Monday, April 24, 2017

Grad school, ice cream and belonging.

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I just returned from the conference of the National Council of Rehabilitation Educators in sunny Anaheim, California.  Going back to school after 14 years of work in your field is weird.  Going back to school and being well older than all of your classmates and even some of your professors is weirder.  But....I've always been a person who doesn't feel my age and so.
And so.

But walking up to the conference venue, after having spent years at conferences where everyone knew who I was...people grabbing me in for conversations and questions, advice and assistance in sessions...  It got comfy.  So walking up to the conference venue...not knowing anyone gathered around...  I felt my stomach clench.

Those of you who know me know I am loud and expressive, glad to be the center of attention.  But that's when I know the people around me.  When I show up and know no one..I get a little terrified.  I've been known to hide in the bathroom, arriving before friends at a gathering or a party, texting them to tell me when they get there so I can come out.

Walking up to the conference venue, I considered hiding in the bathroom for a split second.

and then.

"Hey! Where are you from?"

Immediately two women began to talk to me, ask me questions.  That happened throughout the entire conference; everyone was friendly, welcoming, and open.  And I thought.  What a wonderful new community I've joined.

And then I saw them--my cohort and those a year ahead of me, a ring of faces that I knew. And they called me over and looked glad to see me and I felt like I belonged.  I think, sometimes, that's the most important feeling we can have.

And in the evening, I snuck away with my friend and we got ice cream together, and talked about the funny feeling and awkwardness of not knowing people.

And I'm so glad I went.

So, friends, when you are at a conference or a party or a gathering of some kind, and if you see someone standing alone, looking like they  might go hide in the bathroom... Or perhaps someone who has a better game face than I..perhaps they're studying their conference agenda or cell phone, reach out.  Ask them where they're from.   Help them feel like they belong.

Grad school is challenging, but I am in love with the way my brain feels like its growing. And its made all the better, all the easier, by having people to go sneak away for ice cream with.  And people who open their circle and invite you in, telling you...

You belong.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thoughts on time

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Do you ever think about time? The way it works? The way it folds around us, falls behind us, stretches out before us in unimaginable length?

I keep a book journal. I started it at my husband's encouragement because I'm a "voracious reader"...I gulp down books like Gatorade at the end of a marathon...  And then I say, "I just read the greatest book!" And the person to whom I'm talking says, "Oh? What was it about?" And then I'm like, "Ummmmm...."  So now I keep a book journal and I write down the date I started, the date I finished and quotes from the books I read that jump out at me, that I don't want to forget.

So this morning, I finished a book: "Today will be different" by Maria Semple.  And wrote today's date in my book journal along with the book I am starting today: "The atomic weight of love" by Elizabeth Church.  And I thought...

Anything could happen between now and the time I finish this book.....

Somehow the expanse of time occurred to me as I wrote down a simple date and title and author.  Today is April 14th, 2017.  Today I start a new book. I will heat up leftover stir fry for dinner. I'll drink some coffee.  I'll look at my children who lay sprawled on my bed, even as I type this, waiting to have my attention...or a turn at my computer...hard to tell which.  And in a week or so, I'll write a new date down when I finish this book with the brick red hardcover.

What will have happened between now and then?   

Time just stretches out and who knows what will fill it...

Sometimes when I'm walking, I imagine myself at 21 or 26 and I pretend I'm getting the opportunity to see what my life is like in the future.

Here you are at 41, I say to myself.  And I look at my reflection in the mirror, at my surroundings, imagining realizing I'm in school now getting a PhD, hearing stories about my career, serving youth with disabilities.  And I come to my house and with anticipation, open the door.  Me at 26 is wondering: What will I find inside my life?

 And I'm always so grateful for what I find there.  And me at 26 zips back into my 41 year old self.  And I look up now as Tad walks in the room to ask what I'm typing, my kids are rolling around having a ridiculous argument on my bed.  It's a nice exercise in gratitude.

I wonder what I might remember about this time, when I'm 57 or 64 and looking back again and looking forward.  I wonder by then if I'll be better at staying in one place....  It's funny to imagine that time out there, just waiting for me.  However many books I read later. Stretching out and expanding and contracting.  Waiting to be reached only to be behind me again.