A Midwest escape and other adventures

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?

Ice cream with edible glitter and the best homemade brownie I've ever had

Ice cream with edible glitter and the best homemade brownie I've ever had

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.

The Ha(il)leys

The Ha(il)leys

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

Calligraphy by Hailley

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.

The 25th Year: Plane Delays and Thunderstorms

I recently celebrated my 25th birthday. It seems like a milestone, even though my 2:28 PM birth time passed without me truly recognizing it. I can now successfully rent a car without any help, can proudly say I'm a quarter of a century old, and no longer can boast that I'm in my "early twenties." I got to the spend the hours leading up to my birthday and then the day itself surrounded by friends and family. My office even got decorated (see image above). As you tell, my office now is the level of cozy you can expect from me. 

To get ahead of a potential quarter-life crisis, I joked with my friends I was going to "get my act together." Which essentially meant I bought myself a lunchbox and reusable grocery bag, replaced the burnt out lightbulbs in my office lamps, and cleaned my apartment. Small steps in a much larger process of living alone in your twenties. 

My 25th year has also started off with some travel. I'm currently in Knoxville, TN, preparing to attend The Collective, a library conference designed for new professionals that pushes for user generated content at a low cost. I've only heard good things about this conference and am excited to meet new librarians and learn. 

So this morning I took off to Knoxville, thinking it would be smooth flying. However, rain in Knoxville with thick clouds and thunderstorms bunch next to each prevented us from landing in the afternoon as planned. Instead, we were diverted to Greensville, SC for a little 3 hour airport adventure. In some ways, it was sort of surreal because it was somewhat sunny at the airport and just sixty miles from us, storms prevailed for three hours. But finally we all boarded, feeling a bit closer than when we left, and survive the bumps and waves to Knoxville. 

Although it the night was falling when I arrived, Knoxville seems like a happening place. There's some vibrant downtown areas, full of interesting and unique restaurants. Had I arrived at my normal 3 PM time, I would have explored a bit and eaten dinner with some other conference participants in a little dine around town. However, my delay prevented me from meeting up so I was on my own. I've been encouraged by my older friends that it's sort of a rite of passage, to eat alone and not feel bothered by it (which clearly I'm still adjusting to). However tonight I was in my element. I ate food, did a little people watching out of the corner of my eye, and read Roxanne Gay's newest collection of short stories (which are pretty great thus far). I've slowly begun to recover my itch to write and I imagine Roxanne will continue to inspire.

Watch out for some conference recaps this week and a more active Twitter account :)

Updates from State College

I've officially lost track of how many weeks I've been in State College, which must mean that I'm sort of settled in. I feel that when you stop counting, you've created some sort of home. You're worrying less about where you came from versus where you are now, which the counted weeks help to remind you. One week since I left xyz...one month since I left xyz...etc. Now you're just in this new spot and probably won't think about milestones until the one year mark. In some ways, my time in Urbana seems so far away while the past couple of weeks in Pennsylvania still feel fresh and sort of a blur. 

I am still liking the job. I am still liking my apartment. I am still liking being here. And the biking is getting easier.

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Pennsylvania Adventures...Continued

oday at work I went on a campus tour. I met a lovely junior Penn State student, studying nutrition. She was from the area and had a passion for her school that I notice is a trend at Penn State. When I told a co-worker I had gone on a tour, they responded that they hadn't thought of doing that. They have worked at Penn State but know a lot of the same places (such as the stadium, the creamery, the HUB [Student Union], and Old Main).

This sort of stuff is why I am into community engagement. For me, I can't see myself being an effective librarian for undergrads if I don't at least try to get on their level. To see their school from their perspective. Now granted, this topic is enough for a blog post on its own...

But this idea of not exploring more than the library walls is an idea that can be applied to State College as a whole.

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