14 September 2015

What Comes Next--My Rite of Passage

If you've talked to me anytime in the last 2 months you'll probably know that it's now leaving time. Leaving the UK. Leaving friends and family. Leaving the life I've built for myself. Really, leaving HOME. And this is a hard thing.

Naturally everyone asks, 'What's next?' To which I typically say, 'No clue. Your guess is as good as mine,' all while a warm wash of inadequacy floods my soul for not having a more socially acceptable response or life plan. Needless to say, I've been looking for ways to stop these shame gremlins from attacking me every time I get asked this question, because they were starting to suffocate and paralyze me into procrastination and complacency.

So like any good anthropologist, I decided to make this transitional phase of my life a bit easier to accept by creating a Rite of Passage for myself. Wikipedia actually has a really great entry on an overview of what I mean by this:
"Rite of passage is a celebration of the passage which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another. It involves a significant change of status in society."
The ethnographer Arnold van Gennep helped bring this term into modern day language and terms of reference, and I've found his theories/observations on this topic to be largely accurate in my life. So I'm going to use his ideas as terms of reference to articulate my current train of thought.

There are 3 phases to rites of passage: separation, liminality and incorporation.

In the first phase, people withdraw from their current status and prepare to move from one place or status to another. "The first phase (of separation) comprises symbolic behavior signifying the detachment of the individual or group ... from an earlier fixed point in the social structure." There is often a detachment or "cutting away" from the former self in this phase, which is signified in symbolic actions and rituals. For example, the cutting of the hair for a person who has just joined the army. He or she is "cutting away" the former self: the civilian. 
The transition (liminal) phase is the period between states, during which one has left one place or state but has not yet entered or joined the next. "The attributes of liminality or of liminal personae ("threshold people") are necessarily ambiguous."
Having completed the rite and assumed their "new" identity, one re-enters society with one's new status. Re-incorporation is characterized by elaborate rituals and ceremonies, like debutant balls and college graduation, and by outward symbols of new ties: thus "in rites of incorporation there is widespread use of the 'sacred bond', the 'sacred cord', the knot, and of analogous forms such as the belt, the ring, the bracelet and the crown."
So how does this all apply to me right now?

Tomorrow evening I'm getting on a plane to leave the UK by myself. I happen to be traveling to Barcelona, but in this discussion the destination is relatively inconsequential. The salient bit of this step is that I'm cutting myself away from the life and home I've built for myself in the UK these past 2 years. While I haven't cut my hair or performed any other symbolic act (that I've realised), I do feel like flying to a separate country by myself for a week is a pretty effective means of separation.

From Barcelona I will fly to Rome, where I am meeting up with my mom and stepdad, as well as my two housemates from the last couple years. This will effectively end my Separation phase and begin my Liminal phase because I am rejoining people I know and love, but in a new, neutral and temporary context, where I am free from commitment to being anything other than my nomadic self.

Not gonna lie... I have big plans for this Liminal phase of mine. A European Extravaganza with my Mom and Bob, to be exact. Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Scotland, Lake District, Preston Temple, Peak District, Lichfield, Birmingham, London and finally flying out of Manchester to Las Vegas at the end of October. And yet, I have no plans at all. Once I get back to the states I will spend awhile applying for jobs, all the while traveling around visiting loved ones I haven't seen for awhile. Then it's the holidays. And then I'm becoming an aunt for the second time so I'll probably go out to Indiana for a bit.

I know to most people that ambiguous and ambitious plan sounds like I've just thrown off any hope or desire to have any sort of responsibility. But in fact, it is the opposite. It is precisely BECAUSE I'm so keen on having a successful, independent, self-sufficient adult life that I must allow myself this transitional time to weigh all my options and opportunities and make the best choice as to what comes next.
Liminality... is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual's liminal stage, participants "stand at the threshold" between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.
Since living in England, I have grown and changed the way I understand and frame my identity. However, this framework might not be best suited to that of a responsible, independent, self sufficient adult living in the US. Or wherever it is I might end up next. For me, this is where most of the ambiguity and struggle comes in... re-orienting myself to life in America and establishing who I want to be in this new context and stage of life. This type of soul-searching and soul-defining takes time.
During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt. The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.
So as painfully uncertain as it is for me, or as disparagingly flaky as it sounds to others, I'm going to give myself this time to practice patience and transition into Careerdom. Though I have goals and dreams, I have no idea what the future holds. This period of my life is a complete dissolution of order, but hopefully that means that I'll subsequently be more humble, more malleable into what the Lord wants me to be, and more open to new possibilities and experiences that He has in store for me. And at the end of it all, I'm really looking forward to my future incorporation back into society.

But until then, give me a break. I'm transitioning here. 

Jeralee's Visit

Last week one of my roommates from BYU came out to visit me--just in the knick of time! We had a blast exhausting ourselves playing tourists and pilgrims.

Here's a link to my instagram account where I kept pretty good record of the main highlights:

  • As You Like It at Shakespeare's Globe theater
  • BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall
  • the Victoria and Albert museum
  • Evensong services at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral
  • 221B Baker St.
  • Cadbury World
  • Dover Castle
  • Evensong services at Canterbury Cathedral
  • Canterbury Castle ruins
And here are a few more
Dover Castle
Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Castle Ruins

It was so fun to spend a few days with such a good friend! And it made me feel more than ever that this is home.

After I took Jeralee to the train station, I headed to Camden Market that my friend Spencer had recommended. I had such a fun time exploring this quirky little art hub/tourist trap. It was pretty empty on a random Tuesday morning, which made it even more enjoyable.

Afterward, I walked to Regent's Park. I really fell in love with this place. I just sat in the gardens for hours, occasionally walking around to find new spots to sit in.

I was feeling more than a little emotional, trying to come to terms with the idea that I have to leave this place I love so much. But this was the time I decided to give myself to feel emotional. For a few hours, I just embraced all my feelings instead of trying to ignore, deny, or run from them. I leaned into the discomfort and tried to work through them in the only ways I know how... crying, praying, writing and sitting quietly in a beautiful place feeling as if time has stood still just for me. And by the time I left, I was feeling ok. Still emotional, but more peaceful and hopeful than I had felt before walking into those gardens.

13 September 2015

Leg Drama. Again.

Nearly a week after my unfortunate bike riding attempt in Copenhagen I could barely stand let alone walk. So I went to see the dr who confirmed I had a grade 2 tear in my calf muscle (apparently these things come in grades haha). Based on the amount of bruising (literally my entire leg), he thinks it was at least 75%+ torn.

This past week we discovered I also have shin splints, though it is hard to know if that's from the initial muscle tear or from overdoing it since.

Either way I'm looking at about a 12 week recovery period.

So I'm back on crutches. A month in to the healing and I'm now walking well enough that I don't need the crutch to walk per se, but rather to support myself if I know I'll be up and around for a long time. But hopefully by the time I get back to the states in about 6 weeks I won't need the crutch at all. Fingers crossed.

Until then just pray that I don't do anything else to it on my European Extravaganza.


By our last day in Denmark, I really wasn't walking too well. Luckily I managed to get wheelchair assistance added to my ticket just in time. That combined with a really helpful travel buddy, an ice pack and a lot of drugs, I managed to actually do alright.

I've never flown with wheelchair assistance before (obviously--I mean, I'm only 27, no matter how old I feel somedays)... but I must say--it has its perks. Like be taken right out to the plane. And riding in the cart through the airport. And being driven around to the right side of the airport instead of having to walk that extra mile. All of it ended up being a huge tender mercy.

View of Øresund Bridge from the air
We'd failed to eat a proper Danish, so Spen grabbed one for us in the airport and we ate it as we flew over Copenhagen on our way to Ireland.
Hello Ireland!
This is in front of every seat on Ryanair planes. Captioning the ridiculous pictures entertained us for most of our flight.
The Spike
Rainbow Clouds!
River Liffey

We had enough time to eat dinner at a café in the city centre before heading back to the airport to catch our flight back to Birmingham. It seems silly that after living a 40 min flight away from a place for 2 years that I've still only spent a couple hours there, but at least now I've been. Hopefully one day I can make a proper visit to Ireland and have time (and money) to explore its gorgeous countryside. 

Malmö, Sweden

Our 3rd day in Denmark we decided to visit Malmö, Sweden--about a 35 minute train ride on the famous Øresund Bridge. When we arrived we were stoked to discover that there was a festival going on! (Seriously nearly everywhere we've been has had a festival, carnival, parade or something ridiculous going on during our visit. You'd think we'd stopped being surprised by now.)

Most people say there isn't too much to see or do in Malmö, but we had no difficulty occupying ourselves for the day. Though in typical Spenana fashion (Yes I just called it that. Our travel style now has a name. Get over it.), we stopped for a break in the park to give my leg a rest and ended up napping in the sun for a couple hours. It was glorious.

The grassy patch where we took our nap
For the rest of the afternoon we wandered around the town centre and the festival... mostly deciding on which of the delicious smelling food stalls we were going to buy food from. In the end, Spen chose a shish kebab stall, and due to some confusion in the ordering process, he was given enough food for me as well. #winning The best part of that whole experience was when a gust of wind picked up a loose piece of foil with some food on it that landed smack on Spen's face. It was an epic shot and  we got some really good belly laughs out of that one!

Now I can't even remember what church this is a pic of.
But it must've been cool if I actually took the time to photograph it by that point in the day. haha
They had a little carnival, either as part of or in competition with the city festival. So when Spen saw that they had almost the same ride as we'd ridden in Brum a few days before, he decided he had to ride it. I, however, wisely chose not to put myself through that one again. So I played photographer instead.
For me the main highlight is one I don't have a picture of--but only because it was too amazing to take time to document! Anyone who knows me by now knows that I normally only speak this passionately about a couple things--flowers and ice cream.

This time, the winner of my highest esteem was ice cream. But not just any ice cream.

No, this was hands down in the top 3 best soft serve ice cream cones I've ever had in my life, if not #1. I'm a Blackburn, so I've had A LOT of ice cream cones in my time. But this Swedish sensation was that good. I will forever think of that ice cream cone when I think of Sweden. And for this reason alone, Sweden will forever hold a special place in my heart. Though hopefully one day I can do a more proper visit of the country!


The next morning we went on a little trip to Denmark and Sweden with a brief pitstop in Ireland. It was a bit different than we expected, but as much fun as we'd hoped! 

We arrived on Sunday evening and had a stroll around the Latin Quarter where our flat was. We liked it immediately. Monday was our big sightseeing day, where we toured most of the city. Unfortunately, towards the end of the day my camera died, and we had both forgotten our European adapters. So the rest of our trip was documented via phone cameras... enjoy the quality photos while you can!
Copenhagen Central train station
We made it!
The flat we stayed in was down this street. We loved it!
One of my first impressions of Copenhagen--BIKES EVERYWHERE!
Balancing barefoot like a boss

Christiansborg Slot--one of the many royal palaces in Copenhagen--
and the first place we popped a squat to people watch for a bit.  
After the palace, we walked to the harbour where we decided to rent some electric bikes. It didn't end up going too well. haha Apparently my leg wasn't onboard, because when we got to our first destination (about 5 min away) and got off the bike, I couldn't walk. (But I'll get to that later, because at the time there wasn't much that I could do but just plow on. So I did.)


Since I couldn't walk very well for some ridiculous reason, we decided to take a canal boat tour so I could sit down for awhile. It actually ended up being quite a lot of fun, and we got to see a part of the city that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. So if you ever go and want to see a few cool things all while sitting down, I'd definitely recommend it!
This is what I imagined the historic Danish buildings to look like.
However, this is the only one that looked like that. haha
The Little Mermaid statue... just as underwhelming as I'd heard.
She won Spen over pretty easily though. ;)
The old Stock Exchange building. #fancy
Marmorkirken [The Marble Church]
An absolutely stunning building and a great place to ponder in silence

Von Frue Kirche [Church of Our Lady]
This stunning church was much more plain than I'd expected. The only decor was the statues of
Christ and each of his disciples (by Bertel Thorvaldsen, mid-19th C). Just as it should be. I loved it!

The LDS church uses the Christus a lot, so this was a sort of mini-pilgrimage for our trip--to visit The Original. In Situ. However, I hadn't realised how prominently each of the Apostles would feature as well, and I was really touched by that. I took pictures of each of them because I want to do some research on why they are each sculpted with the object(s) chosen. A few of them are obvious, but I don't know most of them and I feel like I should. They were and are incredibly important men who influenced the Church and the world then, now and throughout eternity. So here's to them.

The Christus
'Come Unto Me'
He's ever calling, pleading and encouraging each of us to draw closer to Him.
If you ever get to go to Copenhagen and see the Christus in person, DO IT! It was definitely a highlight of the trip for me!

Copenhagen, Denmark LDS Temple
Hair in face. Typical.

Rosenborg Slot
The castle has been a museum of Denmark and its monarchs since the 18th C.
Secret passage way!
We're both convinced that any house worth living in must have one of these.
The Danish monarchy has something called the Chivalric Order of the Elephant, so we saw lots of elephant pendants and motifs everywhere. Naturally we both started really wanting one.

One of the other favourite highlights for us was this strawberry tart from a Danish patisserie, Lagkagehuset. Heaven. We finished the big one we bought before either of us even thought to take a picture. haha So when we saw the same patisserie in the airport on our way home, Spen managed to buy us a couple mini ones to take back with us.
Looking a little worse for wear by the time we ate them in Dublin, but still just as delicious as the first time!
Seriously, it's a must try if you're ever in Copenhagen and you like delicious food. 
Copenhagen is a pretty small city, so we felt like we were really able to fit in everything we'd wanted to do in the few days we had there, and that is with spending one of those days mostly in Sweden--which is the next post. A really lovely city and a beautiful country. We'd definitely recommend visiting Copenhagen if given the opportunity. And if you're ever able to go and want some tips, contact me because we came up with a few things we would've done differently or wish we would've realised beforehand.