Friday, October 15, 2010

Making Moves.

With this next chapter comes a new blog. Check out my next blog as I begin another story in Denver, Colorado.

Closing Time

I lived with a girl in Germany who loved to read. She went through more books than any other person i've ever met, diving head first into the content, connecting on a personal level with many of the characters and losing herself completely in the stories. This girl would read during breakfast, on breaks at work and late into the night, flying through thousand page novels in three days and some of the classics in a mere afternoon.
Every once in a while however, I would watch her read a single page over a bowl of cereal only to put the book down until later that night when she would proceed to read yet another single page.
"You only have a few pages left, why don't you just finish the book?" I asked her one day over coffee, perplexed and somewhat annoyed by her peculiar behavior. It was then that my friend holding the book to close to her chest, near to her heart, looked at me and said,

"Because it's so good I don't want it to end."

In the book of life, chapters vary. Some are long, others extremely short. Some bring great happiness and success, others, heartbreak and loss. For me, the chapter of my life in the city by the sea brought much laughter and growth. It brought new friendships, new adventures and the comfort of being closer to home. Though my time in Seattle was shorter than I ever could have imagined, it is a chapter of my life that I will always look back with fond memories and smiles. The scene, the story lines, and most importantly, the characters made leaving an extremely tough decision. Though I didn't understand it in Germany at the time, I get it now. When you come to the end of a good book or an awesome chapter, sometimes it's just hard to complete. Because at the end of the day, completing means letting go, and letting go means moving on.

"I finished my book!" She said with enthusiasm later that night after a traditional German dinner with our house family. "Ya?" I answered with bit of confusion. "You sound happy. I thought you didn't want it to end? "

And as I watched her run up the stairs towards her stash of unread books on the third floor she yelled back at me with certainty in her voice, "Oh come on! Everyone knows that the best part of reading a book is finishing it." Stopping on the top stair she turned, looked back at me and said,
"Finishing one story means starting another. And new stories are the best."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back to the Basics

Last week after much debate and pride swallowing, I visited my high school. It had been five years since I walked those halls yet somehow they still looked the same, they still smelled the same. Entering into the main building I immediately noticed the paper football jerseys and obnoxious posters screaming slogans of school spirit covering every inch of the walls. Continuing down the hall, I spotted a banner displaying our school’s fight song above a group of lockers and laughed at the fact that I still knew every word. Memories of sporting events and intense rivalries came flooding back to me and I couldn’t help but feel like that part of my life was just yesterday, while at the same time feeling like it was centuries ago. Nerves consumed me as I pulled opened the door to my old favorite teacher’s classroom and saw thirty seventeen-year-old honors English students staring back at me. I immediately looked to the corner, my corner, where I spent two semesters during senior year desperately trying to hide my endless texting conversations and notes being passed from Mr. Powell’s wandering eye. He always seemed to catch me though, which was most likely why I was quite the regular when it came to being sent to the hall. Apparently talking to my neighbor during lectures was not acceptable then and looking back now, I guess I can admit that I was probably pretty rude. Lucky for Powell, the girl currently occupying my old seat looked fairly respectful and way too timid to break any rules or challenge the authority, as I would have in my day.

After introductions and explanations about who I was, why I was there and a few low blows from Powell about how old I have gotten, I assumed the position in the back of the classroom, ready to hear the lecture of the day. Of course I drowned out the first five minutes, scanning the room and looking intently at each of the students. It seemed like just yesterday I was in their place, so young and impressionable yet so sure of myself and my place in the world. I watched them watch him, I watched them listen to him and I wondered if I ever listened to him as intently as they did. Probably not. As I tuned back in to Mr. Powell’s lecture I realized I must’ve been paying attention to something five years ago as I recognized his lesson and remembered the days, though long ago, that I too read Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”.

“This is the perfect lecture for you to sit in on,” Powell said as he turned and looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. It was right about then that I should’ve known he had something up his sleeve. “After I’m done, how about you give a little speech on your own life and how the Allegory of the Cave can be applied to it.” He said while turning back to his own speech and the illegible diagram he had drawn on the white board. As I sat there shocked over the fact that I was now unwillingly about to be a part of the lesson plan, my mind started racing to find the right words to say.

Mr. Powell continued on with the lecture and began to talk about reality and the way we each perceive it. He let the class make the connection between the ways they perceived life from freshman to senior year and the way the characters in the book thought that their realities were shadows on a cave wall made by a fire behind them. And at roughly the same time that the students began to make the correlation between the book and their lives, I had a revelation of my own.

Taking this next step in life, leaving my family, friends and the comfortable life I have come to know so well is my way of creating my own reality. In an overly cheesy yet very obvious literary comparison, I am leaving the “cave” and my own comfort zone, only to meet new people, have new adventures and develop different perceptions on life, as I know it. And while I won’t completely change as I did both physically and mentally from freshman to senior year of high school, I can only hope that parts of me will grow now too. I hope that this move will push me to continue on the never-ending journey to reach my full potential as a person.

“Take it away,” He said as he finished his thoughts and effortlessly transitioned into what was supposed to be my big grand finale. It was then that the scattered thoughts that had been bouncing off the walls in my head left my mouth and streamed quickly out into sentences. I started talking about life, the places you go, the people you meet and how quickly things change. How quickly your realities and the things you believe to be the truest can change. I told them that you have the ability to design the life you want to lead and that all of their journeys will be very different, but have the potential to be just as rewarding as the next. I told them that traveling has shown me that the earth is big, but our world is small and that every person I have met and conversation had has influenced me in one-way or another. I told the bright-eyed students to focus on the current reality of senior year and I told them not to worry because they have time. So much time.

As the bell rang signaling the end of another school day, the students scrambled to gather their things. They were gone in a flash and the room was quiet, leaving me to wonder if any of them had heard a word I said, if they would take any of it into consideration when thinking about their futures, and most importantly, if I had just spoken in all clich├ęs (my biggest pet peeve and surely one of theirs).

“That was perfect.” Powell said with honesty in his eyes as the last student dashed from the classroom and he closed the door. As I stood there trying not to look too defeated he followed up with, “You were perfect.” I rolled my eyes at his attempt to compliment me, while smiling at the same time because his effort was much appreciated. “I’ll walk you out.,” he said while grabbing his briefcase and we turned towards the door.

A few minutes later, I was making the trek through the endless and nearly empty parking lot when I turned and took one last look at the old school. The memories of homecoming dances and tennis matches, standardized tests and really terrible first kisses all came rushing back to me. I thought of the person I was then compared to the person I am now and how much farther I must go to get to where I want to be. And I realized that no matter how far life takes me from where I have been, it is always nice to know you can go back to the basics, back to 12th grade English class to figure yourself out or at least apply your life to a classic allegory, both of which I have found to be equally as rewarding.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Under Construction

Life moves fast. Way too fast and sometimes just when we think we've got everything all under control we hit a speed bump, swerve into another lane, or we quit paying attention and accidentally run a red light. The surprise of losing control for even just a split second is enough to make us think about things and more often than not, for me, it is an indication that I need to slow down.
Currently, I am in the process of slowing down. Here at home, I am planning, designing, creating, resting, healing, and under going some much needed construction and revamping. I am in neutral right now, caught between the fast paced life I led in Seattle and the new life I will embark on in a few short weeks. And though this neutral can at times be boring, slow, and frustrating, I am learning to appreciate the down time and everything that comes with it.
So, after two more necessary weeks of recharging my batteries and regaining my strength, i'll be off on a new adventure, starting another chapter, and desperately trying to catch up to life.

PS- with this new chapter comes a new blog. Look for it soon!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Look Back.

"Son of a biscuit eater!!!" I yelled as a trash can full of my belongings fell out of the open car door and onto my bare foot. As my curling iron rolled to an unreachable place under the back tire of my tiny Jetta, my tears began to fall softly, slow at first and then in a flood-like fashion. Sitting on the floor of our parking garage I put my head to my knees and wondered whether the tears were a result of the fact that I absolutely hate moving (yet somehow find myself doing it at least twice a year) or whether they were coming from a deeper, realer place.

Two hours later I was ready to get on the road. "How are you feeling about everything?" my mother's voice boomed into my ear. "You don't have to yell, you're on speaker phone" I replied. "But I'm feeling good and I really think I made the right decision. So I guess there's no looking back now." Five minutes and a little white lie about having the pressure in my tires checked before the drive later, I hung up with my mother and was left alone with my thoughts and a car packed full of my life.

As I pulled out of the garage and into the neighborhood of Seattle that I had grown to both love and hate for it's noisy streets and extremely eclectic people, I couldn't help but look back. I found myself constantly checking my rearview mirror for a final glimpse at my life over the past six months. As I turned down the familiar streets in our neighborhood, I saw all the regulars that we had come to know and love. The family of four that were permanently drunk, asking for money, and always lurking in the alley behind our apartment, the he/she that sold Real Change newspapers and commented on me and Darcy's outfits every time we passed his/her street corner, the crazy haired second hand book store owner that I once shared an unexpected conversation and a few tissues with. In my rearview mirror I saw the burger joint that we frequented on the late night far too often, and memories of three of us singing our order into the microphone behind the counter one night came flooding back to me. I saw the art store that we spent hours in, picking out materials for craft nights and I saw Linda's, our favorite outdoor patio bar with the best mac and cheese Seattle has to offer.

As I merged onto the freeway I checked my rearview mirror again and saw Qwest and Safeco Field where nights in the beer gardens spent prowling on guys rather than cheering on our home team came rushing back to me. I thought of the hot dog stand owner that I willing gave my phone number to after a late night game, one too many eight dollar beers, and five minutes of convincing the girls that because of me, we would get a lifetime supply of free hot dogs. I remembered dancing to the beat of an aspiring drummer in the streets outside the stadium with Taylor not caring who was watching or how much time passed. And I laughed out loud thinking of Madison in the beer garden making eyes at one of the pitchers in the bullpen, stating that if he could, he would ask for her number.

In the far distance behind me I could see Queen Anne hill and my thoughts drifted to the night before and the cause for my current headache and fatigue. A going away party of the best kind. A great dinner with amazing friends followed by a Thursday night never to forget, or remember for that matter. I couldn't help but smile when thinking about how we took over the back bar of Pesos, drinking, dancing and being too obnoxious for our own good. Then I cringed as I recalled how we moved the party to the next bar over and found ourselves totally caught up in the moment and the underground karaoke scene that is clearly much bigger than we ever knew. Why I chose to sing "Say a Little Prayer For You" techno version I will never know, and I actually still do feel bad about blatantly boo-ing the girls that sang before us, belting out "My Humps" with choreographed dance moves to match. However, I really can't help but think that I could not have left Seattle in a better fashion. Surrounded by those that I love the most in the city, terrorizing souls, and of course making one last run to our favorite burger joint.

I merged again onto yet another freeway, the one that would take me all the way East. As I got further and further from the city and the place that six months prior I was convinced would be my home for an extended period of time, I found myself looking in my rearview mirror once again. There I saw the space needle perfectly placed in all it's glory, reminding me what an amazing city Seattle is, how much I had grown to love the people and the vibe, but also at the same time, taunting me to stay. "You have not seen the last of me Seattle" I found myself saying out loud as a smile covered my face and the needle faded from my view.

As the mountains engulfed my Jetta and Seattle became a piece of my past, I realized that the rearview mirror is there for a reason. It is there to remind you of the things behind you, the things that you pass on the way to where you're going. Just as in driving, in life it is important to look behind you every once in a while to see where you have come from, how far you've gone and how fast you are going. And after I strained to get one final glimpse of the city, I looked forward. I looked forward through the big window in front of me. I looked forward to my future, to a new city, a new adventure, a new chapter of my life. And I realized that though it is important to look back every once in a while, looking forward is what betters us, it is what makes us grow, and it is what shapes our lives.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pieces of Me

Tonight while packing up the room that I have lived in for the past six months here in the city, I found myself getting quite nostalgic while sifting through old birthday cards and stacks of random pictures that date back to high school and a fashion sense that I really would like to forget I ever had. Though I have simplified things since I graduated from college, as moving to Europe really only permits you to shove your entire life into two suitcases and a carry-on, tonight I somehow found myself surrounded by piles of junk. And by piles of junk, I mean piles of my life.

Somehow though, instead of being angry at how much stuff I have acquired in the short time that I've been in Seattle or instead of condemning myself for becoming more and more like my pack-rat mother every day, I started looking for things. I began to look for little things, a specific piece of jewelry that went missing and a book that I swore I got back from a friend who recently borrowed it. Then I began thinking about all the things in my life, little and big, that have somehow become lost along the way over the years and many moves.

I thought about my favorite pair of rainbow sandals that were left somewhere on the beach after a night spent running around the sand in front of lifeguard tower ten. I thought of the hand-me-down twin bed passed down from my cousin, which I immediately re-gifted to a lucky passer-by who found it mid-alley way, on account of the fact that finding a legitimate home for a bed really seemed like too much to handle on the first night in my already fully furnished house on the ocean. I thought about the freaky deaky optical light pumpkin decoration my mom sent me for Halloween during freshman year of college which was somehow "misplaced" during the midst of a deep cleaning session before our graduation party senior year. I thought of my favorite scarf from India that was left while making a quick escape from a busy bus in Egypt, the next country we visited while studying abroad on Semester at Sea. I thought of a swimsuit cover up that was lost just this past weekend during the madness of a long and extremely wild day on the lake.

And as I started thinking of all the material items that I have somehow misplaced, thrown away, or just plain forgotten in places across the globe, I began to think about more important things that I have left behind along the way. Things that make me who I am, things that were left behind on purpose, yet sometimes unknowingly.
As I closed my eyes and laid down on my bed I began to realize how much of myself I have actually given to a place, a person, a moment in time. Whether it is a part of myself lost in a past relationship, my dignity lost somewhere at a bar in Fremont, or my youth that was lost the day I drove away from San Diego and the four years of irresponsibility on the beach, much of me has been left behind.

Opening my eyes, I focused on a picture on my dresser which boasts four colorful boats on the most incredibly green water I have seen. Instantly I was taken back to the beaches of Thailand and the night while studying abroad that changed everything for me. Looking back now, I realize that the next day leaving Koh Samet, I left a piece of myself on the beach. Whether my tears are still in the sand or my laughter somewhere in the warm air, I was broken that night, comforted by best friends, and emerged as a new and changed person. Again, I scanned across my half-packed room only to land on a photo of my house family in Germany and a wave of sadness overcame me as I realized how much I miss that little guest house, how deeply I loved our house father Simon, and what a large part of my heart is left back in the tiny town of Illesheim.
Finally my eyes moved once again to a picture of the four of us. The girls and I on our rooftop deck overlooking one of the best views in the entire city. Memories of the past six months running through the streets of Seattle at night and exploring new, cute cafes by day flooded my mind. I thought of what we have accomplished in the time we've been here together. I thought about the conversations had on the red couch, some painfully serious, some wildly inappropriate.
And while I wondered for a few minutes what material item I will be most likely to forget, to lose or leave behind at the apartment in a couple days, I realized that the most important thing I can leave behind is a piece of myself. As of today, I have one week to sift through the piles of junk that have become my life. One week to check and double check every nook and cranny for lost belongings. And one final week to let a part of me go, to leave a piece of me behind.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

First things First.

"And most importantly have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Growing Pains.

If you go to college out of state, more often then not, you are fortunate to be able to meet people and make friends from all over the country. You learn about their traditions, their homes, their way of seeing the world. You become close, adopting each others mannerisms, taking on each others accents, and appreciating each others differences. Unfortunately, when you graduate after four years, those people that have become your closest friends, your family, either move back to where they came from or spread their wings even further heading to far away cities and completely different time zones. A year out of college now, I find myself so very far away from the people that I loved most during those four years of my life. Not only do entire states, multiple hour time differences, and the high price of flights keep us apart, but exhausting jobs, different friends and our new lives make keeping in touch a huge obstacle to overcome daily. The more time that passes in between each phone call and catch up session means the longer the conversation when it does happen and finding time for those calls become harder with each passing day.

This reason alone is why reunions and weekend getaways are so important and in fact down right necessary when it comes to maintaining friendships after college. That being said, instead of raging on in Idaho as I have done for the past twenty some years of my life, I found myself in Washington this Fourth of July, sharing my favorite of the fifty states with four of my best friends from college who flew into town for Madison's birthday and a long and much needed weekend together at her cabin in Lake Chelan.
As we made the three hour trek from the city to paradise all crammed in one car, the six of us couldn't help but comment on how easy it was to slip into our old ways, how comfortable we all still feel with each other, and how it felt as if no time had passed at all since our last reunion which was over six months ago.

Later that night as we sat on blankets in the grass at one of the most beautiful wineries I have ever seen, with the lake as a backdrop, listening to a Irish rock band of sorts, I couldn't help but look at my five friends and find myself deep in thought. Although we spent four years growing together on the beaches of San Diego, we have spent the past year away from each other growing apart. And as I thought about this a little bit more, I realized that the six of us really could not be at more different stages in life right now. Some with career successes under their belt already, others still wanderlusting searching for the right job that will bring the perfect happiness. One with graduate school abroad in the next few months, and another taking a year off for more time and soul searching before taking the plunge into law school. Some in serious relationships, making things work across their cities or even across the country, and others (like myself) single and restless with no signs of settling down any time soon. We are all so different and though it is hard to watch each other go through some of life's greatest and hardest moments from afar, it is comforting to know that we can still relate to each other, still enjoy each other's company and still appreciate each other for our differences, which seem to grow greater by the day.

Those differences seemed to fade away however, as our weekend together progressed. We danced, we sang, we laughed, we cried, we drank, we ate, and we just were, together. Reliving our college glory days spent on the beach in California, this time as young professionals on a lake in Washington. We celebrated Madison's birthday and our reunion with one too many body shots and a few too many bottles of red wine, proving that even though we hold 9 to 5 jobs, we still have the stamina to go out four nights in a row, take over an entire bar, and get everyone within a mile radius to join in a catwalk on the dance floor. We may have been obnoxious, we may have been loud, but we couldn't help it. It's not every day I have my best friends from college in the same room, let alone state, and taking advantage of that fact was a must to say the least.
Throughout the weekend I was reminded of why we were all so close in college, why we did life together and why we will continue to do so for years to come. By the time we left Chelan, it was hard to remember where one of us ended and the next one began. We had so effortlessly grown together over the weekend and the thought of separation and growing apart again was almost as devastating as parting ways for the first time after graduation.
Saying goodbye at the end of the trip was like saying goodbye to a piece of myself. As I watched the last of the girls walk through the airport doors and as I headed back to work, to my reality, to my life, I couldn't help but wish I had them every weekend. And though there were many red wine toasts to memories of the past, hopes for the future, and more importantly, promises of frequent reunions, I still felt as though there was a gaping hole in my heart.

A week later I find myself at the coffee shop, back in my routine, growing in my own way, in my own city. As I sit here, I think of the girls, in California, in DC, in Texas and those in other states and countries even who couldn't make it to the weekend away. I wonder what they are doing, if they are laughing at the moment, if they know how much I love them and how incredible I think each of them are. I check my watch and calculate to East coast time, wondering if it's too late to send a witty text or one last funny joke from the weekend. Then I check my calendar and count the weeks until our next reunion, our next chance catch up and our next chance to grow back together.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rock of Love.

On a recent drive from the East-side to the West-side of the state, Darcy and I stopped to stretch our legs at Vantage, a popular viewpoint along on the Columbia River in central Washington. "Come onnn" Darcy yelled as she blazed her own trail over small boulders and through patches of yellow weeds trying to get as close to the cliffs edge as possible. She had just gotten a new camera with a special fish-eye lens and couldn't wait to capture the river, the rolling hills in the background, and the late afternoon sun that when combined, made for the perfect shot.
"You go ahead" I whispered back, trying to muster up enough energy for my tired legs to take me even ten feet from the car. It had been a long weekend at home, one of those that just wipes you completely of everything. My voice was gone, my entire body was sore, and my normally large eyes were nothing but tiny slits desperately straining to remain open as I was the co-pilot and the only other passenger in the car. As Darcy ventured off to get her shot, I drug my feet through the dust and kicked a few rocks around, stretching my arms and legs wondering when I would ever feel normal again. I was seriously contemplating what I would have to do to get my hands on an IV of Gatorade when I came across a large rock that caught my eye. There, in white bubble letters were the words "Wade & Heidi 2009".
As I stood there staring at these simple words, ignoring the unbelievably gorgeous view directly in front of me, I was taken back to the summer of 2007 and a part of my life that now seems worlds and worlds away.

It was a hot summer day in the park. We were hand in hand, walking through the rose gardens licking ice cream cones that were quickly melting down our other hands. As we sat on a bench finishing the last of our cool treats, he looked from me to a nearby pine tree. Pulling out the mini pocket-knife that he always carried in case of minor emergencies (which usually always resulted from my clumsiness) he said eagerly, "Should we?"
"Absolutely" was my response and a minute later he was carving our initials inside a perfectly symmetrical heart on the side of the mighty tree. Twenty minutes later, he was still working away, chipping at the bark, and wishing out loud for a larger knife. Almost as if on cue, an old man passed by us. Walking at a slow pace, he looked up and smiled when he realized what was happening. "Do you two perhaps need a little help?" he said as he pulled a bigger and much sharper knife from the depths of his pocket. Wanting to accomplish this feat on his own, my boyfriend at the time kept carving away with his own tool, only to give in five minutes later and accept help from the old man who occupied the bench next to us, taking a front row seat to our little show.

"You know this means forever right?" he said quietly as the heart was nearing its finish a few minutes later. As I whirled around, startled by his bold statement and scared as the implications of this very public yet somewhat intimate display of our young love started to sink in, the wise old man smiled at the two of us, so naive and so clearly inexperienced in the game of love and he repeated "This marking will be here for years to come. It will weather the rain, the sun, the snow, it will stand the test of time. It will be forever."

Two summers later I found myself in a new city, living a much different life when a text came through to my phone. I lost my breath for a second as I opened it only to find a picture of that old pine tree and the perfectly crafted heart with our initials carved on the inside. The caption read "It's still here". And though our breakup had been a difficult one after two years of long distance and the tough final realization that our love would not survive, and though I was dating someone new at the time, I couldn't help but be taken back to that summer afternoon in the park. My thoughts drifted to the old man, to a simpler life, and to forever.
Since that summer, I have come to realize that forever is quite a long time. My nineteen-year-old self would have been quick to say that our love then could survive any storm and last any test of time. Now four years wiser, I still can't grasp the concept fully, but I do know that forever is so much more complicated than I once thought it was.

"Ready to go?" Darcy asked as I snapped back into reality and found her standing next to me. "I guess" I said slowly, dreading the second half of the car ride. As I turned and stared at the rock one last time I wondered what Wade and Heidi were doing at that exact moment. I wondered if their love had survived 2009 and if it continues to grow stronger in 2010. I also found myself questioning whether anyone has spotted our heart in the park and wondered about our love and whether it lasted.

As we continued the drive, I thought about the rock and the couple, and as we crossed the mighty Columbia River I couldn't help but wish for a few things. I wished years of happiness for Wade and Heidi. I wished them a beautiful house full of beautiful children and a beautiful life together. I wished them forever. And as the sun began to set, casting its golden rays across the road before us, I wished for myself. I selfishly wished that the next time I carve my name beside another's on an old pine tree or write it somewhere on a rock, that it really will weather the rain, the sun, the snow, that it will stand the test of time, and most of all, that it will be truly mean forever.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rites of Passage.

"You're Insane" my mom gasped as she read over my flight itinerary. "Brutal" Taylor replied when I ran through my weekend plans for the hundredth time. "You are not going to be a real person when you get back to Seattle" Madison empathized Wednesday night as I was packing my bags and triple checking my To-Do and To-Pack lists.

Real person I am not as I find myself five days later, once again at my favorite coffee shop in the city. This time surrounded by water bottles, used tissues, and Emergen-C packets, all testaments to one of the busiest, craziest, and greatest weekends that I have had in a very long time. As I run through the weekends events in my head, the flights, the friends, and the copious amounts of alcohol I consumed, I can't help but think that the sickness that is currently fogging my head and filling my nose is totally one hundred percent worth it. It was all worth it.

It wasn't long after my flight touched down in Austin, Texas on Thursday afternoon that I was cursing Seattle's name for not preparing my abnormally white skin for the Southern summer sun and the 90% humidity that hit me like a brick as I stepped off the plane. It was about five minutes later that I found myself in the airport bar, Corona in one hand, and my dear friend Casey's hand in the other. We talked, laughed, and reminisced as we anxiously awaited more of our friends' arrivals in Austin for a weekend we had all been looking forward to for months. Later that night I looked around the table as 18 of my favorite girls sat down for happy hour and I couldn't help but smile. Though it may have been a year since we were all together, and though our lives have taken us in different directions, to different cities and down different paths, there we were, as if no time had passed at all.

As I stood to make a toast a short while later, emotion overcame me when I realized that this was the first of many of its kind. The first of many college reunions, many wild weekends, and the first one of us to jump head first into love, into life, and into forever. "To Casey" I gushed, holding my glass of wine high. "To her happiness, to her love, and to sending her off right."

Well, "sending her off right" turned out to be an understatement, as we took the term bachelorette party to a whole new level, ravaging our way through Austin's bars, restaurants, and of course, infamous taco stands. At some point between vodka/pickle juice shots and quite the run in with a mechanical bull on the first night, I looked at Casey as she was dancing around the bar (twenty minutes before she retired for the night... at roughly eleven pm) and realized that i've never seen her happier.

"I'm ready" she told me the next morning over a breakfast taco and a coffee. I had just finished telling her how far away from marriage I am, how terrified I am of pregnant women, and how I am still learning how to take care of myself, let alone another person, when she looked at me and said "When you know, you just know and then you just go for it." And while I couldn't be more excited for her, I couldn't have been more thankful that I was not the one wearing the white veil all weekend.

4:30 am came way too soon on Saturday morning as I crept out of the hotel room, leaving behind two of my sleeping roommates and best friends from college. My mind was all over the place as I struggled to keep my eyes open in the airport security line, running on only an hour of sleep. Finding my seat on the plane, I closed my eyes and thanked God that I made my flight. "I can do this" I encouraged myself, right before falling asleep. Four hours later I woke up in Washington.

"You're crazy" Darcy said as she picked me up from the airport in our home town, making fun of my mismatched outfit and terribly dirty hair. I'm not too sure what I said in response, as it most likely wasn't English. But four hours, a long nap, and a thirty minute shower later, I was back in the game, ready to go. Driving through Idaho, (the fourth state I had been in that day) I laughed out loud as I received a few indecipherable texts from the bachelorette party which was still raging on in a boat somewhere on Lake Austin. Though I was sad to leave Texas and unsatisfied with the short amount of time I spent with the girls, those feelings disappeared as I stepped out of the car and into the arms of my best friend from high school.

"Thank you so much for coming" Nicole sighed. And we walked arm and arm toward the cabin, the backyard and the place where her older brother was getting married an hour later. The scenery took my breath away as I signed the guest book, hugging old friends and near-family members. Sitting in the front row next to her family, the family I practically lived with throughout high school, trying to cure my hangover with a cold IPA, and the sun reflecting off the lake, I could not have been happier with my decision to attend the bachelorette party and the wedding. And once again I was overcome with emotion as her brother, my brother walked down the aisle arm and arm with his parents. "Where has the time gone?" I thought to myself as I wiped tears from my face, cursing under my breath for leaving my sunglasses in the car. The ceremony continued on and continued to be absolutely, undeniably, incredible. I found myself making eye contact with my dear friend Nicole midway through the ceremony, and as she mouthed to me "thank you, I love you" once again, I knew I had never been in a more perfect place.

Many tears, many glasses of red wine, a few stuffed mushrooms, and a double chocolate cake shot later, I found myself on the dance floor. As "Brown Eyed Girl" played and one of the groomsmen did the ever-so-popular "shopping cart" move next to me, the rain started to fall. Slowly at first, and then in huge drops, causing the band to unplug and sending many people running for shelter in the cabin. Somewhere in the madness I ended up in the bed of a red truck dancing with the grooms father as the rain pelted me, soaking my pink dress and melting away the last of the make-up that my tears had missed earlier. Fast forward an hour, a dance party in the kitchen, and more red wine (that I really didn't need), and I was in the red truck once again. This time, hand in hand with the owner of the truck who was one of the groom's good friends from college. Nicole was in the back seat with his roommate, and the four of us were toasting. Toasting to the newlyweds, to the fact that we are still all single, and to the country music that was blaring from the speakers of the red truck, keeping everyone in the cabin and in the tents a few yards away awake.

In the morning while I gathered my belongings, my shoes that had gone missing midway through the reception, and embarrassingly tried to explain to everyone in the lake cabin that the neon pink "party" sweat pants I was wearing, were a result of a glitch in my "To-Pack" list, I spotted the newly married couple as they emerged from their master suite hand-in-hand. "They were ready." I thought to myself. "They just knew". And on the drive back across the state to the west side and to my bed (which had never sounded better), I thought a lot about the weekends events. I thought about the future bachelorette parties, the weddings, the children, and I thought about the passing of time. As I sat in silence, trying to imagine my own bachelorette party, my wedding, my kids (eek!), I realized that i've got time. Time to be young, time to do insane things like fly across the country and back in 36 hours, time to find myself in a big red truck in the pouring rain, cuddling with a perfect stranger, and time to run myself into the ground, not caring about consequences or the repercussions on my tired body. I've got So much time.

And though I may not be a real person right now, tomorrow is a new day, and with it comes more time, the hope of a clearer head and less runny nose, and the notion that it is all, always worth it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Skeletons in Our Closets.

Recently I found myself driving East. For me, the hustle and bustle of the big city is sometimes just too much and a break from the noise is exactly what I need to regain my sanity. East is my home and spending a weekend surrounded by family and old friends, in the comfort of the house I grew up in, is often what it takes to ground me, to remind me of who I once was, who I am now, and how far I've come.
Of course, any time spent in the place I lived for eighteen years of my life is subject to walks down memory lane, both good and bad. And as I made my way closer to home, driving past the wheat fields and rolling hills of central Washington, I thought to myself "I really hope I don't run into anyone I don't want to see this weekend."

Fast forward three days, a regrettable late night texting conversation with one ex and an unavoidable run in with another, I was eating my own words on the drive back to the West side. When you're from a smaller town, situations like this are inevitable, unavoidable, and just down right frustrating. But even with that notion in mind, nothing could really have prepared me for the night I spotted an old flame from high school, who clearly is aging much better than I am. As I desperately looked around for a hiding place, realizing my best option was to seek refuge in an "intense" texting conversation (with myself) on my phone, he approached me with a smile on his face and a sparkle in his eye. The moment he hugged me, opened his mouth and said "Always good to see you" I remembered why I had fallen for this All-American boy five years ago, and the moment my heart began to melt for him all over again he said, "I want you to meet my girlfriend..."

Sometime during the five minute conversation I had with the happy couple, I checked out. She was smiling and talking about how they met and I was thinking back to the time when I was the girl riding shotgun in his old truck. And the memories of him and I as teenagers out on some old country road, watching the stars on a mattress in the bed of his truck became fresh in my mind once again while driving back to the city. "Thank sweet baby Jesus I don't have to deal with awkward run ins in Seattle" I thought. And once again, I spoke too soon.

Last Friday night we found ourselves sitting at a table in a popular bar, attempting to accomplish our summer goal of "mingling" more in the city. After a few rounds of vodka tonics and one too many jokes about our bartender who eerily resembled Russell Brand, Madison spotted an ex of her own, looking exceptionally good (because they always do when you can't have them) from across the bar. Though she ultimately broke his heart, and most likely his confidence after recently making out with his best friend, Madison made her way back to our table after a twenty minute conversation to inform us that he has a new girlfriend. And regardless of the fact that sometimes he dresses like a 45 year old soccer dad and the fact that she is the one who ended things, I understood where she was coming from when she sat down and said "I need a shot."

As I stood to order Madison a stiff one, I looked to my right only to see a reflection in the window that made me want twelve shots of my own. Waltzing through the door, with an entourage of his "boys" was my first and only "date" in the city thus far. Our eyes met and he waved in the most awkward of ways, as I tried to bury my face and attention in my phone once again, trying to hide the fact that I looked like I had just seen the ghost of Christmas past. To this day, I really can't pinpoint what makes things most awkward between us. Maybe he is still annoyed with me because I was thirty-five minutes late to our date on account of getting totally lost downtown, or maybe it is the fact that the week after we had dinner, I found out he had been dating someone else for four months. Whatever it is, it is there. And the awkwardness is great enough to cut with a knife or better yet, cause me to down a bottle of Absolut Vodka. Or three.

"Well this night cannot get any more uncomfortable" I whispered to the girls as they shook their heads in agreement. Thirty minutes later it was Darcy who was hiding her face as her ex-boyfriend entered the bar hand in hand with his on-again off-again girlfriend. "Looks like they're back together" Darcy mumbled, as she finished her drink and flagged down Russell Brand for another.
Although I am fully aware that this seems like the plot of a twisted romance horror film rather than our actual lives, this was our reality on Friday night and a harsh one at that. After debating whether or not we should try our luck elsewhere and leave the cesspool of old heartbreaks and relationships gone wrong behind us, we decided to accept the circumstances and rage on. It really is amazing what can happen when four girls turn the back room of a packed bar into a place with an atmosphere comparable to that of a college spring break. It wasn't Costa Rica 2009, but taking body shots off a Lebanese man named Felix sure felt right. Anything to avoid interaction with the situations at hand.

The next morning as we recalled the previous nights events and tried to figure out what in God's name we did to deserve such awful karma, I realized that though we are still semi-new to this city, and the dating scene here, we sure as hell have already made our mark. And though this city is big, much bigger than the place where I grew up, this world is small. And I will definitely take that into consideration next time I think I can avoid an awkward run in, no matter what city I'm in.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happily Unsatisfied.

Today as I placed an order at my favorite coffee shop hidden deep within the city, my barista was talking to a co-worker about his band and how they were beginning to go their separate ways. "We just don't see eye to eye creatively anymore" he said. "where they want to go and where I want to go are two very different places, and even though they're my best friends, I have to follow my heart. I just have to."

His co-worker nodded and gave him words of sympathy, understanding, and encouragement while I stood at the coffee bar staring at the different varieties of artificial sugar, trying to pretend like the choice between Splenda and Equal was a tough one and trying even harder to pretend that I wasn't eavesdropping on the conversation. And as I began to feel sorry for the poor barista who seemed visibly upset by the break up, my mind wandered to something a dear friend said to me last week.

"Don't ever be satisfied" he said. "That way life will always get better".

At the time, his words took my breath. And as powerful as they were then, I didn't realize how much I would think about his statement and how many different ways I would apply this concept to my life, to other's lives in the days after and even now. For the past week the words have been marinating in my mind, simmering to the perfect temperature, and though I think it will take an eternity or at least a life well lived before I can totally grasp their meaning, I believe that I can finally apply this idea to my present day life.

Satisfaction is a funny thing, in that it is defined as the fulfillment of one's needs or wants. After staring at this definition in Webster's online dictionary for a good thirty minutes, it clicked. Life will always get better if I never allow myself to be fully satisfied. If I never allow myself to want and need things that are easily attainable and if I keep striving for new and great things. And though this is a hard thing to do, it is possible because of the sole fact that my needs and wants are always changing.

In elementary school, I thought I would be satisfied with the latest Barbie doll, that is until a newer, way hotter and inevitably skinnier one came out a month later. In middle school, I thought satisfaction would come when I got contacts to replace my glasses, which were unfortunately immediately followed by a full set of braces and headgear, shattering my self-esteem and my chances of finally taking a decently normal year book picture. In high school, I thought I could achieve satisfaction if I dated, or more importantly was "seen" with an older, more-experienced, and popular athlete, until he left me high and dry for a girl his own age, who could legally drive, amongst other things. Satisfaction in college consisted of having good friends, good beers, and a dirty house on the beach. Plain and simple. And though my needs were fulfilled in college, looking back, my wants for myself were far from attained, if even recognized.

I guess that is the beauty of coming across this new way of looking at life in this moment. As I think back through the years and the many different things it took to make me happy during each phase of my life, I can see that as I changed, so did my wants and needs. Now, as I am much older and hopefully wiser, this idea of not achieving satisfaction makes so much more sense. As I look forward on my life, I have no idea where I will end up, who I will end up with and what will end up ultimately making me happy. And though I am okay with the unknown, I am certain of the fact that from here on out, I will still strive for satisfaction and fulfillment, yet I will always keep them out of my reach, setting new goals for myself, new adventures, and creating new ways of thinking. That way things will only continue to get better. Life will always get better.

And when he said with sadness in his voice, "tall, non-fat, extra hot latte" and I could finally make Splenda my artificial sugar of choice, I turned and smiled at the barista. Because though he may be leaving his friends and his band, and though he might be scared of the future and the unknown, at least he is taking the risk, striving for more and not allowing himself to be satisfied with something that isn't right anymore. While pondering this thought and walking to a table in the corner, something in my cup caught my eye. As I turned around and stared at the barista not knowing whether to cry or laugh, he said with a smile "Have a good day". And for me, his smile was enough. Enough to ignore the fact that he had so skillfully created a perfectly, terrifying skull in the foam of my extra- hot latte. "Life is always getting better" I thought to myself as I headed to my nook in the corner, laughing all the way.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rookies of the Year.

I've decided that graduating college without a serious boyfriend is quite the double-sided sword. On one hand, after graduation, I had the ability to roam free around the world for six months with no one to hold me back and no one to check in with each night (besides my mother who bought a blackberry for the sole purpose of bbm-ing me at all times with no regard for the nine hour time difference and the fact that her afternoons were my middle of the nights). Having no outside influence on where I was going in life the day I left San Diego, enabled me to move to Germany, travel Europe, and finally move to Seattle, flirting my way across the globe, talking, dancing and laughing with anyone I pleased, no matter the age difference or language barrier. This freedom allowed me to capture the attention of Simon the Italian high fashion model, Daniel the aspiring British soccer player, and Paul my German house brother. And though the latter one I could have probably done without, I was unattached, independent, and totally loving every second of my life as a single American woman abroad.

The other side of the sword however, and the one that recently has been stabbing me repeatedly in the eyeballs, is the fact that now settled in Seattle, I have absolutely no idea where and how I am supposed to find young, eligible, single, men here in America. Without the frat parties and the super late nights pretending to do homework in the library during college, where does a girl like me have to go to make eyes with someone? This question alone makes me miss my days across the ocean. There was just something effortless about my time in Europe. Maybe it was the way my heels sounded while walking the cobble stone streets under the moonlight, or maybe there truly was something in that wine that I drank far too often. Whatever it was, it was good, it was romantic, and it was simple. If only that European effortlessness could translate to Cascadian English, the official dialect here in the Pacific Northwest. My life would be so much easier.
I recently read an article in a local magazine boasting that Seattle is ranked as one of the top five US cities to meet singles. "Looks like I'm in the right place" I thought instantly. Then I read on.
The magazine continued that on average, a thirty year old in Seattle must meet at least five hundred people in the city before they find one person that they are compatible with. FIVE HUNDRED??? Well I'm no thirty year old, and I'm definitely not a mathematician, but I am quick enough to figure out that based on that fact alone, one would have to literally never stay home and always be out on the town. Bars, coffee shops, restaurants, parks, I mean honestly, it just sounds completely exhausting.

Thus, my next point, and the clincher in all of this. In a place that claims to have over 300,000 singles within twenty miles of the city limits, there really can't be that many places for the few good men out there to hide. Unless of course, they never leave the comfort of their own homes, which I am not exactly ruling out. This summer Darcy, Madison, and myself have embarked on a mission to seek out the places that these singles frequent in attempt to increase our own odds of finding compatibility in this city by hitting the streets of Seattle and getting the hell out of our apartment.

So far, this mission has really taken us to new heights. Bleacher seats to be exact. And after attending a few games, we now have the Seattle Mariner's scene down to a science. Club Safeco, as we like to call it can be broken down as such: Cover for bleacher seats = ten dollars, One 12 oz domestic beer = eight dollars, one hot dog with ketchup = nine dollars (and the additional deep regret in the morning), watching attractive males in the beer garden heckle our home team which has one of the worst records in the American League = priceless. And though we have yet to actually get a date out of the guys we have met in the beer garden, or even a drink for that matter, at least we're putting ourselves out there. And just as the mariners are beginning to pick up their game, so are we.

From Mariner's games to intentions of joining a co-Ed intramural flag football team, our wheels are turning. They have to be, as I would really like to dull the side of the sword that keeps jabbing me, constantly reminding me that though I may be free, I am single and I only have seven more years before my odds really go down the drain here in this city. This summer we will be venturing off our red couch and making ourselves available, more accessible. Maybe we'll meet new friends, new people to flirt with, or maybe we'll just have fun together. Whatever the case, I'm determined to find Seattle's romantic cobble stone streets and a good glass of wine to match.

Last night at an hour far too late for us to be awake, or at least far too late for us to be awake at home, Darcy stated something so true, so cheesy, and so the anthem of our summer. She said in total seriousness paired with maybe a bit of deliriousness, "The more mingling, the more jingling" and after quite a bit of contemplation and laughter, I have decided that this is right on. However, hopefully for me, that jingling on my phone will come from a tall, dark, American man, rather than my mom. On the late night. Sending me endless emoticons.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Age is Just a Number

"You look happy " he said as he spun me around to the music and lyrics of Garth Brooks.
"In fact, I've never seen you look this happy" he continued when he caught me on the spin back.
"Really?" I questioned as we attempted to join the crowd of line dancers starting the electric slide. Soon after as we were doing the grapevine, the music swallowed us and the conversation died, but the words stayed with me.

As I boarded my flight last Thursday, menacing clouds threatened to drown Seattle alive and not even my new purple wool scarf could keep me at an adequately warm temperature. A four hour plane ride with a brief (but far too long) stop in Oakland, two diet cokes, and three bags of salted peanuts later, I arrived in paradise.
As we began our descent into San Diego on the day of my 23rd birthday and the year anniversary of my college graduation weekend, I couldn't help but smile at the familiarity of the scenery and the comfort of the ocean breeze. My smile was genuine, it was ear to ear, and as a result, I'm pretty sure the guy sitting next to me on Southwest Flight 508 now thinks I have a severe personality disorder. Considering twenty minutes earlier, I was flooding row 13 with tears while writing graduation cards and words of wisdom to some of my closest friends who were about to close the chapters of their lives living by the sea, just as I did twelve months ago.
A few short minutes later, I found myself back at Mission Beach where I spent the best four years of my life thus far. With a beer in hand, I reminisced about my glory days and brainstormed ways to relive them during the four short days of my vacation.
Later that night while celebrating (slash denying the fact that I have entered my mid-mid-twenties) with close friends at a beach house, I found myself ranting and raving about all the problems with getting older.
"My eyes are getting worse, I have a bunion on my left foot, and I'm pretty sure I found three new grey hairs this morning alone" I complained to anyone who would listen. "This growing old thing has got to go. I would give anything to be back in college, about to graduate and only 22 years old. 23 just sounds so washed up and unimportant" I stated.
And as the conversation then turned to what lies ahead for all of us, the marriages, the houses, the children, the ownership of any new car besides a mini-van, I began to reveal some of my deepest darkest secrets regarding my thoughts on getting older. I opened my mouth after one too many gin and root beers (my new preferred drink of choice) and confessed some of the things that I personally am actually looking forward to most in old age. Including, but not limited to, purchasing a bedazzler at age thirty so I can begin to bedazzle every article of clothing with the hopes that by the time I am 55, I will only wear things that sparkle. "I just want to be the gaudiest" I said. "Gaudy and sparkly. Because when you're old, you just can".

The next morning after biting my tongue and sharing a few good laughs about the previous night over breakfast at my favorite cafe on the beach, I got to thinking. I thought about how 23 years of my life have come and gone, I thought about how fast it went and how much i've changed, even in the last year. And as I watched my friends getting ready for their graduation party later that day, stressing about their outfits, the party plans, the food, and whether or not people would show up, I couldn't help but laugh, realizing that a year ago I was in their exact same place. Stressing about the things that seemed so important at the time.
Now-a- days, the things I stress about include, being prepared for a meeting at work, paying the rent on time, and finding a boyfriend so my Grandmother will quit harassing me about being single on the daily. And for the first time since I myself graduated, I looked at my beautiful friends, so excited and so naive, ready to enter the real world but so scared to leave the comfort of college, and I was thankful that I was not in their place. Thankful that my year of transition has passed. My first rejection after a real-time job interview has come and gone, my true friendships from college have been solidified by the passing of time, and I have begun to call my new city home, taking comfort in it's simplicity and at times, even in the rain.

As the weekend continued on with great fanfare, minor sunburns, too many tequila shots, and the best Mexican food i've had since I left San Diego a year ago, I found peace in knowing that though my days on the beach are gone, my glory days are not necessarily over.

"I've never seen you this happy" said my guy friend from college as we danced around our favorite college bar, reminiscing and reliving our glory days. And in that moment I realized, I really don't know if I have ever been this happy, this sure of myself, this excited about what is to come. And those words, his words, stayed with me.

On the flight home, scrunched in a middle seat, and in between some short but much needed naps, I realized that though I may have to get my contact prescription strengthened, and though my days of running around carefree on the beach are over, I still have great things ahead of me. When the plane touched down at SeaTac airport on Monday, I thought to myself, 23 is a pretty okay number, not too young, not too old, but definitely a good number, a happy number. And if anything, it is at least, one step closer to my sparkly clothing days, and that my friends, is something to look forward to.