Valpo Life: Becoming who I want to be

Spreading my wings has never felt better! It’s been four months since I moved to Valparaiso and I’m loving every minute of it. I’ve never considered myself a social butterfly and awkward situations with people I’d never met before used to be enough to ruin my whole week. Trying new things was always something that I was too busy for at the time and planned to get to someday. Today is someday! Nothing conquers the fear of trying new things and meeting new people like practice. 

Since moving here, I have…

Joined a band

The Valparaiso Community/University Concert Band welcomes musicians of all ages and skill levels. No matter what your instrument, there is a place for you here every Tuesday night to play and practice with like minded people. I’ve loved playing with this group and getting back in touch with my creative side. Music has always been a passion of mine and now I have the time and opportunity to pursue it while getting out in the community and seeing new faces. 

Become a regular member of a weekly supper club

This is an unofficial group of fellow new hires which meets most Saturday evenings to sample the flavors of Valpo. Some, like me, are new to Valparaiso and moved here for work while others grew up in the area. However, all of us are still in the process of adjusting to adult life and enjoy each other’s company and the chance to debrief at the end of the week over a delicious meal. So far, we’ve tried several restaurants in downtown Valpo as well as in Chesterton and even Whiting for the annual pierogi festival which took place in July. For anyone new to Valpo or looking for a good place for a dinner outing with friends, I highly recommend Ricochet Tacos, Ivy’s Bohemia House, the Burgerhaus and the Chesterton European Market which takes place throughout the summer.  

Gone on a picnic

I had the pleasure of attending the final performance of the Valparaiso summer concert series last month and I’m so glad I did. It reminded me of the Summer of Music performances that my family used to attend back in my hometown in Colorado. No matter where you are, there is something deeply satisfying about lounging on a blanket spread across a green lawn, a glass of red wine in one hand and a slice of your favorite picnic sandwich in the other while the sun sinks to the beat of live music. I enjoyed the final performance of the summer concert series featuring the Wedding Banned with a few friends from work and a dinner of muffaletta and cookies. 

Begun a personal religious investigation

Being in a new place, far away from most of my family and friends has forced me to meet new people but it has also given me an opportunity to truly consider questions that until now, I never really needed an answer for. I’ve learned so much about myself in such a short time and seen my views shift over the past four months. In the spirit of self-improvement and investigation, every Monday night I attend a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Valpo. This is an inviting group of people that meets to discuss questions regarding the Catholic faith. Here, there are no silly questions and members are encouraged to participate in discussions about Catholic literature and teachings. 

Learned to cook

The mark of cooking success is when it tastes just the way my mom makes it. Since coming to Valpo I’ve had several of these small successes and am regularly attempting new recipes to improve my skills and confidence in my tiny apartment kitchen. Food has always been a group activity in my family, German on my mom’s side and Italian on my dad’s. There are so many magical family traditions wrapped up with the creation and consumption of food from both sides. Upon graduating, I was determined to do away with the college diet of Ramen noodles and learn to cook like my mom does, for a crowd and with plenty of garlic. My latest successes include Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup, German Lentils with Spaetzle, and even Chana Masala (an Indian dish and my dad’s favorite way to have garbanzo beans). For busy aspiring cooks, I recommend Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown which is jam-packed with easy and affordable recipes that are bound to impress. 

Started a new exercise regime

Physical fitness is one of the easiest things to let fall by the wayside amid my crowded new schedule. However, I recently made the decision to make it a part of my day 5 to 6 times a week, even if it’s just a 10 minute home workout that I do in the comfort of my living room. I also try to get outside a couple times a week to go for a run or a hike around the Indiana Dunes area. My current favorite is the Cowles Bog Trail. I find I’m much more productive in all my other activities when I regularly commit to increasing my heart rate with some healthy physical labor. 

Made a budget

I’ve always felt that making a budget was one of the marks of a successful and well organized life but one which I never had time for. However, for the first time in my life, I am living completely on my own and responsible for all of my expenses. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally get organized and take one more step toward being a well adjusted self sufficient adult. 

Joined a women’s shooting group

I like to finish off a busy week with a bang at Blythe’s Sports Shop every Friday night for Lady’s View Elite. This is a women’s shooting group where participants are able to improve their knowledge and skills with a variety of firearms (mostly handguns) in a friendly and supportive environment. Whether you’re a beginner looking to gain confidence and a concealed carry  permit (like me) or an expert looking to stay sharp and practice, there is a place for you here. All the ladies in this group have been so welcoming and patient and happy to help me learn. It’s productive firepowered therapy. This is the perfect place to increase my firearm handling expertise and relieve stress at the same time. 

I’m so proud of everything I’ve accomplished during my time in Indiana and looking forward to so much more. Checking off all of these goals left plenty of room in my brain to come up with new ones. I still hope to someday become proficient in ballroom dancing, explore the great outdoors of Indiana, obtain several musical instruments (all the flutes and maybe a nice alto sax), obtain my own concealed carry permit and firearm (a 9mm would do the trick), and have friends over for cocktails at my place. 

In four months I have found ways to revive old hobbies and develop new ones. I’ve made several new friends that I spend time with regularly. I’ve achieved goals that I’d been hanging on to for years and I’ve set new ones. I’m well on my way to achieving some of those too. During my time in Valpo, I’ve done some serious soul searching about who I want to be and I can honestly say that I’m closer to that person than I’ve ever been before. Things that used to terrify me are now just another Friday night. Through all of this exciting newness, I have been constantly surrounded by friendly people willing and ready to welcome a newcomer. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a vibrant and inviting setting for this new chapter of my life. I can’t wait to see what the next four months will bring! 

Has your someday arrived? Little steps done now can make a big difference down the road. What are you doing today to become the person you want to be tomorrow? Please share your journey with me in the comments below.