Sometimes, I feel like my life is a strange mix between New Girl and Portlandia.
I think what I like about both of these shows is that although they are funny, they also show that life isn’t always perfect. Most of us young adult professionals fall somewhere in between having it all figured out and feeling like a complete hot mess. I know that in New Girl, I most identify with Jess and Winston because they fall in the middle spectrum of their friends. Schmidt is the epitome of the successful, handsome early 30 something who has his choice of the attractive women, although he has his own personality quirks, which is why he’s funny. Nick, while very nice and fun, doesn’t seem to have much direction in his life. But he’s trying, so I as a viewer have sympathy for him. Jessica and Winston know their strengths and have an idea of how to use them, but sometimes have a hard time finding a “niche” in terms of a precise job. They have a supportive group of friends who care a lot about them, but their dating relationships tend to be more touch and go. They, like me, have a hard time finding people who are in their in the right place and time and who fully appreciate what they have to offer. Nick and Jess are now together, but it’s unclear whether it’ll work out in the long run, as it should be if the writers know what they’re doing. Winston is at least trying to date again, and he has a good companion in his cat Ferguson. Therefore, I appreciate the show’s honesty in showing likable characters my age who are trying to find their way. And I appreciate the Portlandia characters for embracing the weird. If there’s anything I’ve learned to do in my first year of Ph.D. work, it’s to embrace the weird.
On this Thanksgiving day, some people feel like they’re in a place in their life where things have fallen into place nicely. Their facebook profiles are an honest portrayal of their lives rather than a reflection of the mostly good because really, things are good. For some people, Thanksgiving feels more like Sucksgiving. It might be one of those seasons in life where it seems like everything that could have possibly gone wrong in the past six months to a year has gone wrong. Maybe you’ve had health problems, maybe you’ve had a falling out with a steady significant other, maybe you’re having problems at work, maybe you’ve had a recent loss in your life, or maybe you just aren’t able to see your family and/or significant other for whatever reason. Or maybe it’s a combination of several of the above. If that’s where you are, I’m sorry because I know how those periods in life feel. That was me pretty much all of 1993 to 1994, when I was adjusting to braces and a move across the country in addition to the more run of the mill middle school problems, which we all know can be hell even on their own. That was me in January through March 2011; after going through a really good streak in my relationships and work, I felt a lot of things crumble right in front of my eyes for no apparent reason. Fortunately, I had supportive coworkers and friends to help pull me through, and my cousins moved to Atlanta a few months later, which also helped. So if you’re in one of those really sucky periods, I hope it gets better for you sooner rather than later, and it will eventually get better. It might not happen overnight, and it might involve you having to re-evaluate some things and some people in your life, but you will make your way from the valley further up the hill. That’s all the wisdom I can really offer, as someone who’s still on an upward climb.
Most of us, if we’re honest, are somewhere in between. We might have climbed out of the valley, but we’re not quite at the top of the hill. If that’s us, the holidays can still bring some mixed emotions. Maybe it’s because for single people, the holidays can have a way of making you feel even more “by yourself”. Maybe it’s because you’re not happy at work, or maybe it’s because it seems like everyone around you has it better than you. But, try to embrace the good things. For me, some things in my life have gone really well in the past six months, and some things have not. I am in a new graduate program that seems to be a great fit for me, and I’m finally on my way to doing what I believe I was truly called to do, which is to write and research and to teach college students. And I’m so grateful for everything in my life that led me here. However, moving to a new city and being in graduate school brings its own set of challenges. For some of us, myself included, it takes a toll on personal relationships, in part because some of the people you love just don’t understand what you’re going through, in spite of any good intentions they may have. If you want to go to graduate school because it will advance your career, more power to you, and it’s a great decision. Just know that it’s far more challenging than undergrad, both work load wise and emotionally. But, you meet a lot of really interesting people and grow a lot, so it’s worth it if you’re ready for it.
If you’re going through one of those seemingly perfect periods in your life, I’m glad, and I ain’t mad. Go ahead and post your family pictures on Facebook. But if you post too many happy status updates in a week, I might have to temporarily hide you from my news feed. It’s not personal, and I’m not doing it to you; I’m doing it for myself. I’ll re-follow you once I have my own life a little bit more ironed out. And if you’re going through one of those Sucksgiving periods, if I haven’t given you a big hug in person, think of my blog as a virtual hug to you. If I know what you’re going through, I will think of you and pray for you and hope it gets better soon. And since I’m “mildly Episcopalian” (like one of the Brittanick boys) with some flower child leanings (without the drugs), I’m giving you a verse from Ecclesiastes and a really cool 60s song that I still read over again when I just don’t understand some happenings in my life: “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” In other words, there is a spiritual purpose to life, even if it’s not immediately tangible. I tend to be a perfectionist, and I tend to like my life to be certain, resolved, and with direction. But, as my wise father pointed out to me, if your life is too certain for too long, it’s boring. So, embrace some uncertainty and enjoy the journey. (Yes, I know it’s easier said than done, but I too am learning that it makes life less stressful). My father is my age plus 35 (I’d rather not age either of us more than that, but that at least gives you a guess within 5-10 years), and while he has a whole lot more figured out than I do, not everything in his life is 100 percent certain at the moment. So, he and I have to remind ourselves and one another to enjoy the journey and not over-worry about the destination. I think if you at least have a sense of direction in life, and if you try to do right by people, the destination has a way of working itself out with time.
Life isn’t always easy, especially on the holidays. But today, I’m thankful that I got to have a nice lunch with my parents and with a family friend close to my age, and I’m thankful that I got to face time with my cousins and with my little sister and her husband’s family. Face time and Skype might not be quite the same as face to face interaction, but they’re a whole lot better than just talking on the phone. They make the love of many natures more palpable in people’s eyes when I talk to them, so I hope to utilize it more to talk to my friends who don’t live in my city. I’m grateful for the friends in Atlanta I saw and will see during Thanksgiving week. I’m grateful that I have enough food to eat, clothes on my back, and a warm place to sleep. Not everyone has that.
And I’m grateful that I’m in a place in my life where the people I’m around teach me to embrace the weird.