Life in General

Ten Years Later

On this exact day ten years ago, I graduated with my undergraduate degree.

Or degrees, to be exact; a bachelors of art in rhetoric- creative writing and a bachelors of science in psychology.

And as I tossed my mortarboard joyously into the air, hard work duly noted, accounted for, and rewarded, I don’t think I could have ever guessed where I’d be a decade later.

Because hard work and ambition isn’t always rewarded with a piece of paper promising a shiny future. And that promised future might turn out to be a merely guilded shimmer, requiring more than anticipated to hit its solid core.

But ten years later, here I am. And getting here wasn’t all positive, it hasn’t all been easy, and I don’t think I’m anywhere near done with my journey, but it’s great to take anniversaries like this and -instead of thinking about what you’ve yet to do- take stock of all you’ve accomplished, how far you’ve come. To remember the you of yesteryear when everything you have now was a dream or, better yet, unfathomable.

Because, as it turns out, here is a pretty good place to be.

So here’s to dreaming big, working hard, and celebrating how far you’ve made it after all.

Life in General

waxing poetic

April is National Poetry Month, and in the name of getting back into a creative groove, I decided to try and write a poem a day.

Which instantly proved how far removed I am from my undergraduate creative writing degree and uncovered all I had forgotten about writing poetry: a poem may be small, but she is mighty and requires much time and effort to finesse into her best self. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, I did not achieve a poem a day in April.

But I leaned on my guide word of the year -Balance- and I let myself not write when the day got away from me, work on already-written pieces to get them to their final stage, or even write multiple poems in a day when the inspiration really hit.

And from these thirty days came a handful of musings I’m pretty proud of.

Here are my favorites:

April’s come
to make fools
of us again.
Forgetting
the past year,
we make plans for
a future
guaranteed
to nobody.
Is this hope?
Let’s hope so,
for the wide world’s sake
and for our own.

sunflowers
standing in a
parking lot
puddle-
April showers
prove even
asphalt
can be
picture worthy

You carry a palette
that rivals the sunset-
each shimmering shade
an extravagant hue.
But somehow your colors
shine brighter in dim light-
the overcast gloom
could never touch you.

Life in General

Five Years Down

Five years ago, my husband and I got married on a golf course near our hometowns. It was fitting that he, an avid golfer and I, a fan of sprawling landscapes, have our wedding at a country club despite my having never seriously picked up a club.

If you asked me then how we’d be spending our first substantial milestone anniversary (because one year is nice, but a cakewalk compared to five), I would have ventured guesses involving Michelin stars or Caribbean isles.

I would not have guessed a pandemic severely limiting our options.

I would not have guessed Wisconsin being one of the most attractive scenarios.

And least of all, I would not have guessed how excited I would be to spend an afternoon participating in an activity I’d spend the past decade lamenting with its early weekend hours and long televised tournaments and extra checked baggage.

But I suppose, in the way life has about teaching you unexpected lessons and coming full circle, it’s fitting after all that I spent my fifth wedding anniversary with my still-beloved husband playing my first ever round of his favorite sport and past time.

And here’s hoping we last as many years as the number of strokes I took to finish 18 holes.

Or, as it were, ’til death do us part.

Life in General

Lucky Me, Lucky You

All of us, regardless of locale or vocation, have recently crossed into a second year living through a pandemic. In this third month specifically, each sunrise brings with it a new anniversary and a flood of memories: the last time you sat in a crowded room, hugged a loved one, felt normal. The first time you wore a mask, worked from home, felt like this would never end.

It’s been a year of everyday firsts and lasts, each one its own tiny tragedy.

Some of us suffered loss beyond the more gentle changes the rest of the world faced in horrified harmony. In addition to the freedom we so recently took for granted, we lost health and companionship and safety and homes and jobs and family. Who among us could feel lucky right now?

Me, that’s who. I do.

And as insolent as it feels to use that word, it’s true. I feel lucky.

Because looking upon this past year and all I grieve, a loved one is not in that reflection. I do not mourn a job I loved or the home I built or the level of safety on the street this skin this color affords me.

Even in what feels like a truly hapless era, I still found fortune.

And, in my relative comfort during this calamitous time, I mined from the depths of my pain enough treasure to spin a tale worthy of recognition. Because what good is luck and fortune if you cannot share it?

And so on this week of unsettling reminiscence and this day of unlimited luck -though there is barely a glimmer of Irish running through my veins- I’ll collect the pots beneath my rainbow, spread some Kerrygold on a slice of soda bread, and share my fortune with others as I look forward to tomorrow. Because, perhaps the greatest treasure I found this past year, is the knowledge that we’re all lucky to make it there at all, no matter what brand of luck it brings.

The fortune I alluded to: an essay I wrote detailing a year of changes during the pandemic has since aired on WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station, but a recorded clip and my full essay can be listened to and read here.

Life in General

Growing Pains

Fatigue shrouds itself around my shoulders these days. It’s cold to the touch and impatiently whispers demands in my ears: Miss the people you love. Mourn the life you had; all you wished and planned for, too. Medicate the pain you feel, and all that you anticipate.

There is so much pain these days.

There is so much anticipation, too.

Life has generously dropped such heavy weights in our laps and jealously lapped up the pillars and pleasures we took for granted. But no matter what any of us may have gained or lost since around this exact time last year, we all carry with us an incomparable, often completely inconsolable pain.

I have not weathered the worst of this storm as so many others have; I still have my home, my job, my loved ones, and so much more. Yet I ache for those who have lost any and all of the above. But I have my own loses and I, too, am covered in my own unique and unparalleled troubles.

My heart aches at the loss of 500,000+ Americans to an illness that needn’t have taken so very many lives. But I hope our nation grows more aware of the inequities and works to eradicate them.

My ears hurt from wearing two masks more tightly than ever before. But I grow more confident in my ability to safely navigate the world to achieve success at my job, to purchase my groceries, to help my neighbors.

My soul suffers each time I make the choice to keep my distance from friends and family and pastimes I once so enjoyed. But I grow more sure of my convictions and more appreciative of the times I had and will have once again to enjoy cherished people and places.

There is so much anticipation.

And through the anticipation, I am growing.

Growing weary of staying home, especially when home isn’t always a perfect haven. Growing tired of the effort it takes to go out, whether the outing is for wants or needs. Growing bored. Growing impatient. Growing angry. Growing older.

Growing thankful for the home I have, flawed as it may be. Growing determined to make my dreams reality, even before I think I’m ready. Growing wiser. Growing calmer. Growing stronger. Growing hopeful.

Growing, through it all, into myself and more intro my truth than ever before.

A final whisper: Make the best of it.

There is no easy way or duty to make the best of the loss of a loved one, one less source of income, lacking a home, or the absence of safety and security in whatever form that takes. Some of these things are allowed just to be and remain covered for however long one needs. And outside of those things, I intend to do what I can to take the shroud thrust over me and turn its cool touch into the warm embrace that I so long for.

Instead of a thin veil that obscures my sight, I’ll have a warm wool to brave the seasons while I continue to grow and head toward the horizon.

Here’s to our collective pain, and here’s to the hopeful landscape that will come of it.