When the Skies Look Like Ceiling Tiles / by Liz Brown

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hree years ago I had a challenge. It came in these words by Mumford and Sons: I will learn to love the skies I'm under.

I moved from Chicago to Iowa in 2009 and I immediately missed Chicago dearly. I fell in love with that city fast and it hurt to leave. I missed the humanity, the white noise and overheard conversations, the grittiness, the coffee, the mystery, the way you can explore and never reach the end.

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On those first listless Iowa days--that first entire year, really--I would tell myself those words over and over and over--I will learn to love the skies I'm under--hoping that I would believe it.

When fall came around, just over a year later, I sat in a friend's car as she drove out into the countryside (we live in the city) and I was surprised to realize that somewhere in the past year, I'd become genuinely happy.

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One year later I bought a new car and began to roadtripping. So far I've driven to Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, all by myself. And let me tell you: I've learned to love the skies and under. I learned that the Midwest is absurdly beautiful. Kansas is all sky and gold. Michigan is all deep trees and mystery. Iowa is rolling and honest, full of interesting small towns--and I could go on.

I began getting up at sunrise to explore with friends, and somewhere in all these adventures, I grew to love Iowa, this reckless Midwestern freedom. I learned to love the skies I'm under.

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This week my skies changed. I started a corporate job, and while my training room has a delicious amount of windows, I'm mostly inside all day. But I'm so hungry to learn; I've learned so much the past two days about teeth and business and what to do during emergencies. I've been looking forward to this week for a long time. I bought a blazer and I found the only pair of dress pants that feel like sweat pants. My office has multiple places to get coffee and it's been a good week.

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While I've been nervously and excitedly anticipating staring my new job, one thing I've been unintentionally bracing myself for is the anticipated absence of beauty. The corporate world is always portrayed as the antithesis of the creative spirit and, armed with lipstick, I was ready to brave the absence.

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It's been funny though. Maybe it's just that the past three years have trained my eyes to find beauty everywhere, to choose to see it. But I've found it. The movies are wrong. Businesses aren't the antithesis to creativity and beauty. There's creativity and beauty everywhere because there are people everywhere. And people are the most beautiful. (And my office is actually really pretty.)

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Sometimes all that you need to find beauty is to look. Today I found it in the face of my new friend, who describes her understanding of the stock market as gibberish. I laughed knowingly: I get it; I'm there, too. I found beauty in another new friend who spent lunch telling me about her children. I found beauty in the white table next to the window. I found beauty in the tunnel on the parking garage. I found beauty in a sole orange chair. I found a beauty in looking at x-rays of the mouth. Who knew that mouths are so complicated and symmetrical and amazing! There's beauty even here if only you choose to see. I will love the people around me. I will choose to love the skies I'm under, even when those skies are ceiling tiles.

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I don't usually post iPhone photos here, but it's what I've been able to take at work, and I'd rather be honest than perfect. I hope my words and my pictures resound with you and you choose to see the beauty that's already around you, no matter if you're under skies or ceiling tiles.