Big Decisions

I’m two months away from graduating from college.  (With two degrees.  I’m proud of myself, but also kind of wondering why the crap I did that to myself.  But it’s too late now, so.)  If you’ve been reading this blog recently, you know I’ve been looking for jobs and trying to plan for the real world, for my next steps.  And y’all — it’s kind of hard.

I know I am not the first person to grow up and leave home.  And honestly, I do feel very well-prepared (as prepared as I can be at this point, anyway).  I know I don’t know everything there is to being an adult, but I feel like I can handle what will come my way next.

The thing is, I don’t know what that is.

My degrees will be in Marketing and Spanish, so (obviously) I’d like to find a job where I can use one or both of those.  I’ve been applying to jobs and internships since last summer, and still have gotten nowhere.  I have a Plan A, and a Plan B, and a half-baked Plan C.  I have long-term goals I know I can achieve, and I know it’ll take some doing to get there.  I’d just really like to know which one I will be starting on in two months, you know?

I’m at the point in life where I’m starting to have to make big decisions.  I’ve made biggish decision before, like deciding where to go to college, what to major in, and whether or not to move off campus.  I’ve decided not to go grad school, even though I considered it.  I’ve decided what I want to pursue long-term.  Those are all big decisions.

But now, I’m starting to make decisions I can’t turn back from.  The boyfriend and I are starting to plan for engagement and marriage.  We’re planning which city to move to, and how much we want to save up for a down payment on a house, and which big expenses we’ll need to make in the next three to five years.  I’m making decisions that will completely rule out other options, which I’ve never really done before.

I’m not really nervous, per se.  I know a lot of people my age who are terrified of graduating, because they have no idea about the future.  But I do have an idea, and I am not afraid I won’t be able to make a living or anything like that.  I know I’ll be able to move out of my parents’ house, and I know I’ll be able to find some kind of employment, even if it’s not necessarily my first choice.  The thing with me is I know I’m about to be independent, and I’m really making my own decisions.  And I know that some of the decisions I make may not be what others want for me.

That shouldn’t be a big deal.  After all, it’s my life, right?  But like any child, I do want to please my parents, and I want them to be on board with all my decisions.  I know they are with my job plans.  But the boyfriend and I are planning on moving in together after graduation, mostly to save money.  And neither of our parents are thrilled with that idea.

I’m the oldest kid in my family.  It’s up to me to kind of draw lines.  The thing is, I’m not sure where to draw this one, and I don’t know if my parents are, either.  On one hand, we both know that it is my life, and I am going to make the decisions that I feel are best.  But on the other, I do want them on board.  Even if it’s reluctantly.  But the decision is pretty much already made — the boyfriend turned down the housing he was offered through his internship so that we could move in together, and neither of us can really afford our own apartment by ourselves.  So now we just have to hope our parents will go along with it.

It’s been weird this semester to see our lives start to fall into place.  We both knew that this would be happening, but it’s an odd feeling to actually be searching for apartments and making real plans.  It’s nice and exciting, as I knew it would be.  I wasn’t counting on feeling a little nervous, too.  But I’d be a robot if I wasn’t.  As nerve-wracking as it is, I can’t wait for these 1.75 months to fly by so I can dive into whatever happens next.

And This One is About My Brother

I just wrote a post about my sister.  It was a long overdue post, and said things like how proud I am of her and how cool she is — things I should say more often.

But while I was writing it, I kept thinking about the fact that I have a brother, too, who is just as cool as my sister.  And really, instead of writing about him, I should just tell him randomly that I like him and think he’s a really cool person.  But since I’m an hour and a half away at school, and since I’ve already written a lot about my sister for everyone who happens to read this blog to see, it’s time to introduce you to my brother, too.

I was five when my brother was born.  The only thing I remember about his infancy was that I was days from starting kindergarten, and on the morning of his birth, when my grandmother asked me to “guess what I had new today,” I confidently told her, “A lunch box!”

I do remember him being a toddler, though.  I loved him when he was a toddler.  I thought he was cute.  But as he got older, I got more and more frustrated with him, because it seemed that he always wanted to be doing what my sister and I were doing.  I didn’t want to add a new companion to our playtime.  What 9-year-old kid wants to let her 4-year-old brother follow her around?  Maybe some do, but I didn’t.  And I didn’t know how to swallow my selfish desire for things not to change, and so I have to admit I could be pretty mean to my poor brother when he was little.  I wouldn’t let him play with me and my sister.  I would tell him he was annoying and a pest.  (All of which I regret deeply now.)

Looking back, I think part of this is because I do not have an innate need to have a lot of friends.  At this point in life, I have three-ish people I talk to on a regular basis, and that’s counting my sister and boyfriend.  It’s a part of my nature to not branch out if all my social needs are met, and when I was 9, 10, 11, all I needed was my sister.  I didn’t want to make the changes that a new sibling required.

There was also the age difference to think about.  Age matters a lot when you’re young, and with five years between us, we’ve always been at different stages of life.  When I started middle school, he was in second grade.  When I started high school, he was 9.  When I began college, he was barely 13.  I’ve always been focused on my own life, not really bothering to ask him how he was doing or what he was interested in, and not really knowing how.

My boyfriend has a theory that brothers just usually aren’t as close to their siblings as sisters are.  And maybe that’s true.  But I also know that my sister and brother seem to have a fairly close relationship.  Part of this is because they were the only kids at home after I left for school, and they’re also a bit closer in age.  But sometimes another part of me thinks the reason we are not closer is because I ruined our chances in childhood.  By telling him he was annoying all the time, did I push him away forever?

I seriously hope not.  Because now that we are both older, I really appreciate how he has grown as a person.  He’s very crafty with his hands, and built his own homemade forge in the backyard with which he makes his own knives and tools.  He likes to learn by watching YouTube and researching blacksmithing processes online.  He’s also into 4H and shoots skeet and other things.  I won’t even pretend to know what I’m talking about when it comes to shooting sports, but he got his own shotgun for Christmas and is getting better at whatever it is he’s doing with that.  

He’s also told me recently, offhandedly, that he’s been writing some.  He described a scene of a story he was typing out.  It was full of action, as I would have expected.  I don’t know whether this story was for school or enjoyment, but either way it made me happy to see him being creative with words.  My siblings and I are all so vastly different, but all of us enjoy writing.  And I love that.  

I worry sometimes if my brother knows that I love him and appreciate him as a person.  I try to let him know in little ways.  I’ve been known to leave notes in his room on occasion telling him that he’s “awesome sauce.”  Over Christmas break, to remind me to pick him up from school, he put a note in my car telling me to “pick up favorite brother!”, which I did every day.  We don’t chat a whole lot, but when we do it’s friendly and enjoyable.  In light of our hugely contrasting personalities, I think on the whole we have a good relationship.

Sibling relationships are weird.  Some siblings I know can’t stand each other, or are always in competition.  Some siblings can’t overcome their differences as children and distance themselves from their families.  And others stay friends even after they’ve all left their childhood home.

I honestly think that my siblings and I will be like that.  When all three of us are together, we have a great time.  They are the friends I never would have chosen if we weren’t related.  We three have discussed that before — if we all were to have met not as siblings, we would be friendly to each other, of course, but none of us would have bothered to get to know the others.  But I guess that’s what family is supposed to be.

I said this already in the post about my sister, but I wish everyone had siblings like mine.

This Post is About My Sister

I’ve mentioned my sister a lot on this blog before.  She’s a blogger, like me, and I’m proud to say that I am the person who encouraged her to start a blog in the first place.  Almost a year ago, we decided to trade guest posts.  She, being the writer that she is, wrote one for me immediately.

I intended for this post to go up on hers.  But as I was staring at the page, trying to write a post about literature or our differing music tastes, I couldn’t write anything but this:

My sister is my best friend.  As we like to inform people, we are Irish twins, which means we were born fourteen months apart.  (Our poor mother, we know.)  Up until I left for college three years ago, we shared a room and just about everything else.  We grew up playing together all the time.  My childhood memories consist of me and her playing with Barbies, me and her playing with stuffed animals, me and her playing outside.  “Playing a story,” we called it.  We were both always into stories.  We played together, either with just each other or also with our brother or friends, until we hit the preteen years.  I remember things changing a bit when I hit about 12.

I’m the oldest child.  Statistically, this means I’m independent, and that is true for me.  When I began to realize that there was more of a world out there, with boys and colleges and new friends that were just mine, I began to draw away from her.  She would ask to play with me and I would lose interest too fast.  At first, I didn’t know why that was.  I wished I could be interested in Barbies still, but I wasn’t.  I didn’t want to play at life anymore.  I wanted to begin to live it.

Throughout high school, college was my focus.  I wanted to get out and learn and live on my own, away from my family, where I could make my own decisions.  For that first year of college, I sucked at communicating.  My mom complained that I never called, and my sister tried to Skype me, but it always seemed that I was rushing off somewhere.  I barely talked to anyone.

While I was off doing my own thing, my sister grew up.  She formed her own great group of friends and got involved in theater and got herself a very good job and became a great 4H leader.  And now, as regular readers of this blog will know, she is getting ready to go off on a grand six-month adventure where she’ll grow in ways she never imagined and get to do things she never thought she’d do, and all of this lines up perfectly with what she wants to do with her life in the eventual future.  As always, my temptation right now is to compare our lives and accomplishments and feel that I’ve fallen short, because she is just a phenomenal person.  But we’ve talked about that together before, too.  

We are similar and different in fascinating ways.  We both adore words, but she enjoys classics and poetry and is a self-named purist, while I love YA and memoirs and some literary fiction.  We’re both intelligent, but have different academic interests — she is more into science than I am and prefers German over Spanish.  We’re both introverted, but she tends to be more talkative overall, spilling her inner monologue to those she trusts, while I keep mine mostly to myself.  

We are incredibly different people, and at somewhat different places in life, so it’s hugely unfair to compare us.  I know this, and I’m guilty of it anyway.  But this comparison and sometime-feeling of inadequacy and — I have to admit — jealousy is reduced to nothing when I think about the fact that she’s MY sister, and I am so incredibly proud of her.

My sister is an amazing human being.  We are each other’s confidants even if we haven’t talked in weeks.  Although we don’t discuss everything (just because we don’t live together anymore), we can discuss anything.  And we are very good at admitting our differences in beliefs and outlooks and discussing them in an intelligent manner.  Mostly what I’m trying to say with this rambling paragraph is that I really love my sister, and I’m so excited for the trip she’s about to go on, and I’m really going to miss her while she’s gone.

Honestly, I wish everyone had a sister like mine.

Praying in Condensation

Prayer is an interesting thing.  It takes so many shapes and forms.  I have proof.

Today I began reading my new devotional, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young.  She writes it as if Jesus is the one talking to the reader, not her, which makes sense when you learn that the book was born out of her listening to God.  Sometime in her Christian walk, she realized that she was the one doing all the talking.  So one day she just sat and listened, and she received a message from God.  The book encompasses some of the messages that she has gotten.  I was excited to start it.

However, I couldn’t really get into it today.  My prayer seemed stale, and even though I read today’s piece over and over it wasn’t really sticking into my mind.

Part of my family went out walking even though it is gray and rainy, leaving me and my mom at home.  Somehow we got to talking about my mom’s family.  No big deal, right?  Well, without going into detail, she has described her family as dysfunctional, and from what I know, it is.  Talking about it can be somewhat emotional for my mom.

Just thinking about the lives some of her family members have led reduced her to tears.  She went outside, and I got into the shower assuming the conversation was finished.

At the risk of sounding a little weird and new-age (or maybe just weird), praying in the shower can be really cool.  There’s just something about being completely exposed while talking to the one who made you.  You can hide nothing.

I tried to pray for my mom while I was in there, but just like this morning, the words were sort of stuck.  So I used a modification of a technique I’ve never really used before.  The technique is called Praying in Color — my church introduced me to it last year when we studied prayer during Lent.  You write someone’s name on a piece of paper and then pray for them as you draw or color a design  around it.  It helps you focus while allowing you more freedom than words sometimes give you.

But you clearly can’t use paper in the shower.  (Ew — soggy paper bits.)  So I wrote my mom’s name in the condensation on the walls, drew a circle around it, and began writing.  I wrote “peace•joy•love” all around my mom’s circle while visualizing the presence of God around her.  Then I drew arrows pointing to the circle labeled “memories” and “sadness” or “pain” (I can’t remember exactly which, but it was along those lines).  Finally I wrote a big “IMPENETRABLE” above the circle.  The arrows stayed out and did not break into the circle.

Then I did another one for both of us.  I wrote “Me and Mom” and drew a square around it, then labeled the four corners “patience,” “understanding,” “communication,” and “tolerance.”

I knew I had to erase them or they would show up when the next person showered, but I didn’t want to just wipe them out.  So, feeling a little silly (I am a Baptist after all), I placed one hand on each of the drawing and said to God, “Though I erase these from the walls, I know they will not erase from your mind.”  Then I wiped off all the condensation.