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* way over there

I’m an MK. As in “missionary kid,” someone who grew up “way over there” as in other than my parents’ home country. This is also known as a Third Culture Kid as someone who grew up in a culture in between my parents and the world I was raised in. In my case this was Madagascar. As in somewhere very far indeed from Minnesota. Another world on the other side of this world.

I grew up in a little town on a peninsula sticking out into the Indian Ocean with ocean within a mile of me on 3 sides. (Here in Minnesota we do have Lake Superior but it’s several hours away and not so much the same thing.)

One of the challenges of my time “way over there” is it’s easy at times like this for my thoughts to float back there. Memories of times past, wonderings of times present. This is especially true at times like this when I’m so much in between jobs as I am again now. It’s easy to go back to previous days, especially when some aspects of the present just isn’t much fun. Back there I never lacked for things to do. This just wasn’t a problem. Here, on the other hand, while there is much to do, I am unable to find a paid way to do this. If retirement was an option then I could just volunteer. But in my case at this point in time, not so much.

So one of my challenges these days is to not slip too far back into “way over there” memories and “If only…” wishes. For they are but memories, some of them quite old now. And “If only…” wishes are just those and no more. As in “If only…” is not to be. I am thankful it was, though.

* blogging

As I sit and reflect on life at this point one of the things that is working is this blogging that I continue to do. I can do it in small pieces, letting go of whether what I write is good enough as I can always go back and edit or even remove what I’ve posted. It allows me to venture out with thoughts without having figured out exactly where I’m going with them. It comes quite easily and I get positive feedback from it.

At a deeper level it allows me to surface things I’m thinking or at least partially have thought. To reflect in writing on some of what roams around in my head, as in reflections on this life of mine. Hopefully in so doing to get some of them nailed down better as in “been there, thought through at least some of that.” Or at least written down as far as I’ve thought through some things. With the opportunity to add if I so choose.

Are there any hints here in terms of what should come next? Ways the above can suggest for me next steps?

* so what’s next?

As I sit here looking online for jobs to apply to I realize much would have appeared to pass me by, at least–as far as I can tell–in terms of organizations’ views of what I have to offer them.

“So what’s next?” is indeed the question I am faced with at this point in time.

  • My time as an engineer ended when we moved to Madagascar and I was placed into another type of work–community development.
  • My time in Madagascar, doing what I’ve loved the most in my career, ended back in 1995 except for a few “teaser” consulting trips since then with none for awhile nor in the forseeable future. I had spent 20 years in higher ed earning a bachelors and masters in engineering and then a PhD in Adult Education preparing and then upgrading for that work. I had finally gotten to the level of expertise I had wanted to have for that oh so complex and important work and suddenly we had to come back to the US.
  • My time as a program evaluator at this point seems to have ended when I left Search Institute in part as that’s now 20 years ago (2000). This though due to my time in higher education my evaluation abilities have grown a great deal since then.
  • My time in full-time higher education ended in 2010 after 6 years at Bethel followed by 4 years at Concordia universities. Full-time teaching at Augsburg I’d hoped for after Concordia didn’t and won’t open up without some major changes I doubt will happen.
  • My time in adjunct teaching has been in a slow decline from a lot of adjunct teaching at several schools to now only a small remnant left behind at just one school.
  • My time back in community engagement, in some ways an extension of some of what I did in Madagascar, done for NAMI Minnesota, ended abruptly last year. Of all the different types of work I’ve looked for since then, this is probably what I’d most prefer doing if possible.
  • So now I volunteer with the Center for Victims of Torture hoping it might somehow lead to more as it has the combination of positive, quality outreach and international work I’ve looked for since coming back to the US in 1995. Though with budget cuts I’m increasingly skeptical anything will open up. Time will tell.

Up until 1995 I’d hoped I’d have another 4 to 6 years in Madagascar. Then up to 2005 I hoped I was going to become a tenured professor. Neither happened.

My journey has been impacted in a major way by the bipolar I live with. A part of living with bipolar is that there are times when the illness decreases your executive function and you do and say things you shouldn’t. In working on all this with my therapist we revisited my unsuccessful time at Bethel where I was tenure-track. We did this through the lens of the late onset bipolar I was most likely beginning to live with during that time. This was before I started seeing my therapist, before I was on medication for the depressive modes I was having and about 5 years before bipolar was finally diagnosed with certainty and mood stabilizers became part of who I now am–a person with far fewer mood swings.

So that’s my career. I am eclectic so that’s part of why it looks this way. I am also a “field person,” preferring working on the outside of offices with those the office serves to being “back at the office.” And bipolar has most certainly affected me as well.

So given the above, where do I look for what comes next? “Where?” and “what?” are both mysteries to me at this point in time. As a generalist I can apply and have applied for many jobs but evidently don’t rise to the upper levels any lists of potential candidates for the jobs I’ve been applying for.

So what’s next? Can someone tell me? Please.

* olderness

Just spent a couple days proving I’m now officially living with olderness. As in somehow the ground has gotten further away, things that were close are now further away, tasks that were easy are now not so much, and legs that used to move without thought? Not really. When did this happen?!

I’m going to call it living with olderness. At 61 I’m not actually all that old in this world of folks working well into their 70s. And with 3 little grand daughters I don’t want to be that old at least while with them. But doing some yard work these past several days has clearly indicated there are changes which have happened. I’ll hang onto the hope that I am getting wiser as I clearly am not getting any younger!

So I think part of living with olderness is that exercise has become increasingly a necessity as that’s part of the challenge–my tendency has been to slow down as olderness has progressed when I need to actually move a bit more (we’ll leaving speeding up alone for now anyway).

So it’s not so much “olderness, here I come” as “olderness, here I am!”

* lazy? or lost?

Lazy? Or lost? Several have posted about how to respond to those who call us bp-ers lazy. While I won’t deny my own talents in that area I think a bigger issue for me is feeling a bit lost. As in I don’t really know what to think and do with this at times very uncooperative brain of mine that can get lost in at least the shallower pits of depression so readily. Or then at times it takes off into the unrealistic, a bit too unleashed if you will, with the possibility for quite costly interpretations of and responses to the present. To the point that there are days when I wake up and ask myself, “OK, who am I today?” Because with bp2, by the very definition of my disease, it’s such a range from down to deeply depressed to up to highly hypomanic. Hopefully I’m living in a more normal “middle” somewhere but even that’s due to enough meds that it’s hard for me to know where I end and the meds begin? They’re clearly helping me with my bp but what other impacts do they have on me? Or maybe better what was just plain old me and what’s me plus my meds (unfortunately, “plain” old me isn’t very plain anymore)? So if I seem a bit hesitant with aspects of this life of mine, give me some space, please, as it’s confusing.

* bi-polar

I have written earlier about depression as that is something my psychiatrist assumed I was living with initially. It has its own realities in terms of how it shows itself, meds to use, etc. But some of those initially diagnosed as depressed are actually living with something a bit more complicated which is bi-polar. As in getting into “highs” that can be up to manic, requiring hospitalization, for those living with bp1 and hypomanic (lower level that doesn’t require hospitalization) for those of us with bp2.

The challenge with living with bp is that it is a mental illness. Like depression, it’s not something a person can just “control” as in make go away and never come back. For many but not all of those living with this a combination of medications and therapy can help a lot. Some living with this are still able to work, but many are not. But one of the tough things about it is it’s an illness that doesn’t go away. Once there one will have it for the rest of one’s life. That’s tough. Because it isn’t so much fun to have to live with. Meds help, but they are strong so there are side effects as well. Sort of a “what in this is me and what’s the meds?” kind of thing.

Therapy helps a great deal as it’s a lot to have to live with. In being able to talk through your thinking with a wise, kind person you can verify where you’re doing fine and where your system needs a bit of a tune-up. When things go hypomanic, to be coached on the executive function that becomes problematic. When depressed, on dealing with this as well.

And then there’s the impact on my spouse and children, God bless them every one! They are part of the journey as well, whether they want to be or not. And not just along for the ride but having to live with it as well in their own ways.

So I don’t know where you came from back about 15 years ago or so, but I’d be just fine if you decided to go back there oh bp of mine.

* searching

Some things just need to be found. For other things it’s more of a “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” Then there are those new things that just show up. Sometimes, though not very often, they just fall into your lap. But most of the time you have to go search for them.

First, the fall-into-your-lap types of things. These are the sorts of things you probably weren’t looking for but “poof” all of a sudden here they are. These are unexpected discoveries, often both in terms of what they are and what they respond to. Science generates lots of these all the time. 3M’s Post-Its are an example. When the search for one thing the scientist came up with something else.

Second, the let’s-go-looking types of things. To start, it helps to make sure you have as well defined a goal or object you’re searching for as possible. Sometimes this is very clear, as in “I need to find gas for my car.” Other times it’s a lot less clear as in “I need a new job but it’s not clear to me what that should be.” To which of course is added the reality that while gas stations sell gasoline, it’s only in times of economic prosperity that you can just go pick a job off of a shelf somewhere (and even the it’s only certain types of jobs).

Then comes the actual process of looking for what you’re trying to find. Sometimes the steps involved are quite clear as in before you can get gas you need to find a gas station… etc. Other times it’s a mystery Every.Single. Step. As in what explorers face. Those exploring new lands or new areas of science or artistry.

Then of course there’s deciding whether you’ve found whatever it is you’re looking for. If you have then great! Time to celebrate! (at least a little) And if you haven’t, then the search goes on…

* greenifying

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

It’s greenifying outside. The time of year when somehow, this nature of ours, exposed to months of cold and snow, somehow comes roaring back into a much more visible form of green life. Right now things are growing so fast you can almost see and hear them doing it.

How do they do this greenifying? How do they somehow hold onto it inside while the temperature plummets and absolutely freezes most things left outside? In our case for months on end? So that when the snow melts and rain falls and the sun begins to work again everything knows how to come out green at once, like a giant competition? With flowers on top of it all like icing on a cake? Magical!

And the birds and butterflies who fly north–how can they even traverse these incredible distances? The birds to bless us with their songs again as they flutter about the greenifying that is happening.

There are parts of living in Minnesota I don’t enjoy. But the greenifying? What a blessing this is!

* sunshine

It’s sunny out today. So much nicer than the alternative. Things are so much brighter and warm. And it’s very early much early spring now so everything but our dead trees in the back are getting green so fast you can almost see and hear them growing.

I’m not a fan of grey days. Too many of them in a row gets me down. Sometimes it’s grayness that either leads to or is part of rain or snow. That’s better. But other times it’s just grayness. That’s not. Colors fade and if it’s not summer, the temperature becomes much cooler or even downright cold.

I grew up out in the sun. 12 months a year as we lived in Madagascar where “cold” was weather in the 60s (F) which didn’t happen very often. It was time spent outside on the beach, playing basketball or volleyball on outside courts, riding bike, etc. Being in our “boxes” was reserved for school and sleeping. Gray days and rain, while frequent, was almost always warm.

And so I guess it makes sense that I view sunshine as the sign of life, the invitation, almost mandate, to be outdoors, to celebrate all of God’s incredible creation, to live.

And yet, as much as I still like sunshine, need it really, I now spend my days inside in the “boxes” I live and work in. Doesn’t make much sense and so I do need to do a better job of getting outside.

Out of my boxes, back into the sun. As in the days of my youth.

* fly away

For many of those of us who grew up flying back and forth overseas (for example MKs as in “Missionary Kids”), one of the magical parts of life was being able to get on a plane on one side of the world and then, after a day or two of up to several flights, being able to get off your final plane to a home on the other side of the world. In my case that was the different worlds of Minneapolis, MN and Fort Dauphin, Madagascar. The latter was a small town of about 50,000 back in those days located on the far southeast coast of the island at the end of either a 3-day drive or somewhere between a 1 and 3 hour plane flight depending on what type of plane you were flying.

One of the really big things about this reality is no matter what you were in the middle of on whichever side of the ocean(s) you were on, it pretty much ended by the time you were on the plane flying out with a new slate of things starting when you got off the plane on the other side. Three times for me this was just being gone for 3 or 4 months from Madagascar at which point you were back there again, so while a break, not a total one, more of some time away in the US. But three times when I did this it was for a year or more. This was much more of a break. Enough for there to be many endings in leaving either end with many beginnings in the new world to follow.

And I do mean “new world.” For though I have flown round trip from the US to Madagascar and back over 10 times in my life, the only way my brain can really understand how this western world is all connected to the African world is that I am flying some form of a “space” shuttle from Europe down to Madagascar and back. People are people. But their worlds? Very hard to believe they’re all part of one given how incredibly different they are.

One of the challenges MKs and some of those like us who’ve done this type of travelling face is a temptation to just pick up and move when things get to be a bit much. Put an end to what isn’t working and start over somewhere new. This generally doesn’t work very well if you’re wondering because there’s so much of one’s past that remains a part of one’s presence, almost like one’s DNA. But the thought is there because in my case I really loved the other side of the world I was blessed to grow up and then later work in. And there were some things in these United States which were quite honestly good to be able to get away from for awhile.

But here in the US is where I now am and over there is but memories and short news articles about various things going on. Along with friends and the beauty of it all, but there is there and that’s where I am not.

But still…