Summer Summary

Wow, it is been a while since I have written anything other than work emails and grocery lists. To me, this summer hasn’t even felt real between not having to prep to move back to college this month, pack up my cubicle at a summer internship, and (you guessed it) – COVID. I’ve been asked if I’m enjoying “adulting,” and truth be told, I am feeling very grateful that I dodged the college bullet this time around because I feel for the incoming freshmen and rising seniors that have had their most memorable years intercepted by Covid. I can confidently say this summer has been one of the best I have ever had, and I can thank a few people and places for that. I have realized so much about myself, what actually matters, and that I am fantastic at learning from making mistakes (there have been many). With that, here is a summer summary of all I have been up to!


June

Alpaca’d my bags for a South Dakota wedding

Covid has thrown quite a wrench in plans; especially wedding plans. When my best friend told me her wedding was moved to an alpaca farm in South Dakota, I had no clue what that would entail. The venue was unique; like a tiny town filled with a farmhouse, guest houses, so much green space, and of course, alpacas everywhere. It turned out to be a great weekend with so many laughs and a whole lotta love. Seeing Anna read her vows just like we talked about when we were little finally cracked me and I got happy tears for the first time in my life. It was a blast getting ready with the girls in the morning as we cranked up the tunes, got our hair done, and enjoyed our time doing all the girly things that I’ll never admit I actually like doing. The bridesmaids stayed in our own rustic little house which felt like the ultimate middle school sleepover including giddy girl talk, and bachelorette festivities in which I learned I am absolutely terrible at the bachelorette version of pin the tail on the donkey (terrible, as in, put my paper underpants on a mug hanging on an adjacent wall).

Before we left the girl cave for the ceremony, we all circled around Anna, placing a hand on her and each praying over her and her new life she was about to begin minutes away. In that moment, a flashback played in my mind of our childhood filled with matching outfits, forts built, movie nights, waterpark days, watching fireworks every year on 4th of July together, lunch dates, Starbucks chats during breaks in college talking about the future, and all the milestones we shared together up until this one. This was one of the most moving moments I have experienced in my life, and God’s presence was felt when it was my turn to pray over the sister I never had. Definitely hard to choke back the tears, those flashbacks get me every time! I am so thankful I got to witness her happily ever after…and get a picture with an alpaca which I’m way more excited about than I should be, as you can see, nothing but pure joy.

Found myself a fine fella

Since my work start date was pushed to July, I had all the time in the world, but no clue how to fill it. I mean, there is only so much grocery shopping, and cleaning I can do! God must have seen my countless occurrences of vacuuming an already vacuumed floor because He gave me the best distraction from my housewife-like duties that now occupies the majority of my free time. I have always been a pretty independent person, so if you told me in May I would be going from doing most things on my own; to having a gym buddy, dinner date to test out new places with , bachelor Monday companion, and would be spending almost every single day of the week with some dude named Jeff- I probably would have looked at you like you had five eyeballs. This has now become the best reality and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love having a constant person to call up, confide in, experience new experiences with, embarrass myself in front of, and have fun with all the time even if it’s just a trip to the grocery store.

I can confidently say my summer would not have been as fulfilling and eventful without him and all we’ve done together. Meeting him shortly after I moved in is something I credit to God’s good timing, because I can’t even tell you what I would have done all summer, or how I would have adjusted to being on my own for the first time! What a blessing it is having a partner in crime to navigate this weird time of life, create new inside jokes and routines with, and go on new adventures to check off items on our “date list”. It’s a great feeling when you find someone who brings out the best in you; especially parts of you that you never knew were there before, the parts you forgot you had, and makes you forget about the parts you don’t like. While I did just fine going 22 years without this dude named Jeff; I like the version of myself when I’m with him and who he pushes me to be- healthier and happier. He’s now become a new character I can write into my story- and sometimes the most impactful characters aren’t the ones at the beginning. I now know what it feels like to be respected, cared for, accepted for being me and all that entails, what a good jump shot actually looks like, how important values and interests are, going to the bathroom at their place for the first time is nothing to be afraid of (don’t even pretend y’all don’t know what I’m talking about), independence all the time isn’t necessarily a good thing, and that corn hole can get pretty competitive. For the record, this is as smitten kitten and you’ll probably ever see me be. Consider it a one time only exclusive.

Celebrated my first project

To give some context; I was told by Boom Lab upon being hired that there are few times where consultants will be chosen to interview for a project before they even complete their training, so when I was told that Allianz wanted to interview me for a position- I was somewhat surprised because I was the only psychology major while the rest of my coworker consultants were business or computer science. I felt a sense of accomplishment I had never felt before because I realized that the untraditional route to the business world didn’t hurt me, but rather helped me. I’ve always worked hard to get to where I am even when it scares me and I have no clue what I am doing, but I know what potential I have, the work I’ll put in, and that I bring new perspectives and talents to what I do. It was a great feeling being validated by the fact someone else saw that in me too.

Prior to my first Allianz interview, I made a deal with my friends that if I got the gig, I would host a girl’s night at my place, attempt to make a charcuterie board, and would have my first ever drink in my life (for those of you who know me well, you know just how big of a deal that last one is). Covid interviews are like no other. I used my psychological hacks to make me feel less nervous by sporting a spiffy Calvin Klein suit for my zoom interview to look professional, with my tennis shoes on bottom because heels in my brain are associated with all the scary interviews I did in my early college years. It’s a simple equation: suit + heels = extreme nerves, suit+Nikes = less nerves, (it’s a counterbalance type deal and made sense in my head). I also never would have imagined I would be doing an interview while sitting on my coffee table since that spot had the only blank white wall behind it- but it made for a good way to crack a joke and break the ice. Think about all the “just covid things” you’ve done for work, and now put them in the pre covid context…it makes for a good laugh! My dweeby suit and tennis shoes method must have done something right because I got the job as a project coordinator on the Allianz Virtual Client team. June was a month full of so much good; moving to my own place, landing my first project at work, petting alpacas, Minneapolis skyline sunsets, meeting that dude name Jeff, and, having my first ever drink with the gals. I felt on top of the world and so grateful that all good things hit me at once, but as they say, what goes up….must come down.

July

Starting July with a “Boom”

The first week of July started off great! I officially started my big girl job at Boom Lab with our one week of consultant training- something that is a trademark of Boom Lab. I learned about so many resources such as Kablan tables, Jira, Power BI, waterfall methodologies (the only waterfalls I do go chasin’), and that no matter how hard I try to comprehend Excel, it never does fully stick with me. I found it funny that everyone, except me, said their least favorite training session was about personality and communication types. This exposed the fact that I was the only psychology major in a field of business majors pretty quickly. While I would have loved to finally meet my consultant class who I came to know very well throughout the previous months in Kahoot Trivia happy hours, what better way to kick off IT consultant training than by full immersing in all technology based, virtual training? Throughout the week, we worked on a mock client project in small teams which entailed being presented with a problem, and our team had to come up with a solution for their business by developing a website, fake data, data analytic tools, marketing strategies, and communicating all this to our client in daily meetings. The final day, we presented our project to the whole group, as well as some of the back office in which we had to be fully prepared to be grilled with questions after. The great thing about virtual presentations, is that no one knows what you’re truly wearing, so some of our group decided to wear our blazers on top and pajama pants on the bottom. By the end of the week; my eyes were bloodshot, I had never been so exhausted, made some new virtual buddies, and everything was a blur and I cannot tell you how I absorbed all that information but somehow it is all there. I loved every second of it!

Learning the ABCs of AVCs

Before I get into my series of unfortunate events that led to my downhill spiral I call July, I’m going to dig into the exciting new project I am on and see how confused I can make you. Just to refresh- I am a project management associate at Boom Lab, and through this, I get hired out on projects to different fortune 500 companies around the Twin Cities. While I would have been grateful to be placed anywhere, I am so glad to have been assigned to Allianz, not only because they are a great company and the project I am assigned to will teach me more than I ever need to know, but the 7 minute commute every morning if Covid ever ends is what excites me most. My assignment is on the Allianz Virtual Client (AVC) team. In short- my team is working on three giant projects all at once; distributing new hardware to everyone, upgrading Citrix software, and the overarching project: deploying virtual desktops to Allianz users around the globe with the goal to allow employees to pull up their desktop on any device, not just one device, make processes more efficient, and cost efficient. The desktop itself is housed in a data center in Phoenix, Arizona, so while the desktop may look like it is right in front of their eyeballs, they’re actually looking at it in Arizona (weird wormhole time travel voo doo technology sounding stuff). They say the best way to learn to swim is to just be thrown in and learn how to paddle, well, that can be applied to the IT world too, because there has been no better way for me to learn the lingo, infrastructure, and hardware than to be thrown in during a global launch.

Kind of started at Allianz

Typically starting a new job is pretty black and white; either you start, or you don’t. I always seem to find a way to be an exception. My walk on cloud nine in June ended the first day of work. The picture above documents this monumental first day- and that smile in that selfie was the last smile I’d show for a long time after that. I wasn’t feeling well and chalked it up to being exhausted from having to use my brain more than usual from this thing adults do termed “work”. Unfortunately, that was not the case as my thermometer spit back at me a lovely 100 later that night. Let me tell you, any inkling of sickness during a pandemic makes matters so much worse. Back in college, if I was sick I would come home or my mom would come with everything I needed, but now that my body temperature went up a whopping 2 degrees I was told I could not come home, and could not leave my apartment until I was tested for the one that shall not be named. I feel like there is an odd stigma about covid- if there is any chance you have it, or actually have it, it must not be talked about unless you want the rest of society to avoid you like the plague- literally. I’m not one to feel sorry for myself; but as my temperature climbed, my tolerance to cold plummeted, the sweat soaked through my sheets, breathing became harder, and my body ached as badly as it did after my old power circuits in gymnastics, all I could do was lie sprawled out crying into the phone to my mom like that would change things, when in reality the hyperventilating made my already shortness of breath even shorter. It was so hard being alone in those two weeks; not really telling anyone or being able to explain why I couldn’t hang out so I wouldn’t make them scared of me, and even harder to have the motivation and physical strength to do the basic things to take care of myself, let alone work a 40 hour week!

I tried so hard to be as engaged at work as I could, after all, I had only been on the job one day. You know something is seriously wrong with me if I turn down coffee since my stomach could only handle the thought of chicken noodle soup and gatorade. It was so hard to try to barely stay awake and focused while trying to learn my new role! I knew I needed to draw the line when I took multitasking to a new level by being on a call with another country all while getting sick in the bathroom with my laptop propped up on my bathtub, trying to comprehend software defects. Fun times! I ended up taking two days off of work in my first week, and while my team was understanding as get all – I already awarded myself with worst employee of the month in my mind. It was a terrible feeling to be the “new guy” and not understand much because IT is not the easiest field to pick up in a week, all while feeling the most sick I have ever felt in my life. From this, I definitely learned that it is ok to take care of yourself sometimes rather than perform at half your best (for me I think I only had a good 13% of myself to give). Up until this point it sounds like I had covid, right? After 2 covid tests (both nose/brain swab and throat swab, I am well seasoned in covid testing now), liver functioning test, kidney functioning test, and all other tests you can think of, everything came back negative. I am still genuinely confused about the whole ordeal because I still don’t know what had the power to wipe me out like that, but at least I now am not confused about what I’m doing at work-I’m actually getting the hang of it quite well if I do say so myself!

Kind of turned 22

Somewhere between figuring out what a mobile wyse was, and microwaving soup many times a day- I turned 22. I like to joke that I skipped my birthday this year because I was too sick to care that I made it another year around the sun. I felt quite the opposite of alive between the lingering nausea and dizziness, which at my age should be caused by one too many margaritas on their birthday, not a fever. In reality, I postponed my birthday to August. The day of my birthday, I put in a full day of work, then mustered up the energy to go celebrate with my family. By celebrate, I mean put on clothes other than pajamas in two weeks, take a nebulizer treatment (throwback to my wheezing days) to try to help me breathe better, tolerate a few french fries and a bite of birthday cake because I had no appetite for celebrating, or food. I had a strict no picture rule because if I looked as bad as I felt, I would feel even worse if those ended up on my mom’s Facebook page later. While I wasn’t the most cheerful birthday girl, it felt so nice to be around people again since I hadn’t seen anyone for those two previous weeks. It definitely will be a birthday I won’t forget, that’s for sure.

August

Finished turning 22

When I said I postponed my birthday, I truly did. I originally had planned a deck dinner from one of my favorite restaurants with my family, Jeff, and my good friend Katherine. While that didn’t work out the first time, I made sure it did this time so my year of turning 22 wasn’t more sour than all the lemons on my jumpsuit combined. It turned out to be one of the best nights! It doesn’t take much to please me; good food and great company was all I needed this year. Jeff and I make a great team in a lot of things, but especially corn hole, because we beat Christopher and Katherine every time. The night ended with a bonfire with s’mores upon my request since I have been talking about them all summer. There is nothing I like more than a crunchy, charred, absolutely blackened marshmallow. While some of the reason I prefer this way is because I don’t have the patience to babysit a marshmallow, it also is fun to stick it in the fire and watch it blow up. My family calls it burnt, but I call it gourmet flambe! #wifemeup

Childhood dream fulfilled

As a kid, I used to sit in front of the TV and watch the mesmerizing commercials of smiling little kids spinning around a toilet bowl slide and disappearing through the little hole wondering where they went. Ever since then, I always wanted to go to the Wisconsin Dells so I could answer that question. When I got invited to spend a weekend there with Jeff and his friends, my brain pulled out the memory of the commercial from 15 years ago. I had no clue that The Dells was more than a waterpark- no wonder there was always so much hype about it! We spent a lot of time at the waterparks, both indoor and outdoor, in which the running joke was making me stand by the “you must be this tall” sign before every slide. We also ventured to an escape room, went mini golfing, out for drinks, dinners – we did in fact wear moose antlers the whole time one night – and a nearby boardwalk that made me feel like I was in Florida rather than the land of cheese. It was a great weekend and little getaway with Jeff and his friends – never a dull moment! This was my first trip anywhere without my parents, or not on a gymnastics trip, surprisingly. Only took me a good 22 years. I ended the weekend leaving with the answer to my question; the hole dropped me right on my back causing my bikini bottoms to fly off. Not quite the answer I wanted, but I think the lifeguard didn’t mind! As much as I loved my time there, I was glad to be back in Minnesota where there weren’t so many billboards about Culvers and cheese.

Down to the lake

I am so used to going UP to the family cabin in Aitkin, MN, but sadly, the end of an era hit this summer. Casey’s Commonwealth will no longer have the Casey name, and our family became cabinless. You know what they say, if you don’t have a cabin, become friends with someone who does. I took a trip all the way down to Iowa to spend the weekend with Jeff and his friends and family at their lake place. It was one of the best weekends I’ve had all summer! I don’t think I have laughed so hard in years between the bonehead moves from some of the guys, and the stories his family told me. It felt so nice to not lay a finger on my phone the whole weekend (hence the lack of pictures). Getting a break from social media, work emails, and keeping up snapchat streaks was more refreshing than I thought. I could actually feel my stress levels start to rise again once I was reunited with my email inbox.

The first night we got there, we went out on a very late night pontoon ride while serenading the whole lake with Mr. Brightside which in reality sounded like a dying group of whales. All of Saturday was spent skiing (Jeff skiing, I don’t like to stand on moving things), floating around and getting to know everyone, burning ourselves to a crisp, learning what a Made-Rite is (you’re not “rite” it’s called a Sloppy Joe), more boating and bad serenades, explaining many times how I went from psychology to IT consulting, further explaining that Allianz is pronounced Ah-Lee-Ahnce and not Uh-Lie-Ance, flips off the boat (my time to shine as I pulled out the big guns with some gymnast tricks), card games, and a seltzer taste test to see which one is the best (Vizzy and Truly in case you were wondering).

Later that night we went on another late night cruise, and lemme tell ya, the Iowa sky compared to Minnesota’s isn’t even comparable. What I learned in Astronomy my freshman year of college finally came in handy which I never thought it would, and I was able to see all the constellations I read about. It felt so unreal being able to look up and see the Milky Way, and several shooting stars which I thought only existed in Lucky Charms cereal. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was getting to know Jeff’s family and friends; it felt like I knew them for a lot longer than 24 hours. By the end of the weekend, I left the lake with new friendships, lots of great memories, embarrassing stories about Jeff from his mom, double date plans, an invite back (always a good sign), and a great case of sun poisoning. As I lie here typing this with swollen balloon hands, swollen cheeks, a blistering nose and burns that make me look like Bob the tomato from veggie tales; I can say I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Didn’t go back to college

At this same time last year, I remember sitting in my usual spot at Starbucks 4 days before heading back to Gustavus typing up a new blog about what I will miss about college, but also what I won’t miss. Now, just like college freshmen are starting their new routines, it’s like I am starting my freshmen year of the adult world as I adjust to my new normal, too. It is the weirdest feeling not scrambling to move back for another year- but in these circumstances, I feel extremely grateful for where I am at and not having to navigate an already stressful college life. But like I mentioned, there are some things I will miss, but also the things I won’t. I definitely am not missing the things I predicted I wouldn’t miss (there are no custodians to flash in the shower here), but also, the things I thought I would miss aren’t gone or leaving a gap in my life, they’re just replaced by new and different things. College was my tool to get me to where I wanted to be, and I prayed at this time last year that my senior year would bring me all I needed to be successful and in the best spot possible starting as a working woman. Now that I can say that was achieved, I don’t have much of desire to go back because I love where I am at now, the work I do, the people I’ve met, the team I’m on, and the new healthier habits I’ve created. They say to enjoy your years at college because you have the whole rest of your life to work; but if your work is something that makes you feel valued, productive, and you enjoy it, then there is nothing wrong with closing the metaphorical college yearbook. I will always cherish my memories on the Hill, especially when those memories are safe in my mind on the Hill that was untouched by covid which makes them even more sacred.

To summarize my summer summary, all I have to say is it has been quite the ride. People say this is the worst summer ever, but for me, it’s been pretty dang great when looking at all the blessings in disguise. Sure, I would have loved to start work in person, go on regular dates with Jeff, go everywhere without a mask, and out to places I love to go to in the summer. But at the same time; working from home allowed me to fully recover from my not-Covid mystery fully and be able to go at my own pace. Less normalcy allowed me to get to know Jeff on a deeper level faster through talking more and spending more time together since there’s not much to do other than enjoy each other’s company and conversations. Masks have allowed me run to the grocery real quick looking terrible and not caring because it covers up a good amount of my face 🙂 Typical summer festivities being disrupted allowed me to focus on myself, get out of my comfort zone, and find new things that I love. I hope by this time next year when I am typing up another end of summer blog- I’ll be able to say I turned 23 on time, had a successful deployment at work, danced terribly at more weddings, took more trips with Jeff, celebrated more victories with something other than Mike’s Hard Lemonade since I learned they’re honestly not that great, got over my fear of fish at the lake, and lastly, I hope I will be able to say that I know what my coworkers look like rather than what they sound like!

Thanks for stopping by, folks

~Lauren

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