Category Archives: Reflection

One Year & Counting

Almost a year ago, I packed up my apartment, shared bittersweet goodbyes with friends and colleagues, and moved back to North Carolina.

A four-year relationship with a city I loved quickly became part of my past. I was relieved to move forward, but I was anxious to move towards whatever those next steps would reveal.

Without a job at the time or an idea of when I’d be able to get settled on my own, I threw up my hands to the uncertainty that wrapped around me. Everything that had become familiar was swept from under me. Cary, NC, may have been my hometown, but I found myself feeling a bit lost, trying to find my footing again. Trying to rediscover a home for myself.

Life is graceful, patient, and understanding. I frequently forget all of those things. I forget how forgiving life can be and how it moves at a pace outside of us yet utterly integral to each of us. It moves us, shakes us, and wakes us up when it’s ready–not when we think we are.

When I think back to where I was then and where I am now–the difference is startling. My life has such a different pace and my lifestyle feels so, so different from the one I had in Chicago, but everything evolved in its own time, and I am happy with where I am, happy to finally feel settled. The change is good, natural; I’ve managed to create a life for myself that I couldn’t have imagined yet feel thankful for every single day.

This is my last week at Fuqua, Duke’s School of Business. Although my RA position was set to wrap up at the end of September, I got an excellent job offer and jumped on the opportunity to finally start my publishing career. As of August, I will be an Editorial Associate at Duke University Press. For so many reasons, I am very thrilled about the position and, on some days, I can’t believe I’ll finally be doing the kind of work at the kind of company I’ve wanted to work for; it seems like such a rare thing these days.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been at Duke for ten months already, but I’m ready for the change. And emotionally, I’ve been anxious about getting to this week because I know it’s the end of one big thing and the beginning of another. Anyone that knows me knows that my job has never defined who I am, nor have I wanted it to. However, over the past year, I have had a growing desire to be doing work that excites me and motivates me more. There needs to be more than just a paycheck that keeps you in the game. And I’m so ready for August.

The new job will also be a considerable change in my routine and a change for Theo and me. It’ll take a while for us to feel comfortable and set in our ways with my new schedule, but we’re ready–I’m ready.

I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily arrived, but I’m writing to say that I’m proud of how far I’ve been able to come in a year. And I’m lucky to have so many wonderful people who have supported me over the months and several other extraordinary people that I’ve also met in that time.

I haven’t been updating this blog as much as I’d like, and with the looming transition ahead of me, I’ve decided to end “Four and a Half and Counting.”

My blog had a modest run for over a year and a half; it’s time. And it’s only natural that the end of one thing marks the beginning of something else. With August right around the corner, I’m ready to wrap up loose ties and prepare for a new chapter. Ready myself to start something else, start something new.

Clean slate, open heart. Renewed perspective.

“Four and a Half and Counting” was an excellent way to chronicle my thoughts and anxieties about graduation, job hunting, and the big what-ifs that followed. Now, however, I need a new voice. And although I haven’t quite figured out what that voice will be, I know it won’t be this one.

I’m in the process of working on a new project (ASK THEO CASANOVA) as well as starting a photo blog, so those are a couple things to look forward to from this corner of the world.

For anyone who has kept up with my entries since last year–thank you so much! And to my friends and family, please know that I wouldn’t be doing so well today if it wasn’t for all the encouragement, criticism, and love that I’ve received from you. You challenge me and push me and help me grow in ways you don’t even realize. And that kind of friendship and support is incredibly priceless.

“Life is too short to be little.”  -Benjamin Disraeli

Make the most of it, my friends. Stay well. And thank you for reading :)

//christine

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What I Learn on Mondays from 8-9PM

Anyone that knows me well knows that I have an uncanny ability to move it and shake it. Or rather, I just love to dance it out. I sometimes move around my apartment first thing in the morning, the radio turned up. Or when I’m tired at night and need to wake up to get some stuff done–same thing. There’s something to be said about taking any internal frustrations, stresses, concerns, tiredness, worries, preoccupations, and insecurities–and throwing them to the wind by dancing it out. You get your blood flowing, and before you realize it, you’re more energized; you’re ready to take on your next step.

Okay, maybe I only speak for myself, but I’ll tell you what I tell my friends–you have to be comfortable with yourself if you’re ever going to let others be comfortable around you (or with you, in a more relational sense).

I started taking yoga classes the other month, which has been an amazing addition to my week. I get a good workout, and I also leave class feeling recharged and less burdened by any daily wear and tear. After an off-hand discussion with a friend of a friend, I decided to take a beginner hip-hop dance class at this small studio in Downtown Durham; they pretty much offer any kind of dance you can think of, and since they’re all adult recreational classes, there’s a nice mix of people.

I’ll say it: I’ve never taken a dance class. And on day one, I felt ridiculous. Awkward. Everything but cool and/or coordinated. Remember choreographed steps? Pssh, *totally* not happening…yet. I need time to process everything, get acquainted with something new. Despite all these things, I went into the experience with an open mind. I should emphasize that I have not-so-secretly always wanted to learn how to hip-hop dance, but there’s a fine line before thinking about doing things and actually doing them.

Anyway, I was open-minded about it all: if I was going to take a dance class, I was going to make the most of it. And I wanted to have a fun time, get out of my element, and learn something new! I am happy to report that that is exactly what’s happening, and even though part of me doesn’t always feel like driving out to class on a Monday night, I always leave in such a better mood. I watch myself in the studio mirror, and even though I don’t always get everything right in the class–I have a fun time. The character of the class forces you to get out of your shell; it pushes out negative talk and encourages you to just own up to your body and your moves. It helps you forget about being self-conscious or embarrassed; it builds confidence.

So my advice to you? If there’s something out there that you’ve always wanted to try or learn, don’t limit yourself. Don’t be the one barrier that keeps you from doing something new. Just have fun with it. Own up to what you do because you don’t have to get it right or be perfect. We don’t care about the details; it’s all about how you do what you do.

Own up to your lives and dance it out, my friends.

“the camera just rolls”

On a daily basis, I make excuses for why I didn’t have enough time to finish that project, didn’t find the time to help with that thing, can’t remember the last time I went to that place or visited that person–we all do this.

We over-think, or rather, over-burden ourselves with feelings of obligation and criticism, whether the sentiments emerge from our own psyche or are influenced by other people in our lives.

I was inspired by a site that I came across yesterday called oneword.com. In the help section, founder Brian Kessler states the following:

oneword™ is a simple writing exercise.

it is not about learning new words.
nor is it about defining words. [….]

the real purpose of this exercise is to alleviate
our natural tendency to edit everything—and learn
to flow.

an analogy would be a film camera:
when a film is shot, the camera just rolls and captures
everything—good and bad. [….]

the camera operator doesn’t keep stopping the camera and
rewinding and editing on-the-fly—the camera just rolls.
if it were to stop, some of the best performances
and spontaneous moments might be missed.

so:
be the camera. well, that’s a stupid saying, but
you get the idea. in writing—just flow. go back later
and edit.

I tried the one-minute exrcise, and prompted by the word propel, here’s what I wrote:

Propel // April 2010

In an effort to “be the camera,” here’s my ten-months-out-of-college update. Things are still going well with my job, and my position has been extended, so I will be at Duke through the end of September. I am in the midst of looking for new job openings in the area since I want to have another full-time position lined up for the fall. I’ve recently come to the realization that–ideally–a job that involves some creative component would be particularly fulfilling and meaningful for me. How that creativity actually transpires within an organization or company is still up in the air, but it is something I value more now than before.

In regards to work these days, I am about to get into more of the interview-based research for our NSF project, so it’ll be a nice change of pace to conduct interviews versus continually collect and analyze data through trial and error. At least, I know I’m likely to enjoy it a bit more.

At the beginning of February, I welcomed home an amazing cairn terrier puppy, who traveled to North Carolina all the way from a breeder in Missouri!

Fun Fact: Toto from The Wizard of Oz was a cairn terrier.

Theo (short for Theodore) is the sweetest, handsomest, and smartest dog ever–though I am a smidge biased. He has been an incredible addition to my life, and although puppy motherhood has completed revamped my lifestyle and routine, I have never looked back. Theo was only about 11 weeks and 3.5 lbs when he got here, and he will be five months old next week. He hasn’t been to the vet for a little while, so I’m not sure about his “official” weight, but he’s probably somewhere around 7+ lbs now. He’s a small guy, but he has a HUGE personality, and everyone in my life has fallen in love with him :)

Theo @ the Park // March 2010

I traveled to Washington, D.C. the other week for a work meeting as well as to attend the National Association for Ethnic Studies (NAES) Annual Conference. I presented my undergraduate thesis research on a panel at the conference, which was a very exciting opportunity. Even though I work in academia, it is easy to forget how it feels to invest in your own research (since my current job delves into a completely different discipline). My research topic was very well-received, and it was really rewarding to attend my first official academic conference–and be a presenter in the program! I attended some really interesting talks, had remarkably helpful conversations with fellow attendees, grad students, and faculty members, and met a lot of great, new contacts.

All in all, the trip was a success, and I had a(n almost unexpectedly) wonderful time enjoying D.C. on my own. Between Dupont Circle and L’Enfant Plaza, I finally had a proper chance to experience more of the city, including the nightlife–I was even able to meet up with a few friends and relatives who live in the area. My past trips have been very touristy or were clouded by the memorable yet en masse congestion of the inauguration. This time around, however, I got a much better feel for the character and vibe of Washington, D.C.–and it is definitely still on the top of my “places I’d like to live in 2-3 years” list.

In the spirit of making April my big traveling month, I am flying out to Chicago later this week for work and vacation. I haven’t been back up there since I moved in August, so I am really looking forward to catching up with friends and seeing them after all these months; it has proven to be difficult to stay in touch with everybody that I used to see on a regular basis, but it’s trips like these that give us an opportunity to reconnect. After visiting D.C., I was vividly reminded of how much I love and miss the pace and energy of city life. That said, I can’t wait to be standing back on the streets of Downtown Chicago, taking in the charm of a place I fell in love with many years ago–and still adore.

I am acutely aware of the fact that I self-edit more than I should (it’s probably the reason why time never seems to be on my side when it comes to my writing). While I value my self-revisionist approach at points, coming across Kessler’s website did remind me that sometimes we have to stop making excuses, stop revising, editing, thinking, or reworking–and just allow it to flow, let it roll.

I really should be over this by now, but I can’t believe it’s been so many months since I graduated and moved back to North Carolina. And I can’t believe we’re pretty much on the cusp of summer. Soon it’ll be May, but maybe—

Sometimes we have to accept the time that’s passed and just let it be, let it roll.

Oh Yes, Hello Again.

Lulls.

We all experience them, right?

lull
[luhl] -noun
a temporary calm, quiet, or stillness

My blog has been on a slight hiatus, and though I regret that I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like, I’m happy to report that the silence has been a constructive one.

I have been out of the college scene for about seven months. I have been back in North Carolina for about five, and I am already about four months into my job. While all the transitions of these past months were daunting, exciting, and frustrating (all at the same time), the past couple months have proven to be refreshing. A relief, almost.

In many ways, I finally feel settled. I am happy to call my apartment home, my family and I stay close, and reconnecting with friends in the area has been a great joy. Although there are still big hurdles to overcome this year (ex. another round of job hunting, planning for the future, etc.), ringing in the new year was a reminder of how far I’ve really come. A huge sigh of relief.

Over time, you find that leaving behind rigid ideas about your future is one of the most liberating decisions you can make. My advice? Stay open-minded to all the bends and turns you encounter because it’s in that time, from these experiences, and on that road, that your priorities, philosophies, and ideaologies are realized. They may change over the years, but they find a true voice and lens when you let them.

How have you changed in a year? What were your expectations? Were they met or met with new circumstances? Where do you find value in your life? Can you devote more time to whatever gives you strength? Inspires you? Builds you up when you feel broken down?

My blog has remained quiet for a couple months, but sometimes we just need a little time to take in our surroundings and allow ourselves to engage in the change around us. I’ll try to come around more often, friends. But know that things are going well here, and I am finding my way.

In the Middle of Something New

“I know you’re not where you want to be; you’re in the middle of something new you don’t want to bring yourself to believe.” [Dan Choi]

I have a calendar hanging on a bulletin board next to my desk; it seems that we’re already nearing the end of September…wasn’t I surprised just a bit ago that it was suddenly August? The date weighs with me because it’s a reminder of how much (or how little) has changed over these past few months. My friends at Northwestern are all starting classes this week, and it does feel a little strange to be away from that world. At the same time, it feels very natural to not be there. Because I know that I’ve moved on to something new, whether or not that “new place” is comfortable to me yet.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a lot of time for reflection these days. The extra time has its perks and disadvantages, and while I do wish there was more structure, responsibility, and activity in my life these days, I can’t help but be thankful for the moments that make me feel a little uneasy, uncomfortable, and unsure. It’s in these moments that we are pushed to think about what might actually be most important to us.

I love staying busy, but my experience of “busy” has been very different ever since college wrapped up. Nonetheless, I like that I’ve been able to think about what’s going on in my life because far too often I was caught up with assignments, obligations, time commitments, you-name-it, and among all that was a sense of just getting things done. Getting through another busy, hectic, back-to-back scheduled day. You know?

I recognize that I’m my harshest critic (aren’t we all?), yet I also know that I’d rather struggle for awhile and have a better sense of who I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, and what I really want–than be someone who is too caught up in the everyday to think about the bigger picture, the what-beyond-today-notion. I’ve always been the type of person to “take things too seriously,” but in that respect, I’ve also always been pretty secure in my feelings and priorities. I take the time to know where I stand, and that self-awareness seems to be increasingly uncommon in an era bombarded with distractions. Schedules, jobs, life. People are too busy to process the things that pass through their lives. And of course, I still fall into that trap, but I guess my point is that there has been a lot of personal value in all these questions and uncertainties.

I seemed a bit distressed last week, somewhat burdened by everything that’s been in flux these days. Today, I found myself hopeful for how the rest of the month will pan out, or at least this upcoming week. I know these feelings come in waves, and we’ll just have to see where the tides take me.

I have faith that things are working themselves out. I have to.

What I’m Learning About Patience, (In)Decision, and Home Cooking

It appears I’ve been on a slight hiatus.

To be honest, time moves very strangely these days. Things are fairly uneventful, yet everything moves so quickly. I sometimes feel as if I just packed up my apartment on Maple Avenue and said my final goodbyes to Evanston; it has already been about five weeks now.

The adjustment to living in North Carolina—and living back at home with my parents—has proven to be a stressful process. I knew that leaving Chicago would be a bittersweet change, but I didn’t anticipate all of the new challenges that would appear. As days turned into weeks, I found myself grappling with new stresses about “being a college grad living at home with her parents,” adjusting to my “new” environment, struggling to establish some sense of routine (I have yet to feel settled in that aspect…), and acknowledging the shift in my social circles. I have been fortunate enough to spend time with a few of my friends in the area, but I certainly have days where I miss the friendship and company I had up in Evanston.

Nevertheless, I should have known that this period of my life would have its share of ups and downs. Just as college is a time for us to explore who we are, I have come to realize that the time after graduation is similarly significant for us—we are pushed out into the world to test our comforts, priorities, and perceptions of ourselves and others.

Let me confess three things: I have been terrible about regularly communicating with friends back in Chicago. I watch far too much television these days. And for the first time in about six years, I have no form of income.

I didn’t say I was proud of any of these things, but they’re all true.

On a daily basis, I remind myself that this is all just a transition. Soon enough, I’ll have a job, and yes, a salary—both of which will allow me to get an apartment, to redeem the independence and sense of selfhood that were somewhat diminished when I moved back into the bedroom that nurtured me from elementary to high school. I am not that same person and the visceral interaction of being back in that room often dampens the parts of me that I have come to adore and cherish over these transformative few years.

That said, it’s been difficult to live at home, but I know it is a necessary step. And yes, things are in flux because they need to be right now, and while a part of me is dissatisfied, I am also content; content that I have a supportive family, friends to reconnect with, and many other invaluable support systems, all of whom I’d be quite lost without.

Patience.

Remember how I told you being out of college has its similarities to life during college? Well, I still stand by that point; however, the biggest difference seems to be a matter of time. And I quickly realized that out of anything these days, my patience is always being tested.

In college, things seemed to always be happening. Today? Things seem slow, uneventful. I want things to move at a quicker pace than they do, and as a result, I experience a lot of disappointment or dissatisfaction. I have to (constantly) remind myself to be patient. Things are unfolding. Perhaps not at the speed I’d like them to but they are. They’re moving, shifting, changing. Whether I’m trying to be patient about my job search, my friendships, or my living situation, I’m realizing that I can’t let unmet expectations get the best of me. I wasn’t going to get my dream job and live a life of extravagance, but I will do great things and make a small name for myself; it’ll just take a little time. Give me time, and I will get there.

(In)Decision.

Graduation instills a sense of accomplishment, excitement, uncertainty, and bewilderment about the steps ahead. More so than four years ago, I am well-aware of what is important to me. Getting a job and having an apartment ranked near the top of my list. And as a new grad, it was easy to optimistically seek out these results. I mean, I am still optimistic, but graduation has come and gone. I have been out of college for over three months now. My “new” status as a grad has become worn and dated. Along with patience is a growing sense of tenacity. I have to keep looking ahead.

But what about those steadfast ideas about what I wanted to be doing? Where I wanted to be?

They still exist. However, I have come to accept that there are really just circumstances outside of my control that fundamentally effect this process. Jobs are a two-way street. You have to be qualified, someone has to value your qualifications, want to talk to you; someone else has to make the move.

I’m not living in my own apartment. I don’t wake up and go to work. And on some days, all of these things contribute to my lack of motivation. But I have to keep looking ahead. Be persistent, you know?

I have found that just as we are tested to reevaluate our priorities now, it is very easy for disappointment to diminish or deface our goals and priorities. That’s to say, as enthusiastic and determined as I was in June, my share of frustrations over these months have sometimes left me lackluster, unsure, and doubtful. Dissatisfaction creates indecision, and I sometimes forget how I got to North Carolina, what factors so strongly prompted my choice, and why I am here versus some other “there.”

Although things have not panned out in the way that I would have desired, I have learned to bend to the present. Bend to the situation at hand in the hopes that doing so will positively render a better future. I am not where I want to be, but give me time, and I will get there.

We can’t let our priorities waver due to the confusion or discontent of the moment.

Home Cooking.

I am in a period of transition. I live at home with my parents. I don’t have a job yet.

I graduated from an exceptional university. I have friends in Illinois, friends in North Carolina, and many others scattered in other great places. My family supports me, and home will always be home.

I don’t have it too bad.

Without classes or a job to occupy my time on a regular basis, I often sit around worrying or thinking about the state of things. Where I am, where I’m not, where I’d like to be. I guess when you’re so busy you rarely have the time to stop and think about everything. In that sense, then, I’m glad that I’ve been able to take time to reflect.

Despite everything I’ve mentioned to you, though, I know that I am very blessed and lucky. And I remind myself to be patient, keep my priorities in view, and enjoy the downtime I have at the moment. This is all a transition.

I don’t know how many other college grads are feeling the way that I do, but I suspect they are many of us; each wondering when we’ll get our break. Until then, we need to make the most of the moment because otherwise, we’ll fall into a trap of always living at home and never making a name for ourselves.

I don’t want to get too comfortable because I know that I’m not quite where I want to be. But until I get there, I will enjoy the free rent and the home cooking.

Definitely let me know how things are going in your corner of the world, and stay well, friends.

You Can’t Avoid Mondays

I just got in from a short walk around town. I had a few errands to run and a frozen bubble tea from Joy Yee’s seemed like the best accompaniment, so I walked a little out of the way to get one. On my walk back, I realized that I have a tendency to craft letters in my head. Or maybe just different writing projects? I play with the words in my mind, moving them around as if they were blocks on a table; in some order they would best convey how I was feeling or what I wanted to say. Sometimes I revise one sentence, over and over again.

As I sat down to start this post, I realized that I’ve been avoiding this update. I have struggled to craft these words in my head, perhaps a little worried of how it would feel to read it all.

Over the past week, my mind has been clouded with thoughts, questions, ideas, hopes, anxieties, concerns, and moments of sadness.

Last Monday, Northwestern University lost a vibrant member of its community; Corrie Lazar was a Weinberg senior, and I was lucky to have known her from the American Studies Program. The program is pretty small, and even though I wasn’t close to Corrie, I did know her; we were in the same major, I saw her at events, and I even hung out with her some during our trip to D.C. And I spent the week recalling her laugh, her smile, and her warmth–she had so much ahead of her, and all I could think when I heard the news was, “Wow, she had so much more living to do…” The news sat with me for a couple days before I finally felt the deep sadness of it all. As many have mentioned, though, she was a very positive person. And we will probably never understand why tragic things happen, but we have to take these experiences as steps to gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for our lives and the people in our lives.

I regret that I didn’t know Corrie better because as one of my friends said, once a person leaves, there’s just no chance of running into them on the street. No possibility of revisiting that connection, you know? That reality sits with me.

I remember being so tired on the Washington, D.C. trip. We had just gotten off the bus, and we had some free time to walk around a mall before our group dinner. I didn’t really care about walking around, so I found a comfy chair at a nearby Starbucks and just rested. If I remember correctly, Professor Beisel (one of the faculty members on the trip) sat in a chair across from me. My friend Meaghan was also there, and Corrie, too. We just sat, rested, and Corrie and Professor Beisel briefly chatted about an assignment that was due after the trip (Corrie was taking one of Prof. Beisel’s classes that quarter; she was told she could have some more time before she had to turn it in–it was an unexpected yet nice break). The memory is faint and seems all too common and ordinary.

When we were all sitting on the bus, I remember Corrie talking to a bunch of people about the meaning of “dating” in college. People chimed in with their own opinions, and it was just one of those things that was interesting enough to help pass the time. You could tell Corrie had some spunk, an opinionated and spirited person. The kind of person that makes you stop and think twice.

I kept running these memories in my head all week. And as I felt a weight in my throat about the entire situation, I couldn’t help but step back and reflect on my life. The news of Corrie’s death was a sobering reminder that life is precious–and it can be swept up in half a second.

My life has felt in flux these days, and I know my recent posts have rummaged through my different feelings about this stage, this seemingly ambivalent and unresolved phase of my life. I understand that I can’t anticipate what the next few months will be like, but I also can’t ignore my feelings of dissatisfaction. Today? Today, I feel deflated. Deflated about my future employment prospects, my relationships with people, my place in life at this moment in time.

We are constantly experiencing change, so I realize that’s not new; it’s the rate and frequency of that change–and it’s been alarming. I know that I have so many things to be grateful for and as I reflect on Corrie’s death, I am trying to grapple on to the things that really sustain a person.

I am thankful for getting through four challenging yet enriching years at Northwestern. I am thankful for the amazing, incredible, and loving friends I have met in that time. I am thankful for the friends who I have stayed close to over these years apart. And I am thankful for my family and their constant patience and support.

I will be packing up and leaving Evanston in about three weeks. I will be the first to admit that I have so many reasons for leaving and being excited about my move to North Carolina, but I hate goodbyes–and I will shift and feel the unease of saying goodbye to some of my favorite people; it will leave me with a mix of emotions because I’m tearing up thinking about it now. I am not the same person I was when I first got to Northwestern, but I am grateful to the amazing people who have helped me through these years, ups and downs and all. Gracie, Fran, Angela and Parv–I will miss you so much. And as my parents have said, you are always welcome in our home :)

I know that saying goodbye to these people and this place is not an end; it my be an end to this chapter of my life, but it’s just another step closer to getting where I need to be, and I recognize that reality; we’re all growing up. I have three weeks to spend time with my favorite people, and then, the world.

Please think of Corrie, her family, her friends, and the many people in the Northwestern community who are grieving the loss of such a vibrant young lady. Always let the people in your life know how you feel about them, and live boldly for each day, my friends.

In a flash, it could all change.