I feel like I’ve moved a lot in my short adult life.
In 2011, I moved from my dad’s home where I lived throughout high school to Princeton which I would kinda call “home” for the the next four years. I lived in Wilson college for freshman and sophomore years. Summer 2012 I also lived on-campus, as I TA’d a summer programing put on by the University for local high school students. I moved home for a couple of weeks that summer only to move into upperclassman housing for the rest of the summer and then have to move all my stuff home for a couple of days to move back into Wilson college. That wasn’t hard, just annoying.
Summer 2013, I spent traveling in South America as I was working on a research grant. I moved my stuff home and lived off 10 lbs of things that fit in my wheel-y bag and my backpack. I spent 8 weeks living out of those two bags traveling through Brasil, Chile, and Bolivia before coming to the US and investigating Texas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Massachusetts. I eventually made it back to New Jersey where I may have entered a sleep coma for a couple of days.
That fall, I moved back to campus into a two-bedroom triple in upperclassman housing. Almost as soon as the school year started, my roommate who was also my room-roommate (we were sharing one of the bedrooms in the triple), decided to take the year off, turning our two-bedroom triple into a three-room double, aka the best kind of housing arrangement ever.
Summer 2014, I took a remote-working internship for a Trenton-based non-profit. I rented a room from one of the grad students I had TA’ing for one of my favorite classes and we converted her office into my bedroom for the summer. I lived just outside of Princeton in Lawrenceville but moving in and out was, again, a pain. If I remember correctly, I rented it for the whole summer so at least I didn’t have to do the interim thing at my own home at all.
I moved back into a dorm for the last time in fall 2014. I lived there through graduating in June, when I moved out of Princeton for the final time. (As an aside, Princeton has a culture of students living on campus all four years of undergraduate studies. I think it is over 90% of students who do this, but that number might have changed in the last 4 years. I know this is different at different schools, but I only knew five people throughout college who lived in off-campus housing who weren’t officers in Eating Clubs).
That summer, I moved all my stuff in my dad’s living room because there was no where else to put it until I moved to Baltimore, MD in August 2015. I spent that summer traveling and exploring, spending a lot of time visiting C at Fort Benning and visiting my cousins in Hawaii. I also had my Venture for America Training Camp that summer which kept me at Brown University (living in dorms again) for five weeks.
In Baltimore, I lived in a neighborhood called Mount Vernon. I chose it mostly because it was walking distance to my office. On my walk home from the office, there was a local grocery store that was only a block out of my way and I often swung by to pick something fresh up for dinner. On that walk, I passed a Chipotle, a series of locally-owned restaurants, a Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts, and multiple cupcake shops. Every day, I saw different people, enjoyed (most of the time) different smells, and weathered a 10-15 minute walk. A “typical” Sunday consisted of me waking up at 7 AM, getting ready and then walking the 20 minutes to the 8 AM Mass at St. Ignatius, then catching the free circulator to the Farmer’s Market where I’d meet up with a friend or my roommate. I’d usually spend what was left of the day writing and reading while preparing for my week by planning or doing chores (laundry, meal prep, etc). If it was too cold for the Farmer’s Market or I didn’t need anything, I’d catch the free Circulator and go to the Galleria Mall at the Inner Harbor and people watch for a bit (without buying anything because I was on a budget).
My life is so different now. For one thing, I don’t live on my own anymore. When C got orders to Fort Bragg, I decided to join him. We moved into a little two bedroom townhome in Raeford. When our lease there was up, we bought the house we live in now in Fayetteville.
When thinking and planning for my week and weekends, I no longer think about just my schedule or just my routine. I consider his too- is he going to be home? if he’s going to be home now, what does the rest of the month look like? For example, I often do date night babysitting for my local mom-friends. Recently, one friend reached out asking if I was free on a Saturday. Under most circumstances, I would have happily said yes, but because that was the last weekend before a long TDY (the Army’s version of a business trip, but in this case with a lot less communication) I wanted to make sure to soak up every minute with C.
With all this movement and now my shifting priorities, it can be hard to feel rooted. I’ve often heard the phrase “Grow where you are planted,” but I wonder where am I planted?
Right now, we have a looming PCS (military move). I have a timeline, but I also know that that timeline has been pushed back repeatedly for the past six months. Given that, what incentive do I have to really plant and grow here in Fayetteville when I know that we probably won’t be here in six months? Is it worth my time and energy? Would it even be fair to those who I connect with and invest in building a relationship with me?
Rather than accept this feeling of lost-ness, I’ve decided that I can create my own portable community. I can be inspired right where I am by the people around me, by the lifestyle I build for myself, and by the connection I get to put into all of those. No, inspiration and community are not going to create themselves for me, but if I’m willing to put in the work I can find inspiration right where I am.
Are you nodding your head yes? I certainly hope so. I often tell people “Life is easier when we work together.” So let’s work together friends! Are you curious about how to find inspiration right where you are? Here are just three sources of inspiration in my life!
Legacy Magazine celebrates the lives of military families and the legacies they are building. The magazine shares the real every day struggles of these families, told mostly from the perspective of the matriarchs, both service members and spouses. With beautiful themes that will relate to different parts of your life, Legacy Magazine is a great read with beautiful stories that can’t help but make you feel inspired. More than once, I cried tears while reading- both of the happy sort and the emotional sort. If you haven’t gotten your hands on a copy yet, I suggest doing so and reading one theme- usually 3 stories- per day. It’ll take you just over a week to finish the magazine, but it will let you really savor the inspiration.
I ordered my copy of Legacy Magazine from their Kickstarter campaign, but you can order your copy from their website.
Other Magazines Too
The great things about magazine subscriptions is that you can change the mailing address on the front and ta-da they follow you to your next duty station! I shared recently how I’ve subscribed to The Atlantic Magazine; I have found it to be an amazing investment because the cultural commentary is phenomenal, and it forces me to read things away from the computer or my phone! Just a couple of weeks ago, C and I had a #wildSaturdaynight where he built a Star Wars Lego Kit and I read The Atlantic while we listened to country music. These are the moments that build inspiration and creativity in our lives.
I recently bought the December issue of Success Magazine- the one featuring the badass founders of R. Riveter, a military spouse-founded enterprise featured on Shark Tank that ultimately received an investment from Mark Cuban on the show. R. Riveter, in case you’re unfamiliar, creates beautifully made handbags to provide steady, location-independent employment to military spouses. Their founders and employees, at least all the ones I’ve met, are such inspiring and genuine people. While I picked up my copy of Success Magazine so that I could read their story, I also got the chance to read the other awesome stories featured in it! You can find inspiration if you’re willing to look (or read)!
Have you heard of the Maker Movement? It’s the idea that emphasizes making things with your hands. In a time where we spend so much of each day staring at acomputer screen or a phone screen (not being critical, just honest), the idea of building something with your hands- something other than typing buttons on a keyboard- may seem strange to some. It’s a tradition, though, that I grew up surrounded by. For as long as I can remember, my
maternal aunts and my grandmother were always making things with their hands. Whether it was crochet, cross-stitch, hardanger, or knitting, I saw these women build beautiful things. They made priceless gifts- towels, table runners, baby shoes. From them I learned to do the same. I remember the first time I gifted a towel with a baby’s name to a friend and his wife; they cried tears of joy, not because the towel was anything special, but because I had made it for them. Of course, I don’t gift things for a reaction. I can gift them so I have an excuse to make them.
With the demands of day-to-day life, though, it can be hard to take time to make things with our hands. Sometime while still in college, I discovered the Stitch Style blog and that reignited my somewhat dormant interest in needlework. Now that I’ve gotten into a lifestyle, I aim to complete one round ornament per year. For 2017, I finished a North Carolina Ornament to capture our year here. I’m backtracking a little and working on a Baltimore Ornament right now. I need to have it done prior to July so that I can get it back in time for our next Christmas. I would love to capture every place we live in rounds that can go up on our tree!
I was recently talking to a friend about the power of visualization, reflection, and meditation. These three behaviors don’t happen when you’re seated in front of a TV, or as my Pop Pop would say “The Boob Tube,” passively consuming media. They happen when you’re actively working on them or letting your subconscious work through something on their own. This is the power of making something with your hands. By setting aside that time every day from now until it’s done to stitch this ornament, I’m giving myself at least 20 minutes per day to let my subconscious work through whatever it needs to, whether it’s a problem in my work, for a client, or at home. I’m creating space for inspiration to happen- for inspiration to find me right where I am, in what I’m doing.
Transiency is hard. It’s actually really, really hard, and I don’t get the people who choose it for fun. It can be hard to look around and feel like you’re lacking communities or role models. I know because I’ve been there. What geographic proximity makes difficult, though, the technology of the 21st century has seriously addressed. For example, The Milspo Project’s Mastermind is completely online! We can’t, though, live our entire lives online. Finding inspiration in our off-line lives is just as important.
What’s one place you’re finding inspiration in your offline life?