Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Entirely Discontent

Grand Rapids Public Library

Recently, one of my favorite authors Neil Gaiman gave a lecture on the importance of libraries and how reading can be transformative to society. Mr. Gaiman so eloquently articulated my feelings on my love of literature and the importance of literacy. Since my grandmother taught me to read at the age of 4, I've devoured nearly every book I could get my hands on. Throughout my childhood, teenage years, and into adulthood I've spent countless hours in libraries; running my fingers over book spines, peering at covers, and inhaling the intoxicating smell of ink on paper. 

In the pages of books, I've traveled to faraway lands: Oz, Narnia, Fantastica, Wonderland, Middle Earth. I've inhabited a little house in the big woods, meditated with monks in Shanri-La, and made Boo Radley emerge from his house. I've learned about faith, romance, and what it means to be human. I've shed tears for wizards, followed cold-blooded killers, and grieved for a little prince, a wise spider, and a best friend in Terabithia. I've lived many, many lives and allowed my mind to soar to places I'd never dreamed. This has been both a blessing and a curse. 

Mr. Gaiman said it best: 

"Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate the fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different."

For so long, I cursed these feelings of discontentment. My life was predictable and comfortable. I was grateful for my fortune, but also longed for something more. Despite knowing change was possible, I'd relegated myself to a lifetime of discontented monotony due to an imagined sense of duty. However, I've learned that you can only remain discontent for so long before feeling like you're going to explode. 

A few short days after I'd resigned from my job, I had a revelation. I'd spent years with my nose in a book, searching for answers, dreaming of adventure, and longing for new beginnings and new chapters. Laying on the shores of Lake Michigan with a book in hand, I suddenly realized that I'd had the answer within me all along. 

"Be a librarian," my heart said, because somehow it's always known.

Last week, I received my acceptance letter to Wayne State University's School of Library and Information Science in Detroit. In January, I will start online classes to obtain my Master's degree. I'm going to be a librarian. I want nothing more than to share my love of literature, libraries, and literacy; not just because it's something I'm passionate about, but because it's something that deeply, deeply matters. 

I'm nervous about the rigors of grad school, balancing classes with life and work (hopefully), and the bouts of apprehension that are sure to occur. But in my heart, I know this is right. I'm so thrilled to be given the opportunity to pursue my passions and further explore my love of the written word. Though the rest of this story remains to be written, I'm so thrilled to have a new beginning. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Few Things

With all of the changes in my life recently, it only seemed appropriate that my blog should receive a much-needed update as well. Thanks to Carrie Loves Design I feel like the design of my blog finally reflects my personality. Carrie was phenomenal to work with and had my design installed within hours. I am so pleased with how it turned out. Seriously, I'm in love. 

Along with the design face lift, you may have also noticed that I changed the name of my blog from life is (grand) to Just Grand. The content will remain the same; I just feel like Just Grand better exemplifies the direction I want my blog (and writing) to go. And honestly, the grammar fiend in me hated all of the weird punctuation going on in the former name. 

I'm also trying to branch my writing out to other sites. Eventually, I would like to be writing for a variety of websites. I've always loved to write, but recently I started thinking (again) that it might be something I would like to do on a more professional level. I know this will be an ongoing endeavor, but I'm working on putting myself out there and networking more. 

On that note, the first article that I've written since college appeared last week on The Awesome Mitten. I'll be honest, I love seeing my name on a byline again. If you're interested in reading the article I wrote about Dog Story Theater and its impact on the local GR theater scene, click here.

Today I'm off to Illinois to see Arielle, my college roommate, perform her MFA project Noises Off. I'll miss Kyle, but I'm looking forward to spending time with Arielle and Darion, who I don't get to see that often, as well as Morgan and Max, who I do. Oh, the shenanigans to be had!

Have a lovely autumn weekend, friends. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

25 Redux

Last weekend I celebrated my 26th birthday. Or as I like to call it, the first anniversary of my 25th birthday. (That's a thing, right?)

Celebrating our birthdays together.

Twenty-five was certainly a year of personal growth and discovery. I set out to live more fully, to conquer fears, and to become a better person. While in many ways this year was an uphill climb, the good outweighed the bad and I can definitively say that I am far stronger now than I have ever been.

To mark the occasion, I'd originally set out to compile a list of 25 lessons I learned while I was 25. Instead it came to include not only what I learned about myself, but observations, accomplishments, and memories of the people I love most. This past year may not have always been easy, but it was certainly worth the journey.

Make yourself comfortable and be sure you have a full cup of coffee, this may take awhile.


:1: In my daily life, I realized that I crave autonomy and variety while still thriving on routine and a sense of order. I need to pursue careers and activities that foster this and stop trying to force myself to be someone I'm not. 

:2: I've finally reached a place where I am comfortable, dare I say confident with my body. Thanks to body-positive blogs like The Nearsighted Owl and the writings of Lesley Kinzel, I've embraced the idea that my body is just that--mine. I don't need to present myself in any certain way to appease anyone else or fit into society's standards. 

:3: Physically, I'm the healthiest and strongest I've ever felt. Running on an almost daily basis has taught me discipline, endurance, and how to push beyond my limits. When I'm running, it's just me, the sidewalk, and the music in my ears. It helps me think, elevates my mood, and boosts my creativity. I may not be the fastest and I will probably never run a marathon, but I will be forever grateful for the strength and confidence it has given me.

:4: On a somewhat superficial note, I bought a bikini this year and actually wore it to the beach. Do I have what society would define as a "bikini body?" Not even close. But thanks to :2: and :3:, I told society to suck it. I wore a bikini because I wanted to wear a bikini, dammit. 

:5: On a similar note, I decided that I was tired of blending in. My entire wardrobe doesn't need to just be shades of brown and gray. Bring on all the colors of the rainbow! Yellow skinny jeans? Yes, please!

:6: I joined a community orchestra and brought making music back into my life. When I'm playing the violin, my mind is completely free and focused. In real life I'm constantly multitasking, my mind constantly jumping between a multitude of thoughts simultaneously. But when my eyes are reading the notes on the page, my mind is solely focused on translating those notes to music through my fingers. It is so freeing to be focused on one thing.

:7: Through my involvement with The University Wits, I've been involved in more theatre (both onstage and behind-the-scenes) this year than ever. Few things elevate my spirit like making people laugh, and I was fortunate enough to make entire audiences do so multiple shows per week. 

:8: Alaska. Oh, Alaska. This beautiful adventure swept me off my feet to the West and will forever make me yearn for a horizon lined with mountain peaks. Alaska was the catalyst for giving myself permission to choose happiness and gave me the courage to take that leap. The Last Frontier with always, always hold a special place in my memories, and in my heart. 

:9: Shortly after returning from Alaska, I broke. I know now that this was a blessing in disguise. (Hindsight is truly 20/20.) However, I also know that I will look back on those few weeks at the beginning of August as some of the darkest of my life. Not only did I not want to get out of bed every morning, the crushing weight on my chest made it almost impossible. I felt broken beyond repair and was certain I would feel this way forever. 

:10: But in the midst of this storm, I prevailed. I learned that I'm resilient and that I am far stronger than I (or anyone, really) give myself credit for. With the constant support of Kyle, my parents, my closest friends, and my therapist, I was able to pull myself out of the deepest depression of my life. 

:11: I am continually learning that recovery from depression and anxiety is an ongoing process. It doesn't happen overnight and there will always been blue days. Depression and anxiety should not be equated with brokenness and weakness. There will be bad days and that's ok. I'm learning to not fight that, but also to not let it steer me off-course. 

:12: Calm body, calm mind, calm heart. I try repeat this to myself when I feel a wave of anxiety coming on. I've learned that if I can just catch my breath and have a moment of clarity, there are other things I can do that will quell the panic: drinking water, walking outside, listening to my aptly-titled "Don't Panic" playlist. If I can calm my body and mind, my heart is sure to follow. 

:13: Being true to myself, my needs, and my passions is not being selfish. The Boss said it best: It's your heart that holds your fate. So often I look outside of myself: for approval, for acceptance, for answers. But more than likely, those things that I search for are held inside of me. And I'm learning to trust myself above all.

:14: I've also come to realize that I am an introvert. While I enjoy going to parties or out to the bar, love being around my friends, and don't mind occasionally being the center of attention, I also find these things emotionally exhausting. When I need to recharge, I need to be alone. I've always known this about myself, but I just recently accepted that it is not a personality flaw. It's just who I am.

:15: I've defined spirituality on a personal level and its meaning for my life. In the words of Hushpuppy, "I see that I'm a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right." Indeed.

:16: I began identifying as a feminist. I'm unsure why it took me all this time to embrace the not-so-radical idea that women (or any person, for that matter) should not be forced to conform to social and societal stereotypes or norms. We should all be free to live our lives and make our own choices, without pressure to act or look or dress or speak or think or be a certain way. This should not be an earth-shattering concept; however, it is one that I am proud to support.

:17: Direction and vision, two things that have been missing (or at the very least misplaced) are slowly but surely returning. For so long, I felt like I would always feel stuck. I don't know what the future holds, but I know who I am, and have an idea of what I want and where I want to be. 

:18: I took the biggest leap of my life and quit my well-paying, full-time job in search of fulfillment rather than a false sense of duty. No prospects. No clue. Just free. 

:19: With my newly found vision (and free time), I applied to grad school. When I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I swore up and down that I was done. Not only did I not want to continue on to a Master's, I didn't have the foggiest idea of what I would pursue. Now over three years later, I've done a complete 180. It feels so right. (But more on that later.)

:20: After a indeterminate hiatus, I've been doing a bit of creative writing. Years of writer's block ended and I have ideas for stories floating in my brain and words flowing through my fingers. The going is slow, but it feels so good to be writing consistently again, both creatively and on this blog.

:21: I rekindled my love for a good cup of coffee, the fiction section, and having long hair.

:22: These guys.

Photos courtesy of Chuck, Gyllie, & Victoria.

This year, I have truly learned what it means to have a chosen family. 

:23: These guys.
Photo courtesy of my sister, Svet.

My family family. They are behind me 110%, no matter what. Always. I would not be where I am or who I am without them.  

:24: This guy.

Alaska <3 br="">//Jul2013

Forever and always.

:25: I set out to live my twenty-fifth year to its absolute fullest, to live with purpose and intention. In many respects, I succeeded. The happiness, sadness, joy, and pain that I experienced in this past year have shaped me and molded me into a more confident, stronger person. The road ahead remains uncertain, but it is also an ongoing lesson in embracing the journey. And that's exactly what I intend to do.

Here's to yet another trip around the sun. 

Thank you for reading, friends. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013


The Cowardly Lion

I've been giving some thought lately to fears: what they are, why we have them, and why we allow them to hold us back. 

I've struggled with being afraid of something or other for much of my life. Until recently, I would have said that I'd let the fear of failure hold me back. However, since throwing caution (and good sense) to the wind and quitting my job, I've started to feel an ounce of freedom from that fear. It's an exhilarating, and sometimes horrifying journey. 

While I'm doing all I can to leave my fear of failure behind me, I still have a laundry list of irrational (and generally hilarious) fears that I'm not sure I'll ever overcome. But hey, I'm not myself without a little neuroses. 

The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

10 Irrational Fears That I Probably Shouldn't Admit on the Internet

::Frogs and toads.
Those little effers are all, "Oh, hey! Like at my natural camouflage? Now imma jump and scare the shit out of you! Thanks, bye!" NOPE. 

::Not being able to find a parking spot.
"Oh, nowhere to park? Guess I'll go home."

::Being in front of a group of people with my fly unzipped.
"As if I'm not awkward enough, allow me to direct your attention to my crotch region."

Because who knows what sea monsters/ghosts may be lurking.

::Seeing wild animals in places they don't belong.
"Don't mind me, I'm just a giraffe hanging out in a cornfield after dark." IT COULD HAPPEN, OK?

::My favorite TV shows being removed from Netflix. 
RIP Strangers with Candy.

::Being forced to go back to high school and take remedial math classes.
*reading a test* "Conjugate the following equation to the fourth power without using the Periodic Table. Divide by purple." WHAT.

::Finding mold in weird places.
"Let's make a sandwich! Wait, why does my bread have a face?"

::Performing a play that I haven't done in years. 
I still have stress dreams about Annie. I was 12.

::Wind turbines.
Energy source of the future, or alien mothership homing device? Mothership.

Hey! If you're still reading and not totally convinced that I'm not a crazy, foil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, tell me about your fears. What hilarious (or not-so hilarious) thing are you afraid of? How do you overcome them?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Bright Side

Mountains, water, blue sky. Happy place.
Sitka, AK//Jul2013

It's been a weird week. I've been in a funk for no good reason and today received some rather discouraging news. After shedding a few tears, I'm trying to make a conscious effort to remain positive. Therefore, below is a comprehensive list of the things that made me happy today. 

::Bill Corbett of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame responded to my tweet. Does this means we're best friends now? Is that how Twitter works?

::I discovered a new (to me) band, Walk the Moon. Can't stop, won't stop listening to Anna Sun.

::Thanks to gift cards, I'm now the proud owner of this purse and this  foxy sweater

::With a little help from my favorite playlist, I ran my slow ass all the way up the Fountain Street hill. This is a big deal.

::After days of writer's block, I finally finished the first article I've written since college. Accomplishment. 

So there's my bright side. It's not much, but it got me through what could have been a horrible, no good, very bad day. Now I'm off to watch HIMYM and eat nachos with my husband. Just living the dream over here. 

Here's to tomorrow being a bright, new day. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness

One of the greatest inner struggles I faced with quitting my job was being categorized as just another unhappy, over-privileged Millennial. (A term I despise, for what it's worth.) With the constant barrage of articles and studies scrutinizing my generation's every move, I didn't want to become just another statistic. 

Despite my frustration with the treatment of Millennials in the media, I took a certain pride in not being "one of them." I've always been a bit of an old soul, and don't always identify with the "Me Me Me" generation: I loathe YOLO-ing and if I read one more listicle about things twentysomethings love/hate/do, I may throw my computer. (Is this considering myself "exceptional?") 

However, while I may not always relate to my fellow Millennials, I'm getting pretty damn tired of the national pastime that is Millennial-bashing.

A couple of articles have been floating around on various social media sites regurgitating the concept that Millennials are just the worst. These are just the latest in a long line of Millennial-bashing pieces. Why not? We're easy targets. Not only is it socially acceptable and politically correct to marginalize an entire generation, it's seen as noble. 

I am not entitled or lazy. I don't think I'm particularly special or deserving of special treatment. I just want fulfillment and happiness in my life. The Declaration of Independence lists life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as certain inalienable rights endowed to everyone. So why the hell is my generation getting so much grief for pursing happiness? (In case you were curious, the Declaration of Independence was not written by Millennials. Shocker.)

What does it say about the society we live in when the pursuit of happiness is looked upon as being a selfish endeavor? Perhaps Millennials are so often unhappy simply because we feel guilty for seeking happiness. We may blog and tweet about the minute details of our lives. We may post pictures of our outfits, meals, and pumpkin spice lattes. But while others may see this as a cry for attention, I see it as a quest for community. Millennials are nothing if not loyal: to our ideas and to each other. We seek out togetherness. Although jealousy, comparison, and the fear of missing out may run rampant among Millennials; so do passion, creativity, and hope. 

Photo courtesy Chuck Fortenbacher, Jul2013.
Not sure how I missed the goofy pose memo. 

This is my favorite group of Millennials; my friends who have become my family. We laugh together, cry together, drink together, and nurse hangovers together. We all work hard to maintain a balance between paying the bills and pursuing our passions. We cheer each other on, share in our struggles, and rejoice in our triumphs. I don't know where I would be without them.

From one struggling Millennial to another, know that I support you. Know that I believe in you and your endeavors. Know that I am proud of your accomplishments. Life is an adventure, and I consider it an honor to be sharing it with all of you. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

For Kyle

Today this nerd turned 27.

Six years ago today, he asked me to be his girlfriend.

GVSU circa 2007
Our first picture together.
Unfortunately, I don't remember the story behind this.

And now, I'm so happy to be his wife. 

Clearly, a lot has changed.

For fixing me breakfast on the weekends, quoting Mystery Science Theater 3000 with me, driving my drunk ass home from parties since college, teaching me the lyrics to "We Didn't Start the Fire," and standing steadfastly by me through everything...I am so very grateful for you.

Even when the world is falling apart, you are my constant. My touchstone. (And you know a good X-Files reference when you hear it.)

I love you. Forever and always, I'm yours. 

Love, M.