My Not So Guilty Pleasure: Ireland

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You all may have noticed that I have a tiny obsession (okay, maybe not so tiny) with the little island of Ireland. Why, you might ask, have I imprinted so deeply on a country where the sheep population is about par with the human? The answer? I like sheep. Also, because so many of the “selling points” of Ireland, aren’t that at all – they’re just simply truths. No sales, no manipulation needed to get you there. It’s one of the rare things in life that really is as good (if not better) than people say.  Not convinced? Here’s a taste

First off, the people in Ireland really are as nice and welcoming as you hear. I’ve never known someone to travel to Ireland and to not have a welcoming experience. I remember hearing  a story in the hostel I was staying in, a while back, about a girl who had asked an elderly lady for some travel/map help in Dublin and the woman had hopped on the tram with her and took her all the way to her destination. Having lived in Paris, a city founded on briskness, and Seattle, which is known for its “freeze” – it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with the welcoming arms of the Irish.

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One of my favorite things is that, in Ireland, the scenery really is as beautiful as it looks, and what’s better, you can travel across the country and back in a day to see it.  I’ve taken so many tour bus trips while in Ireland (and plan on taking more), just because one of the best things in the world is sitting on a bus hearing stories about Ireland from Irish natives. Not only do you learn things you might not otherwise learn, while your my face is pushed up against the window, but you also get a great way to meet other travelers and become acquainted with the country (which is especially perfect if you’re running short on time).

The food in Ireland is another thing I’m in love with. Fun fact: they don’t only eat potatoes, so get that garbage idea out of your head. Some of the best food I’ve ever had was while I was in Galway and Dublin. To be fair, I do have an overwhelming love of hearty food that fills you up, makes you want to curl up in a ball and fall asleep with a tranquilly sublime smile on your face – which might not be your thing. I don’t know? Who am I to judge? Also, not just a stereotype, grab some seafood while you’re in Ireland. Such prime dishes.

If you know me well, you’ll probably be aware of the fact that I don’t drink alcohol, as a rule. There are several reasons for this, but the long and short of it is that I’m probably allergic, and I have no desire to pass out in random places after having half a glass. The exception to my rule of drinking is in Ireland, where I absolutely allow myself to indulge in a half pint (which normally I can’t even finish – don’t judge me) of Guinness. I’ve tried it outside of Dublin and it just IS NOT the same. You really have to go straight to the source to fill up on the silky smooth goodness that is Dublin Guinness. Take it from me – if you’re gonna drink: do it in Ireland.

And while you’re drinking, you should probably/most definitely plan on enjoying some amazing music. As a former Irish step dancer, and a Irish music addict, I can promise you that going to the source, once again, really as rewarding as you might think. Whether it’s some more traditional music, or some more contemporary, the Irish know music (and don’t even get me started on storytelling) as well as they know beer. Although you probably would have trouble escaping it, make sure to enjoy some great live music while you’re visiting – and don’t be afraid to sing along.

Lastly, I’ll wrap up the same way I began this loving tale. Have I mentioned sheep, before? Okay, so I love sheep – yes yes, we all know. But mainly the reason I love sheep is because I LOVE wool, and I love all the beautiful things that happen with wool when you knit, weave, crochet and worship it (is that just me? Oh…). Irish wool really can only be matched (perhaps) by the fibers of Scotland (but they actually do have more sheep than people, so really you can’t blame them) and I love every bit I’ve ever bought. If you happen to land on the Emerald Isle, I would highly suggest that you grab some gloves, hats, scarves – or all of the above. Especially if your body tends to keep you in a state of perpetual cold, like me, the items that you get are sure to (like the whole damn country – do you get the point, yet!?) warm your heart.

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6 People You’ll Meet While Traveling In Europe

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While traveling in Europe over the past few years I’ve met a LOT of people. The streets are always filled with travelers eager to get a taste of the art, history and overall experience that Europe has to offer; and as a solo traveler, I am always more than happy to share my journey with them. Toward the end of my last trip I started to take note of the trends in who I was sharing planes, trains and airplanes with and I thought I would share a few with you lovelies. So here they are – have you seen them? Leave a message with who I missed!

1. The Recent Grad:  These lovelies are the class of 20__ and are loud and proud about it. Whether hailing from the “great” U.S.A!, Canada, Australia or some other English speaking country, you’ll probably be able to pick these travelers out of a crowd by their looks of beautiful naivety and their constant need to tell everyone that they’ve recently graduated from college. Little do their beautiful soft minds know, we don’t care so much what you’ve learned from a book, but how you’ve applied it so far. Getting out of your comfort zone is a great starting point, but sometimes I want to tell them to not let that one three month European trip be the last time they push themselves beyond it.

2. The Family: Strollers in tow, these parents aren’t quite ready to settle down behind their white picket fences (at least, not all the time) and are out and about with their growing family. And don’t get them wrong, these families will be climbing mountains with sleeping babies strapped to their chest. I love seeing these families because I think it’s so important to introduce children to travel early on. My love of travel is because from a very young ageI was packed up and traveling all around the US – the fearlessness of travel is a learned attribute and I love seeing these kids learning it at such a young age.

3. The Band Of Brothers: There’s something beautifully bonding about the group of guys that travels the world together. Or at least that’s what they’ve all told me. But it’s not only the dudes who are bro-ing out. Shout out to the ladies who also have some tight knit pacts binding them together over countries and continents. Whether it’s a post graduation exploration, or just because their parents didn’t want them to be murdered when traveling alone (because that’s what happens to all us solo travelers – duh.) these groups can be fun to watch – and that’s pretty much all you’ll probably have the opportunity to do. Groups generally aren’t as inclusive as couples or singles (or even families) who travel. In much of the same way there are pros and cons to traveling alone, it’s a blessing and a curse to already have your friends with you when seeing the world.

4. The Boho Hipster: Yeah, yeah. We know. You are above living under the thumb of “the man” so you’ve decided to spend a “season” wandering the earth seeking enlightenment. Believe me, if you’ve met this person you will know it – mainly because they will be constantly reminding you of their alternative lifestyle. And you know what? That’s okay. Props to them – I don’t know how anyone travels with that many additional restrictions to their lifestyles. That’s right, I’m talking to you vegan, glamper who lives off Nietzsche, vintage wines and posts Instagram selfies of your daily lens flare/travel quote/#nofilter #travelpics #blessed.

5. The Nomad: A bit different from the Bohemian (mainly monetary differences, if we’re honest) this person actually doesn’t have anywhere else to go, and therefore approaches the world as their back yard, ready to be perused and explored. Hobbies may include, but are not limited to: epic story telling, guitar playing, resourceful repurposing, dread lock growing, Volkswagen driving, smoking certain plants that may or may not be legal and hanging out with the locals around dinner tables, fire pits and hostel front doors with long talks and smokes at 2am.

6. The Couple: Yes they’re in love. Yes you’re going to know it at every. single. moment. you’re with them. Whether they’re newly-weds, the couple who just never got their honeymoon or the empty nesters/retirees who are ready to take on the world, Europe called and they answered. While some of these couples may seem like an awkward alliance, don’t pass them by so quickly – some of my favorite introductions I’ve ever had were with older couples who had life advice, travel advice and were just solidly awesome. I love seeing the same enthusiasm I have as a single twenty something reflected in the eyes of couples who have been married for forty years. Wanderlust knows no age.

Life of Pi

“Why do people move? What makes them uproot and leave everything they’ve known for a great unknown beyond the horizon? Why climb this Mount Everest of formalities that make you feel like a beggar? Why enter into this jungle of foreigness where everything is new, strange and difficult?

The answer is the same the world over: people move in the hope of a better life.”

It Takes A Village

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Wow, it has been a WHILE since I’ve caught everyone up on the crazy that is my current life! Throughout the past weeks I’ve been moving, working, applying for jobs, moving AGAIN and trying to keep my head from spinning so hard it falls off.

Luckily, I am #blessed (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) with the best community a girl could ask for. Sanity saved.

So, what HAVE I been up to? Well, I’ve moved into my permanent housing situation in a beautiful Seattle neighborhood that is close to nature, parks, Puget Sound and a short bus hop to downtown. Sometimes I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I’m so happy to be back home, it seems surreal.

The whole moving escapade has been quite the adventure because I started off staying with a friend on her bedroom floor, my first week back (thanks Claire!), graduated to a temporary living situation with some rad Seattle chicks. And a month later, I was lucky enough to land (kind of bumpy, but I’m still in one piece!) in my current abode. I’m living with a couple of fantastical chicks, now, and I’m sloooowly pulling together my heavily Pintrest inspired living space.

I would just like to reiterate that none of these things would have been possible without the amazing community I’m a part of. I have the best friends a girl could wish for, I’ve had more support and love than I could have ever imagined, and my mother has been a darling bringing down/moving boxes. Oh! And this time I’m in the same country as these people so I can actually hug them and say “Thank you!” You all have made the miracle of this transition happen. Thank you thank you thank you!

What’s up with the rest of my life? Well my job has been keeping me on my toes, and is filled with fun every day, my housemates are awesome, I GET TO HANG OUT WITH MY FRIENDS, and I get to see my family whenever I want to. Sheesh. It’s all just too much. When they say “cup overflows, “ I think I finally understand what it means.

I am so incredibly happy to be back in my city. But I also recognize that my joy in being back is amplified because of the adventures I’ve been on abroad. While it might seem like regret for leaving Seattle might be a feeling that hits right about now, that’s not the case AT ALL! I’m just so happy to be where I am right now.

Will this be my forever stopping point? Who knows. But in these moments I am happy. I love being surrounded by people I love, and I love having the adventures that pop up and meet me every day.

Enough with the frilly stuff??

Okay. Fine.

Just know that moving back to one’s own country, after having adventures in another one, CAN be done successfully. It takes a lot of hard work (A LOT), and a lot of patience with yourself, but it can be done.

One of the biggest things I’ve been learning, lately, is just to let go of my trying to control my circumstances, and to really dig deep. I have so many things I could stress out about, but taking a step back and approaching them each individually has proved to be so much better than curling up in a ball and trying to hope the problems go away.

Not only does glorifying stress not help solve the situations at hand, but it prevents me from enjoying the beautiful little things around me in my day to day moments. Yes, I am so thankful to finally be back, but that doesn’t mean things have been easy every step of the way. AND THAT’S OKAY.

I’m fine admitting that I don’t know what’s going to be the next step, moving forward. I mean, I didn’t even know where I was going to live until weeks before I would have been homeless.
BUT.
Something always comes up. And I have faith that it always will; because in the end, my fate and my future are not in my own hands. While the hard work is mine to dedicate myself to, the direction I’m heading is from an always-faithful Father.

This life is crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m back! I have no idea what the next step is in half of the areas of my life, but I know I’m on the right track, and FINALLY that’s enough.

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Doing Seattle Summer Right: 5 Ways To Rock With A Limited Budget

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Coming back home to Seattle has been pretty amazing, but the reality of moving back (or really, moving in general) is that it costs a lot of money. And, even though I am working, having to fit moving costs and living expenses etc. in definitely drains the “fun budget.” That being said, I’ve actually had such a busy social life since I’ve been back – the secret being that I haven’t spent $1 on any of my amusements. How have I done it!? Well a little bit of luck, a whole lot of crazy and some fun tricks I’m going to let you in on! Grab a notepad or iPhone or whatever it is kids are using these days, because some of these things I didn’t even know about before moving away. Ready? Okay, let’s go:

1. Volunteer: One of my favorite things to do is to volunteer at events. Not only do you generally get back stage access/get to meet the artists (how I met Mary Lambert!), but you also get to give back to your community! It’s a win-win, right!? I volunteer at the Fremont Abbey a lot and I absolutely love supporting such an amazing community of artists and musicians. Whether it’s working with the bar, the glam task of stacking chairs, or being a volunteer painter/artist during a show, there are always so many ways to help out! Oh! And volunteering = free entry to any show at the abbey.

2. Know your community: Along the same lines, there are some awesome community events in Seattle that are free. During the summer there are free outdoor movies in most neighborhoods, Shakespeare in the park, free museum days and all kinds of festivals with little to no cost. Don’t think that not having a huge budget means you have to sit in a corner all summer!

3. Check your assets: You might not even know what you have access to, but you might have freebies already! I’ve just taken to reading any and everything that comes into my hands and guess what!? I found some awesome events/passes through my local library and my bank (weird, right). If you bank with Bank of America, for instance, you can get a free pass to the Seattle Art Museum, Northwest African American Museum and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and many others in cities other than Seattle.

4. Get to know people: We have a saying in our classroom that “It’s better to make friends than enemies. Because you never know what you’re missing out on with most people.” People in Seattle have some of the most eccentric tastes you could probably find and making friends is an awesome way of finding out about awesome things going on around Seattle that are fun, low budget and may be something you’ve never done before! This is how I’ve ended up at the semi final Women’s World Cup game, concerts and COMING SOON: hikes that are going to kick my ass (Paris has left me so out of shape it’s an actual tragedy). Don’t burn bridges – build them! (Another favorite is to join up with a Meetup group!)

5. Keep your eyes open: I do a lot of awesome things that are last minute and random and awesome, and the reason for that is because I love looking around reading signs, picking up fliers and going to things that might not be on my normal agenda. For example, I love going to pre-screenings of movies. And companies love me going to pre-screenings of movies. I’ve seen some great documentaries and movies (the last one being Inside Out) for absolutely free just because I picked up a flier that was “admit one” for a pre-screening. There are several spaces you can find tickets, but a good starting place is with Universal pictures, which does a lot of pre-screenings that you can sign up for notifications for (and usually you can bring a friend!).

Do you guys have any money saving tips for summer????

July Fourth Has Never Felt Better

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The fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday, and it probably always will be. The food, the fireworks and the awesome people I get to spend time around every July 4th just always leaves me with some of the best memories.
This 4th of July is especially special for me, this year, because I didn’t think I would be back in the country for it. BUUUUUUT plans change and I am SO glad/happy/excited to be back in the US, right now! After living abroad for almost a year I can honestly say that I feel more patriotic right now than I’ve probably felt in my life. God bless America. We sure as hell have problems, but it’s good to be back home.

Here’s what I was up to the last few years of 4th of July:
2014: I was pulling an all-nighter so I could hop on a plane to San Francisco!

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2013: I went to an anarchist Fourth of July party. We listened to Sweet Home Alabama on blast and ate large quantities of McDonalds.

944230_10200994565719752_1273157039_n2012: I got hired as the nanny of five kids and added them to my family circle over the next 2.5 years. 580286_10201497951504082_1878624338_n

2011: I was living on the beaches of Southern California and wishing for Seattle rain…or just fully clothed people.

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2010: Fresh out of college, I decided to change the spelling of my name and all of my friends lost their minds about it.

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———–HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!! —————

Why Netflix And I Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

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Can I just say: I love being back in the U.S. Will I always live here? Probably not. But at the moment I am having a pretty splendiferous time of it. Coming back to Seattle was not an easy decision. There were a handful of people who thought I should stay in Paris, and others who thought I was crazy for choosing to move back from Europe at all.

But in the true middle finger to the world approach I adopted from my time in France, I could care less what their opinions are.

Because, when it comes down to it, this is my life. My decisions. And I’m the only one calling the shots on which direction I go. I would definitely encourage those who feel like Paris is the Mecca for happiness to move there themselves. (It was not, and never could possibly be, for me.)

ANYWAY…Being back in the good ‘ole US of A has been so much more of an adjustment than I ever thought it would be. It’s funny, but you don’t really even realize how many things you get used to when you’re living in another country. Like bananas.

French bananas DO NOT taste the same as the ones we get here (or fruit in general). And at first that really bothered me. But over the course of 10 months I guess I got used to it, and I wasn’t even aware of the fact…until I got back to the now watery tasting ones in Seattle.

Beyond the fruit revelations, I’ve also experienced so many levels of culture shock from being back. And as weird as it sounds, one of the hardest things I’ve encountered is keeping up with English/English speakers!

While obviously I haven’t forgotten how to speak English, I do have quite a bit of difficulty (still, after 3 weeks!) of finding the correct words for sentences, or speaking conversationally. There are a couple of reasons that I think are to blame for this. On the one hand, I obviously didn’t speak English in France, unless I was with one of my friends or the family I lived with. But on the other hand, I just didn’t really speak that much in general! Now looking back on the past year, I’m realizing just how incredibly silent I became. It feels so odd to be able to express myself without checking my vocabulary for the simplest form of a word and I keep having these moments when I think “Wow! I can read/respond without thinking to that!”

Is forgetting you’re fluent in a language standard after living in a country where it isn’t primarily spoken? Maybe it’s just me.

While I was living in France, I also didn’t have a phone for pretty much the entirety of my time there, so having the ability to call/text/use my smartphone outside of a Wifi zone is the oddest feeling. To be absolutely honest, I still kind of get freaked out when I get a text or phone call.

And despite the general joy of being back in my hometown, there are some things that will NOT be being reintroduced into my life, one of which will be Netflix/Hulu. Both of these sites were absolute addictions prior to my moving…and I guess that makes sense – I love movies, and I always have. BUT the mindlessness and the numbing effect that comes as a package deal is not okay.

In fact, that is one of the biggest things I’m observing and trying to keep from slipping into while in the U.S. Numb distractions.

I never noticed before how much over stimulation there is in the United States. Let’s all take a step back for a second and observe a few: There are more TV shows than we could ever hope to watch (but you’re expected to keep up with all of them), there are more activities than you’ll ever have time to do (how do you not run, do yoga, rock climb and go on a 10 mile hike EVERY DAY!?), more food options than you could possibly choose from, and more technological (sorry, mom) shit than you could ever possibly need. For instance, my iPhone 4s is like six generations behind, and I’ve only been gone for a year!?

Clarification: it still works fine. It still calls, texts, connects to Wifi and my data plan and takes decent photos, and yet…since I’ve been here all I’ve heard about is the latest smartphones and people calling generations that came out two months ago ‘ancient.’

The craziest part is that in spite of all of these 5 million things to keep us occupied, every person I’ve talked to since I’ve been here hates their job, and is constantly trying to escape through said distractions. And don’t even get me started on how messed up the whole, by age 22 most of us are in more debt than we’ll be able to pay off for 20 years, thing.

Okay, I’ll stop ranting. Like I said, there are so many amazing things I love about the United States, also. But one of the biggest things I’ve had to start doing since being here is simply saying no. NO NO NO NO NO. I don’t want to engage in this frothing at the mouth competition to impress people I don’t like in order to create a life where I’m constantly plugging in to something to forget I hate it. NO!

Because if there’s one thing I DID learn about living in Europe, it’s that my true friends love me when I have absolutely nothing to give, nothing to share, no way to repay and nothing to contribute. I am loved as I am. I don’t need to impress anyone, and I don’t need to be running around trying to keep up with whatever the next trend to hit the streets is.

Because when it comes down to it, these are distractions from what I really want to do with my life. These are things that kept me, for many years, from really pursuing things I was passionate about. They are pop up signs, advertisements and shiny gadgets that will not make me happy. And while each, in itself, is not necessarily harmful, the amassed collection is turning us into a nation of ravenous hoarders (of wealth, of technology, of perfectly filtered Instagram photos), blind to how blessed we already are.

Pere Lachaise Cemetary

DSC_0774As a sort of “last adventure” I decided to go visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery yesterday. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cemetery, it’s absolutely beautiful and known for having the graves of celebrities such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Moliere and Delacroix. But what really too my breath away were the tombs of people who I had no idea who they were. There were some absolutely beautiful sculptures and a serious lack of weeping angels. But overall I spent a good 3 hours there and it was absolutely beautiful.

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Oscar Wilde

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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!

Keep Moving Forward

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Wouldn’t it be nice if we received an award every time we achieved something? Or at least a certificate of achievement? Something to mark that “You did it!” complete with balloons and a long-winded speech about how “promising” the rest of your life is going to be, and how “the best is yet to come.” Wouldn’t that be great!?

Unfortunately, reality check: That’s not life in the real world. That’s not how things work when you’re an adult. There aren’t balloons for every occasion, or huge groups of people to always celebrate with you. Sometimes, when you achieve something, the celebration is just for and with yourself.

This week is a week of “lasts” for me, in Paris. It is the last week I’ll be in France, and tomorrow starts off by being my last ever Monday as an au pair. And, as much as the decision to leave weighed heavy on me initially, I can now say that I am very much ready to go.

To quote a phrase born out of Parisian storytelling, this year has been, “the best of times, and the worst of times.” I feel as though I’ve been away from home for a hundred years. When I look back over this year I really don’t know how I’ve managed to hold on this long, but although I’m leaving a couple of months early, I know that it is the right timing and the right decision for me.

It’s kind of funny, you often hear about the nervousness of starting a life in a new place, but you seldom hear about the nervousness of setting out on the path to start a new life in a place you’ve known all your life. But it is a real thing.
For some reason, the thought of returning to the U.S. absolutely terrifies me. What has changed? Who has changed? What differences, no matter how seemingly minute, will be present?

And while all of these questions keep swimming around in my head, I have this little voice in the back of my head reminding me that it’s gonna be okay, and that I’ll figure it out. And maybe that’s the biggest lesson that I’ll take away from this year: The ability to have an inner peace when nothing externally seems to possibly be headed on a track to success.

Because, in all honesty, this year went NOTHING like I thought it would. In fact, I would say it went the exact opposite, in every possible way, direction that I thought it would go. Every plan, every goal, every idea that I had for this year seemed to somehow have been lost along the way of me forging forward along this path.

But that’s okay. Somehow it feels like those directions weren’t realistic, or (perhaps, more importantly) in any way mature. Life does not follow the rule sheet that we write before setting out on whatever road it brings us. It doesn’t take into consideration our wishes, or our safety or our hopes.

Those things are up to us. And throughout this year I’ve had to continually strive toward the ideals, rather than the finite details of what I thought this year would/should entail.

So, let me take a moment to share those with you:

  1. This year I learned to press on, even after being broken.
  1. This year I learned to listen to my instincts and to follow through with them.
  1. This year I learned what true spontaneity means, and how to use it to my advantage.
  1. This year I learned to stand up for myself, and to fight for what I value.
  1. This year I learned what makes me happy (Hint: it has nothing to do with money)
  1. This year I learned how to use social media wisely, and how to disconnect.
  1. This year I learned how to open my heart.
  1. This year I learned to be authentic and vulnerable in the things I pursue.
  1. This year I learned to let go of my plans and ideas of how things “should go.”
  1. This year I learned the importance, value and absolute necessity of friendship.

In 1 week a new chapter will be starting for me. There won’t be any speeches or ceremonies or any crazy rave parties…but that’s okay. I survived 10 months living in another country, with random strangers, speaking a language I was hardly fluent at and living in a culture that seemed completely opposite to what I was used to.

I DID IT. And recognizing that for myself is enough.

This time of year a lot of students are forging forward past the signposts of a new chapter in their lives. They did it! They’re graduating! And yes, there will be the balloons and parties and cards and speeches.

But, if there was one thing I wish that I could go back to tell my graduating self, it would have been that the world post graduation is a whole lot darker, and a whole lot more beautiful than I ever could have imagined in that moment. I would have told myself not to be distracted by the balloons, or to feel like the last four years had somehow made me superior to anyone or anything. I would have told myself not to listen to the speeches – because those were written to make me laugh and to “inspire” me to succeed in a fairy tale world that would be waiting for me with arms wide open post graduation. Life is so much smaller! Life is so much bigger!

I would tell myself that I would never be able to subsist solely off the inspiration of others, and that I sure as hell can’t depend upon it when choosing my path in life. I would say, “Learn to inspire yourself. To light a candle within that no one else can ever blow out.” Because that is what is going to make you ‘successful’ – that is what is going to make you happy. The world around you will always be a roller coaster of missed opportunities and sunny day chances. You will always have goals that are father than you think you’ll ever be able to reach. There will always be seemingly “lost” causes and impossible hurdles to jump – but learn to inspire yourself and you will always have the strength to clear them.

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