’re launching into the rest of your life soon, a new beginning, and it’s scary. You won’t ever feel totally ready.

But if you’ll learn one thing over the next four and a half years, it’s that you’ll make it, even through the scary and unknown and intimidating.

Have fun, kid. Make some memories.

– Me

Interim

Interim. noun. An intervening time, a temporary or provisional arrangement.

jblaha via Flickr

jblaha via Flickr

On a tired evening, I read a post by Emily Freeman. She shared these words, from John O’Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us:

You are in this time of the interim where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out; the way forward is still concealed from you.

You cannot lay claim to anything; In this place of dusk, your eyes are blurred;

And there is no mirror. As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow your confusion to squander.

This call which is loosening your roots in false ground, that you might come free from all you have outgrown.

I stopped scrolling mindlessly. I read those words again. I let them sink and felt them resonate.

Because I am in this time of the interim.

The last of summer just slipped through my fingers. Not long ago, we had a golden day, a gift in Minnesota October. It was eighty degrees and sunshine and bursts of fall color. I sat outside in shorts and read Fitzgerald. And then, the next morning, the wind snatched the door from my hands as I left my apartment and blew in steel gray clouds. The temps waver now. We have blessed mild sun today and I forget my jacket most mornings, but the leaves are crumbling. I know what’s coming soon. I’m bracing for it.

I’m nearly done with my seventh week of student teaching. I’m prepping and teaching all but a tiny handful of kiddos. The battle does not rage, but rolls on, day by day. We’ve finished 18 hours of conferences, so many hours in the small room for the number of families who show. The assessments for state licensing are so much work, typed in 11-point font on too many pages, with so little payoff. Sometimes I feel like a real teacher, worrying what videos my third grader is posting of herself on YouTube and wondering how to authentically incorporate music for the boy who sings Wiz Kalifa while staring at his journal. And sometimes I feel like a fraud. I have no paycheck, no year-long commitment to this school and these students. I am still a college student, tied to supervisors and seminar hours and my university email.

I don’t know where I’m going. I have eleven more weeks of clarity, three with my elementary kiddos and eight in  7th grade Language Arts. And then my life is blank, all haze. Job boards and program applications offer many options and little clarity. “It will be interesting,” I say. “It will all work out.” I believe it because I have no choice, because belief precedes sight in my brand of faith.

Relationships get complicated. We muddle through the everydays of long-distance and wonder if it’s worth it, if it will work out. This is no easy business, the in-between of “I like you” and “I do.” I’m feeling desperation to be permanently attached to someone, to come home to the same arms every night. I see it happening for friends on my Facebook feed, while I sit solitary in my apartment and burn with quiet cynicism. It’s not yet time for me. Maybe it won’t ever be. For now, I buy a plane ticket and pray and try to build a life anchored on more than one boy. But still the distance, the unknown, the unfulfilled ache.

I don’t know what I’ve outgrown. I can’t go back, to classes with familiar professors and the friendly faces in chapel and close circles with girls in the dorms. I don’t want to. But there are holes left. I used to know my place in community, sitting on industrial carpet under twinkle lights, or standing in line to buy cookies from the cafe after chapel. Those everyday intersections are gone. The connections remain, a little dusty but still whole and real. I need to reach out. I need to be known.

This is the space between student and adult, between classes and jobs, between past and future. This is the interim. This is life. We live and move in the moments between, the moments of not yet, the moments of mystery and blind faith. And through it, the blurry and the broken, we keep moving. We keep growing. We keep trusting that God makes cosmos from emptiness, life from dust, and beauty from our cracked little souls.

golden

Golden. adjective. The color of late summer, of the minutes before sunset, of serendipity.

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We’ve been eating peaches all weekend: they are golden rimmed in red, edible hot sun and sweet rain. A pie turns to juice in our mouths and disappears. The white fan moves the evening air, all humidity and laughter. The brothers who eat and tease, the dad who listens, the mom who sasses, the other family who color the conversation, sit around scratched-up wood tables. They tell stories about people I don’t know, of wedding crashing 50 years ago. Their words mix with the lake water in my hair and the smell of piecrust, simmering into joy.

The twenty-somethings and moms gather on the lawn, yoga mats sprawled. The leader, in hot pink leggings, intones “inhale, up dog; exhale, down dog.” I lose my breath, and my Warrior One wobbles when she nears. “Left hip down, right hip forward,” and I shift, muscles stabilizing. I hear “good adjustment” and wonder if it’s for me, the girl who knows no one and feels too young, too tall, too much into cardio for this. But still I try. When I lay in stilled savasana, breath slow, eyes closed, tongue dropped from the roof of my mouth, golden sunlight fills my palms.

The pictures blur, twenty-two candles and golden glow. We eat cupcakes, extra frosting on hand, even though we’ve had dessert twice already. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this birthday, the first without my family around the table and my sister’s flourless chocolate cake. But I am sandwiched between two friends who planned an evening of surprises, with breadsticks and minions and girlish chatter. Though I’d forgotten to invite it, love joined the party.

It’s too late. I’m the only one who ever mentions it. I yawn. I don’t know how he does it, the boy a time zone ahead of me. Someone finally clicks and the call ends. Though this is hard, this communication through computer, I glow golden as I brush my teeth. He cares what I think, even when my words are scrambled. He loves me. He admits it in front of his roommates.

The professor in the movie, wearing a beanie and jeans, claims, “We should concern ourselves, not so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of pursuit.” Hector, the psychiatrist on an international quest for happiness, finds it in a flight home. When he asks the stewardess if the plane can go any faster, his face is golden, lit with love. I know where I’d fly for happiness, given the chance. But apparently happiness doesn’t take miles of travel to find. I don’t know exactly what I’m pursuing. But I want to be surprised by happiness here. I think I’m learning how.

June (2015)

June. Proper noun. The month of beautifully long, sunlit days, Father’s Day, National Donut Day, and the start of sweet summertime.

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Reading

Prodigal Summer – Barbara Kingsolver. I generally adore Barbara Kingsolver (The Bean Trees is one of my favorite books), and I enjoyed 2/3 of this one. The book follows 3 different characters all living in the Virginia mountains, whose stories are faintly connected. I loved the chapters about a crusty old man dealing with his hippie neighbor and a new widow learning to survive on her husband’s family farm, but the story of a park ranger’s summer fling was a little much for me. Maybe I should have been clued in by the reviews using words like “sensual.” Despite that, reading the lyrical descriptions of nature and the relationship of predator and prey felt quite apt the beginning of summer.

What Alice Forgot – Laine Mortiarty. I zipped right through this story of a woman who loses 10 years of her memory after a fall. It was quite addictive – each chapter led to new, surprising discoveries as Alice slowly learned about her unraveling marriage, her children, and how she had changed so much. The ending felt unrealistic (actually, I guess the whole novel was unrealistic), but this would be the perfect vacation read, if you enjoy being sucked head-first into a story.

Searching for Sunday – Rachel Held Evans. I don’t read Rachel Held Evans’ blog – maybe I’m behind the times, but she’s a little controversial for me. However, this book felt gentler and more self-reflective, even though she maintains her matter-of-fact journalistic style. I appreciated that this book gives me permission to ask hard questions about church and to not shy away from doubts and questions.

I started A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, but she got rather…adult. None of the language or sex seemed necessary, so I decided to move on.

Watching

Not much. A few episodes of House of Cards with the boy. A few episodes of Friends, which makes me feel exponentially better about life. And Legally Blonde, the only movie I can remember watching in full this month. The early 2000s are hilarious, and I had a quickly fleeting urge to go to law school.

Listening

TOO MUCH of the radio while commuting. I’m in a music drought and needing something that’s not on Top 40 stations. Unless it sounds like this.

This song and video are adorable. Dick Van Dyke is my celebrity crush.

Loving

I typically don’t take Internet dating advice seriously. But Aziz Ansari dispenses advice here that seems far more sound and logical than anything his character Tom Haverford would ever say on Parks and Rec.

Dresses that are glorified t-shirts. I have to wear the same t-shirt to work every day, so throwing on something easy, comfy, and cute makes post-work adventures more fun.

This advice encouraging women to focus on being original and honest, not likeable. I need this.

This quiz, which tells you your reading personality. I’m apparently a Mirror, meaning “The books a Mirror reader looks for provide a combination of catharsis and cautionary tale, reassuring the reader that her experiences are shared and familiar and that they are a part of her life—an important part—but a chapter, not the whole story.” Surprisingly insightful.

This necklace, which I want to buy and flash at kids every time they scream unnecessarily at work.

Salad in a jar. An actual Pinterest win. It’s heavy on the prep time, but being able to grab a Mason jar as I run out the door, then pull out a healthy, yummy lunch later is great.

Doing

I signed my first lease and moved into my first off-campus apartment. My new roommate and I are settling in, though paying for things like rent and Internet feels way too grown-up for me. (Though I waited longer to acquire a vacuum than to buy new dresser pulls, so maybe I’m not that grown-up after all.)

I ran a half-marathon and didn’t die. Here’s a recap if you missed it earlier.

I started a brand-new summer job working with a summer rec program. My days are spent driving through traffic, wearing the same flashy Parks and Recreation Board t-shirt, refereeing “That’s not fair!” arguments, walking laps the playground, doing head counts on field trips, and playing with kiddos. It’s 85% fun. I get to go down waterslides once a week when the kids go swimming, bait hook after hook for fishing contests, play coach for the basketball “team” a few girls organized, and avoid working on evenings and weekends. I’ll take it.

Teaching one swimming lesson a week to two spunky kids. It’s fun to keep doing something I enjoyed for the past few years, especially when I get paid to do it. 🙂

This month, for the first time since December, my boyfriend lived less than 10 minutes from me. We had a wonderful month together after a semester of long-distance, and we sure lived it up. Seeing the Cities from the top of the Foshay Tower. Paddleboarding on Lake Como. Eating Sebastian Joe’s ice cream. Walking around the campus island. Screaming (maybe that was just me) at Valleyfair. Sailing. Reading in the hammock. Traipsing through the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Now another term of long-distance  is beginning, and I’m trying not to freak out that one of my favorite people is back in D.C. I’m going to miss him so much.

Hanging out with my family at the lake for Father’s Day. I have an awesome dad and grandpa.

Come to think of it, I was at a lake every weekend in June. This summer is off to a swell start.

And so it begins...

And so it begins…

What have you been into this month? Head to Leigh Kramer’s link-up to join the fun and see what other bloggers have been doing in June.

Graduates

Graduates. noun. People who gets to wear funny hats and walk across a stage because they have completed some level of schooling.

mic wernej via Flickr

mic wernej via Flickr

I know and love a lot of people who are graduating this month. As a bossy older sister and blog writer (double whammy), I feel obligated write some big words to match this big moment.  Unfortunately, occasions like this make me realize how inadequate my words are. Especially when finals week has just ended, and I have been stripped of everything poetic and reminded that I know pretty much nothing.

But, my people, I want to leave you something. You all have touched my life, and I want to leave you something potentially touching in return. I want you to know that I love you all and I am thinking a lot about you as your life moves onwards and upwards, even if I don’t say it out loud.

So I’ll give you one of the few things I know for sure (I think) right now: I truly believe that nobody knows what they’re doing.

This is the sum of everything I’ve learned in college. (My tuition dollars at work, people.) For the last four years, almost everyone I knew started 2,000 word papers the night before they were due. Everyone sleepwalked through finals week, barely hanging on to their sanity. Everyone saw how long they could go without doing laundry. Everyone felt the thrilling tension between “I’m independent and free!” and “Wow, being an adult sucks.” Basically, nobody knew what they were doing.

I’m taking a wild guess that that doesn’t change as we start to move into the “real” world. Everyone wants fulfillment but has no idea how to find it. Everyone is scared that their friendships will change and they’ll be lonely and left behind. Everyone has worries about failure boiling in the backs of their minds. We each sport our own brand of brokenness, wackiness, and wonderfulness.

This gives you all kind of freedom. Be honest when you’re stressed and terrified, and you’ll find that other people are stressed and terrified too. Show people the real-life you behind your glossy status updates. Don’t compare yourself to other people’s glossy status updates – they have a grittier, messier version of themselves, too. Remember that we’re all in this together, and sing the High School Musical song for good measure – don’t pretend you don’t know all the words.

Nobody knows what they’re doing, and we’re all going to be fine.

To those graduates who know me well, you have full permission to not believe a word I say. You know first-hand how I personally have no idea what I’m doing and have no grounds to give advice to anyone. To all graduates, regardless of whether you know me or listen to me, I wish so many good things for you going forward. Good things include but are not limited to: full nights of sleep, strong hugs, shoes that are both comfortable and cute, abounding energy, waffle fries, and unlimited trust in the Lord. Blessings as you go out and rock the world.

Okay

Okay. adjective. According to me, saying that something is satisfactory or that you can accept what’s happening.

When life gets you down because it’s a Monday and it’s colder than last week, here’s a thought that will make things seem okay:

You are not in middle school anymore.

Halleluiah, glory day. This should make anyone excited. And if it doesn’t, you’re probably in middle school right now, and I’m sorry. Life gets better.

I’ve been in and out of middle school classrooms for the past few semesters, and I’ve realized a few things. Namely, I am incredibly grateful that leggings weren’t a thing in 2006. Also, that these poor, tortured souls are going through a lot. And that for some reason, I like working with these kids.

Maybe it’s that I know I won’t be any more awkward or uncoordinated than they are. Or that I’m not intimidated by the rowdy boys because I’m at least a foot taller than all of them. Or because I want to tell these kids that it will be okay. One day, they’ll be out of middle school and girls won’t be so demonic and boys will be able to have actual conversations and it will be okay.

I can only imagine that my authority on this would be questioned, like all authority in middle school. Prove it, they’d say. There’s no way you’d understand because you wear cardigans and don’t have Snapchat and are old enough to get married (in theory).

But I can prove it. Here are the stories I would tell. (And the pictures I’d share, because pictures of middle schoolers are worth at least 3,000 words.) If I can survive, so can you.

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It was my birthday. I’d had a girls day, pedicures and shopping, and I got makeup from my friend who knew about such things. That fuschia shiny gloss and the fresh coral sparkle on my toes felt like the epitome of glam. I didn’t know yet that I shouldn’t wear that color brown, that those eyebrows should make friends with a tweezer, that sandals fancier than Old Navy flip-flops existed. Soon it would bother me when I was forced to go bare-faced while other girls in my class had been sporting eyeliner since fifth grade. But it’s okay. One day, my mom will finally let me wear mascara, and no one asked “You don’t have eyelashes, right?” again. (I have been asked that. I do have eyelashes, I swear to Covergirl.) But defined eyes and perfect skin aren’t the key to feeling gorgeous. That takes something more and deeper than makeup.

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This was my first recital with a new piano teacher. I’d just moved beyond the numbered primers into real music, by composers whose names I remembered from the wall in music class. I nervously plucked out songs I never thought I’d be capable of playing. I still numbered every mistake. They proved I wasn’t good enough, just like my braces and that long, messy hair I didn’t know how to deal with and the math scores I didn’t think were high enough. That was a lot of weight to carry. I thought if I’d just try a little harder, I could be perfect. But I couldn’t. And that’s okay. I wish I would have given myself some grace, and let others give me some grace, and let God give me some grace. Sure, I wasn’t perfect. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t talented and kind and curious and hard-working.

 

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This was my last dance recital. In a few months, I’d have volleyball four nights a week and leave my jazz shoes behind. I wasn’t sad. At dance, I was self-conscious, slouching, the only girl who wasn’t tiny and cute. Even after I left those high-waisted pink pants behind (praise the Lord), I kept fearing that I’d always be the gangly, tall girl on the edge of group photos. That fear came true. I learned to always stand in the middle of photos with short people, but I was not, and will never be, tiny and cute. Instead, I was 6’0″ by seventh grade and heard loud freshman boys comment about my height in the halls. Even ten years later, a woman at a concert stared. She stood in front of me in the post-concert mess, looked me up and down, saw that I wasn’t wearing heels, and nudged her friend to turn around and gawk at the Amazon woman. But it didn’t hurt so much. I smirked and hoped that Scotty McCreery would notice me because I stood above the crowd. (He didn’t. But that sure would have proved her right. And been generally awesome.)

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My dad snapped this after the band concert themed “A Night at an Eighties Prom.” I wanted so badly to look beautiful that night, among all of the high schoolers dressed to the nines. I borrowed a dress that was almost long enough, and my mom’s friend said I looked like Cinderella. I didn’t quite believe her. After all, even though I was the only female in a section full of boys, they never seemed to notice me. (In hindsight, this shouldn’t have been a surprise. The trombone is not a sexy instrument.) They wouldn’t seem to notice me for a very long time. That was okay. Middle school boys were dumb. High school boys were possibly dumber. It took most of the way through college for me to feel like things might come out all right. But they did. Just give it time.

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I tossed on my dad’s old sweatshirt because the day we launched rockets in the playground was cold and crummy. I had no idea I’d go to college there, years later. There was a world waiting that I couldn’t have imagined, one where I didn’t have to go to bed at the same time as my six-year-old brother and where I wouldn’t have to add black olives to the spaghetti sauce I cooked and where I’d discover that I might want to teach awkward, gangly middle schoolers someday. And where I’d still wear that same sweatshirt. And still need to be reminded sometimes that it will be okay.

Résumé

Résumé. noun. According to Dictionary.com, “A brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.” According to me, “The paper on which I try to make myself sound smart, qualified, and professional. It’s a struggle.”

This is my "Hire me!" face, if you couldn't tell.

This is my “Hire me!” face, if you couldn’t tell.

Lately, I’ve been polishing my resume and sending out applications for summer jobs. Unfortunately, in the interest of being professional, many of my best skills, developed over years of training, had to be left out. It’s quite depressing. Just think what kind of jobs I could have snagged had I been allowed to present potential employers with this, the honest version of my resume:

Education

  • Degrees: Communication Arts and Literature Ed (grades 5-12) and ESL Ed (grades K-12) – Able to stay up really late and appear chipper with small children the next day. Reads lots of YA lit. Remembers maybe 7 words of Mandarin Chinese.
  • Attended small Christian college – Knows big theological words like predestination and transubstantiation. Still doesn’t know what she believes about most issues.
  • Member of the Honors Program – Interested in everything, apparently.
  • Writer for the Examiner (spring 2015) – Sometimes able to be concise.
  • Speech team (spring 2013) – Performs Prose Interpretations without crying or throwing up.
  • Member of the women’s basketball team (2011-2012 season) – Willing to demonstrate the proper way to box out. Able spotter in the weight room. Was once in really good shape.

Work Experience

  • TA for Honors Program and Advanced Grammar – Anal about proofreading other people’s stuff (her own, not quite as much). Spends semesters writing sentences about the adventures of class mascots such as grapefruits named Ruby and koalas named Ace. Knows what a subordinating conjunction is. Good at bulletin boards.
  • Pool manager, swimming lessons instructor, and lifeguard – Can be in the sun from 8 am to 9 pm and not get sunburned. Able to catch small children jumping off the diving board over and over (and over and over and over). Treads water for very long periods of time. Tried really hard to keep accurate accounts, with occasional success. Can yell at that kid, in the blue trunks, hanging on the slide, without knowing his name. Quickly learns the names of troublemakers. Confident enough to wear a swimsuit and towel to the grocery store after work.
  • Assistant Resident Director – Loves her staff. Knows how many lamps it takes to make a classroom appear cozy. Patient attender of meetings.
  • Resident Assistant – Able to plan allllll the events. Takes irrational pride when her residents become friends. Can decorate an entire hall for $50.

Additional Experiences and Skills

  • Maintains personal blog using WordPress – Good at finding “productive” ways to procrastinate. Willingly reads lots of other blogs for inspiration.
  • Completed research in collaboration with professors – Can accomplish an amazing amount the night before a meeting.
  • Has nice handwriting.
  • Follows schedules to the letter.
  • Just learned how to add the accents over the e’s in “résumé.”
  • Able to put together a resume that looks nicer and is better organized than this one (hopefully). Whether it lands some employment for the summer is yet to be determined.