When does a phase become a rut?
Miranda and I had jokingly made a New Year’s Resolution in 2009 to “turn this douche of a life around,” but August rolled around and we hadn’t made much progress – okay, no progress except to re-title 2009 “Douche Awareness Year.” And then came 2010. After living in the Knapp House for four and a half years, I realized that I had gotten stuck in this idea of “Now What” and the limbo between college and the great expanse of the rest of my life. As one of M’s coworkers once said, “What are the markers for the rest of your life once you graduate if you’re not married?” It looked like this fairly happy, comfortable life could go on for an indeterminate period of time.
This freaked me out.
I had told myself I would use this time/phase of limbo to figure out what I wanted to do with my life; I had gotten lazy and settled for life as it was. The problem was, I simply had no good reason to change anything. I loved our house. I loved living with M for the most part (after four years of living together, anyone can get on your nerves, even a saint). I loved my job, my environment, and the friendships I’d invested in. There honestly wasn’t any big change I could see that would make me any happier than I already was. But, I was way too comfortable while being unsatisfied at the same time. Something had to change. I barely felt like I was living; I found that I was just waiting for something new to happen, as if God would rain down answers.
So, by 2010, I realized I had to at least MENTALLY take a leap out of my limbo-phase mindset I’d become comfortably trapped in. I had to mentally create for myself a marker of change from the “Now What” phase. I wasn’t really in that limbo anymore. I wasn’t married or having kids or whatever – fine – but I had progressed to some new phase of life. I had pushed out of the wandering, figuring out phase and into the “Oh, these are the decisions I have made for my life” period. It was time to stop waiting and embrace…something.
But, once again, there was that question – What did I want? Even of what I had, what were the best parts I should do more with? What could make life as good as I could make it? What would make life bigger, fuller, richer?
Thought. Thought. Thought.
Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.
I finally reached the conclusion that, in order to have my own life and do what I wanted, find what I wanted, be what I wanted, I needed to be on my own. I was excited to branch out and start afresh, on my own – I REALLY had liked living on my own in Detroit, and I figured this would be even better since I had friends in Grand Rapids and wouldn’t feel so isolated.
But, for a variety of reasons, I stayed put. However, God sends solace in odd ways, at least in my life. In January 2010, for some reason our landlord decided that he would paint our entire house, and I made a fun two-week friend out of Painter Elf while they painted – surprisingly, with vibrant colors I myself would have picked. For some reason, this simple change to my abode made me perfectly fine with continuing to live there. It was a small change, but I’m an artist at heart and the sudden burst of color on the walls was enough for me to feel refreshed, I think. So this got me through winter.
Then, in April 2010, I lost my job and had a rather intense week and a half of unemployment, during which I tried to decide all the more what I really wanted to be doing. I realized that I had loved my job, to my surprise. When I semi-miraculously had an exact replica of that job (but better!) dumped in my lap, I had to admit that maybe God had been showing me that what I wanted vocationally was exactly what I’d had. Between the paint job and the new job, I was refreshed and surprisingly happy with where I was. I’d made enough internal switches and mental leaps from the “Now What” that very few physical things actually needed to change. Mind over matter, so they say, but it really did work and I felt prepared to continue onward and get better and better at contentment, if that makes sense. (This positive thinking was also oddly inspired by watching so much poker on TV. Elizabeth Shannon, who I would not normally call anything like someone I admire, explained her whole approach to positive thinking in all areas of life, and for whatever reason that kinda stuck with me.)
In May 2010, M decided she wanted to buy a house. And I moved with her. This wasn’t exactly what I had planned, but it WAS a good end marker for the Knapp House, “Now What” phase. Moving was a very physical change from all that, so maybe this was really the final thing I needed to completely snap out of my rut(s). I was done waiting, done wallowing, done wondering. I realized that I am not a person who needs goals or a specific list of things I want – I waste too much time trying to figure that out rather than taking what is in front of me and just going with it. I have NEVER known what I want, so maybe that is kind of an answer in and of itself – I don’t have anything that I really want in order to be happy, so I find stuff along the journey and get contentment that way, or something. “Let whatever happens happen” right? Work with where you’re at. Live in the Present. And (like Kynacoba, my alter ego, in Book 4) I have to stop worrying and do what is best for me, because in the end, my life is up to me.
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”
“Nut up or shut up.”
So… Here’s a sum-up of the last days before I moved out on my own.
Summer 2010 – the Summer of Like
I hate moving. Not that I fear change, I just hate packing. And starting a new job in the midst of this transfer didn’t help. But the freedom to paint gave me enough joy to make it through – my room looked like Avatar by the time my stress was done splirting all over the walls.
Honestly, though, while that house was M’s home, it didn’t feel like mine. It was not a house I ever would have bought. But it was okay. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.
A not-like: MONSTER BUGS. House centipedes have got to be the nastiest buggers in the Midwest. They eat spiders and other vermin, sure – it would not surprise me at all to hear they’re capable of taking down small rats – but they’re welcome to do that outside. They have no fear. They’re smart. They’re fast. I had 3 run right at me while I was trying to kill them.
So you’d think that our constant insistence that these little monsters were terrifying would have kept people from ever coming over, but people still were willing to stop in from time to time. And it was THESE houseguests who were welcome, which led me to realization about myself #576,588: I really, really like people.
- We met our neighbor, Marc, and began a note-writing war back and forth that started with him leaving a gift on our porch one night with a note that said “PLEASE BE QUIET!” and ended with us telling him to paint his flowers white because we didn’t like pink.
- Shark Week 2010 was particular fun with Racie when we lay on the couch until 1:00 a.m. and refused to put our feet on the floor for fear of the Monster Bugs.
- I randomly had a drink with Elijah after 15ish years. Funny how people you barely knew in grade school turn out to be cool.
- I became better friends with Marcus not only because he had access to a pool…though, that was a big part of it.
- We had a Girls’ Night at one point where we watched Newsies and the Disney version of Robin Hood because Rachel and I have cartoon-crushes on the fox. We ate waffle fries and Ozzies (otherwise known as Flurries unless you were watching the Red Wings/Blackhawks Stanley Cup game with Joel). It was good. Dressing up is something I personally never have need to do, so it was fun to slap on makeup, dresses, shoes, and go out for drinks downtown afterward. I don’t know why I’ve never felt as comfortable around women as men (okay, Haymarsh, you’re to blame somewhat), but this night reminded me why I DO like being around strong, intelligent, fun, funny women from time to time.
- I cannot explain how joygasmic the 2010 Camping Trip was. A big part of it was probably my ability to take my friends on my turf – the Haymarsh. Nothing makes me as at peace as being home, with friends, showing them my world and hoping they might come away loving it even half as much as I do. And I think that mission was accomplished. Lying around on blankets with friends all weekend between rain bursts, swimming in the lake day and night, sitting around the campfire, playing “Haymarsh Spa” with Rachel in the mud, getting Jeff and Kyle nearly lost as they not-so-soberly followed my hike back to the campsite after a midnight swim. It was good.
Really, this summer was so busy it was kind of a blur. But it was really good, probably one of my favorites ever. It’s good to be around other people to the point where I climb out of myself for a while. I fell deeply in love with things and people in my life that were already there, strengthening my resolve to take what I had and make life better.
Fall 2010 – Oh, Fall. Nothing, it just felt like it needed an “Oh, Fall.”
I always think Fall is a good time of reflection – everything dying, days growing shorter, and you can just feel winter coming. Fall’s slowing down is good; summer is when you need to be busy and active so you don’t look like crap in a bikini. Fall also, however, means I stay inside more and therefore become more likely to let little things build and bother me more. So, my new philosophy in my age of wisdom – trick yourself. Stay so busy (at least mentally) that you don’t have time to fester. I suppose this is still Elizabeth Shannon’s positive thinking trick. Or Wendell Berry’s “joyful though you have considered all the facts.” In any case, Fall in Michigan is a very brief time period, so I didn’t think much of it and just enjoyed what came as we crawled inevitably toward Winter.
- Sundays became my favorite day of the week. Brooke, Joel, M, and I met for almost every Lions game at the Saz for lunch and the communal self-torture of watching the Lions. Although, we take personal responsibility for the last 4 wins of the Lions 2010 season – every time we ordered the Pizza Sub, they won.
- Halloween. After the previous year, we weren’t sure how to top it. So, I went on a decorating rampage and M built a ping-pong table why we thought it would stay ping-pong for any length of time before becoming beer-pong, I don’t know). It was glorious. I bounced around from group to group so much it was dizzying, which may be partly responsible for my fall on the floor in front of everyone, after which most of the full room asked “Are you alright?” while my brother just looked at me, knowing that me falling is not a rare event. Anyway, it was a great Halloween. You know it’s a success when I don’t even notice it’s 3:00 a.m. before everyone leaves.
- Admittedly, each Fall I become introspective about life at least partially because, come 11/23, I get older. And being only one year shy of 30 (though still a far cry from 35, my scary age) probably heightened the intensity of this year’s introspection. For my birthday, a bunch of us met at the Saz for drinks. I really need to get over being surprised that I like people and people care about me, but this was yet another good reminder. Way more people showed up than I’d planned – Joel, Rachel, M, Christian, Amy, Phil, Jeremy, Brooke, James, Andy, Brad, Josh and Sarah, Josh and Katie, Dan, Marcus, Brian, Jeff, and Ryan. I could have done without the Tabasco-based shot, but fortunately I was clever enough to pass it around so that it was only about half-full by the time I had to drink the evilness. And it was kinda funny when Ryan at one point asked me, “Is that the guy you’re seeing?” and I responded with, “No. Wait, which guy? Wait, no, it doesn’t matter. No.”
Winter 2011 – UEF Storm
Dear friend Rachel needed to move back from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids before going who-knew-where in the next Fall for law school. Rachel’s presence, combined with Samson (her dragon/cat) made the usual winter hibernation much more bearable. It was an adjustment getting used to three people in one house again, but if you haven’t picked up on my manic need for change by now… Well, it was worth it. And with Rachel’s reappearance in our lives, the UEF (Unlikely Event Factor – from The Pigs Are Flying) rose considerably.
- New Year’s Day – We thought it would be a great idea to have a big dinner for everyone at the house. But, apparently we’re too old to stay up on New Year’s Eve and then be expected to be entertaining the next day. Dinner was good, but then we all crashed on the couch.
- Sarah Brown’s Baby Shower – As the first of our girl friends to have a baby, this was a little interesting. Brooke, Christine, Miranda, and I sat on the floor in our own little word, planning a gauntlet-style baby shower for the next of us to get pregnant. Then, later, we met the boys at a bar and went for dinner. I bumped into Scott (ACS friend), who was drunk and gave me Mardi Gras beads…not sure what that was about.
- Florida Trip – M and I had planned a road trip to go see Gloria way back when she’d first told us she was moving to Florida, and of course doing so in winter was my idea. Panama City, I must say, has a bit too much Alabama in its blood for my taste, but it was warm and that was really all we wanted. Meeting Gloria’s boyfriend-and-future-fiance was great too, especially since we’d pre-stalked on Facebook.
- Craigslist Adventure – Rachel and I should never be left to our own devices. When bored one weekend without M’s supervision, we set up a fake Craigslist account and responded to every terrible man-seeking-woman ad we could find. Some were nice-ish but boring, so we dropped them. We were offered $500 for a night from “The King Door.” Then, finally, we created an ad of our own which consisted of nerdy questions about Lost, Star Trek, and Firefly. We added “PS. I’m hot” at the bottom of our ad to amp up our number of responses. Anyway, all of this led to an outing to meet one of these dudes because we were really bored and he promised free booze. Let’s just say that the story ends with us meeting a leprechaun sex offender on St. Patrick’s Day. (If you haven’t heard this story, feel free to ask. It’s a gem.)
- Fort Night – The next weekend, Rachel and I decided to limit ourselves to stalking the neighbor out the window with binoculars. We took pictures of ourselves doing it and posted it on his Facebook wall, which led to entertaining back-and-forth commenting for the next hour or so before we got bored and built a fort in the living room. Then we made a Meijer run to get Kool-Aid.
Spring and Summer 2011 – End Scene
- “Super La-La Mancha!” Making our 5th and final movie sucked up most of my time this summer, but it was kinda worth it. Why are there not more superhero musicals?!
- Camping 2011 was fun with the addition of Katie, Tracy, and the Browns (Sarah, Josh, Oscar, plus Carmen the dog).
- I watched the others enjoy their bowling league, and it was surprisingly fun to watch, especially the team of 80+ men who were awesome.
To my great pleasure, this year I lived with M at “009” turned out to be one of the best years I can remember. When Rachel moved out for law school in Chicago, I decided that that would finally be a good time to get my own place again. The end of this summer felt like a good…end. And the beginning of a new phase. I’d come to appreciate all the blessings I really had – family who get me through tense times, friends who are willing to camp, and a job that lets me make a full-length movie on the side. I’d figured out what I wanted to hold to, what I wanted to drop, what I wanted to grow.
Onward and upward.