Category Archives: Thoughts About Life

Friendships, Etc

When my friend Esta and her daughter Eden came out to the coast with me for my birthday, I was surprised by how many people commented (both in person and on social media) about how awesome it is that we remain close friends despite the fact that I’m single and she’s married with two children.

I think it struck people because friendships tend to shift and buckle as people move away, gain different interests and values, get married or stay single, have children or don’t, go to college, have a career, and ultimately deal with their own personal issues. Many times, friendships break apart amid the changes, and I think people like to see one that hasn’t.

For me, the hardest thing about friendship in adulthood has been the lack of a close-knit friend group of people like me. Oregon is not just swimming in single college-educated Mennonites in their upper 20s.

And so, I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t be the Rat or the Mole or the Badger or the Toad in any one friendship group, and I’ve chosen to become the Otter in many friendship groups.

If you’ve ever read The Wind in the Willows you’ll know that it concerns four friends, Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger, and their various adventures.

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However, every once in a while a fifth character appears and has an adventure with one or more of the core four. That character is Otter.

 

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Otter, the 5’th character, is there in the middle at the bottom, popping out of the water.

I don’t know why Otter is not part of the core group, but I assume it’s because, unlike the others, he has a wife and family. Since he’s in a different life stage, he’s sometimes on hand for adventures, but sometimes not.

When it comes to friendship groups, I am Otter.

Take yesterday, for example. My cousin Stephy, who was one of my closest friends growing up but got married and moved to Ohio, came back to Oregon for a visit. She texted me and said “do you want to go to the coast on Tuesday?”

“Yes,” I said.

But I really did not know anything about who was going along or what would be involved.

This was the group that went:

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Shout-out to Shelley for sending me this picture (because I forgot to take any), and to the kind stranger who snapped it for us.

That is Stephy, her husband Chris, her sister Jessie, her sister-in-law Shelley, and eight of her nieces and nephews. And me.

Hanging out meant snotty noses and whining for candy and listening to seven and eight-year-olds philosophically discuss what would have happened if Satan had never disobeyed God. It meant pausing conversations while moms chased down their toddlers.

All next week these people will hang out together, without me, because they are a family and I am the random cousin. I am the otter, popping in for one adventure. But it certainly was a lovely one, with long conversations about friendship (which inspired this blog post), and sunshine, and sand, and endearing children, and people I like to hang out with.

I wonder if it sounds a little sad and/or pathetic to be the otter.

To be part of a youth group where you’re six to twelve years older than the other members.

To be part of a church ladies’ group, even though they’d much rather talk about giving birth than discussing big theoretical ideas.

To be part of the Christian Grad Fellowship at a college where you no longer attend and were never actually a grad student.

But the glorious upside to such a life is that I’ve learned to be friends with people who are unlike me. And ironically, that’s how I discovered the people who actually are like me, deep down in the places that go beyond demographics.

Like my friend Yasmeen, who’s from an entirely different cultural and religious background, but who shares my deep fascination with cross-cultural nuances.

Or my friend Javen, who came to Oregon last year, barely out of high school, to sing with Gospel Echoes. He looked like the kind of young chap who only ever thinks about spikeball tournaments and keeping his hair just curly enough to impress the girls, but we ended up connecting over our love of writing, literature, and complex ideas.

Or Simone, who is married to my Dad’s first cousin and is a generation older than me, but knows about hard times like no one else I’ve ever met. She understands grief, and depression, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and we can talk for hours. My friendship with her has been extremely healing and beautiful in so many ways.

Of course that’s only scratching the surface of the meaningful friendships in my life, but what I mean to say is, if I only looked for friendships among people who are like me, I wouldn’t have very many friends, and even fewer close friends.

And that would be incredibly sad.

27

I have a weird relationship with aging. Every year I get a little older and feel a little younger.

Ten years ago I turned 17 and thought that the good times had finally arrived. I was a senior in high school, I had a driver’s license, and I was going to the BMA convention for the first time ever. Hello, fun social life!

Of course, within two or three months I was living the life of a 90-year-old woman. Sickly, tottering, tired. Shuffling along using a cane for support. No social life. Too mentally out of it to drive.

The year I was 17 was the most awful year I have ever lived.

I remember turning 18 and feeling so cheated. Cheated out of being 17. Somehow (too many teen novels?) I’d gotten the idea that 17 was supposed to be the best year of my life.

Instead, 26 was the best, and healthiest, year of my life to date. I expect 27 will top that.

I had a great day. My sister Jenny, my friend Ashlie, my friend Esta, and Esta’s daughter Eden hiked up Spencer Butte.

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Ashlie had to go to work, but the rest of us went to the coast for the afternoon.

Little Eden just LOVED the ocean, even though, according to Esta, she’d been knocked over by a wave the last time she was at the beach.

“It’s my favorite place, too,” I whispered to her.

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Photo by Jenny Smucker

If I could whisper to the Emily of the past I would say, You will be healthy again. Life will be fun. If you thought 17 was cool, try being 27.

A Quick and Pithy Update

Weird photo just because no reason.

I’m finally traveling again! Tomorrow I’m flying to Michigan with my grandma, where I’ll attend my cousin’s wedding and then road trip home with my brother and cousin.

“And you’ll…just…leave your grandma in Michigan?” asked my friend Matt when I told him this today.

“No, she’s flying home with my parents, who left today, so they’d have time to hang out with my grandpa, my other grandpa, no relation to my grandma, unless it counts as a ‘relation’ if your children are married to each other…”

I quickly realized the impossibility of succinctly explaining our travel plans. Let’s just say that most of my family will end up in Michigan one way or another, and like the Wise Men, most of us are returning home another way.

Grandma will not be stranded in Michigan. (Lord willing).

I reached 1,000 subscribers! Nifty. Now, one of you dear readers should go like my Facebook page because I currently have 299 “likes” and 300 is a much nicer number.

I appreciated your insight on my random post about money and blogging. I may re-institute ads someday, but for now my blog will remain free of them, as well as sponsorships and subscriptions and whatever the cool kids do these days to earn money through blogging. I’ll continue to view my blog as a gift to my readers, as well as (maybe someday) a platform to promote my books (which I shall write abundantly in the future, surely) and a place to gain writing practice.

However, I’m toying with the idea of hiding my ancient archives from the public and compiling the best bits to sell as (cheap) e-books. So if you’re feeling stalker-ish and want to know what random things Emily was mulling over in 2011, now is the time to get clicking.

I think I’ll begin another section with an exclamation point! Just, you know, because I can.

I’m graduating on June 17. For seven years of my life I have invested nearly all my resources into my own education. I have lots of thoughts about this. (I’d better–how ironic would it be if I invested in education and had no thoughts to show for it?) I haven’t formed them into blog posts. Yet.

My open house is on June 18, from 3pm-5pm, at my house. If you are reading this, consider yourself invited. (At some point I will send out real invitations, with pictures of my face and stuff.)

I may post updates as I travel. I may not. So long, for now.

MOP April 21: Little Sister

“Hey Emily, guess what?” My little sister stood in my doorway at 11:02 last night.

“What?”

“This may be the last time you’ll see me as a 16-year-old.”

Maybe not so little, after all.

“Not if we hang out for a while,” I said.

She sat on my bed and we started chatting. I don’t even know what about.

“Let’s take a selfie,” she said.

“But I still have that white stuff in my eye.” I’d been doing an odd experimental eye treatment.

“I’ll cover it up for you.”

We took a selfie.

Jenny is almost nine years younger than me, and when she was born, seventeen years ago today, I didn’t think that we’d end up being best friends. I thought that she would be the little sister, and I would be the big sister, and there would always be a large nine-year gulf between us.

I was wrong.

I never wanted to be the person who was still living at home at age 25. I really value my independence. I was on my own for a couple years, but I was too ill to support myself and my mental health was in shambles and I wanted to go to college so I came back.

As much as I love my family to pieces, I always thought I would move out again if it were at all financially possible. Because independence.

Something interesting happened though, and I truly believe it was God redeeming a situation that I found very difficult. I became best friends with my little sister. The nine year gap became nothing. We learned to work through all our weird sibling issues. We had piles of fun.

So Jenny, on your 17th birthday, here are 17 things I love about you:

  1. I love your love of learning.
  2. I love your artistic side and fantastic sense of style.
  3. I love your wacky sarcastic humor.
  4. I love all our inside jokes.
  5. I love that you are unafraid to bash stereotypes. That you simultaneously embrace being geeky and girly and sporty, reading romance novels and solving math problems and doing cardio in your spare time.
  6. I love that you like to have spontaneous adventures.
  7. And sleepovers.
  8. And that we still play truth or dare.
  9. I love that you give me your honest opinion when I ask you what you think of my outfit.
  10. Or when I ask what you think of anything, really. Even guys. Especially guys.
  11. I love that you like to discuss the interesting oddities of life with me.
  12. I love all the interesting YouTube videos you find and share with me.
  13. I love the way you like what you like, whether or not it’s “cool.”
  14. I love that you’re not afraid to tell me when I’ve hurt your feelings.
  15. And that we can talk about everything.
  16. I love your unique perspective on life.
  17. I love that you are my sister and my friend.

Check out Jenny’s last MOP post here, and Mom’s latest here.

 

MOP April 15: Tricking Myself into Getting Up Early

I have a bad habit of putting off my homework until the morning its due. I’ll start big projects early, but I won’t finish them until the last available morning.

Today was one such morning.

I didn’t have class until 10, but I got to school at 8, checked out the textbook I needed, and went to the rotunda to study. It’s usually difficult to get a study table, but at 8 am, with the morning sun streaming through the windows, I had the entire rotunda to myself.


Here’s the deal: I love studying in the mornings. I am more alert in the mornings than I am at any other time of day. Yes, I’m the perky annoying person who muses about the meaning of life before you’ve had your coffee. Sorry. We switch places in the afternoon, I promise.

But.

If I’m in bed and I don’t have to get up, I don’t. And if I should go to bed, but I don’t need to get up early, I keep reading. (I’ll blame it on the fact that I’m a perceiver, not a judger, on the Myers-Briggs scale.)

So. I keep putting off my assignments because it’s the best way to trick myself into getting up early.

If you’re wondering, “why don’t you just get up?? Why would you need to trick yourself?” Then you’re probably a judger. (In a Myers-Briggs way. Not in a scary Matthew 7:1 way.) I have to trick myself all the time. That’s part of the reason I’m (kind-of) into minimalism…it’s basically a way to trick myself into being cleaner and more organized. If you only have three things in a drawer it’s automatically organized no matter how haphazardly you toss them in.

However. If you are a fellow perceiver who has to trick yourself into doing things, have you found any wonderful ways of making yourself get up early that don’t involve deadlines?

Jenny’s last MOP post, about modesty, can be found here. Mom’s latest post about finding purpose in being scatterbrained can be found here. Jenny will post on Monday.

MOP April 11: An Uncool Taste in Music

A couple years ago I took a field trip to the Oregon Coast with my geology class. I didn’t know anyone except the teacher. My lab partners had signed up for a different field trip. When lunchtime came, I sat by myself and daydreamed, figuring I’d be left alone.

I wasn’t.

A guy with a big smile and a Pink Floyd t-shirt walked over. “Can I sit here?”

“Um, sure!”

General small-talk ensued. He was very nice. We exchanged names and a few other inane bits of information, and then he asked the question. The absolute worst small-talk question of all:

“What kind of music do you like?”

I have heard that question many times in my life and have never figured out a satisfactory way to answer it.

To be honest, when I was a young teen I didn’t think I liked any music. I found it boring and distracting, often with stupid lyrics that didn’t make sense. So when people asked what music I liked, I told them I didn’t like any. Which I think was confusing for people, because who doesn’t like music? I mean really.

I satisfied my music needs in two ways: by prolifically writing songs and playing them in my head, and by watching musicals. Both of those are pretty abnormal ways of consuming music. The former could have been construed as “cool” if I’d been willing to share them with anyone, which I absolutely wasn’t. But the latter. I mean, unless you’re with a bunch of theater geeks, there’s no cool way to say that your favorite genre of music is show tunes.

In books and movies, the coolest artsiest characters always have “a good taste in music.” I have never been able to figure out what exactly that meant, but since Pink Floyd Guy was wearing a band logo on his t-shirt I was pretty sure he knew the secret. And I was pretty sure it wasn’t show tunes.

“I don’t know,” I said, finally.

“You don’t know? Do you like Switchfoot? Taylor Swift?”

“Kinda, I guess.”

“Well what kind of music do you like to sing?”

“I don’t like singing,” I told him. But later he heard me humming one of my own songs to myself so he didn’t believe me.

I started thinking about this when I went on my last road trip/camping trip with Ben, and in the process of taking pictures for my blog I snapped a picture of the music I’d brought, which was mostly soundtrack and musical music. I stared at the picture, wondering if I’d actually post it, and if I needed to explain my music taste. I realized that in nearly 11 years of blogging, with approximately 650 posts under my belt, I don’t think I have ever really talked about what kind of music I like. I don’t know if I’ve even mentioned that I write songs.

And I’ve always despised that question that I never quite know how to answer: “What kind of music do you like?”

Of course I love oddities of human nature, and after discovering this one of my own, I wanted to post about it and see if I’m the only one who likes uncool things but doesn’t talk about it much. I mean surely not, right?

So, what uncool things do you like? I really would be fascinated to know. Pretty please?

 

MOP April 7: Making the Most of the Life Stage You’re Currently In

A picture of Jenny just because she’s pretty.


Right now, I want to write another book. I know exactly what I want to write. I sit and daydream about pulling out my pencils and digging into a stack of old notebooks and organizing my ideas. I research how to write book proposals.

But.

I am not at a life stage where I can write a book.

It took me a while to come to terms with this. I’ve tried for years to be a writer and a college student at the same time, and it worked, to some extent. I wrote things. Just not things like whole entire books.

I know that I’ll be done with college eventually and can write a book then. But will I? Deep down I have a fear that if I don’t find time to write a book now, I will never find time to write a book.

After my last blog post about the perks of having married friends, someone commented saying it was nice that I’m secure in my singlehood, because many people can’t view singleness as a gift. My first thought was this: It would be much easier to view singleness as a gift if I knew for sure that I would eventually get married.

There are many, many perks to the life I currently live. A young mother recently told me that I need to appreciate my long interrupted hours of reading while I still can. As a college student I get to spend the majority of my time learning, thinking over the complex and beautiful issues of the world. Very little in my life could be described as “mundane.” There is a carefree independence to being single, and college offers a way to make friends with an ease that will probably never again be replicated in my life.

However, neither one is a stage I want to stay in forever.

There are some stages of life that we just survive. Seasons of illness and times of grief, for instance. If you want to know how to make the most of those stages of life, don’t look here, I haven’t got a clue. But singleness isn’t like that, and neither is college, and neither is the stage of having wild young children, or grown children that haven’t gotten married yet. These are all stages we will one day be nostalgic for, and yet our enjoyment of them, right now, is hampered by our longing to be in the next stage and fears that it will  never happen.

I don’t exactly know how to change that feeling. It’s one thing to say, “appreciate the stage  you’re at now,” but what are some practical steps to actually doing it?

Then again, this isn’t Buzzfeed. I don’t need a list of “ten practical ways to appreciate the single college student stage of life (number 14 will surprise you).” Tonight I will celebrate my singleness by staying up past midnight chatting with an old friend, and tomorrow I will make the most of my studenthood by talking to Garrett who sits next to me in class. I don’t know why I don’t talk to him. He seems like a nice enough guy, albeit kinda quiet.

What stage of life are you struggling to appreciate? Any tips to offer?

Read Jenny’s April 6 MOP post here. Stay tuned for a post tomorrow on Mom’s blog.