the time-in-between.

by Michael King

Confession time: Sometimes I break the rules I’ve set for myself. While I will emphatically profess it is always best to wash the dishes before going to bed, I sometimes wave the task away and collapse into my comforter instead. I’ve napped in contact lenses, used “literally” in a sentence that didn’t require it, and had ice cream twice in one day. This is the joy of writing one’s personal Constitution: There’s always room for an amendment or two.

This blog entry serves as the culminating product of two such rule breaches: (1) don’t be in your office past 8 PM ever, and (2) don’t wait to blog about something until it’s no longer chronologically relevant. Looking at it here in my drafts folder, I couldn’t bring myself to (1) leave the office or (2) delete the draft, and so here we are: a reflection on my time in between grad school and the move to Ball State.

As I wrote two entries ago, the weeks following my grad school graduation were characterized by an unsettling sense of aimlessness. As I packed up my things and left EIU behind to head home for a few weeks, I made mental checklists of activities to fill the space: visits to friends, walks with family members, a few books and video games and movies that grad school hadn’t left time for. I could make these three weeks work for me, I thought.

What I did not realize, I can see now, is that I needed the three weeks. If anything, grad school taught me that I could juggle a seemingly infinite amount of responsibilities at one time. It taught me that I could keep jogging through the rigorous marathon of life, that I could hold my breath and bear through a time of chaotic expectations and competing commitments. What the three weeks taught me, however, was to reacquaint with what it felt like to just breathe.

No matter how the world moves or changes, I find my quietest peace when at home with my family. Growing up in a home with five brothers and sisters, I long ago learned to appreciate the comfort of walking into a room and finding somebody to hang out with. Throughout my time at home, I had meaningful conversations, uproarious belly laughs, and the opportunity to reaffirm the nonnegotiable nature of these people’s place in my life. I stepped into my Grandma’s home, a place I spent countless days and nights of my childhood in, as she began the process of packing her things to move into a new home. These are important matters. The things, I believe, I will smile upon as my life begins to close.

I also attended my niece Lynnlee’s dance recital. Arriving with just ten minutes to spare, my younger sister and I finagled our way in, sliding into a row dominated by our family and watching a series of performances. As expected, Lynnlee Reese enjoyed every minute of her time on the stage, and I couldn’t help but smile and wonder where the time has gone.

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The King family also ushered in a new family member. Following the loss of our family dog (and trusty pal) Winston in the Fall, all gatherings have been characterized by a small void. Christmas morning at the tree no longer had an exhausted, bewildered animal looking around at us in question, Dad ringing the doorbell brought no barks, and couch naps were painfully Winston-free. In a tribute to one of the most remarkable friends we’ve ever known, we adopted a new puppy and named her “Winnie.” And, tiny though she may be, she is hilarious and remarkable and warm. She makes me remember the good friend I loved so much.

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There were other things: Sharpie messages on coffee mugs, trips to Ritter’s in North Terre Haute, tearful hugs, an endless road trip to see two remarkable students at their new grad school home in Kansas, NRHH’s summer meeting at EIU, a night at The Paw, runs through Deming Park and along the Heritage Trail, and a thousand other memories to bring a smile to my face. The moments that filled the gap between grad school and my first full-time job, the time-in-between.

And, though the time has drawn to a close and I now find myself situated in a process of preparing for the busy year to come, I am grateful for the chance to catch my breath and gather my energy again.

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