The Spark

When I meet someone, the thing I’m most curious about is: “What’s your spark?” Meaning, what’s the thing that brings you joy and purpose when the day to day responsibilities feel less than thrilling? Is it helping others? Your friendships? Your family? Your faith? Your work environment?

Sometimes I imagine everyone walking around with a tiny match, a pilot light, always there, just waiting to be ignited. It burns faintly through normal day to day operations, but at certain points, there’s a spark! And then it roars like campfire, emitting an obvious glow. I see it all the time: when a tired conversation changes because someone begins talking excitedly about a new idea, or their favorite meal, or what they love about their best friend. It’s a glow that can’t be missed.

I know I had that glow when I was a student at JMU. I had an unpredictable and challenging job that required my full attention for 20+ hours of my week, plus I was taking a full course-load, and I was fencing. Oddly enough, I think I had more responsibilities than I have now. I was tired, sometimes. And I needed breaks. But mostly, I just needed my people. The talks I had with friends and coworkers made up for everything that was hard.

When I look back at those years, I wonder how I didn’t experience burnout. I was doing so much, but I was soul-happy. I felt so much joy and purpose in what I was doing. That spark was burning bright through problem solving and student programming. Maybe it wasn’t there for late night study sessions or while completing tedious weekly paperwork, but it was burning again for 7am yoga, or when I sat on the quad writing to my long-distance friend.

And here’s the big thing: aspects of that job were emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting, but unlike jobs I’ve had since, I loved it. I loved helping people, even when it meant facilitating painful roommate interventions. I loved free moments for processing life with my co-workers during our 8pm-2am shifts, even when emergencies meant the shifts lasted longer. I even enjoyed making the bulletin boards that my fellow RA’s dreaded. It never occurred to me to find a less-demanding job, I did it for three years.

Grad school was kind of like that, too. The community was so good. I was never fully invested in the coursework. I nearly dropped out twice, honestly. But the friendships I found with my new co-workers and my cohort made me want to stay. Even though I was on the strictest budget and living without heat for half the winter, I poured myself into non-essential fun projects. I recently found a few fun conversations (thanks, googledocs and gchat) and I re-read them and laughed and felt at home. I remembered a version of myself I haven’t felt like in a long time, which was significant. I’ve felt so out of touch with myself for the past few years.

Recently, I’ve had some conversations with old friends and mentors about career paths and purpose. I like my current routines. Moving to Winston-Salem connected me with a grief group, new friends, a gym, and an inclusive faith community. My career is stable and I generally see purpose in the work that I’m doing. Working from home has it’s perks. For all of those reasons I feel very, very, very lucky. And yet… that match / spark / pilot light isn’t operating the way that it used to, the way I want it to.

I’m just not as a fulfilled as I was when I was 22. I know I’m still working through grief and lingering depression and trying to navigate my role in the laundry list of things that are wrong with this country and the world right now but even when I put the hard things aside and focus on “self care” things like drinking water and writing the letters and crushing it at the gym and spending time outside, I feel detached. Slightly off. And in group settings, especially, not like myself. Not the version of myself I want to be.

All this is to say, I’m searching for my spark. I’m exploring some new potential opportunities: new work, volunteer gigs, maybe more school that would lead to a new career, I’m even considering a big move that would change everything. I don’t know what I want, ultimately, but I’m putting it out in the universe: A hope for something brighter. An intension to be open to changes that may seem impossible at first. And when I begin to dwell on the past and that version of my earlier self that I’m missing, I want to re-focus that feeling into looking forward into the years ahead and what changes are within my control.

I don’t like who I am all the time. I don’t like how I feel most of the time. But I feel so self-centered even acknowledging that. All this is to say, I think I need to focus on getting that spark back.

Winston Salem is Magical

Y’all. I still can’t believe I get to live here.

So far, living in Winston Salem has been nothing short of magical. In a span of a few weeks, I found the communities I so desperately needed: a grief group made up of incredibly thoughtful and resilient people, an amazing gym full of kind, encouraging, and motivating group fitness instructors, and an awesome liberal church community that actively supports social justice issues. I’ve met new friends with shared passions and life experiences, and I get to see them on a regular basis. It’s amazing and exactly what I’ve been searching for. Continue reading “Winston Salem is Magical”

Summer & Whole 30

This summer, partly in a morbid way and partly because I felt stunned by the state of things, I kept catching myself saying, “what a weird time to be alive.” I was feeling the tug of personal pain and utter frustration with the shifting values of this country counterbalanced with some amazing, fulfilling interactions and adventures that opened me up to so much. I LIVED this summer, and, in doing so, I often felt caught between feelings of guilt and gratitude. For example,

Continue reading “Summer & Whole 30”

A MUCH NEEDED Transition

I watched a TedTalk a while ago about the power of community which essentially said that when you share your dreams and challenges within a community, someone there can help you succeed. As humans, we need to feel like part of a community in order to feel safe and grow and thrive. Community is everything, basically, but for a while now, I haven’t really had one.

For the past three years I’ve lived on the side of a mountain in a town that I feel only a small connection to. I went to a church here once where the sermon derailed into a declaration on how you should eat something wild (i.e. a weed growing in your yard) every day. Also, I went to an upmarket farm to table restaurant and while it was lovely and delicious, I discovered a live worm crawling around in my salad. When I gently brought attention to this, our server brought me another salad, but I wondered if the typical customer would have just eaten around it. And finally I went wine tasting at a popular vineyard and was told by the owner that getting a fruit fly in your glass  is good luck. Lucky me, I got three in my first pour. I never went back there. Continue reading “A MUCH NEEDED Transition”

Five Years

This March, Bret and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary with a trip to New York City!

It was such a fun and memorable way to mark 5 years of marriage.

We loved eating authentic NYC bagels (especially with lox and cream cheese!), wandering through a bookstore in Chelsea Market on a weekday morning before the crowds, seeing an original Vincent van Gogh at MOMA, strolling through Central Park, frequenting the M&M store in Times Square, and checking out the view from the Top of the Rockefeller Center.

It was cold, but it was fun. I loved sharing a giant, perfect slice of oreo cheesecake which reminded me of the cheesecakes I used to sell as a fundraiser for my middle school orchestra. And I loved listening to Bret point out places he remembered from his trip marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Continue reading “Five Years”

Life Lately

I haven’t been actively posting to social media or blogging recently and it feels good to “unplug” and spend time away from my phone after work. When I don’t share my life or feelings in some public way, it seems like I have a if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods-and-no-one-hears-it kind of relationship with this digital age we’re living in, but most of the things that I’m feeling are messy and uncomfortable so I prefer to share them in real conversations or in grief-related spaces. And I want to document the good parts of my life right now, but if I only share those shiny parts without context, it feels incomplete and insincere. Still, I want to document some things, so here’s a life update that bounces around into all of the difficult and joyful pieces of my life lately. Grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one.

Truthfully, I feel disconnected from a lot of people right now. I attribute some of that to my own social isolation but I’m also just tired of explaining that I’m still grieving. When someone asks how I’m feeling, I never know how to describe it. I have a giant hole in my life where my dad is supposed to be and I can’t even begin to put into words how much I miss him. Or how homesick I feel when I think about the version of myself that I got to be whenever I was around him. Winter darkness and cold temperatures reignited a lot of my pain and trauma so Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas and now this winter just feels like a weird place lodged in time that doesn’t fit into a normal, chronological calendar year. Continue reading “Life Lately”

Modified Gratitude

It’s November. Gratitude season. It’s also November: ten months after my dad died.

Holidays are painful this year. I don’t feel like celebrating a year that has been washed over with grief and pain, but I also don’t want to deprive myself of the traditions that bring me comfort and joy. I’m still deciding what to keep and what to skip.

Every November for the past 5 years, I’ve made a “Grateful Jar” and filled it with lists of things that I’m grateful for. Each one is a tiny time capsule. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make a 2017 jar, but I decided to make one that reflects my dad. I decorated it with photos of him and phrases that remind me of him like:

  • stay humble
  • listen more
  • let it be
  • be kind

Continue reading “Modified Gratitude”

Year 4: Life is short & love is forever

Four years ago, while writing my wedding vows, I imagined a future with Bret: traveling the world, writing books together, moving to new cities, and finding adventures. I probably thought about the hardships, too. I figured we’d support each other through challenging careers and hold each other up through life’s struggles, whatever they may be. Maybe in the back of my mind I considered a far distant future after our parents had the chance to retire, travel, and live full lives when we’d have to say goodbye to them, but I never imagined losing my father so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and so young. Continue reading “Year 4: Life is short & love is forever”

Stronger Better Faster 30

Well hello faithful readers! It’s been too long. Truthfully, it’s been difficult for me to write post-election. Seven weeks later, I’m still experiencing waves of shock. Every time I begin to feel a bit better, I learn that another under-qualified person with dangerous or degrading messages has been appointed by our president elect. I’ve grieved and allowed myself to feel angry and now I’m channeling that into action. I called my senator and a few offices in DC to voice my concerns, and I’m supporting organizations who still care about women + LGBT rights. I’m also looking for new opportunities to volunteer. I may not be able to change much on my own, but I can’t sleep if I don’t try.

All that’s to say, it’s a good thing that I started planning my 30th birthday before the election because otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have had a party at all. And that would have been sad because thirty is a big milestone and I love birthdays and I love parties.

Continue reading “Stronger Better Faster 30”

2016 Election: Shaken

As I watched the 2016 election results roll in on Tuesday night, I was uneasy. Early results trended Trump. I went to sleep around midnight, feeling nervous, but with so many states too early to call, I had a sliver of hope.

I woke up at 3am, checked my phone, and I froze.

I texted some of my friends who were also awake and in shock. I was shaking. I couldn’t get a deep breath. I’ve only felt this way a few times in my life. My chest was aching, and I was too stunned to cry.

When I look at Donald Trump, I see every man who has sexually assaulted me. Continue reading “2016 Election: Shaken”

This is Boone | Starry Night edition

A few weeks ago, I spent a Saturday night on my friends’ back porch. We were rocking in rocking chairs, staring up at the stars, and drinking beer and homemade moonshine while there were guns and/or firecrackers firing in the not-so-distant distance. We were enjoying a good conversation and I had one of those moments like I did when I first put on snow boots or that time I wore flannel to brunch where I thought… this is Boone. This is my Boone life.

And then I picked up my rental car the next morning and I drove up to DC for the week.

Sometimes I feel like I’m being pulled in different directions: working in DC and living in North Carolina. Continue reading “This is Boone | Starry Night edition”

Great Britain Adventure: Loch Ness + Ben Nevis

In June, Bret and I spent one week in Great Britain. I planned on summarizing that week in a few blog posts this summer and I’ve really fallen behind on those (sorry!) but I’m back. Here’s Day 4! (You can catch up on the first few days here).

After a completely perfect day exploring our new favorite city: Edinburgh, Scotland, we woke up early as usual, packed our backpacks, and enjoyed a traditional Scottish breakfast in the hotel. Then, we boarded the bus and began our drive up to Inverness! Continue reading “Great Britain Adventure: Loch Ness + Ben Nevis”