June 05, 2013

Choose Adventure.

I'm not a person who gets homesick.  Most summers from 4th grade onward I spent some portion of my time at a sleep-away summer camp, whether it was through girl scouts or the YMCA and I loved it.  I had friends who'd sit in their bunks and cry about missing home or their dad and I never got it.  We're out having this amazing new experience, and you're worried about the fact that you're not home?

With the exception of food (and even that's changed recently), I've always been an adventurous lady.  I've always loved traveling, trying new things, and seeing new places.  My dad loves to recount the time we went to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a week when I was probably 12.  We stayed in this gorgeous little ski town, and spent our days skiing, our nights out getting dinner and hot chocolate and I could not possibly imagine a better way to live.  When we left I bawled.  Full out sobbing, gasping for air crying, during which I yelled at my dad, "Why can't you just get a job here?!"

I still haven't gotten a good answer to that question.

When I went to college, It came down to two very good schools.  One, in the city I grew up in a suburb of, was probably the best science-wise, but offered little in the realm of the arts.  The other, a six hour's drive away in a different state, was a lesser known, slightly smaller school, that wasn't really known for any particular program but it offered everything.  I could take art classes, science classes, and perform in dance pieces without being involved in it's academic program.  I chose the latter.

Before the start of school I went on an orientation trip to Philadelphia with 30 other freshman, a couple older students, and a few professors.  After giving us a presentation on all of the amazing things we would do over the course of the week they went us off to say our farewells to our families before dinner.  This didn't really set me up well for an emotional goodbye as I couldn't stop grinning from ear to ear.  All I could think about was going to the zoo, some bizarre physicians' museum, and taking contemporary dance classes.  There were so many fascinating and new things to take in.  After hugging and kissing goodbye and watching my parents drive off, I headed back to the meet-up for dinner.  I came across a girl from my trip crying on a bench and stopped to ask if she was okay.  She told me about how hard it was to say goodbye to her mom and I tried to be supportive, but honestly I just could not relate.  How could she hear about the fascinating adventure we'd have and be upset about leaving her mom?

I had moved six hours away to Ohio and I delved into everything I could.  I majored in biology, minored in studio art, and was a class away from a minor in Chemistry.  I never anticipated falling for that subject, but organic chemistry and biochemistry are a whole different beast than that gross, formula-filled general chemistry class that I barely passed.  It's about understanding cause and effect, and the neurotic/artistic side of me loved all those drawn out molecules and visualizing how they'd react. It was certainly a lesson in keeping your mind open.  I also spent time as a DJ, TA'd in both biology and printmaking labs, and worked in the student-run coffee shop, eventually working my way up to Operations Manager.  I loved being busy and finding every passion I could.

When it came time to look into studying abroad, I looked for the experiences I could never replicate.  I wanted something I could never do as a tourist (Europe was ruled out immediately).  When I had my heart set on spending my semester in Kenya and Tanzania my parents about had a heart attack.  They tried to convince me to try Australian rain forest, or maybe just South Africa.  Not surprisingly given my stubborn streak a mile wide, I went.  Even being half the world away, I didn't get homesick.  I mean I'm sure I missed my friends, my boyfriend, and my parents, but I was in the middle of freaking AFRICA.  The sounds and smells are always around you.  And I basically spent the entire 3.5 months outside, save a few fancy meals and three nights in a hotel/hostel.  Everything was open, animals, plants and insects were everywhere.  It was hard to miss having class in little desks in an academic building or homework in my dorm room.  With limited technology we resorted to playing every card game anyone knew- mostly Asshole (a.k.a Presidents), Euchre, and Bridge.  I have never seen so many stars in my life.

Coming home was hard.  Everything felt different, and American culture had lost some of it's comforting effect.  The amount of waste we produce seemed gross, the obsession with material objects was disturbing, and superstores were entirely overwhelming.  I longed for that life of simplicity surrounded by nature.

Fast forward another year of school and it came time to figure out where to go from there.  I'll skip the long conversation of how I chose nursing for today, but I was looking at graduate schools and came down to my top two.  Both were equal caliber, but one started and ended sooner, plus it was in Chicago (the other was in Cleveland), and Joe would be in the same city.  Beyond making sure I wasn't going there for the boyfriend, that debate was over about as soon as it started.

I'd never lived in a city before, and Joe being from the country of Ohio, we ended up in a green little suburb just west of the city, called Oak Park.  I've been here now for a year and half, and I go back an forth between loving it and hating it.  Mostly it's good-  we have fantastic neighbors that we actually know, we've made some incredible friends (here's looking at you Stacey and Crane), and the area we live in is actually quite beautiful.  The downside is that both Joe and I are swamped in the combination of school, clinical work, and homework, the weather seriously sucks (they may warn you about the dismal winters, but the hot, humid summers are what gets me really grumpy), and our schedules make it hard to actually take advantage of being here- whether that's actually making it to the beach, taking a vacation to somewhere new in the Midwest, or going to a festival.  Most days are good days.  But a lot of my time is spent with schoolwork or at home with Oy.  Honestly, without Oy and this humble little blog I might have gone a tad crazy.  Having another purpose and something to do beyond schoolwork is keeping me sane.

Today started out as a really good day.  We're in the last quarter of our program, so all we have left is a transitional clinical where we progressively take on the caseload of a nurse whom we work with for the next eight weeks.  We had our orientation, and although I didn't meet the nurse I'll be working with, I did get her schedule.  I was excited to find out I'll be doing evening shifts- I'm a total night owl, so waking up at 5am to be at work at 7 would far from ideal.  The only part I didn't think about was how little I'd be seeing Joe.  He finally has a lighter course load and will be around more at night, just as I'm working 5 or 6 nights a week.  But I'll have all my mornings free to study, craft, and blog to my heart's content without the slump of recovering from those terribly early mornings.

At least I thought I was excited until the end of my yoga class tonight.  The instructor gives prompts for something to think about while we rest at the end, sometimes giving us an assignment of something to focus on for the rest of the week.  This week's theme for the class was "dog days of summer".  She asked us at the end to think about what that might mean to us.  She then asked us to visualize those things that make us happiest in the summertime- water, nature, trips, time with family.  For whatever reason, it hit home.

With each prompt, I thought of home.  Of trips to Conesus lake with my friends and family- spending July 3rd going tubing and sipping blue whales amongst old family friends, or at Ana's grandmother's lake house growing up.  Of hiking at Boughton Park with my dad and our dog, or just walking on the Erie Canal.  Sitting out back at sunset after a big dinner, just sipping on wine and laughing.  Laying out on a hammock under the stars and fireflies with an old friend.

With my unpredictable and packed schedule this summer, I probably won't make it back home until late August.  I can't expect to have holidays off, and it will take some seriously hard work and groveling for money to join Joe on his trip to Hawaii in early August. Considering last summer was spent in by far the busiest quarter of the program, summers are rapidly becoming a stressful, hospital-filled time that flies past before I can even remember to install the air conditioner.  And so somehow in what was supposed to be a happy introspective moment of all that your summer will be, I realized mine didn't include any of what came to mind as those peaceful, joyous summer moments.

I'm not going to lie- I cried a little.  It didn't exactly help that Oy's having one of his behaviorally challenging days on a night when I'm going solo.  I even left my mom a sappy voicemail about how I miss her and was sad I would be missing out on all those special summer activities with them.  And more than anything, I was totally confused at how I got homesick.  Of all times, why would this day be that one time I got homesick?  I thought about how I found it annoying when other people got homesick, because you should be excited about taking in all that your current situation has to offer.  Chicago may not be the place I want to stay, but I should take advantage of all I can while we're here.

So I'm pulling myself up by my bootstraps and I am deciding to give this summer all I've got.  I might be insanely busy getting all my clinical hours and volunteering hours and finishing all that other crap that needs to be done before graduation, but I am going to take time to make this summer count.  I will find a way to get to Hawaii- it's not everyday you get the chance to stay there with most of your hotel cost covered and a close friend who lives there to join you in exploring.  And once the program is done I have an obligatory at least two months off between graduation and getting a job when I'm waiting to take the test and then get my license.  So rather than stress about how I won't have money and just a gigantic pool of debt, I'm just going to focus on living this one life I've got.

I'm going to make a list of goals of things I want to do and accomplish this summer and fall and do my best to live up to them and enjoy the time I have.

1.  Go to yoga at least twice a week, and work out with Joe at least twice a week. 

It's one of the first things I put aside when I'm busy, but I feel better physically and emotionally when I actually do it.

2.  Go to the art museum at least every other week. Make a sketch at least 5 days a week.

3.  Take a trip with Joe somewhere new.  

Ideally Montana, but I can settle for something closer.

4.  Try to blog 5 times a week.

5.  Make stuff!  Enough to merit opening the Etsy shop and getting this ball rolling.

6.  Take Oy swimming!  Bring him to the dog beach and the nearby woods we haven't explored yet.  

7.  Graduate.  

How did I not think of that one yet?

8.  Show Joe that I love and appreciate him every day.

That might not be everything, and I'm sure they won't all fit it, but it's a good place to start.

I urge all my readers to try and take their situation, whatever it may be, and find the adventure.  Try that thing you've always wanted to, but been too nervous.  Pick up a banjo, or a paintbrush, or a book.  Get a little less computer/TV screens and a little more nature.

What are your goals for this summer?
How do you plan to make the most of this fleeting season?

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