The Essentials

Youth group retreats and long band trip bus rides often included games like Desert Island, where you had to pick one book, one type of food, or one person to keep you sane on a desert island for the rest of your life. On youth group events, the Bible and Jesus seemed like either cheesy or cheater answers while the same ones probably wouldn’t come up in the back of the bus on the way to Idaho for a jazz festival. The trick was to figure out what essential items you like today, and wouldn’t be driving you crazy by tomorrow (I’m hopeful that Spice Girls and McDonald’s never made my lists).

Since becoming a full-time Academic Advisor and full-time doctoral student, I’ve been learning more about my own essentials list: those things that must be part of my life to keep me happy, sane, and moving forward with the tasks of the day. I was surprised to learn during the Lenten season that meat is actually not on this list. I have not eaten meat for 45 days, and for the most part haven’t missed it. Yes, there was a point during a run when I stopped to check my GPS and the smells of a near-by Red Robin almost floated me through the front door. And no, I have not found any vegetarian options from a near-by taco truck as good as their chicken burritos. But surprisingly, this year’s experience has been much easier than giving up caffeine two years ago. I’ve even been inspired to try out a weekday vegetarian lifestyle after feasting on lamb this Sunday afternoon.

Sara Bareilles is definitely on the list as she has become the soundtrack to my doctoral studies. The three albums I have downloaded are shuffled and repeated as I write papers each weekend. Her poetry is inspiring. Her voice is beautiful (and I can totally mimic it in the car when no one else in the whole wide world can prove otherwise). And the fact I discovered her due to a very short blind date experience brings a mischievous grin to my face (thank you Bill!). And when I was in a darker place earlier this spring, it was “Let it Rain” that repeated over and over in the car as the echo of my search for strength and transparency.

Other items on the essentials list include caffeine (perky just doesn’t come naturally after 6 hours sleep), my Home Community (for friendship and accountability to step away from the computer screen), the Rogue Runners I’m getting to know (PRs and laughter), and Once Upon a Time (can’t decide if I like Snow White or the Evil Queen more this year). There are more things that I’m discovering I have to hold onto and let go of during this season of my life, but at the core I can build a pretty great day by running around in the woods, having lunch with a friend, spending a few hours homeworking at Starbucks, and then watching OUAT on my comfy blue couch. I feel blessed on this Good Friday that these joys are possible most weeks at some point or another.

Okay, back to Sara and my Thriving Literature Review…

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