Where have you been?

Welcome back to abovetowne.

If you are reading this blog post, there is a good chance you have noticed (or are now realizing) that I have gone on a rather protracted hiatus from writing on this blog. You may well be asking, “Where have you been?”, a question I have been posing to myself a lot over the past couple of weeks, as well. I have some thoughts on this, and I hope you will indulge me in a bit of self-reflection here—though I promise to keep it brief and to return to more typical work after this.

I began this website at possibly the worst time in my life to start a blog, about one year ago in the summer of 2020. A year previously, I had gotten married to my college sweetheart, Jonathan, and, a week into our marriage, we moved to St. Louis, where we would both be attending graduate school. After a summer internship at Concordia Publishing House (an experience I absolutely and unreservedly loved), I began a doctoral program in Early Modern European History, which was what I studied as an undergraduate. Within a few months, I realized that I was not cut out for academic life.

This struck a pretty harsh blow to my sense of identity; I was a high-achieving student—and always had been—with a keen interest in learning, writing, and teaching. But all the excitement I felt, all the creativity and joy I had experienced in classrooms throughout my life, quickly faded away, leaving me depressed and confused. I decided to change programs and instead get a Master’s degree, which would only take two years to finish, and which I did finish last month. As you can imagine, the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years were each deeply challenging in their own ways, adding to the anxiety and difficulty I felt, both as a student and as a teaching assistant. I also was working multiple part-time and freelance jobs in order to support Jonathan and myself, which certainly added to the chaos. In addition to all that, I had an ovarian cyst rupture in August 2020, which my doctor thinks may have been due to the stress I was feeling. This event began with a morphine drip and a CAT scan at an Urgent Care and ended (well, sort of—it is technically on-going) with the diagnosis of an unrelated but still unpleasant and painful gynecological condition, which, you guessed it, is also worsened by stress.

After about a solid month of finishing, defending, and submitting my thesis, wrapping up the semester with my students, and attending to a number of pressing projects at my other jobs, I have finally caught up, at least enough to take a breath and look around for the first time in what feels like forever. For reference, I have been doing schoolwork on weekends most of the year since the ninth or tenth grade, nearly ten years now! And while this sudden lifting of my workload after such a long time is in many ways a relief, it is also a bit of a shock.

I’m realizing that, for nearly a decade of my very short life, I have exerted absolutely crushing pressure on myself. Workaholic doesn’t really capture it; I idolized my academic work, to the point of sacrificing nearly everything else—including, as I painfully realized last year, my health—in its pursuit. And, like most sins, in addition to being simply wrong, it also wasn’t good for me, in body, spirit, or mind.

This has taken me a long time to realize, to which my ever-patient husband can attest. And still, this realization alone is not enough; there is still the monumental task of figuring out how to do the right thing going forward. I’m realizing how stupidly anxious I’ve driven myself to being—how pointlessly I’ve tried to push down and ignore the values that I hold dear, even my personality and interests. Not only that, but there were even parts of me that started changing, and not for the better, in this prolonged disordering of priorities and needs.

I want to do art again. I want to read for pleasure again. I want to share how I really think and feel again. I want to speak openly about my faith and about Christ again.

It’s a slow process figuring all of this out—figuring out where I’ve been and where I’m trying to go. I hope to share some of what I’m doing with you all now that I have the time and am in a better spot. I’ve got a lot of things I’m really excited to share with you, and I’m thankful for your patience with me during the very quiet first year of this website.

I’m excited to finally explore abovetowne with all of you. 🙂

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