Tag Archives: Starting Over

My Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

Hello, Beautiful People!

My apologies for the 6 month hiatus. I haven’t gotten around to typing much since I discovered the connection between Emily Dickinson and Harry Potter. I could give you a detailed account of my life in that time, but I think I’ll just go with, “I bagged a lot of groceries,” and leave it at that.

Now, though, I’m foreseeing LOTS of new blog posts because (drum roll, please ./././././././)

I’m going to spend the next 5 months as a botany intern in the Mojave Desert! That means new sights to see, a new ecosystem to learn about, new plant species to identify, and lots of new roads to get lost on! Oh, and I start on Monday.

IMG_20160309_212115494

My mom and I left the house at 7AM. One day down, two to go before we reach Needles, CA!

I set off from Phelps, WI this morning with my mother at 7AM. We drove for most of the day and ended up in Des Moines, IA. According to Google, we only need 24 more hours of straight driving time before we make it to our end goal of Needles, CA by Friday evening!

IMG_20160309_212209026

Rounding out our merry band is my Aunt Glenda who agreed to move me halfway across the country!

The plan for tomorrow is to drive for 13 hours! I’ll hopefully report back then!

JOURNEY TO THE MOJAVE DESERT–DAY 1

HOURS DRIVEN: 9

MILES DRIVEN:507

STATES VISITED: 3 (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa)

 

Advertisements

Exploring a New Path

Greetings Beautiful People!

My apologies for the radio-silence–I was distracted by my recent shift from After-School Science Guru to Professional Plant Killer. That’s right! What with school winding down and summer winding up, I decided it was a good time to add “field experience” to my resume. For the next couple of months at least, my official job title is “Invasive Species Aide” which means I go to certain local parks and dispose of plants which do not traditionally grow in Northeast Wisconsin and which crowd out/suffocate native species. Just to prove that I haven’t just been hiding for the last month or so, here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

Caterpillars are EVERYWHERE. Also, most anchor themselves to leaves (or clothing) with some sort of pincer on their back end. This makes shaking them off problematic.

This is Tent Caterpillar represents just one of the species of caterpillars I have come across recently.

This Tent Caterpillar represents just one of the species of caterpillars I have come across recently.

Tent Caterpillars are highly social and work together to build large silk

Tent Caterpillars are highly social and work together to build large silk “tents” in the trees they inhabit.

Once you spend a certain amount of time pulling Garlic Mustard up by the roots, its image will be permanently imprinted on your brain. It’s gotten to the point that I see its outline even when I close my eyes and it has infiltrated my dreams.

Garlic Mustard is my prime opponent at the moment--it crowds out, suffocates, and out-competes native plants like you wouldn't believe!

Garlic Mustard is my prime opponent at the moment–it crowds out, suffocates, and out-competes native plants like you wouldn’t believe!

Periwinkle is not just a random color invented for crayons. It is a plant species (also called “running myrtle”). It also happens to be invasive.

Periwinkle flowers remind me of pinwheels.

Periwinkle flowers remind me of pinwheels.

Periwinkle plants consist of dense leaves that grow close together and very close to the ground. This makes it almost impossible for any other plant to grow alongside it.

Periwinkle plants consist of dense leaves that grow close together and very close to the ground. This makes it almost impossible for any other plant to grow alongside it.

Trilliums can be pink.

I remember seeing lots of white trilliums growing up in Northern Wisconsin, but I'd never come across a pink one before!

I remember seeing lots of white Trilliums growing up in Northern Wisconsin, but I’d never come across a pink one before!

There is a flower called a Trout Lily.

Trout Lilies are spring flowers and are only in bloom in April-May. I was lucky to find a large patch when they were in their prime.

Trout Lilies are spring flowers and only bloom April to May. I was lucky to find a large patch when they were in their prime.

Crossing Chasms

I am a true professional when it comes to getting lost. I even lost a school bus once, but that’s a story best told in person. Today I want to talk about getting lost in Green Bay. [I was going to say something like “my new city” or “my new home,” but that doesn’t sound right, not yet. GB is not yet home— home is something that must be earned over time.]

In truth I got lost before I even got here. When my parents helped me move down to Green Bay, we relied on my GPS. Unfortunately, it had not been updated regarding the new fly-over ramps that had been constructed last summer. Let’s just say that we got so lost that when I finally called my friend [who happens to have the entire road map of Green Bay memorized] even she had no idea where we were. In the end, I gave up the wheel to my father and he was able to find the highway and follow directions as my friend gave us step-by-step directions over the phone.

After I moved in, it took me weeks to even start my car. It was so much easier to just stay in the apartment and fill out job applications or catch up on my reading list. If my friend left the apartment, I would usually tag along. She even drove me to a couple of job interviews. Finally, though, I couldn’t take it anymore—I needed to find the library.

In truth, I had at least 20 unread books on my shelf. (I still do, actually!) Libraries aren’t just lifeless buildings of books, though. A library is a meeting place for those who love to read—like a clubhouse. I needed to feel that comradery. I needed that little plastic card that said “you belong”.

"Over the years I have collected so many books that, in aggregate, they can fairly be called a library.I don't know what percentage of them I have read. Increasingly I wonder how many of them I ever will read. This has done nothing to dampen my pleasure in acquiring more books." --Marilyne Robinson, "When I Was a Child, I Read Books"

“Over the years I have collected so many books that, in aggregate, they can fairly be called a library.I don’t know what percentage of them I have read. Increasingly I wonder how many of them I ever will read. This has done nothing to dampen my pleasure in acquiring more books.”
–Marilyne Robinson, “When I Was a Child, I Read Books”

So I did it. I examined the route on Google Maps. I entered the address into my GPS. I started the car. I was doing alright up until the roundabout. [PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Green Bay, WI is FULL of roundabouts.] It took a couple of trips “around the rotary,” but we got back on track in the end. I missed the final turn for the library and had to do some back-tracking, but I did it. I parked my car, unplugged my GPS, entered the building, and just reveled in it for a minute. I browsed the shelves. I got a library card. I even logged onto a computer just because I could. I didn’t check out a book, not that day.

The point was not to find a book. The point was to venture out and find something familiar, something that could ground me. The library is roughly 2.5 miles from my apartment. I have returned several times since that first day. In fact, I can now get there without any help at all. That first day though, 2.5 miles was a great chasm. And I crossed it.

Even 2.5 miles can seem like a great journey.

Even 2.5 miles can seem like a great journey.

Leaving the Nest (Again)

I am a Boomerang Kid. In other words, I graduated from high school, flew off to college, got my bachelor’s degree, and because I had nowhere else to go, returned to live with my parents. What with the Great Recession and all, this has become a pretty common thing. (“Boomerang child” even has a definition on merriam-webster.com) Twenty-somethings, many with college degrees, are flocking back home to Mom and Dad. Professionals are concerned about the added stress for aging parents.  What many articles on the subject don’t seem to cover, however, is how psychologically damaging this situation is for the twenty-somethings.

I have always been successful. I got my first job at the age of 14. I did well in high school and received several college scholarships. In just four years, I earned a Bachelor of the Arts even though I double majored—biology and English.  The problem was that I did not know where to go from there.

Graduating seems like the easy part now.

Graduating seems like the easy part now.

Well…I sort of knew. As a college student, I became very involved with Habitat For Humanity and through HFH I learned about the AmeriCorps. As graduation loomed ever nearer, I decided to spend at least one year as an AmeriCorps member, but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing this. I moved back home and spent the summer waitressing. In early August, I applied to and was accepted for an AmeriCorps position in a nearby community where my father worked.

[My time as an AmeriCorps member completely shattered my view of the world. I see everything so much differently now than I did immediately after graduation. I’ll probably blog plenty about that in the future, but for now, let’s return to the subject of Boomerang Kids.]

In theory, I was doing pretty well for someone just out of college. I had a full-time job (though technically it was a volunteer position. This meant that instead of getting “paid,” I received a small bi-weekly living stipend and, if I finished my term, an education award.) Since I was living with my parents and car-pooling with my father, I was able to devote almost my entire living stipend to paying off my student loans, which gave me excellent credit. I was even able to make some extra money by waitressing on the weekends. On the surface, I was doing well.

Meanwhile, my friends were getting married, finding jobs, or both. They were starting new lives in new places with new and exciting challenges. They got to make their own decisions and take their own risks.

Even after years of college, it was so easy to slip back into life at home. I found myself arguing with my youngest sister—the only one still in high school. I ate whatever my mother made for dinner, since I was away from home from roughly 6:30am-6:30pm every day and didn’t have time for things like preparing meals. My father was my ride, which meant I was completely dependent on him to get to and from work. In short, my life was not my own.

I decided to apply for a job at a nature center in Minnesota for the next year. I managed to merit a face-to-face interview, but I was declined in the end. I was so sure that I would get that job. I got the news via email during a big community expo that I was participating in for the AmeriCorps. That’s the only time I can recall ever crying in public.

I decided to spend another year as an AmeriCorps member. My second year was even better than the first. I learned so much and was able to touch so many lives in a positive way!

I had a lot of fun as an AmeriCorps member. I especially enjoyed sharing simple but fun science experiments with my after-school group.

I had a lot of fun as an AmeriCorps member. I especially enjoyed sharing simple but fun science experiments with my after-school group.

IMG_0059

Elsewhere, life went on. All across Facebook, classmates seemed to be announcing amazing new jobs. One of my college roommates got into grad school. My best friend had a baby. And there I was: still arguing with my little sister, still eating whatever was put in front of me, still getting dropped off and picked up from work.

On the advice of a teacher at the school where I “volunteered,” I applied to a program teaching English in Japan—I didn’t get in. I applied to a company that “loves grads from [my college]”—I didn’t even get an interview. I threw myself into job searching. I revamped my resume. I contacted college professors. I found a copy of “What Color is Your Parachute?” I started asking friends/acquaintances if they knew of any job openings. I updated my LinkedIn profile and joined several groups. [NOTE: If you are an AmeriCorps Alum, definitely join their LinkedIn group—they have lots of resources are very fond of networking with fellow Alumni.] After six months, I was still jobless and my final term with the AmeriCorps was coming to an end.

I made an appointment with a career counselor from my college. Even though I had graduated two years earlier, he was very willing to meet with me and help me figure out my next step. I spent a week revamping my resume (again), searching for entry level positions, and driving around much of the Midwest to make contacts. The career counselor explained that while something may come immediately, most of this was long-term stuff. I returned to my parents’ house. My time with the AmeriCorps ended. I started waitressing full time.

It felt like my friends were all going off into the Tunnel of Life while I was just biding my time at home. It was like my own life hadn't even really started.

It felt like my friends were all going off into the Tunnel of Life while I was just biding my time at home. It was like my own life hadn’t even really started.

Meanwhile, my best friend (the one with the baby) had been trying to convince me to move to Green Bay. I kept saying no. I was waiting for something to happen. Just waiting.  And then I woke up. Why was I waiting? What was I waiting for? What on earth was the use in waiting? I called my friend. She checked with her fiancée and said it was okay. Two months later, I was moving into her baby’s room.

I am now in a new city with new challenges and new opportunities. I feel like I am alive again. I’m still not exactly on my own, but it’s a start. All I need now is one opportunity—I just don’t know what it is. I do not know if I’ll stay in this city. I hope to find a job here, but really who knows? Who knows what tomorrow will bring?