A big pro of spending 2+ hours commuting to and from work is that I have a very scheduled time for reading each day, something that up until this point I’ve wanted but haven’t made happen. On my morning Metra ride, I have about an hour built in to wake up slowly: listening to music, drinking my morning coffee and reading a book. And on the way home, I get the same amount of time to regroup and re-energize. What I have much less time to do is blog :) But on the whole, I’m really happy for the structure. Because my days are full, I need to be much more intentional about how I spend my time, making the most of my non-work hours to refresh, spending quality time with people and with myself. Here’s what I’ve been reading and thinking about in those downtimes:
In the past two weeks I read two great books, The Known World by Edward P. Jones and Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio. Both of these books are set in a very different time period; The Known World is set in the early 1800s and Icy Sparks is set in the 1950s, and both books, although they were fictional, taught me a lot about people’s experiences in that day and age. In The Known World, the author tells the story of a Virginia plantation community during the time when both blacks and whites owned slaves. The story is told in bits and pieces, often skipping from generation to generation and telling little snippets of life for these plantation owners and slaves. These stories, however seemingly disjointed, eventually portray what was ‘the known world’ in that day. Although it was sometimes hard to follow and I got easily distracted, the writing was beautiful and in the end I was happy I'd followed the flashbacks and flashforwards of the story through to the end.
In Icy Sparks, Hyman Rubio tells the story of the title character, Icy, who grows up in rural Kentucky with a mental condition, eventually diagnosed as Tourrette’s later in life. This character didn’t grow up in a place or a time when therapy was easily accessible, and instead of being properly diagnosed, treated, and understood, she was deemed ‘crazy’ by her closest friends and her teachers, kicked out of school, and sent to a mental hospital. Her story, though fictional, is I’m sure true of a lot of people who grew up with challenges like hers in settings were they were misunderstood and unwelcome. It’s beautiful, poignant and compelling not in spite of her situation, but because of it.
What I’ve taken from reading both of these stories, and from certain conversations I’ve had in the past few weeks with my family, friends, and coworkers, is that where we come from has a whole lot to do with who we become. Reading these two stories gave me such a better picture of life in each respective situation, and I can better understand the complexities of someone’s life who might come from that generation. I’ve had some great conversations living with my aunts about growing up, and how our heritage, how our hometown, and how our generation plays a big role in who we are and what we believe today. I’m starting to realize as I’m getting settled in my job and with my coworkers how differently I see things and act based on my generation, and sometimes these are really great differences, and sometime they are harder to reconcile. What makes up my 'known world', so to speak, is entirely different that that of other people around me, and I'm reminded each day how important and beautiful those differences are. I just need to be conscious of the fact that each experiences is equally valid, and take the time and energy to understand that person in light of their life experiences, experiences I'll never have the opportunity to live out.
I’ve been really fascinated by generational studies for a while now, and I found a book yesterday in the new books section of the Wheaton Public Library on the Millennial Generation, mine, and how we are “rocking” the workplace, so naturally I checked it out to learn more. While I’m not so sure about the “rocking the workplace” part, I’m really interested to see what people who study generations see as general trends for us Millennials, what we do right, and what we need to work on. So that’s my new read for this week, I’ll keep you posted on what I discover about myself and my work style along the way!