Reflections

Hi friends! It’s been a while.

I’ve been wanting to write a catch-up post for a little while, partly to update people on what I’ve been up to but also to collect my thoughts on the past few months, which have been, for the most part, pretty blissful.

Last August, I started a new job as an editorial assistant at a publishing house in Minnesota. Whereas my last job had a lot of downtime that I used to blog to try to stay productive and flex my writerly muscles, my new job has kept me much busier. I’ve also been doing some freelance editing in my spare time, which has been a lot of fun but eats up many of my evenings. I like my new job (which I’ve now been at for three quarters of a year, so it’s not actually very new anymore!). I love working in publishing; I like the positive messages behind our books and the purpose they give to my work. I like opening up boxes full of brand new books. I like the opportunities that my company provides—right now I’m working towards an online certificate in editing. And I like the kind, happy people I work with. I was nervous about switching jobs, but since starting here I haven’t looked back. I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing some posts on the publishing industry, so stay tuned.

One wonderful perk of working at a publishing house is the free books—stacks and piles and shelves of them. I had to buy a new bookcase! And of course there are the names of authors and titles and podcasts I hear all the time in meetings, people we don’t even publish ourselves but that I just have to add to my collection. I haunt the book section at Target and the new releases at Barnes & Noble—scoping out the competition, I tell myself. There is always something (or several somethings) waiting for me to pick up at the library. I leave work early to get to the library before it closes; I listen to books on CD on my way to work. I used to read a lot as a kid but took a bit of a break in high school and college, and now suddenly I am an avid reader again. It’s a good feeling.

A few books that charmed or stirred me in the past few months:

  • Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
  • The Victorian and the Romantic by Nell Stevens
  • At Home in the World by Joyce Maynard
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Crowded Skies by Tara Leigh Cobble
  • Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans

Outside of work, I’ve begun to accept that being at the beginning of a career and being in your twenties means feeling perpetually poor. Every time I think I’ve got a handle on my credit card bill, something new pops up that needs to be paid for. Cars are expensive even when they are in perfectly good condition. Going to the doctor is expensive. Utilities in the winter are expensive. Eating out is expensive but so, so convenient. I can’t imagine being financially stable enough to buy a house or raise a child, and so both of those things are very far away for me. A lot of my friends are engaged or married. I am neither, and sometimes it’s a little lonely, or scary. I feel like I’m getting left behind. But I have a career that I enjoy, and that’s something.

I’ve been taking antidepressants for about as long as I’ve been at this new job. They have helped so immensely. My days feel not hopeless but comfortable, steady. Instead of despising smiling people on Instagram like I used to, now I hope that they truly are happy because I too, most of the time, am really and truly happy. I feel mentally healthy instead of emotionally tattered. I think that happiness has always been there somewhere underneath, but it had a hard time showing its face for a while.

The only side effect I’ve noticed is also an intended result. Before I started this medication, my brain was always turning over anxious thoughts. I didn’t know that wasn’t normal because that’s how it had been for so long. I was constantly thinking and stressing about the future and the things that didn’t seem to be working out the way I wanted them to. Since last August, my brain has been clear. Empty. Sometimes I find myself thinking almost nothing at all. Have I always had so few thoughts? I wonder. It might also be because I’ve been busier overall and have less time by myself to think and process. But it feels like there has been a shift, and I’m not sure I like it. I appreciate that I can enjoy the present and not be concerned about whether there’s something wrong with me because my life and timeline don’t match up with my friends’, but I also feel quiet and not very smart. I don’t have much to contribute to conversations anymore. I don’t dwell on worries—I don’t dwell on anything. I have to focus really hard to draw any kind of intelligent conclusion on a topic. And even when I do that, it’s usually just a regurgitated idea from something I’ve read. Nothing is of my own ideation. I catch myself saying “Cool” and “Oh good” in response to pretty much everything, because I have nothing else to add. It’s frustrating and feels like a new kind of barrier between me and other people. I mean, I’ve always been quiet. But I used to be quiet and thoughtful. Now I’m just the first.

A few further recent struggles

My road to pescatarianism has been bumpy. Usually the bumps happen when a chicken wrap calls to me, but sometimes it’s when my roommate makes stew with bacon or tacos with chicken and we’re out of eggs, which is what I usually eat instead, and sometimes it’s when a well-meaning friend orders a meat-filled dish to share with me at a restaurant. The good news: soy vegetarian burgers are really good, my most recent diet-related discovery.

I’m on my phone a lot. A lot a lot. It feels like eating a full bag of chocolate-covered acai berries or sleeping until 2pm: good at the time, but gross afterward. The good news: I don’t watch much TV anymore, with the exception of New Girl (I’ve finished it now) and The Bachelor. The bad news: the time this frees up is usually spent on my phone, scrolling Instagram or Pinterest for the millionth time.

London & Paris

In January, I took a trip to Europe with my roommates plus a few friends. I went to Scotland by myself for a week and then met up with my companions in London, followed by Paris. This was my second time back to England since studying abroad there as many years ago, which is a rate I’m pretty happy with. England once a year? I’ll take it.

A few things I learned on this trip: Not showering for a week is not a good idea. Hiking with all of your luggage is not a good idea; in fact, hiking a whole bunch in one week when you barely exercise at home—not a good idea. Getting on a train without checking to see which direction it’s going first is not a good idea. Going for a thirty-minute walk in the rain when half the people in your group have colds is not a good idea.

But our trip, while punctuated with a few days of hiking-induced knee pain and a couple runny noses, was on the whole one of my favorite I’ve taken. This surprised me, considering what a proponent of solo travel I’ve been in the past. I think there were two main things that contributed to this being such a good trip:

  1. At the risk of sounding mushy, it was with some of my very favorite people. Because most of us were roommates, we had already spent a ton of time together and knew how one another worked. We knew when we needed space from each other and everyone’s priorities for the trip. We were all fine with plentiful coffee breaks, evenings in, and going to bed early. We also knew that we all got along really well as roommates, and fortunately that didn’t change when we transitioned to travel buddies.
  2. It was a pretty big group (seven total), and I switched it up even more, visiting a friend in Oxford the day before London and peacing out to stay with some other friends for two nights in France. The fluidity of who I was interacting with helped me not get burned out or frustrated with anyone in particular. No cranky travel monster version of me reared its head (a relief). Some days we all went sightseeing together; other days we split up into smaller groups. I got to know the non-roommates that were with us better, since we were the three single girls in the group, and that was a happy bonus.

Funny enough, I barely think of my solo time in Scotland at all when I remember the trip. I do remember hot coffee after dinner on a cold night in Melrose, a primeval pond outside a deserted manor in Rockcliffe, a snug bookshop in northern England. But the picturesque hills and seascapes, the snow on the mountains and the familiar shops in Edinburgh, pale in comparison to my memories of people. Opening the purple door of our house in London to find my roommates, who had traveled from Nairobi to Amsterdam to London, as their tanned faces attested, outside, and the relief in their faces at having arrived and Alex hugging me like a life preserver. Walking with Lauren and David under a blue morning sky to the Dominique Ansel Bakery near Victoria Coach Station, watching them laugh with each other, drinking vanilla milk from cookie shot glasses.

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Here are a few other notable things I did on my trip:

  • Met Scottish people in Dumfries that I had trouble understanding, which is fairly unusual for me! I was told this was their “posh” accent, and if they were talking to their friends back home in rural southern Scotland, I wouldn’t be able to understand a word.
  • Stayed in Airbnbs for the first time, which was a great experience. We stayed in an adorable flat in central London and a cozy cabin in Bercy, a more residential part of Paris. I will never turn up my nose at an affordably priced hostel, but I have to admit it is much more relaxing to stay in a house.
  • Spent a day at a West Coast Swing dance event in Paris. I met dancers from Sweden, Australia, Canada, Scotland. I danced with people that spoke hardly any English and tried to follow along with instructions in French. I learned styling, which is the decorative, seemingly effortless twists of arms and hips and feet that dancers do in between the actual dance steps and which had always escaped me before. I watched friends, old and new, dance in varying levels of competitions. And then we went back to the hotel and drank white wine out of plastic cups and talked and played VR. It was an exquisite weekend.
  • Was a spectator of my roommate’s engagement at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

As for future trips, I’m visiting my sister in Florida for a few days in June and hopefully taking a weekend trip to southern Minnesota at some point this summer. Beyond that, there’s nothing on the horizon.

May

This spring, as the air warms and the days lengthen, and I pull out the shorts again and shake the wrinkles out of them and plan for evenings of ice cream at little shops along the sidewalk and walks beside the lake under the orange sunset; weekends of green woods and sticky heat and photos in the city; cool nights of dancing in lamplit parking lots…I feel stir crazy. The warm spring breezes nudge at the corners of my restless heart, lifting it to flight. I am dreaming of plane cabins over the ocean, of the umber Scottish hills, of emerald islands and clear turquoise seas on the other side of the Earth. My room at home feels crowded, suffocating with the books and clothes and knickknacks I’ve accumulated since I moved in. I find myself eyeing my belongings and wondering how much could fit in a backpack? How much in a box? How much in a little apartment in a city that is still a stranger to me at this moment? Spring, it feels, is for growing up and out; for kicking off the heavy layers that have buried you in complacent slumber and stretching your arms to the sunshine.

But I am still here, and will be. Every day I sit in traffic. The slow tires are like mud, the endless cycle of days stifling. And I am tired.

2 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. Wonderful update. I’m glad the new job has been going so well for you, even better that your mental health has been good too!
    Hope you enjoy your Florida trip! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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