New Normal

Sometimes taking time away from a busy, hectic life can bring things into perspective in a way you wouldn’t have known unless you had left. Recently I moved to Colorado Springs from Chicago, IL. With that move comes a lot of packing, saying goodbye, and trying to figure out what your new life means in this new mountainous place. I think for me, there was equal parts excitement of the new adventure and then apprehension for choosing something so new.

My normal was flat terrain, massive cities, blues music, brutal winters, unforgiving summers, traffic like most wouldn’t believe, friends, family, and familiar haunts. My normal was comfortable, safe, fun, and supportive. My normal had late nights, good talks, lunch dates with nephews, and play dates with nieces. My normal knew every street, every shortcut, every bypass, and every detour. My normal knew most tasty stops, delicious dives, and places to avoid. I knew my normal and my normal knew me. There is great power in being known.

A friend of mine, after a change in her life, told me that she was getting back to the “new normal.” I said ‘good for her’ and never really landed on what that meant to her, or even what that could have meant for me.

Recently I traveled to New Zealand to be a part of my best friend’s wedding. The wedding was for Corbin Elliott. I’ve known Corbin since I was 15. We went to High School together, and senior year he moved back home to New Zealand. If you know my story, you know that I lived in New Zealand from 2013-2016. I told myself that after I moved back home to the U.S. in 2016, the next time I would be in NZ would be for Corbin’s wedding. A year and four months later, he was married. I have to say, sitting at the head table, listening to all the people bear witness to Rebecca and Corbin’s lives was a beautiful and hilarious thing. Also, if you knew Corbin, seeing him emote in this specific way on his wedding was quite unique and touching. I’ll never forget it.

This wedding was a gathering of most of my favorite people. We talked, laughed, and danced the night into morning. Many of these people hadn’t seen me in the time I was away and some pleaded with me to stay and never leave them. Coming back to NZ, which really is a second home to me, came with questions. Would I arrive and never want to leave? Would I start hanging out with my friends, remember the good times we had, and find it difficult to remove myself? Would this country seduce me all over again? I have to admit, at first, it looked like this might have been the case. Being back felt REALLY good. The scenery, the people, the food, hell…even the air smelled different. Yet, in the last days leading up to the wedding, I began to feel a change. The change was less bad and more of a peace.

When I moved to New Zealand, I had a moment in my first year on the top of a hill looking out at the countryside. The moment washed over me and gave me a feeling of peace. It was the moment I knew NZ was home. I’ll always have a home in Chicago and I’ll always have a home in NZ. Home is where you make a family, and as cliché as it sounds, home is where you decide to put your heart. While I was in NZ this past week, I told friends that I didn’t have that feeling in Colorado yet. I wasn’t complaining. I had only been in CO for a month and my friends said the same. Yet, in those days leading up to the wedding, the feeling of peace that I felt was clear. New Zealand was my home, but I have a new home now. I have a new normal now.

My new normal has new streets to find, new detours to learn, new restaurants to try, and new failures to experience. My new normal has brand new churches, jobs, friends, and relationships. My new normal has new traditions, new adventures, and new terrain. But, new normal also has family and I’m grateful for that. I think I’m starting to understand what my friend was talking about; Getting back to a new normal isn’t forgetting the past and moving on with yourself. New normal is about understanding the past, understanding that life changes, and accepting where you’re living, working, and making a life. It’s about embracing your current situation and saying, “This is me now, let’s move forward.”

I’ll always love New Zealand and I’ll always love Chicago, but Colorado is my new normal. The feeling of peace I had in NZ this week about Colorado was a step. I realized that I can’t be present here, and keep thinking/living in the past there. If I do, I defeat any progress I want to make. I found closure on my trip in a way I didn’t know that I needed. My trip was great, but it made me understand that I DO feel a sense of home in Colorado, and frankly, I was ready to go home.

One Year, Looking Back

One year ago I was excited to see all of my friends again and live with my family after 3 years of seperation. I was anxious about the transission, after living in New Zealand for that long, but I was happy none-the-less to be back home.

Looking back feels weird to me. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been back for 365 days now. The time feels more like months have passed rather than a full year. I have made good use of that time being with friends, traveling to places I’ve never gone before, meeting new people, making new friends, reuniting with old ones, continuing old traditions, and eating ALL the good food, haha. Continue reading “One Year, Looking Back”

The Fear of The Oxbow Lake

What if I come back and I am just another guy? What if I return and I am just a reminder of a time that existed three years ago, but is now irrelevant and forgotten? What happens when I can’t fit into a puzzle I am no longer a piece to?

For someone fairly confident about the decision to come back to his home country, I am still only human. I think one would expect questions like the ones listed above to careen through my mind at blistering speeds. Questions that cause damage to my calm and to my surety. As if there wasn’t enough to think about before leaving, I can throw on a heaping pile of insecurity about the place I called home for most of my life.

Continue reading “The Fear of The Oxbow Lake”

First Day on the Job

Hey everyone. So last night was my first day at the new job. What is my job? Well…I have a bachelors and masters degree in Social Work and wrote hundreds of papers on suicidal ideation, theory, and practice in social work, so……….naturally……………..I’m a Pizza Delivery Man.

I work at Village Inn Pizza, and my job is to take the pizzas where they need to go. Straight to the people’s mouths. I have decided to devote this segment of my blog to, “Things I Noticed On My First Day on the Job Delivering Pizzas.”

1. After spending 2 hours with my co-workers, it was VERY clear that they all needed therapy. Naturally that is exactly what I told my boss. [Boss rounds the corner in the kitchen after playfully tearing down a coworker]

Me: “This whole restaurant needs therapy.”

Boss: “Hahahaha”

Me: “I wasn’t kidding” [I was half kidding]

Boss: “And who are you supposed to be?”

Me: “A social worker.”

Boss: “Really?!”

Me: “Yeah.”

Boss: “Awesome.”

2. Secondly, which is redundant after noting that this is the second point…GPS’s are a delivery guy’s GODsend. I couldn’t do my job without one. I would seriously be dead in the water without it.

3. Lesbians like Our Pizza. I delivered pizza to two lesbians living together. That is all.

4. I Make a Mean Pizza. I do. I got really good at making a pizza in the day that I was there. Which leads me to my next observation.

5. I Learn Really Well in “Trial By Fire” Circumstances. I can’t really explain WHY I learn better when thrown into the fray with nothing but a spork in hand, but I do.

6. I Deliver FAST! Funny thing. Delivery men RARELY get pulled over for speeding because cops think that they could possibly be delivering to a station. Which means the cop that pulled over the delivery guy would endure some heavy ridicule by his fellow officers for making the food late. I love it!

7. I LOVE My Job. Think about it. How many of you get to Drive, Listen to your music all day, AND work with PIZZA all day long. This job is a blast and a half, and I love interacting with other people on the job too. It’s a clear bonus.

Well, that’s what I am doing for “monies,” as Corbin Elliott would say. I thought you would all get a kick out of what life is like for me now here in Grand Rapids. I miss you all like crazy [those of my readers who I left behind in Illinois] and I may possibly be back sometime in the Fall. Until then.

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.