My name is Michelle. I am between young and old. Between rural and urban. Between sophisticated and everyday. Between college and community. Between expensive and coupon-cutting. Between mom and career woman. Between smart and intellectually stunted. Between west and midwest (there is no east or south about me). Between cynical and cheery. I love nice clothes but hate wearing make-up. I love being a professor, but I enjoy it when people tell me I don’t seem like one. I “lean in” in order to succeed in my profession, but I enjoy sitting back and watching a good episode of anything bad in reality television. I am pretty good at many things, bad at a few, and still trying to figure out what I’m really good at. I’m not quite this, and only sometimes the other thing. Michelle of many trades, and master only of knowing that fact.
Let me be clear. To me, being between does not mean I am between incompatible things (for example, being a mom and having a career are not incompatible, though this is not without its challenges), but rather it means that there are locations where I find myself traveling back and forth and on the border itself, and sometimes not knowing where one thing ends and the other starts. This blog is about those boundary crossings. It’s about times and places when and where I notice the boundaries more than not. Times and places when this is challenging, confusing, rewarding, and mentally healthy. Boundaries that are drawn at work, at play, at home, with friends, in marriage, in my brain, in my heart, across time, and between all of these places.
I think I have good things to say. Sometimes I’m even funny. I have external sources that have indicated to me that I can probably accurately label myself as smart. Twenty-three years ago, I went to a flower shop in the small town where I grew up in Minnesota, sporting my awesome Peace Frogs t-shirt, to pick up the centerpiece for my high school graduation reception. While waiting for the calla lily spray, I overheard two employees in the back room say, “At the awards ceremony for graduating seniors that ‘smart one’ got lots of awards.” I was that smart one, and feared that with this label I had to continue to live up to expectations. Valedictorian. Best student in a small town. Big fish, small pond. Better than average, as most Minnesota children are. As I move through life, I have stumbled upon many instances where I feel not-so-smart and less-than-average, and occasional instances where I’m still deemed the “smart one.” Lately I find relief in knowing that I’m not good at everything. It saves hours of attempts at self-discovery and adds to my “anti-bucket list” — stuff I don’t have to do and that’s just fine with me. But I also like it when I figure out my strengths.
At the risk of disappointing those who oppose ending a sentence with a preposition, this blog is for you if you find yourself thinking about how you are between. Between life stages. Between careers. Between partners. Between beliefs. Between stresses. Between amateur and professional. Between a rock and a hard place. Welcome to the between, geographically presented to you from Walla Walla, Washington, a town situated between, well, between lots of places and not necessarily on the way to any of them.
You can read a bunch of my essays in the book Between: Living Live in Neither Extreme. I’ve kept a few of these in their initial stages here on my blog. And I keep adding to them as inspiration strikes me.
And if you wonder whether you ought to feel welcome, please know that my desired audience are those who don’t know who their audience is, and those who find themselves between.
Let’s look at these boundaries together.