After returning from Europe in the beginning of this year I was still in a state of constant transition. Half of my belongings were in upstate New York, a quarter on my back in the pack I’d been gallivanting through romantic European destinations with, and the rest of my worldly possessions in my mother’s basement. I decided to move in with her briefly, to “figure my life out”. I was delivering groceries about 11 hours a day, trying to climb out of my European Vacation money pit. While not the most stable point of my year, beyond all that came after, this was the most special time to me. I haven’t lived with my mother and sisters since high school, and we were all under the same roof again.
Growing up with a single mom and all sisters we are indeed a pack of Amazon women strong, independent, driven, and ferociously supportive of each other. My family is everything to me and to have the Girl Gang back together meant more than the world… even if it meant sleeping on my mama’s floor in a technically two bedroom home, converted to 3.5, but currently housing 7 humans…. Then came good news all at once, I was accepted into the University of New Haven for a fully funded masters program in Environmental Science AND I was accepted into a separate summer internship to work with US Fish and Wildlife at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.
I had my assumptions about spending the summer in the middle-of-nowhere, MN. Wow was I wrong! Tamarac now holds a special space in my heart as one of my favorite locations on Earth. It was the peace, solitude, and wild strength I needed after my time in Europe and in DC. The people I worked with at the refuge became family, I love and miss them all. I learned so much, but that wasn’t what set this experience apart for me. It was the first time working as an intern where I didn’t feel like I was just absorbing knowledge, I felt valued and my confidence grew. As the internship progressed I felt more and more like a contributing member of the team and a sense of pride and independence I hadn’t felt before blossomed within me. The most important lesson I learned in that forest had nothing to do with the swans, the sampling techniques, the way a National Refuge operates; the most important thing I learned was how to start truly trusting myself again. This is something we have a firm grasp on as children, and unfortunately for most of us as we get older that trust in our intuition fades. I grew this summer from somewhere deep in me, while deep in the woods… into someone stronger, someone familiar, someone I once was, someone I always have been.
That was far from easy, growth never is. The usual lessons were learned, that you can’t take every thing, person, or idea you once held onto with you. Losses I’m still grieving today. I left feeling brand new, at peace, ready for the insanity that would be August. Since I am apparently insane… I decided that it would be a great idea to do a “few fun things” before I buckled down into my graduate studies… those few things included vacationing in Jamaica, visiting Ithaca, moving into a new apartment, working for a week and a half for my professor in the lab, and flying to the west coast to go to Burning Man again. Yeah, I know. So off I went. I left Minnesota on the 25th of July, and 28 days later I am on a flight to California writing this post. I started with an epic and eventful road trip, where I spent the night sleeping at a truck stop just outside of Chicago, and got from MN to DC in barely 2 days, which is about 20 hours of driving folks… if I made zero stops. I had then three days before my flight departed for Jamaica, which I had yet to pay for, thank the Goddess for sisters that can spot you $, and my ability to contribute to a trip with my master planning skills and intense Virgo organizational habits that border OCD! I spent those days packing and catching up with friends and family! Then paradise!!
I thought I was going to just luxuriate buuut I ended up being the master-planner-mom for my sister’s dirty thirty, where out of 9 people she was the only person I knew. I coordinated the logistics for her and 8 of her friends, and all though I was “busy”, I realized I LOVED it. I knew I liked planning, thank you September birthday, but I didn’t know how fun it was to coordinate a big trip like that (I’m weird I know), and to top it off I absolutely adored all of her friends! We stayed in a villa, had a personal chef and driver and butler. I have never traveled like that in my life and it was fabulous. I stayed an extra two days and traveled a little more my speed (I spent one entire day sleeping), but then I hit the beach and the markets and local eateries. I stayed in a hostel right in the middle of the gritty city of Montego Bay for about $20 a night and I was in heaven. Just drowning in a culture so similar to my own having grown up in the Virgin Island, yet so unique. I ate myself silly. Then home again home again jiggity jig. I was thrust back into reality.
Ok, let me preface this next part with… yeah I know I’m not the most conventional, and as much as I just said I love planning… that’s usually just for other people when it comes to me, I prefer the procrastination route. So, now it’s the 9th of August, I need to be working in my lab the morning of the 14th…. I don’t have an apartment, I don’t have any of my belongings, oh… and I don’t have any money. Like I have $150 in my account, which fingers crossed covered the gas to get there. I was banking on a loan coming through, but come to find out that won’t clear until the 28th. Moral of that story… have friends that love you like family and family that’s ready to ride-or-die like best friends! I figured out the money, packed a truck my mom would drive later that weekend and headed up to Ithaca, NY to collect my storage. I spent not even 24 hours in Ithaca, I loaded a Uhaul, again thank you for humans that love me enough to lift heavy objects for me, and strapped my car to the truck then checked in for a brief night of sleep.
Next day… dooms day, I actually can’t even… I will save what happened the next day for its own very special post called “Try and Move When Mercury is in Retrograde, I Dare You”, yeah it was that bad. Long story short for those of you who are tired of me and won’t be reading the next post…. Every possible piece of equipment malfunctioned, every apartment was rented, Murphy’s law was running around in its birthday suit having a damn field day! The universe eventually came through and by 6 pm I had an INCREDIBLE apartment with an amazing landlord in an awesome part of town. I actually live in what everyone refers to as “the hood”, but it’s my people… black people of all backgrounds, tons of Caribbean people, I’m walking distance from an organic grocery store and 4 Jamaican food spots… it’s a dream. I’m also a 6-minute drive to campus and less than a 4-minute drive to the downtown area of New Haven. My mother, who had met me that morning with the truckload of my things from DC, picked the most incredible restaurant and we went out to congratulate ourselves on surviving the day.
I slept the entire next day. Then it was Monday, I had to start work. That whole next week was spent meeting lab mates, collecting crabs in the marsh, running around filling out university paperwork, and pretending to unpack. I had zero time to get anything done in my house. The weekend came around and I was living out of suitcases and boxes, I couldn’t even start to unpack because the apartment was unfurnished and I had nowhere to put anything! I spent Saturday buying an entirely inappropriate amount of Ikea furniture, and all of Sunday marathon-assembling. Come Monday, work again. This is when it sinks in that I leave for Burning Man in just over 48 hours…. My apartment is chaos and not only do I have to unpack all my Burning Man gear I also have to then sort through and pack what I need for this year. I honestly couldn’t stay up past 8 pm, my body was revolting… it was like screw you, we have been in transition for almost 28 days lay down… OR ELSE.
I had to listen I had no choice. I slept through the night like a baby, wishing in the morning I had just pulled at least one all-nighter that week! Tuesday, my last full day in New Haven, I couldn’t pack at all because it was graduate orientation day at UNH. I spent the whole day meeting new people across tons of fields, it was a blast. When it was finally over I needed to unpack/pack, but I crashed. I attempted to take a nap and woke up 8 am. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention…. I had a 10:30am meeting with the team I’ll be working on for my graduate grant-funded research, and I needed to leave town by noon to drive to Newark to catch my afternoon flight to San Jose. Yoga breaths!!! I tell my girlfriend who’s driving me to the airport once I get to Jersey my “status”…. Her response “oh you’re playing with life today”, she isn’t wrong, haha I never have been this unprepared for Burning Man.
It would seem an impossible feat, but apparently, the universe is into cosplay as much as I am. I move faster than maybe I ever have in my life. I spent the next hour cleaning and organizing my apartment to an acceptable state, then 40 minutes deciding what I needed to bring to the Burn this year, and 20 minutes packing it. I was only 5 minutes late for my meeting. I then drove back to my house, picked up my bag and packed a few last minute things, I was on the road at 12:20. I got to Jersey in time to have lunch with my friend and her beautiful baby girl before heading to the airport. Here is where I take a bow…. Thank you, thank you, but I can’t take all the credit for this impossible circus act, let’s hear it for the Universe!
As I type, I’m snuggled into my Alaska Airlines seat, which I didn’t realize was premium and comes with free drinks… I love surprises. I’m three glasses of wine deep, and happy as a clam. It’s been two whole years but I’m finally heading “Home”, Burning Man here I come!!! Overcome with emotion my eyes started getting watery.. my emotional state is totally exacerbated by the Pinot Gris and the mama rocking her 4-month baby next to me (I have baby fever), but it was more than that. I was having one of those heartfelt moments when one realizes how incredibly blessed they are… and how little that has to do with anything material in their life. The sheer amount of love engulfing me every day I wake up is an outright miracle. I love my life, and I love unconditionally the people who have chosen to be integral parts of it.
Well, that’s all for now folks. I will check back in after I am done getting good and dusty!
Olivia, Olive, Ollie.