The apartment is quiet. The only lights on are those on the Christmas tree. Annelise is on her little cot in the living room. She wanted to spend one night this year sleeping by the tree. So I relinquished the living room to her this evening and am trying to be as quiet as possible so that she can sleep. Last night was my last night of work until after Christmas. I spent today shopping and wrapping presents while she was with my parents, so all we have to do before Christmas is bake cookies and enjoy the time we have together. Over all life is good right now.
It’s the time of year when I reflect on the past year, and look forward to the new one. Last year when I packed the Christmas decorations I had no idea where we would unpack them this year. I knew we probably wouldn’t be at my parents any longer, but I hadn’t quite decided where we’d go. We ended up in Sparta. And as I had suspected, nothing went as planned.
My schooling plan got off track a bit in the Spring, and then a bit more in the Fall. At first I just decided to postpone applying to the BSN program at GVSU. If I had stuck to my original plan I knew I’d be facing a heavy work load and a large financial responsibility this year. I just wasn’t ready for that. Annelise was a year away from Kindergarten and I wanted as much free time with her as possible. Going to school full time seemed like too much. And with moving out of my parents’ house I was suddenly facing additional financial burdens. I vowed not to take out any Student Loans until I’m actually in a Nursing program. I already have a degree so I’m ineligible for any grants. The burden of tuition has all been on me. So a delay of a year seemed like a good idea. I decided to use that year off to fulfill the prerequisites for the MCC ADN program That way I’d have a back up plan if I didn’t get into GVSU.
We ended up in Sparta, because it was cheaper than living in Grand Rapids. It also put me part way between Muskegon and Grand Rapids, which seemed like a good compromise since I wasn’t one hundred percent sure where I would be going to school.
Moving to Sparta felt like a bad move from the beginning. I kept trying to reassure myself it was the best decision, but it didn’t feel like it. We’re in an apartment building that I wouldn’t quite call rundown, but it’s definitely seen better days. Our apartment looks like all the other ones in the building, very beige and blah. I remember the day I got my keys and went in to look around. I felt this wave a depression sweep over me as I moved from room to room. I don’t like apartments as a general rule and had vowed to never live in one with Annelise, but here we were.
I signed the lease in June, but we didn’t start living here until September. Over the summer I would stay here on days I worked, and very slowly I moved the things from our storage unit and my parents house so that it could be ready for us when Annelise started school in the fall. As I was unpacking and putting things away I found myself chanting this mantra, “You will be happy here.” I knew I could let the situation overwhelm me or I could choose to be happy in this space. I decided we would be happy here.
I began to feel better as the space filled with our things. Things that had been sitting in storage for the past year. At first it felt awkward. These were the things from our Roanoke house. Almost all of them had been bought to fit our little house on Maiden Lane, and now they felt out of place in this apartment. It felt kind of silly to put up the bookcase and unpack all the boxes of books. I was only planning to be here a year and I would never read them in that time. But as I put them on the shelves it felt like I was becoming reacquainted with old friends, so I’m glad they’re sitting there even if they won’t get read and I’ll just be boxing them up again in the Spring. I hung pictures on the walls and very gradually this space became ours.
We hit a rough spot financially in August and September. Since I wasn’t working full time, I was only paid when I worked, no paid time off. I had scheduled some time off in August, but on top of that I was called off about half my shifts. With less money coming in and the added expense of the apartment we went under very fast. I have found that financial insecurity will send me hurtling toward anxiety and depression fasting than anything else. By mid September I was in a very bad place. I made the difficult decision to prioritize work over school and accepted a full time position so that I could at least stabilize my income. Things have gotten better since then. It means taking longer to finish school and I probably will have to go the ADN to RN to BSN route rather than getting my BSN right away which wasn’t what I wanted. But without financial stability it’s unlikely I would have been able to keep going anyways.
There are some bad days. And the bad days tend to be really bad. But over all life has been good in Sparta. We don’t know anyone, so we keep to ourselves a lot. Annelise loves her school and has friends there. I’m busy with work and school. And on the days when were home it’s just her and I. The year we lived with my parents caused a little bit of a disconnect between us. This time alone has fixed that and then some. I feel like we have grown even closer. We spend our weekends riding bikes and going to the park. And we have a lot of game and puzzle nights.
There have been many times the past few months when I’ve thought about dropping out of school and just living. Not because school is so bad, but because just living is so good. I love being a mom and doing the mom things. I think that if it weren’t for the fact that we live in an apartment, I’d be very happy with our life now. But then I think about the big picture and how if I want to eventually be in a place where I can focus on being “mom” I need to get out of Sleep and off third shift. I need to have more earning potential to give us a better future. So we trudge onward.
I had started to put together a plan to move back to Virginia, because if were going to “just live” that’s were I want to do it. But the reality is that that is not going to happen. We made a quick trip to Roanoke over the weekend and I began to realize that Roanoke is very much like an ex boyfriend. It didn’t work for us there. I had to make a change and I did. But now that we’re a ways out from that, I question the decision. Was it really that bad? Could we have made it work? And I keep going back for these hook ups, and entertaining the idea that we can somehow still make it work. I realized last weekend that at least for now we can’t go back. I don’t have work there. School is twice as expensive there. And no matter how much I want to be in Roanoke, I have to think about our future and that means finishing school. The easiest way for me to do that is here. So barring some major change of fortune we’re staying in Michigan.
I was determined to be happy in Sparta, and I think that we are. I hate the apartment, other than that we are happy. We are outdoors people. I want Annelise to be outdoors. She’s at an age when I should be able to just send her outside to play, but being in a third floor apartment has made that difficult. I try to get us both out as much as possible, but I still feel like we spend too much time inside. I want us to be in a house, with a yard and maybe a garden. Annelise wants a “fetch” dog. Tonight she said, “I think next Christmas we’ll be in a house.” I hope so baby. But where? We’re here until June, and then I’m not sure where we’ll go. I hate moving. I hate moving her. She’s had three different homes and three different schools in as many years. Next year she starts Kindergarten. If it’s going to take me two to three more years to finish up school, I want to plant us somewhere that can be home, but I haven’t figured out where that is yet.
Right now things are peaceful. The bills are paid. There are presents under the tree. And we’re looking forward to some fun events this winter. I’m trying hard not to stress about what comes next. But most likely when next Christmas rolls around we’ll be unpacking the decorations in yet another home and I’ll have another plan for our future. Hopefully we’ll still be moving forward, getting closer to the end goal and where ever we are we’ll be happy.