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?

San Fran Bound

san-franc

I’m going to San Francisco!

This week I found out that the only way to get a French Visa is to apply in person in San Francisco, so I’m going to be taking an impromptu trip this July to get all of my Visa stuff cleared. As random as this trip is, and as much as financially it’s really not helping my whole “budget” plan, I’m actually looking forward to the vacation. I’ve been so incredibly stressed  during this whole process, and having four days to explore a beautiful city I love will be a perfect respite before go-time in August. July 7th is the magic day for applying for my visa! Wish me luck! I honestly will weep if it doesn’t go through, at this point.

This whole week has been a bit mad, honestly. I’ve jumped through so many hoops to make this happen, and now a new hidden hoop! Hurray. I’m not saying the French government doesn’t want people to move there, but I’m not exactly feeling like they do.

That being said, there are some pretty awesome things that have happened this week, too! First off, I got my official hard copy of my acceptance letter to the University of Orleans, yesterday! It was so cool to get something in my mailbox from where I’m moving! The packet included my letter, and then some other info, such as a campus maps and some info about the city. I CANNOT wait.

Today I FINALLY got ahold of a copy of French Vogue! I’ve been trying to get it from the newspaper stand near my house, but they’re always sold out! Sixth time’s a charm, I guess. This morning I sat, facing Puget Sound, eating my favorite Pike Place bakery treats, and reading vogue in the sunshine – it was magical (and so needed!).

Postcards!
Postcards!

Also, Postcrossing is blowing my mind. If you haven’t signed up, and have an interest in sending/receiving postcards from around the world, sign up! I’ve already had postcards from Prague, Poland, South Africa, Germany, China and five other places I don’t even remember. It’s so much fun to open my mailbox and find a postcard from someone thousands of miles away!

And that’s all for now. Life is crazy right now, but I’m doing my best to soak up every minute, because I know it’s only for a little while before I won’t be able to. France 2014, or bust! (preferably not busting, though)

P.s. Next time you meet someone who’s successfully moved to France – give them a high five.

I got my acceptance letter last night!
I got my acceptance letter last night!

Tangible Dreams

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My feet and Rattlesnake Ridge, WA

There’s something beautiful about tangibility.

Call me a romantic, but I love the feeling of feeling.

I love getting ink on my fingers while I’m thumbing through the NY Times. I love pounding down the keys of a vintage typewriter. I love running my fingers over the hand tooled leather of my favorite bag, or turning the pages of a vintage book.

There’s just something about being able to touch and feel, that makes things more real.

Yesterday, I got an acceptance letter to the University of Orleans, in France. I was excited beyond words to get the email, but I couldn’t help slightly mourning that I wouldn’t be able to rip into the letter when it arrived in the mail. That being said, I’m so extremely excited, I think I can overlook missing the experience.

And anyway, next week I’ll have a scan of the original acceptance letter, and I fully intend on running through the streets waving it like a child high on 4th of July parade candy. It shall be glorious.

Getting into the university I wanted comes with a lot of emotions – something my Norwegian roots are not used to and, frankly, have no idea how to process.

Mainly, because this is the first time I’ve really wanted to get into a university. Most of my life my parents have decided which school I would go to, and I’ve never questioned their decision-making. Even the college I went to for my BA was the same one my brother and mom graduated from.

Applying to the Université D’Orleans was the first independent choice in my education, and it feels wonderful. Think kid riding their bike without training wheels for the first time: completely thrilling, mildly terrifying and ridiculously liberating.

I’ve wanted to study abroad since I can remember. But when I was in college, it was ridiculous to even think about. Since I was on an accelerated track for graduating, there was the issue of time (I was only at the university for two years, instead of four), and there was also the huge issue of financial accessibility.

My school promised to match the tuition being spent at their campus, but since that would still have been about $40,000 (without scholarships) and with an added cost of living expenses in Europe, it was just not plausible.

So I tucked that dream away. And, honestly, I forgot about it. I forgot how much I wanted to study abroad when I was in college. How weird is that? A teenager who wants to go to school as much as possible. But every time one of my friends would announce that they were going off to whatever country they were planning on studying in, I remember being slightly ridiculously jealous.

Now, in the true nature of my life, I’m finding a roundabout way of accomplishing a dream that has unexpectedly resurfaced out of nowhere. Normality doesn’t run in my timeline.

God looks at my plans and says, “Haha. Yeah – how about this, instead?”

And the thing is, it’s always so much better than what my plans were, or could have ever been. Here I am getting ready to study at a university for an entire year, instead of only a semester. Rather than amassing more debt than I can ever pay off, I’m getting paid while I’m studying. AND I get to live with an amazing French family the whole time. Call it cliché (French word – woot!), but I feel so blessed right now.

Even though this whole process has been/is going to be filled with ups and downs, stress and hard work, laughing and crying, it’s one of those mountains that’s worth climbing in order to reach the amazing view.

Although it might not be the way I had it planned (there’ve been a few more rocks and potholes on this trail than I had anticipated), I’m learning that, sometimes, it’s the unconventional paths that reward us with the greatest experiences.

Intangible and seemingly impossible dreams can (and do) become tangible realities. Sometimes, you just have to find a different way of climbing.

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ 

Isaiah 55:8-9

Checklist for France!

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Glasgow, Scotland

This week, for some reason, it’s been really tough for me to feel like I’m accomplishing anything. Although I’ve been plugging away for months to get everything for France pulled together, it’s still hard to envision my work paying off, since that won’t be for a few months.

With that being said, here are some of the things I’ve finished up lately/I’m working on to get ready for France!

1. Doctor’s appointment: There are several steps in the process of applying for a French Visa. I had no idea how complicated this process would be, but I’m slowly finding out that you have to really WANT to go to France in order to move there. There are a million hoops to jump through before you can even think about applying.

One of these necessary steps is getting a  doctor’s note (aka Medical Evaluation) that states that you aren’t dying. This visit also has to be within three months of you leaving for France so it wasn’t until this week that I was finally able to make the appointment! Yay!

2.  Birth Certificate: Somehow I lost my birth certificate. I have no idea where it is and I need an official one to copy before I move, sooooo I ordered a new one this week. It’s surprisingly easy to get.

3. DuoLingo-ing the world: I know that’s not a word, but it is now. Every day I spend about 1 hour(ish) on Duolingo practicing my French. I used to dream of the day when I’d be at more than 20% word knowledge, and then I looked at my screen yesterday! I’m satisfied.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 10.29.44 AM 4. I’ve been kind of obsessed with French Romantic Comedies lately. They’re just so much better. If you haven’t watched any I highly suggest these:

5. French Magazines are my new favorite thing to read! I can’ t seem to get a copy of a French Vogue, but I’ve been going through French Elle and Marie France

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ELLE-France-28-Mars-2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. I finally started to actually go through my belongings and get rid of stuff: I’m trying to get rid of probably somewhere around 60ish% of my belongings so I’ll only be keeping essentials here in storage (20%) and taking the other 20% with me to France. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

7. I’m loaning out my fish to my little sister while I’m gone: My two goldfish, Octavius and Pyro, have been with me for about 5 years, now. But, since I can’t take them with me, they’re going to go live with my little sister until further notice. She better not kill them like she killed my bamboo I had her “take care of” last time I moved.

8. Dentist: Because I don’t know what the situation will be in France, I went to the dentist this week to get my mouth at 100% before leaving. Four shots of anesthetic later, and we’re good.

9. College application: I sent in my college application last weekend so I’m waiting to hear back from them! Hopefully I’ll be able to take classes there over the next year. I really hope I get in, but who knows?? Fingers crossed!

10. Growing out my f^$&^@! hair: Anyone who knows about curly hair knows that it is a beast that doesn’t want to be tamed. Anyone who has tried to regrow out a mowhawk knows it’s just awkward. Add the two together, and you have a recipe for disaster. Which is pretty much where I’m at right now. I almost get my hair re-shaved pretty much every day. But luckily, I have a hefty dose of Irish/Scottish stubbornness in my blood and if I said I’m growing it out – I’m damn well going to.

11. I bought a tablet! With layovers etc. I’m going to be traveling for like 30 hours when I go to France, so I bought a tablet so I can take it with me, to read/watch movies, when I travel. It’s coming in the mail today, hopefully, so I’m super excited!

12. I’m emailing a church in France to try to get connected with one near where I’m living.   Being able to keep connected with people who share my faith is so important to me, and I’m really hoping that I can connect with some fun people in France. One of my way too awesome friends was in Paris, and he found some people to connect me with at the Hillsong plant in Paris. I’m excited to see what connections I can make 🙂 (This had been high on my list, so I’m so glad to have some kind of lead finally)

And that’s “all” for now! Ah! Only 3 months!

Also, one of my friends left yesterday for his Au Pair-ship in Australia. Check out his awesomeness on his blog! 

Boldly Going Where No Man Has Gone Before

The window view from where I stayed in London.
The window view from where I stayed in London.

Have you ever done one of those trust fall exercises, where someone stands behind you and you roll back on your heels, hoping they’ll catch you before you meet the floor? Me neither. Because I think they’re mildly pointless and dangerous.

But, I think they happen to be the best illustration for how I feel this week. Yesterday was an extremely exciting day because I sent in my application for a French university. Hopefully, I would be attending the school starting this fall and throughout the time I’m living in France (fingers crossed!).

Initially, when I got my au pair position, I hadn’t thought about going to a university. It wasn’t in my budget, and I thought I’d probably just look for a short and sweet 10 weeklong program instead. Taking some kind of French language/culture courses, as an au pair, are required by law – but they don’t have to be at a university.

When the family I’ll be living with suggested the University of Orleans, I started to question my strategic “easy button” on educating myself while I was there.

There are two options at the Universitaire D’Orleans. You can either attend for one semester and stop, or you can attend for two and then graduate with a French certificate stating you are qualified for whatever a French language certificate qualifies you for.

At first I thought, “Cheaper option – duh.” And started filling out my application for one semester. But then, as the deadline got closer, I started to feel uneasy. It didn’t feel right taking the “easy way” out and not completing the program. And that little inner voice wouldn’t give me peace about it AT ALL.

So, instead, I changed my application over to the one-year program. Instantly I felt better. Having made the insane decision, I started looking at the numbers, because that’s what I always do. They don’t add up. Like I said before, attending college wasn’t in my plan when I decided to move to France.

But, then again, moving to France wasn’t in my plan when I decided to move to France, either.

While I was visiting my grandparents this Easter my grandma stopped me on the stairs, as I was leaving, and asked me, “Have you prayed about this [moving to France]? Do you have peace about it?”

Like most of my family members, she’s worried. I will be the first girl in my family to live abroad, and one of the first to have been to Europe. It’s foreign territory, and scary to think about, when I ask my family for their blessing.

But, when my grandma asked me that question, I was able to stand there, smiling slightly, and answer with confidence, “Yes.” I have total peace. Total confidence in where I’m going and what I’m doing. Does that mean I’m not terrified? No.

But, amidst the chaotic feelings to dig a hole and hide, I have a “peace that surpasses understanding”(Phil 4:7) aka peace that makes absolutely no logical sense.

I have no idea how I’m going to afford living in France for a year. How I’m going to pay student loans, and other expenses, when my living stipend is less than a quarter of what I make right now. I don’t know how I’m going to afford going to college for a year, when it would be smarter to go for a semester and call it good.

All I know is that I’m called to risk greatly. To step out into unknown territory. To boldly go where no man has gone before – kidding (Trekkie nerd alert).

Right now, I’m stepping out into something that could turn out to be crazy. I am risking greatly, following an inner guide who has never failed me before.

It doesn’t make sense. Maybe nothing worth succeeding at ever does. But right now I just have to fall, trusting that, seconds before I hit the floor, I’ll be reminded that someone had my back the entire time.

London, England
London, England

The Adventures That Never Happened

Writing in London, England
Scribbling in London, England

Traveling doesn’t always “just happen.” Sometimes, life gets in the way. Plans change; the ‘rug’ gets pulled out from under your feet. And while posting solely about positive experiences is fun, and makes my life look beautifully airbrushed, it’s not realistic.

The facts are: sometimes I feel like God’s directions for my life are like a GPS that drives you into a lake, instead of to your destination. There are times when I’ve wanted so badly to go somewhere that I sat on my bed crying. Times I’ve been tugged in one direction, and then detoured a different way – my soul feeling whip-lashed.

But when this happens, I challenge myself to change my perspective. Yes, maybe the road turned out to be a roundabout, and that’s really frustrating when I thought I was going somewhere new.

But, sometimes, God uses déjà-vu situations to remind us of his promises before he takes us to bigger and better things.

Like, when I was picking a university to transfer to. I thought of applying to so many schools in so many amazing places (London, Norway, Tennessee) that when I got into my first pick I was elated. But, as quickly as they had been made, plans changed just weeks before school started, and I ended up at a university in my hometown of Seattle, instead. I was so upset that I didn’t get to go somewhere new or exotic. But, looking back now, I realize that I was placed exactly where I needed to be, to grow into the person I am now.

An ongoing lesson I’m learning is that there aren’t really “wrong” paths. When you come to a crossroads, sometimes you just have to trust that you’re following the GPS, and take a chance. Life is filled with different decisions, learning experiences, mistakes and successes – and, sometimes, making the decision to take a step forward is the hardest part. Especially if the answer to where to go next isn’t even on your radar.

For instance, when I was trying to decided where to move after living in California, I didn’t sleep for weeks. I had no idea what direction to head in. But, as the deadline neared, Georgia kept popping in my mind. Finally, I decided to visit my family there (people I barely knew), and the minute I bought the plane ticket, I had complete peace from all the anxiety I had been experiencing.

The whole time I had been freaking out about whether to move back to Seattle or stay in California, the answer was actually to do neither. Visiting my family, at that time, was exactly where I needed to be. Eventually I did come back to Seattle, but it was important for me to pick up a few life tools on the way. Learning to value family (no matter how estranged) and the beauty of my heritage, was a lesson I needed to realize before I could move forward in my life here.

Sometimes, the longest detours are the most direct routes to the future successes we have awaiting us on the horizon. 

I’ve known my entire life that I wanted to go to the UK/Ireland (when I was 10 I BEGGED my mom to take me to Riverdance to feed my addiction – which she did), but it took me FOUR TRIES to actually get there. Not because I wasn’t putting forth effort, believe me I was, but because life consistently just didn’t allow me to go.

On my way back from India, I thought about running away the entire time I was stuck in the Heathrow airport (layover). My 18 year old self felt so drawn to the UK, and it broke my heart when I boarded the US bound plane, after being so close.

The next year, after I graduated, I immediately started thinking about how I could get to the UK/Ireland. Every year, for three years I had people say they would go with me, only to pull out last minute. It was the most frustrating experience to repeatedly have to shelve my plans to travel. But, ultimately, I valued my trip so much more when I actually got the chance to go. And, in addition, I was empowered by striking out on my own to get there.

Sometime it takes a while to get where we want to go. And sometimes we never get there at all.

When I was in high school there was a church trip to Uruguay that I wanted to go on more than anything. I worked my butt off to raise the funds, and even started learning Spanish (which I hated). Everything in my mind said to go. But, when it came down to it, my family decided I couldn’t. I was devastated. But, you know what? From that experience, I learned how to work toward something that I passionately cared about. I learned to apply myself, and that work ethic has carried over as I continue to dream of traveling.

Sometimes, life is unexpected.

When I look back and see all the things I’ve been able to do, the memories are so much sweeter because of the failures I’ve had in contrast. It’s a lesson that’s unpopular to learn, but failure is not inherently bad. It means that you aspired to something greater than what you had. You dared to dream bigger than yourself, and think outside the box. And, from where I’m standing, that is nothing to be ashamed of but, rather, commended.

So, risk big! Dare to dream and don’t be discouraged if you fall flat on your face. No one is born inherently successful, it takes time, energy and commitment to what you love.

To borrow some favorite lyrics from a hometown boy:

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot. -Macklemore

Atlanta, Georgia trip
Atlanta, Georgia trip