Anna Maria Locke



 tulips from my parent's garden

 scenic hikes in central Illinois DO exist!

 a monarch caterpillar at Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI

 my cousin's multi-generational and awesomely fun bachelorette party

This has been a good spring. The weather warmed up in late February and the last snowstorm we were all expecting to drop here in Illinois never really happened (knock on wood). The flowers and trees are blooming a month ahead of schedule. I took an unplanned blogging break because I've been struggling to find my place in my own life lately. This APW post on "failing up" pretty much sums up where I'm at right now:

"Sure, I have a rough idea of where we might be in a few years, but I've stopped beating myself up about having a detailed image of what that looks like.
Don't get me wrong though. I'm still a Success Kid at heart. I don't think that will ever go away. But as I put forth even more effort into my job and personal life now than I did before, I'm less worried about the outcome and more concerned with whether or not the effort itself feels authentic to me. Instead of "I must do this or else I will never end up where I want to be!" I'm approaching success with an attitude that's closer to "Hey, that might work. Let's try it!"

Yup, trying hard to recover from 24 years of "Success Kid" behavior.
It's hard for me to be ok with the fact that I'm not falling into another perfect job that will build on my previous experience and "open the door" for the next one. I have this stupid sense of panic and anxiety that if I waste this year on something unrelated to my "field" I won't be able to get into a career-track and will be screwed for the rest of my life. Well, maybe I'm not wasting time. I'm just living and taking the months as they come.

This spring I...

-served on a jury for the first time
-received my first speeding ticket and went to "driver's improvement class" for the first time
-spent a weekend dogsitting (Ben and I are cat people so this was kind of a big deal)
-started pre-marital counseling
-reconnected with best friends and family
-spent Easter and several weekends in Michigan, practicing to be a member of the Locke family
-started running on a regular basis again
-got my substitute teaching certificate (so many hoops to jump through...)
-faced rejection from many job applications and interviews

Ben and I have temporarily moved back to our college town so that we can be together for the time being. I never even imagined we'd be back here when he graduated in 2008, so it's kind of fun. I'm substitute teaching for the rest of the school year, and looking for temporary summer employment locally so I can keep on scraping by. I crave to be able to settle down into a place of our own for more than six months years. My belongings are piled into my parents' basement and I get overwhelmed and anxious whenever I have to dig through to find something important.
With the whole world open before us, it's hard to visualize where we should be job hunting, or where the best place to live will be. However, I'm learning that sticking close to home and family is not "giving up" or "settling," no matter how un-glamorous the Midwest seems. Last weekend my mom and I went to my cousin's bridal shower and bachelorette party and I realized once again that family and friends are more important than where you live. Yes, I had to move back home and yes, I'm unemployed and feel like a failure lots of times whenever someone asks me what I "do." But I'm so lucky to have a solid relationship with someone who supports me, and a family who literally opens their homes to us when we have nowhere to go. I trust that someday I will be hired for that dream job, and I also trust that my dreams can continue to grow and change in new directions that I can't predict.

I've put over 50,000 miles on my little Ford Focus since I left for grad school three years ago, and those miles represent some of the best times (and hardest times) of my life. This year I am not earning a degree or traveling to far away mountains, but I am getting married in October so ultimately, 2012 is the year I'll remember forever.