It could be so easy to tell myself that I have limited my chances for progress in living in such an isolated setting.
It's so easy, in fact, that I HAVE told myself that. Several times.
Being in Maine is different from living anywhere else I have ever lived. While it's similar in some ways to living in New Hampshire and Rhode Island there are distinct differences.
The winter is seemingly never ending. The people here, while occasionally friendly, are often withdrawn. One native woman described it thus: If you have just moved to Maine, a native won't even notice you're there for several years. When they DO finally notice you, their reaction is likely to be "huh".
Did you know that individuals who are not native to Maine are "from away"? That's how they say it. Like every other state other than Maine is a destination known as "away". Which I guess could be considered accurate. In tandem with this is the idea that unless you were BORN in Maine you are still "from away". You could have been born 1/2 a mile from the Maine boarder and then brought to live in Maine when you were 1 year old, but you are still "from away". Even if after moving there at 1 year old you lived in Maine for the rest of your life.
This may or may not be an exaggeration. I'm still not sure just how much people are joking about this when they explain it to me.
It's hard to describe exactly how I am feeling. I don't think lonely is the right word-though my appalling lack of a social life doesn't help things (it's worse than my social life was at home which was pretty non-existent). I do not say this out of a desire for pity. Quite the contrary. I have spent a lot time the past week wondering just what exactly it is I am doing here. How is this really progressing my life? And After talking to a fellow Main Conservation Corps member I came to the following conclusion:
I am learning about myself here. Yes, it could be said that at this age my life is one of self-discovery and that I could be learning about myself just about anywhere. This is true. But there is a fundamental difference about the kind learning that is taking place here compared to the learning I might experience elsewhere. That difference comes from the general lack of sociable behavior generating from the natives here as well as the overall average age of 50.
Now before any of you over 50-year-old readers get in a huff, there is NOTHING wrong with people over 50 years of age. In fact, they are often more interesting to talk to than people my own age. But you must understand the generation barrier. What my mind and soul aches for is to laugh. And while I can laugh at cheesy puns and at the terrible Mayor of Maine as well as the next person, I find myself starving for those people who would better understand the humor behind The Office or how horrible Twilight is. A couple weeks ago I attended a branch social and sat at a table accompanied by the missionaries and a young couple who were probably in their mid to late twenties. I wager that this couple are the two youngest adults in the ward besides me. Guess what we talked about? Twilight. And movies. And books of our generation. Silly things on the internet. And I laughed. For the first time in a long time I was with peers and I was laughing. Even though two of those peers were required to refrain from social activity with a single woman such as myself and the other two people were married, I felt like I belonged with these people.
And so I am learning. I am discovering the kind of person I am in isolation such as this. Last year it was all about finding the person I was in the middle of the woods of New Hampshire living with 30 other non-Mormons who shared my professional interests. There, I had other struggles, but never lacked for a peer base or friends. Here I am learning how to force myself out of my comfort zone. This is a skill I have yet to perfect, but I am progressing. If I am going to make friends of any kind, and of any age, I am going to have to seek them out. They aren't going to come to me. If I want to have things to do in the evenings or on the weekends, I am going to have to find that wholesome entertainment myself. No one is going to provide me a list of fun things for a Latter Day Saint to do on the town in Mid-Coast Maine. Not that there is much to do in the winter anyway.
I am learning patience and how to appreciate and understand someone I don't get along with. I had to do this last year as well, but I didn't share a bathroom and a house with he of the long hair and long beard and hand rolled cigarettes. We just taught together. I am moving past my time with R/L, true, but part of me would not trade the time I spent with her for anything (well I might trade it for a bag of Cadbury mini-eggs, or some good Mexican food). She has taught me more than she will ever realize. I think it would be rude to tell her that she taught me how to live with a somewhat difficult landlady, don't you?
I am learning self control. I feel like I have been poor for a year and 1/2. Oh...that's because I HAVE been poor for a year and 1/2, isn't it? I find myself in a situation similar to the one I had in Rhode Island. Juggling car payments, insurance, rent, and gas on a very limited budget is tough. And so, when I normally would have treated myself to several movie viewings by now I have yet to see a film in theaters this year. Where I might have indulged in fast food occasionally, I haven't had anything but a couple of Subway sandwiches since coming to Maine. I could have easily gone to the $5 bin at Wal-Mart and treated myself to some dvd's or ordered cheap CD's used off of Amazon. But I have bought nothing but a GRE study book for myself off Amazon since I got here. Wait...that's a lie. Right after I got here, I decided to take advantage of the super cheap extended versions of Lord of the Rings. I felt like having them would be similar to having close friends or family with me and make my transition easier. Don't judge. You know you ALL feel the same way.
I am learning self control in other ways as well. For lent, I gave up sweets. It's been hard but giving up the sweet things in my life has helped me evaluate my overall eating habits. I THINK about the things I am eating and what is in them and how much of it I should eat. So far, I can happily say that I have lost somewhere between 10 and 20 pounds. It's hard to know for sure since I don't have a scale to measure it. And, as I announced in a previous post, I am trying to refrain from watching rated R movies (this effort is only spurred by R/L's reaction to the decision). Along with that, I have started to simply evaluate the things that I read and watch in general. Do I NEED to read that? Do I NEED to watch that? Along with this I have been working on controlling the amount of time I spend watching things in general. Instead of watching that movie or that episode, couldn't I spend that time reading, or writing more of the Bear Brook Massacre, or teaching myself guitar, or doing something moderately crafty? Who doesn't love coloring? Raise your hand. I sure hope none of you did. Coloring is therapeutic, relaxing, and just plain fun! And that's how I spent the latter part of my evening last night.
In addition to all this, I have found that I am finding joy in attending my Branch (my congregation for any of you reading who don't understand what I mean by Branch). Working with Youth gives me the chance to be with people closer to my own age. Yes there is a bit of a gap between me and these girls, but it's not far enough that we can't both simultaneously laugh and groan at this video. NOTE: Only click the link if you feel like laughing and groaning at the same time and want a horrible song stuck in your head forever. I feel like I am a part of the church again. It was hard feeling this way in New Hampshire since I never received a calling and was never introduced to any of the members except a few of the sisters of the Relief Society. It didn't help that I didn't go to the same congregation consistently.
Life is not perfect. There are things to complain about, sure. But I find that even though I wish it were summer and that things didn't move so slowly at work, I find a measure of peace in my life. Peace in the fact that I am soon going to be moving in with a lady who shares my values and who is incredibly sweet and kind. Peace in knowing that the trees will soon be green again. And content knowing that, even though this isn't what I expected and maybe I could have chosen a better place to be, I am learning. Discovering. Growing. Living.
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