Dear May

Dear May,

Well, we’re well into June and I don’t really want to write to you. Writing to you means that I have been back in the States for more than a month and I’m back into the same old life I was in before I left. I’m back to the same old routine, the same Sunday mornings, the same 9-5 job, the same days that I told myself I never wanted to have again.

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It’s not as if this is a bad life, I’d never say that. It just can be a lonely one. A boring one. One that I don’t even have to think of as I go through the same motions I’ve always gone through. Rinse, recycle, repeat.

I read a quote, May, that said something that I’ve been feeling quite strongly: “I miss being a tourist in my own life.” I miss exploring the unknown. I miss being in a country where I don’t speak the language well. I miss waking up not sure as to what I’m going to do that day. I miss city life. I miss getting on a new metro/tube/subway and trying to figure out where to go when I get off. I miss interesting people. I miss the styles of strangers and wondering where they picked up their Stan Smiths.

I won’t say that being back home is all bad. I missed the easiness of this life. The way I can hop into my car and go wherever I want and not rely on public transport. The way I can get any type of food I’d ever want—including all sorts of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. But that doesn’t cancel out the longing I feel for a country that isn’t mine. It doesn’t cancel out the loneliness I feel when most of my friends are awake when I’m asleep, or asleep when I’m awake.

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May, life is strange and wonderful and lonely and exciting and frustrating and so routine it makes me want to hop on the next plane and never come back. Not until I find something that makes me feel alive again. We’ll see when that happens.

I’ll see you next year.

Notes on a Train

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As I sit on a train, passing through Brussels and on my way to Amsterdam, I can’t help but have tears spring to my eyes as I think of how wonderful and beautiful and how much I love the world. How much I want to explore every inch, even the parts that scare me. When I woke up this morning, I was nervous, like I always am, when I’m traveling somewhere new. It’s a nervous excitement where I have to make sure all my paperwork is in order, my money, my clothes, my travel plans and my accent when I speak. Will they understand me in this new country? Will they laugh at me? Will they be accepting? As much as I traveled for the past seven years, ever since I got on the plane the first time I went to Paris when I was 18, I’ve learned that most people are accepting and want to learn your story, your culture, your experiences. Although I’m one of those people that screams “ugh, I hate people!” when a minor inconvenience happens, it’s not true. In all reality, I love people. I love laughing with strangers, and hearing their anecdotes, and learning new curse words in different languages “putain!” It’s exciting and wonderful and everything the world should be.*

*Notes found in my iPhone

Dear February

Dear February,

You were good to me, like most Februarys. Most people don’t give you the credit you deserve because they are either too cold or too bitter when the 14th comes around. But I appreciate you more and more each year. I spent most of this month traveling around and visiting cities I’ve never seen before, like Amsterdam and Berlin. Cities that I can’t wait to go back to and discover more of. I want to devour the cities until no stone is unturned.

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As much as I love you, February, knowing that you’re already gone is hurting. In a couple weeks I’ll be 25 and I still feel like I haven’t grown up yet. I still feel like I am 16, awkwardly walking down the hallway in high school wishing my acne would go away—which it still hasn’t nine years later.

I hate that you’re so short. I hate that it’s always a blink and you miss it when it comes to you.

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I made some new friends as I traveled around this month. I met Sarena in Amsterdam, as we traveled around the canals, eating as much food as we could stuff into our faces, and breathed in a city that has so much strange and fascinating history. I met Christine, Kayla, and Dan in Edinburgh. Christine challenged me as we climbed up Arthur’s Seat and as my very un-fit body huffed and puffed the hill, we made it. And it was the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. I was so proud of myself. Kayla and Dan made me feel so welcome in my Airbnb, giving me tips on places to go in the city that was now their home—at least for a little while.

And then I met up with an old friend in Berlin. One who always gets me thinking about what’s next. Makes me think that maybe I can make it here in Europe and not regret the choices I make on a whim. Not regret spontaneity and this weird internal longing I always have with a country that’s not technically considered home. I’m so proud and jealous of how much she is making the world her oyster (as much as I hate that phrase) and it makes me believe that I can do that too.

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The last week, though, I’ve felt a little out of place, February. I’ve been out of touch with people from back home and am starting to feel like I don’t quite know who they are or who I am anymore. The world has gone on without me and as I get pictures sent to me from home, more and more things look so different and I can’t quite recognize what home actually is. Is that weird, February?

I received a text message from a friend, someone who I met under strange circumstances, someone who I’ve only hung out with three or four times, someone who feels like I’ve known her my whole life instead of the past couple years, and the text made me miss my friendships more than ever. I love this town. I love my students. But I need something bigger. Something that has people and life and a car or a metro so I can get around. I need people, and as much as I claim to hate people, it’s nice being around them every once in awhile.

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February, you made me miss life. You made me miss connections as I traveled around Europe and made some good ones along the way. I appreciate you more than you know.

Dear January

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Dear January,

You started off like any other January—me alone. This time I actually had an excuse as I had traveled for almost 24 hours straight, was jet lagged, and smelled like all those wonderful travel smells. Flying from St. Louis to Chicago to Dublin to Paris to Argenton is no joke and I promptly fell asleep by 7:30 and then was suddenly wide awake just as the clock struck midnight. There were no fireworks, no banging of pots and pans, just me alone in an empty flat.

You passed rather quickly—much more quickly than I was expecting. It was like I blinked and you were already gone. Dust between my fingertips.

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I cried a couple times this month, mainly because of politics and feeling incredibly frustrated about what’s happening back home. But I also tried switching offline more this month by actually putting my nose in a book and reading. READING. It’s glorious and wonderful and why have I gone so long without sitting down on my couch, feet curled underneath me, and laughing out loud at words written down on a page? I’ve missed it. It was a limb I forgot about and how desperately I needed it to live.

January, you helped me rediscover passions. I started writing again, not a lot, but a little bit here and there. You made me realize the importance of solitude—not loneliness—but also how important it is to have family and friends to miss and rely on.

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This month I booked tickets back to my favorite place on Earth, London, for my big 25th birthday, and booked tickets to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Berlin. I’m going to expand my horizons and get more stamps in my passport and remember to live again and not just sit idly in front of Netflix jamming in as much The Good Wife as I can in a day (although that show is fantastic).

You made me realize how much I enjoy teaching English as a foreign language, and how much I’d love to do this again for another year. In the same place. Who would have thought that I’d want to stay in this small town life? Not me. But January, you’ve made me apply for things that I never thought I’d apply for—grad school in London, Winterine in Boston, TEFL in Berlin—I want to live in Europe, at least for a little while longer.

January, thank you. You made me start believing in myself again.

A Weekend in Brussels

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If you’re living in Europe, one of the best ways (and most fun ways!) to get to Brussels is train. I really like Thaley’s train, as they do something called Tick Up, where you can hop on a train to Brussels for 29. It’s really quite handy and wonderful, if your train is actually on time and not over an hour late and you end up missing your train to Brussels like I did. (Yay, France and your late, late trains.)

Where to Stay

Youth Hostel Van Gogh

This is where my roommate and I stayed. While the rooms weren’t A+, the location and the main areas of the hostel are spectacular. The location is very central to everything you’d want to walk to in Brusselslike Grand Place and delicious, delicious waffles.

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Made in Louise

Literally steps away from Brussels city centre, this hotel is gorgeous and offers anything and everything you need.

Where to Eat

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Image courtesy of Trends Shaker

Maison Dandoy

Yes, you can get waffles on the street for 1€, but Maison Dandoy is worth the extra euros for the ambiance and wonderful views outside of their restaurant windows upstairs. Plus, its hot chocolates are drool worthy.

Elisabeth

Brussels is well known for the delicious chocolate shops on every corner of the city. Elisabeth is my personal favorite chocolate shop and Instagram-worthy shop. With an assortment of chocolates in a variety of flavors, this is the chocolate shop to stop into.

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Café Capitale

While scouring the city for a coffee place that was open, my roommate and I stumbled upon this gorgeous café. Not only does the interior look like it spit out the pages of Kinfolk, the coffee was heavenly and the pain au chocolat est parfait!

What to Do

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Grand Place

Grand Place is a spectacular sight to see. It’s hard to explain how stunning it is to stand in the centre of the Place and turn on the spot to see 360-views of buildings that are older than your country. It’s truly breathtaking.

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Atomium

Definitely a tourist trap, but have you really been to Brussels if you didn’t see the Atom? Probably not. You can head inside the atom structure and see wonderful views of the city.

Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat

Love chocolate? If that’s a no, why are you going to Brussels? This museum is all about chocolate and the history of chocolate in Europe. Plus, you get some tasty treats as you walk through the museum.

Goodbye 2016

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Well, it’s here. Another year has gone by much too quickly and I get a little bit panicky thinking that this year I’ll be 25 and I still don’t have everything figured out … if anything at all. I often wonder if that’s how it’s always going to be. I believe it is and I’m learning to be okay with that and that everyone is on their own path. Some want to start the family thing young and others, like me, want to see everything first before figuring all the other things out later.

Currently, I’m sitting in the St. Louis airport waiting to board my first flight of three before landing in Paris to take a train to hang out with Eleonore and her family for the New Year. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen in 2017, I don’t know what’s going to happen past May—Where I’ll be living, where I’ll be going, what I’ll be doing—and I’m trying to be okay with that realization. I’ve always been an over-planner, an anxious being trying to get everything in order for the next big step. The next big thing. And thats what I’ll be focusing on during the first couple months of the year—figuring out what my next move is: grad school? Teaching English again? Portland? Seattle? Back to MO? Travel the world?

Who knows? All I do know is that I’m ready for the adventure and I’m sure as hell ready for 2016 to be over. Buh-bye!

The days are long, and the nights short.

Tomorrow I start working as a Teaching Assistant for the first time. I’ve gone a whole month without working (besides the occasional freelance gigs I have) and it’s going to be nice to get back into the swing of things.

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To say I’m nervous would be an understatement—I’m a bit terrified, to be honest. I’ve never taught before and I only hope that the kids aren’t like the people I went to high school with. However, I met up with the professors I’ll be helping for the year, and they were all incredibly nice and supportive. I have my school schedule and the only thing that I can hope is that I don’t make a complete ass of myself.

How the French school system works is that they have A and B weeks. On opposite weeks, you have different sets of classes to attend. Both my weeks are pretty light—hey, I’m only working 12 hours a week—and I will be tutoring a student for his SAT, trying to start an English club (the professors said this may or may not work), and working with a few professors on their English, while they help me with my French.

I’m starting to get into the groove of this life a little bit. The first week was a major struggle adjusting and wanting to go back home or to London ASAP, but maybe I can get on board with the quiet side of life. Waking up with a rooster at 6am is not my favorite thing though.

Next weekend, Alyssa and I will be heading to Paris for the day to get a different SIM card for our phones (bigger data plan) and to museum hop since with a visa, you can get into French museums for free.

We’re hoping that this week we can find someone to take us to the laundromat (we really need to wash our clothes somewhere besides the sink!), find out where we collect our mail, and get things prepped for our trip to London in 17 days (yes, I’m already headed back!).

I can’t wait to start making money again and stop seeing my bank account slowly dwindle without anything going in. France, so far, has been an experience and I can already tell it’s only going to get better.