Am I There Yet?

Am I There Yet CoverI follow @ByMariAndrew on Instagram; she has become quite a social media sensation over the last couple of years, posting thoughtful watercolor doodles of hurdles most 20-somethings face, like overcoming uncertainty, finding purpose, falling in love, heartbreak and loss, and discovering yourself. She recently published a book, the driving concept of which is that there is no perfect map to adulthood for anyone, and some of us need an extra bit of wandering along the way. I ordered it on Amazon, and each night before bed, I flipped through a few pages, consoled that a stranger could so perfectly illustrate many of the trials and personal developments I have experienced over the last few years.

Explorer though I may be, I like the idea of a map to follow. I kind of thought I had a direct one — college, grad school, travel, settle down, teach. A modern American Dream, happily ever after. But the map went rogue on me, because this first year teaching has continued to be a slog. I wrestled with my dissatisfaction through the Spring and dialouged openly with administration, but I ultimately submitted my letter of resignation back in March and will not be teaching next year. I am leaving on good terms, but the job journey has been feeling a heck of a lot more loop-de-loop lately.

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Marathon Training & the God-Shaped Hole

The first week I moved to Greenville, I decided to train for a half-marathon. Within thirty minutes, that decision jumped to training for a full. For years I have been a casual runner, but I had never clocked more than eight miles at a time. The initial 13.1 miles have always been a bucket-list item I knew I was capable of. The 26.2 seemed inhuman, which I guess was the appeal. It was a reach, a stretch that would take a lot of discipline, pushing myself beyond anything I had ever attempted. As I wrote in the September moving-to-Greenville post, I knew I would never have more time and less commitments than I do right now. I’m only responsible for myself, and I’m not committed to a gazillion different activities yet. Training would give me some built-in routine in this new life chapter.

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The (best) detriment to my focus

The good news: I’m starting to crank some important work out.
The bad news: Hoffa stepped on my laptop last weekend (seriously?!), I had to send it off to the Dell Elves, and now I’m working from the desktop office computer.

Which means that my sisters have me pinned. They can push, know how to push, and do push just the right buttons to drive me crazy.

It also means that rather than the “Jessica is working and CANNOT be disturbed” Post-It note on the office door serving its purpose at all, it only provides an opportune medium to be vandalized…

The sisters barge in.
“Guess what-ey?!” Rosa Marie exclaims.
“Don’t say what-ey.”
Preceded by a signature RoRie giggle, she responds, “I just say stuff like that to get on your nerves.”
Inevitably, I roll my eyes.
“Jessica, you know what time it is?” asks Georgia, rhetorically, of course. “Time for a DANCE PARTY!!” She enters with the stereo system on her shoulders like a retro boom box, and max volume of “Turn Down for What”  begins blasting in the once-so-still office.
I could be annoyed. I could yell and scream and be the big sister bi-otch and tell them to go away. I have before, but it’s not an effective tactic. It’s a lot easier (and more fun) to go along with them. I sigh and shrug off my professional grown-up girl demeanor.
Within minutes all three of us are droppin’ it to the floor and attempting to twerk in our XL pajama shirts. Hoffa would have a cow.
“This is what it would be like if the three of us owned this house,” Georgia proclaims. “Hashtag awesomeness.”
Following our ten minute dance sesh, RoRie doesn’t miss a beat. “Hashtag it’s time for you to come snuggle.” As I begin to physically force her out of the office, she turns the tables on me and tries to push me into my bedroom right by the office. “Pleeeeeease.”
She doesn’t win, but these are the kinds of distractions with which I have dealt all summer – and all my life. Though they may occasionally keep me from my work, they also keep me from being too serious and boring. My sisters ensure that life stays fun, and, I confess, I’m glad to call them mine.

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.