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.

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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.

Getting Ready For Something New

Last night was the first night I started to get a bit emotional about my upcoming move. My mom keeps reminding me that if anything happens, it’ll take her at least a day to get to me, and that is a sobering fact for someone who is as clumsy as I am.

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

As she was outside hanging out with friends, I sat inside listening to her laughing while rummaging through my closet deciding which items I’m going to be packing into my carry on and suitcase for the next year of my life. “You’re not going to take more than one suitcase with you?” she keeps asking. “Maybe you should take another one with you. I’ll pay for the second bag.” But, I keep insisting that I don’t need that much. I don’t need the ten sweaters I laid out last night, nor do I need all six of the dresses and ten pairs of shoes because anyone who knows me knows that my first stop when I touchdown in Europe is Topshop.

As I placed items on the floor to decide which would stay and which would go, I started to tear up at the fact that in three short weeks, I’ll be in a new bedroom, in a new city, starting a new job, with all new people. Nothing will be familiar. Nothing will be routine. Nothing will be the same.

However, I feel pretty lucky for already receiving all of my paperwork before a lot of the other assistants in the program. I feel lucky that I’ve connected with a fair amount of people who will be in the same region and even have started talking with a girl who will be in the same small village.

I’m so ready for this next journey and to see where this path in life with take me. I hope you come along with me. I hope you hold my hand through the anxieties, the laughter, the adventures, and (I’m sure!) the breakdowns.

My Feelings Materalized

Photo by Rick Ligthelm

“I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history.”—W Somerset Maugham

A Wee Little Guide to London, England

According to the State Department, only 36 percent of Americans own a valid passport. Now, to me, that number seems awfully low. With the summer coming and people booking trips left and right, I say get your passport and head across the pond.

Getting There

When I recently purchased plane tickets to London, I used Funjet. The best thing about Funjet is its a book-now, pay-later option on fights. Instead of shelling out that cash up front, you can make payments monthly.

Where To Stay

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The Dictionary Hostel
Located in a very cool and hip area of London, The Dictionary Hostel is one of my favorite places to stay. Positioned right next door to Translate Bar (where you’ll receive discounted drinks!) and right down the street from one of the top brunch spots in LDN, this is one place you’ll want to rest your head at night.

Ibis Euston St. Pancras
Only a 20-minute walk from Baker Street and Oxford Circus, this is a unique and fairly inexpensive hotel to stay. With a friendly staff, delicious food and free candy at reception (!), Ibis Euston is a gem in the heart of London.

Where To Eat

The Breakfast Club
There is always an hour-long queue outside the bright yellow building, but the wait is worth it—trust me. Try the pancakes and berries with a bloody mary that’s hot and spicy like Helen Mirren (or so the menu says).

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Nordic Bakery
If you’re a fan of cinnamon rolls (and how could you not?), head here immediately. This cute bakery is located right off Marylebone High Street in North West London and is a must-have.

Pizza East
Sunday Roast is a must when in England and one of the best, and possibly surprising, places to get a roast is Pizza East in Shoreditch.

 

Homeslice
Whether you’re wanting just a slice or a full pizza, head to Homeslice. With both traditional and unique flavors on the menu, this pizza spot will satisfy your every craving.

Helen Graves

Molly Bakes
Freakshakes are taking over the London world with good reason—just look at it. If you’re a lover of all things sweet and don’t mind heading to the dentist early this year, head to Molly Bakes immediately.

Sketch
Afternoon tea is a must in London and Sketch is a unique location to have your tea. The gorgeous interior is made for Instagram, and the tea set will make you contemplate sticking the dishware in your bag. Oh, and check out the bathrooms.

Duck and Waffle
Although this place can be pricey, the view is worth every penny—as are the cocktails!

What To Do

While London is very expensive, the nice thing is that the major museums are free.

Saatchi Gallery
This art gallery is so weird and so cool. The contemporary gallery hosts well-known and unknown artists and many of its pieces have been at the height of controversy since opening in 1985.

Columbia Flower Market
Open on Sunday mornings until 2pm, get your fill of flowers at the Columbia Flower Market. Grab a bouquet or just walk along for the scents; it’s a fun and enjoyable way to see real Londoners out and about.

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God’s Own Junkyard
Neon art and signs line the walls of God’s Own Junkyard—the oldest sign makers in London. Whether you’re looking for the perfect place to take Instagram photos or wander around drinking coffee and looking at unique signs, GOJ is somewhere to get lost on a weekday afternoon.

Tate Modern
The building has some of the best views of Southbank and St. Paul’s Cathedral and the artwork inside is bloody ridiculous. Everywhere you turn, there are pieces by Picasso, Warhol, Dali, Rothko, Richter, Duchamp, Hockney and the always weird and wonderful Tracey Emin.

Borough Market
While most tourists know about Borough Market, they tend to head there on the weekend. I recommend taking a trip during the week for delicious street food and people-watching.

Shoreditch Art Walk
Shoreditch is home to some of the best street art in London. Wander around yourself or sign up for a free walking tour to learn more about the history behind the art.

Post originally appeared on ALIVEmag.com. More information added here.

Dear April + May

Looking back through my photos of the small bits of April and May realize that I’ve been doing a lot better about staying in the moment. Now, my mom would laugh at that as she has to continually tell me to put my phone away, but looking through my “moments” over the past couple months, I’ve slowly been putting the phone down more and enjoying the world. April was a lot of nervous and excited energy leading up to the end of the month. It was surprises to Kelsey since she was turning another year older. It was giving my mom, what she deemed, the trip of a lifetime to Europe. It was a million things all at once and trying to see it from other people’s perspectives.

While there will be a post coming soon dedicated to everything London, I wanted to pop in and say hello. It’s been awhile. I miss typing away at my keyboard into the vast void of the Internet hoping my words connect with someone out there. I hope it’s you. Dear April and May, you weren’t anything like I expected and I’m learning to become okay with that. It’s a learning process that I need to readjust my mind to. You were both challenging and rewarding. Satisfying and maddening. Lovely and horrific.

June, we’re already almost two weeks into you. Fingers crossed in advance.

24 Things I Learned By 24

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1. Eat the ice cream. Stop questioning and dig in.

2. As much as you hate it, not everyone is going to like you and that’s completely out of your control. Sometimes it’s a personality thing. Remember how you don’t like some people’s personalities? Well, same thing goes for other people regarding you.

3. Mom is right about mostly everything.

4. You don’t need 100 friends to be happy—you just need one.

5. Just be nice!

6. Love things without restriction. Stop being embarrassed by things that you like. Embrace your dork.

7. Being alone and being lonely are too separate things.

8. Don’t wear shoes that are a half size too small. Your feet will thank you for it.

9. Laugh until you cry.

10. Saying you don’t understand something is okay. You don’t have all the answers.

11. Get your oil changed.

12. Take care of yourself—have time to breathe and reflect on things and don’t always be go-go-go. You need to have downtime.

13. Stop thinking about the things you did in your past. You can’t change them, so move on.

14. No one’s lives are like they appear on social media. Stop being jealous.

15. Don’t feel bad about sleeping in. Sometimes you need it.

16. Always check you’re logged into the correct social media account. Tweeting something from your work account that was meant to go on your personal isn’t always the best.

17. Do not touch your face when you have a zit. Don’t pick at it. Don’t mess with it. Don’t even stare at it.

18. Stop hanging out with people that make you feel bad about yourself. You’re essentially in an emotionally abusive relationship. If you wouldn’t want your friends to hang out with them, why are you?

19. Get your haircut more than once every six months.

20. It’s okay that you don’t know what you’re doing in life. You’re still young and figuring yourself out.

21. Don’t ever pass up the opportunity to snuggle a cat.

22. Learn how to make a basic meal, and not just microwavable meals.

23. Do things that scare you.

24. When someone is sad, just be there for them anyway you know how.