So a lot has happened during our year-long sabbatical. Most notably, for me, was that I completed a year of graduate school. It’s basically consumed my entire life for the past twelve months, so whenever I go to write, it’s the first thing I want to talk about. But I know if I open up that can of worms right now, I’ll only end up ranting, and that’s not how I want to tell you guys about my experience. I want to wait until I get a little farther removed from the whole thing so I can approach those post(s) with wisdom and a meaningful, creative angle that will leave you all thinking wow, that Julie Riley is wise and mature as shit.
The truth is, I’m not there yet. Getting there, but not quite there. Right now I’m mostly ready to bitch. And that is not what I want to do.
What I can tell you is that this year has been one of borderline-painful growth. Have your parents ever looked at you when you were in the throws of some existential crisis/panic attack and told you honey, this is just growing pains. Because mine have, periodically, over the course of my entire life. To my family, growing pains come from a time in your life in which you’re learning or changing or maturing so much at one time that it’s PHYSICALLY UNCOMFORTABLE.
We’re all growing and learning and changing all the time, hopefully. But usually it’s subtle enough that we don’t notice it. It just feels like living our lives. But there are periods of time where so much is changing and we’re doing so much adapting and expanding the way we think that it just feels like OW. OW OW OW THIS IS TOO MUCH FOR MY STILL-DEVELOPING BRAIN TO HANDLE. It’s big transitions and formative experiences that take the way you once looked at the world and flip it upside down.
It’s both incredible and exhausting.
It’s been my reality for an unbelievably long time. Looking back, I can’t believe the amount of learning I’ve managed to cram into this past year. Eleven grad classes, two clients, endless meetings, a new job, new professors, three supervisors, and I still managed to find time to panic-cry on my way home from school once a week!
I’ve checked off more firsts this year than I ever thought possible.
To achieve this absurd amount of growth and learning, my life has been pretty fast-paced. Think high-stress twelve-hour days all the time. Save the occasional breakdown, I became accustomed to this style of living. I learned to thrive off the exhaustion and found a borderline-sick pleasure in checking things off my to-do list. I started drinking coffee at 7pm.
The craziness continued right up until May 25th. Then it all came to a grinding halt when we landed in Colorado for our summer adventure.
Holy shit was this a lifestyle change. Compared with grad school, where every menial task felt like do-or-die, waiting tables is a breeze! Even if I completely fuck up and people wait a long time for their food, they’re probably not gonna die. How freeing is that?
Hannah and I have taken to calling this the Summer of Slowing Down. Hannah’s slow-down was a slightly more against her will, but she’s managed to find some peace in living with her new titanium elbow. How did we find this elusive peace, you ask?
I think the answer is not taking life quite as seriously.
It’s been a tremendous relief to take a quick hiatus from reality. Do you ever feel like you’re standing on a tight rope? Like you’re barely holding everything together, and if you make one wrong move then it all goes tumbling down? Don’t fail a test, don’t turn a report in late, don’t botch a session with your client while your professor is watching, don’t forget to show up to a meeting. When you’re working towards your future career, everything feels high-stakes.
I’ve messed up plenty of times at this serving job. I’ve broken glasses and forgotten to put in orders and spilled ketchup on babies. (Alright I didn’t do that last one, but I’m just waiting for the day when I drop someone’s dinner in their lap. It’s inevitable.)
(No matter what, Gail and I make sure we have a good time at work.)
And life goes on. Even if people get angry, eventually they leave and you never have to see them again! All it takes is a couple busy nights to learn that, when working with people, some things are out of your control. (Sometimes you wait on a table of old ladies who are hell bent on being upset about everything no matter what you do. Sometimes your elbow is swollen to the size of a grapefruit and you can’t actively train for the Pan-Mass Challenge.) All you can do is your best.
Sometimes your best knocks it out of the park, and sometimes it falls a little short. Friends, this is the Summer of Slowing Down. Whether we like it or not, we can’t be superhumans right now. And to be honest, I’m starting to dig it.