lemonade, anyone?

There’s that saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Haha, we laugh. Sure. I don’t even like lemonade, but you got it.

Life has given me a lot of lemons over the past ten years.

Yeah, yeah. “Look for the positive — focus on the good!” Isn’t that the other phrase we hear? Easy to say, much easier said than done.

But still we try. Or at least we move on. Or at least we keep getting up every morning, putting two feet on the floor, and shuffling towards the door. We go through the motions without a clear picture of where we’re going — just knowing that this is what we’re supposed to do, this is how to escape the fog and move towards the light.

Someday things will make sense.

We hope.


Stairway into the fog at Dalmaji Hill, Busan, South Korea, taken on my trip in 2011.

A detail I never fully explained was why, as a California native, I chose to go to graduate school in Tennessee. Sure, I like Tennessee (I did go to college here), but . . . Move away from my family? Move back to the humidity? Why would any fine-haired new aunt choose to do that? (My hair is incorrigible here, and I miss my nephew so much!)

A simple reason: finances. When I was looking into graduate school, I knew I couldn’t afford to do it on my own. I didn’t want to go deep into student loan debt, so I looked into programs with assistantships that offered funding. UT was one of these, and when I was accepted, I was thrilled. But there was a catch. I’d been accepted to the program, but I hadn’t been offered funding.

Well, damn.

So last April I flew to Tennessee and met with the program’s director and, together, we hatched a crazy plan. I’d move to Tennessee, start school on my own, and reapply for funding in spring. If I got it, I’d be fully funded for the following two years. If I didn’t, well . . . I’d be back to square one.

Well — deep breath — go.

Fast-forward one year and here I am in Tennessee and for months I’ve been waiting to hear if I got funding. I wasn’t on the initial offer list (that was heartbreaking), but as everything shook out, I found out recently that I was, in fact, offered funding for next year.

There is a God, lol.

No, seriously. I’ve had my doubts.


An optimistic view of Knoxville, looking west. Taken on a ride a couple days ago.

It’s been all sunshine here in Knoxville for the past couple of days, and yesterday on my drive to class — in my beloved 18-year-old Jetta, sunroof open and windows rolled down — I couldn’t help feeling something I haven’t felt in a very long time: optimistic. I’m still scared sh*tless most days. The future is murky and there’s still sadness behind and a resistance to letting go and always the very real chance of being let down again (and again, and again and again and again). But somewhere in there I hope tenacity is rewarded. Grit is its own strength. And life experience — in all of its varieties — is what connects us.

It’s what’s connected me to you.

Lemonade? Anyone?


*Lemonade image credit to Smirnoff.com

18 thoughts

  1. Jessica, congratulations on getting the funding for next year. That’s great. It must be a huge relief.
    I have a Jetta too. It’s not 18 years old yet, I bought it in 2008.
    I’ve tried making lemonade once, I’m not sure I’d do it again. It seemed like a crazy amount of sugar.

    • Thanks, Gary! It *is* a relief. I don’t think I realized how much it was weighing on me until I finally got the news.

      I’ve had my Jetta since I turned 16. They’re good cars! And I agree about lemonade. I don’t usually buy juice or lemonade because they have so much sugar! (I get my sugar elsewhere, lol.) Hope you had a great weekend!

  2. You have a bucketload of lemonade right now. And even if you didn’t, just keep getting up, putting your feet on the floor and moving forward. Congrats on the funding, your step can be a little lighter now, your breathing a little easier. Thrilled for you that you got it.

  3. Doubt is one of the spices of life, makes one appreciate the magic when it happens. Congratulations on the funding :-) And the start of yet another adventure for you…I’m thinking right now this lemonade is tasting pretty good. Cheers to a great week ahead, Jess, and more to come for you.

    • Thanks, Randall! Yes, I guess a bit of doubt is always good. At some point I plan to use this quote in a post: “I’ve never met a strong person with an easy past…” Seems true and a good thing to remember in trying times. I hope you’re doing well. Looking forward to your next post!

  4. I am delighted to hear your news on funding Jessica. Yet another example of ‘take the leap and the universe/God will catch you’. It takes HUGE determination and courage to do what you did. I am so proud of you. Beautiful images to boot. May the sun shine on you always.

  5. You’ve got all the ingredients to make a drink much sweeter than lemonade. I’d venture you can make a powerful smoothie with the tools at your disposal. A lot can be said about grit, determination, focus, fortitude, self-discipline, forgiveness, steadfastness, faith, conviction, hope, and a belief its all’s gonna be alright. You have all of these attributes and more. So go get ‘em Girl!

Leave a Reply to Jessica Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s