10 Things About the Past 10 Years, Part 2 – Education

(Welcome to my series reflecting on my journey through my twenties, prompted by turning 30. Links to previous posts are at the bottom of this one).

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My undergrad seemed like an obvious significant part of the past 10 years, considering I spent half of them working on it. I have mixed feelings on this one.

I have an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English and Global Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Basically, this means that I am working the same job I worked at part-time throughout school, am still paying off some student loans, and have a certificate somewhere that says I have an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English and Global Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University.

I was 20 when I started my undergrad degree. This was a result of being born in January, being the last part of Ontario’s double cohort (meaning 5 years of high school), and taking a year off in between high school and university. The year off was because I had decided at the last minute in my last year of high school that I actually wanted to study music, but didn’t have enough time to prepare an audition. Part way through my year off that was dedicated to studying music and preparing an audition, I found that the intense focus killed my joy in studying music and decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. So I went on with my other interests.

I had been accepted to WLU for English and History. During orientation week I ran into an acquaintance from camp who was taking Global Studies. Intrigued by the subject matter and drawn to topics considering how we live as citizens in this increasingly globalized world, I switched my History major (I think I did a history minor? I still took lots of history). I really enjoyed the topics that I studied, but wish I had a better understanding of what options I had, and what I was trying to accomplish. I went to university because that’s what you did if you got good grades in high school. After middle school, high school. After high school, university, right? And a university education meant a great career, right? And even if it didn’t because you just had an arts degree, it was still a great experience and you matured so much and you understood the world so much better. Right?

As I mentioned in my post on marriage, James and I got engaged over Christmas break of my first year. Because I was already older than many of my classmates, obviously in a bit of a different life stage than many of them (a lot of people looked at me like I had two heads when I came back from Christmas vacation engaged), and someone who has always struggled to make friends in new, big social situations, the social aspect of university was a bit of a challenge. I took the first semester of my second year off to get married, and in my third year, James and I moved to Hamilton, so I basically just commuted back and forth for classes and that was it. There are certainly some twinges of regret that I never had that living in a house with a bunch of awesome girlfriends who you love so much and get together with every year for epic reunions. Other than some facebook interactions, I really have no connections to people from university phase. I’m a bit sad about that.

Also, because I was married (turns out having an effective relationship takes a reasonable investment of time, especially at the early stages), trying to work part-time and manage a home, I wasn’t really involved in any extra curriculars.  I went to class. I read. I did assignments. I got good grades (that was the point, right?), and I carried on. I really regret that I didn’t dig deeper into some of the opportunities that student life allows, and that I didn’t engage more in my subject matter. I was an excellent student. I knew how to take the assigned reading and regurgitate it in the desired format to get a decent mark. So that’s what I did, and at the end, I feel like that’s what I got – some decent marks. I don’t feel like I really digested a lot of the concepts and philosophies, and I certainly didn’t interact with and engage with ideas in the informal arena the way others did.

That said, one of my favourite things about the Global Studies program was that it required some sort of cultural exchange program. I applied for and was super excited for a semester at an international learning program in Prague. I was so, so, excited. And then they cancelled it for that semester, which was absolutely devastating to me. In lieu of a travel experience, the department required a year of study in a foreign language. I got special permission to study Hebrew (special because Hebrew is an ancient language that was taught through the archeology department, not the language department). I. loved. Hebrew. My year of Hebrew was probably the most exciting and engaging aspect of my degree. I am also so glad that I took it, because as I look to future study (I’m really hoping to go to seminary), my time studying Hebrew will be a good foundation for further language study.

So. I slogged through 5 years of school. My husband brought me tea and gave me back rubs and told me he knew I could do it while I stayed up late writing papers. And I did it. And I’m glad I did – although I think I would do it much differently if I were to repeat it.

dad and diploma

I graduated in 2009. I was really happy to have it all done. I was also pregnant.

 (If you ever want to feel like you reeeaaally don’t fit in somewhere? Be married and pregnant in a room full of undergrads. Few of my classmates counted morning sickness and pregnancy exhaustion among their lists of reasons it was so hard to get their work done).

I believe education is incredibly valuable, and am so thankful for the opportunity I had to study. On this side of the experience, I am for more aware what an investment it is – of both time and money. I would be for more careful in my decision-making and approach to how I were to invest that time and money if I were to do it all again.

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Other things about the past 10 years…

10 Things About the Past 10 Years, Part 1 – Marriage

 

 

10 Things About the Past 10 Years, Part 1 – Marriage

I turned 30 this month. We had a party, and invited a crazy amount of people into our little house, and a crazy amount of people came. It was joyful and happy and at one point my sister said “You have a lot of friends!” and she’s right. I felt loved and celebrated and was given some beautiful and generous gifts.

I’ve always thought it was silly when people (usually women) made a big deal about lamenting milestone birthdays, but as I approached 30, I started to get it a little bit. I didn’t freak out, but there was a certain something about approaching 30…it just sounded so very adult. Being a twenty-something is still connected in my mind to youthful things, a time of figuring it out, still some pliability. 30 just seemed to have a bit of weight to it. “This is your life, are you who you want to be.…?” You know?

All of my mulling about what it means to turn 30 got me thinking about what happened in my twenties. And you know what? A LOT HAPPENED. I think it’s important to reflect and consider our stories. So, I’m going to attempt to consolidate the past 10 years into 10 of the most significant things about the decade. In my master plan I was going to write and post this “10 Things About the Past 10 Years” on the last day of being 29…but that didn’t happen. And then I was going to try to do it the day after my birthday. But that didn’t happen either. And since I still think it’s valuable, and I still haven’t done any more writing since then, I’m going to break each thing up and post one at a time, ’cause then I can actually spend more time reflecting on and considering those things, rather than just rattling off a list.

And so. Here is the Part 1 of 10 in my “10 Things About the Past 10 Years”:

1. Marrying James

smiley weds

James and I got engaged December of 2004. I was 20, and had just finished my first semester of my undergrad degree (more on that later). We got were married October 15, 2005. I was 21. I don’t think it was until I watched friends get married at the other end of their 20s that I realized how young we were.

James’ presence in my life has been such a blessing – he is an incredibly kind and giving person, who serves me and our family with so much sacrificial love. Our marriage is one of incredible equality, balance, and communication that I believe is really unique and special. In our marriage I feel valued, appreciated and supported. In our marriage I am challenged and stretched.

Marriage has been such a stabilizing and balancing force. While there are certainly moments when I have twinges of longing for a life that is unfettered by things like marriage and home and kids, and wonder what it would have been like to be unattached through my 20s, I can’t really imagine surviving much of anything without James by my side.

happily ever after

This picture is my favourite picture from our wedding. My father-in-law had arranged, unbeknownst to us, to have the marching band from James’ cadet squadron come out at the end of our ceremony and lead us and our guests parade-style down the street to our reception. We had no idea. While the pictures of us gazing into each others’ eyes or walking hand-in-hand down a pretty path are lovely and heart-warming, marriage has looked a whole lot more like “We never expected THIS!” Standing with my best friend laughing through the unexpected has been one of the best things about the past 10 years.

 warrior dash

That’s us this past summer at the end of the Warrior Dash. If I was going to go on, I could make all kinds of comparisons about slogging through mud and climbing over things together, about sacrificing ambitions to go at another person’s pace, but, I’m sure you get the gist. We got muddy. We were tired. We finished together – still smiling.

Let’s dash through all our decades together, shall we?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This

And so it’s a New Year, and resolutions and words and all.

And part of me doesn’t even want to write them down, because then what if they don’t happen? What of that “Year of Celebrating Discipline” last year? What of the things I hope for that I struggle to actually accomplish?

But I do have some hopes, and some plans. And like last year, I am choosing a word for my year.

(Last year, was “essentials”. As in, just the essentials. Focus on the basics. It was good and necessary and will carry through for sure).

This year…

this.

Yep, this.

I am in a season where there are alllll kinds of hopes and dreams and someday things. And they are not compatible with my current reality. And when I get all caught up in the incompatibility and the far-off feeling of those things, I get frustrated and sad and overwhelmed.

This is here and now. This is what I have. This is the opportunity to do the best where I am with what I’ve got, and this is what I’m called to at this very moment.

And so I’m leaning in. I’m taking my eyes off all that, and looking straight ahead, at the things in the path I’m on. Oh yes, I know there will be a time for other things, but that time is not now.

“If you stray to the right or the left, you will hear a word that comes from behind you: “This is the way; walk in it” – Isaiah 30:21

This  is the way.

I’m walking.

He gently leads…

The snow is falling all big beautiful flakes, dusting the house tops.

I’m sitting in my favourite arm chair, candles lit on the table in front of me, looking out the window past the Christmas tree  at the flakes swirling. Haydon is at school, Ezra is sleeping upstairs.

photo (6)

It looks and sounds peaceful.

But it’s not how I feel.

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I haven’t written in a long time. Blogging is funny, because it can turn into this weird performance, a strange display of self. I haven’t felt very much like I have things figured out lately, so, what to display…? I feel like I’m floundering, unsure of all kinds of things, and like I shouldn’t write because I don’t know what my message is, don’t know what I’m trying to convey.

And then I remembered the title of this blog…journalling the journey. Funny how sometimes the obvious is not so obvious. I remembered also an essay I wrote in high school, about the importance and value of enjoying the journey, about not rushing along to the next thing, so focused on the destination that one misses the things along the way. Stop and smell the roses, yes?

I’ve been in destination mode. Mothering is hard. I’m still worked up over an epic blow out we had this morning. Every morning.

I feel frustrated and angry and ill-equipped. I don’t know how to parent this persistent, focused ball of energy, who persists in focusing on things other than I’m trying to call his attention to. I don’t know how to keep things tidy and organized, I don’t know how to balance the dreams and desires I have for my life with the incessant needs of these little people, and I’ve been filling my mind with countdowns and timelines and how long til full day school for everyone when I can just get.on.with.it.

But it’s a journey, right? And this time is not wasted, I know that. And I know also that the things happening in this time, in this space, in my  kids, and in my character are valuable.

And so, today, I feel cranky and tired and overwhelmed and on the verge of tears.

But I am sitting in my chair. And I am gazing at these candles, and these snowflakes. And I am pondering the scripture that says:

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)

I am telling my shepherd how I feel – my struggles and my failures. I am letting him gather my lambs up in his arms – bigger, stronger, than mine. I am reminding myself that he carries them close to his heart, and that he leads me gently as I bumble along.

 

Just Keep Writing…Right?

I joined a writing workshop at the beginning of September.

‘Cause I’m a writer, right?

Or a wannabe.

Or somewhere in between.

 

Anyway. I was really excited. It started well. I was enjoying the push to engage in writing, enjoying the readings, the assignments, the feedback. And then life crept up on me, and before I knew it I was swamped with the basic realities of family/work/church, etc and I couldn’t possibly do ANY of the workshop stuff. And I felt like a big loser – ’cause who wastes money on something they don’t have time for?! And who was I to think I was a writer anyway?

I read this quote recently (William Faulkner, apparently), and it struck me.

 

 

 

Trying to do that. Hard, but trying.

Hard because of time. Hard because who reads it anyway? Hard because I’m no expert. Hard because…

“Because, because, because, because, be-caaaauuuuse” (what song is that from, anyway?)

 

But. I came back here today and looked over this space. And you know what?

I like my writing.

And I like writing.

And I think that’s good enough.

So I’ll keep at it.

 

(The one writing commitment I’ve been trying to keep – and forgetting to link to my personal blog – is my weekly post at This Sisterhood. I’ve been doing a series on Sabbath, and would love it if you came over to read. Here’s the latest post, on lessons I’m learning related to quitting a job. Also, as part of my reflecting on Sabbath I made this printable as a reminder for myself. Feel free to click on it for a PDF  to print out if it’s a reminder you need too.)

 

Be still printable