An organized mess

Staying focused through spontaneity

McKenna Dirks

More stories from McKenna Dirks

3rd and Vine
April 5, 2022

If you know me at all, you know I am an overachiever mixed with a little procrastination. But you also know it hasn’t always been this way for me. It’s not a great combination, but it does create an organized mess. Hi, I’m McKenna. 

This chaos began from the moment colleges in the UW system were debating whether or not to transition to online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a third-year student in college, I’ve never had experience with online school, so I knew hard times were ahead. 

UW-Eau Claire was one of the last schools in the UW system to transition to online schooling. I was so excited at first, but then realized it was much more than laying in my bed taking notes. 

My job at Kwik Trip demanded more hours for me as we were one of few businesses still left open at the beginning of this pandemic. I went from working around 25 hours a week, to 38 hours in a short period of time. 

This is where my stress and major disorganization began to settle in. First, no experience with online schooling, then, no experience with working full-time hours while still being a full-time student. 

Nothing could possibly go wrong.

That, of course, is not the case here. As months went by and we crept into the fall semester of 2020, I looked in the mirror and the person staring back was not me. 

I fell down a deep hole during spring semester. But eventually, I had a nice, much needed summer break. Even then, I fell back into that same hole, but even quicker this time — and it’s only October. 

I decided to change something in order to succeed — I decided to change my routine. I realized my life was becoming disorganized whenever I became stressed, so I found a way to destress.

I went to Canada. 

Okay I didn’t actually go into Canada, but I was only 70 miles from the border. On Monday, Oct 5, I drove to Duluth, MN, and from there, took one winding road up the coast of Lake Superior. This road is Highway 61 and it is by far my favorite drive in Minnesota. 

Being that I work Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays and every other weekend, that leaves me with Monday, Thursday and the rare weekend to go places. 

Thursdays I have class until 6:15 p.m., so that’s not an option. Monday it is. 

It was 1 p.m., I drove four hours north and it was a beautiful site. I highly recommend the trip. I might add, this trip isn’t necessarily all about the stops on the way, the drive is just as beautiful, especially with the fall colors. 

Fall is my favorite time of year, for anyone wondering. If I could create a world where it was fall and 63 degrees year round, I absolutely would. 

My first stop was in Two Harbors, MN to get a snack at the local Kwik Trip. This shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Then I kept driving and at last, I arrived in Silver Bay, MN. If anyone knows the name Silver Bay, they know about the black sand beach there. Yes, a black sand beach in Minnesota. 

I grabbed my camera and climbed rocks. There are a lot of cliffs because Lake Superior is literally right there. I captured some of the best photos I’ve ever taken. This is my true stress reliever. 

But there’s a problem with this. Although I’m doing what I love and makes me happy, it’s extremely time consuming. Don’t ask if I checked Canvas before this trip because I didn’t. 

Keep in mind, I’m in the middle of two big projects and I have an exam next week. I did not make a great choice here. 

However, it will be the weekend soon and I actually have a head start on my school work. Like I said, an organized mess. It’s beautifully chaotic. 

Anyways, I took some fantastic photos in Silver Bay, then continued north toward Temperance River State Park

Temperance River State Park is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. There are some stairs leading down to the shore where the river flows into Lake Superior. There are cliffs on either side and it could honestly resemble heaven. 

I’m a spontaneous person. It doesn’t bother me to drive hours and hours in one day if it means I get to see amazing things. My mom thinks I’m crazy, my friends ask why I do these things. 

I do these things because I’m stressed, and when I’m stressed, everything becomes extremely disorganized. My room, my bathroom, my hair, my assignments on Canvas. Trips like these almost give me a fresh start to the rest of the week or the week ahead. 

Find something you love: a passion. Whether that be traveling, painting, biking or hiking. Find time to do the things you love, even if it’s at the most inconvenient times, like a Monday afternoon. 

I’m organized, but am still a mess.

Dirks can be reached at [email protected].