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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Holkenbrink-Monk

Finding Joy

Updated: May 5

I am currently sitting at the dining table at my house in the Midwest. I don't actually live here - my dad does - but this house has been mine since I was 17 and my grandfather died.

It's a beautiful house. It has three bedrooms, two baths and a half, and an entire basement (though that's not much to brag about in a state like this.) The dining room is large, there is a nice little island in the kitchen, and the living room is roomy. There is a cute little shed in the back that looks like a barn and the yard is large.

The neighbors here are friendly. It's customary to wave at every person you see, even if you do not know them. The road near the house, which divides the house from a corn field (or soybean field, depending on the year) is a real road, but it has gravel on it. Some of the adjacent roads are too rocky to ride bikes in comfortably, but kids (and we) do it anyway. There are two churches in town, but no grocery store. There is one cafe, a bar, and a variety of other service-oriented businesses, including the U.S. Post Office. It's small, and some days it feels like we may be related to the vast majority of folks here.

The population as of 2020 was under 400. My family's roots are here, at least in terms of the roots in the United States. My great-grandfather immigrated here in the early 1900s and fought in WWI in the United States military, meanwhile, my great-aunt and great-uncle, my grandfather's siblings, were veterans of WWII.

My great-grandfather was a historian of the town, a town named after a U.S. General on the Union side of the Civil War and before, a revolutionary during the Baden Revolution, as an actual commander. This is significant because this was focused on granting more power "to the people," suggesting a more democratic government and rising against the monarchy. This was supported by Frederich Engels and Karl Marx.

So, as I sit here in this town, I realize how far down the line is that I have descended, yet I still cannot imagine a life that is not directed or attempted for the people. I cannot for the life of me answer the question, "How did we get here?" That's a complex question with an even more complex answer, of course, which perhaps someday I'll discuss but many of you understand and know.

But the point of this post is not to discuss the sociopolitical or sociohistorical conditions from which I stem, but rather to discuss the ways I will discover and find my joy. I was inspired to write this blog when I was extremely touched out, here in town, after an almost 2,000-mile road trip. My children are my world; they bring me so much joy, laughter, and love. They remind me to maintain hope, both for their future as well as because of them. I am finding, though, that I put myself on the back burner for so long and mindlessly followed what I was "supposed" to do that I lost significant knowledge of who I am.

I am not a believer that we are some predestined person from the beginning, but we should like ourselves, and I do not even know who I am to know if I like myself. The past few years have shown me things I do not want, even beyond the pandemic, but what do I want? I know I want my children to be happy and loved. I want them to be able to explore who they are within their own childhoods. I want them to have financial stability within our family and beyond. I want them surrounded by the people who love them.

That's all important, yes. But what do I want? I love teaching. I love critical thinking and deep, personal, intimate conversations. I need to heal. I need to find my joy.

You see, I believe that we do not, nor are we encouraged, to truly find our joy. Instead, we are encouraged to find a job, post on social media, and pretend we are in joyful situations, meanwhile, we are aimlessly floating around in what feels like an emotional void. And I refuse to fall into that trap. My joy needs to extend beyond solely my family, and I say this lovingly. I dedicated many years of myself to my family, and to a marriage that ultimately broke me and devastated me for several years. I was wounded and I am not sure I have fully healed from that, and though I will have scars, I can heal.

So, who am I and what do I want? This post and my journey are dedicated to my children, and all the parents out there who have lost their identities deep into the other people they care for, and as worth it as it may be, are questioning what is next and who they are.

And while this is my writing, I will be writing about society, parenting, various activities, travel and excursions, fictional ideas, short stories, poetry, and other miscellaneous adventures and hobbies I may pick up that allow me to feel joyful, nourished, and fulfilled because this makes me the researcher and educator I am today.

*As a note, one way I nourish my soul is to write. I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember and I'd love your support, so please consider subscribing.

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