I’m still alive.

Hi, folks. School has been a mad rush of chapter after chapter of international political economics, brain functions, linguistics and 17th century French theatre. It’s been a weird semester.

What I’m trying to say is with that on my plate, blogging has fallen by the wayside.

Sorry for the absence. I’ll be back soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life Events

Un été à Bruxelles: Leaving home for home again

My last two days in Europe were a whirlwind of modes of transportation and praying for wifi and not eating nearly enough and napping with my head down on a table in the cafe of the Louvre. My last meal in Europe was a divine plate of mashed potatoes and duck+mushrooms. My last coffee in Europe was a Starbucks chai latte while hiding out from a homeless Scottish gypsy in the train station.

I came home. My suitcase was lost for 48 hours, then showed up in Kansas City. I opened Vine. I opened Instagram. I packed up all my belongings (of which there are entirely too many) and moved 3.5 miles into my new apartment with my best friends. I turned 21. I went grocery shopping. I repainted my nails.

I stared at my keyboard, willing a post-Brussels blog post to appear, full of insight and jokes and carefully crafted metaphors. It didn’t. I opened Facebook. I opened Twitter. I read about Ferguson with an aching heart. I wrote a post Robin Williams. I ate two bags of Beanitos chipotle bbq chips in one day. I opened up WordPress again.

In all reality, I will never be able to write a wrap-up. The experience was simply too big to encompass in a blog. It needs a memoir (hi, Brussels fam). I don’t know how I managed to sum up my Alaska experience in a blog post (To be fair, Brussels was a lot less of a magical nature haven than Alaska in the summer).

From the outside, my schedule doesn’t seem like it would lead to an amazing summer. I got up every morning around 8:30 (okay…closer to 8:55 on most days). I put on one of five shirts I brought to Brussels (the perils of packing light). I got an Americano. I got on the metro. I went to work. I went to lunch (and ate in the park with Adam).  I went back to work. I got on the metro. I picked up peppers and tomatoes at the veggie stand. I got home. I made dinner. Shannon and I listened to music and discussed our days. We lounged around. I had tea. I went to bed.

It sounds boring when I type it out like that, but there were surprises every day. Sometimes we would go to a bar to catch a World Cup game. Sometimes we went downtown after dinner for waffles in Grand Place. Sometimes we had frites for dinner instead of actual nourishment.

We traveled. We visited Antwerp and Bruges and Ghent and Leuven. I went to Barcelona, napped on the beach, explored the beautiful Park Güell and drank too much wine. I went to Paris, napped next to the Seine, ate delicious sushi and fell in love.

We explored the city of Brussels itself, finding coffee spots and book shops and jewelry stores. We met locals and coworkers, forging friendships in (sometimes broken) French and English. We took naps. We drank beer. We went dancing.

It was such a refreshing change of pace from the madness of the school semester. I was happy and well-adjusted and good. 

I miss Brussels a lot. I am happy to be in my new apartment, happy to see my roommates, happy to reconnect with friends, happy to have phone data — but I know the transition into school in 10 days is going to be a bumpy one. I am going to be fighting to be back at my metro stop or napping in the park with friends.

Brussels was simply better for me. It was life with breathing, even when it took my breath away.

I know this is a cop-out of a blog post. I know it doesn’t reach the big picture of “what Brussels meant to me.” But words just aren’t falling into place. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write it down.

I can’t type it out, but I can tell you all about it if we sit down for a little while. Do you know anywhere in Columbia that sells frites?

4 Comments

Filed under Life Events, summer 2014, Un été à Bruxelles

O, Captain, Our Captain!

Why did I just cry over a Robin Williams quote someone reblogged on Tumblr? Why does my stomach feel sick, the way it does after you’ve finished a particularly gut-wrenching movie? Important actors, writers and celebrities die every year. Most of them hurt, but some really pack a punch. Maya Angelou, Heath Ledger, Nelson Mandela: I just came to assume they would always be a part of my life, even in the most distant, far out of ways.

My entire Twitter and Facebook is one big outcry of grief right now — posting favorite movie clips, recalling seeing Aladdin in theaters, urging friends with depression to seek help. All my friends are figuring their own ways to grieve and cope. For some, it’s The Birdcage or Mrs. Doubtfire. For me, it’ll probably be crying over Good Will Hunting.

Why did this man mean so much to everyone in my generation?

Because he touched every single one of us.

He was our introduction to belly-laughing comedy, delivered via a blue genie. He was a poetry professor, trying to pull carpe diem out of boarding school students. He was a goofy, ridiculous father who loved his children enough to become their nanny. He was a wise psychologist, reminding us it isn’t our fault.

He saturated our young lives when all we wanted to do was giggle and guffaw and go on adventures. Hook, Jumanji, Flubber, Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire had us in stitches on our living room floors, eager to rewind our VHSs and watch him work his magic again.

When we got older, we found he had a knack for delivering the wisest of life advice. We trusted him, for he was the one who made us laugh when we were young. We listened to Professor Keating and Sean Maguire guide young lost souls like ours into something like self discovery.

Something about him was just so approachable and friendly and warm. If I had come across him in the cereal aisle of my grocery store, I wouldn’t have thought twice about hugging him and saying thank you. My dad loved him, and would have our whole family howling with laughter and singing “ooooooooh fiwah” on road trips.

But mental illness works in terrifying, mysterious ways. As my friend Pat put it on Twitter earlier, “Depression doesn’t just cheat; it fights dirty. Digs a foxhole, bunkers down and fires away at your happiness for years and years.” And he’s so right. It wiggles its way into your cracks and crevices so you can’t reach it even if you try. It sits and it waits. And then it strikes, and the world loses one of its best storytellers.

I feel really conflicted about this blog post and the huge amount of emotion pouring out of me right now. There are so many more important things happening in the world right now that deserve equal (or greater) attention to an actor’s passing: ISIS, Michael Brown, the riots in Ferguson, Mo., Russian-Ukraine relations, the Ebola outbreak and so on.

But right now, in this moment, my heart is aching for a very integral part of my cinematic upbringing. Someone wrenched from the world by a demon I myself am fighting.

I don’t have any good way to sign this off, because anything I write sounds trite and like I’m making a huge hairy deal over an actor’s death. I guess this is as good a space as any to encourage anyone struggling with depression to reach out and ask for help. It’s one of the scariest, bravest and best things you can do for yourself.

We’ll miss you, Robin. Thank you for teaching us to seize the day.

4 Comments

Filed under Life Events, Motivation and Inspiration, Re: Movies and TV

Un été à Bruxelles: The edge of things

I need to finish writing a paper and two articles, but my heart is aching at the sheer thought of leaving Brussels so I’m word-dumping onto a blog post.

Things I will miss about Brussels/Belgium/Europe, in no particular order:

  • Frites
  • Neuhaus chocolates
  • Grand Place at any time of day or night
  • Zara/Mango/Pimkie
  • High-functioning public transit
  • Weekend trips to DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
  • My apartment
  • The wacky group of 15 humans who have snuggled their way into my heart forever
  • Celtica. Enough said.
  • Delirium (and its cute bartenders)
  • Work schedule (rather than university schedule)
  • Flower shops
  • Fruit and veg stands
  • European men
  • Australian framboise ice cream
  • DIVERSITY DIVERSITY DIVERSITY
  • Wearing the same six shirts for most of the summer and not feeling judged
  • Drinking beer to enjoy it, not (just) to get trashed
  • Paying for meals/coffee/clothes in all coins
  • Brussels nightlife
  • Megabeds + snuggling
  • Dürüm pitta from Snack Merode
  • The sheer number of man buns
  • Amazing women biking in heels and dresses
  • Free music festivals nearly every weekend
  • Sysmo concerts
  • Wine night + family dinners
  • Cappuccinos from Cremerie de la Vache
  • “Na naaaaaaa”
  • “TIS I”
  • “Wake up – it’s time to party!”
  • and the rest of the weird jargon our program has created

Consider this a primer to the “OH GOD OH GOD I MISS BRUSSELS SEND ME BACK” post I will write when I’m supposed to be moving out of my apartment on August 9th. 

Cheers, friends. Hope your summer is wonderful and you aren’t melting in the humidity like I am.

A large majority of our program snuggled together on Saturday, all with matching demon eyes.

A large majority of our program (and two special guests) snuggled together on Saturday, all with matching demon eyes.

2 Comments

Filed under Life Events, Un été à Bruxelles, summer 2014

Un été à Bruxelles: Adulthood, routines and other overrated things

(I’ve been rubbish at blogging regularly. I’m sorry.)

I leave Europe in 24 days.
I turn 21 in 25 days.

I am so far from being a real, functioning adult. Right now, my Belgian phone is broken and out of minutes. I have 74 cents to my name right now, scattering in my purse. I ruined two of my favorite shirts because the jäger someone spilled on one at a bar bled into my whole load of laundry. My monthly metro pass expired this morning. I ate frites and ketchup for lunch.

And yet, in this point of not-at-all-having-it-together, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while for any extended period of time.

That’s weird.

Things are going to change again. I am going to be yanked back out of the comfortable, manageable routine I’ve found for myself: the €1 morning coffee, the metro commute, the park lunch/naps, the Thursday night bar excursions, the Saturday markets. I’m going to be picked up and plopped right back where I started, stressed and under entirely too much pressure and eating way too much Gumby’s pizza.

There is so much to do when I get back to the States: I need to buy a bed for my new apartment. I need to work and study and read more good books. I need to learn how to let go of lost opportunities. I need to curb my crippling to-go coffee addiction.

I also need to live more. Live deeper. Live outside of my apartment. This week, I went out to a bar with friends — on a Tuesday! It’s not something I would have ever done at home. The voices of “Shouldn’t you be doing something else?” a little too loud in mine and my friends’ ears. But it was hysterical fun. We danced to swing music and the boys all took turns jumping and trying to hit a store sign (until Franky got smart and found a stick to hit it with. Cheating, but satisfying.).

We (being the 16 students on the Brussels program) are collectively terrified of the fact that our time in Brussels is rapidly approaching The End, and we’re desperate to spend time with each other in our city. We want to “live it up,” as they say, before we’re back in the drudgery of the school semester. We’re going to markets on weeknights and raiding tiny local bookstores and drinking lattes from cafes tucked into alleyways.

We are so young, dammit. Young enough to go out and have fun before mortgages and kids and jury duty weight us down. Our responsibilities are just enough to keep us humming without giving us a true excuse from not going out to truly experience the beautiful city we’ve been dropped in for the summer.

I feel so good about it, too. I eat lunch outside every day it’s not raining. I wear skirts on the metro. I practice my French when I can. Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, I feel like I should be skipping and singing “I’m Walking on Sunshine” because my heart is so content and happy.

This group has become such a family and brought me out of my shell into the sun.

We’re living in the thick of it.
It’s wonderful, but I don’t know how to bring it home.

If there’s anything I learned about myself last year, it’s that I don’t transition well back to school. Last summer, getting into the groove of Alaska life wasn’t hard at all. I took to the dirt and the rain and sleeping outside as if I had been waiting my whole life to be at camp. Coming back into “regular” society — constant social media, business casual, a lack of mountains — was completely jarring. I spent more time trying to figure out how to act than doing to homework I needed to be doing. It was strange and disappointing, my lack of grace, and I didn’t acclimate well at all.

Shannon (one of my dear, sweet, wonderful Brussels roommates and apparent soul twin) and I sat on our deck for an hour Monday night, reveling in the absence of rain for the first time in a week. We discussed our equally traumatizing experiences in News Reporting class, the stigmas behind mental health disorders and how much we didn’t want to go home to the unavoidable stresses of university life. We wanted to stay, exploring Brussels for all its strange, ragtag, beautiful edges and pockets. We wanted to stay and see every inch of the city that has welcomed us in, the city that feels incredibly like home.

We will have to learn, once more, how to live in the thick of it. And whether that’s getting lost in CoMo, spending Saturdays in Adam’s books or driving out past the suburban bubble, I’m down for the adventure.

cinquantenaire

Lunchtime views @ Parc du Cinquantenaire

 

1 Comment

Filed under Life Events, Un été à Bruxelles, summer 2014

Un été à Bruxelles: A love letter to the metro

We’re one month in, and I’ve kind of decided I don’t want to go home. (Kidding.)(Maybe.)
Brussels has been magnificent. I truly, truly love it here — not just the buildings and cobblestones, but the entire pacing of work, play and life. It’s been incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating to not feel like I’m drowning. Time, turns out, really helps one feel not insane.

I take the metro to work every day. Walk five minutes to Porte de Namur. Hop on the 2 or 6 to Arts-Loi. Chang to the 1 line. Get off at Montgomery. Grab an espresso from my favorite metro café women. Go to work.

It’s a 25-minute process that starts before 9 a.m. And I kid you not when I say my commute is my favorite part of my day.

When I tell people I’m an introvert, they don’t believe me. It’s hard to explain, and I’m not going to try to justify what I know to be absolutely true about myself. All of the intricacies of anxiety, overcompensation and being an INFJ aside, public transit is my happy place. As a both an introvert and a writer, it is my favorite thing to simply watch people. Some may think I’m maliciously staring, but truthfully I’m just watching the way their hands drum on armrests, or the way they chew on their lips. On the metro, I can be in my own head — headphones in, journal in hand — while still taking it all in. It’s truly the best of both worlds.

I fall in love multiple times a day on the metro: the bed-tousled students, clutching notebooks and history books to their chests; mothers holding the sticky hands of toddlers with juice boxes; the old women, cackling and whispering in lightening fast French. I get to ride with all these lives, shuffled through doors, short of thank-god-the-train-hasn’t-left-yet breath. I get to stand directly next to a human who’s story I will never completely know, but who offers up just enough character quirks to let me fill in the blanks in my writer’s mind.

Most of them are in and out of my life in the span of two minutes: I get on the stop before they get off. We walk down the stairs next to each other then scatter the second our feet hit the train platform. They smile at me as their two-year-old babbles in what very well might be Greek while waving around a favorite stuffed rabbit.

The metro is usually dirty. Most stairwells are partially under construction at any given point. Some passages smell like urine and stale sweat. I never go into the station without making sure my pockets are buttoned and my bag is zipped shut. I’ve encountered some definitely leering faces, calling my bluff of being European. I witnessed a heated argument that was one nose-flare shy of a brawl today.

Despite all that, I still want to ride every line. I want to rocket across the capillaries of this city, taking in every face. I want to draw them and write them down and remember that I am so, so very small.

Selfies en route

Selfies en route

 

4 Comments

Filed under Life Events, Un été à Bruxelles, summer 2014

Un été à Bruxelles: Running tour

In a more romantic sense of the word, I went exploring today.
In a more realistic sense of the word, I got lost on my run today.

What’s do they saying about losing your way? “You have to be lost to be found.”

It’s not like I had some life-altering, come-to-Jesus moment and “found” myself. After jogging and wandering around, I oriented myself by the bus map and took it two stops to Flagey, which is a five-minute walk from home.

I did get to see parts of Brussels I hadn’t seen before. And I did take get to hang out with myself.
And I did get to buy some delicious strawberries at Saturday market.

All in all, I’m glad I got lost.

Here are some of the photos I took on my run (not included: running selfie. Because if you didn’t document your workout, did it even happen?). It doesn’t have to be a run, but I would recommend getting lost/going exploring in your city. You might just find something extra special.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life Events, Un été à Bruxelles, summer 2014

“Follow Me!”

Things I like:

  • bees
  • honey
  • baby goats
  • concerts in hometown bars
  • rosemary plants
  • striped shirts
  • nice tattoos
  • finding new ways of doing things I’ve been doing inefficiently for years and years

Things I don’t like:

  • how often I post random things on Facebook

I’m making a change or two, friends. And by changes, I just mean I’m simply streamlining my social media process.

Twitter: for sharing cool stuff, news stories, etc
WordPress: for long-form writing on ethics, feminism and travel
Instagram: for posting photos purely for aesthetic purposes
JamsLikeJelly: for constant music posts
Facebook: for photos with friends/travel/etc, talking with group projects and sharing things with specific people

Different platforms were designed for certain types of communication and should be treated as such. Until now, I’ve just been posting whatever on wherever and probably annoying all the wrong people. Follow (or unfollow) what you need.

Introducing control and patterns into a life almost defined by going-with-the-flow and spontaneity is a good thing, right? I can’t think of an easier or more productive way to do that than by posting less nonsense on Facebook.

Let’s see how this goes, friends. Happy Wednesday!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Life Events

Tunesday: Jams Like Jelly & Mahogany Sessions

Cool news, friends! I made a music blog called JamsLikeJelly because I am hip and also cool.

I started this in hopes of keeping all my favorite songs — from Spotify, from iTunes, from 8tracks, from Pandora, from mixtapes in my friends’ cars, from my dad’s vinyl collection — in one place.

If you know me at all, you know that I love nothing more than talking about music I love, sharing songs and learning about new bands. I hope to foster that through this new blog, but we’ll see how it goes. It’s more of a personal project, but I’d love to share it with y’all. If you have a Tumblr, feel free to give it a follow. If not, I’ve linked it at the top of my blog so you can easily check in.

As a result, I won’t really be writing a Tunesday post every week. I know I haven’t been doing that anyway, but I’m just letting y’all know that most of my music posts will be on JamsLikeJelly. I’ll make a Tunesday post when I truly see a theme running some songs together. For this week’s Tunesday, for example, I’ve picked my three current favorite Mahogany Sessions.

1. Leo Stannard and The Intermission Project covering alt-J’s “Tessellate”

The Intermission Project is a new band for me (see: “I’ve Been Waiting“) and we all know I’m a super big sucker for Tessellate covers (Mumford, Ellie Goulding, etc). There are some seriously talented humans in this group, and the harmonies are flawfree. Plus, there’s a mini xylophone, so that makes everything perfect. I truly hope this band makes it.

2. Frightened Rabbit performs “Holy”

This song is off the band’s most recent album and is one of my favorites (although the whole album is so, so, so worth a listen). This band has been one of the most genuine, reliable bands in my life, as weird as that sounds, since my beautiful friend Caroline had me listen to them two years ago. They have a sound I’ve loved for a long time, and it truly comes to life in these live sessions they do.

3. Gabrielle Aplin performs “Home”

I first heard Gabrielle when she and Bastille covered Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” (which is super worth looking up). Her song “Home” always makes me want to curl up in an armchair with hot tea and stare at the thunderstorm that would inevitably be falling outside. She has an amazing voice and range, and the clarity of her tone is what really draws me in.

Enjoy the jams, friends, and please comment with thoughts and recommendations!

Leave a comment

Filed under Re: Music, Tunesday

Portraits of a War: In Defense of the Selfie

“All identities have been created with war.”

The international news reporting guest professor said this last week in regards to Europe’s war-riddled past, but I immediately scribbled it in the margins of my legal pad.

All identities have been created with war.
And my war is ending.

For a long time, I wanted to be one of the boys. I shunned the color pink and curling my hair. I watched football every Sunday with my dad, begging the Cowboys to “please, please make this happen.” I went to hockey games and ate with my hands and didn’t care about dirt; I thought girls who piled on makeup and Abercrombie were fake or desperate or stupid.

Mostly, it was because I was small enough to fit into Abercrombie for about three months of my life. Then my body changed and stretched and expanded beyond what that coveted moose logo could fit. When I wore a lot of makeup, I felt like an impostor, like a child who got into her mother’s vanity. So, my not-quite-pretty-enough, not-quite-small-enough self rebelled against womanhood, against all things girly.

“Being a man would be so much easier,” I would whine, tugging at the bits of my swimsuit I couldn’t quite get to cover up my body. I wasn’t having a gender crisis — I was just tired of feeling the pressures of a patriarchal society that told me I wasn’t worth boys’ time if I didn’t look vaguely like a Barbie.

Except I didn’t know it as “the patriarchy” when I was 13. I knew it as girls looking at me like I wasn’t good enough. I knew it was cool to not like other girls, to have more guys friends than girl friends, to say “guys are just so much more fun to hang out with because they’re drama free!!!”

That’s not a phase girls should go through. That’s not girls being girls. That, my friends, is called internalized misogyny.

My desire to be a “cool girl” continued through most of high school. I took pride in my sweatpants-and-Birkenstocks outfits. I looked down on girls who wore makeup while I left home with a clean face. I lived to talk sports with the boys, reveling in their shock when I could form complete opinions on why Jason Witten is a truly exceptional tight end or why Ronnie O’Brien was FC Dallas’ best offensive asset. I hated on Kristen Stewart and Megan Fox, calling them boring or slutty.

It was exhausting, though, to constantly be checking over your shoulder. To make sure you were the girl in the room who cared the least about being a girl.

Things are changing, folks.

Sometime in the last couple years, women started learning to love each other again. Slowly, young women realized it was more fulfilling to compliment another girl’s shoes or smile than it was to sneer after she walked past. We began to see that another woman’s fashion choices had nothing to do with our own lives and therefore didn’t need to be addressed. We found comfort in the inherent strength of being a woman in a society that wants to treat you like everything but a human. Our war against each other was turned on its head into a war against the forces trying to separate us.

And I turned the corner and began to love my sisters. I tucked everyone into my heart: the women in coffee shops and the funny friends of friends and young girls playing kickball at recess. When men (or other women) speak badly of women, I have become a feminist lioness — no-nonsense and strong and protective. I have called out classmates more times than I can count on calling anyone, including celebrities, a slut. When I feel the conversation start to head down the path of misogynistic prattling, I simply say “She can do her thing. It’s her life.” ever so casually. When someone stands up, the group will usually reroute conversations.

I am not the only one doing this, either. I learned the bravery to speak out against classmates’ remarks by watching strong women in my life boldly speak their minds. Other humans I know, across a broad spectrum of sexualities and genders, shared their experiences and gently checked my white-cis privilege. My friend group has become a mass of young people tired of putting up with sexist, racists, ableist, misogynistic bullshit, for lack of a better word.

I’ve written about how destructive girl hate can be before, but I think I left out a key part: the key to loving others is loving yourself.
And that’s where selfies come in.

I’ve been through a pretty terrible year, self-love-wise. I’ve been in the dark of the woods, unsure how to get back to loving myself for more than 15 minutes a day when I’m laughing with my friends. I wanted to remember how to love my freckles and my fat fingers and my knobby knees and my brown hair. But when you can’t get out of your own head, it’s hard to look into the mirror and decide that you like what you see.

Recently, I’ve turned a corner yet again. I’ve made it to the window of my mental health fortress and realized that I needed to teach myself to love myself again.
So I started journaling. And not being afraid to be proud of work I had done. And to acknowledge both my shortcomings and my accomplishments. And to remember it was my own body that got me through the worst experiences of my life. And that I was cute, darn it.

So let’s stop shaming selfies. If you feel cute or goofy or just need to remind yourself that you are here and present and okay, take a selfie. If you want to remember a moment with friends, take a selfie. If you had an amazing hair day and felt the need to document, take a selfie. If your makeup looks incredibly good because you somehow managed to get your winged eyeliner even on both sides, by all means take a selfie and then teach me your ways.

Take selfies in full length mirrors when your outfit is worth remembering, for which ever reason. Right after you wake up, makeup free and groggy. On the middle of a dance floor, warm with beer and pop music. With friends, all beaming and pulling faces. Keep them on your phone infinitely or post the best ones to Facebook or save them for a friend’s birthday PicStitch. Comment on your friends’ selfies, reminding them that they’re cute and that you definitely should set up a coffee date soon.

Don’t forget that just as you are worthy of the love and respect of others, you are even more worthy of the love and respect of yourself.
In the always wise words of  Eleanor Roosevelt, “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.”

Because identities are forged by war. When you start coming out of the woods, remember to snap a photo of your warpaint. I will stand by you and support every single selfie you Instagram. Together, like women marching into battle, we will learn to love thy selfie.

If loving yourself is a revolution, put me on the front lines.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

13 Comments

Filed under Motivation and Inspiration, Social Justice