Seasons

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I had a conversation with someone recently about what I missed most about Idaho. The honest answer, aside from my family and friends, was the seasons. I missed the way things were always changing. I missed knowing that the weather and the scenery were never going to be the same for long. I missed knowing that even though 100 degree summer was awful, that crisp, beautiful autumn was not far behind. I realized that I loved anticipating all these things: the snow would melt into happy flowers, the rain would clear to gorgeous hot sunshine, summer would fade to orange leaves and sweaters, and just when everything turned ugly brown the snow would come to bless us with more dazzling white. I loved knowing that there was something different just around the corner. It filled me with hope, and it made me cherish the season we were in, because I knew it would soon be over. And it wasn’t until several quiet, thought-filled plane rides later, that I realized just how much this really paralleled to the rest of my life.

When I graduated from college, I had this, mostly unfounded, idea that “This is my life now. This is how it will always be.” Everything felt so permanent, so final. I knew there would be a season in the future with children, and that would change things a little, but, for the most part, I had this fatalistic feeling that I was simply stuck with what I had. “This is as good as it gets.” I would work the same job until I retired. I would live in the same house until one of us died. This was my life, so I’d better learn how to like it.

Obviously a lot has changed since then.

I have since come to believe that everything we experience is only temporary. Like the raging heat of summer or the dead cold of winter, no matter what season we happen to be in at the moment, it will pass.

I see now that I have already experienced many seasons in my life.

Working at the children’s hospital was a season. One filled with great learning and personal growth… a special time for sure… but it was never meant to be permanent. I see now that my career will pass through many seasons. Last year was a season of eye-opening, of learning what my expectations really were and what I really want out of the rest of my career. It was also a year of mourning over the loss of the job that I did really enjoy so much. It was also a year of pure survival, of learning how to simply get by with what I had, and how to assert myself without arrogance. It was humbling. Full of struggle and growth. But it was not permanent. Now I find myself in a new season. I don’t know yet what this season brings, because it is still too new. But I know I am excited about it. I do know it will be a time of growth and skill-building, as I venture further out of the realm of children’s therapy and into more full-time adult care. And that’s ok. This season has lots of support and wonderful people behind it. I know I will be better for it. And honestly, I know this, too, is ultimately just temporary. I don’t know what lies ahead in the next 5 or 10 years. But I do know that this season, right here, right now, is getting me ready for it, whatever it is.

My adult life in Idaho was a season. Even though I had briefly dreamed of moving elsewhere prior to college, once I had my degree and was all set to get married, it seemed that we would always be in Idaho. Yet here I am, in a new season, in a new state. I have already grown so much here, already learned so many things and gained so much more confidence. Now that I have moved far away from home for the first time, moving somewhere else far away does not seem nearly as daunting, either. That first move was filled with much doubt and fear… “Will I really be able to manage in a place that is brand new to me? Where I know no one, where my job is not guaranteed, where my mom is not just a short drive away to come help me if I can’t do it?” But true courage means feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And now that I’ve done it, I know I could do it again. I know that California is a season for us. I don’t know just where the next one will take us… maybe back to Idaho, maybe somewhere else. But there is comfort in knowing that this is not permanent. In knowing that I must really cherish the time we have here, because it will not always be this way.

We will eventually enter a new season with babies, too. I have no idea what that will hold. What I know for certain is that it will be hard. It will be exhausting and trying and, in all honesty, probably very depressing. This is not to say at all that I am not excited about having babies. But I know myself. I know that I will spend much of that time feeling sad and burnt out and doubting myself. But I know that the baby-toddler phase is a season. It too shall pass. I will come out the other side with my sanity intact, and I will, somehow, find a way to continue being myself. The childhood-teenage years are also temporary. There will be a season after those, too.

My point, if I have one, is that there is both great hope and responsibility in knowing that each season is only temporary. There is hope in knowing that whatever we are struggling with, it will be over eventually. We must not be defeated by our circumstances, because, as long as we keep moving forward, they are not permanent. If you feel, like I did, that you “don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, but this isn’t it,” fear not. Keep looking, keep trying. The right opportunity will present itself at the right moment. We cannot lose ourselves to hopelessness.

But because these seasons are only temporary, we have a great responsibility to find a way to enjoy them. Find a way to cherish each time period, because it will not be this way forever. I wish I had realized that my time in Idaho was only temporary. I would have gone camping with my family more. I would have made more time for my friends. I would have worried less about things that didn’t really matter. Make memories. Do the things you want to do. Because you may not get the opportunity to do them again.

We also have a responsibility to learn from each season, too. We experience everything for a reason, and sometimes that reason is simply to get us ready for what’s next. So, even though it sounds totally cliche, we really should be asking ourselves all the time, “What I am learning? How I am growing? How is this making me better?” Especially when times are hard. Because those tough times are often what teach us the most.

I realize now that I need seasons. It is never enough for me to be stagnant, to be standing still. I need something to look forward to. Every once in a while I need to turn over a new leaf. And knowing that I can… knowing that I will… that makes me free.

~Jess

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Don’t Let Me Get Me

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It’s time for a little honesty, people. I’ve been doing lots of things here in California. I’ve gone to a lot of fun places and posted lots of cool pictures, and made some of you jealous, just like I’d hoped. But I’ve been faking it. Well, maybe not all of it, but some of it. I guess I’ve been trying to convince myself as much as you. But let’s face it, the sunshine state is pretty gloomy in my neck of the redwoods sometimes.

I don’t know why I thought that moving to California would make everything just magically better. I honestly don’t know if I even realized that I did. But here I am, three months post-move, disappointed and depressed.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with California. Santa Cruz and the surrounding area are absolutely beautiful and there are lots of fun and interesting things to do. There are stunning beaches and magnificent redwood trees and wonderful farmers markets. There is paddleboarding and major league baseball games and redwood canopy tours. But I’m beginning to realize that I didn’t move here for any of that.

I moved because I was running. I was running from a mistake I didn’t think I could recover from in Idaho. I was running from an entire life of introvertedness and honest depression. I ran, because I felt like it was the only real, tangible thing I could do.

And I wanted to come here, no doubt about it. It’s not as though anyone forced me against my will. When Robbie presented his options and asked what I wanted us to do, it was I who said we should go. He would have stayed. He did not drag me here. But I wanted to try something radically different in the hopes of changing my life for the better. So to California we went.

But it’s not been the giant fix-all that I apparently thought it would be. And why should it be? Moving to a new place for the first time, 800 miles from your family and friends and the only home you’ve ever known is going to be hard at first. Duh. That’s like having a baby to try to fix a bad relationship. It makes things worse, not better, stupid. So it’s no wonder that all of the same demons followed me here, and are screaming louder than ever.

Depression is no stranger to me. I have been chronically sad for as long as I can remember. It’s as though everything in my world is just one shade darker. Like my soundtrack is written in a minor key. My inner voice is very negative, and has very little grace. And it’s always, always been that way. Why would I expect that moving my stuff to a different state would change any of that?

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I have my good days and my bad days, just like everyone else. I just seem to be having longer strings of bad days over the last few months.

For one, my job is often very frustrating. And, with spending 3 entire days and nights a week devoted to it, dissatisfaction on that front seems pretty significant. I don’t want to post a lot of details about it here, for obvious reasons, but let’s just say that it’s very different from what I am used to and not what I expected. I used to derive a lot of satisfaction and pride, and honestly, a bit of my identity from my work. So it’s taken some significant attitude adjustment to accept that this is my job now, and to realize that I have to define myself outside of the hospital. But, as my mom reminds me, my job is not my life. It pays the bills, and that’s what’s important. So focus on what’s good, get through the rest. And find something else to make myself feel important.

Two, I am lonely. As a complete and total introvert who greatly appreciates her alone time, this is hard to admit. I’ve never really been lonely before. But seeing as I haven’t really made any friends of my own yet, Robbie is all I have here. Not that I was particularly social back home. But at least I knew my family was only a short drive away if I ever needed to be around someone. At least I knew I could take Megan to lunch and a movie if I was bored on a random afternoon. Now I find myself watching the clock waiting for Robbie to get home so I can have some company that isn’t a 7-year old with an occasional attitude problem or the voice in my head that tells me I’ll never be happy, no matter what I have or do. Yet another thing I hate to admit. I’m stronger than that, right? At least I thought I was.

I realize now that moving, alone, is not going to fix anything. It’s what I choose to do now that I’m here that’s going to determine my happiness. And I’m beginning to understand that this is going to have to be a deliberate choice. I don’t make friends easily, so I need to decide to make some and actually step outside my damn comfort zone and invite someone, anyone to do something. I need to find hobbies that don’t involve me making and eating baked goods alone in my kitchen. I need to find a goal to work toward, and something to contribute to that’s going to make me feel like I am worth something. I need to do something. If I have any hope of not losing my mind here, I’m going to have to push myself.

And really, all of things I just said, are things I should have done back in Idaho, too. None of this has been caused by the fact that I moved, only exacerbated. But maybe this was exactly the kick in the butt I needed to actually make me do it. I was too comfortable in Idaho to change my life for the better. Maybe now that I have to, I actually will.

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I have always been goal-driven… I am a Capricorn, afterall. So I’m going to start with setting myself a goal, and giving myself something tangible to work toward. First up: a 5k. Something to get me on my feet and out in nature. I signed up for the Oktoberfest Fun Run in Campbell this October. I’ve got the Couch-to-5K app on my phone, and I’ve already logged 2 good workouts. And even though I kind of hate to run, and those one-minute jogging intervals definitely kill right now, here’s what’s getting me through them: I’m not doing it to lose weight this time. I’m not even focused on the health benefits. This time I’m running for my sanity. And so far that’s a lot more motivating. (And I found someone who might be willing to run it with me, too, so bonus points for friend-making potential.)

Other things? I’ve been writing more again. I logged several entries in my paper journal before I decided to post here. Writing helps. I also go to yoga when I can, and there’s a really nice studio less than a mile from my house. I’m also looking into volunteering opportunities as a way to find meaningful hobbies and to meet people. Robbie and I get out and do a lot of stuff on my free weekends, too, so I don’t always feel like I’m bored and stuck at home. He’s been really great through all of this, and he deserves a medal for putting up with my craziness without complaint.

So I’m moving forward, slowly, but surely. Faking it ’til I make it. One step at a time. And other cliche things. I hope to be back soon with an update on how I’m magically all better now and this depressed business is all a thing of the past… but we’ll see. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

❤ Jess

Crossroads

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Do you believe in destiny? I do. But not in the way that many of you will think of it. I believe that, rather than having one great, predetermined destiny which will transcend all events, that there are crossroads at key places in our lives and that each path has a destiny all its own depending on which one you choose to take. I believe there are many possible destinies for each of us, many alternate endings.

I can think of many such crossroads in my rather short adult life. The first that comes to mind is the choice of which college to go to. I had basically two options at the time. Option A was Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. It was a beautiful campus, had a great nursing program, and had a marching band that seemed like a lot of fun. My mom and I toured it, and I even had a small scholarship lined up if I chose to go there. But it was far from home and far from my boyfriend at the time (although things were essentially wrapping up with him then, and, looking back, it shouldn’t have even really been a consideration). I had no guarantee of a job if I went there, and I didn’t even know if my beat up little VW Jetta could make the trip. It was a risk on all accounts. Option B was Boise State University. It was close to home. It had a band program I knew and loved. And they offered me more money. At the time it made the most sense to go to BSU. But looking back now I know I chose it because it was safe. It was easy. It required no risk, no leap of faith. And heaven help me if I haven’t spent the last 7 years wondering what might have been if I hadn’t gone there.

I think of the different people I might have met. The different hobbies I might have chosen. The time I might have spent by the cold beach or the cooky little job I might have found. I wonder if I’d have still chosen to go into healthcare. I wonder who I might have fallen in love with. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

But even on this particular path that I chose, there were other forks in the road, other paths that I wonder about. I wonder, for instance, what might have happened if I’d broken things off with D after that first semester, when I had really wanted to. I felt the pull of something different – maybe something better – waiting for me, but I chose the safe, familiar path instead. I wonder what might have happened if I had chosen to try out for drum major at BSU like I had always dreamed. I might not have even been picked, but I chose to not even try. I wonder what might have happened if I’d said no that day that he knelt in front of me, with that pleading look on his face and that dreadful feeling in my heart. Each time I chose the safe, the familiar, the easy. And each time is now one I look back on with questions and regret.

I realize that I have willfully chosen each of these paths. I have been an active participant in making my life what it is today. But I have also realized that I am capable of forging a new path if I am not happy with the one I’m on.

Last year I chose to make a scary decision. I chose to leave the familiar, the easy, and to try something new. I chose to change my path. And today my life is drastically different. Many, many things have changed, mostly for the better. I chose the path that was more difficult and more exciting, and I can honestly say that I do not regret it.

And here I stand at yet another crossroads. I am faced with a decision that could change my life again if I choose to let it. I could stay here in Idaho; to do what I’ve always done and to get what I’ve always gotten. Or I can choose to move to a new state; to start a new life with a new man, to try a new job, to live in a totally unfamiliar place for the very first time in my life. I can choose the safe, the familiar, the easy. Or I can choose the different, the risky, the exciting. And after all these years of always choosing the well-beaten path, of wondering and regretting, I have no doubt about which choice I should make.

There is a good possibility that I may get to California and decide it’s not for me. I may get down there and wonder what the hell I did to myself, why I left my family and a good job. But I can say with absolute certainty that if I do not go, I will always look back on this decision and wonder. I will always ask, “What if?” And at this point I would rather risk regretting the leap than regretting that I didn’t try.

So here I go.