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Friday, September 23, 2016

"That Guy" In Friday Traffic

There is always "that guy" in Friday traffic. The one who speeds up, rides people's butts, just to change lanes and sit in the same position they were in before. The three second spacing rule goes out the window and all others on the road must bow down to them. Heck, sometimes they even ride on the shoulder just to bypass what everyone else is dealing with.

Maybe sometimes, we are "that guy" or wish we could be. Today, I found myself sitting in Friday traffic, not even to the highway yet and I watched one of those guys squeezing his way between cars with inches to spare only to change lanes again seconds later. I began to think about our unhealthy obsession with getting places quickly.

I'm not denying the fact that I was feeling anxious about the snail's pace it felt like I was going, but to me, it always seems more important to get home safely than it is to get there quickly. Don't get me wrong, I love to get home early so I have more time to get things done or relax. What gets me through that Friday traffic, though, is keeping in mind what really matters, getting home safe. 

I also thought about the parallels to these situations in the rest of my life, times that I catch myself being "that guy." Standing in line at the grocery store, or the library, or the movies. The times when I have gotten annoyed at having to wait, to go at a slower pace. I think that there is something innate in us to feel this way.

But what are we missing out on as we worry about our lateness? What risks are we willing to take to get someplace on time or early? What danger do we put other people in because we are impatient? What cost does our need for speed have on ourselves and other people? 

The answer to those questions cannot be positive. More good cannot come from rushing to get places than it does to take our time, be safe, and enjoy the ride. So I am going to try not to be "that guy" in Friday traffic or in the rest of my life. I am going to try and take my time, get home safe, and remember that that is what really matters. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Age of Losing Friends

We all have that friend or friends who never seem to be available. You invite them to all functions you plan and they always have something else to do, but for some reason you always find yourself inviting them anyway. We all also have those friends that take it one step further, either pretending they don't see the invites or just flat out ignoring you. As time goes on, eventually you just stop reaching out at all and they fall off your list of friends.

About a year ago, one of my best friends from high school moved literally down the street with his fiance. We talked about how great that would be and how much more we would see each other. At first, we did, but that quickly changed. After a few get togethers, attending one of their wedding showers, and eventually the wedding, we lost touch.

It wasn't for a lack of trying on our part either.  Messages would be sent, clearly read (Facebook messenger shows when messages are opened...) and were flat out ignored. Texts were left unanswered, phone calls never returned. It appeared blatant. I mean, most everyone knows you can see when someone reads your message. Were they trying to make a statement? It left Brandon and I and other friends who had reached out collectively wondering what we had done wrong.

I wracked my brain and combed through our last few interactions to see if I could figure out what had gone wrong. Was it something we said or did? Did we offend them somehow without realizing it? Did something happen that we were totally blind to? I had a lot of theories, but just couldn't be sure. All the more confusing, my friend drove by us while we were walking one day, stopped to talk, and acted like NOTHING was wrong. Of course he suggested a get together and nothing ever came of it.

I still don't know the exact reason they pulled away from our friendship, but I have been thinking about this a lot lately. It seems that within the last few years, this has happened with many people I considered friends. Just last week I texted a friend to get dinner, she didn't acknowledge the dinner invite, asked me a question, and never responded to me after I answered. Then there are those who respond, but two weeks later. I find myself asking WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?! IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME?!

It was late last week that one of the morning radio shows I listen to was talking about just this. According to a recent study by Aalto University in Finland and the University of Oxford in England, when people reach their mid-twenties they begin to lose social contacts at a rapid rate. PHEW! At least I know I'm not alone, but it still didn't make me feel much better. If the decline has already started to happen, what does that mean for my circle of friends in 5 years or 10 or 20?

Apparently, the study blames the fact that people's focus tends to shift around this time in life. They start to weigh out what they want and who provides that for them. According to the findings, women especially tend to focus on "best" friendships as a way to create a tight inner circle, specifically for when they begin to have children. So basically, what the study is saying is the people who aren't answering or are not putting in the effort don't see me as a part of their inner circle.

Cool. Cool. I get it. While my initial reaction is to be offended, it got me thinking. I have started to frame things much the same way. You people don't want to respond to me? That's okay, I have people who do respond, enjoy spending time with me, and care when things are going well and maybe are not going so well. Is it worth putting the effort in for those that don't? No! And that's okay.

I wrote a post a month or so ago after our housewarming party. We invited over 40 people and in the end only about 10 showed up. When we looked around the room we realized it was a majority of our bridal party and family. Those are the people who have stood by us before and are still standing by us now. That's not to say that there aren't others who I will still try and reach out to.

I am realizing that we are going through the "Age of Losing Friends," but I am choosing to look at it in a positive light. According to the numbers we may be losing friends, but we are also creating a tight inner circle that will be with us through all the joys and troubles we might face. At this point in life, it's not worth chasing someone who doesn't consider you part of their own circle, so here's to those who do! Thank you for being part of my entourage!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Your Full Name and A City To Go With It

It's almost official! In May of 2017, I will be done with my first Master's Degree. It still doesn't seem all that close, but last week I got a form to fill out asking for information to be included in the graduation program. While most of the information was easy to come up with, one question caused me to pause.

The form wanted me to fill out my full name and a city I wanted listed next to it. My first thought was to put Kenosha, since that is where we are living now. I began to think, however, about what place I most associate with myself and I realized how many I have to choose from.

This left me all the more confused. See, I grew up in Palatine, went to a Catholic grade school and then a public high school there. But I also worked at a special recreation association in Rolling Meadows, went to college in Elmhurst and was a student worker in a variety of offices, got my first job in an elementary school in Vernon Hills, and now I work for a high school district in Glenview and live in Kenosha. This led me to another realization.

We are not only associated with places, but businesses, schools, religions, jobs... My best friend and I were discussing life, as we often do, and she shared how hard it has been for her and her husband since he left the Marines. "My identity for the last four years has been a military spouse," she said. "Now, it is hard to come up with an identity."

Since moving to a new state where I don't know anyone, I have been struggling a bit with my own identity. Sure, I have things that I identify myself as: teacher, sister, daughter, wife, poet, pet parent, and the list goes on. I am realizing that everyone has so many different things they use to identify themselves. So what city most defines me now that I am not living in the place I did for the majority of my first 23 years?

How can we ever state one city, business, school, or even sometimes religion that defines us? We are who we are because of all of these things. For now, Kenosha is home, but who knows where I will end up living next? For now, Olivet Nazarene is my school, but who knows where I will end up studying next? For now, I work in Glenview as a transition teacher, but who knows where I will end up working next?

While it might not seem very concrete, I am relieved with this revelation. I am not defined by where I am living (though I am loving living in Kenosha). I am defined by all the places I have lived or visited and the experiences I have had. I still don't know what city I will list in the graduation program next to my name, but I have found comfort in reflecting on all the places I have been and all the places I have yet to go.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Uncensored Rap, Heavy Metal, and Showtunes

I am going to be honest. Lately, I have been exhausted! I find myself going to bed earlier and earlier and if I don't, I can't help but nod off on the couch. My alarm goes off in the morning and it is like waking the dead. I have been doing my morning yoga with my eyes still closed and if I go to the gym after work, I feel like I am a zombie, going through the motions.

It is slightly unnerving. Maybe it is because I slept in all summer and now am up at 5:00 a.m. every day. Maybe it is the fact that I am back to work. Maybe it is the extra time and mileage to my commute. Maybe it is my students. Maybe it is the fact that it is my second year on the job (I thought I would have a better handle on things, but I am finding that I have so much more to figure out). Maybe it is our new home, new city, new routines.

While I was driving home from work yesterday at 9:00 p.m., after our back to school parent night, I did a little reflecting. After all the parents had left, my coworker and mentor had expressed how exhausted she felt and it was then that I realized just how much that rang true. Staying at work so late and being "on" for two hours answering parents' questions was exhausting.

I began to question, though, why I felt like this every day for the past few weeks. While listening to my loud mix of uncensored rap, heavy metal and showtunes, I realized that I hadn't done that in a while. Listening to this weird mix of music after a long day at work used to be comforting. Lately, though, I have found myself listening to whatever is on, zoning out on the drive home.

I also began to think about the other things I have stopped doing regularly. Things like writing, grocery shopping once a week instead of anytime we need something, meal planning, going for nightly walks with my husband, and the list goes on. I began to realize that somewhere along the line, I have lost my balance. I have put all my effort into being "on" at work and zone out during the rest of my life.

Last year and in the year prior, I tried consciously to create a strong work/personal life balance and this year I feel like I have lost that. I come home after rushing around to get things into order for my students and staff and worry about what I might have forgotten to do. My students and ways to improve the way I am teaching is constantly on my mind. The bad thing about that is I have stopped doing the things that comfort me. I have stopped being present in things that are not work related. I am just going through the motions of the day when I am home.

The thing that strikes me is how easily this happened, how quickly I slipped into this school year trance. I am thankful, though, for the moment I realized it. I am grateful for a weekend to relax and for time to be present in things that are separate from my job, but still bring me joy. I am grateful for my new "long day playlist" to drive home to and candles and books and tea and all the things I find comfort in. I need to remember to stay balanced and present always.