Hello again after my unintentional eleven-month hiatus from this space. The only real excuse I can offer as to why I’ve been absent for so many moons is that I’ve been busy with a capital B. Something tells me this state of busy is something that a) is not unique to me and b) I had better get used to. The to-do list never goes away. It just morphs a bit here and there.
Nonetheless, the busyness is real. I’m nearly halfway through my senior year of college. That sentence is simultaneously exhilarating and distressing, so we’ll just keep moving along. For my final fall semester, I surveyed the courses remaining for my major and thought to myself: oh what the heck, hit me with your best shot, college. And, thus, I proceeded to smash all my hardest classes plus an internship, and a side teaching assistant job (and oh, I don’t know, a social life?) into one cramped and crowded semester. On the record, this is ill advised.
Enough complaining. It’s highly un-fun and I’m over it. Except for one detail: my life, you see, has felt completely and utterly out of balance as of late. I’m not saying I expect each and every compartment of my life to fit neatly in its place, like my dinner plate when I was younger. (Food touching was the worst kind of crisis, only prevented by proper zoning technique to prevent peas from rolling over into gravy.) While that sounds neat, it is quite unrealistic. One part of life spills over into another and then another and then another. It is the beauty and the chaos all in one.
A balanced life is elusive. It’s pondered in magazines and books and on talk shows to no end. We make movies and write stories about what happens to the people whose lives fall out of balance. The workaholic who can’t find love. The mother-daughter duo that can’t see eye-to-eye. The family that lets sports/jobs/school trump togetherness. The girl who gets promoted at work and forgets all of her friends. …The list goes on. It’s a common topic because it’s happening all around and within us every day. The list of obligations grows, knee-jerk choices are made about how to spend time as it slips past fingertips, leaving hands pulling through hair and frown lines embedding between eyebrows.
Personally, I can point to certain indicators when I really know my life is out of whack. The basic sign is an overall state of feeling bruised, like I’m worn out from a battle I’ve been fighting sans weaponry. I’m exhausted. I’m vacant. I’m touchy. I’m less than peachy to be around.
Realizing the majority of said obligations are not things I can really cut out of my life right now, I’ve been doing a bit of self-investigation in order to solve this predicament. I can’t spend the rest of my semester (much less the rest of my days whenever life gets busy) furiously treading water. The eureka moment came while catching up on my Line-A-Day Book the other day. The fact that I left a whopping four weeks empty recently should have been the first signal that something was amiss.
(Quick aside: For those who don’t know what a Line-A-Day is, allow me to enlighten. It is a little blue book I’ve been using since June of 2011 to chronicle a snippet of every day of my life. One book covers five years and is divided up into 365 pages with five spaces designated to five consecutive years per page. I have been waving the Line-A-Day banner since my fabulous Aunt Jenny gave me one as a graduation gift. I call it the journal for the non-journaler. Invest in one and you will not be sorry.)
Back to my research findings. As I fill out a day, I can look back on four years of that same calendar date. It’s pretty rad. Some days bring the hugest nostalgic grin to my face, and other days I would just as quickly scratch out with my pen. Beyond the reminiscing, I’ve noticed certain trends. And this brings me to my hypothesis: there is a distinct positive correlation between “good” days and the presence of specific variables on those days. Yeah, I took statistics.
These “variables,” if you will, are the things that make me feel alive. Unexciting, even stressful days in which one or more of these things was present were documented in my book in a significantly more satisfied light. Looking back on the past few weeks, however, when I’ve felt especially frenzied and frazzled, I see that these activities conspicuously fell through the cracks of a demanding schedule.
My life is out of balance when I don’t feel like myself. No, I’m not having an early onset quarter-life crisis. I have a reasonable grasp on who I am and who I want to be. All of that to say, so far in my twenty-two years of living I have begun to learn the things that make me feel like myself. The things that make me feel alive. And when they’re not a part of my life, I don’t feel like myself. I feel like the walking dead. And I don’t even like that TV show.
What are the things that make you, Katie Kennedy, feel alive, you say? Oh, I’m so glad you asked. As a communicator by nature, I could talk about these things all the way to Pluto if you’d let me. They give me a sigh of satisfaction. They often involve a process of sorts, to further underscore that feeling of satisfaction. They’re the things that make me feel good about who I am and who I am becoming. And they can be summed up in the following four “-ing” statements: moving, creating, adventuring, and refueling.
I feel alive when I’m moving. I love to exercise because it is a competition between me today and the me I was yesterday. (The competitiveness of organized sports was never really my thing. I mean, it’s just a game, right? No? Okay.) Exercising is a process. It’s full of variety. It ushers in community. Nothing beats the combination of fun and accountability of a good workout buddy, or the solidarity found in a bunch of strangers breathing through downward dog. And, most importantly, it propels you through even the dullest day by providing a much-needed burst of smile-inducing endorphins. And endorphins make you happy and happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.
I feel alive when I’m creating. I am deeply convinced that the act of connecting words together to create meaning is part of the reason I’m on this earth. I look back at my Line-A-Day and see the day I promised myself I would take my writing public through a blog, and I am grateful for the chance to do so. I see the days I have created something with words and can literally feel the excitement just as clearly as I felt it that day. And I don’t just write to share thoughts and stories with others. Nope. In fact if I’m being honest here it’s a bit scary to do this. It takes a healthy dose of bravery. Which is why I write for me. It’s how I process and how I learn. A wise, wise friend of mine compared it to free therapy the other day and man is she spot on. When I get into the groove, the words pour out of me like they’ve been trapped inside for too long. It’s part of what makes me who I am. My need for creating goes beyond writing, to composing outfits or to decorating spaces. Lately (and by lately I mean for way too freaking long but hey I’m indecisive so what can ya do), I’ve been working on compiling the perfect pieces for a gallery wall above my bed. Now that it’s all come together, I am thrilled and satisfied and ready to start another project. Which is why I just ordered five new fancy pens online to practice my hand-lettering skills. I need to create. I just do.
|Voila. And yes, obviously J made the wall. Crew forever.|
I feel alive when I’m adventuring. Exploring and discovering are two of my favorite things. If you look at my Instagram account, you’ll notice I follow lots of strangers. It’s because they give me ideas of places to visit near and far, products to try, outfits to take for a test drive, foods to taste, and so on. That’s just one little thing that spurs my adventuring spirit. Since I’m not traveling Europe at present, I’ve resorted to other ways to keep the adventurer in me inspired. For example, I have a list on my phone of restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops to test out, because I’m an aspiring foodie. It thrills me to discover fabulous new locations to take part in one of the greatest hobbies known to mankind: eating. You just type an address into your GPS, with full knowledge that this unknown locale could be a total bust or it could be cause for a major happy dance. That’s the adventure part. Lucky for me, I’ve found some other lovely humans who share that desire and we have a grand old time trying new places. If you’re not in a new part of the globe or the country, you simply must explore your own city and discover the millions of hidden gems within. I owe it to the Twin Cities that raised me to leave no stone unturned while I call it home.
|Friday night feasting (on grilled cheese, duh) with my lovely roommates.|
The Freehouse | North Washington Avenue | Minneapolis
|Testing restaurants on my foodie list for my dear old dad's day of birth. |
Burch Steakhouse and Pizza Bar | Colfax Avenue | Minneapolis
I feel alive when I’m refueling. Perhaps the clearest evidence of when life has become horribly hamster-wheelish is when I can’t find it in myself to devote even a few minutes of my day to God. When it’s eight in the morning and I’m either oversleeping or finishing an assignment that’s due at nine (c’est la vie), these precious minutes of stillness are easily the first to go. Even as I type that I know it is absolutely not how it should be. Lately, with the help of this book, I’m learning the practice of eucharisteo. The Greek eucharisteo means deep joy in giving thanks, in identifying God’s graces. Pausing to count the gifts so graciously poured over me each day infuses joy into even the most blah of days. When I’m not spending that time with the One who made me, I don’t feel like myself anymore. When I’m always hurrying, I don’t feel alive.
As I said before, this moving, creating, adventuring, and refueling – these are the things that make my days more than just an existence. They are the weapons gifted to me as I fight whatever battles come my way, like a schedule that makes me want to pull my hair out. These activities remind me where I fit and why I matter. And while that is internally focused, I don’t think it’s selfish at all. You need to understand yourself to know why you are here. You need to know and understand the certain things you need in your day in order to be more than just a moderately productive zombie.
When life feels chaotic, do everything in your power to make time for the things that make you feel like you. Sometimes absolutely everything and the kitchen sink is against you in that endeavor. Don’t let that stop you. Your passions become your saving grace amidst the hustle. They are a healthy vacation from unavoidable routines and a reminder that there are wonderful things to be lived outside your to-do list. Be intentional about them.
What makes you feel like yourself? What are the things that make you come alive? The things you’re excited to talk about and share with others? The things that, even when no one’s around, you can do on your own and feel blissfully and exquisitely alive? If you don’t know, a little “self-study” never hurts.
Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” Right on, Howard. Right on.