Tuesday, May 23, 2017

glass house


 Next week will mark 10 months since our move to the Twin Cities. And somehow even typing it out doesn't make it seem real. It has been a busy and exciting 10 months and so much has happened and I feel sad for not having written about it all.

     But, like every life transition, it has been riddled with emotions; both highs and lows. On the up days I feel so happy to be back in the US, in a lovely city and in a nice apartment, going to school full time. On the down days I wonder why we moved away from New Zealand to a place that is so cold most of the year! I miss friends who were practically family and the beach and my motor bike. Things that seemed to have happened a lifetime ago.

     But we are slowly settling, me more slowly than Kevin, as per usual. I find the first 8-12 months in a new place to be the absolute hardest of all. It's the time where I think I should be mostly settled, but I find that my mind and heart are still in the last place we had been. I remember this so clearly the first year we were in NZ. I missed my friends and family from home so much that I didn't want to meet anyone new or form new friendships because I didn't want them to take the place of the old ones.

     This is the stage I am in now. We have met so many lovely people here. Mid-westerners are a different breed. They are kind without being overbearing, and welcoming and accepting of people from all walks of life. This has been such a beautiful environment to be a part of, yet I still feel myself being closed up. A bit like a house that's boarded up when a hurricane is on the horizon. There are still people inside, but no one is going in or out. And not much sunlight is coming through.

     My personality makes it hard to get to know people quickly. It's more of a slow burn that takes time before anything deep or interesting takes places. I know this to be true, but I frustrate myself. I wish it were the other way- that I could naturally 'click' with new people and places and situations. But this is not me. Its like I want a Rembrandt masterpiece but only want to put in the time and effort of a color-by-numbers. Ya feel me?

     And I know that good things take time. I am slowly dipping my feet in the water. Taking down the nailed up boards from the windows. And I am reminding myself that new friendships do not take the place of old ones. That they can happily co-exist and even feed from each other. The more places I have been and people I have met all lead me to the knowledge that no one is the same, and that everyone has a story to tell. I hope to meet some of those people and hear their stories. And learn and grow from them.

      If I am a house I'd like to be a conservatory. With glass on all sides and the light shining in. A place with not one single window boarded up. A place where growth is endless and life thrives. This is the goal.

Friday, March 31, 2017

own it

Do you ever lie awake in the middle of the night with a thought just gnawing at you? Your brain is so awake and becomes consumed with this one specific thing? This happened to me last week with something that bothered me more the more I thought about it. And it was this; the realization that I never had a teacher in high school who told me I was good at something. The last time I remember a teacher complimenting my work was in the 7th grade, an experience I recently blogged about. But after that? I can't remember a single instance where I felt a teacher was proud of me. When a teacher complimented me. When a teacher told me I was doing a good job.

Maybe this isn't an unusual experience. Maybe you're reading and nodding in agreement, you didn't have a teacher mentor in your high school career either. Maybe this is the norm-- but it shouldn't be.

I had not desire to excel in high school because I didn't think I was capable of excelling. It wasn't until a year after graduation when I was taking classes at my local community college and finished the semester with a 4.0 did I realize that I could do well in school if I would just work a bit at it. I really think this had to do with the fact that I was paying for my classes with my (and Kevin's) hard earned money and I didn't want to waste it. If I was going to do this college thing, then I was going to do it right.

But I wonder what I could have done if I had a teacher who really believed in me and pushed me to do better. My parents have always been supportive. They were never too hard on me about my grades, but always believed that I could be the best in the room. But I figured all parents were like that and didn't pay it much mind. Do teachers realize how much power they have over a young persons life?

When I was thinking back on my high school career I realised that the closest thing I ever got to a teacher compliment was when a chemistry teacher embarrassed my younger sister in front of her entire class by saying, "Why aren't you good at this? Your sister got good grades in my class."

If those are the kinds of compliments teachers are giving out then they should just keep them. I remember my sister was devastated after that comment, and I was angry as well. I also remember thinking, if he thought I was such a good student, why didn't he tell me last year? My grades were fine, but maybe I would have actually pursued science further if I knew my teacher thought I had potential. But he didn't, and I didn't know I might have been good at it, so high school chemistry is as far as my science knowledge goes.

Anyway, I write all of that to say that with the support of my husband and my parents, I eventually gathered the nerve to give it my best. My first semester on the deans list was such a thrill that I set a new standard for myself. Last night I was inducted into the National Honor Society at the University of Minnesota. Getting into the National Honor Society is something I never thought I could have done in high school. But the truth is, I could have. I just wish a few teachers would have told me to go for it.
Moral of the story: sometimes we have to stop waiting for the encouragement and support of others, and realize the abilities we already possess. Own it. And study!

Friday, February 24, 2017

back away from the book

I was on a mission a few years ago to finish reading every book that I started for that whole year. This was a big challenge for me, because I am notoriously bad at putting something down if it doesn’t immediately captivate my interest. But I hated going into bookstores and seeing shelves and shelves of books that I had only read the first few chapters of. So, for all of 2015 I completed every single book I started, and I felt good about it. Since then, I have to admit I’ve not finished every book through to completion. And upon further reflection, I think I'm okay with it.

I was having this conversation with someone recently and they admired the ability to put something down if it doesn’t fascinate, or even interest you, and never finish it. I began to think of my reading quirk in a new way after this conversation. Instead of not committing to something I felt I should be, I was redirecting my energy to something else that was better suited to me (usually a different, more interesting book).

So, what’s better? Digging in your heels and following that difficult thing through to the end? Or realizing that there are millions of books in the world and you should spend time reading one better suited to your likes? Obviously I’m talking about more than just books here. And maybe there isn’t a solid answer to this question, but it could depend more on the situation and what that ‘book’ is.

This process of ‘letting things go’ has always been quite difficult for me. I remember being one of the few people to cry at my high school graduation, which seems a bit ridiculous now! It wasn’t because I absolutely loved high school, but the dramatic ending of a time in my life that I knew I would never get back overwhelmed me. That sense of letting go was emotional for me and I didn’t completely understand why.

            If you’ve never taken the Myers Briggs Personality Test I would strongly encourage it. I love finding out more about why my personality is the way it is, and why certain things make me tick, and this is a great tool for that. I am an INFP, which stands for Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving. My personality type is called the mediator, and is described as, “a true idealist, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events.” I relate strongly with most of the description of my personality type through this test, and have learned more about myself through it.

         One very insightful thing I learned by reading about my personality type is that I long for deep and meaningful relationships, yet I avoid many social interactions. I want to get to the end result of finding great friendships, but don't want to have to go through the awkward beginning stages of getting to know people. I want to read an amazing book, but start at chapter 5 when I already know I'm going to love it.

             Because of this characteristic about myself, friends I connect with are friends for life. It takes so much energy and effort to get to that place with someone, relationally, but once I do I cling to them forever! The idea of having a falling out with a close friend is so foreign to me. That would mean letting go of someone and having to replace them with another friend, which would require making another friend which would require finding another human being that I would chose to spend time with over be alone. I know this sounds cynical and awful, but it's true! 

            Now this is not to say that I am some sort of weird, obsessive friend stalker person. If we’re friends you definitely don’t hear from me every day, and probably not even every week (according to my INFP profile this is true to my personality). However, I treasure my friendships and relationships so much, that it’s not abnormal for me to randomly think of someone in my life and nearly be brought to tears with how much I care for them. The well runs deep!

            So now what happens when one of those relationships is no more? What happens when the plant dies or the book is—for whatever reason—unreadable? Well, obviously, I will use whatever means necessary to hang onto it for dear life. If the book is written in another language, I will buy Rosetta Stone. If the plant is dying I will fill it's pot with fertilizer and water it to overflowing (probably killing it further). I will go to extreme lengths to keep this relationship alive because I’ve invested too much and shown too many parts of myself to just let that person walk out.

            This was my old mindset. I clung to their coattails and begged them not to leave. This sounds dramatic, and it is, especially for a very nondramatic person like myself. I used to think something was wrong with me (doesn’t everyone at some point?). But I realized this is the way my brain is wired. I have a hard time making those meaningful connections, and when I do it feels like I’ve struck gold. So if that connection is lost, it hurts me in a very deep and personal way.

              But through looking inward I've realized that these actions are hurting me in the long run. Watering a dead plant won't bring it back to life. It is just a waste of time and energy that could be spent on a living plant. This thought process has helped me come to terms with being able to put the unfinished book back on the shelf. I am able to see something that is dying and refuse to keep watering it out of pity or guilt. This has been true in my life with relationships, but it could also ring true to any number of things; hobbies, a job, etc. 

           Some relationships and meant for a specific time in our lives, and they are healthy to walk away from. Is it still hard? Definitely. I think probably the hardest part of all this is being able to realize when something is not longer beneficial or healthy for you. But we all know it when it happens, that feeling deep in your stomach, and it is time to walk away. Not out of weakness, but out of strength for ourselves and of what is best in the long run.

Friday, November 4, 2016

call out the art

"You are different." So often that statement is meant as an insult, when in reality it is a truth that we should learn to embrace about ourselves. All humans are born with innate characteristics that are unique to our person. Qualities and attributes and personalities that differentiate us from the next person. Many times, we are aware of our differences from an early age. I have blue eyes but always envied my cousin's dark brown eyes. That sort of thing.

But there are other unique qualities that sometimes we do not recongnize in ourselves. Things that may stay hidden, and require just the right circumstances and timing to come pouring out.  It is internal art. We often do not even know it’s in there, waiting, standing at the door. If left inside, we are keeping the best of ourselves from the world. It is a disservice to not only our true beings, but to those on the outside who might just need what you have to offer.

            The art that spilled out of me when I was an awkward little twelve-year old was words. Through all of my schooling, I was not a high achieving student. This was not for lack of intelligence, I was just happy to let other students shine brightly and let myself skate by unnoticed. So when my 7th grade teacher presented us with an optional extra credit assignment for our English class, it didn’t even register with me. “Optional” in my brain meant something not worth doing.

            But the night before the extra credit was supposed to be handed in, I had second thoughts. It was nearing the end of the year and my English grade was less than great. So I grabbed a spiral bound notebook and started writing about the given topic of the essay, “Why I’m Proud to be an American.” This was 2002, barely a full year after 9/11. A time when everyone had yellow ribbons tied to trees in their front yards and the stars and stripes raised proudly on their car antennas.  Patriotism oozed out of every corner of small town America, so this assignment made sense.

            I remember sitting in my living room that night only half paying attention to the words I was writing. Maybe it was my ex-air force Dad in the next room, or just the thought of hot dogs on the 4th of July, but I did my best to communicate the proper amount of American Pride. I tore the 2 pages out of my notebook and set them on my teacher’s desk the next morning. I had done my scholarly duty, and walked away just hoping it was enough to raise my letter grade.  

            A few days later my teacher pulled me aside. The words she spoke to me that day in school still resonate with me. She had my paper in her hand, looked up at me and said, “Lindsey, this is very good.” Her compliment was met with a blank stare. It was the last thing I was expecting and didn't know how to respond. It had taken me 20 minutes the night before to complete this half-assed excuse for extra credit. But she was serious. Nothing more was said, but those few words bolstered my self-confidence more than maybe anything else has in my life. I didn't realize it until much later, but in that middle school classroom in Gettysburg she called out my art. 

            Most of the kids in my class had submitted essays for the extra credit (overachievers). But what I didn’t realize at the time was that this whole essay thing was a much bigger deal than I thought. The teacher probably explained this when she told us about the assignment, but as soon as my brain heard the word ‘optional’, I tuned out. My 7th grade teacher, along with many of the other 7th grade teachers in the county, were submitting these essays into a contest run by the American Legion Association (the essay topic made even more sense now). The top 4 essays would be awarded with a certificate and cash prize. I was suddenly much more interested in this extra credit gig.

            A few weeks later my Dad flicked a letter my way. Not having any clue who would be sending a 12 year old mail, he stood by as I tore into it. It was from the American Legion congratulating me on my essay. I won 3rd place in the contest out of all the 7th graders in my county! I screamed and ran the 2 flights of stairs and nearly busted down my parents bedroom door to tell my mom. They picked me? They picked me! (After two others, but hey!)

7th grade Lindsey (on the left) had a hard time doing well in school and keeping her eyes open in pictures.
            My parents were so proud, my teacher was proud. My small private school had chapel every Monday morning, and asked me to read my essay aloud to the whole school. My mom took me shopping to buy a new outfit for the award ceremony held at the American Legion. My grandparents came and I rode in the back of their car. I got my picture in the paper and the cutout hung on our fridge for months.

            At the end of 7th grade, my teacher had a small ceremony for the class where she awarded each student with a certificate. The certificate listed that students’ strengths and talents. When she gave me my certificate it said, “Great Writer.”

            Throughout high school I wrote into the late night hours when I couldn’t get to sleep. I kept journals and tattered notebooks in piles around my room. I wrote about things I was dealing with. Awkward boy encounters, falling-outs with friends, times when my sisters got on my nerves and my parents weren’t fair. I wrote on the plane when I left America for the first time, and I wrote in my bedroom the night I first met Kevin (I was 17).  I couldn’t explain why I wrote about everything. It would be like trying to explain why I breathe. The things I wrote didn’t always make sense, and they weren’t pretty or meant for other people to read. It was an unwinding process for my tangled teenage mind.

            I can’t count the number of files on my computer that are half finished paragraphs of thoughts that came spilling out. Writing often feels like throwing my brain at a white wall and hoping the splatters make sense. And if the splatters are incoherent, that’s fine. They are often just meant for myself. But even if one person can make sense of my ramblings, and relate or gain understanding and strength, then I cannot ask for more.

Us women are appreciated for many things. Unfortunately, we are often first valued for our physical appearance, but those things are fleeting. Clothes and hair are not representative of who I am. But when a person compliments my writing my heart swells like when the Grinch comes to love Christmas.  I remember every single person who has ever had a kind word to say about something I have written. They are their own unique category of incredible people, beginning with my 7th grade teacher in 2002. I am so thankful to her for calling something out in me that I didn’t know was there. 

We all have the power to do that with people around us. We can sometimes see things living inside others who are unaware.  When we highlight a strength or talent in someone, we may be giving them courage and confidence that has an effect on the rest of their life. If you see art in someone, speak it, and if someone sees art in you, believe them when they say it.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

hello from the midwest

The first time Kevin or I had ever stepped foot in Minnesota was last summer. We road tripped out to the twin cities for our anniversary and to get a feel for the place we were considering moving to next. I remember walking around the University's campus when not many people were around, but still feeling in awe of it. The massive stone buildings with columns for days. It feels very scholarly. The real deal. I remembered that feeling this morning as I walked past the columns on my way to class.

Being a 26 year old college undergrad is weird. I'm a little too old to have a lot in common with the other students, but still too young to relate to the professors. But I'm okay with that. I'm just enjoying the novelty of being a student again. To consider learning my job. That is a privilege I do not take for granted, because I have wanted it for some time.

The photo is of my favourite little corner of our apartment. The window lets a lot of light in and I have proudly kept those plants alive for almost 2 whole months(!!). The place is new and tidy, but filled with things from our previous homes and travels. It's just right.

October is here, and she brought the cool air with her. It's safe to say we are very nervous for winter. People drive on frozen ponds here. Like, drive their giant SUV's across frozen lakes and it's perfectly safe and normal and not a big deal. And the reason they drive out onto the lake is to go ice fishing. What is this craziness?? Trust me, I have many questions and very few answers.

Details on ice fishing (which I will not be doing, but something tell me Kevin will) and winter hibernation to come.