7 Things Sunday

I’ve been home for a little over a month now. I don’t really know how to describe what the transition back feels like.

It’s not bad.

In fact, it feels really normal and fine in a lot of ways. I love being around my friends and family again. I love the hot sun and driving through rural gorgeousness. I love muggy nights on back porches with twinkle lights and brews. I love the sound of cicadas as I fall asleep. But I’ll get hit with a pang of shock and sadness at any given moment.

Because I miss cobblestone streets and secondhand smoke. I miss dancing in the terrible dance bars. I miss the weird things that happen on public transportation and walking by a freaking castle on a daily basis. I miss my friends and kirk and Steampunk crew. I miss chips, cheese and curry. I miss being offered a cup of tea all the time. I miss walking everywhere. I miss every little bit of it except for the wind and lack of Vitamin D.

I know from my own experiences and from watching various friends and aquaintances go through the “coming back home” from wherever you were for however long…that it can be really, really rough. People get stuck. They get depressed. They isolate. The job doesn’t come as quickly as they want. The friends aren’t around. You feel different. You feel lost. It’s not what you expected. You get anxious about waiting. Nothing goes right. It feels like this whole part of your life was just a weird dream. Oh, transition. Patience is truly a virtue.

I have been determined to not let myself slip into this place. Do people slip into it? Is it a choice? Or does it just happen? I don’t know. Maybe it’s not that dualistic. It’s probably a little of both. Either way, I have felt my foot slipping a lot in the last week or two, but I know I can also make choices to avoid just flat out falling.

So, here is what I have found to be beneficial in making the transition as smooth as possible. Hopefully, if you are/have been/will be in the same boat, there’s something helpful in the list.

One. Change your perspective. Rather than being bored and lonely and focusing on everything I don’t have right now (i.e. a job, my own place, my own car, a vibrant social life, routine, etc.) I want to choose to see this as a time where I’m free to do a lot of things. In a matter of weeks or months I will likely be back in the daily grind and will wish more than anything that I had all the time I do right now. Why waste it?!

Two. Do what you love and do a lot of it. I love creating. This last year I missed that so much. Grad school required me to flex my left brain a lot. The right is a little rusty, which makes me nervous but you have to start somewhere. Like now. I started knitting a new scarf. I’m teaching myself how to embroider. I’ve been sketching more. I just painted over an old canvas to begin something new. I’ve been cooking awesome meals because I have the time to. I’ve surprised myself with how diligent I’ve been at morning prayer and meditation. I pulled out my kickboxing gloves from Farrell’s. Keeping your head and hands busy is crucial. 

Three. Say YES to everything. Normally this gets me in trouble and I work relatively hard not to say yes to everything. But in this season, it’s been a good thing. Right now in this little window of time, I have freedom to say yes to everything. How awesome is that?! Want to come over and watch a movie? Yes. Want to go on a road trip? Yes. Want to come to my potluck? Yes. Want to teach this art class? Yes. Want to volunteer here? Yes. Want to housesit? Yes. Do you want to come stay with me after surgery? Yes. Do you want to go on a bike ride? Yes.

Four. Have fun. Today I painted outside and then I came in and moved the furniture so I could do cartwheels and dance around like a lunatic. By myself. And it was really. freaking. fun. After that, I made myself a gin and tonic and jumped on my bed. And then I took a bubble bath. I mean…it beats watching TV. Or at least I think it does.

But seriously. You should do cartwheels and dance to this, too.

Five. People, people, people. Re-connect. Make the effort even if/when people aren’t making it with you. And with the right friends, be open about how you’re dealing with everything. You might be surprised by people’s insight. You also might be surprised at how good it feels to be social when you force yourself out of the woe is me/sulky/I’m cool doing this all on my own headspace. And if you can stay in touch with the people you love oh so much in your ‘other home’ doooooo it.

Six. Try to balance. I completely acknowledge that it is important and normal to let yourself fully feel and wrestle with all the complicated, frustrating, weird, messy, transitional shit, too. Don’t get me wrong. I know you can’t just switch it off and be a busy, social, happy bee until life’s pieces fall together. Reflecting is good. Bumming out okay. But no one has to stay there.

Seven. Pep talk to yourself on the regs. Oh man. For as positive and optimistic and proactive as all this ^ makes me sound. I am full of doubt and worry and anxiety. I have to tell myself truths all the time to counteract everything else in my head that is much louder and more obnoxious. These pep talks usually happen in the bathroom mirror and in the car when I’m driving. But they work. I know when I start pep talking myself it means that I’ve been paying attention to my thoughts. It’s like I’m catching them and holding them up to the light in order to examine whether or not they’re legitimate or if I need some rewiring. My best friend has this notecard on his door where he wrote “Remember the upsides”. If you suck at catching your own thoughts, put reminders to stay positive in places you will see them. It’s simple.

Love,

Taylor

Home

My flights from Edinburgh to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Minneapolis went smoothly and on time. Of course its always the final and shortest flight that has to screw everything up. We boarded 30 minutes late. Then we had to deplane because the thunderstorms in Des Moines were too severe. We waited another hour. Then we took off. Then the storms were bad again, so we flew in circles in the air for another 45 minutes before finally landing. I was supposed to arrive in Des Moines at 8:30 pm and didn’t get in until 11:30. But this is what I loved about the whole experience…

I was immediately reminded of why Iowans are the best people you’ll meet. They’re so freaking nice. Any other group of people in the airport would have been groaning, whining, asking the gate agent a million questions, etc. (I was even starting to wear thin at this point after I had been travelling for almost 24 hours with no sleep). But not this group. While we were waiting to re-board, someone goes, “Well folks, at least its not a snow storm, am I right?” and everyone laughed in agreement. The woman sitting next to me at the gate offered to share her snacks with me. There was a group of people huddled around someone’s iPhone periodically giving the rest of us updates on the weather radar. When we re-boarded, one man said to the flight attendant, “Well, look at that. You’ve still got a smile on your face! I appreciate that” and as we exited the plane in Des Moines the ground crew were at the door with everyone’s carrier luggage that hadn’t fit in the overhead compartments. One lady, as she was being handed her suitcase, said, “Wow! That was so fast. Thank you so much!”

These people…always remembering the upsides.

**The waterworks started going the second I walked off the plane and by the time I made it to my parents in baggage claim I had to promise that I honestly wasn’t sad to see them. If you’ve seen the movie Inside Out, at this point I could imagine Joy and Sadness sharing my memory marble. Fortunately, my parents know me well and so they just laughed and said, “We’ve been preparing ourselves for the fact that you will probably be like this for a few days.”

When I finally ventured into town the other day I almost had a little panic attack. I was naive and thought maybe I could get away with working on my paper in a coffee shop inconspicuously. But what actually happened was that I couldn’t even make it to the counter for 15 minutes because I knew the next 7 people who walked through the door and although I was really, genuinely happy to see all of them…it was just a lot all at once. And maybe jet lagged brain wasn’t ready for the onslaught of realisations that I’m actually home. I decided to walk back to my dad’s house (which is about a 45 minute walk that goes from one end of town to the other) and I can’t walk by anything without there being very specific memories attached to it.

The corner of Jefferson and Washington where I got hit by a car (well, technically I hit the car) because my bike breaks went out.

The last house we lived in as a family where my favourite cat is buried and where I was told things that changed my entire life, really. Where we had bonfires and covered my bedroom wall in written memories and lip prints.

Smokey Row, where I got to work with literally all of my best friends. Where we took espresso shots before prom and Emily spit hers out across the entire counter. Where I met customers who felt like family and who’s orders I remember still to this day. Where we listened to Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’ album in the dish room about a million times and yelled at kids who were making out in the loft.

My dad’s old apartment on the square where I experienced by first heartbreak. Where we sang the star spangled banner really loudly and obnoxiously from the roof during Tulip Time. Where my outfits consisted of combinations of pearls, purple eyeliner, lace tank tops and cardigans in every colour of the rainbow.

The cannon, where Rachel gave me lessons on how to swear.

The canal next to the movie theatre where Caroline and I once waded for quarters and came up with enough to buy a piece of cake. Score (apologies for all the stolen wishes)! Where I went to many midnight movie premieres. Where I once sat through all of The Devil Wears Prada with my head tilted to the side trying to get rid of my swimmers ear because I had jumped off of the cliffs at Red Rock.

Happy Joe’s, the most frequented venue of summer 2005. Cheese sticks. Boys. Arcade games. Watching music videos. Skateboarding.

Central College where I met some of my favourite people in the whole world. Where I attended epic dorm dance parties and enjoyed the benefits of McP’s mini cupcake maker. Where I played games of Nuke ‘Em and graduated from high school. Where I raked leaves and chased around little Marco. Where I departed from to take off for Haiti and Reynosa, trips that grew my faith, deepened my relationships, and widened my worldview.

The park where Walker and I had a wedding for our trucks. Where I smoked my first cigarette. Where I saw my first girl fight.

Kevin’s house where in the dead of winter we listened to Bright Eyes records and drove around looking at Christmas lights and having stupid deep discussions.

Aaron’s house where I passed out in the lawn after being hypnotised at prom. Where we stayed up late talking after I threw his bachelor party. Where we’d play card games, listen to Jason Derulo, and make tiramisu.

This list could reach novel-length. But the point being…small towns don’t really change. But you do. And then you come back and you realise that you can go live on the other side of the world. You can go experience all these other places. You could even spend the majority of your life somewhere completely different. But home never leaves you. Not really. And home is obviously a place, but it exists in people, too, I think. When you revisit, it hits you that certain aspects of your being are completely gone. They’re dead. They don’t exist anymore. But you know how you can listen to a mixed tape from ages ago and certain songs bring you back? They bring back a moment in time and you feel like you’re actually there for 3 minutes and 45 seconds or whatever it is. Isn’t it the same for people and places? Like the other night…getting in my truck and driving to West Market Park to meet up with Cameron brings me back to a certain time. We are different now. Life is so different now. I’ve seen him in various, more recent contexts and continue to ‘grow up’ with him, but 16 year old Cameron and Taylor still exist in the recesses of my mind. I don’t know if this is making sense or if it sounds like sentimental nostalgic shite. Probably the latter. But oh well. Obviously, you will never remember something exactly as it was. You will never have these memories forever. You cannot realistically go back and relive them. But I find something really mind blowing and comforting about memory keepers. I think to live with chronic nostalgia would be a terrible, terrible thing. However, sometimes a good dose is helpful in a transition season to remind you of where you came from, realise where you are, and prompt you to ask where you’re going.

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Love,

Taylor

Juvie Jamz

Every week at work we go into the juvenile detention center and do a one hour art or writing workshop with youth there. It’s a great way to briefly spare them from boredom and recruit kids that are interested in participating in our programs once they’re out of detention. Sometimes it’s fantastic. The kids are engaged and happy to be there. Other weeks feel like disasters. The past couple weeks we’ve been expanding on the idea of home. We’ve encouraged them to come up with similes and metaphors for home. To think about what home is or where home is. To explore unique ways of describing where they come from. For one person it’s grandma’s house. For another it’s the basketball court. Or Chester’s Chicken. Or the neighborhood park. Or Liberia. After hearing/reading what emergedit felt good to know that everyone could at least think of some place or someone that felt like home, even if the connotations weren’t great. On the other hand, my heart still sank into my gut. It’s hard to wrap my head around these homes I’ve never entered. But I think what they write exposes a lot. I learn a lot about them and where their heads are at without having to outright ask them and without them having to outright tell me. There’s this strange paradox I see of kids having to grow up way too fast, but never actually growing up. I’m not sure if that came out right or makes sense. Anyway…here’s an example (from a kid who wouldn’t perform his rap in front of me because he said my ears were too precious):

I come from a broken home, shattered dreams and stained mildew floors

Crawling around on all fours in my drawers

My dad always high like my ambitions to grow and survive

I went from not knowing when I’d eat to having so much, I’d throw away half my plate

I went from a rental property to a place I’d learn to call home

My dad smoked so much meth, he done lost his dome

But my mom, cold as stone, took me away and said he’d have to live on his own

Not always the best, my whole life’s been a test

I’d have to learn a lot of things on my own because my dad left me

On Father’s Day I used to cry

I’d wish death upon my dad in my own eyes

Through all the deception, all the lies, he left a son who would have to find his own will to strive and survive