the new normal.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I’m settling into a routine.

If you know anything about me, you know that I function well with a set routine. I enjoy watching the “newness” of a season slowly give way to a sense of normalcy, solid expectations of what each day may bring, what the workload looks like, what my weeks may be filled with. Routine is like a blanket on top of a comforter, when you are settling into bed, it provides an extra layer of warmth, comfort, and weight. It puts me at ease.

There’s something about the month of September that seems to be the yearly mark for normalcy and routine in my life. The past few years, I’ve felt my routines begin to settle down in September. Last year, it was coming to understand my role as a Community Director and adjust to my life in Monterey. Before that, it was adjusting to a new role in Residence Life, and spending more time than normal in a hospital room with someone I deeply loved. And even before that, it was finally feeling at home in a new school, with new classmates, and a new educational program. And here I am, yet again. I'm watching the "newness" melt off my environment the way dew slowly dries on the lawn in the front yard. I’ve once again reached the point where new routines simply becoming routines.

This month has been no different.

My new job, my new location, my new communities, no longer feel “new.” I don’t think twice about my drive into downtown, I don’t seem to be bothered by things lost and things found. I find myself smiling more. I find myself feeling better. I find myself settling into a routine, and rediscovering the comfort that routine has brought me over the years, once again.

As soothing as this September has been, I’ve also had a few surprising moments. I was down south with some coworkers back to an area that used to be my “normal.” Pasadena and LA will always have a significant space in my heart. The people, the memories, the transformative season will never be too far from my mind. I wasn’t anticipating what I felt as I drove down the 99 towards the maze of LA freeways with my new coworkers. I was nervous, to be back in a place that held memories and people that knew me before the person I am now. I was afraid of what the buildings, the mountains, the space would stir in my soul. I remember taking deep breaths in our car, as we drew closer and closer to the place that used to be my normal.

It didn’t quite feel like coming home. I didn’t feel the warm embrace of a place I wanted to come back to and stay at. But it didn’t feel like a cold front, making you bundle up your jacket a little tighter and hold your arms closer to your chest. It felt like a clear, crisp, summer day, breaking the clouds after a season of winter.

I felt confident, walking the streets of Azusa I used to call home. I saw people who cared deeply about me, I visited places that used to refuel my soul (and still somewhat did). I shared about my life with old friends – the terribly bad, and the unexpected good. I didn’t feel my voice break or my soul drop when I shared news that used to make my knees buckle. I spoke honestly, authentically, and felt myself reclaiming a narrative I had tried to write off. It was empowering.

My new normal is anything but what I had expected. But then again, life typically has a way of making you eat your words. Words like “I’m never moving back to the Valley,” are suddenly dumped upon a plate you’re expected to finish before leaving the table. To some, it’s a disgusting process. But to me, it’s been humbling. It’s been eye-opening. It’s been part of the reason why returning to LA and seeing old friends didn’t feel as shocking as I thought it would be. Because I’ve found my new normal. I’ve settled into my routines. I’ve found a peace I’ve been looking for, for so long.

I know “normal” tends to be something that only sticks around for a season, that is a subjective experience derailed by life’s unexpected twists and turns. Trust me, I know that far well. I had expected my "normal" life in this season to be something completely different than what I'm currently doing. My life is anything but what I had imagined or set out for myself - one, two, even three years ago. But this new normal, even though it’s piled high on my plate, is something I've quietly come to accept and participate in. It’s something that didn’t seem appealing at first, but has come to be one of my favorite meals. I’m going to soak in this normal as much as I can, as long as I can, adding to it’s unique shape and size with each new experience along the way.

My new normal is a little bit like me.

It sticks out in a crowd, it has a story unlike anything anyone’s ever heard. It chooses to stand up tall with confidence, moving into a crowded room and breathing deeply. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a hard worker willing to put in the time and effort to see the results it desires. It keeps things fresh, while still maintaining it’s typical routine.

I have a feeling we’re going to be just fine together.

Respectfully submitted,
Leah

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