Georgia on My Mind {A 9 Year Reflection}

Hi friends!

As many of you know, I am getting ready for a big move. If you didn’t know, I am going back to school for a second degree and could not be happier about it! My new school is located in Worcester, MA… just a little ways away from metro-Atlanta! {Okay, it’s actually pretty far} While I have been packing up everything I own the past week or so, I’ve been reflecting a lot about my time in Georgia.

In my 25 years of life so far, I have been extremely fortunate. My siblings and I have had an opportunity that most of our peers cannot begin to fathom; we have lived in 7 states all across the country. I’ve lived in the north, south, east, and west. Due to our regional prowess, I have a pretty strong handle on the regions I prefer within the United States. In short, I know what makes me happy. Because of this, I have known for over 9 years that Georgia is not the place for me. That’s not to say it’s a horrible place to live; it’s just not for me.

I truly believe that there is a perfect fit for everyone, where they can flourish and push themselves to be their best. I think about in terms of a relationship, but a relationship with a physical area, not a person. In my opinion, most people are quite narrow-minded when they think of where they would be happiest. “In my hometown” would probably be the most common answer, if I had to guess. But I say, challenge yourself! If you’ve never stepped outside of your comfort zone, never been away from that bubble of familiarity, how would you actually know? You won’t know unless you’ve tried.

With all of that being said, I’m going to take a little trip down memory lane. I have complained about Georgia a lot in the time that I have lived here. So much, in fact, it’s a miracle that I have any friends at all! {Like I said, it’s just not for me} I want to do this; however, to point out the positive aspects and the reasons I am thankful to have spent 9 years in Newnan, Georgia.

HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND

August 2006

August 2006

Here is a photo of our first day of school in Georgia! {When I took the photo out of it’s frame, some of the ink stuck to the glass. Ignore the white splotches!} The funny thing is, I look incredibly similar now to the way I did when I was 16, minus the bangs. I suppose that’s why I am still often mistaken for a high schooler at 25… maybe someday I’ll be grateful for that? All of my siblings look like babies in this picture though!

Although I absolutely hated our high school in Georgia, I am thankful that I graduated high school and was able to move on. High school just wasn’t “my thing.” I was never in the popular clique or the girl with a huge circle of friends. I related in a huge way to Taylor Swift, who sung her heart out about exactly what I was going through. I was good at school {I took 6 AP classes} and good at swimming, but I did not thrive socially. I was very shy and that did not bode well for moving across the country at 16. On top of that, I’ve always been an old soul and I couldn’t stand immature kids! I was so ready to get this nonsense over with! Needless to say, I was thrilled beyond belief to graduate and move right along to college!

For college, I made the obvious choice to attend a school that was not in Georgia. I already knew that Georgia is not where I was happiest and wanted to experience somewhere I had never lived before. I chose Radford University in Radford, Virginia. I can say in all honestly that I love Virginia. I love the way that it is truly a combination of North and South. After being taunted my last two years of high school for being a “Yankee” {which I loved to point out that Washington was not even a state during the Civil War, fool} I was more than excited to be at a place where everyone was accepted. People with all different types of upbringings were friends. It was so refreshing to experience! This is how it should be.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I did not party it up in college like most of the other students {I was nerdy… remember} but I had an incredible four years that I wouldn’t change for anything. I did college my way and would recommend that to anyone and everyone! You do you.

LEARNING TO WORK

I hear all the time that Millennials do not know the value of work. That we expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter. That we are lazy. While I can agree to an extent that there are a lot of people my age that sadly fit those qualities, I believe that I have learned the importance of work.

My parents own a concessions company. I’ve talked a little bit before about working shows or fairs with my family. I’ll argue until I am blue in the face that you do not know what it is to be bone-tired from working until you’ve worked a busy fair. From the time I was 16, I have worked for my parent’s company when they need me. This can entail 18-hour workdays. Manual labor. Driving across the country. Most importantly {and daunting}, dealing with the PUBLIC. Oh, the public. As a person that struggles with uneducated people, this was a big lesson for me. You sometimes have to break things down to a preschool level {without being condescending, if possible} to get people to understand you. When you explain the concept of a “refill” to a full-grown man five times and he still doesn’t get it, you just have to let it go. No need getting yourself bent out of shape because of it. Stay composed, stay professional, and move on with your day. People can be rude and treat you like garbage. I have learned more from these rough situations than I ever could have imagined.

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I also had the opportunity to work retail {at Ann Taylor} and to work in a hospital {Cancer Treatment Centers of America}. I am forever thankful for both of these job opportunities because it has shaped me into a more well-rounded individual. Excellent customer service should be provided regardless of where you work! I learned how to provide world-class service to those in need. I will carry these skills into my future life in the dental field.

My parents always say that they would put any of us kids up against anyone else our age and we will out-work them. We know we are capable of working hard; we’ve experienced it. All of this was primarily instilled into my siblings and I while in Georgia.

TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF AND OTHERS

A question I keep encountering is “Will you be okay up there without your family?” Truthfully, I am always taken back a little bit by this question. I have never once considered that I would not be okay living far away from my family. They have raised me to be an intelligent and capable individual. I can cook healthy meals from scratch, bake with the best of them, study and earn high grades in my classes, take care of my pets, stay physically fit, manage my finances, and roll with whatever life throws at me. It makes me question my generation, if this is such a big concern for people. Would others struggle making it on their own? Why?

I am glad that I was taught to be capable. My parents gave me a lot of responsibility, especially being the oldest of 7 children. But the responsibility I have shouldered has made me stronger. It has prepared me for life. Would I have been ready to move 1,000 miles away when I was 15? No. But in the 9 years I have lived in Georgia, I have become an adult. I can do whatever needs to be done; bring it on!

RAISING PETS

Oh, my babies. My loves. Some of my greatest joy in life comes from my pets. I have always had a pet. There has never been a single day in my life in which I didn’t have a pet. But, while in Georgia, I have learned how to provide care to them for myself.

It started about 6 months after we moved here in 2006. I’m not going to beat around the bush, I was depressed. I would cry myself to sleep most nights because I hated living in Georgia so much. I hated the stupid warm weather {still do}. I hated my high school. I hated that swimming was not a big sport here. I hated that I had no friends. There really wasn’t much going for me around this time. I went with my mom to Petsmart one Saturday afternoon to buy dog food for our Golden Retrievers, Lexi and Willie. There were about a dozen cats available for adoption. I stopped dead in my tracks and asked the volunteer if I could hold one of the two cute grey and white kittens. {A big deal for the shy high schooler} I immediately fell in love. We were told that these sisters were found tied inside a plastic bag on top of a wood pile. I looked at my mom {who was holding the other grey and white kitten} with huge eyes. I didn’t even have to say anything because she knew I needed them. Knowing what a rough six months I had had, she told me I could have a kitten. I protested that these two could not be separated! My eyes filled with tears. Being the true animal lover that she is, she said I could adopt them both. By the time we had them home, I had named them Mia and Sophie.

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Mia

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Sophie

These girls brought the first true happiness I had found in Georgia. I needed them as much as they needed me. They are so sweet and still make me smile on a daily basis.

Three years ago, I adopted an adult cat. Her name was “Baby girl” but I wasn’t fond of that. I changed it to something I felt was similar enough that she would catch on to, but that I actually liked. I renamed her Bailey. Bailey has definitely taught me about problem solving! She is one particular cat! She is so snuggly though and loves to cuddle.

Bailey

Bailey

Two years ago, my mom purposely bred two of our goldendoodles. I prepared myself for the birthing process as well as I could and helped to deliver Lola’s first litter of beautiful goldendoodle puppies.

The whole process was nothing short of amazing. I won’t go into all of the details again, but it was an experience that I will never forget. Through that day on April 23, 2014 I became attached to a certain special puppy. As you may have guessed, that is Teddy.

Baby Teddy bear

Baby Teddy bear

Teddy at 8 weeks

Teddy at 8 weeks

Without my assistance, Teddy never would have taken her first breath. She had a little bit of a rough entrance into this world and we bonded immediately. In fact, I am tearing up as I write this. People probably think I’m a little extreme, but I love her to amounts I cannot begin to describe. I love her as my child, which to me makes perfect sense. I saved her life. She is alive because of me and me alone. I provide for her, I feed her, I take her on walks and runs, I taught her that the outside is for potty, and most importantly I love her with all my heart.

Teddy's first Christmas

Teddy’s first Christmas

Teddy and I

Teddy and I

The pillow queen herself

The pillow queen herself

We had another litter of puppies earlier this summer. The experience was still amazing, but not nearly as memorable as my first time being a doggy midwife; I knew what to expect this go around. A puppy was born {also fourth} that reminded me of baby Teddy. It was a boy that was very petite. He was also darker in color like Teddy and completely adorable. I knew I was going to be moving in a few short months and told myself to try to not get too attached, as I was already finding out that an apartment in Massachusetts that allows large breed dogs is ridiculously hard to come by. After working with an angel of a realtor, she found a pet-friendly place for us to rent! In comes my little Graham.

In my opinion, he is the sweetest puppy of the 12 we had in this year’s litter! He is playful mixed with the right amount of bashful. I know he and Teddy will become the best of friends. She already is a tad bit obsessed with licking his paws. She’s a good big sister! I also know that my love for Graham grows stronger each and every day. I can tell that he is such a good boy.

Graham 5 weeks

Graham 5 weeks

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Graham 9 weeks

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Graham and I braving the Georgia heat

I know the dogs have no idea that their world is going to be turned upside down this weekend, but I truly think they are going to enjoy Massachusetts. The crisp fall air. Seeing snow for the first time {I cannot wait to witness this}. Summers that are hot, but not so much so that after 3 minutes of standing still outside, you have a stream of sweat down your back… nice visual, I know.

To wrap up this little section, I’ve always been an animal lover. But while living here, I have embraced my love of animals and learned how to take care of them completely.

PASSION FOR FITNESS

Since I was 11, I was on a swim team. I became a competitive swimmer just before I turned 13. I swam throughout high school for both my school team as well as a more competitive club team. I’ve always loved the notion of practicing hard to break your own records. I swam for part of college and eventually decided that it was best for me to part ways with the team. The choice was highly personal and a difficult one for me to make.

After my swimming career was over, I felt lost. What would I do with 20+ extra hours a week in college that were previously devoted to practice? I still worked out, but it was nowhere near the rigor that I was used to as a Division I athlete. I needed something to work hard towards physically. I joined a small triathlon team at my college that had just started up. I was already a strong swimmer, but had never run or biked before {besides recreationally}.

Completing my first triathlon

Completing my first triathlon

Running proved to be the most difficult aspect of a triathlon for me. When I started, I could not run a 5k without stopping at least once. Shortly after my first triathlon, I graduated college. I got home and thought I wanted to do more! But before I did, I really wanted to improve my weakness- running.

After some random google searches, I found the Atlanta Track Club. They host a 16 weeks half marathon training program. Novice runners were welcome! In fact, you just needed to be able to run 3 miles to prepare for the program. I knew I could do that and before I knew it, I had committed to training for my first half marathon! I was nervous that I wouldn’t actually be able to complete 13.1 miles straight, but I was more than up for the challenge!

The funny thing is, running became a huge passion for me. I am not a fast runner. But it is something that always challenges me and I get a mental high after each run. After I crossed the finish line at my first half marathon, I knew I was addicted. My goal was to complete the race without walking, I did not have a time in mind. I just wanted to finish strong and have a solid race. I finished my first half in 2:22 and was beaming!

First half marathon!

First half marathon!

To date, I have completed 8 half marathons, a 15k, two 10k’s, and countless 5k’s. I adore the process of training for a half marathon and giving it your all on race day. {Except for runDisney events… I do not try for best times for those. That’s about the overall experience} I love the dedication training requires. I love the feeling of finishing the race. The rush of accomplishment and excitement.

If you were to tell me 4 or more years ago that I would grow to love running, I wouldn’t have believed you. But life has a funny way of turning the tables in all sorts of crazy directions!

Besides running, I have developed a passion for lifting weights through BodyPump. This Les Mills program works every muscle of your body in the hour long class. It keeps you entertained with the music and choreography. I have been going religiously for over two years now and look forward to class. I liked it so much that I became a certified instructor last summer! I still haven’t taught because I had a full-time job and the hours weren’t conducive, but that’s not to rule it out forever!

BodyPump Training

BodyPump Training

I’ve become passionate about fitness as a whole. Though I’ve always been mindful of the importance of exercise from being a competitive swimmer, I have embraced it to a fuller extent. This is a part of my life that is not going away. I don’t think “Oh, I should probably go to the gym today.” I’m actually excited about it! I enjoy cardio as well as lifting and understand the importance of each for a person.

RELATIONSHIPS

I have saved the best for last! Though I initially did not have many friends when I moved to Georgia, I have slowly built up a meaningful group of strong friendships. I would not have met some of these amazing people had I not lived in Georgia. I’m not going to start listing out my friends to make myself feel popular, but suffice it to say that I am thankful for each and every one of you.

The one special shout out will go to none other than Paul. We were introduced through a mutual friend and my life was forever changed. I might also add that NEVER in my life did I picture myself dating someone who was born and raised in Georgia. It seemed inherently wrong! But Paul is not a typical “Southern boy,” though he is absolutely a southern gentleman. It has been over 2.5 years and I could not have asked for a more supportive and understanding boyfriend.

I’m going to try my best to not get too mushy here 😉 I will probably fail miserably.

One day last year I called Paul. I told him “Hey, I found this really neat dental program. The only problem is, there is just one like it in the entire country… and its in Massachusetts.” Without a moment’s hesitation, he said “Go for it. You should apply. I think you’ll be happiest because this is what you’ve wanted. I’ll move to Massachusetts with you.” His unwavering support has meant the world to me. When I wanted to punch every person in the face that told me “The winter is going to suck in New England!!!” Paul was always there to remind me not to listen to the haters. That we are doing this for us, not for them. He is the best. {Plus, winter is my favorite season anyway}

My 23 birthday, two weeks after our first date

My 23 birthday, two weeks after our first date

Jersey Shore 2013

Jersey Shore 2013

Peachtree Road Race 2014

Peachtree Road Race 2014

It's GAMEDAY!

It’s GAMEDAY! February 2015

We have had so many wonderful times since we have been together and I am looking forward to our future. I am also incredibly proud of him for accepting a wonderful job position in Massachusetts. Sometimes, things just work out the way they are supposed to. I love you, Paul.

All in all, my 9 years in Georgia weren’t all terrible. In fact, I can say with clarity that I have grown into the person I am today because of Georgia. I have no intentions to return here on a permanent basis, but an thankful for all I have learned.

Georgia,
Georgia,
No peace, no peace I find
Just this old, sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind

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2 thoughts on “Georgia on My Mind {A 9 Year Reflection}

  1. I remember your first few weeks in Georgia when Jordan and I came down and worked the fair with you! So long ago and seems like yesterday at the same time! I am so glad you are so happy and doing so well Kristi! I know this next chapter is going to be amazing for you 🙂

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