I am writing this blog from my new home in Sunny Florida! It is still hard to believe I am writing that sentence and that our whole lives went through a topsy turvy shake down over this summer that has left my head spinning trying to adjust to all the change.
Just to recap: Luke and I left Oklahoma in June, and he has been on terminal leave ever since. He will be officially out of the Army come September 13th (10 days!), and God has blessed Luke with a civilian job in a logistics/managerial role for a Fortune 100 company right here near our new home. We spent the summer traveling the country; visits to see family and friends, plenty of R&R, and I FINALLY finished the novel I have been trying to write for years….and then we went internationally to spend two weeks in Italy. Due to a shortage of time/money, our honeymoon was a short journey to Savannah, GA back in 2013. It was fabulous, but we had been planning a longer European trip ever since, and a Get-Out-Of-The-Military, Pre-Ph.D. present to ourselves sounded just about perfect. Oh, and we bought a house!
We arrived in Florida on a Tuesday, closed on a Thursday, the Army (Semi) moved all of our things in on a Friday (long story–it was pretty disastrous), and then we both started work the following Monday. Talk about a whirlwind! I want to go back and provide more details on so many of these experiences when I have the time, but for now, suffice it to say we were nomads for 40 days and 40 nights plus. I can’t tell you how good it felt to sleep in our own bed again! As wonderful as traveling was and as hospitable as each of our hosts were, there is just something about having your own space and routines that we both missed more than we anticipated during our The-Most-Exciting-Summer-Ever-That-We-Never-Plan-To-Do-Again!
A month later, we are just now beginning to scratch back the surface of what our New Normal looks like. And, here is where some blunt honesty comes in. In my teaching class, our professor has talked a lot about it being OK to show vulnerability sometimes; it is alright if you don’t have everything perfectly together. And, as a first-year Ph.D. student I DEFINITELY don’t have it all together.
I will say I am extremely fortunate to be in a top program in my field where everyone is so supportive from the faculty members to the second and third year students. Orientation was very comprehensive, and we have also had several BBQ/social type events with plenty of opportunity to ask questions, find out more information and learn about what grad life is all about. Yet even still, it’s like drinking through a fire hose.
There are days (sometimes many hours during one day) where I feel like I am paddling upstream trying desperately to keep my head above water. The classes are fast and furious; the reading is intense. One of the hardest classes in the whole program is mandatory in Semester 1; this class is completely based on theory in mass comm, and coming from an industry/professional background, it is foreign territory for me. I am that person taking way too much of the professor’s office hours trying to make sense of what I am learning. And, I still feel like I am retaining half…and sort of, kind of, maybe getting it.
It is hard to believe classes only started two weeks ago; these have been two of the most surreal, incredibly joyous, and yet terrifying weeks of my life. It feels as if I’ve been in school for much longer, while simultaneously flying by. I feel like on one hand, this is what I am meant to do with certainty. I am loving it, soaking it in, enjoying every page of the readings (yes, I am a nerd at heart. Hence the Ph.D. school thing. OK, maybe I’m not enjoying EVERY page. haha) And other days when I am asking myself what in the world I’ve jumped into. People tell me these feelings are perfectly normal; they’ve been through it. It will get easier. I eagerly look forward to that time. 🙂
Meanwhile, I have felt something others have referred to as Impostor Syndrome, and it really seems to make sense of how I’m feeling. What makes me qualified to be here and do this? Even though I know in my mind and on paper that I “deserve” to be here….there are many days when I feel so out of my element. Our cohort is comprised of some brilliant minds, and often classmates’ remarks in class make my own thoughts seem sophomoric or inadequate in comparison. That’s when I have to remind myself that we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and it is OK to have divergent thoughts and different points of view. Sometimes someone will say the exact thought I was too unsure to voice, and the professor affirms it is “on the right track” to being the “correct” (if there is such a thing in this new land of theory and social constructs of reality) answer. Impostor Syndrome is a thing, and I’ve been told it doesn’t necessarily go away with time. As a kid growing up, I thought adults had all the answers. Now I think a large part of adulting is “fake it till you make it.”
In addition to the studying and making sense of my new life in the Academy, we are just NOW (and I mean literally this weekend), finally hanging pictures on the walls. We had our very first guest last night to watch part of the Bama game and eat dinner, and that motivated us to jump into high gear and finally clean up the mess that is moving. Our home is much more livable, and I am thankful. When you feel like everything around you is in this new state of chaos, it becomes even more imperative to come home to something resembling peace and calm. If you know me, you may know I value a clean house, so it’s been driving us super nuts to live amidst clutter for a month-ish. Here is a sneak peek at our sunroom/aka super chill study space!
I love curling up in that swivel chair to do some readings, and it’s bright enough that some of the greats like Thomas S. Kuhn don’t quite put me to sleep! (He is a good cure for insomnia though, IMHO…no offense Kuhn.) If you’re having trouble sleeping, just buy a copy of his Structure of Scientific Revolutions to keep on your bedside table. It will do wonders.
With all of the other changes, I thought, why not cut my hair too?! So, in addition to my new life, I now have a new look. I think it is pretty cute while still being practical enough to tie back into a ponytail in this scorching Florida heat. An Alabama girl born and bred, I am shocked at what an adjustment this humidity is. Our recent home, Oklahoma, was much hotter temperature-wise but the humidity was nothing compared to The Swamp.
I’ve talked about this on the blog before, but when Expectations Don’t Meet Reality, disappointment is sure to ensue. In my case, disappointment crashed down pretty hard when I realized that despite the blessing of Luke’s job (and it is the most amazing blessing, the way we could afford this home, for one, because on just a student stipend to support two people, my Plan B was Married Couple Dorm Life), the job, like all others, would have its downside. In this case, it’s not his job at all or my job in a vacuum but the combination that has made it tough: our schedules are totally and completely opposite. Granted, my schedule is fairly flexible, as flexible as a job can be besides mandatory classes and meetings, I can study as I want (basically all the time.) But with our “Required” hours occuring at different times, our dream of spending WAYYYY more time together after the military is absolutely not to be. I write this with a lot of audience awareness in mind. My tribe of military soul sisters are dealing with sooo much more than Luke and I are…Their husbands may be deployed overseas to Iraq or Afghanistan, many of my friends’ husbands are taking 18-month commands soon with next to no home life. And yet, the divergence in schedules isn’t something I anticipated to this extent. When Luke was hired 2.5 months out, he had to be open to any schedule, based on the needs of the company. And, weekends are certainly a big need, one that he is more than happy and able to fulfill. It just so happens weekends are my “off time”; a much needed break or mini breaks between long bouts of studying to recharge and unwind.
In our past lives, I could power through the week, but I always lived for the weekends and holidays and made special plans during those times for the two of us and to socialize with others. Working weekends will change our social life for sure since most other people have weekends off, and although it’s not at all how I have always planned our lives thus far, all is not lost. I will rework my schedule to the best extent that I can so we can maximize our time together and enjoy it to the fullest, not that there was ever going to be a lot of time as a first year doc student to start with.
But, I am embarrassed to admit that when expectations did not meet reality, I’ve behaved in the most unChristlike way. I’ve cried buckets, stomped my feet when he has to leave for work, and basically reduced myself to a two-year-old having a temper tantrum when Mom serves spinach for dinner. I’ve chased the rabbit down the hole so many times, arguing in circles that we have done our time; coming out of the military, we spent many, many days and nights apart including 2.5 years of straight New York-Alabama long distance. Not in the last year of course; Oklahoma was something of a reprieve for us. In Basic Training Land, Luke was on more of a 9-6 schedule (well, 6-6), and without my master’s degree coursework to occupy my evenings, I played Suzy Homemaker with dinner on the table every night. We spent good quality time together there, time that I see here will be limited in a way I just didn’t expect.
So, I have been in serious need of an attitude adjustment. We moved here to give me a chance to fulfill my dreams of becoming a college professor, and I should be willing to give up a few weekends–well really, ALL weekends– to make that happen. I think this is a blessing in disguise; it took me awhile to piece together the “blessing” piece, but I’m getting there. Instead of bemoaning how short our time together actually is week to week, I need to sit back and enjoy it, adopting the mindset that when we have many more years together (God willing), this time will fly by. Additionally, I have PLENTY of time to work on my studies without distractions. On days when Luke is working, I almost feel like an undergrad again, staying late in the library, grabbing fast food or a bag of popcorn for dinner, studying until the later hours with no distractions, no husband to rush home to feed. I miss him though, and just his presence, even when I am shut in a room doing homework, is calming for me.
Luke has been a godsend, dealing with my moodiness and anxiety and cray cray state as well as possible. Some days I’ve really felt like I was losing all my marbles, y’all. Meanwhile, he’s really set his mind to fixing up our yard and went above and beyond to make our fourth anniversary special for me. It was the most memorable evening and we cherished it all the more perhaps because date nights here are most definitely going to be more rare. But Friday night he was off, and we went out to eat and read our traditional anniversary letters over a bottle of wine from Italy.
How in the world has it been 4 years?
Reading those letters reminded me marriage may take extra commitment and work in some seasons, but love does endure all. We have faced our share of obstacles in the past in different forms, and we will get through this as well. We have all of the resources and tools to make a real life here, even if it doesn’t exactly resemble my imagined mental picture of this season. Most importantly, we have love.
So let me rescue you (and myself) from my self-induced pity party and a large box of Kleenex: Life is good. God is good. He knows the plans that He has for my life (and your life), even when things don’t always make sense at the time. It has never been more clear to me, even during this state of self-diagnosed adjustment anxiety, that I am right where I am supposed to be, in the program I was meant to be part of, with the people God brought into my life for a purpose. One of the biggest blessings so far has been joining the Graduate Christian Student Fellowship group, an organization that prioritizes being intentional about your faith despite so many competing priorities. I love our small group meetings on Mondays; we have just started reading through The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, and it has a phenomenal message so far.
Mine and Luke’s personal goal for the next week is also to start visiting churches. Luke is off on Sunday mornings (YAY!) so we want to find a new church home here. I confess I have been clinging to the past with both hands. I desperately miss our church home in Oklahoma, and the past two Sundays we have spent “Church” in our sunroom watching Pastor Curtis’s sermons from afar. But, I know we need to “move on” and find fellowship here. I may still go back to those sermons sometimes…He was such a phenomenal speaker, and we really learned and grew in our walk with Christ at Crossroads Baptist Church in Elgin, OK. But, our life is here now, in Florida. And, we need to find a body of believers to join sooner rather than later.
To close, I will say it is amazing how God orchestrated this season, just as He has orchestrated every other season for us: there are clear lessons to learn, growth to experience and unique challenges to face. But, as Luke and I discussed this weekend over glasses of Prosecco, each year keeps getting better than the last. Our marriage would not be as strong as it is today without some of those tough times in the past. And the best thing is that tough times never last. Life is cyclical; I am quite sure despite the busyness of our lives here, there will be great, everlasting joy as well. We have already experienced some of this in forging new relationships, new friendships, and new adventures in this chapter. We have been remiss in that all the busyness so far has prevented us from visiting the beach even once, something we plan to rectify in the coming week. BECAUSE IT’S ONLY 45 MINUTES AWAY!
And the reminder that always, always, through Jesus, the Best Is Yet To Come.
P.S. You may wonder how I am “so busy” and yet have time to blog….In short, blogging is therapeutic for me, and I am a fairly fast writer so word vomiting my thoughts onto this online space to “document” this time in our lives is not a long process for me. I do hope someone out there will get something out of our story, and I enjoy connecting with those near and far. 🙂 Now off to lock myself in a room and study until eternity….