Ten Years Wandering

High school ended exactly ten years ago, as of June 4th, 2014. I can’t recall what I imagined for myself ten years ahead as I sported my red graduation gown back in 2004. All I knew was that I was leaving for college that following September with the intention to major in music, and that anything could happen.

I decided to change my major early on. To what, I wasn’t sure, although I eventually arrived at Communication paired with a Business Administration minor. I remember the indecisiveness, flipping through the course catalog numerous times, bookmarking several majors that caught my attention. I also remember considering transferring, but that passed after several weeks (and how different things would be if I had).

The last ten years have been full of crossroads. I’ve made choices and decisions, turns on this journey that keeps unfolding. Some have been impulsive and sharp; others were carefully analyzed, processed, and then finally acted upon.

Here I am, 28-years-old, employed full-time at a research university, living in a city I grew fond of, lifting weights, writing things, being single and happy but also harboring a mad crush at the same time, trying to figure it all out. I certainly have more debt than I expected; that part is stupid. But that debt defines me no more than my status as a single woman. It is a current part of my situation, and I am working on it. Most of it is student debt, and really–it’s manageable. It is in-line with the field I’ve gone into, for the degrees I obtained. It could have been less, but there were two defining quarters and several big events that changed things.

I only worry because I’m impatient, I want to travel, and I also want to be able to pursue doctoral work while being able to continue training in an athletic capacity that has captured my attention like very little else ever has before. I want to see my dollar sign net worth in the positives.

But that net worth isn’t the essence of Ardith, I remind myself. I’m a young woman who is constantly becoming.

I have had my heart broken what seems like a hundred times, but I have come out of it stronger, wiser, and ultimately learned to love who I am (debt and bad skin and crappy double-unders and all).

I traveled abroad and would never trade those times for anything. (And if I could travel more often, I would be the happiest girl alive, I think.)

I kept writing through it all, refining a skill I seemingly always had, turning it into a form of release, sharing it with the world and baring my turmoils and triumphs to an audience I often forget includes my friends, my family, and also complete strangers. (Hello to all of you.)

I have made poor decisions in other avenues, and I learned from those mistakes. I moved forward anyway, equipped with new perspective.

This is all priceless.

Graduation from high school was the catalyst for so much good. Even though nothing is perfect in my life, it is a life I wouldn’t trade. Yes, it can be stressful and sad at times, but I have seen some of the best slowly come out of those seemingly hopeless times. The valleys and peaks are endless, and I always keep trekking through, ready to see where the path takes me next.

Where am I going in the next ten years? Who knows. I’ve never really known. It will, at least, be somewhere that is the result of opportunities taken and decisions made.

Besides, when asked that question at college graduation in 2008, I replied, “I’m not sure, but wherever I am, I hope I own a hot tub.”

Let’s go see how this all unfolds.

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The Week In

I’m currently sitting at my dining table, drinking what might possibly be the best hot chocolate I’ve ever made. Coconut milk, raw honey, cocoa powder, and a dash of cinnamon all together in one warming concoction.

I’m also currently sitting at my dining table in my new rental in Seattle, WA. I am Ardith Laverne, the young woman who is from many cities in the Pacific Northwest, but most recently from Portland, Oregon, which I left to move back to Seattle.

I knew when I made the decision to move back to Seattle that it would be tough. There are many things in Portland that I love. However, I also know that Seattle is where I need to continue my professional development, as well as the place where I can round out the remaining years in my twenties.

Someone at the gym tonight asked me if I split my time between the two cities after I explained my situation. I thought about it only for a second or two, and realized that yes, I do. Portland and Seattle are both home to me. It’s kind of difficult logistically, although it really isn’t that difficult. After all, on a map, the two cities are only inches apart.

I think roots are going to have to wait. There are so many different factors that can come into play, and I’m feeling like a leaf in the wind instead of a tree. I think a big part of it will be how this whole partnering business goes, so I remain open-minded to lots of different scenarios. In the meantime, all I have to worry about is myself, and anything can happen. (Exhibit A: moving back to Seattle.)

What I’m getting at–just over a week into my new situation and routine–is that I’m staring down the barrel of uncertainty again, but this time, it feels good. When I started my job search in the Seattle area, I asked for friends to think good thoughts. One friend wrote her thoughts out and shared them with me; she sent a message to the universe and said, “Only let this move happen if it is for the highest good.” In other words, let any move be only because the right things have aligned.

As a storyteller, I’m curious to know how this all turns out so that I can look back and turn it into narration. I want to retell the lessons learned, and I want to see how I learn to navigate my relationships in Seattle, Portland, and even my hometown. I want to explore my new city because it’s changed and I’ve changed since the last time I lived here.

But most of all, I’m hoping that this new chapter defies convention in many ways. I don’t like “normal plans,” and I have high hopes for the next few years. I have high hopes of finding beauty in strength, and finding out nothing is impossible, and that second-guessing myself never did me any good.

And on a related note, I PR’d my front squat tonight. 125lbs. (for 3 reps!). That’s my own body weight. And I got there by listening to those three key themes I just listed in the above paragraph.

If believing in those mantras works for CrossFit, well, I think it’ll work out just fine in life.

 

Cheers to the unknown.

Declare Your Intent

I find myself saying something similar all the time in my current job, asking students to look forward–sometimes years ahead–to tell me what it is they want to do. Granted, in the context of a program or a degree, the intent is a little less vague. But what happens after that intent is uncharted.

Every now and then, I like to look at my very first blog post here. I occasionally log into my old Livejournal to read my much older musings. I also enjoy reading up on acquaintances’ blogs, relishing how much they have grown since I knew them in junior high science class. It is amazing to see potential grow–and how it grows in the most unexpected ways.

I try to remember to inspire myself week to week. I draft conference proposals. I wake up to write down research prompts. Sometimes I write clever comedy bits or chapters for a book in progress. I read travel magazines. I find myself mesmerized by the airplanes arriving and leaving Portland International Airport. I almost can’t wait to arrive at the airport and wait my way through security because beyond those metal detectors, my big shiny metal birds live, waiting to take me somewhere different, somewhere new, or somewhere beloved.

The other day, I explained to Snugz that it’s entirely surprising to myself that I crave travel so much. Just a few years ago, I was still afraid to leave my hometown, but bit by bit, step by step, I explored more of my corner of the world. And then, when I outgrew that corner, I sought out new adventures. Now, it’s nearly insatiable; it’s not always practical, given the real world of bills and responsibility and budgets, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming. It doesn’t stop me from requesting tourism journals and browsing CouchSurfing for possible hosts and friends. It doesn’t stop me from connecting with others who have found their way across this world.

In other words, I have become unstoppable.

Tonight, as I pushed myself to finish the Work-out of the Day without stopping, without walking those torturous laps around the block, I showed myself that it’s not just one aspect of myself that refuses to keep going. I have had the sky open up and dump its worst on me. I’ve had the universe decide I was its punching bag.

Yet I’m still here.

So, thanks for sticking with me, even though this was supposed to be a career blog which then turned into a log of my Quarter-Life Crisis, and then my graduate capstone and academic recovery, and then my personal dumping ground, and now, a healing journal.

And here’s the thing: through it all… life just keeps getting richer and more meaningful and more wonderful.

Happy Friday.

Returning to the Stars

“One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.”
from Doctor Who (Series 2, Ep. 4 – “The Girl in the Fireplace”)

Does anyone else remember my letter to the Universe from 2011? It’s a perfect glimpse into my life when all that was seemingly good shattered, one thing after another. That pattern continued, and it continued for months afterwards.

Now, nearing the end of 2012, I still walk cautiously through many of my adventures. I am learning more about myself, primarily in terms of finance and budgeting, as well as health and wellness. I am much more aware and in-tune with my mood shifts (not swings, thankfully), and luckily, I am nurturing a new-ish relationship in which I can admit to not always being sunshine and rainbows. I talk about how I’m feeling more openly, which is scary, but it’s almost scarier seeing how it comes so naturally.

When you’ve dealt with so much utter crap over the past few years, you almost expect the worst. However, my transition to Portland has been very good for my soul. I still have some nights when I want to curl up and do nothing and just hope that I win the lottery in the morning; despite that, I persist. I persist because I have good people in my life, and I choose to focus on the good. Something I have realized about myself is that I have little tolerance for toxic people, and my biggest disappointments come when I realize someone I trusted and cared for ends up being a soul-sucker. The thing is, those people are gone from my life.

And I know for others, I’m a soul-sucker; there are some people with whom I will always have negative energy, and although we may be on good terms now, there is no need to be friends nor to revisit the bad moments in my head every time I see them. They are freed from my life, and while I miss certain aspects, it’s better to lead separate–and separated–lives.

It’s much better to put effort into keeping life-givers around. For example, one of my best friends lives hours and hours away (by plane); we logged on to FaceTime to catch up this weekend, and it was just as good as when we were in college and met every week to get coffee together. It’s not easy to keep relationships sound and meaningful across time zones, but it’s incredibly worth it for the right people. It’s also worth it to put for the right effort for the right people regardless if they live a block away or half a world away. Friendship, then, is becomes transcendent of time and space; it becomes something ethereal.

Whose energy keeps you going in this lifetime? And why is it important to continue to grow those relationships?

30 Before 30, 2nd Edition

I have been mulling over revamping my 30 Before 30 list recently. Might as well. I’m 26. And it’s my life, my list, and I can do what I want. So, let’s see… revisions in bold.

1. Visit E in Spain Done!
2. Visit the Italian town my ancestors are from (Monastero di Lanzo)
3. Visit Australia and New Zealand
4. Visit Kauai, Hawai’i
5. Learn to swim
6. Learn to ride a bike
7. Learn to bartend make great cocktails on my own so I can entertain like a pro. Or unwind from a long day at work like a pro.
8. Learn Spanish and Tagalog – Practicando el español este verano.
9. Meet my cousins and family in the Philippines
10. Earn a master’s degree in student affairs administrationDONE!
11. Have one more Wenatchee summer Done; see last year’s (2011) internship experience.
12. Stay in a bed & breakfast (or yurt/cabin!) somewhere on the Oregon coast
13. Take an extensive brewery tour of the Northwest and West Coast
14. Hike the Enchantments
15. Hike part of the Pacific Crest trail (WA portion)
16. Road trip Travel to Alaska
17. Write a memoir17. Make blogging a priority
18. Get a piece of poetry or a research article published/present at a conferenceMy talent really lies in academic writing. I have to come to terms with it–my nerdiness rules everything. 🙂
19. Write a book and get it published – Surprisingly, making good, collaborative effort on this funny guide to life I’ve been working on.
20. Perform improv or stand-up – This is looking good, actually. Found a comedy club near my house, thanks to Snugz.*
21. Be an extra in a movie
22. Get professional-quality headshots/model shots just for fun
23. Try out for a semi-pro/professional dance/cheer teamDone! Didn’t get on it, but I did it.
24. Meet Neil Patrick Harris
25. Get an awesome 6-pack – In-progress…
26. Buy a carNevermind. Let’s change this to: 26. Save for a sweet city condo.
27. Get a dogMy puppy fever has been satiated by the good fortune of living with the best canine roommates! Revise to: 27. Go to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, Wales
28. Read more booksOf course, this is progress, but I have done such a good job of reading more in the past couple of years!
29. Take Amtrak down the west coast29. Take the train more (PNW, Europe, etc.)
30. Get married and have a wonderful, down-to-earth wedding30. Have the BEST 30th birthday celebration w/ my closest friends somewhere far away (this was decided this weekend w/ another fellow Sagittarius).

And just to cheat a little bit…

31. Meet someone amazing and give the relationship 100%.

I’m happy with these revisions. They reflect who I am–and no surprise, most of these involve traveling–and can be attained if I am intentional.
Side note: I’m thinking the “40 Before 40” list will be pretty great. Coming in the next few years.

*Extra side note: Snugz totally picked this blog nickname himself.

You know what’s great?

The feeling when you remember that you’ve exceeded all your own expectations in absurd and bizarre and wonderful ways.

I can’t trade the mistakes I’ve made for anything else in this world. The resilience I display now is only the product of being let down and letting myself down over the years–paired with the very real experience of…

I was on a roll here, but then I noticed a spider on my wall, so I had to take care of it since I’m pretty terrified of spiders.

Anyway…

What I was getting at is this:

As a twenty-something, unmarried, just out of graduate school, still renting, carrying student debt, just getting back on her feet after several successive relationship fails, etc. and so forth, I am doing an outstanding job of navigating through this life. I could be in better shape, and I could be a better cook. I could volunteer more, and I could write more. I could pick up the performing arts more, and I could take better care of my health.

But overall, I am not failing.

As one of my good friends has recently said, “I have the life I never knew I wanted. God is good.” (Time to plug her blog: So You Wanna Be a Mom; we’ve been friends since 2nd grade, and we are doing different things, and she’s got to be one of the brightest and fieriest spirits this world has seen.)

And it’s true. I never knew I would take to the “big city” the way I have. I never knew I would fall in love with education all over again. I never knew I would rather work in public service than have a yacht. I never knew I would actually get to travel the world.

I caught up with a good friend tonight, after nearly three years of disjointed separation. We have both ended up in lives we never knew existed. And even so, we have ended up happy–not perfect, but happy with the unknowns and the variables we never knew existed.

There have been times in life that I’ve been close to giving up. I’ve been close to throwing in the towel and saying, “This is as good as it gets.” But I realize, day by day, that life doesn’t work that way, unless you let it. If I continue to seek out opportunity, and if I continue to find joy and laughter in the ordinary, and if I continue to explore–through travel and writing and conversation–then I am on my way upwards.

I’ll leave you with one last thought for tonight…

“Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.” – E. Roosevelt (or so the internet says)

Goodnight, so long, and until next time.

Looking Back to Look Forward

When I go home at night, I go home to an empty apartment. It’s full of stuff, and if I had the motivation, I swear I would throw most of it away. An unfinished scrapbook. Language books, of which I’ve only read the first chapter. Presents to be sent off. Piles of laundry. An empty suitcase. Unread GRE study guides…

Ardith Laverne – July 6th, 2009 – I’m Back

That was nearly three years ago. My heart aches when I think about how scared and alone I was. I panic, wondering if it’s cyclical, if what appears to be an upswing is just a fluke.

But then again, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that I have learned enough to be more intentional in my work and in my play. I have looked inward before turning my gaze outward.

Tonight, I find myself in a room that’s bursting with books. I still have those language books, but I have a plan to pick up Spanish again because I get a tuition waiver at my new employer. An employer that is providing me with a job that is literally a dream job; my dream job, it turns out, is progressive, challenging, meaningful, and relevant to the well-being of communities. My dream job supports me in my development as a person and as a professional. And in the face of challenges, it tells me, “You’re the right fit for this. I can’t wait to see what you do.”

Those laundry piles I mentioned are still around, but they’re full of articles of clothing that evoke feelings of happiness. A lot of those clothes come from cities to which I’ve traveled. I see a shirt and I think, “Oh, I got that in Hawai’i over Christmas with my mom.” Or, “This is my favorite shirt, the one I found in Vegas.” Superficially materialistic, I’m aware, but I have attached meaning to these objects, and overall, that meaning is lighthearted.

I had presents, up until recently, that needed to be sent off. They were gifts from travels. Some of them I eventually mailed; the others were hand-delivered.

Lastly, let me tell you, those empty suitcases have been filled. Those empty suitcases traveled to many faraway places in the past several years. Those empty suitcases were tossed into the back of a car or the belly of a plane so many times that I bought a new set of suitcases to fill and lug around.

I don’t know how I did it, looking back. I don’t know how I even took the steps needed to open those GRE guides, write those letters of intent, track down a volunteer organization overseas, and take a major detour from the path I was on. It wasn’t easy, but I got there.

So now, I should tell myself… don’t be afraid. You have traveled in darkness. And when everything seemed hopeless, you still found a way. Nothing will stop you.

You are unstoppable.