And thus the clouds cleared

Written mostly on Friday.

I’m writing this blog post from my very good friend Sara’s house. Despite all of the things that I had to do this week, despite how crazy I’ve been feeling lately with details for studying abroad, I decided that it was important to take a couple of days and come up to visit her.

And am I ever glad that I did!

Sara is a wonderful person, and I was really needing to get away from the city for a while. It’s astonishing, how I can be fairly self-aware and yet not really recognize when I need to get away from the city. I couldn’t even really tell that something was getting “off,” it was just this general feeling of panic. And then I got in the car, and half an hour out of the city I felt this overwhelming sensation of peace and comfort, simply because I was on the road, the view of Minnesota fields at sunset was gorgeous, I was listening to the Beatles full blast, and was getting ready to see Sara for two days.

Life is beautiful when you have friends as amazing as mine.

I got in around 8:30 pm on Wednesday, and hung out with Sara’s dad until she got off work. He’s a pastor with the United Methodist Church, and has some pretty amazing stories about visiting Cuba, India, and generally life. When Sara got home, we just talked and talked and talked, and she took me out to see the stars. I saw stars. Without having to squint! It was glorious.

Yesterday while she was at work, I went to her mom’s office and just sat and worked on my research all morning. It was pretty glorious – I got a ton accomplished. Then after she got off work, she came to get me and we explored her hometown. She showed me the co-op, the cool little cafes, bookstores, etc. It was just so pleasant to be with someone that I see so very rarely, exploring a small town in Minnesota.

These past couple of days have done so much to clear my head. I feel like things are making much more sense now. It’s like someone cleaned out whatever was plugging my brain, and I’m thinking clearly for the first time in at least a couple of weeks.

For example, I’ve had pretty bad writer’s block on my research this week, and yesterday while Sara was at work I managed to work for four hours straight without really burning out. I revised the hell out of my essay, and then this morning I got up and did another overhaul of it.

And even more exciting: I’ve begun plotting another novel. Taking very baby steps, but the main character has started to unfold. Even if I don’t end up writing it, it feels wonderful to have a story rattling around in my head again.

This summer I’ve struggled with my feelings surrounding transition. After this point in my life, I feel as though very little will be the same. For the first time in my life, I’m facing the Great Uncertainty. I don’t have a plan, and that’s how it’s supposed to be right now. And I feel as though over the last two days, I’ve finally started to be ok with that. I can’t control what will happen in India (not a big shocker there), but I also can’t conceive of how I’ll feel on the other side of that experience, and I am so excited about that.

Because as much as I am a person who needs a home and stability, I also thrive with wanderlust. I do some of my best thinking while walking, driving, flying, riding the bus, whatever – when I’m in transit, I’m content. And this whole summer I’ve been cultivating my ties to the Twin Cities, but with the very real and new understanding that I’m out of here soon.

Detachment. That’s what this is. Not that I’m not engaged in what I’m doing, but I know that I won’t return to this city in the same way.

I don’t intend to lose my relationships with my friends here. I will always have a part of my heart that loves the Twin Cities. But I will have to carry them with me, rather than live in them. So much of me is made up of my friends, my relationships with people and places. It’s like this little center of self can be transported, roots don’t have to reach the ground. I just have to remember who is important to me, and where I come from.

I’m going to continue to work on this portable home.

I also have discovered a very distinct need for wild places. I felt this my Freshman year of college, but then wrote it off as me not “getting” city life yet. But no: I need to recharge in a place that is not teeming with people. Even getting away to a small town did me a world of good. And I remember feeling so recharged and wonderful after the bike trip earlier this summer. While in school, life has been so busy that I haven’t cultivated my wonder at nature and natural beauty. It’s just been hard, for one reason or another, to get out of the Twin Cities for a weekend in the woods.

I think that’s something I will purposefully pursue coming back from India. I have a backpacking pack now, all that’s really left is a wilderness winter coat and hiking boots, and maybe some cooking equipment, which my parents have told me repeatedly that I can borrow. So now it’s just finding the time and doing it. And both of the places that I’m looking at moving – Seattle and Denver – have extensive parks very close to them.

No more excuses, Abbie. You just need to get out there.

Perhaps more introspection of this sort later. For now, I’ve got Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, a glass of wine, and a bedroom to clean up. Have to start packing for the move home.

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Days of Travel, Nights of Waiting

This was written last night in Union Station, where I didn’t have wireless.

Location: Union Station, Downtown Chicago

Time: 7:15

Today has been full, but fantastic.

I’m officially on my way to St. Louis! Got on the bus at 6:30 this morning, bound for Chicago. Tim was wonderful enough to drop me off, which I’m really glad of, because the whole “finding the bus stop” thing was really weird. I was expecting there to be more signage, but there really wasn’t any. The only clue we had that the bus stop existed was the band of travelers sitting/standing outside on a street corner with luggage. I didn’t feel comfortable just joining them, so we drove around the block, and by the time we circled the block again, the bus had pulled up.

Ok, so here’s where I give a plug for the Megabus. If you haven’t considered taking the bus before, I would urge you to do it. The whole trip (four bus rides total, Minneapolis-Chicago and then Chicago to St. Louis, and in reverse) was $65. It was originally $50, but I decided to change one of my bus tickets so I’d have more layover time in Chicago. And I know that you can get tickets for much less.

I'm not kidding about the "adorable" thing.

Anyway, the bus itself is absolutely adorable. It’s this big, dark blue double-decker. Absolutely sweet. For the ride to Chicago, I sat on top in the very front. Prime seats, let me tell you. The view was amazing! Downside: The air conditioning doesn’t quite reach up that far, so I would suggest dressing in layers and/or choosing the seat with the view when you’re driving away from the sun (less transfer of heat through the window).

So all in all, the actual ride was a fairly good experience, if a stiflingly hot one.

Though that hasn’t been a huge pain in the ass. Getting off the bus initially I was super cranky (which I am chalking up to the problem of No Coffee Yet, Dammit). I immediately went in search of a coffeeshop where I could access the internet, get a cup of joe and a cup of water. Of course, because this is downtown Chicago, that ended up being a Starbucks. Meh.

After I checked my email and realized that I didn’t need to spend much time online, I decided to get outside and enjoy the lovely day. It was absolutely GORGEOUS today, even if Chicago was living up to its name of the Windy City. So I sat outside for a couple of hours, alternately people-watching and reading.

Then there was dinner, which was nothing special.

They let me sit here for hours. Love love love.

And now I’m writing from Union Station in Chicago. My bus to St. Louis leaves at 11:55, so I’ve got quite a lot of time to kill before hopping on again.

Chicago is slowly growing on me. The other times I’ve been here haven’t been amazing (not bad, mind you, just not amazing), and so I have kind of had this “meh, Chicago’s alright” attitude.

Clarification: Wicked was pretty sweet. But that wasn’t because of Chicago. That was because of Wicked and having wonderful friends.

Anyway, the time I’ve spent here today has been pretty cool. I think it’s because I really wasn’t expecting anything, so my expectations of the city couldn’t be dampened. I also feel fairly safe here, at least for now. Perhaps that has something to do with living in a city now, rather than living primarily in a rural town. I know how to keep myself safe, basically. I also have much more appreciation now for what a city has to offer, and I have a better understanding of how to kick around in a big city.

In general, being able to be independent in a new place makes me a Very Happy Camper.

I can’t wait to see what St. Louis has to offer! Melissa is adorable, I’m so excited to see her. I’ll probably wander around a lot tomorrow too, since she has class rather a lot on Wednesdays, but hopefully I can shower and yoga it up. As happy as I am right now, I know that I’ve been eating horribly lately and that plus the travel is making my body feel rather toxic.

Ok, getting back to my book now. More updates soon, I promise!

T Minus 4 Days!

Blog: Check. Coffee: Check. Tasty Snack: DEVOURED.

Assignments due before spring break: 1.

Then … CELEBRATION!

My much-needed break is just around the corner. Seriously, this is SO NECESSARY for my existence right now.

This week has been relatively busy, but not nearly as busy as the last two weeks have been. Which is good, because my ability to focus has seriously deteriorated. My bedtime shifted from 11 to 9:30. You know what that means? Abbie needs a break, that’s what that means.

But there are many really great things that have happened this week.

For instance, I turned in my Collaborative Research application. This is the Arthur Project which has been growing for years. If I get this research grant, I will be researching King Arthur, pop culture representation, and Colonial/Imperialist trends in a “post-imperial” world. Can you say best summer ever? That would be my JOB, people! My JOB!

I would also get a very significant amount of money that would go to my India trip. It’s looking to be more expensive than I’d thought, but … such is life. (I’m actually kinda financially screwed if I don’t get the grant, but … there’s loans, right? *cringe*)

I also sent in my confirmation materials to go to India. They should be to the program directors by Monday. Whew, that’s a relief.

I’ve also managed to do yoga every day this week. I hope I can keep this up – it’s a really good thing to do. I generally feel better about my body, my levels of exercise, and life in general when I keep up with yoga. However, I really don’t think that I’m getting the kind of aerobic exercise I need. So I am (once again) contemplating running. I’ve tried to get into running before, and it just never really worked. But recently someone turned me on to the Cool Running: Couch to 3k program. It’s pretty cool, and should get me in shape at a decent, healthy pace.

Hrm … let’s just hope I stick to it … I added a tag for it, so hopefully I’ll feel accountable if I blog about it.

AND! I get to go to St. Louis on Tuesday!

Thanks to my wonderful friends, I have rides to and from the megabus stop. Have to get up bright and early to make the bus (leaves at 7). What will follow then is a full 24 hours of travel, BUT it is on a double-decker bus, and I love the act of traveling, so it’s totally worth it.

I have a six hour layover in Chicago both ways, and weirdly enough don’t know anyone who lives in Chicago. So I’ll just be crashing at a coffee shop and getting some much overdue reading done. I have things I need to read for class, and for my collaborative research. I’ll try to post as well, so that you all know I’m alive. There will at least be a twitter/facebook update.

As far as adventures in St. Louis go, the friend I’m visiting and I are going to an art show/benefit/fun thing where we can get free stuff, as well as a Tegan and Sarah concert! I also want to go out and hit some of the blues/jazz clubs. Free music all the time? Hell yes.

I’m sad that the break is only a week (there are other friends around the country that I would have liked to visit as well), but perhaps that’s a good thing. After all, I really need to not spend oodles of money. That’s what India is for.

And now: Fix myself another tasty snack, and then get on to that last stats assignment.