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  • Writer's pictureJessyca Stoepker

Changes on the (northern) horizon

This is my first blog post. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

As I write this, a cool nighttime breeze comes from the street to brush my collarbone, and the rain that drips off the roof ledge threatens my laptop's well-being. It's a Sunday night. I'm sitting on the two-step cement stoop and leaning against the side of the old Butterworth house that has been my home for nearly a year. The peach yard light floods half of the uneven driveway, illuminating the stupidly wide and deep craters the landlord has yet to fill in and that have most likely lowered the resale value of our cars. If I wander a few feet past the recycling bin on my right, the inextricable scent of cat piss makes my nose crinkle up.

But this spot on the stoop isn't bad. Sometimes Kara would sit out here to tan her face, a lazy morning before heading to the other side of the city for work. I'm sitting here now, remembering this, remembering so many little details like this, less than a week before I move out of this house and this city--a city I now know like the back of my hand.

Someone once told me that, with every year you grow older, your cognitive perception of time speeds up. This is why an infant's underdeveloped brain will hold no recountable memories until they are of a certain age, why ten minutes feels like years to children a little older, and why every month seems to fly by with greater velocity as soon as we reach high school. I'm to the point where every day feels like a sneeze, my possibilities fluttering away like the petals of a flower at my nose.

A few weeks ago I informed my larger social circles that I had accepted a job offer in Petoskey, MI, as a Community Engagement Coordinator for the nonprofit Manna Food Project. As of now, I start on August 6. All my years of striving ahead in high school and college--internships and jobs and high grades and clubs and volunteering and exhausted tears--have finally landed me with a career that chose me. Now, I am on the eve of moving up to a studio right downtown, overlooking Little Traverse Bay, a walk or bike ride away from everything in what will become my new life. And, up until now, the reality of that had yet to hit me.

In a short period of time, my life has changed drastically. I graduated college. I finally left my job at Spectrum Health after 2 years 8 months, leaving behind several friends. I've accepted a full-time, well-salaried position. I've found a new place to live. So has my sister; she's moving into an apartment in Big Rapids. I've had several personal friendships evolve: some friends I've gotten much closer to, some have stepped away. My finances have shifted and have become scary with student loans on the horizon. My nuclear and extended family dynamics are difficult to even think about, let alone mention here. I've wandered into strange new relationships and romances, some that have ended badly and some that have granted unexpected benefits. And through it all I've struggled with anxiety flares and depressive episodes that have both tainted my life and have helped me truly appreciate the precious uniqueness of it.

I only expect changes to continue once I do finally move. I'll be alone a lot, and most of my interactions will be with an older crowd. My schedule will be "regular" once again, allowing me to focus on a more structured day and a healthy routine. My stress will be transposed into productivity; I will be typing, mailing, walking, scribbling, instructing, meeting, planning, and DOING again. I will be forced to become even more of an adult than I already feel. I'll actually have to buy a decent vacuum this time. And probably get a few clothes dry-cleaned.

People ask me if I'm nervous. If I'm scared to live alone, in a city four hours from home, friends, and cozy vegan restaurants. While I am anxious to start managing a program I've had little experience with--and to generally live up to my new superiors' expectations--I wouldn't describe my overall aura as "nervous" right now.

Instead, half of me feels melancholic, a weird pre-nostalgia that I always get when I overthink a new life event. Flash back to the end of sixth grade when I went around hugging all of my teachers because I didn't want to leave the "best year ever"--even though I had two more years in the same building (and didn't give a rip when I left eighth grade). Or any significant social outing when I demand everyone to stand together for a picture or sneak them when no one's looking. Similarly, right now I feel the need to capture everything, write letters to my friends, tell them I love them, treat them to dinner when both of us can barely afford rent. I can hear a clock ticking away in the background of every Millennial throwback we blast heading to the lakeshore or jamming at a Quarry House basement concert. Kara and I made a roommate bonding bucket list to do before we leave, filled with things that scream GR: drinks at the Meanwhile before we feel too out of place and duck out, laying on the beach, walking downtown for margs and tacos, Fulton Street Bar karaoke, dancing the night away at Mojo's, swimming in the fountain. Each box we check seems to bring more sadness than accomplishment. We don't want to leave. Grand Rapids has held so many memories, and I will miss everything, even this damn, poorly-insulated Butterworth house and our uninvited mouse friend, Jerry.

But I'm in no way regretting my decision to move up north--far from it. The other half of me craves the new. I want to feel raw and vulnerable again, like a fresh sheet of slate waiting to be carved with a new prophecy. I'm a believer in potential, and both Manna and Petoskey exude plenty. I'm envisioning myself curled up in my studio, looking out over the blue of the bay, drinking coffee and working on pages of a novel in-between work projects.

I can see myself excelling. Growing. Fulfilling. And I am so, so ready for that.

With these thoughts of the past and the future in my mind, I'm trying my best to think of the present, too. I'm trying to watch my words carefully and make sure I still always leave behind goodness with my speech; I'm trying to spend time with my mom, and to make my sister laugh more. I'm trying to solidify myself in my life's moments, however simple they may be, because things are complicated and will only become more so.

So in conclusion: new job, new digs, new dynamics. We'll see if these changes on the horizon make a new me, too.

All the best,


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