Standing in a room of mirrors, like celebrating a new year; perfect for glancing back and looking forward

Wow 2011 is here!!  The first thing actually that the date 2011 brings to mind is that it will be TEN years since 9-11, and that just sends my head spinning.  Ten years ago REALLY?  I mean I still remember what I was doing then…I was in high school.  Then I think HIGH SCHOOL!?  I’ve been out of high school for six years this spring!!  Its been six years since I have done drill team, or competed at volleyball or track, or really even seen many of the people I went to school with back then.  Naturally from there I progress to realizing, not only am I a high school grad…but a college grad…and it will be two years out of college this spring.  And while it seems strange to think high school was six years ago…it really seems strange for some reason to realize college was actually two whole years ago.  I still feel pretty much the same as I did while I was at UNL…But not…and most of that “but not” developed in 2010.

So for those who have been dedicated readers this will be a little recapping for you…and for anyone new to my blog…here is basically my 2010 in a nutshell:

God truly blessed me with tons of learning experiences, growth opportunities, adventures, friendships, and wonderful memories. I began the year, living in Owasso Oklahoma with my parents and working at the Cheesecake Factory in Tulsa.  I worked at the Cheesecake for about 9 months total from Fall 2009 to Spring 2010.  While depending on tips (aka customer generosity) as my sole source of income proved challenging at times, general I really enjoyed working at the restaurant, meeting and serving people, and joking around with my co-workers.   Anyway, that is only where the year began 🙂  Around mid-April…I quit my job at Cheesecake, packed up my one LARGE backpack, kissed my family good-bye, and hi-tailed it over to Europe where I spent the rest of April, May, June, and July traveling, exploring, and learning.

To say the least…it was an epic time in my life.  One of the best things I have EVER done for myself, hands down.  I met the most incredible people, experienced different cultures and languages, actually saw some of the amazing architecture I had learned about for years in school, and really developed a better sense of direction.  Direction not necessarily in my life, haha that is still hanging in the balances, but physical direction.  Now, I seem to very rarely get lost when walking around and almost always know which way is North.  Kind of funny how aimlessly trekking around in cities will do that to you.

Reminiscing on some of the highlights from my trip, I must mention: going canyoning, going to a Spanish football/soccer game, visiting 3rd and 4th cousins, missing trains, driving cars in Rome, surfing for the first time ever, biking through Italian country-side, meeting and traveling with my now good friend Tyler from Boston, couch surfing, and much more…but truly this only brushes the surface of all I encountered and experienced on my trip. Therefore, I highly suggest you look back over the months of April, May, June, and July on this blog and really allow yourself to live vicariously through my European-adventure posts.

But my vagabond lifestyle in Europe couldn’t last forever [or at least it needed to end for a while :)] so I caught a plane back to the States.  I had a delayed change-over in Boston, so I could visit my new friend and experience another city I never had before, and then finally returned to Oklahoma, my family, and… job searching.

After a few weeks to recover from my trip, and attempt to start organizing the some 8,000 pictures I had taken :), I began the necessary steps of resume updating, portfolio perfecting, networking, and job googling.  The job hunt was long, tedious, and frustrating.  Taking me everywhere from Oklahoma City to Dallas, TX.  I actually stayed a month just north of Dallas in Plano with my Aunt and Uncle while I attempt to interview and meet with people in the city.  While the job related part didn’t great or horrible, staying with my extended family was a lot of fun.  It had been a long time since I had the opportunity to stay with them long than a day or two, which had usually just been at holidays and my entire family was also there, so it was a neat experience.  My Aunt and I got to go to hot yoga classes together, my Uncle and I were able to joke around and pester on another, I helped prepare food for and attended their super fun neighborhood dinners, went to the Texas state fair, and just got to spend some quality time talking to them about life.  So even though I went down to Dallas looking for a job and didn’t find one, I still gained so much from the time I had with my Aunt and Uncle and from the interviews I did get to participate in.  Plus, I also got to reconnect with an old friend and past assistant teacher I had learned under when I was in college.  He now lives in Plano too, and we were able to have dinner together and catch up.  So all in all, going to Dallas/Plano was really good…but it didn’t bring me a job.

Nope, that special honor was saved for…random…Joplin, Missouri.  And while I must admit Joplin was probably not my first choice for location…I have been working here since the first of December and I have really enjoyed everything about it since I moved here (well, enjoyed everything except that there is no CrossFit!!).  A month into my first as I call it “big-girl-job” and everything is going just swimmingly.  The people I work with are fantastic, encouraging, and super fun.  I am titled the “Learning Specialist” for the company, Leggett and Platt, and basically my job description includes designing and developing training material for various subjects and audiences throughout the company.  I have learned so much just in this first month, and after being out of school for a year and a half I have welcomed the new intellectual and skill challenges.  Still, the whole adjusting to an 8 to 5 job is taking some time.  It is still quite a struggle some days to not want to go outside and run-around, or go to the store and look at things, or call my friends/family, or just play on the internet…because hey I basically had whatever schedule I wanted for a while now.  But I am adjusting, and my boss is super patient with me when every so often I have to pop into her office because I needed to get out from behind my desk and computer 🙂

In addition to my new job, I now have my first solo apartment too.  I know 2010 was definitely a year of “first”.  My apartment is really just perfect, with two bedrooms and two baths.  I have outfitted it out quite nicely I think, and while I still have a few boxes and odds and ends still needing a place to go…I am beginning to feel quite at home in my new digs.  Plus, my parents really spoiled me at Christmas and got me a sweet new television, so now I am all set for movie nights and curling up on my couch 🙂

So, after all that, here I am…looking back at 2010 and stepping forward into 2011.  As I look over all the living that I did in 2010…I realize 1. that it was a huge year for growing and changing in so many many wonderful ways.  And 2. that it was year in which God really let me focus on me and discover more about who I am and who I want to be.  Getting to travel really opened my eyes to potential and possibilities.  It made me question, seek more, and discover things about myself, our world, and how those two things fit together.  Truly 2010 was a blessing in more ways than one.  I think it was so important that I had that time to really just be myself, with myself, and developing myself and not really worrying about anyone else.  While I feel that sounds somewhat selfish…I think everyone needs a good chance to experience who they are apart from all the other people and places they know.  By doing so you are able to realize just how good those other people are, or in some cases are not, for you.  It allows you to value having other people in your life, but also appreciate that God made you individually and separate from them.  Now, on a new note, I do feel like maybe 2011 is my year to be about other people.  God gave me so much last year, and this year I really want to be able to share.  Now that I do have a salaried job, I have a more consistent schedule and money flow.  Things are a bit more predictable, and I am praying instead of getting bored with this predictability I can use it to help other people and contribute in ways I have not been able to before.

I have recently been doing some google searches for places to volunteer, and the last few Sundays I have been visiting different churches in hopes of finding a new Church family.  This last Sunday I was invited by one of my new, super sweet co-worker and friend Katie to her church in south Joplin.  While I don’t know that I’ve decided to quit my search yet…I was blown away by the kindness and friendliness of their pastor.  He actually sent me a personal e-mail telling me how much he enjoyed meeting me, and how fun I had been, and because I had told him some about Europe and my love for activities…he even invited me to come play volleyball on Sundays!  And this is no small church either.  So that was really cool.

Anyway, I’ve gotten of topic a bit…so I just want to wrap up this long post with some of the thoughts that have been on my mind regarding this next year:
1. So much happened in 2010, I really have no idea what God has in store for me for 2011.  But just knowing I have him, my family, and some really great friends (both old and some quite new) I am sure that there are going to be some really great memories ahead.
2. As I’d said…I feel like God really gave me a chance to be just Rachel in 2010, so I’m excited to maybe expand that realm and show God’s blessing, grace, and love to other people in 2011.
3. Though I have always known this, my past month experiences of starting a new job, moving to a new town, becoming an independent young woman…I still have SO much to learn.  Haha…but that is ok, and I just need to remember to be kind to myself and to have patience as I seek out new wisdom.
4. I am attempting to start a “Read the Bible in One Year” plan…so hopefully I can stick with that.  I think it would be a really good thing in numerous ways.
I’m leaving this list open-ended for now.  Pretty sure there are things I might add to this later, but for now…here’s to 2011 being the best year yet.  Full of surprises, more growth, new friendships, experiences, challenges, and joy.  I appreciate all of you who read my blog and I wish you all an equally wonderful year.  Big Hugs 🙂
Cheers to a year full of laughter!  Similar to smiling…they’re my favorite 😉

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