Memories

Two nights ago, I started doing something that I haven’t been able to stop. I started writing about my past. I started writing down any and all memories that I could think of, unhindered and unfiltered. I then started to categorize them into Good, Neutral, Bad, and Good/Bad memories. I can’t really explain why I started doing this, but I haven’t really been able to stop writing for about two days now. Any free time I get, I jot down a memory that comes to me, which will lead to another memory…so on and so forth.

The process has been incredible. All of these memories are inside my head, just filed away somewhere and pulling them out/recalling the details of events has been both challenging and incredibly therapeutic in some ways. This is an exercise that I would recommend to my clients. I just decided to do it on my own for whatever reason. The memories I choose are generally before high school, as in, any time after high school seems closer to “recently happened” rather than “past”. Semantics. I would say that about 98% of my memories are things that I would be able to share with my two sisters and parents, as they are all characters in said memories. 1% of my memories they don’t know because only I experienced them, and the last 1% are memories that I don’t see myself telling anyone. Some things belong in memory.

I have written about 11 pages so far, or 6,500 words, and if I had to do maths on what I’ve done, I could probably write another 20-30 pages (12-18,000 words). It goes without saying that I am not going to start posting my memories to everyone, as that cheapens my experiences and I’d like to share those with someone special someday….not the rest of the world. Still, there is an example memory that I can share with you all, and I think it accurately reflects my process. Enjoy this memory of mine, circa August 1999.

Once, my family and the Zehrs, a family I grew up with knowing and hanging out with, took a vacation to Michigan. It was Robyn, Nicole, and myself in my family. Ashley (Nicoles age) Alaina (my age) and Allie (Robyns age) in the Zehr family. We rented a beach house somewhere off Lake Michigan. I still remember pulling up to that house. Turquoise in color and fully awesome. I ran into the house and threw my stuff on the bed that I called dibs for. I then ran to the backyard…we had a HOT TUB! This was awesome. I was never allowed in the hot tub before. We jumped into our suits and ran down the beach. Freshly sun screened and eager, we marveled at the size of the waves. Equal parts frightened and gitty, we made sandcastles, sand towns, rivers of water, and sand angels. We burried each other, and swam in the lake to wash off. We ended up in the hot tub, me with my cubs hat and shirt still on, the others being crazy…which was business as usual. I remember that house being so beautiful and reeked of  “summer” with scents of sunscreen, bugspray, and BBQ. The house even looked like summer with shells everywhere, rope, sailing pictures, fish art pieces, wicker furniture, plenty of windows to let the sunlight in, etc. I loved it. Our families took turns cooking dinner, and we would all congregate around the big glass table to eat. Unrelated, but this is around the time that Prince of Egypt came out, and I was listening to the soundtrack the entire trip, ha. Loved that movie. To this day, both the Peterson family and the Zehrs remember fondly on that trip and how incredibly relaxing/fun it was. It was a golden week. Untouchable.

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The Chapter Begins, and it is Beautiful

Well after spending a significant amount of time in Michigan, I can confidently say that I am loving it here. I am glad that I am once again living with men I am comfortable calling my brothers. These past few days have been quite incredible. I am transitioning once again into living on my own…so to speak (living outside of my parents house). I am finding jobs to keep me busy while the long term work finalizes. We are also finding another apartment to live in and that is going very well.

It is a very specific, familiar feeling being back in Grand Rapids….like a warm blanket fending off a cold chill. Every street passed and smell taken in is a wave of nostalgia that had remained hidden to keep the pain at bay. Being away from my friends when I moved in 2008 was a painful experience. In order to take away some of the pain and enjoy my move back to Illinois, I had to separate nostalgia from friendship. It wasn’t Calvin College I missed, or even GR necessarily. The thing I missed most was my family that I had made in Michigan.

But now that I am back in GR, living here once again, I can’t help but fall in love with this city all over again. There is so much life, love, and happiness here that can’t be explained. I am not really too sure what it is that makes this place so different from where I grew up, but it is clear and it is true.

I will work very hard in the time that I am here, and I will also relish in every moment that I can before I eventually leave here for my journey to New Zealand. I am excited, even as I write this post, knowing that one day my dream…will become a reality. I have stepped into a brave new world here in Michigan, full of opportunity, joy, peace, and friendship. I cannot see anything bad or painful at the moment, and that is what I need right now. I experienced enough pain last semester…

If you are my friend, and you know me well, then I thank God for you and how you have influenced me. No matter where you are now, or what we have both been through, I will always pray for you and give thanks for the moment when we met, and you blessed my life.

Homesickness, & The Thoughts of Someone, Leaving Everything Behind

Hello readers. Today’s post was conceived when I started to think about the near future that awaits me. Very soon I will be moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan to live with some buddies and get a job paying off my unforgivable student loans. THEN, when my paperwork for moving to New Zealand gets passed, I will be moving to NZ and working over there for as long as I am needed. I am a Social Worker, it’s what I do. New Zealand needs Social Workers to help the youth and the ever growing epidemic of depression and suicide.

All of this has caused me to think about everything. Everything: What I wont have when I’m gone, who I wont see when I’m gone, what I wont get to do when I’m gone, what I wont be able to buy when I’m gone, TV programs that wont be featured, food that I wont get to eat, American clothes, my favorite little places that I now will not be able to go to, streets I wont recognize, rules I wont know, customs I have to get used to, culture I have to memorize, slang I have to attempt to understand, shock I have to overcome, on and on it goes…

Some of the things I mentioned above are trivial, but they are running through my mind none-the-less. I feel like these are common thoughts that any rational person would think if they were too moving far, far away to a new country. I just know that I am trying to pack as much “U.S. life” into these last few months that I can, in hopes that it will leave a mark long enough for me not to miss it. I’m not very big on homesickness. I never really have been, but it comes in spurts every 3-5 months, where I start wanting to see family again. For this reason I’ll let you in on a little traveling secret I learned many years ago. This will help you with homesickness wherever you go:

Home is where the “family” is.

This may seem confusing if your family is nowhere near you. Let me explain. Your home is going to be wherever you have “family” and friends. I put family in quotes for a reason. When I went to Calvin College six years ago, I started missing home bad. What helped cure my homesickness? I made some serious, lifelong friends in a matter of weeks. Soon, I was off having adventures with them in strange and amazing places, making memories that I will keep with me for my entire life. In 2006, I made a “family” at that college. A family that I still keep in contact with to this day. One member of that “family” asked me to stand up in his wedding as his Best Man. We really helped each other in that time of need…away from our families and homes we knew dear.

Listen to me. Go out and make this happen. It rarely happens on its own.

So if you are ever far, far away from your family, don’t look at this idea as “replacing” your immediate family, but more along the lines of “creating” a new support system for yourself to carry you through those tough nights you wish you were in the comfort and stability of what you know and understand. I am NOT telling you to forget your family. Skype them, write them, call them, but don’t mourn them like they are dead. Trust me, this little life lesson is something that will drastically change how you look at leaving everything behind to experience something life changing. Don’t let homesickness get in the way of something that can mold you into who you were meant to become.