Placeholders and Providence

The theme of my last blog post over three months ago is that I survived my first and last year teaching, and I had no idea what would be next. Here’s the Sparknotes version of Summer 2018. I do have a legit blog post below, so if you have a short attention span, spare yourself and scroll to the meat.

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Back on the Trail

I turned the calendar to July, and arrows spearheaded through the neat seven-block rows making up each week of the month…friends making true on their promises to come see for themselves how awesome Charleston is, a week of wedding festivities, the annual Compton family adventure. And then boom. In a hurricane of friends and fun, July was gone. With the start of August the end wraps up, creeping perilously close to the daunting date of returning to academia.

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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?
Write.
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.

Summer 2013

Two years ago was the best summer of my life. 2011 will always be the summer. I graduated from high school and had the world by its tail. I was looking forward to the new circumstances of college. All of June I interned at Camp St. Christopher. Sure, I mopped kitchen floors and filled up water coolers, but I was also a part of an incredible camp staff and grew a lot in my relationship with God. Weekends consisted of swing dancing, grillouts at Oakland, and City Church.  Native Charlestonians a year older than me, those who had previously been mere acquaintances, returned from their first year of college, and deep friendships were kindled between us. That summer I gained an appreciation for who I am and where I am from.
But this summer. Dang. What a summer. It was totally different, but it, too, was very sweet. Forever sealed in my memory as the Family Summer. I am bound to a  special clan – the Compton Clan – and I never feel quite as whole as when I am back with them. You probably don’t even know exactly what this past summer looked like for me because I blogged about 20% as often as I wanted to. (Sorry). But I was living, and sometimes it’s hard to slow down enough to devote the necessary time to truly share all that has happened. So, just as I did at the end of April, let me give you a small recap of the highlights.
Love
I chose to come home this summer because I knew it very well could be the last summer at home with all of my siblings. Gosh I love them. I didn’t end up doing anything too intentional, but just being, living together. Eating dinner, going to church, exercising, watching movies. It was just really special. Most college students are itching to leave after a few weeks, but that never happened. I have loved snuggling with RoRie and being available to go to breakfast with Hoffa or run errands with Mama.
Travel
Cambodia – I wrote. A lot. My faith was challenged. A lot. I experienced the culturaeof Southeast Asia, and I loved it. Sitting on an ancient temple watching thousands of Buddhist monks parade by. Listening to Vuttah’s laugh. Meeting the most polite, genuine people. Playing with the cutest kids on earth. Witnessing dirt poverty and passing by real brothels.  Long, bouncy bus rides. Red clay roads. Unreal tropical beaches. Dry rice patties. Five extra pounds of steamed white rice and Blue Pumpkin Icecream. That is what I remember.
Costa Rica – Walking. Lots and lots and lots of walking. Adventurous excursions. Chill time. Unreal sunsets. Green on green foliage. Early sunsets and earlier sunrises. Ten hours of alarm clockless sleep. Getting creative in the kitchen. Casados. Mojitos. Expensive grocery stores. Real conversations with my siblings. Strangers becoming friends. Family Bible studies. Finding God on a mountain. The kindest people on earth. That is what I remember.
Cove Creek Camping – Every summer we move half of our possessions to a valley in the Pisgah Forest for four days and partake in some serious upscale camping. This summer, we outdid ourselves with a new Taj Mahal of tent canopies.
As I walked about ten feet behind, a passerthru’s kid pointed to our site and proclaimed, “Mom, that’s not real camping!”
“No,” I piped up, “but it sure is comfortable!”
Hiking. Skinny Dip Falls was my favorite this year. Always hiking. But also feeling like an actual grownup. And realizing all of the other kids are teenagers. Investing in relationships more than hiking. Hanging out in the lower meadow. Laughing at (and also being kind of concerned about) at my navigationally challenged sisters who turned a 45 minute trip from Ashville into a seven hour tour of the state. Frigidly floating down an icey river on an overcast day. (That was my awesome idea.) Fellowshipping in the truest sense of the word. That is what I remember.
Work
Waitressing – “Hey y’all! Welcome to Taco Mamacita. My name is Jessica, and I’ll be serving you this evening. Can I get you started with something to drink?
“Would you like an appetizer? Guacamole, Queso, Chips and Salsa?”
“ We have three types of salsa – red, verde, and mango.”
“Escabeche is pickled onion.”
“Chorizo is Mexican sausage. They’re kind of like bacon bits.”
“No, we don’t have normal beef tacos. Or quesadillas. Unless you want to spend $12.99.”
“I recommend the Mexican Street Corn. It is an ear of corn with chipotle cream sauce and parmesan cheese.”
“Yes, it’s spicy.”
“Y’all enjoy.”
“I’m sorry, I’ll have the manager fix that right away.”
“Can I get that out of your way?”
“How about some dessert? We have King of Pops!”
“Thanks for coming y’all! It was a pleasure serving you.”
These lines are an engrained part of my memory taking up a little too much space. I learned a lot and worked hard in a way I have not before. Shifts turned into weeks of work on work, all blending together. I messed up a whole lot, and then I just messed up occasionally. I improved, and I didn’t get fired. I have a new appreciation for the people that serve me when I go out to eat. I know how to tip 20% in my head now. I made and saved some money. I learned a new management style. I hung out with people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I think I got to bless some of them, too. I wanted one summer to waitress, I got it, and now it’s out of my system. I’ll remember my waitress schpeel forever.
House – I also got to help Mama a lot with different odd jobs at home. We cleaned out the garage and the office at Old South. Filing and counting, a lil’ bit of Point of Sale stuff at the barn. I went grocery shopping for her at Trader Joe’s sometimes. Occasionally, I made dinner. It was so fun to spend time with her and help this saint out in whatever ways I could. I love her a lot, and I like to make her life easier.
IJM Application – I blame this application on my absence from the blogging world. But yes, it is done. I have applied to be an intern at International Justice Mission in the Spring, and you know what? It might just happen. I don’t want to get my hopes too high, but I’ve made it through the initial application, the survey questionnaire (it rolled onto the 9th page people), and a phone interview. I had pretty low expectations to begin with, but the more I invested in each step of the process, the more I really want to work here. So we shall see.
So here I am, sitting at gate A26 in the Philadelphia airport listening to old potbellied Italian men speaking their native tongue.  It’s impossible to smear the smile of excitement off my giddy, squinty-eyed face. The day has finally arrived; I am going to study in Italy. Hopefully, I’ll do a lot more than study. I am going to drink Italian wine and walk Italian roads and speak Italian. I’ll meet new friends and find a Nonna and dance. I will go on some of the best adventures of my life yet. I hope you’ll follow them.

Arrivaderci!