A week ago, I jumped on an airplane and returned to the Midwest. When I was pitching my trip to my friends and co-workers at Penn State, I felt like I was talking about taking a magical trip to the homeland. It was just a visit to see my family, no big deal, right?
Well, the Midwest has begun to feel sort of mystical to me. I spent 24 years of my life living between Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois and now I’m meeting, working, and becoming friends with people who have never been to those states before. I meet people who don’t know what Culvers custard is and have friends who catch me slipping into my “Wisconsin accent.” I constantly think in Central time because most of my family and friends are on that time. As I spend more time in Pennsylvania, I’m sure some of these experiences will dull as I settle in but right now, I needed the Midwest.
I was also feeling a little burned out. I’ve always proactively taken on projects, worked hard, and blurred boundaries between work and personal. In undergrad and grad school, it was nearly impossible for me to compartmentalize the different areas of my life. Instead, all these parts got thrown in together in a tight knit mess of my life. And I see my personal life impacting and influencing my professional life (and vice versa). However, sometimes my blurred boundaries are not sustainable, especially since I am no longer a traditional student. My trip to the Midwest couldn’t have come at a better time. I symbolically turned off my work computer and said, “all of that can wait.”
On the airplane from State College to Chicago, I felt free. I read my book for fun and opened up my laptop and actually wrote for the first time in months. I pulled up essays I have picked at for years and combined them in a way that was exciting and thrilling again. I felt in the grove again.
Coming back together with my family is always an adventure. It’s full of dinners at 8 or 9 PM, late nights filled with laughter, and side trips for ice cream and other things. I saw my brother’s new apartment, and ate pizza my sister made at the place on her campus where she works. This trip also gave me a chance to reconnect with an old friend from undergrad, named Haley (I know, we use to call ourselves the Ha(il)leys). We drank coffee and baked goods and wandered around the cities, mainly in antique stores (my decorator in me was going wild but I didn’t think I could carry much of it back on an airplane).
I fly back to Pennsylvania once again feeling recharged and refreshed for the last few weeks of the semester. As we move into the summer months, I hope that my work-life balance evens out a bit. Because I have plenty of things that keep me going when I’m not at work including:
- Improving my calligraphy skills and stepping up my home-made card making skills
- Baking (mainly to send to others) and recently, my friend Sara and I got into scones
- Working out – the Penn State Fitness classes have been a wonderful destress element of the semester
- The usual reading and writing gig I love
Recently I was asked to create a six-word memoir. I wrote: Midwest native with a pep in her step. Thanks Midwest for a great weekend and you know I’ve always got a little bit of you in me even if I did move to Pennsylvania.