Ice cream and epiphanies

80-35I carve out time in my week for epiphanies: evening walks, early mornings with hot tea and a book, my drive to Target. How soon I forget epiphanies are disruptive and delicious like the unexpected swirl of an ice cream flavor I didn’t ask for; I stir it in, relishing the strange, fleeting taste.

For weeks I’ve been typing half-realized sentences into the Notes app on my phone, searching for the anchoring words of a blog post about Des Moines, about what I’ve done and who I’ve become in six years here. It’s funny how none of them are anchored in the moments I set aside for reflection, that lurking buzzword and habit I had to establish while finishing my bachelor’s degree in English.

Cold lentil soup sat on my desk in the faded Campbell’s Tupperware I’ve had since the ‘90s; ill-advised, I packed it for lunch on a 96-degree day. Again. I usually have a to-do list for this week and next, moving and reordering items in the order I need to do them. But this final week at my job, I changed the header to, “GIRL, YOU’RE DOING THE DAMN THING.”

As I prioritized items for my last week of work and started an email to a local attorney, I realized I’ve learned to advocate for myself in Des Moines, a fitting epiphany, I suppose, as I move to law school next month.

I quit things here, both for my health and happiness. Last summer I quit almost all my obligations, giving myself time to recover from a months-long illness. It was scary sending email after email that simply said, “I’ve been really sick for the past few months, and I need to take a break and come back when I’m better.” Take a break. It was the bravest stunt I’ve ever pulled, I think.

“Not settling” is such a nebulous concept, one I’ve certainly failed at during my time here. For a long time I couldn’t admit to myself what I wanted purely because I didn’t think I deserved it. Ethereal, faraway things like commitment, texts returned in a timely manner, maybe an actual, planned dinner date, rather than the vague, “We should hang out sometime.” I’m slowly getting better at setting boundaries and expectations; both are scary.

I asked my childhood best friend to help me put my sunscreen on at the pool yesterday, and somehow, it struck me as a profound moment of embracing that it’s OK to ask for help and compassion when I need it. An epiphany rubbed into the skin of my back; I didn’t want to wash it off.

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