Tag Archives: looking back

When Patterns Are Broken, New Worlds Emerge*

This year, I am writing my look back on 2015 from a sleeper car of the California Zephyr, looking out over the majestic Colorado River as we wind through Ruby Canyon on the way to San Francisco. I’m also eating dark chocolate with potato chips in it and generally living My Best Life.

That has been a theme this year.

Unlike 2014, which was a pretty rough ride at times, 2015 just kept giving and giving. The year began with the email that—with only slight hyperbole—changed my life: Eire again?

It pays to stay in touch with your professors.

And so I went to Ireland in March (read all about it here and here and here and here and here and here). While there, away from all the pressures and cares of St. Louis and free to start dreaming, dreaming, dreaming, dreaming, dreaming, I started to plot a new course for my life. It certainly didn’t hurt that I was surrounded by the most inspiring and uplifting group of mentors one could possibly ask for.

Proust may have said that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes,” but new landscapes certainly don’t hurt.

Once back in the US, I started to put my plans into action.

In May, I gave my two weeks notice at the software company I had been working for the past three years, ever since I graduated from college in 2012. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job, but I was very excited to move on to a new career in education. I started at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (yup, I’m back at Washington University) as a museum educator at the end of May, and I absolutely love it. I think I always knew I wouldn’t last long away from academia.

So what else happened in 2015?

2015 was the year I turned 25.

It was the year I became moderately proficient at rock climbing.

It was the year my apartment was broken into (yes, again), and the year I watched my brother graduate.

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I rang in the New Year in Los Angeles and tried In-N-Out for the first time (animal style, naturally).

In fact, 2015 was a year full of firsts. My first pet died (RIP Fish!). My first close friend got married. I got my first flat tire. I finally saw a performance of The Pillowman and actually caught a Decemberists concert. I played golf for the first time (and probably the last).

Embracing the new came with letting go of the old. 2015 was the year I said goodbye to a four-year relationship that just wasn’t working anymore. It was also the year I said goodbye to Portland, Maine, the closest thing to a hometown I have.

I taught my first college class. My name appeared as a byline (in print!).

I took trains and planes and automobiles as I traveled to Ireland and Chicago and Columbia (MO) and Kansas City and San Francisco and my parents’ new home in Grand Junction, Colorado.

I kept knitting, and started sewing (again). I took every opportunity to dress in costume, and I made a badass piñata to boot.

I went to museums and plays and concerts and spent a day being a tourist in my own city.

I gave up and starting drinking coffee on a somewhat regular basis (although don’t worry, I still prefer tea).

I tried to spend more time outside, and sometimes succeeded.

I celebrated Thanksgiving in a different city than my parents.

And although I made a valiant effort, I barely put a dent in my list of books to read (in fact, I think it’s longer now than it was a year ago).

2015 was the year I turned 25.

I’m looking forward to seeing what 2(01)6 will bring.

 

*The title is borrowed from a quotation by American Beat poet Tuli Kupferberg that Goodreads emailed to me one morning. While fruitlessly Googling to find the original source, I discovered that Kupferberg was also a member of the Fugs, the rock band responsible for the masterpiece “Boobs a Lot,” which provided much entertainment to my friends and I in high school. And so the world turns. 

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A Return to Ireland

A few days ago, I got an email out of the blue. Eire again?! *

My freshman year of college, I took a year-long Irish literature course that culminated in a trip to Ireland over spring break. The class ended up having a profound impact on my life long after freshman year, as that is where I met many of the people who are to this day my closest friends.

A few days ago, I got a chance to go back.

The email was from my former professor, letting me and a few other alumnae of the course she’s still in touch with know that the chaperones for this year’s visit to Ireland had backed out at the last minute and “WE’D LOVE TO HAVE YOU ON THE TRIP!!!” The only catch was, we had to make a final decision within 24 hours so they could book the tickets.

After some quick calculations, I decided to go for it. Spontaneous adventure!

It has been 6 years since I went to Ireland with my own freshman class.

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(Can you even tell which one is me?)

We were required to keep a trip journal while we were there, and I’d like to share a few excerpts from mine with you.

From the first night:

“I got food poisoning from the cod…so I spent the whole night throwing up and consequently got no sleep.”

Nearly every entry after that first one begins “still sick…”, and details which chair I sat curled up in while the rest of the class was exploring museums or touring historic sites.

Fortunately my wonderful roommate took very good care of me.

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Despite all the sickness, I managed to have a great time, as evidenced by my “Things Amy loves about Ireland” list:

  1. hot water makers instead of coffee makers in hotels
  2. interesting crisp flavors (and the fact that they’re called crisps) → Prawn Cocktail, Cajun Squirrel, Crispy Duck & Hoisin
  3. tea EVERYWHERE (in pots, with saucers)
  4. the fact that it is green and beautiful. Obviously.
  5. brown sugar packets
  6. energy efficiency in hotels
  7. third-wheel beds
  8. the trouser press in our room in Galway
  9. the vegetable soup (and brown bread)
  10. drinking Bulmer’s out of pints in pubs instead of Natty out of cans in basements
  11. the oddly tacky framed fake sunflowers at the otherwise very classy Academy Plaza Hotel in Dublin

It’s quite a list. As you can see, some things haven’t changed (my love of tea!), but others most certainly have (drinking Natty in basements instead of craft beer in bars). I have no idea why I included a few of the items on there (the trouser press? the sunflowers?).

It will be very interesting to see how the experience is different this time around. I’m 6 years older, worlds more mature (at least I hope so!), and a much more experienced traveller. I also – *fingers crossed* – won’t have debilitating food poisoning this time around. No tartar sauce for me!

No matter what happens, I’m looking forward to sharing my brand new trip journal with all of you in just a few short weeks!



*Eire is the Irish Gaelic word for Ireland.

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Forever Is Composed of Nows*

This bon mot from cartoonist Ashleigh Brilliant truly encapsulates my experience in 2014:

My life has a superb cast, but I cannot figure out the plot.

More than ever before, this past year taught me that the future is unknowable, even – especially – when you think you have it all figured out. (As my dad likes to remind me, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”)

2014 was the year I finally admitted to myself that I was an adult, and that that fact wasn’t going to change anytime soon. Full of intense breakups and personal drama, 2014 was also full of immense love and personal growth.

2014 was the year I turned 24.

It was the year I tried yoga, and I stuck with it.

It was when I finally wore out the hiking boots I’ve had since I was 12.

It was the year I got a car and discovered a whole new kind of independence.

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I spent a month in Maine, and remembered again why I am so incredibly lucky to have the family that I have.

I came back to St. Louis, and remembered again why I am so incredibly lucky to have the friends that I have.

I moved into a new apartment, where I hung curtains and picture frames and actually bought a couch.

I tried Tinder, so I will never feel the need to again.

I cut off my hair and dyed it purple and blonde and blue.

I watched my city catapult into international attention as unrest and protests spread from Ferguson, Missouri, and I learned that what makes it into the media is never the whole picture.

I spent many mornings at the farmer’s market and rediscovered the joy of zucchini blossoms.

I stayed up all night and watched the sunrise over Forest Park.

I stumbled into the first paid modeling jobs I’ve had since that time I modeled for water bottle clip packaging in high school (true story).

I picnicked and explored rooftops and picnicked on rooftops.

I voted and voted and voted.

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I learned the importance of having an emergency fund (and discovered that you sometimes have to spend it and start over).

I travelled to New Mexico and San Francisco and Kansas City and all around LA.

I learned to like whiskey.

I put together 3 different Halloween costumes.

I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time.

I discovered the joys of having a wonderful doctor.

I went to the symphony three times, and the theater once, and museum openings and events more times than I can count.

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I embraced my library card and made progress on my long list of books to read.

I didn’t go hiking and camping enough, but thoroughly enjoyed the times I did.

2014 was the year I turned 24.

It was beautiful and difficult, and now….

it’s over.


*The title is borrowed from the first line of an Emily Dickinson poem

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Wherever you go, there you are

I have been hankering to travel lately.

This is not an infrequent phenomenon. I grew up a nomad, bouncing back and forth from coast to coast – California to Maine to New Mexico to Florida to Washington State to Virginia and back up to Maine – before ultimately landing somewhere in the middle.

Map of Moves

The constant exposure to new places and the need to constantly assimilate into new environments has influenced me in a number of ways.

  • I am closer to my family than I might have been otherwise. For most of my childhood, my brother was often the only friend close to my age that I had (and certainly the only one I could depend on to still be around the next year). Also, Robert and I spent probably 300 hours in the backseat together during all of our cross-country drives; while there were frequent spats, it was in our best interest to get along.
  • I am much more outgoing than I would have been otherwise. Funny how having to make a whole new set of friends every year from the time you’re 5 turns you from someone who hides behind your mother’s leg to someone who craves new social experiences.
  • I rely less on the approval of others than I might have otherwise. Now, my parents certainly did their best to cultivate my independent streak, and I have always been one to Know What I Want. However, I credit my perennial misfit status (I was never the cool new kid – just the new kid) for my ability to dress how I want and do what I want without fear of what people might think – even if that means knitting by myself in a bar. That said, I’m a human being, so I do still care what you think of me. LIKE ME! PLEASE LIKE ME!

Heck, all that moving has even affected the way that I speak!

Linguistic Map

I loved my nomad lifestyle (despite all of the last-picked-for-every-team pain it caused along the way), and embraced it even more in college. A new living space every year? Friends from big cities whose couches I could crash on? Opportunities to learn new languages and hone them during months abroad? I was in my element.

College was four years spent exploring new places and spaces, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that at the end of it, I opted for one more new experience – remaining in St. Louis while most of my friends moved away.

Instead of being the one who went, this time I was the one who stayed behind.

Now, this is all old news, and while the summer after graduation was a conflicted one, I am happy with the decision I made.

A year and a half later, however, my nomad instincts are rising again. Despite the fact that I love the city I have chosen and all it has to offer, despite the fact that my apartment is beautiful and my boyfriend more so, despite the fact that I am well employed and enjoy an active social life with people who challenge and support me, I am feeling a pull to…elsewhere. I can’t stop the sneaking fear from creeping up on me that I am becoming Stuck in One Place. (Did I mention that a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence is the last thing I have ever dreamed for?)

When this tide of vague discontent starts lapping at my toes and threatening to sweep me back to the East Coast, to Europe, to Anywhere But Here!, I try to think back to words happened upon in The Chronicle: Wherever I go, there I am.

It’s true. We’ve heard so many times – human beings are incredibly adaptable creatures, and the New rapidly (d)evolves into the Familiar:

“If we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe everything we could see in the same aspect as the things of Earth.”

[Full disclosure: I have never read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, which is where this is from – I also snagged this gem from The Chronicle]

If I moved to back to Boston or Bologna (or even to Bogotá!), they too would eventually begin to pale. The curse of the New is that it cannot remain so long.

So, for now at least, I’ll content myself to experiencing the New in novels and non-fiction, art exhibitions and friends of friends, restaurants and weekend trips.

But I’ll also keep sighing over the Italian Instagrams that clutter up my feed.

#keepthedreamalive

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All of this happened, more or less*

I’m not much of one for celebrating the New Year. It’s not that it’s not exciting to “start fresh” or to stay up late and drink champagne; it’s just that I forget to plan for the occasion. I don’t make resolutions and I don’t remember to document my New Year’s Eve.

IMG_3998[Proof: The image to the right was the only photo I took during my night out on New Year’s Eve, and the only reason I have this one was because the man at the coat check told me to take it since it was more likely that I would lose my ticket than my phone. Incidentally, I didn’t lose my ticket.]

So, instead of posting photos of my amazing EVEning and making New Year’s resolutions this year, I’m taking some time to think back on the year that has passed. After all, 2013 was a big one – it was my first spent entirely in the so-called “real world” of office work and all that comes with it.

2013 was the year I turned 23.

It was the year of my 5th high school reunion (which I did not go to) and my 1st college reunion (which came to me).

During this year, my parents came to visit me. My cousin came to visit me. Sasha and Ellie and Dan all came to visit me.

I visited my parents. I visited my cousin. I visited Sasha and Ellie (but not Dan). I visited many other people besides.

I made it to Los Angeles and Minneapolis and Boston and Maine and New York.

I experienced my first family reunion with the entire family present when my grandmother turned 80.

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I also experienced my second robbery when the seats were stolen out of the back of our rental car.

I had a best friend move to Scotland.

I saw a lot of incredible art.

I saw a lot of incredible music.

I tweeted once or twice, and one of the times I did I won 5 tickets to LouFest.

I planned a surprise birthday party for Joe and a surprise trip to Maine for my mom’s birthday.

IMG_2309I spotted an amazing chair on the side of the road and we somehow managed to cram it into Joe’s sedan so we could take it home with us.

I made my first post-college friends.

I came frighteningly close to agreeing to adopt a dog.

I joined a gym for the dance classes. I discovered that I am terrible at hip hop dancing. This was not a surprise. I also discovered that I love dancing to Michael Jackson. This was a surprise.

I got a Haircut. When I took a selfie to document this fact, my nose disappeared.

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I took up knitting in earnest. I took up embroidery and sewing besides.

I embraced that “chi se ne frego” (who cares) attitude and knit by myself at a bar while reading a book about A/B testing. I also knit at bars even while not reading books about A/B testing.

I drank a lot of incredible beer. I made my own gin. I got better at mixing drinks.

I read lots and lots and lots of books.

All of my Pandora stations converged on M83’s “Midnight City”.

I became an enthusiastic party host, and pulled off an obsessively detailed murder mystery party.

I went to my first baseball game. I went to my first World Series game. These were not the same.

My German got worse, but my feminism got better.

I celebrated 2½ years in a serious relationship. I learned more about what love is and why there’s no such thing as happily ever after (and why that’s a good thing).

I was and I am happy.

2013 was the year I turned 23.

It’s been said that nobody likes you when you’re 23, and BuzzFeed (that source of deep-thinking, hard-hitting journalism), has even emphatically declared 23 to be the single worst year of the 20s.

I have to say though, being 23 hasn’t been too bad.


*The title is taken from a line in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

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In the past 4 years…

I have lived in 9 different places (2 dorms, 3 apartments, 2 houses, 1 villa, and 1 institute) in 5 different cities and 3 different countries.  I slept on floors in countless others.

I shared bathrooms with 38 roommates and bedrooms with 6.

I moved 9 times (or 13 if you count the temporary moves back home).

I took 47 flights, at least 11 bus trips, and countless train trips in and between 7 countries and 15 states.

I took 44 classes in 3 different languages through 4 institutions and had 2 internships, 4 part-time jobs, 1 art show, and ultimately managed to acquire 1 full-time job.

It’s been a good run.

Now what will the next 4 years bring?

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