Six truths of moving home

I have been living and working back in my hometown for over a year now. I write a lot about transitioning because that is what I have been doing for the past two years.

I graduated college to take an internship in a new city and new state. I went from being five minutes from friends and two hours from family to five hours from friends and 10 hours from family.

I spent a lot of time traveling and soul-searching. Right about the time I was used to the new area and new faces, I accepted a position at my hometown newspaper.

I didn’t know if I was making the right decision, but I considered myself lucky to have a position in my area of interest.

It hasn’t been easy. At times it has been boring, depressing, great and frustrating. Over the past 14 months I have learned (at least) six truths about moving back home.

1.)   Your friends have changed

After being away for four years, you won’t have the same friends you did in high school. If you’re like me, you didn’t keep in contact with many people after leaving town. Although some people might still be around, you will find you don’t know them anymore… and honestly you might not want to. Most of the time there is a reason you didn’t keep in contact. 

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2.)   Your friends haven’t changed at all

There are a few friends you’ve held on to. You can get together years later and pick up where you left off. You’ll find that after five years, friends have gotten married, had kids, matured, dated people and suffered break-ups. Although the topics of conversation will change, you will still be able to reminisce [and cringe] when recalling high school.

3.)   You have changed

This is a big one. You don’t want to do the same things you did in high school. You don’t want to waste your time with people who are not positive influences, always pushing you to be better. Whether it’s a friend or a relationship, you don’t want to waste your time with people or things that are negative influences.

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4.)   You’ll be bored at times

When you move home (at least my home) Starbucks isn’t open 24 hours, Jimmy Johns isn’t open until 4 a.m. and your options past 11 a.m. are Wal-Mart, Kroger, a small, local bar or Buffalo Wild Wings.

5.)   It is tough being single

When you see family and friends at holidays the first question they’ll ask is what you’re doing at work. The second question you will be asked is “so, are you seeing anyone special?”

And if your answer is no, you will get a look of pity or my personal favorite, the “you-still-have-time” response. Your friends will take it upon themselves to set you up with someone who is “so, totally perfect for you.” Also, if your friends are not single, it’s awkward to do things with them because they have “date nights” and you have “awkward-fifth-wheel” nights.

6.)   You’re still figuring it all out

The other day I was talking to a good friend of mine and made a joke about how I’m a single, 20-something who is living with my parents, barely making it on a newspaper reporter salary and still not sure what I want to be when I grow up.

She reminded me this is what I want to do.

 She said, “Oh come on, you’ve always wanted this. Although it might not be as glamorous as you imagined, you’re doing what you want to do.”

And she’s right. I always said I would make a career as a writer and figure out what I want to do and where I want to be before I got married and had children. I wanted to figure things out before settling down. So, when I get discouraged and when I think I’m a mess and don’t have anything figured out, I will remember that.

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*All photos are from #thewriting.

His last harvest

Sometimes living in a small town is difficult. I went from a bustling college area with 40,000 people my age to a gorgeous mountain-side in Pennsylvania back to my home town to work for the local newspaper. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder why.

One of the reasons was shown to me this week. Gerald Sullivan, a local farmer, died in an accident in September before he was able to harvest his last crop. Sullivan often called this year his last crop because he was about to go in to retirement. He and his family didn’t realize it actually would be his last crop.

His son, Dean Sullivan, talked of his father and how he had decided he wanted his harvest before retirement to be corn. He wanted to shell it, he wanted to plant it and he wanted to be in the combine. Dean took a breath before continuing and telling a funny story about his father.

The day Gerald passed away, farmers began to plan what they could do for his wife, children and family. They decided they would harvest all 600 acres of Gerald’s crop.

On Wednesday of this week, I was told the farmers were meeting as a tribute before going in to the fields. I woke up and got to the barn before they started talking around 8:30 a.m. I was prepared for tears of family members as they thanked local farmers. I wasn’t prepared for 75 people to be standing in the barn, ready to take action. Nearly 100 people showed up that morning to help out. They laughed, they cried and they remembered.

Because of the rainy morning farmers didn’t know if they were going to be able to go out in the field. They were. Around 10:30 the men, women split up between 300 acres in two different counties with 14 combines and multiple grain carts and semis. Anyone driving by the fields wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but the farmers were doing everything they could to help.

They brought in the last of the 600 acres before 8 p.m. The family was touched. One of Gerald’s daughters spoke to the crowd before they completed the work and said, “I live in Indianapolis and you don’t see this,” she said.

She lives in a city and doesn’t see people help each other – at least not to this extent. I talked to a few other people who described the agriculture community as a close-knit community of people who would do anything for others. Another said this type of community feel is unique to the agriculture community.

Others said they were stunned and proud at the group for getting the work done. Another man said he was happy to know that if something ever happened to any of the other people there, they could expect people to come together and take care of things.

Why do I live here? The people take care of each other. Why do I work here? I get to cover stories like this and talk to people who would go to extreme measures to take care of their fellow man.

Gerald’s grandson, joked around and said that on the day of the harvest, he couldn’t believe Gerald hadn’t turned on the sun for them. Well, the sun came out later and I know, without a doubt, Gerald was blown away by what he saw. What he saw was his family being wrapped in love and 50 people bringing in his last crop.

As I was leaving the house that day, Gerald’s son, Dean told me his dad loved four things: the lord, family, farming and people.  All of Gerald’s favorite things came together this week, and I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the house.

Here is a link to my story: http://bit.ly/1ifVbZB

Support follows tragedy

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I am blown away from the kindness that has been shown to my family after a death this week. Current friends, old friends, acquaintances and neighbors swarmed to offer sympathy.

One visitor, came over and asked a family member if she could mow her own lawn. Odd question, right?

She is an older lady and she explained that while she was growing up, when there was a loss people didn’t mow their lawn, work outside and tried to be as quiet as possible out of respect.

This was a tremendous show of respect from a neighbor.

There is so much sadness surrounding loss that it is incredible to see people come together, put aside differences and help put the broken pieces back together.

“Don’t pay no mind to the demons; They fill you with fear. The trouble it might drag you down. If you get lost, you can always be found. Just know you’re not alone; Cause I’m going to make this place your home. ”

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Put your phone down…you’ll be happy you did later

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Put down your cell phone. Yes, I’m talking to you. Stop scrolling through your contacts, eyeing a few names before finally making a selection and sending a brief text message.

You will regret it. Save yourself the countless minutes of eyeing your phone, willing it to vibrate, ring, light up; anything to show you received a response.

Here are four moods, states during which you should avoid sending text message. Whether it be to exes, friends you were once or still are interested in or date possibilities; stop typing right now.

1.)  Lonely

So you just watched the ultimate romantic comedy with an attractive, successful, funny and witty actor who fights for the actress’s love. You start to wonder where your Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum and  Bradley Cooper is. Before you know it you’re thinking about texting the person you had a date a Starbucks with or flirted timidly with in class.

Save yourself the awkwardness and turn your phone off.

2.)  Drunk

Texting after you’ve had a few drinks is never a good idea. The liquid courage will cause you to say things you’ve been too shy sober, sane to say.

“Hey handsome, what are you out tonight?”

“Sir, where have you been lately?”

“Want to meet up later?”

Whatever text you send, you’ll look at it the next morning and both inwardly and outwardly cringe. Nothing good comes from a drunk text message. Along the same lines, nothing good comes from a drunk text message at 2 a.m.

3.)  Bored

One of your roommates is cooking dinner with her boyfriend and the other is working. You don’t have homework, you ate dinner and you don’t work until four the next afternoon. After viewing the movie times you see nothing new is out and you really don’t want to spend the money you would be tempted to spend while shopping.

You will think about texting the person who you know has a crush on you. You’ll ask if he wants to hang out; he’ll agree and then you’ll find yourself uncomfortable 30 minutes into watching The Dark Knight. When he moves closer to you, you’ll wonder “Why did I do this to myself?”

You did it because you were bored and you knew the person would want to hang out. You used the person and worst of all you weren’t remotely interested. Now you’ve sent weird signals to said friend and he’ll be scratching his head the next few times he asks you to hang out and you decline.

Put your phone down, you don’t really want to see the person.

4.)  Nostalgic

Whether it’s an ex or the friend you liked but it never moved past the one kiss you shared a year ago; nostalgic texting is one of the worst kind of texting.

“I watched that terrible movie we saw in theater together…such an awkward date movie. Hope you’ve upgraded your movie choices since then.”

or “Looks like our favorite teams are playing against each other today. Oh and just incase you didn’t already know, my team will win.” (winking emoticon will most likely be included at the end of this text.)

or my personal favorite, “Remember the time we went dressed as Gatsby and Daisy for Halloween? Totally just found the headband I wore and thought of you.”

Basically mentioning any old memory you can think of to spark a conversation with the person. What do you expect to get out of this text message? A warm response, reminiscing the good old days before you both carry on? You’ll find yourself thinking about the past instead of thinking about the future. Just stop while you’re ahead and delete the text that is half-written on your phone screen.

Start looking at it as a challenge. When you feel like texting someone during any of these feelings, states; make yourself wait until the next day. Your mood, which was temporary, will pass and you will move on without the person knowing it even crossed your mind. You also wont have to feel embarrassed or avoid anyone because of your text. Text with caution, friends.

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Make your work week better

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Yes we all love the weekend; a time to do anything we want, even if what we want is to not do anything. But weeks can drag on and become dull if you’re constantly looking at Friday as the light at the end of the tunnel.

So take a breath, relax and try to view the week in a positive light (not as a soul-sucking time gap before the weekend.)

1.) Make plans
Making plans during the week can help make your work week more exciting. Grab dinner with a friend or visit a community event after work.

2.) Exercise
Although it’s hard to want to go to the gym after working all day, it really is a good stress reliever. It’s easy to dread and talk yourself out of it, but it will make you feel better after.

3.) Avoid daily naps

I love naps and sometimes they are necessary after a long day or a night of little sleep.  But it’s easy to get in a routine during the week of waking up, working, and napping before going back to sleep . Try not to let the days blur in to one another.

4.) Go outside

No really, go outside right now. We sleep inside, work inside (most of us) and usually it’s dark when we get home. Getting outside for a little bit can be an easy way to unwind. Take a walk, read a book or do something less cliche-sounding.

5.) Call family, friends

Give family members and friends a ring when you aren’t able to visit them on a weekday. It makes the ordinary day better; so vent, catch up and talk to others. Who else will listen to you complain about an annoying coworker?  You’ll catch yourself smiling through the phone.

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Soul revived

I have been MIA for several days, but I have a good excuse – promise. I spent the past week soaking up the sun while laying on the beach, wandering around Tampa Bay, Fla. and snapping photographs with my cousin.

We celebrated her 26th birthday by visiting Anna Maria Island, Treasure Island, a fun winery featuring several different types of fruit-based wine, Kate Spade outlet (I found love in a purse), participated in a pub crawl and how could I forget the food. I had some of the best food I’ve ever had through Datz, Dough, Bella’s, Holy Hog and Colonnade while overlooking Bayshore Drive.

Not to mention this was my first paid vacation from work. I knew I was going to have a great time visiting with family but the experience was relaxing, fun and quite literally soul-reviving.

Here’s a look at some of the photographs. I hope to add more as I continue to travel in 2013.

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A conversation with a national service volunteer

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After selling her computer and car, Samantha packed everything she could fit in to an AmeriCorps-issued bag and boarded a flight to California.

Samantha is a 23-year-old who went to Indiana University and is now doing a program for a national service, AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps. She is a project specialist.

While trying to narrow down a choice of major, she decided to join AmeriCorps and jumped in to the decision without hesitation. She had thought a lot about joining the Peace Corps when she was in high school, but AmeriCorps was an option that had a shorter commitment and seemed more lax.

“I couldn’t decide what I wanted out of life,” she said. “It was difficult for me to narrow down an area of interest for a major and I knew I didn’t want to work as a receptionist forever; service seemed like a viable option in the meantime, while I figured out what I wanted.”

Samantha said it has become clear what she wants and what she doesn’t want. Her goals are clear and she has decided on a major moving forward with her education.

Although she will be all over the United States for the next several months, Samantha is currently located in Queens, N.Y. She said a lot of what she is doing is paperwork.  She is doing paperwork to prepare the road system affected from hurricane Sandy. Even though it’s six months out from the disaster, there are a lot of things that need to be done.

“It’s hard to stay motivated sometimes, but this work still needs to be done,” she said.

Samantha said there have been mixed public views on what they are doing. She said a lot of people along the way to New York didn’t know how to take them.

“They would ask us what we’re doing and not really understand,” she said. “It’s been amazing because the second we got near the coast and mentioned we would be doing Sandy (hurricane) relief, people on street corners and Starbuck’s baristas would tell us thank you. They have been genuinely grateful.”

The best part of her job, she said, has been learning so much about herself. She said she didn’t expect it to be as hard as it has turned out to be.

“I’ve learned how I work with a team and how to define myself,” she said. “You’re in a situation when you’re in a uniform all day, everyday. You don’t define yourself by what you’re wearing or what you have.”

Along those lines, Samantha said the people she has met along the way have surprised her.

“You don’t have those defining characteristics, like an iPad or your Sperry’s, so you have to get to know people on a very basic level of being in the same program,” she said. “My best friend on my team was homeless for a period of time and I don’t think I would have been friends with him without this opportunity. The friendships I’ve made have been great.”

She described the hardest part has been being around the same group of people 24/7 saying, “The same four people share a room, beds, drive to work together, share a desk at work and do physical training together.”

She describes the scariest things she has ever done is volunteering for AmeriCorps.

“Volunteering for something and not really having any idea what it was going to be like was scary,” she said. “I had to leave all the comforts of home.  Even when I moved away from home before, I had a plan, freedom and my things. The not knowing of this program and jumping right in is scary.”

In her time off she has been writing, traveling. She said she has visited Central Park, the Museum of Natural History and more.

Best advice she has received while preparing AmeriCorps was from her father, who she described as her inspiration.

“Before I left, my dad told me ‘this is the time of your life. You’re going to make memories and meet friends you’ll keep the rest of your life,’” she said. “It’s true and I try to keep that in mind when I’m having a hard time.”

After Samantha finishes her time working for the service, she hopes to finish her degree and is thinking about focusing on pre-law, international studies or policy analysis. She said she started at Indiana University and would like to finish there, saying, ‘It has been fun to tell people I am from Indiana and went to IU, especially during basketball season.’

Advice Samantha has for those hesitant and scared to do something is not to overthink it.  She said it’s unnerving to take a leap of faith, but the feeling is liberating

“I went to somewhat of an extreme, gave up my job, apartment, relationships and sold my car, all to join a program I knew very little about,” she said. “I had hesitations and was scared but more than anything I felt relieved. Don’t overthink it, just jump.”

Advice she would give twenty somethings following their dreams is to go for it.

“What’s the worst that could happen? You could fail. Good. Fail. Fail hard, be miserable. Then get up, wipe your tears and do it again,” she said. “What’s the best that could happen? You could succeed and get everything you ever wanted. How will you know if you don’t do what you want to do and follow that dream? It’s worth it.”

Samantha also said people should be decisive and direct about what they want. She said making your own decisions and being as open and clear about things you want out of life will eliminate all the other clutter.

“How will anyone – a friend, your parents, your boyfriend, your coworkers, how will they know what you want if you don’t tell them?” she said. “People will recognize you know what you want and you go out and get it.”

A look in to a few of questions:
1.) Where do you get your inspiration? My dad. He’s always proud of me and works so hard. He is a great father who gives great advice. He is my mentor, friend and greatest inspiration.”

2.) Do you feel like a badass? (after laughing) I kind of do. A lot of what I’m actually doing is paperwork. It’s six months out of the disaster. These are a lot of the things that need to be done. I’m doing paperwork to repair the road system.

3.) What do you wish you had more time for?  It might be selfish, but I wish I had time to myself. I would like to have time to read a book, paint my nails, and take a little bit longer shower. I also hope to read a book I just ordered, “Frozen in Time,” a non-fiction book about WWII.

4.) What is your dream job or what are you interested in doing? I am very interested in law and policy analysis.

5.What is your proudest accomplishment? It will be finishing school. It’s something I’m passionate and thrilled I will be able to do. I’m dedicated, driven and looking forward to that moment. 

Check out other conversations in the series here.

Obits

My local newspaper used to place obituaries and funeral notices on page A2 with the title obits. This used to make me angry. Not the placement of the obituaries, but the fact the paper was calling them obits. I thought it was disrespectful to create slang for a word so closely related to death, loss.

Obits are now a daily part of my job. Along with editing community news and writing, I compile obituaries. The shortened word I had once thought slightly offensive, I now say daily. When asked how many obits we have for the day I say the number without blinking.

And it’s not because I’m desensitized. I read every word in each obituary. The first thing I notice is the age. The second is the family and how the person spent his/her life.

The other day I read the obituary of a gentleman in his 80s. Attached to the obituary was a photograph from when he was in the military in his 20s. As I read through it I couldn’t help but be captivated. He spent many years in the military before he became a police officer. He spent 30 years as an officer and during that time he helped deliver two babies, one in the back of a squad car. After that he spent time volunteering, traveling and spoiling his grandchildren. He and his wife, who he had married when he was that young sailor in the photograph, were still happily married until the day he passed.

Another was a young female who had lost a battle to a terminal disease at 17. The obituary, instead of focusing on the sickness and unfairness of her young age, focused on how much she loved people and tried to show them they could be happy, no matter what cards they had been dealt.

While I was reading, I wasn’t focusing on the word ‘obituary.’ In fact I now know it was the newspaper’s style at the time and it was just that, shortened. It’s wasn’t an insult. It wasn’t disrespectful.

After reading the allotted word count sent to the obituary email, I focus on love. The person who passed lived and loved in such a way another person took the time to write what the deceased did in his/her life. They also list families, friends, spouses and sometimes pets. These people, who die at different ages, under different circumstances, all have one thing in common – someone loves them and wants the community to know how they lived and who they loved. They are loved because they loved others. I choose to focus on that instead of death. It’s an inevitable part of life that is depressing if dwelled on. I choose love.

Adjusting

Since graduating college, I have adjusted to the withdraw I felt from things I once had access to at my finger tips (Hey, it only took me seven months).

Yes I missed 30% off sushi Tuesdays, groups of friends living two minutes away (or in the same house) and it being socially acceptable to have a Long Island at 4 p.m. during the week.

Luckily, I have been able to go back to my college town few weekends this fall to visit friends who still live in the area  stay up late, wear uncomfortable heels and order pizza at 4 a.m. The first few visits I felt sad when I left and dare I say, jealous, I wasn’t there anymore.

However, after a few visits I started to adjust to the difference. I found out I’m happy with where I am now. The adjustment isn’t bad, it’s just different.

For example, I do not miss having a job in addition to a full class schedule. Sure, working gets old at times, but it also allows me to have the money I didn’t have in college. I actually have money to do things. Those friends who live all over the United States? I now have money to go visit them.

I now find myself going to bed at a decent time and not going out very much…and that’s okay. It just means I am adjusting to the working world.

It also means I enjoy the time I do get to spend in my old college town with friends even more. 

I’m a firm believer every next step a person takes will be a great one. Graduating high school. Graduating college. A full time job. A different job. Adjustment will be key. But when the real adjustment hits, it will exceed all expectations.