I’m not sure why people are so interested in my sleeping arrangements. I’ve had more conversations in the last two months about sleeping on an air mattress than I thought would happen in a lifetime. There seems to be a plethora of real beds going around the Greater Kansas City area, and everyone knows someone with an extra. Continue reading
The other day, I tried to quit my job. For the third time. My managers are pretty cool, so they didn’t give me much grief about it, but they were curious to know why I wanted to leave this time.
“Do you have another job?” Doug asked.
I shook my head. “Nah,” I said. “I just feel like I should go somewhere and do something epic.”
“Why are you always trying to run away?” Dave asked.
His question stung a little bit. “I dunno,” I shrugged. It was an honest answer. Continue reading
I look around my apartment–boxes, crates, piles of things that don’t quite fit into those boxes and crates and instead are precariously stacked on top and around them. A mental map guides the chaos: mine behind the couch, Weston’s by the door, donate by the window, sort against the wall. Sort is always the hardest. Continue reading
When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher made us write a story set in medieval times. Our whole grade was doing an interdisciplinary unit on the Middle Ages, with the math classes drawing up plans for medieval churches, the social studies classes talking about the Black Plague, and elections being held for King, Queen, and Court Jester. In English class, we spent weeks developing our stories–from drawing what our characters would look like to making a checklist of which Middle Ages paraphernalia we wanted to include (i.e. wizards, royalty, peasants).
My story was about a princess who was about to be married to a dreadful, fat, old king. The princess ran away and eventually ended up in the forest, where she met an old wizard. They chatted a bit (I can’t really remember what happened) and as it turns out, the wizard was the princess’s long-lost father. I don’t really remember how the story was resolved, but I’m sure it was Happily Ever After.
I turned in my story in a folder, along with the drawings of my characters, the checklists, and the rough drafts. A week later, when the teacher returned our papers, I opened my folder and saw a post-it note on the front of my story. It said, “Do you want to submit this to a writing competition?”
I never responded.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I took Spanish 2. After taking Spanish 1 from a kindergarten teacher who spoke no Spanish and made us glue yarn to construction paper and watch Selena every class, our entire grade was significantly behind where we should have been for Spanish 2. Thankfully, we had a new teacher for Spanish 2, and she actually knew Spanish (weird, huh?).
When the teacher returned our first tests, I saw that I had done well. I flipped through the pages to see what I had missed, and I noticed a note at the bottom of the last page: “Do you want to join Academic Quiz Bowl?”
I never responded to her, either.
I think it would be easy at this point in my life to look back and say, “Oh I was dealing with middle school self-esteem issues, I was nervous about being seen as smart, blah blah blah,” but in reality, I don’t think it was any of those things that made me not submit my story to the contest or join Quiz Bowl. It was that I just didn’t want to. My story sucked. It was a lame compilation of ripped-off story lines from every cliche fairy tale with a thick streak of the 1990’s Disney movie emphasis on strong female characters. My characters and plotline were completely unoriginal; it was only the fact that I could write well for my age that made my teacher think it was good. But it wasn’t.
And as for Quiz Bowl, it’s not that I didn’t want to be seen as smart. That cat was let out of the bag when they started taking us out of reading class so we could go to “QUEST.” Yep, that ship sailed a long time ago. I didn’t have anything against Quiz Bowl, and some of my dearest friends were on the team, but I personally just didn’t see myself doing it. That’s all.
So, in all, I wouldn’t consider these particular instances missed opportunities. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve been more aware of those opportunities in my life that I didn’t take advantage of, and that I might possibly regret. This perspective has influenced me to do things that I might have talked myself out of otherwise, study abroad being a big example. It has also influenced me to focus more on what I love, and that is writing. In order to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to me, my (belated) New Years Resolution is to win something from my writing or have something published. It doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s not on this blog.
A week ago, my professor handed me a piece of paper. It was an application for an Undergraduate Excellence in Jewish Studies Award from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She said that when she saw the information about the award, she immediately thought of me and a paper I wrote for her class on Judaism. She asked if I would be interested in submitting my paper and possibly winning $250.
This time, I responded–yes.
Today marks the one year anniversary of getting on a plane to Amsterdam. Actually, today at 4pm marked the one year anniversary of me getting on the plane. At 2am (our time) it will be the one year anniversary of me calling my mom, telling her I made it. It’s unbelievable to think of all of the fear and hesitation and excitement I felt before I left, and while sitting on the plane, and when it finally landed 4,500 miles away. And to think it was just a year ago.
I was always sort of disdainful of the college kids who studied abroad and came back raving about how it changed their lives and forever altered their perceptions of the world. Yeah, we get it. You went to England or Australia or some other English-speaking country and drank yourself stupid and came home completely cultured. Not that my intentions were any different than theirs, mind you, but I would be honest enough to say so, without hiding behind a facade of “change” or “cultural experience.” So I went, and I drank, and I hung out with international kids and Americans, and I went out every night, and I had a fabulous time “studying” abroad in Europe.
And now that I’m back I see how much has changed.
It’s been rough at times. But they tell you that, in your monthly meetings about re-integrating into your home culture after studying abroad. They tell you before you even leave Amsterdam. They tell you it’s going to suck, that you are going to experience an upside-down bell curve of depression. That your life will never be the same, so get used to it now.
I don’t know if I would call it the bell curve blues (new band name, anyone?). Sure, there were times when I embarrassed myself after coming home. Like the time I freaked out and thought TGI Friday’s gave me counterfeit quarters because I couldn’t remember how it felt to hold them in my hand. Or when I turned twenty-one and didn’t know how to order a beer other than in 33cl increments. But other than that, I feel like I have for the most part avoided being that girl. You know, the “Oh my God the croissants are sooooo much better in France” girl. Probably due to the fact that I preferred the Albert Heijn croissants.
Sometimes I will remember little things and my heart gets a little twang. (Yeah, I’m from Missouri, even my heart has a little twang.) Like when I remember our Thursday night dinners. Or when I drink out of the cup I got on Queen’s Day, and think of how my friends have the other ones just like it. (P.S. Where did the matching pitcher go?) Or when my best friends build me a bike almost just like the one I had in Amsterdam. It’s those times that I feel a little nostalgic, and very loved.
It’s been snowy here in Springfield, and I’ve been wearing my brown, leather boots a lot lately. I bought them just before I left for Amsterdam, and I can’t take a step without thinking about how I broke them in during my first week there–one painful step at a time. And I know there’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but that’s just not my style. So happy anniversary, love. So happy we met.
Hmm…it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated this blog. Let me fill you in on a few things that happened since the last post:
1. I finished my semester abroad in Amsterdam and sadly said goodbye to all my friends.
2. I packed up 6 months of my life in one suitcase, put it in a storage locker, and went backpacking around Europe (and Asia and Africa) for 6 weeks.
3. I saw some really awesome stuff, met some really amazing people, and did a few things I never thought I would.
I’ve been known to have some out-of-the-ordinary religious beliefs and ideas, an amalgamation of things I like and things I make up off the top of my head. There was the time I was going to worship the sun, and the time I was going to refuse to vote for religious reasons, and most recently, when I decided that the afterlife consisted of being shown pictures in which you are accidentally in the background. I always look at my pictures and see people in the background, who I captured on film rather unintentionally. I wonder how many strangers have pictures of me, though I am not the main focus of the photo. I decided that all this must mean something, and that when you die you are presented with all of those strangers’ photos where you are in the background, or the blurry person to the left, or the bypasser on the sidewalk. That will be the reflection of a life well-lived–not how many pictures you took of yourself and put on Facebook, but what you were doing when you did not know you were being photographed. It will be like seeing your entire life from the perspective of someone else, except that someone else happens to be thousands of strangers who shared space with you, took pictures of you, but never knew you. And I have to imagine that those accidental pictures will reveal more about the life you led than any posed photograph ever could. Continue reading