Grateful Journal


Through the month of January, I had about fifteen distinct blog topics floating around in my head. Some were life updates, like that Subaru Outback WITH a sunroof that I bought — woot woot! — or weekend trips up to Richmond and Roanoke to visit Abby and Kayla.



Other blog intentions included evaluations on Trump’s first week in office and podcasts I’ve listened to; some entertaining babysitting anecdotes; the decision to move to and teach in Greenville this fall, and the peace and excitement I’ve felt about it.

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Raise a Glass to the South, Y’all

I flew direct from Auckland to Houston – an overnight flight that made a nonstop 13-hour journey relatively bearable. As I braced my body for the jolty touchdown onto American soil, I also braced my being for reverse culture shock. I didn’t know how I would feel about the materialism of Mt. Pleasant, or the general culture of the Bible Belt. I was giddy, but slightly scared, as my in-flight journal entry attests:

My chest feels light and twisted, because as much as America is home, I’m afraid of waffling between two cultures and not really having a place. It has been a whole year, and I’m nervous about all the differences in my outlook and experiences that up to this point I was not aware of, or had not acknowledged.

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(Almost) Winter Break

I am home. Good God almighty, I am grateful to say that. With grad school applications and a stupid online driver improvement course (I’m officially a member of the speeding ticket club…) still to be completed, I’m not quite in the clear for winter break relaxation. The weight of a grueling semester has finally lifted off my shoulders, though, and that is satisfying enough.

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Rehearsal Dinner

Our group of Charleston friends notoriously refers to the summer of 2011 as “the best summer ever.” Most Fridays after a week of camp or work, David Gregorie welcomed us to Oakland Plantation, and his cousin Maddy organized the logistics. At our potluck gatherings, we grilled burgers, took the boat out on the lake, and enjoyed many a late-night porch talk.

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Summer Growing Pains

This morning, I decided I wasn’t going to work until I had done all the things I wanted to do. I went for a run, I had an extended quiet time with Jesus, I read chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird and A Reason for God. And now, in an eerily empty, calmingly still house, I am writing. Finally. Ideally, I would do all of this every morning before my day really began rolling. Alas, it’s already far past noontime, and I am learning that it just isn’t realistic for a day-to-day regimen.
I’m always excited to return to Charleston, and more importantly, to return to the people I love the most – the Compton Clan. While most people find authentic friendships and discover their identity in college, I struggled to replicate at Roanoke something I already knew intimately in high school. When Roanoke was hard, I used to crave time back at home. I needed it to replenish me and to assure me that I had real roots and community. But when I packed my belongings in D.C. over a month ago, it was the least eager I’ve been to come home.
What?! Jessica, the girl who obnoxiously talks about “the best city in the world” didn’t want to go back? I know, I know. It wasn’t because my love for home had lessened. It’s just that I have had so many enriching experiences – traveling, working in a professional environment, not living in a dorm room or depending on a meal plan. Somewhere in this past year, I grew up. I think like an adult, I work (kind of) like an adult, I interact with other adults…I am an adult, and that’s a good thing. But I am currently living in the house of my childhood, and after a year of independence and freedom, not responsible for anyone else’s schedule or needs other than my own, living with my family has been a rockier adjustment than I anticipated.
It’s still a cheery, bustling mad house here at 964 Tall Pine Road, but I, in the egotism and amnesia produced by years away at college, had forgotten what that was like. My tactic to make a daily list and knock it out bullet by bullet has proved frustratingly unproductive. Focus is unattainable and distractions are incessant; despite the numerous rooms in this house, there is no quiet abode. My stuff is never where I put it, hurricanes destroy anything I clean, and I feel like I can’t get a lick of personal undertakings accomplished.
What happened to the regular blogger? The disciplined student? The task oriented worker?
She gave herself up for her family. It took a few weeks, but I have re-learned family life. I needed to return to Barney’s preschool lessons of sharing and sibling kindness. I was no longer living amongst the polite formalities of platonic, respectful roommates. I am with my family – not just any relatively normal American family, but the Comptons, whose sharing policies are borderline socialist.  My clothes, my hair brush, my face wash and purse and even underwear are no longer mine at all! I go shopping in Georgia and Rosa Marie’s closet, and they check out mine.  Cain drives the Jeep, and I am without a car. Hoffa will mow the lawn at Sugah Cain for hours, leaving Mama with…pretty much everything else. So much for personal schedules; I must let go and move with the natural ebb and flow of Compton life. I am stretching, rediscovering the flexibility I must practice in a large family.
Last semester I learned what life as a young, single professional is like. The day is full, but it’s not too complicated, and you’re aware of all that must be done. Now I am experiencing a different kind of “internship” altogether. Ultimately, I am my mother’s apprentice. I am learning how to juggle a full work week, my own interests and to-do’s, and the needs of five other autonomous individuals. Some days I work at Old South, other days I help Mama with house projects. No day is ever the same, and you can’t prepare for the left field curve balls. Motherhood, even when all of the chickadees are pretty much grown up, is damn hard. Mama is the most giving, sacrificial person I know, and I am trying to emulate her. In some ways, I am doing alright.
But I’m 21, and I can’t break my self-centeredness. Aside from things that must be done – the Fulbright and Rotary scholarship applications linger, English Seminar summer reading is rather lengthy, and I haven’t even begun the TEFL online class I plan on taking– there are still things I really want to do this summer for my personal development and enjoyment. Train for a half marathon, pleasure read, swing dance, rock climb, serve, hang out with friends…
What has perturbed me the most is my inability to sit down and write. At the end of the IJM internship, we did a values seminar and took a ten question speed quiz in efforts to reveal our most immediate values. Two of my answers stood out to me:
1. You are covered on the front of a magazine. What does the title say?
Travel Writing Teacher Covers 6 Continents
2. If you had two extra hours every day, what would you do with those 14 hours a week?
How is it that this summer, with oodles more margin in my schedule, I have only written two blog posts? I like writing, it’s evidently a value I esteem and want to do, and I’ll only become better with practice. I have so many stories to share; writing about backpacking consumed my thoughts on the trail, yet have you heard about my trip? I so often want to apologize for my inconsistency to you, readers, but really I should apologize to myself. I think the reason I haven’t written more is that writing, real writing – descriptive, riveting, polished – is hard. It is a craft that requires discipline and concentration and rather significant chunks of time. I have prioritized my family, work, and friends over it, which are significantly easier to allocate time to.
Today has been so rejuvenating, and it has reminded me of the importance of taking time for oneself. Myers-Briggs once reported that I am half extrovert, half introvert, and I have been doing myself a disservice lately by neglecting the time I need by myself. Boundaries must be established. I’m still not certain how or where to redraw them, but time rations will be changing. Despite my “family first” mentality, these interests of mine deserve a high priority, too. Somewhere in the stretching, between the demands of home life and the discoveries and adventures of young adulthood, I will find what fits.