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I’ve been out with the flu all week. It has not been the most… thrilling of experiences, to say the least. I’d go so far as to say it’s been pretty miserable. Being feverish, achey, coughing, and general unable to walk more than ten feet at a time is not exactly my idea of pleasant.

The problem with the flu is it just sort of knocks you down and makes you lie around for a few days until it’s done with you. Plans? Cancel them. Work? Call in sick. School? Hope you have a friend to get those notes. You can’t even concentrate on a book, usually–it’s just television and movies and feverish dreams.

We had a discussion at dinner the other day as we all hid behind bowls of soup and hoped we were recovering. My mom asked if we–me, Tucker, Dad, Grandmother–remembered being sick as kids. Tucker doesn’t have many memories about it. He said he blocked them out. Dad had awful asthma as a kid, and remembers that; Grandmother had a few stories. So did mom.

Personally, I have a list a mile long of stories I could tell you about when I was sick: late autumn nights on the huge swing under the oak tree, huddled under a blanket and coughing with the croup. Shuffling between the kitchen and the living room in New York to watch Persuasion with a mug of theraflu in my hands. Lying on a pallet in my parent’s room. Hallucinating about Mary Poppins in the hallway when I was eight and had the stomach virus. Swine flu, twelfth grade: 104ºF fever, three seasons of 30 rock in two days. I don’t remember a single episode. Catching laryngitis and reading the fourth Magic Tree House book, then trying to talk to my grandparents on the phone. Generally, when I was growing up, sick days were when I attacked a pile of books and drank a lot of gatorade.

One time when I was about seven years old, I came down with some sort of infection. I don’t remember what it was that time around–a stomach bug, the croup, the aforementioned time I got laryngitis–but I do remember that I was stuck in bed all day long. I was homeschooled at the time, so most of my schoolwork became reading work: math and writing would wait for me to feel better, but reading has never been a chore.

Continue reading “98.6”

a slight overhaul

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my friends could probably tell you this…

I like to consider myself a planner.

… but they could also tell you this:

I actually spend a rather large portion of my life plunging into things quite suddenly and then making it all up as I go along. See also: changing majors or starting a fashion blog.

To clarify, these actually don’t negate each other. In general, I’m not spontaneous. I like my life to have lots of order, schedule, and organization. While I don’t always succeed, I like some semblance of them to be around. I don’t need meticulous plans–just overarching themes and such. This brings me to the main point of this post.
the long and short of it
For some reason, I decided that signing up for NaNoWriMo–that is, National Novel Writing Month–two days before it starts (November 1).

No, I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing. I may love writing, but I’ve certainly never tackled a project like this: 50,000 words seems like a distant dream. Add a time limit of 30 days? Ha! What! Surely you can’t be serious. Well, now that you mention it…

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Do I realize that this is a massive project that I probably should’ve been preparing for since the beginning of October? Yes.

Do I realize that I have virtually no outline, no idea of what the central conflict of my story will be, and only a vague handle on the characters and the setting? Yes.

Do I realize that 50,000 words is a lot to ask in four months, let alone in four weeks? Yes.

Do I have any idea what I’m doing here? Not really!

Am I going to let any of this stop me from at least trying? Not a chance.

the overhaul
If I’m going to actually do this thing, I’m going to have to change a few things about… well, mostly everything. I’m going to need some more structure in my life, which means I need to overhaul a few habits and jumpstart a few new ones–like going for runs in the morning, being more consistent with exercise in general, eating at normal times (note to self: no midnight snacks), sleeping at normal hours… and, of course, writing. Lots of writing.

To create space for these new habits, I’m going to have to change where I spend my time (e.g. less general dilly-dallying, more actual writing). In short: I’ll be around, but less than usual. If you see me blogging every day, ask me why I’m not writing my story. If you see me liking twenty pictures on facebook, ask me why I’m not writing. If you see me sitting on my back porch staring at the sky and not doing anything for more than ten minutes at a time, call me out on it.

the truth of the matter
I’m not walking into this trying to change the world, or even my world, or even to write the best fairy tale adventure story ever seen (although that would be pretty cool… one day, perhaps). I’m tackling NaNo because… I’ve wanted to do it since 2007. I’ve always been a fan of a challenge. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was seven (even though I hated writing when I was seven). Plus, I’ve got an idea I want to see properly on paper. In words. Lots of words. At least 50,000 of them, in fact.

… and I need a kick in the pants to get me started on it. I work better with deadlines–actual ones, not the kind you make up yourself–than I ever have without them. So here’s my deadline: 50,000 words by November 30. If I hit that goal, I’ll be pretty proud of myself. If I don’t hit that goal, I’ll still be pretty proud of myself. Whichever way it goes, I’ll write more than I would otherwise and I’ll be the better for it.

After all, the best way to improve on any skill is to practice. And the best kind of practice is to throw yourself into a space where you can make mistakes, learn from them, and keep going strong. I’ve got a feeling NaNo might be that space for me (at least, I hope it is).


Before I head off to do some more really last minute planning, I wanted to say thanks. I’ve already talked to some of you about this, and you’ve all been really, really encouraging. Thank you for that. Thank you for telling me that I haven’t gone completely bonkers in signing up for this two days before it starts. Thank you for telling me that you’re excited I’m doing this. Thank you for saying you know I can do it. Thank you for saying you have faith in me, you can’t wait to see how it turns out, and that you want to read it when I’m done. Thank you for sending me smiley faces and !!!!!! and it’s gonna be amazing and YOU ARE GONNA DO GREAT text messages. I haven’t even started writing, but you’re already there supporting this crazy idea of mine. So thank you. That means the world to me.

(And if you want to keep that up every few days during November, I certainly won’t object. I have a feeling I’m going to need all the help and encouragement I can get.)

So… that’s that. I’m oddly excited and surprisingly not all that nervous about this; I suppose the stakes are pretty low when you think about the fact that even failure will mean having more than I do as I’m starting. And whatever happens in the next thirty days, I’ll be looking forward to coming back here to tell you all about it when we hit December.

get up and go

A few weeks ago, I had an idea for a blog post.

Get up and go. 

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That was it. I wanted to say those four words. I wanted to tell you all how I’ve come to realize their importance, to want them to mean something for you the way they mean something for me: I wanted them to reach inside of you and grip you and send you running out your door to just go. Sometimes the destination isn’t as important as just getting started. I wanted to ask you to try this for me: to spend your weekends outside of your comfort zone, if only briefly. I wanted to ask you to push yourselves. Get out there. Hit up that restaurant you’ve been eyeing, or maybe just visit the local farmer’s market. Check out the weekend’s festivals. Get out of the house. Go.

Continue reading “get up and go”

discovery (n.)

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discovery, n. the act of finding or learning something for the first time.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about life as a lengthy series of discoveries. Discovering new places. Discovering new foods. Discovering new people who will become your best friends. Discovering new cures and vaccines. Discovering books you’ve never read, movies you’ve never seen, music you’ve never heard but really enjoy. Discovering postcards that your best friend sent you when you were eight when you finally clean out those piles of stuff in the basement. Discovering you actually really like brussel sprouts.

… or, you know, discovering that brussel sprouts are technically “brussels sprouts,” not just brussel (like I just did. I guess it makes sense, seeing as they’re named for Brussels).

Life is one big journey of discovering other and discovering self, and I for one am glad that is so. Just think how much less life would be if you never discovered that you love to read, or really enjoy learning new languages, or that science was your love language, or that you’re actually incredibly gifted at playing the maracas, or that your hair looks really good in a pixie cut, or that you have a knack for limericks. I don’t, by the way, have a knack for limericks (although that would be awesome).

What I do know is this: in 2010, I would have laughed in the face of anyone who called me “creative.” Creative? I’d say, Ha! Nope, not me. Not at all. I was the only kid in my year who joined technical theatre. I was the kid who read in her free time and did her geometry homework on the train ride home. I was one of those people who spent most of high school in math and science classes, never took an art class, and loved every second of it. Creative? Me? Not in a million years.

Oh, how very wrong I was.

Four years later, here I am. I’ve discovered a lot about myself since that point. I discovered how much I love to write. I discovered that I love photography.  I discovered that you can make just about anything with fairy lights. I discovered that I really, really love traveling, and I discovered that even if you can’t go see the world at the moment? It only takes a bit of paper and string to bring the world to you.

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…You just have to think a little bit outside of the box.

Mostly, though, I discovered that I’m creative. Not just in the sense that I can make things–whether that’s a map of the world on my living room wall or a really, really good batch of cookies (dark chocolate chunk with lime and coconut, anyone?)–but in the sense that I really, really enjoy creating.

creative, adj. having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas.

love

There are a lot of great things that come with being alive: friends. family. food. sunsets. rolling hills. road trips. puppies. thunderstorms. modern art. ice cream. puns. the consistency of learning new things: every year, every month, every dayabout everything.

There’s also a number of lousy things that come with being alive–from disease to poverty to lack of clean water to war and gun violence–but even they play a part of this mess we know as life. We run up against these things. They’re painful. They’re big, they’re messy. They’re scary. When I run into one of them–like news updates on ISIS, or Ferguson, or watching a friend struggle with a chronic disease, or hearing the latest school shooting discussed on NPR–sometimes all I want to do is crawl under the covers and pretend the world doesn’t exist. The brokenness of our world is so extensive that it quickly becomes completely overwhelming, and hope? Hope feels like a faded memory, and I’m stuck under my covers thinking that everything I do is completely and utterly purposeless.

A few things to remember at this point: first, that running into the hard parts of life always gives us perspective; second, that hope is tenacious; third, that there is more than one way to do purposeful work with your time.

I’ve been reading a lot of historical fiction lately–well, a lot more than I usually do–and much of these books have been set during World War II. They deal with different themes, different characters and places and struggles, but they each have at least one detail in common. When the protagonists come face-to-face with the war, they come face-to-face with the question of is what I do purposeful?

The answer is not always yes. Occasionally though, characters realize this: that even though they are not actively participating in the war effort–whether as a soldier or a nurse or a secretary in one of the government offices–they are still doing important things. In short, what are people fighting for? 

Those things worth fighting for–beauty, and love, and friendship, and freedom, and laughter–those are expressed so, so thoroughly in acts of creativity. A movie came out this past spring called The Monuments Men. It focused on this small group of men who worked to rediscover and preserve the art that Hitler had stolen. There’s an amazing line said by the main character, Lieutenant Frank Stokes:

They tell us, “who cares about art?”  But they’re wrong.  It is the exact reason we are fighting. For culture.  For a way of life.

Running up against the chaos and mess of life exhausts me. It overwhelms me. It saddens me. It makes everything seem pointless because even if you do this one good thing, what could you possibly do in the face of that? That’s a big problem, and you are so, so small.

And maybe you can’t do anything. You can’t sew up all the tears in the fabric of this world. Maybe you can’t do anything about people being murdered, or the poverty crisis, or the ebola outbreak, or the people who don’t have access to clean water or education. Those problems are too big for me; I don’t have the right experiences and skill sets to tackle them. I don’t.

What I can do is help others who are working on these problems. I can contribute financially–if only a little–and I can create. In my own small way, in my own small corner of the world, I can take pictures, string, and paper to show someone the world. I can create a level of order from the chaos. I can twist words around until they look lovely. I can make people smile with letters and postcards. I can remind people why we’re here, why we’re worth loving, why we’re worth fighting for, why what we do is so, so important.

I can’t change the world, but I can change people’s perspective. I can’t stop poverty, but I can stop procrastinating and make something with my time.

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Here’s a thought: find what you’re good at.  Find what you love. Is it completely impractical? That’s fine. Does it seem impossibly odd to you? Even better.

Now take one more step down that road of self-discovery and use it to build hope. 

breathe.

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You know what surprises me all the time, without fail?

Resiliency. Hope. Perseverance. 

The knowledge that human beings are so, so weak. That we’re vulnerable. That we mess things up all the time. That we forget about important dates or events or calls or e-mails we were supposed to send. That each of us has a ridiculous amount of stuff to put up with in life. Sometimes, I think we carry too much.

Continue reading “breathe.”

have a suitcase heart

A year ago today, I did a lot of internal screaming.

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(That’s why.)

I was nearing Ireland–Ireland!!!–after a red-eye flight across the Atlantic. A few details stand out about that flight–watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for one; the mug of Earl Grey at 2 AM EST as we neared Dublin, for another; the fact that I was so cold I snuggled all the way under the complementary blanket and put the complementary socks on my hands. Hey, flying first class definitely had its perks. (If you’re reading this–thanks again for those tickets, Uncle David! You’re the absolute best!)

The day before, I had hugged my family goodbye and hopped on the plane to Dublin: my first time leaving the country, and I was headed out for a solid four months. Go big or go home, right? 

I spent the hour before I left the Philadelphia airport doodling on a new notebook, twisting words and images in my head until they unfolded in a way that matched my hopes for this first trip abroad. I outlined my design, hoping I would (for once) be consistent in journaling.

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from philly to ireland–here we go.

(I wasn’t.)

Still, there are scattered notes in there–references to “the time I (literally) set foot in the Irish Sea,” doodles of Howth, ticket stubs–metro, plane, bus–and a five cent piece, grocery lists, travel budgets, flight schedules, notes from Christian Union meetings or Sunday sermons. In any case, I was rather proud of my design: I’d seen the quote a few weeks prior while we were in Seattle, and I’d wanted it on a notebook of my own ever since. This seemed the perfect opportunity to use it.

My second weekend in Dublin ended up as a daytrip to Howth, where–between walking the piers and finding the cliffs–my new friends and I lazed around on top of the hills for a while, talking about our experience in Ireland so far, or our lives back at home, or dozing. I wrote about it the odd sense of familiarity that Ireland instilled in us the next day:

Tyler and I were talking about it yesterday, how Ireland doesn’t feel “foreign.” It feels quite normal, quite natural–quite like I’ve lived here my whole life, really.

It’s been one year since I left on this grand adventure, and I still don’t have the proper words for it. I sort of wonder if I ever will. I still talk about it all the time, even if not on purpose. I still cry over it sometimes, just a little. Coming home was lovely–I really had missed Philadelphia and all the people that go with it quite a lot, especially the last month or so–but oh, I don’t think my heart ever really left that island. We leave pieces of us in the places we live, however briefly, and there’s something so incredibly beautiful about the fact that we don’t have to have a single, solitary home; we can belong anywhere, we can belong everywhere.  A bit of my heart will always be somewhere between Dame Street and that cliff walk on Howth, and I am grateful for that.

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There’s something about travel that cuts out the unnecessary, leaves playacting and shallowness behind. The friendships I formed in Ireland are ones I fully intend to keep for the rest of my life–and not just because I plan on kidnapping Lis and using her car for road trips. These people knew me in a context completely and utterly unique, in a space that allowed us to be genuine in a way that, somehow, our regular college lives just… didn’t. They knew me as the slightly travel-crazed girl named Connor that liked hiking and reading and was always saying guys, I just really love food.

Hey. If you’d seen the sort of things I got to eat, you would’ve been excited, too.

We turned to each other frequently over the months, my American friends and I. We looked at each other with a specific sort of smile that reached our eyes long before it reached our lips as we said hey, guys–guys. We’re in IrelandThat smile meant hey, take a minute. Look at where we are. Look at what we’re doing. This small, ordinary moment is something absolutely extraordinary because of this one detail. And sometimes it wasn’t a small, ordinary moment. Sometimes it was a big thing, something you couldn’t do anywhere else. At all. Ever. No way.

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After all, the Cliffs of Moher are only in… well, County Clare. They just don’t exist anywhere else. And same goes for that cliffside hike at the Giants Causeway. There’s only one Giants Causeway, and it’s in Northern Ireland. You aren’t going to find something like it anywhere else in the world.

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I’ve been wondering lately if the reason I felt more myself in Ireland is because I truly lived in the moment. I spend so much of my energy thinking about the future–planning, worrying, imagining, dreaming–and I get wrapped up in my own head pretty quickly. Moving to Ireland for four months meant getting out of my head, going out of my way to explore a new city, a new country, and, really, a new continent.

It’s not that Philadelphia is bad at those things–it’s that the ordinary needs the extraordinary to liven it up occasionally, just as the extraordinary needs the ordinary to tone it down when things get too overwhelming. 

I still don’t know exactly what I learned from my time overseas. I don’t know exactly how I changed. I don’t know exactly what shifted internally to make me feel so full of clarity and peace. I don’t know if I’ll still be talking about my trip like it was yesterday in a year or two, or if I’ll slack off gradually until I visit Ireland again.

And I still don’t know how a country I’d never seen before managed to captivate my heart so utterly and completely within my first four hours of walking around. 

I don’t know if Ireland got to me because it is the first and last place I’ve had my passport stamped. I don’t know if it got to me because the people welcomed me in like family, or if it was because I had friends there who already were like family. I don’t know if Ireland’s stuck with me because of the sheer amount of awe it inspired, or the delicious food I consumed, or because I frequented the Dublin airport as many times in four months as I have the Philadelphia airport in the past four years.

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I don’t know if it was the friendships I sank into with such ease, or the trips we took together, or even the scattered meals we made of veggie burgers topped with goat cheese and mushrooms cooked in a balsamic reduction. I don’t know if it got to me because of the adventures, or if the adventures got to me because it was Ireland.

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added: france; italy; scotland and the uk as a whole; the netherlands; germany; ink stains from that time a pen broke inside my favorite bag; creases from carrying it with me to all of those places & then some.

The last journal entry is dated 21 December 2013, the day I flew back to Philadelphia:

How strange to think of all these pages held a mere four months ago–not words, maybe, but hopes and dreams. Possibilities. Potential. That’s what these pages held.

 

And now, on the flight headed home… well, now they hold other things. Memory. Laughter. Travel logs. Essay notes. All of that, and hopefully a bit of wisdom. Definitely  experience.

 

I wish–just a bit, not too much–that I could say I know what I learned here… I am too close to the matter, temporally speaking. Time will tell, I’m sure, and I look forward to discovering just how this semester has shaped me. I feel vaguely as if I am a truer me–more me, myself, than I ever have been before, that this trip has honed me down a bit to my true form.

I still don’t know if what got to me was the travel, the friends, the new places–the adventures, the sites, the sheer amount of fun we had or places we went. I don’t know how soon I’ll be able to get back, or the next time I’ll doodle a suitcase on my notebook or have the presence of mind to pray that I will enjoy every. single. second or appreciate every single day or remember to explore every single weekend.

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What I do know is this: it’s been eight months since I left, but I still call it home. 

there is no one alive who is youer than you

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Dear You,

It’s been that kind of a week. I know, I know: it’s only Tuesday (or probably super early on Wednesday, by the time I finish this). Still, here I am, staring at my computer from a faded blue armchair that’s older than I am. My first Christmas pictures were taken in this armchair. They’re kinda cute, I guess, but I seem to have drooled a lot during those days. To be fair, most six-month-olds seem to drool a lot. It’s probably not just me. Mom asks me occasionally if I want to get rid of it. I don’t. It’s one of the most comfortable chairs in the house, right after those beanbags that are so large we call them the planets.

Work is… well. You know how work is. It’s not that it’s dismal, or even particularly difficult. It’s that I don’t particularly like my job, and my boss can be rather… mean. Or maybe just odd. Today I asked him if I could bring in some pictures to liven up the rather dreary and derelict bulletin boards by my desk. Oh, he said. I don’t… I’m a bit of a fuddy-duddy. I mean, people come through here, visitors and professionals, and it needs to look—I don’t like music. Or personal decoration. He paused. I know that makes me a bit of a fuddy-duddy, but when people come through here—

We are a rather small department (maybe ten people, max). We don’t get a whole lot of visitors. I just nodded, told him I understood, and, well, my pictures of Dublin and Edinburgh and other fun European places will just have to live at home with me for now. How a picture of a bridge seems unprofessional is beyond me, but hey. I’m certainly not going to mess around with the rules. I just thought that the five-year-old Christmas card and four-year-old postcard from the Bahamas could use a little company, that’s all. They look so old and yellow, you know?

I’ve been living at home for almost three months now. That’s three times the length of any amount of time I’ve stayed at home since starting college. It’s been… interesting. An adjustment, certainly, and probably harder on my fam than it has been for me. I’m working up towards the pinnacle of adult-kid-living-in-her-parents’-home: cooking once a week. Grandmother said she’d be my sous chef, so all that’s left is to pick a day and have at it. And while I don’t always really want to be here—who, when they start college, says to themselves Wow, I can’t wait to finish this so I can live at home again? No one, that’s who. Or at least, very few people—I am also glad to be here.

Yes, it’s an adjustment. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s weird to not have my own space that’s not just a bedroom, and yes, it’s weird that my roommates aren’t… anywhere close to here. In the four years since I started college, my room became my grandmother’s room (2012), a housemate’s room (2013), and, finally, after the “Grand Rooming Swap of 2013,” my parents’ room (2013-present). I now live in what, when I last resided here, was the study. The cumbersome brown desks are gone (and so is the rather wonky carpet). I’ve got my old bed, my old desk, and this old armchair… and two of my walls are 60% covered by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Granted, these are mostly filled with my dad’s theology books (1.5 of the shelves), but I’m starting to stake my claim (0.5 of a shelf). Still. I’ve always surrounded myself with books, but this is a whole new level. I miss the wallspace some—I mean, the bookshelves mean there’s no way I can recreate my last wall decorations. That’s okay. Staring at the map would probably just make me more antsy, more ready to bolt out of this beautiful city and straight into the horizon.

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It’s not that I’m unhappy here. I’m perfectly happy (…minus the job situation). A whole slew of my friends moved to my neighborhood recently—seriously, it’s something like eleven or twelve—and we’ve had a grand old time with movie nights, game nights, brunches, dinners. And for all its difficulties, I’ve loved moving home because it means I automatically see my family—ice cream dates with the sis, late night talks with the brother, family dinners and laughing with Grandmother.

Then there’s all the plays to see, movies in the park to watch, First Fridays to attend—Philadelphia is an amazing city. I love it here. I always say it’s the first place that ever really felt like home, and that’s true. I’ve never lived anywhere quite as long as I’ve lived here—eight years is a lot in the scheme of my short twenty-two years. So no, this mental itch that makes me want to drop everything and hop on the first plane to Europe doesn’t come from any particular unhappiness or lack of adventure.

Honestly, though, all of this just kind of feels a little loose: like I slipped into this new skin, this new space and it just doesn’t fit quite right. It’s been a while since I had this urge to get up and go—the last time was at the end of my first year of college, right before I flew off to North Carolina for the first of many (but never enough) delightful summers working at a camp in the mountains.

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I haven’t seen the mountains this summer. I haven’t even seen the ocean. I’ve been in the city all summer, so I definitely haven’t sprawled out on the ground and gazed at the stars. Those three things are typically a staple of summer for me: I usually get at least two of them out of these short months. Maybe that’s what feels so off: I can’t remember the last time I got that tiny glimpse of infinity that shifts my perspective and reminds me that I’m small.

Maybe I’ve forgotten I’m not big, not in the slightest—not even middle of the line, really. I’m a tiny speck of a human in the eye of eternity and sometimes I need to be reminded of that because otherwise my ego gets too big. I start thinking of myself too much. I make myself up into something bigger than I am: someone who should have everything sorted out because honestly, isn’t that what college was for? I forget that no one has their lives sorted out. More and more I realize that we’re all sort of faking it till we make it, and if we dwell on that for one second too long our confidence in what all we have to do might come crashing down and who knows what sort of chaos would ensue.

Of course, sometimes staring too long at the abyss—or the ocean, or whatever spot of grandeur is in front of you—can be a bit too intimidating. I remember hiking up this narrow path above the Giants Causeway with Lis and getting to the top and thinking wow, this is… this is almost too much. Too much to take in at once. Too much to see, too much to admire, too much to shake you to your very core because look at this beautiful place.

Hold on to that thought in these next few days. Maybe this week will stay one of those, but maybe it’ll move up, passing not so good and meh to arrive at an agreeable not so bad.

Did you ever read Dr. Seuss? When I was growing up, my favorite was And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which probably says more than it doesn’t. Now, though, I’m more of an Oh, the Places You’ll Go! type of gal. There’s this amazing section of the poem that addresses how easy it is to maybe get a little off-track and turn around to find you’re in “a most useless place/ The Waiting Place/for people just waiting…”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live my life in that “most useless place.” I don’t want to spend my day waiting to send my last e-mail so I can go home and go back the next day to send more. I don’t want to sit around and wait for things to happen. There are some times when waiting is good—necessary, even.

Take Advent. Even without throwing my religion into the mix, Christmas wouldn’t be quite the same without the whole season, would it? Or if you don’t like Christmas, take birthdays. They’d be run of the mill if they happened every single day without those other 364 (or 365!) days between ‘em. Waiting has its place. That doesn’t mean I’m always going to like it.

And honestly, I’m slowly becoming okay with that. If I feel a little off right now, there’s probably a good reason for that. I’ll keep looking at grad programs, keep writing in my free time, and keep reading more books than seems humanly possible. I’ll write more letters, send a few care packages, and keep trying to get my Etsy shop back off the ground… if I can think of any more designs. I’ll graft these spaces of creativity back into my life, try to remember to breathe, and for pete’s sake, woman, don’t whine. Goodness. You’re twenty-two, not three.

Yes, life’s confusing and complicated and curious all at once. You knew that already—you’ve known that for years. Hang in there. Keep fighting against that urge to curl up in a ball under your favorite blanket and pretend the world disappeared. You already know that’s not going to change anything. Change isn’t passive, hon—if it’s something you want, it’s something you’ve got to instigate.

So drive to the ocean sometime soon, for me. Or the countryside. Maybe take a trip to the mountains. Stare at the stars, walk at the edge of the sea, swing your legs over the side of a cliff and watch the clouds scampering beneath your feet. Look out or at or up into those small tastes of infinity and remember that we are so, so small—dust to dust, right? But then ignore the double negative and think about this:

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We are small, yes, but not insignificant.  What you do matters. Who you are matters. How you act and react to the people and place around you matters. Do you want to be remembered as the person who ignored everyone while she tried to figure herself out, or do you want to be remembered as the person who made ridiculous mistakes but kept her chin up high while she told her latest escapades to her friends?

That’s what I thought. I know you need some alone time—isn’t that what this is? But you need people, too. We aren’t islands. We’re built for community.

So make people laugh. Compliment their hairstyles. Talk about their favorite books (not just yours). Ask about their hopes and dreams and fears and actually listen to their responses. Share yours, too: friendship is a two-way street. Say thank you more often and mean it. Be sincere. Be grateful. Be kind and helpful and for the love of all that is good, be patient. I know you love that Emily Dickinson line that says dwell in possibility, but don’t forget to keep your feet on the ground if your head’s in the clouds.

A bit of dirt won’t hurt your feet, and be honest: your pedicure was probably ruined already, anyway.

Remember that journal Miss Thomas gave you for eighth grade graduation? One of the quotes she stuck inside was from Winston Churchill, and I think it’s a good thing to remember right about now.

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That’s all I’ve got for you right now. Make some more tea and think on it for a minute, would you? Breathe a little. Be generous. Be fierce. Be true.

love,

Me