8 Things That Inspired Me When I Traveled In The UK

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I’ve been to the UK/Ireland quite a few times, and I’m going back in January. My mom’s family is very proudly Scottish, Irish and English so I grew up hearing a lot of stories about these magical places called Ireland and Scotland. I wanted to visit so much that three years I finally packed a backpack and headed out solo. I’m so incredibly glad I did. I’ve met so many amazing people throughout my travels, and I love how different and beautiful each trip proves to be. Here are some of my favorite things about traveling throughout the UK (we’ll do another one on Ireland, I promise).

Glasgow, Scotland: A bun can always go higher up on your head

I’m not really sure if there’s some kind of competition for buns in the UK, but they are no joke. Glasgow is one of the funniest cities you can go to on a winter Friday night because the girls are known for their high buns, and their short skirts. And since it’s Scotland, you can imagine how cold that kind of fashion becomes. As someone who wears their hair in a bun 80% of the time, I was inspired when I went to Glasgow for the first time.

London, England: Pastries as far as the eye can see

I adore bread in all of its many forms, and the UK has some of the best sugary (not savory – that all goes to the French) breads and pastries I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know what the trick is, or how a country manages to tackle pastries with such perfection, but they are simply to die for. Something I’ve learned about Europe is that the flour there tastes so much better than what we have in the U.S. Even just from living in France, the recipes don’t work the same, and it’s so much more difficult to cook using French flour when you’re used to American. I assume there’s something similar in the UK and that what’s there is something from some mystical world, as well.

Stratford-upon-Avon, England : Tomatoes – a nutritious part of every breakfast

Okay, so I’m not sure how many people are already on this train, but I never ate tomatoes (or really vegetables) with my breakfast until I travelled around the UK. Now, I really prefer to have them with some eggs and toast and tea. It’s SO GOOD. English (or Scottish) breakfasts really are just the best, and again, I’m not sure what they do to make the food so good, there, but it really is out of this world.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: Walk Through Cemeteries to Get Writing Inspiration

Okay, Harry Potter nerds. You knew this was coming. A fun fact that I learned when I was in Edinburgh was that JK Rowling stole. Yep. Flat our robbery…of names. It’s true! Many of JK Rowling’s character names come from dead people in Edinburgh cemeteries, including the notorious Tom Riddle aka Voldemort. Brilliant, huh? I’m really excited to go back this January and explore more of the geek side of Edinburgh. I was only there for a day and a half last time and it really was not enough time to satisfy my geekiness. Click the photo below for more info on the cemetery where Tom Riddle is buried.

 

London, England: Brown eggs are better

I grew up with chickens. And we ate their eggs. Thank god we didn’t slaughter them, as well, but my mom was pretty inclusive of the “fresh egg” policy. Unfortunately while having chickens, we also had a rooster who liked to get it on with the ladies. That being said, there were a couple of times when our lovely fresh brown eggs got cracked open into a pan with a underdeveloped chick coming out. Talk about trauma. It’s a wonder I’ve ever eaten eggs again. Luckily my mom had sympathy for me not wanting to eat brown eggs after that. The funny part was that the first time I went to London I realized there was nothing else but brown eggs in the store. Ha. Kill me. Needless to say, I got over my fear, found out brown is better, and now I won’t even buy white eggs.

Glasgow, Scotland: You will never forget the first time you see an original Van Gogh

I love Van Gogh. I always have, and I always will. Up until 2013, though, I had never seen an original (at least, not that I can remember). Scotland wouldn’t probably be the first place that you would look for an original, but that is (accidentally) the first place that I saw one. In fact there were two. And when I saw them I couldn’t believe they were real. It was a bit like that time I was in Rome and thought, “Wow, that looks just like the building from Gladiator,” as I was driving by the Colosseum.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: Always visit the worst club, with the best people

On the authority of three natives, I have (without a doubt) been to the worst club in Edinburgh. How did such a blessing come about, you may ask? Well, it really comes down to striking up conversations with the locals, rather than always staying with the group. I actually can’t remember the name of the club we went to, but my pesky memory could probably find it if I was back in Edinburgh (#photographicmemory) but I can assure you – it was all it claims to be.

All the UK: Cuppa Tea, Tea, Tea, Tea

I have an addiction to tea and I, first off, blame the BBC. But secondly I blame traveling around in countries where you basically get it shoved down your throat. Word from the wise: NEVER say no when you’re offered tea the UK. Even if you just barely sip it, just take the damn cup.


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Have you been to the UK? Comment below with what inspired or shocked you! 

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Memoirs of A French Au Pair: 1 Year Back In The U.S.

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This time last year I was packing my suitcases and planning on getting the hell out of France. I was so over it. I was over my job. Over my living situation and over the idea that I had made the right decision moving there in the first place. In short, I was over it (and everything that ‘it’ encompassed).

If I sound like an angsty teen here, I apologize. And then I unapologize. Because life is hard sometimes, and we have a right to look up to the heavens and shout, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING BRINGING ME HERE!?” There was a lot of that when I lived in France. And that’s okay. Because I don’t believe that God wants subservient robots and I strongly believe that he likes us having real dialog with him. Even when things are hard. Especially when things are hard.

When I moved to France I thought it was going to solve all of my problems. I was sick of seeing people get engaged/married or posting baby pics on Facebook and I decided to DO something with my life. So I quit my job, bought a plane ticket and went (way harder than that, but you get the point). Then the first bad thing happened… and then another. And another and another and another and finally I started to wonder if I had made the right decision? Had I done something with my life, or had I ruined the perfectly good life I had already had?

Risk.

I’m not usually a very risky person. In fact, I would go as far as to say I adore being comfortable and secure. I don’t gamble. I don’t really like taking chances. I’ve ordered the exact same flavor of bubble tea at the exact same place for six years. It’s who I am. I like knowing what I’m getting into. So when I felt the extreme push in my life to move to France, I felt so certain that it was a divine intervention. Let’s be real, it pretty much had to be.

Fast forward nine months and my little idealistic dream boat had been battered and thrown into the shoals. It wasn’t painted and glowing with idealistic promises, anymore. That shit (sorry, mom) was borderline Titanic-post-iceberg status. All I wanted to do was to run away. So I did. And I’m okay with that decision, but I what I did next was wrong.

I tried to ignore and repress and never ever ever think about France.

In fact, I can honestly say I’ve been almost entirely removed from my experience up until the last couple of weeks. It’s very rare that I’ll talk about my experiences there. In fact, I basically don’t talk about that year, at all. At first I told myself that it was because I was too busy or that I had too much on my plate. But the reality was that I didn’t want to have to think about the fact that I had failed at something (or, at least, my definition of failure). France was not magical, fun, beautiful, a fairytale or anything like Audrey Hepburn described it. That’s a tourists dream. Not this expat’s reality.

And at the end of it all I’m still not sure that I have an answer for, “What I learned.” I know that I’ve become a much different person, because I can see it in the reflection of the people who were closest to me, before I moved. Since those changes were gradual they’re much harder for me to personally distinguish.

But I have changed. And I can feel it.

This year back in the U.S. has been one of the most hectic and crazy that I’ve ever had. At times I’ve felt like I was drowning in an ocean, too overwhelming to overcome. Other times I’ve felt so overwhelmingly loved and supported. Overall, this has been a year of drastic highs and earth-shattering lows.

I can’t even believe that one year has already passed. On the one hand it feels like no time at all, and on the other I feel like five years has passed in the course of one. Such is life.

It’s taken almost the entirety of the year for me to finally start having some pieces fall into place. A lot is still up in the air, but things will hopefully click, soon. Over the past year I’ve been bouncing between more jobs than I can count, I’ve moved four times, and I’ve been dutifully pay off the debt (Paris is hella expensive) that I incurred while living abroad (halfway done!) in addition to my student loans (also halfway there). If there’s one thing I learned in France, it’s that I NEVER want to have to think about student loans again, and the sooner they’re gone the better. I hate how “normal” it is for people my age to have tens of thousands of dollars in debt before they really even start their adult lives. It’s basically nonexistent in so many European countries, and I cannot wait to be done with them for good.

The highlights of this year? I’ve gone to three conventions, which was something I had placed on my bucket list while I was living in France. I’ve taken one trip out of the country (Scotland, Ireland, England) and three smaller trips (soon to be four) within the U.S. I’ve seen Riverdance (twice!) and Lord of the Dance, I started a Star Wars painting that will someday be awesome, and I started the process of writing/putting together a comic book with one of my friends. All in all this year has been so incredibly hard, but I’m so thankful for the friends who have held my hand, wrapped me in wool blankets with cups of tea and given me comic books to help me through.

Moving back from France was a really hard decision. It was a hit to my pride (because I honestly didn’t think I would ever come back) and it was a life lesson in how much I actually do need others to make it through this crazy circus called life. Today I was looking at pictures from just two years ago and it’s insane to think about how different things are, now. I was a completely different person. From my ideals, to the way that I approach life, I can honestly say that basically nothing is the same. Maybe this transformation will prove beneficial in the upcoming year. Maybe it won’t. But the point of this long-winded tale is: Fail you might, but try you must.

So here’s to one year of making shit work (sorry for the swearing, mom). The past few years have been just about anything other than what I thought they would be. And that’s OKAY. I give you all permission to be confused, and angry, and elated and to feel torn in a hundred different directions. Life doesn’t have to be exactly what we plan, we just have to be ready to keep moving forward, not matter what is thrown our way.

12 Favorite Moments

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This year has been full of so many crazy amazing experiences, that I thought it would be appropriate to look back over the last year and  show you all some of my favorites. As this chapter comes to a close I’ve really been trying to take a few moments to reflect before I hop on the plane back to the U.S. The whole last week has seemed so surreal, and I can’t even believe that in only 3 days I’ll be back in Seattle!

While I am (of course!) so excited to be coming back to the U.S., it still is a bitter-sweet experience to be packing my bags and leaving Europe. I have definitely not taken the ability to hop on planes and visit places I had only ever read about in books. During this experience I’ve learned SO MUCH about myself, and no matter what my was happening in the smaller picture, I can now look back and say “That was a great adventure.” I feel so amazingly blessed to have been able to travel the world, meet amazing people and live a life some spend their lives dreaming about living. So without further adieu, here are my top 10 beautiful memories (in no particular order)!

1. I got to see the Berlin Wall!Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 10.51.52 PM

2. I got to visit a 14th century REAL castle (with its original moat!!!)! DSC_0837

 

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3. I saw the Mona Lisa (and, like, all the original art I could ever wish for) and probably should have just moved into The Louvre.DSC_0008

4. I went to 3 scifi/manga conventions and met the real life (okay, Cosplay, but damn awesome) TinTin!1424510_10204495246754590_986803764695503958_n

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5. I became part of, and viewed, original Miyazaki sketches from all of my favorite movies! 10850296_10204622487375526_4532807605400135729_n

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6. I made beautiful friends and we made beautiful memories all over Paris.1528591_10204755801748302_6677248749756096313_n

 

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7. I WENT TO THE VAN GOGH MUSEUM, and almost died from an art love overdose!! Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 11.04.52 AM

8. Galway, Ireland stole my heart and Ireland won the “Most Visited” award for the year!DSC_0683

9. I went to Normandy and saw history in real life (also biked 22 km)!DSC_0082

 

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10. I spent Easter weekend in Rome and went to the Colosseum! DSC_0234

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11. I went to the Cliffs of Moher and unintentionally spent my Spring Break falling in love with Ireland.DSC_0526

12. I went to Versailles gardens/Palace and became the little Marie Antoinette fangirl I always wanted to be.10421139_10205851538021024_2635329984024940649_n (1)

Thanks to all who have made this such a crazy wild experience. Cheers to next time!

10 Things 2014 Taught Me

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In the spirit of the New Year I thought I would do one more post on 2014, since I think it’s good to reflect at this time of year. 2014 taught me a lot about myself and a lot about what I want from life. It challenged me more than I’ve ever been challenged in my life, and pushed me to rise above circumstances that were happening in my life. It was a year of stretching myself, and I know I’m so much stronger than the person I was one year ago.  So, without further ado, here are my top 10 lessons I learned from 2014. Happy New Year!!

1. It’s ok to say no: As a middle child it can be hard for me to say no to things, if it means that answer is going to cause conflict. I like to play things down, and keep things docile, in general. But in 2014 I learned that there is sometimes as much value in saying ‘no’ as there is in saying ‘yes.’

2. Do what’s best for you: YOU (AND I) HAVE VALUE! And there are going to be times when the direction you see your life going doesn’t match up with people around you. THAT IS OK. Sometimes walking along a different path isn’t as crazy as it may feel like at first.

3. Love yourself: As humans, we are addicted to love. We love love. We love love stories and we idolize the “perfect relationship.” But how often do we teach about loving ourselves? Not idolizing ourselves, but truly loving ourselves. 2014 taught me what it means to love, respect and value myself even when it means making hard decisions in order to do so.

4. You are stronger than you think: In general, I’ve always considered myself a pretty “strong” person/personality. I’m not the timid type, generally speaking. But 2014 has stretched and challenged me more than ever before. A lot of things could have broken me, but I did not break, even when it was the only real option. For that I am so thankful, and so grateful, because I know I wouldn’t have made it without the support of the friends/family who love me.

5. Dream, it’s contagious: This past year I dreamed of the impossible. I dreamed of moving to another country, of making my life into something I had dreamed about for a very long time, but never thought would happen. And by dreaming big, I started seeing people around me dreaming bigger, too! I love seeing other people’s dreams blossom and become realities – like love more than anything. And I’m so proud of my friends! Dare to dream, you never know who you could inspire.

6. Don’t wait: 2014 taught me to stop waiting for circumstances, people and for life to become perfect. Because the reality is, sometimes those things come around, but a lot of the time they don’t. That’s just a s reality. Grab hold of your dreams. You don’t know what’s in your future, only what your circumstances are in the present. So run hard – the right things will catch up with you.

7. Value the people who value you: How can I even express how thankful I am for my friends? They are my life support, and I don’t know what or who I would be without them. I am incredibly blessed. Keep the people who love and support you top priority in your life REGARDLESS of your situation, time or place. Make time. Make plans. Make it work, because when you feel like you’re at the end of your strength, those are the people who hold you up.

8. Take joy in the little things: After a really rough breakup and life series of events in 2013 I started a habit which turned into a lifestyle choice. Whenever I’m in a moment when I’m just completely happy, I stop and I remind myself “In this moment, I am happy.” It might sound weird, but by verbalizing the moment, I remember them later on when I’m in a not so happy place. It can be something small like getting coffee with a friend or something huge like seeing the Berlin Wall for the first time. But taking that moment to bookmark my happiness is so important to me.

9. A lot can change in a year: Thinking back to where I was 1 year ago is crazy. I had so much ahead of me, and no idea any of it was coming. I was about to meet people who would change my life, make decisions which would move me half way around the world, and at that moment I felt like life was “so boring.” Don’t underestimate your future. And don’t be afraid to change it if you don’t like what it looks like.

10. Keep moving forward: Yes I just stole that from “Meet The Robinsons”, but I also pretty much live by this motto. The reason being that it works. The fact of the matter is, everything is not going to work out the way that you expected. And especially if you’re a risk taker, there are going to be times when you want to get up and walk away because of things that happened. But life is about picking yourself back up and trying again. Trying a different approach. Getting back in the game, even though there doesn’t seem any chance of winning. 2014 was a year where a lot of things happened that were, to be honest, nightmarish. But dwelling on that only keeps me from being productive and accomplishing greater things in my future. Life is about moving forward, let’s keep our eyes on the prize.

2015, I’m ready.

2014: The Year Of Courage

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My New Years Resolution from last year for 2014

Although Facebook has tried to “review” my year, I’m not satisfied because this year was ridiculously packed with good, bad and everything in between. So, sorry Facebook but here’s MY review of my year.

January: I spent an amazing New Years Eve with best friends while being hit on by a Norwegian guy who couldn’t take a hint. I had my septum pierced and it was awesome. Complete with a mohawk, freshly painted tattoo and rebellious piercing – I’d say I was kind of a badass.

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Dec 25th 2013
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I started working at the Boys And Girls Club!

February: I signed up on an au pair website as a joke, and signed a contract 1 week later. Careful what you wish for. Valentines day was ridiculous, and spent with some pretty awesome friends that I seriously miss.

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March: I learned that my friends are way cooler than people I was trying to impress. Sisters before misters, ladies. Never forget.

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One of the best friends I could ever ask for.
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One of my friends had a BABY!!!

1660285_10202655062031122_2009325527_nApril: My big brother and I were reunited. I always forget I’m related to people, until I get around him. It’s absurd. I went to my first Sounders game. It was pretty cool, but the people I went with made it way cooler.

984029_10202938957408329_2285092849423330472_n988872_10203031577003761_5003727285002521486_nMay: I was a nanny for a family that, in many ways, I felt closer to than my own. They were incredible and I was so blessed for being able to work/live/laugh/learn/be crazy with them for over two years.

10403273_10203246959468188_4260201586568979666_nJune: We lived and we laughed, and we sailed on boats.
We learned what loss was. We were shaken, but we weren’t moved. Our family was tested, but we stood together stronger than ever. #PrayForSPU

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Two of my very favorite people in the world.

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July: I painted my heart out, I hosted a billion people from Couchsurfing and enjoyed the hippieness of my hometown. I met a boy from Germany who loves to cycle around the world. 10456011_10203351752407946_3655178518403346691_n 10360557_10203439734327439_9000043357953367137_n10513315_10203503567643232_6590504214116406302_nAugust: I went to San Francisco (July also). Twice. French politics. But I made some amazing friends from around the world. A bunch of nomads coming together for 48 hours making a little family of memories.

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September: I made a ridiculous adventure to get to France, including four airports (late August) and landed in central France. Literally the middle of nowhere. I became friends with a Spanish girl who gave me the courage to stand up for myself.

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10730952_10204307034129392_696922551305332530_nNovember: We made Thanksgiving happen and I got to host all of my beautiful new friends as we all made our homesick way through (for many of us) our first holiday away from home. We learned that family doesn’t just mean DNA.

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December: We finally started to feel like we could find our way around France. Maybe this life could work. Maybe the leaps of faith weren’t as ridiculous as people said. Maybe we could come out of this stronger, wiser and happier than when we went in. Just maybe, we weren’t quite as crazy as people thought.

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2015: TO BE CONTINUED….

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Yesterday’s Ceiling Is Today’s Floor

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Totally not my graduation. But entirely the right graduation picture.

This week I received an invitation from my alma mater to attend my five-year reunion. I had to decline the invite, since I live 5,000 miles away from where I went to college (and flying back to watch a basketball game and drink punch doesn’t really seem worth the $1500 plane ticket), but getting the email made me think. This is year five. When people asked me in college what my five-year plan was, this is where they were asking about.

The same as most twenty-somethings, I remember people frequently asking me where I saw myself in 5 years. I never really had an answer. I knew I wanted to be happy. I knew I wanted to feel like my life was moving, and not static. But beyond those two things, I honestly had no idea.

Going to a small conservative university where “ring by spring” was more the ideal, than a catch phrase, a lot of people had marriage, kids and white picket fences on their list of five year objectives. And while there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, I never felt right saying any of them as an answer (at least not within my 5 year span of time).

Was “having an adventure” an option?

I always want to be in a place where I’m moving forward. I think my biggest fear in life is waking up one morning and realizing that I’ve wasted years of my life hating what I do and who I’ve become. But when I look over the past five years I don’t see that. Did I become the person people thought I would become, while I was in college? Who knows. But I do know that there were dreams, so deeply buried in my heart, that I didn’t even know they were there until they were realized.

The mere fact that I can’t attend my reunion because I live in EUROPE is amazing. I never would have even dreamed that this would be an opportunity for me.

And as I’ve looked back over the past five years I can safely say I’ve had quite a few awesome moments that I’m so proud of.
And, in the spirit of five, here are my top highlights:

  1. I became an artist: I’ve been creating art since I could move my hands, but over the past five years I finally learned to embrace it as who I am. I am an artist. And no matter how much I want to be a doctor, lawyer or astronaut, that’s who I am. Art is what I dream about. What gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s what I think about when I’m riding the metro, it’s what I look at when I’m walking down the street. I never before felt comfortable declaring myself as an artist. But over the past years I’ve been able to make some incredible friends who have helped me embrace that this is my identity.
  1. I became a writer: My whole life I’ve written stories. I used to force my siblings to have story writing competitions with me and we would cut up cereal boxes to “bind” out books together. Libraries were always my second home, so it makes sense that stories became my second language. While I did get my BA in journalism, I never had any idea what I would do with it. I had no interest in brooding news stories. And I used to shock my journalism professor by telling him that the only journalism I was interested in was writing for a tabloid (what no journalism prof. ever wants to hear).
    I always felt like everyone else was always just better than me at being a journalist. From editor to fellow writer, they were a beautiful brooding bunch that stayed up late watching CNN and talking about world events and politics. That wasn’t me. And no matter how much I wished I could be like my stylish editors or the praised writers in my classes, I couldn’t change that.
    I was pretty lost for direction until the past couple of years when I discovered that writing doesn’t always have to be about reporting world events (although that’s important too!). It can be fun and colorful, it can mean going on adventures and writing about them! And then the best part ever happened: me. Little ‘ole non-journalistically inclined me, became an editor…and I love every minute of it.
  1. I travelled the world: I don’t think I would have ever guessed how much travel would be involved in my future, when I was in college. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved to travel and learn about/experience other cultures, but I never thought I would have the opportunities to go out and experience so many of them. I’ve gone with groups, I’ve gone solo, I’ve lived in other states and another country (on another continent!) and I’ve been able to learn so much about myself by looking through the eyes of people around the world.
  1. I worked for organizations that made a global impact: Societal change and sustainable business is SO important to me! And regardless of where I work or what point in my life I’m at, I want to always find a way to give back to the communities around me. Being able to work with non-profits and with small businesses over the past five years has forever changed my outlook on the world and on the way that I interact with it.
  1. I made friends for life: Something great happens when you’re dirt poor and forced to live with three other people in an apartment that should probably only hold two people. I think American society teaches us to fear those growing points in our life; the parts where we have no money and have to work weird jobs to be able to pay our utility bill. But my best memories in my life have come out of times when I had no money, weird jobs and had no idea where my life was going. Was it comfortable? No. Did I cry a lot and ask God why the hell he had put me there. Maybe Yes. But now, looking back, I understand why. I get why in seasons where I thought money was the object, the actual title of the chapter was “Friendship” and I could not be more grateful for the relationships that were molded during these times.

Note. None of these things have made me filthy rich, Instagram famous or listed on “America’s most influential 30 under 30.” But if I was asked if I accomplished my five year goal I would say “Yes.”

Because I am happy. And I am free to do the things that make me happy. Over the past five years I’ve gone on too many adventures to count. I have so many stories I could write a novel. I’ve met some of the coolest people I think I could find on this planet, and I have never felt more loved or supported in my life.

I am me. Uninhibited, nonconforming and entirely me. And I think that’s something to celebrate.

And now, it’s time to dream EVEN BIGGER., and to add some new goals for my next “five year list!” I have no idea how I’m supposed to top this one, but here’s to brighter tomorrows and bigger dreams.
What are some of your guys’ dreams from the past or for the future?