Month: June 2014

They are just a pair of stairs

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They are just a pair of stairs that I walked on everyday.

Where my dogs would jump and yelp to welcome me home. They lead to a little white house in the middle of the country. They are worn and creaky, the way old wood gets over the years. It is where I fell and scraped my knees countless times and stayed out on summer nights with a good friend by my side. Where I rode my bike and played catch with the neighbors. Where I called home.

It is just a winding road that curved through our little town. Tractors carrying freshly cut golden hay often blocked the way, signifying summer. The neighbors wave as you pass. Neighbors are more like friends, and friends are more like family.

It is just old dirt path that leads to a pond. The one with algae, frogs, and a few fish. The one my best friend dared me to jump into. I obliged and cannon balled in without hesitation. It became the weekend place to meet, swim and throw mud at each other, laughing until the sun set behind the trees and it was time for dinner.

It is just a plain tree house that became whatever I dreamed up that day. There were princes and princesses, cowboys and Indians, and even the occasional fairy to keep me company. I protected it with sticks that became swords and rocks that became cannons.

It is just a plaid couch that I sat on everyday. It resided in the living room where forts were built, VHS tapes were watched, and the Christmas tree was put every year. There were countless spills, scrapes, and stains from the years, but it gave it character and love.

It is just an old kitchen with linoleum floors. Where I would sit in the morning, soaking up the heat from the floor vent. Where my mom made dinner every evening, navigating the small stove like an expert. Where I would come home, sit on the counter and chat with her about my day.

It is just a small garage where there was no room for a car. It had a television that connected to our three channels. It was where my dog had eight black lab puppies and they learned to walk. On the side hung the basketball hoop that entertained my brother and I for hours. It was where my mother would spend her evenings, the warm summer air tainted by the cigarette smoke, her breath wreaking of alcohol.

It is just an angel painting that hung on the living room wall. It watched us go through the years and live our lives. It saw me learn how to draw, read and write. It saw me have my first crush and my first heartbreak. It was there during the intervention and watched my heart break in a way no boy could cause.

It is just a white car. One I cherished because it meant freedom to a 16-year-old. It was often filled to the brim with friends and dogs as we headed out to the lake. I felt both freedom and heavy guilt the day I packed the trunk with my clothes, unsure if I would ever be back again. And I wouldn’t be.

It is just a small bedroom where I read my books and framed my pictures. Where each item in my room meant something to me, from the golden bear my grandma gave me, to my best friend necklace hanging on a hook, to the red walls I painted myself. It was just a room, but it was abandoned the day I left my home forever. The bear, the necklace, and the red walls untouched.

It is just a blue house in the middle of the city. It felt foreign and empty, lacking in life. It was home to strangers, one of them who shared my blood. I would call him Dad, but I could never call this home.

Home is a little white house in the middle of the country. Where neighbors are like friends, and friends are like family.

I wonder sometimes if going back there would help me feel whole again.

But they are just a pair of stairs.

Sometimes

Sometimes you are a bad blogger.

Sometimes it is because you are a full-time student who also works. Sometimes it is because you have writer’s block and aren’t sure what to write about. Sometimes it’s just because you are lazy.

But…

Sometimes it’s because you are spending more time exploring your new city. Or playing with puppy neighbors. Or making new friends and staying up too late with them. Or perfecting the perfect summer drink.  Or slowing turning your new apartment into a cozy home. Or eating at every restaurant. Or going to all the bars. Or ordering pizza and staying in for the night. Or meeting up with old friends and laughing the whole night. Or making plans to travel in the next month to a place that used to be home and a place you have never been. Or just overall enjoying life.

Sorry about that.

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A Commencement Speech from a Fellow Student

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“If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.”

I’m pretty sure I saw it on the Abraham Lincoln parody Twitter account… or was it the Tupac one? Anyway, that saying and many other cheesy phrases are always thrown out around graduation time. Commencement speeches always talk about reaching for the stars, realizing your potential, and grabbing the metaphorical bull by the horns. I mean, it does make sense. They could give a speech about how half the graduates in the audience won’t land a job that utilizes their degree and will probably move in with their parents again, but that doesn’t do much for morale.

So they stick to the cliché topics about aspirations and how to be successful in a competitive marketplace. As cheesy as they are, I actually love listening to commencement speeches. Universities seek out people who have been exceptionally successful in their field and ask them to address the future generation that is about to embark on the scariest part of their lives. I’m sure speakers spend a long time deciding what they want to say to these young people and how exactly to say it. There is a lot of pressure to perform well, but the students are generally pretty receptive to anything since they are so excited to never take a midterm again. I am the perfect example; my commencement speaker made no sense whatsoever and spent more time talking about his list of achievements than actually addressing us. It was like he was reading his resume except it took an hour and he didn’t skip over the boring parts. But we all cheered and give him a standing ovation when he was finished because, as I said before, no more midterms is exciting.

The older I get, the more I appreciate hearing advice from others. I try to soak up knowledge from anyone and everyone who is more experienced than me. Part of the reason behind that is because students today are highly pressured to know exactly what they want to do in life. The question that always follows “What are you studying?” is “What do you plan to do with that degree?” I have always felt like I had to know the exact field and type of job I wanted by the time I graduated. Not being 100% sure made me feel panicky, as if I was falling behind. Then, I realized at graduation that no one else knew what the hell they were doing either. We were all asking each other about our future plans hoping to discover that other people are just as lost as us.

Coming into graduate school I realized that most people have no clue what their future plans are. Careers are rarely a linear path. Every professor and professional I have come across has told me they worked in many different fields before finding their passion. These people, who are extremely successful, did not start working in the industry they exceled in until they were thirty or older. They don’t usually mention that in commencement speeches, but it sure would help take the pressure off. Forcing students to pick their careers at such a young age can actually impede them from finding their dream jobs. Graduates are so pressured to find something to do that they often settle for a job that makes their family and friends happy, but not them. Maybe if they knew that jumping around from company to company is normal, that most people don’t start in the field they will end up in, and that it might not happen until you are in your thirties, they might dream a little bigger. Having a sucky job after graduation doesn’t mean you will always have a sucky job. Just because it doesn’t happen in a year doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. You have to give yourself room to explore in order to find what you are truly good at and passionate about. All you can do is go out and try things. The worst that can happen is you will fail, but isn’t that better than never trying at all? Just remember, as Twitter Tupac said, if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.