The Best Version of Yourself

Most of us probably not getting better, but not getting better together.

True to form, I've followed a rather frenetic path since leaving Antarctica about 5 months ago:

Me, my brother and the centenarian.

Me, my brother and the centenarian.

I came back to the Midwest immediately to attend my Grandma's 100th birthday party. That kinda thing only happens once in somebody's life, y'know? Shout out of gratitude to my boss and friend, Kim, who was able to get me off-ice a couple days earlier than planned.

Lake Adelaide in the winter.

The balance of February and March were spent in the Midwest, seeing friends and family, escaping to the U.P. and Northern Wisconsin, watching my friends' kids for a weekend, and losing my laptop by setting it on the trunk of my car before driving off. I've made smarter moves.

My favorite musician of all time (see above) was doing a rare East Coast tour so I took the opportunity to see him and visit my friend Amy in DC (and eat the best Thai food I've ever tasted outside of Thailand), saw him the next night in Philly and again the next night in New York before spending a long weekend there. Where I contracted pink eye. Viral pink eye. For five weeks.

Those five weeks spanned the entirety of a three week trip to Thailand (sorry everyone on both trans-Pacific flights). I didn't let the swelling shut of my eye most mornings get me down though, and I visited old friends and places and made the acquaintance of new ones. Had to keep my annual visit to Thailand streak going.

After two nights back in the Twin Cities I flew to Denver for five weeks of offseason Antarctica work. The weekends were fantastic with trips to Golden, Grand Junction (well, Loma) and Fort Collins. But no matter how grateful I am to the United States Antarctic Program for the work, five weeks in a suburban hotel really wore on me. Thankfully, the NBA playoffs were in full swing.

Another few weeks in the Upper Midwest, including a return trip to Northern Wisconsin and the south shore of Lake Superior for the 4th, a stop in the hometown for a wedding reception, and back to Minneapolis for some reuniting with some grad school friends.

I headed down to Durham for about a week with my sister Liz and filled the days with parks and concerts and dance performances and restaurants and porch time and a jaunt to Beaufort on the coast. We saw dolphins. Like a bunch of them, competing with the pelicans for an afternoon meal of fish. I caught a few snaps, but resisted the urge to keep my phone out the whole time and just record with my eyes as best I could.

Then I got home a week ago, had some oral surgery, and have laid low while it heals and I figure out what soft foods my mouth can manage. So here I am back in the Twin Cities, in all the old familiar places, trying to figure out what the hell to make of my life for the next two months until Antarctica gives me an easily-snapped-to-grid identity.

Identity is a tricky thing and I think it's difficult to form your own. We have family, friends, jobs, cars, clothes, phones, tattoos, art, the news and on and on that provide a constant waltz between informing and reflecting how we see ourselves fit (or not) into the world. Am I a spouse? Am I a parent? 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Am I a teacher? Am I a musician? 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Am I an activist? Am I a part of the problem? On and on. Frankly, I tend to find it super stressful, but I am of the persona that worries a little too much about what people think about me.

We can try to let go of contextualizing ourselves and thereby relieve the anxiety that pops up periodically when we feel adrift or disconnected. I could, say, move to Thailand and Antarctica, rinse and repeat, and make leaving my most commonly repeated activity. But I give up a lot of good stuff with it and, more generally, I think it's everyone's responsibility to put some thought into what their role in the world is. It doesn't have to be permanent and it doesn't have to be purely altruistic, but I think it helps us make stronger relationships and be better strangers.

I've rewritten the last couple paragraphs over and over in the last month (I was so close to one blog post a month!) so obviously I'm not 100% sure what my own identity is at the moment and what to do with all the mental gymnastics. But as I get ready for another 6 months in Antarctica and plan for the next couple years of my life I do know that I want find a better balance between expanding my own life and fulfilling the commitments I've kept in life so far.

A better version of myself, probably.