3 Things from 2015 I’m Taking Into 2016

For several years now, I’ve written in a notebook almost every single day. Many times it’s an account of what I did that day along with thoughts and feelings about those events. Other times they’re deep spiritual thoughts, or frustration over a relationship that feels difficult, or angst over a life situation. Bits and pieces of my life, recounted on some sheets of paper bound together.2016

Looking back at this past year, it’s tempting for me to get stuck in the past few months, which haven’t been the easiest time of my life. Except to let those be the ones to color my perception of the entire year would be inaccurate, and, in a way, unfair. As I looked back through my daily writings from 2015, I saw difficulty, certainly—sadness over changing relationships, frustration over uncertainty, dismay over things gone awry—but I also saw so many moments of delight, good memories made, and perhaps most importantly, how even the unexpected pieces of life can have positive aspects to them. As I head into 2016, while there are things from 2015 I am glad to leave behind me, there are at least three I’d like to take with me as well.

  • The people we surround ourselves with have incredible power to shape our lives, in ways good, bad, ugly, and otherwise. This past year has brought new people into my life and added new depth, and sometimes complexity, to many of my existing relationships. For the most part, I’ve managed to find truly wonderful people that add so much to my life. As much as I’d love to cling to all these good people and keep them in my lives for as long as possible, I also recognize there’s a measure of impossibility to that, so I have to simply be grateful for the time we do have in each other’s lives. I don’t think I will ever be good at this part, but I am trying to be better at the thankfulness part.
  • Asking for help is hard, but okay. Just as people are in our lives to add joy, richness, and knowledge, they are also available to lend support. I like to think of myself a somewhat self-sufficient person, and I never want my family or friends to feel like I’m using them or don’t appreciate them, so asking for help does not come naturally to me. No one is capable of going through life completely on their own, all the time though, so sometimes the wisest thing we can do is know when it’s time to ask for help. This is something I’m only just beginning to see, and it will take me into 2016 and likely far beyond to fully grasp its importance.
  • “Never” and “Always” statements are quite often dangerous. To say we’ll always do this or never do that is often a refusal to acknowledge change. Life happens, often in very unpredictable ways. Sometimes rules have to be rewritten based on new information. We usually can’t see the future when we make a decision, so we make the best decision we can in that moment, with the information we have, and sometimes that decision lands us in a spot that we couldn’t have known about before. There are moral “always” and “nevers” I think are good to cling to, but many others that need to be tossed.

If it wasn’t for my habit of writing every day, I’m not sure I’d be able to sort through the haze of these past few months to identify these tangible takeaways that have threaded themselves through the entire year. While 2015 Brianna may not have enjoyed every moment of it, 2016 Brianna can learn from these insights and take them into the new year and beyond.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What have you learned in 2015 that you’ll take into 2016?

Introducing: A New Title

For some time now, the title of this blog hasn’t fit quite right. The “recent” in “Musings of a Recent College Graduate” is less and less true every day, and my posts about such topics have grown scarce. There are still tensions I wrestle with, like missing the college world and being unsure of how I feel about this whole “working 40 hours a week” thing, but they look different than they used to. Like I have, the ways I wrestle have grown up a bit.

And so, it is finally time for a new name for this little blog. It’s not something I’ve approached lightly (considering I first wrote about this idea nearly 6 months ago), nor do I say with confidence that the name will never change again. For now though, I present:

The Art of Becoming

As I wrote back in 2013, “Becoming. There’s something hopeful about the word, like a promise of what will be, is going to be, but isn’t quite yet. Glimmers may be there, but not the whole.”

Because isn’t that what life really is? A continual process, with bits and pieces revealed here and there, but never quite the whole. Always, I am becoming. Whether it’s adjectives or titles that describe me, there is–or at least should be–some sort of change happening. It’s a process I’m only just beginning to appreciate, and one I hope I never outgrow.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Growing Up is (Still) Hard to Do

For a while now, I’ve been thinking of making some changes to this blog. “Musings of a Recent College Graduate” seems less fitting now, considering I graduated over two years ago.

And yet, whenever I try to think of a new name for this grouping of writings, nothing jumps out at me. I am still getting used to this phase of life not having a set ending, of not being able to section it off nicely with an end and a beginning. Before, it was always beginning of a grade, end of a grade, on to the next level of school, and so on.

Here, it is an ever-stretching land, with no concrete beginnings or endings I can clearly see, called Adult.

I still don’t even know for sure what the word “adult” means.

I think it’s how I’m supposed to describe myself now, but when I try it on, it still doesn’t seem to fit quite right. The sleeves are a little long, the shoulders a little too boxy, and the hem hangs a little crooked.

And there’s something about “Musings of an Adult” that just doesn’t have a nice ring to it.

Two years ago almost to the day, I wrote about having an Identity Trial.

Graduating from college and attempting to enter “the big kid world” has brought about significant changes in many aspects of my life (some of which I mentioned here). I’ve lost my familiar rhythms of life, the frustrations and joys of schoolwork, and perhaps one I’m struggling with the most, the label of “college student.” So although for most of my life I had a fairly strong sense of who I am, right now my identity is…a bit in flux. Not quite an identity crisis.

An identity trial, if you will.

At my core I still know who I am; my belief in God is firmly intact, and I have a sense that I would like to do something with my life that is bigger than me, but not FOR me. I still know my likes and dislikes, things I am good at and not good at, things that make me laugh and those that make me cringe.

Though my circumstances have changed—I’ve been at my “big kid” job for a year and a half and out of my parents’ house for over a year—a surprising amount of those words still feel true. When I look back at old pictures or am reminded of college in other ways, it still feels so recent, so important, and still not something I’m entirely ready to completely let go of. There’s still so much I’m trying to figure out about how to be an adult well, about how to find and create meaning and goodness in whatever stage of life I’m in.

And a still a blog name that no longer seems to fit, but that I can’t quite bring myself to replace just yet.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What’s hardest for you about growing up?

When Home Isn’t Where the Heart Is

Last Saturday, I moved. If you’ve been around this space for a while, you probably know that change is not my favorite thing. But the lease was up, the roommate was getting married, and it was time to go. So nearly my entire family (including a five-year-old and two three-year-olds) descended on my house at 8:30 a.m., and by 11, we were done.

Done in the physical sense, at least.

Photo Credit: Flickr User z287marc, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User z287marc, Creative Commons

But just because your stuff moves from one place to another doesn’t mean that all of you does.

It’s nothing against my new abode (it’s lovely, close to Target, has space for my hammock inside during the winter months, and comes with a rockin’ roommate), but, even after almost a week, I still feel like I haven’t fully detached from the other house and gotten comfortable in the new one. Which feels especially absurd, considering I only lived there a year.

At the root of it though, I think my issue is that I don’t know what home is for me, right now. I’ve been skimming through a book  full of beautiful pictures and inspiration for imperfect decorating in order to truly make a house (or apartment or condo) a home. But when she gets down to giving some sort of definition of home, she loses me.

I realized that no matter what happened or where we went, it would be okay because we would be together. Wherever we were, that was home. Home was us. 

And therein lies the disconnect. It’s a common refrain, to say that home is where the heart is and where your people are, but if true home is people, mine is only very partially in this dwelling I sit in right now.

If “Home is where the heart is,” then my home must be scattered in pieces across the city, state, country, and world, because my heart is scattered in all those places too.

As much as I want to make this new place a home by decorating it and throwing parties in it and spending lots of time in it (and I certainly will do all of those things), I think it will always feel a little like something is missing. Part of it is connected to being single, I’m sure, but it’s deeper, too. It’s a sense of being unmoored, slightly adrift. It’s a very twentysomething thing for me to feel, I suppose.

Last year around this time I wrote, “Maybe ‘home’ is about creating enough of a sense of it within me that I can carry it with me wherever I go.” I’ve had year to work on it, and I’m not sure I’m any closer to figuring out what that looks like.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you define home?

When a Book Gives You the Hope You Need

As a teenager, I read all the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books. To say that I loved them might be a bit strong, but I certainly enjoyed them. There was something about their tight-knit, started-at-birth, years-spanning friendship that appealed deeply to the teenage me who had friends, sure, but not many who had been around for a considerable length of time.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Abee5, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Abee5, Creative Commons

And so, I was recently pleasantly surprised to discover a fifth book to the series, set 10 years after the last one. Here they were, these girls I hadn’t thought about probably in years, suddenly catapulted to an age just a few years ahead of my own. They were the same as I remembered them in many ways, but as we all do as we age, they had changed too. Almost like they were real. As the book recounted the ways their relationships with each other had cracked and mended and changed over the years, it felt so near. Because I know those things, too.

 

Friendships get weird when you’re a twenty-something. Suddenly the built-in place to make them, of shared classes and clubs and dorms, is gone. Many people scatter, to new places and new phases and new faces. And you scramble a bit, trying to hold onto the ones who have become so much a part of you that you can’t imagine life with them, and you learn the difficult lesson that some friendships are only for a season and that’s okay, but the line of which ones are which is thin and painful to find.

There is fear, too. Fear that this move, this relationship, this new job will be the one that somehow makes the divide between two friends a little too big, a little too far to bridge with texts and phone calls and coffee dates. People change and relationships do too, and there is goodness there, but hardship too. And sometimes it comes in ways you didn’t expect or invite.

 

But, this book. This unexpected discovery. I saw myself in the characters I’ve know for many years, and in them I found hope, too. These are fictional characters, of course, born in the imagination of the author and only truly existing in the minds of readers, but I think the best kinds of books are the ones we’re invited to see ourselves in. Things had changed for these characters, time and time again, and still they found their way back to each other. Never in exactly the same way as before, but somehow. It wasn’t without pain or missteps along the way, but it happened. And it makes me a little less fearful.

Maybe, as I continue through my twenties and beyond, my friends and I will continue to find our ways back to each other too.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever found the hope you needed in a book?

Dear College Graduate

I graduated from college two years ago, and yet as I begin to see the social media chatter of those who are finishing up themselves, the emotions I was feeling at that time feel close by. Even writing this, I can feel the excitement again–but mostly, the overwhelming uncertainty. From what I know now, if I could have given myself a letter that night, here’s what I would say.

Photo Credit: Flickr User tajkd, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User tajkd, Creative Commons

Dear college graduate,

First of all, congrats! You made it! All that homework and studying and sleep lost has led up to this…a funny hat, a walk across a stage, and a pretty little piece of paper with your name on it.

Second, I’ll warn you right away: there aren’t any perfect words for a time like this. I could tell you to chase your dreams and to not let anything get you down, but those are vague, unhelpful sentiments. So let me tell you a few things I wish someone had told me.

  • There is no shame in doing the smart but un-fun thing to help you get where you need to be. For me, it meant living with my parents for over a year after I graduated. It was fine, but it felt weird to be trying to be an adult while living in my childhood bedroom. But it was what had to happen at that time. Living where you need to or taking the job you have to in order to accomplish something can be the smartest thing you’ll do.
  • Sometimes being a college graduate sucks, and it’s okay that you think it sucks. Feel what you feel. Maybe you thrive on the excitement of the unknown, or maybe uncertainty can leave you curled up in a ball, watching Netflix for hours on end. Neither of these feelings are inherently bad, they’re just different. It’s better to admit the way graduating is making you feel than try to act another way because you see someone else reacting differently. These are crazy times, and no two people will handle it in the exact same way.
  • The transition from student to…something else…is a strange one. It takes time and the willingness to be okay with one chapter of your life being over. You might think that once you find the perfect job you’ll immediately fall into the new routine with contentment and glee, and there will likely be some of that, but it’s a very big adjustment. Sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes it’s hard. Look for the wonderful, and be prepared for the hard.
  • The season will change. I promise you. Whether you’re in elation or despair, it will not last forever.
  • Now about that diploma. It’s nice, at first—it’s exciting to see your name there, declaring you have a “Bachelor of Science” or whatever your exact degree was. But there will come times when you will glare at that piece of paper, wondering if it was all worth it. The loans (if you have them) will come due, and you will wonder all the more. Someday you might get a job that will prove to you it was worth it, but maybe the proof won’t come in as tangible a form as a paycheck. Maybe it will be in the enduring relationships, the classes that have helped you look at the world slightly differently, the sense of accomplishment that though schoolwork does not come easily to you you graduated. “Worth it” comes in all shapes and sizes.
  • Find something to enjoy about where you are. Whether it’s extra time to devote to a hobby because you’re un- or under-employed, free food because you live with your parents, or basking in the fact that you no longer have to do homework, there is something good about wherever you’re at right now. Find it. Relish it.
  • Last, and possibly annoyingly, let me remind you that there is a plan here. You don’t always see it, you definitely don’t always feel it, but God has his hand on whatever it is you’re in right now. I’m not promising the plan will always feel like a plan or that the plan will always be good in the definition of good that you know, but it is there.

So there you have it. Welcome to the World After College. It’s a strange place here, and it might take some getting used to, but I hope you learn to enjoy it.

We’re glad you’re here.

Sincerely,

Brianna

p.s. What would you say in a letter to college graduates?

Grown-Up Christmas

I put up a Christmas tree by myself yesterday.

In years past, I’ve put up small trees–in my dorm room, apartment, or parents’ basement, and I’ve always loved helping my mom decorate their house for Christmas.

But this felt different. I put the stand together, carefully screwed the base of the tree in place so it wouldn’t move, fitted each section together, strung the lights (twice, actually, cause the first time didn’t look very good), then hung my set of Target clearance section plastic ornaments. I was pleased with how it turned out.treeIn ways it was nice to decorate by myself. I went at my own pace, picked whatever Christmas music I wanted to listen to, and got to decide which ornaments went where, occasionally rearranging them multiple times (I just moved a couple more after writing that sentence).

It felt a little weird though. There’s something about Christmas trees, and the season in general, that speak of home and family and warmth and coziness. I really like my current living situation, but I can’t let myself forget that it’s temporary. This is the only Christmas season that tree will spend in this living room, and it’s the only one I’ll spend living here as well.

As comfortable as I sometimes feel in this stage of life, yesterday was a reminder that things can still be a little weird here. This whole holiday season, starting next week with Thanksgiving and stretching through New Year’s, is going to be a new kind of experience for me.

I’ve always had weird work hours through the holidays, and now I’ll be working almost completely regular ones (though I’m taking a few days off).

I’ve always gone home to my parents’ house or already been living there for most of the month of December, and now I’ll only be there for a few days around Thanksgiving and a few more around Christmas (and even then, it’s mostly because my roommate would likely be gone and I can’t bear the thought of waking up in an empty house on a holiday).

I’ve always looked at the new year as the start of a new semester, and now, it will be just a new date on my emails at work.

Considering how notoriously bad at change I am, I’m not dreading these changes as much as I thought I might. It is different though, and I’m grappling with the realization that this is what adulthood looks like. Or at least my own version of it, for right now. Decorating a tree by myself, working nearly regular hours, only spending a few days here and there at my parents house. A grown-up Christmas, I suppose.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How did you deal with the changes adulthood brings about, especially when it comes to holidays?

Creating Home

I’m writing this in the basement of my parents’ house, enjoying the Wi-fi that we don’t have yet at my new house (which also explains the lack of new posts lately).

Two weeks ago, before The Great Move of 2013, I wouldn’t have called this “my parents’ house.” I would have just called it “home.”

At some level, it still is. Every other time I moved out, it was for school. It usually only took a few weeks before I started referring to my dorm or apartment as “home.” If I told my friends I was going home, that’s what I meant; but if I was going to my parents’ house for the weekend, I was going “home home.” I’ll still be doing my laundry at my parents’ house, and it is the hub that I and my siblings and their spouses and their children descend upon for holidays and family meals, so at some level it will still be “home home.”

But unlike the other times I moved, this time everything came with me. Bookshelves, off-season clothes, all the little “life-y” bits I’ve accumulated over the years–they all came along. My room here, in this house where I sit right now, isn’t really mine anymore. Soon, my parents will redecorate and it will become the room my nieces and nephews play in and sleep in when they come to visit. When I visit, I will have no room to claim as mine.

This is what is supposed to happen. Kids grow up, move out.

And then, the kids have to find out for themselves what “home” means.

There is an element of it that is physical, of making the house I live in now comfortable and somewhere I want and like to be. I want it to be the type of place where I can invite people over and that they will enjoy being.

“Home” is much more than mere physical space, though. It is a concept, a feeling that is often attached to the physical, yet so much more. The people you’re with can add to, or even become a sense of home. This is, I know, one reason I don’t know what home means for me right now–because my circumstances of moving out at this stage in life are not what I expected.

But maybe my concept of home has become too rooted in the external, and not nearly enough in the internal.

Perhaps feeling at home is a choice of making peace with my circumstances. Maybe it’s about learning to appreciate this season of life God has me in right now, even though it’s not where I would have placed myself.

Maybe “home” is about creating enough of a sense of it within me that I can carry it with me wherever I go.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What does “home” mean to you?

The Great Move of 2013

I’m moving. As in, as I’m typing this, I’m actively in the process of moving–the vast majority of my stuff is already at the new house, and I am waiting for the dishwasher to finish so I can pack a few dishes from it. Then I’ll cram the rest of the odds and ends in my car and head to the house my cousin and I will share for the next year.

Photo Credit: Flickr User  emmajanehw, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User emmajanehw, Creative Commons

Recently I took an assessment quiz that measured various aspects of the way I’m “wired.” It was for work, so my boss and I met with an advisor to talk about how we’ll be able to best work together. At one point, the advisor said something about how for me, the external world and my internal world are very closely related. Most people have somewhat of a “barrier” between what is happening around them and what is happening in their thoughts and feelings, and my barrier is very thin. External circumstances have a profound impact on what I’m thinking and feeling. Her explanation is the best I’ve ever heard for it. It’s not an all bad or all good thing, it’s just the way I am.

I think it explains why, for me, moving feels like a big deal. When I cleaned my room and packed my boxes, it wasn’t just moving objects from one place to another; it was categorizing memories and moments, saying goodbye to the way things were and greeting the way things will be. The act of moving is as much thought work as it is physical work for me.

Maybe I’ll get better at it with time. Our lease is for a year, so in 12 months I’ll be moving again. Maybe it will make a difference that I’ll have been there for a much shorter time than I’ve been in my parents’ house. It will have fewer memories attached to it, and it will be less of a physical representation of truly leaving my childhood behind than this move is.

Or maybe, for me, moving will always be rather bittersweet, sort of hard and sort of happy.

And maybe that’s okay too.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How does moving affect you?

Taylor Swift and Turning 23

February 27 is my birthday. Which means, depending on when you read this, I will soon, or may already, be 23.

Some of you are probably thinking, “That girl is an infant! Someone warm up her bottle!” Or perhaps, “Yeesh, she’s so old. Someone get her a glass of prune juice.”

My own reaction to this new number can be found at either extreme, or sometimes off by itself in some unknown land.

Age is technically just a number. Nothing magical actually takes place on birthdays. I’ll likely feel no different tomorrow at this time than I do today. However, for the past few weeks, I’ve been lamenting that I will no longer be able to sing along to Taylor Swift’s song “22.” As a 23-year-old, I can’t still be singing a song about being 22. Those are things that are no longer mine to claim.

 

Say what you will about Taylor, but these few lines are a fairly fitting description of my year of being 22:

Yeah, we’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time
It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah…
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22

I think Taylor got it wrong though.

As I type this, I’m still 22, so I can’t say for absolute certain; but I’m pretty sure those feelings aren’t going to go away the moment I turn 23. Or even after a week of being 23, or 5 months, a week, and 3 days of being 23–I’m pretty sure there will still be times when I feel happy, free, confused, lonely, miserable, and magical.

Not just when I’m 23, but for the rest of my life.

Because even though a number says I’m older, the number doesn’t make me any wiser. It doesn’t give me an extra dose of life experience to help me understand things, it doesn’t tell me exactly what to do for the rest of my life, it doesn’t make my relationship with God perfect, it doesn’t grant me a boyfriend and a new car.

It’s a number.

Though I might wish it did, it doesn’t change anything significant in my life. The parts of life I’m pleased with and the ones I’m not–they all remain. A number changes, but a lot of things stay the same.

Being “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time, It’s miserable and magical” isn’t locked up in being 22.

Which means maybe I can keep singing along after all.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you feel about birthdays?