We had a busy weekend. Two parties in two days, actually, which pretty much meant I didn't get a lot of recovery time from a crazy week. The parties were great--one for the end of Jacob's baseball season and the other a big surprise party for our daycare's former director--but lots of sun and heat and food didn't really help my cause. But at least we had fun!
I'm still thinking back on the week I had last week. I feel so lucky to have been able to go on that trip, and I'm grateful for the people I met and the experiences I had. Going back to the college life after 15 years away was pretty crazy, even if it wasn't exactly college life. But I do think that my comparisons to my college orientation were fair, and I could add summer camp to that, as well. Over the course of the week it definitely began to remind me of the week I spent at camp when I was 13. The only difference there, really, was that I had a couple friends going in so I wasn't completely on my own. But the week of a certain schedule, wise leaders, fun activities, and a handful of inside jokes was definitely reminiscent of that time. And the sadness upon departure when you know you won't see these new friends anymore was very similar, even in this age of social media. I mean, I am Facebook friends with a couple of the people I met, but the rest I just connected with on Linkedin. I don't really spend a lot of time there, nor do I expect that I will have much contact with them there since our jobs are very different. But it was fun while it lasted.
Another recurring comparison to my previous life experience was going to retreats in college. We'd go off to a camp for a weekend, spend two days immersed in the Bible and our faith, and come back to school bursting at the seams with joy and excitement about all we learned. The challenge, of course, was channeling that passion into changing our daily lives once we were back to the grind. It was hard, no doubt. Similarly, I'm coming back to work with a newfound understanding and appreciation of this industry, as well as some ideas for ways to improve our programs. Some of the suggestions are far bigger than my position or even my immediate department, but some are small tweaks we can consider making to our work that might make a difference, too. The tough part is communicating it without sounding like a) the naive newbie; or b) the over-eager change-pusher who doesn't know what she's talking about and makes everyone else's job harder in the process. I've put together a simple powerpoint of the points that stood out to me, and hopefully I'll get a chance to share it. Everyone's been too busy since I got back to sit down and chat, unfortunately. Talk about a buzz kill.
I definitely had a couple moments at the conference of "Here we go again," when I found out I was in a different set of dorms than the majority of the attendees. It was like my orientation without a roommate all over again. I was concerned about getting back to my dorm alone after night activities, because even though the town seemed very safe, you just never know. It's just easier to coordinate activities--dinner, paddleboarding, etc.--when everyone is in the same place. Ultimately, I did discover a few friends in my dorm, which made things a lot easier. The main difference from orientation, though, was the complete sense of relief I felt during alone time. Well, not complete. I did worry that I was supposed to be there networking and meeting people, and I worried about what I might be missing if I was alone. And I wondered if something was wrong with me because I was alone, but then I looked around and realized that not everyone was grouped up. But by the end of the second day I found myself craving alone time because the learning and social aspects of the conference were intense. I took detours to sessions so I could walk alone on campus and snap pictures, and I reveled in the hour or so alone in my room at night. On the last full day I even decided to eat lunch alone. There were people I could have joined, but I was worried about joining up with the same people repeatedly. so I sat in a corner and ate with my iPod Touch in hand. About 10 minutes in I was joined by one of my group buddies (the 60+ data guy) and that was just fine, too!
Still, it really struck me how I live in a little bubble right now. Even though I just started a job a little over three months ago, I feel like my circle of friends and acquaintances has remained fairly steady, and it's hard to remember that there are wonderful, amazing people out there and we should pursue the chance to learn so much from them. I don't get out much, I admit, partly by design and partly because I just can't, and I think sometimes that limits me more than I'd like.
I had a conversation on day 3 with the group I bonded with most about the most adventurous things we've ever done. I didn't really have an answer. Does spending a week traveling to amusement parks and riding a ton of roller coasters count? They considered going through childbirth twice a valid entry, but it really did make me wonder where I went wrong. I mean, I value my life (particularly as a parent) so things like skydiving and mountain climbing seem a little out of my wheelhouse, but I just haven't really had the opportunity to do crazy stuff. I really enjoyed the stand-up paddleboarding, and it was a good reminder that I need to take a chance and seize opportunities like that, even if they scare me a little. I'm noticing hesitance on Jacob's part lately to do things like that, too. He didn't want to get in the pool at his baseball picnic until most kids were out, and he was making excuses for not wanting to go on his spray park field trip this week or on an amusement park trip we're planning for later this week (don't worry, Grandma, he'll deal!). I am trying to get to the root of his hesitance, if he's nervous about something or truly thinks he won't enjoy it, but I hate to see those qualities showing up in my seven-year-old who has yet to really live. And on the flip side, how do you cultivate that willingness without it swinging the other way and making him a little too eager to try whatever new (potentially stupid) thing comes his way?
One of the unfortunate consequences of the trip was that I gained four pounds! I do think some of that was water weight, because I drank a TON of water when I was there. The water bottle they provided was at least 20 oz., probably more, and I'm pretty sure I refilled mine half a dozen times a day (though it probably wasn't always completely empty). But it was a lot of water. Still, I know some of it was eating...a lot. We were eating at an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall, which was new for me, and on top of that we had big dinners and lots of snacks between sessions. We usually had two morning snacks and two afternoon snacks, ranging from sweet breads and pastries to cookies, brownies, make-your-own trail mix, soft pretzels, and cotton candy! There was always fruit, too. I didn't always take something, but it was always tempting. My meals in the dining halls weren't as bad as they could have been, but I had some form of eggs most mornings (in a sandwich, with bacon, with yogurt) and my lunches ranged from pizza to a vegan taco to a panini, sometimes with salad on the side. But I pretty much always got a warm cookie! We had two very nice dinners put on by the conference, and then my two dinners on my own both happened to be giant burgers. It was not on purpose, but just worked out that way. I think that put me over the top! I can't even imagine how much worse it would have been if I drank more than one night of the four! A couple pounds came off pretty quickly, but my urgency to hit the gym is definitely up!
Back at home, the boys did fine. I did have to reload the dishwasher and do some extra picking up, but for the most part the house remained intact and the boys seemed happy. I could tell Carter was happy to see me, but he's definitely been a Daddy's boy since I got back. In fact, Craig can barely get a moment alone between the two of them! I definitely missed them but appreciated my time away. I FaceTimed once and called a couple other times, and when the kids were around it was chaos on the other end! I thought it was cool that Jacob wanted me to show them my room when we FaceTimed. I know it was hard for Craig, particularly dinner time, but it was hard for me to feel too bad since he'll be gone for 10 days in another couple months!
I mostly just love going on trips like that to remember that there are so many places to see and so many hidden jewels. When else would I have the chance to drive through ski country and stay at a historic Ivy League campus? It doesn't have to be fancy or exotic to be cool. It's looking like this year's family vacation is going to be about as exciting as last year's, as we're continuing on the cheap, close, and yet unexplored track we were on last year. Stay tuned. But we will have fun, I'm sure, and at this point the kids don't really care where we go as long as we do something new. I guess I'm up for another adventure...as soon as I get a little more sleep!