About a year ago, I made a video from some pictures and clips from a day spent hiking the Welsh Coast. For the musical entertainment I used Forlence + The Machine's Dog Days Are Over because as I stood on the vast beaches of the Welsh Coast that day, I thought that my rough days were behind me, that I would never have another "rough patch", that my dog days were over. Boy, was I wrong.
Last semester was rough for me. Re-adjusting to life back in Ada, working towards a degree I wasn't (and am still not) totally sold on, and trying to build friendships was a lot to handle for me. Just when my luck started looking up in the spring, I trusted someone I shouldn't have and summer time hit me right in the stomach. To make matters more interesting, I was trying to survive living in an attick apartment in a walking boot. I remember being so mad at the world, at the powers of the universe, at everyone around me, because I thought my dog days were over and here I was in the midst of 6 months worth of dog days. Florence had lied to me.
''Things changed when school started this semester: I was surrounded by the best friends I could dream of, I was doing well at work, and I had decided that school isn't the end game and I would make it through. But then last week happened. I was moving, working, going to school, trying to eat and sleep, losing keys, missing deadlines, forgetting about exams...anything and everything that could stress me out decided to show up like a zit on prom night. I woke up everyday thinking that if I could make until bedtime that night that I might just survive.
Well...I survived and yet again Monday has come and a new week full of responsibility and to-do lists is here and I'm still managing to function. I was listening to some music while I was getting ready this morning and that wretched song came on again....the dog days are over / the dog days are done / can you hear the horses? / you better run...and I finally realized something: the dog days are never over: the dog days are never truly over. The dog days just go into hiding for a while to come back when you least expect them and least want them to. The dog days are the plight of mankind, and there is nothing we can do to avoid them. The victory is in fighting through the dog days, and realizing that they are necessary because they make you appreciate the good days. I only know a good day from a bad day because I've had some really bad days. I only know a good friend from a bad friend because I've had some really bad friends.
So guess what - today might be one of your dog days. But guess what else - the dog days are temporary so get through this one and tomorrow happiness might hit you like a train on a track.
Note: I still love Florence + The Machine and Dog Days Are Over so here is a link to get your through your dog day.
I won't say that I have never been a procrastinator, because that would be a lie and I appreciate my readers too much to lie to them. I will admit to my procrastination, yet I almost always manage to swim to the surface at the last minute, dashing in with hot-off-the-press assignments and my charming smile that says "you don't really want to penalize me for being 12 minutes past the deadline, do you?"
But this time is different. The surface seems so far away, and I'm starting to feel the narcosis. The little munchkins in my head are starting to sound reasonable, telling me that obviously my professors are out to get me, that of course they get together in the wee hours of the morning for boxed wine and plan my dramatic downfall. Now, I know this isn't true. But if it was, at least I could blame my procrastination on someone other than myself.
The first two years of college were dedicated to keeping my grades up so I could study abroad (check), outsmarting a boy (now a mute point), and making Mckenzie proud of Mckenzie (mostly check). Well...now what? I've come back from the great adventure, I'm single as a Pringle, and my confidence and worth is found in the Lord. What now? What is the reason I wake up in the morning? Why am I bothering with all this? Why am I jumping through all these hoops?
I don't know, and contrary what my father always told me when I got in trouble, that is a totally acceptable answer right now. As much as I wish it wasn't, my current goal is to finish, and not fail. I wish I could tell you I can't imagine doing anything but teaching, that a high school classroom is where my heart has to be, that I can look past all drama and stupidity of public education and soldier through anyway. Sorry folks, but I can't tell you those things. To be quite honest, I see myself doing anything but that. Teaching is a labor of love, and I just don't know that I am made to love people in that way.
I am not saying that I won't ever "teach" someone something, or that I'm not going to continue my education degree. Nothing is changing. I will still be a certified teacher when I graduate; but I don't know what comes after that, and that is okay. I have 21 months to figure out what comes next.
So if you see me around, no I'm not sick or dying or depressed. I'm just in college. I'm scared to get a paper cut for fear of coffee spurting out where there should be blood.
Someday - I believe someday soon - there will come the bigger-than-me, world-changing, mind-shattering end game motivation that will drive the rest of my life.
If you' ve never spent time aboard, you may not get this post. If you have, I hope you tell me you relate to this post because I'm not sure if these feelings I'm having are normal.
I haven't blogged about or posted pictures from most of my trips I took while studying abroad. One reason is because I really want to write a good travel-article-type posts and am drafting those now. However, the main reason I haven't is because it makes me melancholy to think about those days in far off cities with people I don't see anymore.
Many people have asked me why I went, why I applied to leave home and all familiarity for nearly 4 months. I really struggle to answer that. I struggle to find a meaning to those 110 days. What was the purpose? What do I have to show from it?
Some nights, all I have to show for it is sitting alone in my apartment and wondering what my friends are doing, where they are, and if it all really happened. Those nights, I fight off the thought that I just fell asleep on September seventh and had a long dream. Those nights, I pour over my post cards and maps and travel log to remind myself it was real. I lay them out across my table and run my hands over the streets I walked, hold the post cards up to the window pretending it's my view, read over and over what I did in every city. Was it real? Did it happen? What was the point?
I'm honestly still working on that last question. I don't know that I'll ever have that answer.
For now, I operate under the thought that my crazy adventure made me grow up. It turned me into a more confident young woman. It's my point of reference for what I can do; if I can figure out how to get from Wales to Switzerland for less that $40.00 on my own, I can do anything. If I can survive a day in the Brussels train station with five euros to my name, I can do anything. If I can handle living with seven of the coolest but most extremely different people, I can do anything. If I can muster up the courage to wave goodbye to my parents at security, I can do anything. I can do anything. If I learned nothing else in 110 days, I learned that I can do anything.
My parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, friends, encouraging children's books, have always told me I can do anything. And I guess I always believed them in theory, but I never experienced it in practice. I suppose you have to do something to realize that you can do anything.
I promise I didn't forget about you. I promise I thought of you often. I promise that a hundred times I wished you were with me in some amazing place just so we could grab coffee. I promise I am still your friend. I promise that our friendship hasn't wavered.
But I need you to know something: I didn't text everyday, respond to every SnapChat, answer every Facebook message not because I didn't want to talk to you, but because my life didn't stop when I landed in a foreign country; if anything it accelerated forward in a way I never knew possible. I made friends you would love, visited cities that were missing only you.
Just as I feel the need to remind you that my life didn't stop and I wasn't ignoring you, I also have to remind myself that your life continued without skipping a beat when I left. You found a new routine. You made new friends. You have new inside jokes that I'll probably never think are funny. And my fickle self-esteem keeps me from thinking I have a place with you. I need reminders, probably too often. I'm not questioning your loyalty or love - don't read what I didn't write. I just struggle to put myself back into your life.
Please understands that when I shut myself in or run away for the weekend, it isn't because I don't want to spend time with you. That's what I want more than anything. I seclude myself because I'm not sure how to do anything else. It's the easy answer. It's the wrong one, but it's the easy one.
And understand that I'm different now. I'm not a different person, I've just squeezed two years of growing up into six months. I've experienced life in a way I will forever try to put into words but I will always fail. There is a part of me you will never be able to know and understand until you leave normalcy and live life with totally amazing strangers for four months and see things that have inspired humanity for centuries. And guess what? You can do that, and should do that, and need to do that. Please ask me how.
The next month could be hard, and might require us to put more effort into our relationship than ever before. I need you to listen and never understand, and I need to hear all about your life and have the opportunity to care. I need you to tell me to shut up about myself. I need you to warn your new friends about me and let them know just how cool I am. I need you to help me make this real life again.
Hope me not lose you.
Always your friend,
Mckenzie • Kenz • Kenzie • Makka • Mac Daddy • Dirty Mac • Sista Grigg• McGriggles • Mac Attack • Mack • Mankenzie • Big M
P.S. Thank you you for all the awesome nick names.
My deepest apologies for not posting in a while. To be honest, there just hasn't been much to post; life is just life, even when studying abroad.
Quite a bit back, my flat mate Sarah and I went on a day trip to Cardiff. Here is my travel journal from the day and some pictures.
09 October 2015
My flat mate Sarah and I planned a last minute trip to Cardiff last night. Although I feel like I don't appreciate a lot of the trouser attractions because I'm not a Dr. Who fan, I still had a really awesome time. Cardiff is beautiful city that is very proud of its Welsh heritage.
The train ride was pleasant and had no bumps. The first place we went was the Alexander Gardens, near the castle and the National Welsh Assembly.
In the middle of the gardens is the Welsh War Memorial, a monument erected to honor the died in the Great War. It was a solemn but beautiful monument, yet much more understated that war memorials in the States. After eating out picnic lunch, we strolled through Cardiff University. We didn't see much of it, but we did get to walk through the main hall, on of the oldest buildings on campus.
Right next to the University was the National Museum of Wales. There was a whole exhibit on William H. Smith's geological maps of England, Wales, and Scotland. MAPS, MAPS EVERYWHERE. Most of you know that I love a good map. Heck, I even like the bad ones! This exhibit immediately bumped its way to #2 on my favorite exhibits (#1 is the inaugural ball gowns at the Smithsonian of American History). I mean, this maps were amazing and to learn about how maps were packaged and sold in the 1800s was quite interesting as well.
The next big exhibit was Welsh Ceramics. I wanted to have a tea party in that room! There were so many beautiful pieces. There was also pottery from all over the world throughout the museum. After the ceramics, we walked through the Historical Art Exhibit, which was mostly paintings. There were paintings from all over the world categorized by country and time period. We were lucky enough to see quite a few of Monet's pieces.
The museum took a good chunk of time and walking, so we were ready for a little break. We went in search of a tea room I read about online called Barker's Tea Room. It's in the High Street Arcade; the arcades are the coolest. They are basically alley ways that have been covered and turned into streets themselves. You feel like you are discovering a little secret shops that only a very select few get to visit. Having tea was everything I wanted it to be. Barker's is two stories of mismatched furniture goodness and a must go if you are in Cardiff. It was also nice to spend time with Sarah outside of the flat and learn more about what she is studying, but more importantly her actual life. The first question every university student asks another university student is what they are studying; but for me, my studies are a small part of who I am and I've found that to be true of other students as well. Sarah is neat and I'm happy i get to live with her this term.
After tea, we walked through this neat little bookshop in the Castle Street Arcade. Three stories of £4 books and a fancy limited edition section. I bought three books because I'm me and it was a bookshop and that's what happens. It's inevitable.
It was really nice to get away and do something different if even just for a day. However, every adventure - even a day trip - I wish I had someone from back home to experience this with. To talk to in five years and say 'remember that time we did that? or when our train got delayed?' I think its just part of growing up to miss my family and to accept that I won't do everything with them. I am still so thankful for the opportunity to do this on my own and I think it's been a vital experience in growing my sense of self. Thank you, Mama and Papa Grigg. Thank you for letting me do this and instilling in me a sense of adventure. I can never repay you.
Check out the fun time I had with my friends at Winter Wonderland in Swansea! Christmas starts early here and I LOVE IT.
This afternoon I am overwhelmed with gratefulness that the God is who comforting me right now, is comforting my family in Oklahoma. The world lost one of its sweetest souls last night, but Grandma Grigg is being rewarded in heaven more than I could ever hope to be. The Father is welcoming home a good and faithful servant.
I am also overwhelmed gratefulness for the family of God, the Church. I went to bed last night not planning on going to church this morning, but after hearing the news of my grandmother, I knew I needed to. I knew she wanted me to. The congregation of Venue 2 Church here in Swansea have been more that I could have ever asked. They wrapped me up this morning and prayed comfort over me, and poured out hearts of genuine sympathy. I felt Christ's love through them this morning.
I am also grateful for flat mates who might not agree with or understand why I believe what I do, but they get that it hurts. My only hope and mission is that I can be a light for Christ through pain and loss.
When my Granddaddy died in 2011, my father told my brothers and me that death is a Christian's greatest opportunity to live out the gospel. Christ defeated death, and it is when we know him and our earthly lives end that we get to spend eternity in Glory with the Father! I find it no coincidence that this morning we sang "So death where is your sting? Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated." Death has no sting. And I believe for my grandmother that death was a relief. She wasn't able to communicate but I can imagine she was in a lot of pain, physical and emotional. But right now she is the presence of her Savior, running towards Him, singing His praises in her beautiful voice.
So yes, it hurts that she is gone. It hurts that I'm not with my family. It hurts that my daddy isn't here to wrap my in his constricting hugs that I miss so much.
But the hurt is so little compared to the joy I have knowing that Grandma Grigg is with Jesus.
Anyone who knows me knows I always make jokes about my poor athletic ability. I always tell people I'm the smart one, my brothers are the athletically gifted ones. However, I do have to brag on myself a little. I made a decision before I came to Swansea that I would join a sports club. The last thing I needed to do was become sedentary.
Well, I can't run, jump, throw things, lift heavy things, do most athletic movements so that left me with poor options. But I've always had this fascination with rowing and rowers in general. They are so athletic but in my mind it didn't seem that hard. I was right and wrong: they are athletic, and it is extremely hard.
The 7:30am workouts have been rough, and the water sessions do wear you out; but the reward has been great. I feel great with the regular activity and I've met a lot of really great people. The weekly socials make meeting people less awkward and they are just plain fun.
I love being in the same boat at the other novices (pun intended). We are all working hard to get the hang of it, and there isn't too much pressure when we look like goofs. Some the girls are really awesome and I look forward to more time with them.
I'm not sure if I'll get to race much before I leave, but that's okay! I will not regret joining. However, joining a club here has made me regret one thing: not finding a club or organization to get involved in at home. So if you get one thing out of this post, get this: no matter your age, stage of life, level of education, there is a group of people interested in the same things as you, or have the same goals as you, or the same struggles as you. They are waiting for you! It might require some extra looking but they are out there. And the fellowship you have with those people is worth the seeking.
- Dirty Mac
I found my destination wedding location and you are all invited in 20 years.
Last Thursday, two other Americans and I went hiking on the south coast of Wales just a few miles from Swansea. Although Swansea is bordered by a beautiful beach, we wanted to get away from the sounds of the city and enjoy the Welsh Coast line a little more. You are supposedly able to hike the entire coastline of Wales on the Wales Coast Path, which was established and built in 2007. It is eight section of hiking path right along the coast. If you are ever in Wales, I highly recommend you find the nearest section and hike a bit!
We started at Three Cliffs Bay which was beautiful, and at low tide there was so much beach. The short walk there from the bus stop was along cliffs and rock shores and I found the spot for my destination wedding in 20 years. We didn't actually hike down to the beach, but it was still spectacular. After looking down on the beauty for a few minutes, we decided to hop on a bus to the next bay. We had a few minutes to kill before the next bus (what else is new) we we thought we needed some cake from Three Cliffs Bay Coffee Shop. Readers, this coffee shop is reason enough to travel to Swansea. The ginger-honey-lemon cake was one of the best cakes I've ever had. And I've had a lot of cake.
We hopped on the bus to Pennard, played chicken with a tractor on a rural farm road, and finally made it to Pwlldu (Black Pool in Welsh). The beach was very secluded, and pretty difficult to access except by foot. The rocks and privacy reminded me of the opening scene of Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. I restrained the urge to sing. I don't know much times I said "we're in Wales" as I let the cold water from the Bristol Channel wash over my bare feet. Some days, I still can't believe I'm here.
We decided to hike the actually coast pasta from Pwlldu to Caswell Bay, which took about 45 minutes, and wasn't necessarily a easy hike. There were even sheep guards on the trail! Caswell Bay was also amazingly beautiful. To think that these are beaches in the UK still baffles me. If you are looking for a reason to come to Wales, make it the Coast Path and the beautiful bays.
After relaxing on Caswell beach for a while, we caught a bus to Mumbles, a small community just outside of Swansea proper where we had dinner and then caught a bus back in to town. And the I slept for a very very long time. With all the hiking, plus my run that morning, I ended up with 8.4 miles walking + running according to my phone. My dogs were barking!
It was such fun to get away from the flat and the city for a day and we are so thankful for the 'Indian Summer' they are having here. Enjoy the pictures below! Also, there is a link to a little video on some shots from the day.
(the newest nick name from my Aussie friend, so say it with an accent - 'Mackah')
So...sometimes 'studying abroad' is just that - studying. I apologize for not updating last Thursday (which has seem to become my blogging day), but there just wasn't that much to update.
I started a two work course entitled 'British Culture and Politics since 1945' the Monday after I arrived and it was not as much of a blow-off class as I thought it would be. The two weeks of lecture was fun and minimal effort was required. But then came the paper - 2,500 words about how British Cinema was used to show economic and political decline in the UK since 1945. Sounds fun, right? Actually, it really does. Under different circumstances, I would have really loved researching and writing this paper. However, I had a week to write this paper while all the students were busy partying all night, sleeping all day, and not worrying about anything in the world. The late night loud music and urge to sleep until 11am made finding motivation nearly impossible. Not to mention I only had until September 30th to finish The Office (US) before it was taken of UK Netflix! So last week was spent in the library, staring at a near blank word document hours on end. It finally all come together the night before it was due and my friends and I celebrated in a near empty pub and were in bed by midnight. What party animals we are (read: we are the boring Americans).
Lectures finally started this week and I only have class Monday and Tuesday. Hello 5 day weekends! I also had my first Rowing Club session last night - my legs are noodles this morning but I was encouraged by a returner that I wasn't the worst of the novice group. I'm off today and nursing what is hopefully not a stomach virus and scrounging up coins to do laundry ($4.85 to wash and dry!). I hope all is well with everyone back home, and I thank you all so much for your prayers and thoughts! My Mama tells me I am asked about often and I appreciate that so much!
Ta ta for now!
- Sista Grigg