One More Chapter
A twenty two year-old's view on life, death,
and Taylor Swift conspiracy theories
and Taylor Swift conspiracy theories
If you have been keeping an eye on my Facebook page you may have noticed my posts about "Strictly Taboo". I have recently been hired by Bob McAndrew, an award-winning acting coach in New York City. He has been known to work with such actors as Christopher Walken, Richard Dreyfuss, Raul Julia, Sela Ward and Academy Award Winner Chris Cooper. Bob has just launched his crowdfunding campaign for his breakthrough film Strictly Taboo and I have been taken on as an intern to help with the initial funding process.
What is this film?
The film is about a man who begins to have an affair with a rich, older woman. One evening she invites a young and beautiful woman over who he ends up making love to and soon after falling deeply in love with. The rich older woman becomes jealous of his new infatuation and reveals to him one day that the woman he is in love with used to be a man. The man is in shock and refuses to admit this and soon thereafter we are thrown into a whirlwind of mystery and danger which takes on the importance of human equality and the power of love.
I really recommend and hope that you all check out the project and contribute to our indiegogo campaign by clicking on the following link:
Or, as the very least, click "like" on our facebook page here:
Though, just a fair warning, as I know there are many young people who read this blog, there is nudity and language in this film and, therefore, in the video on the Indiegogo page as well.
Thank you for reading,
On August 30th...
Victoria Carrier and I moved into New Jersey City University just outside of Manhattan to begin our big New York City adventure. There have been a lot of bumps along the road leading up to this, though that seems to be a common trend lately, and Sunday, when we moved in, was no exception.
NJCU is a commuter school. Therefore, when classes are not in session, the campus is rather abandoned. That was the first thing that Victoria and I noticed. It was like a ghost town. Which is the opposite of Umass, which is a campus with around 30,000-40,000 people on campus each day. That's more than 10 times the population of my hometown. This school is not that way and we told ourselves that we must not be used to it. But still...it didn't seem right that on move-in day there is no signs, no people, no staff anywhere to be found.
Slowly but surely we are getting used to all the many differences between this school and what we are used to and while some may be frustrating and chipping away at our patience, there was nothing that could take away from the positives that this semester holds for us.
We are two dreamers in the Big Apple. Where else do we belong? LA? Yeah, maybe.\
This week has been full of internship searches, interviews, visits to the city and getting situated into some pretty fabulous classes that we wouldn't be able to take at Umass.
With one more interview tomorrow, I will have a definite NYC internship by the end of the week and I am excited about the possibilities that this could bring about. As I type this Victoria is interviewing and shadowing at an extremely interesting interactive theatre on 27th St. So, I think that we are going to be just fine.
And, even better, we celebrated the kick-off of the semester with an amazing Delta Rae concert in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (a very artistic and hipster place that we will be visiting again). It was hands down one of the greatest shows I've been to and so personal in a tiny room with probably only 100 - 150 people. We were in the front row, up against the stage and could reach up to touch any of them if we wanted to. We could feel the energy coming from all the artists in the band and it really was the perfect way to start what is sure to be a wonderful semester.
Thank you for reading,
Song of the Day
"All Good People" by Delta Rae
They performed this new song as a tribute to the Black Americans who are suffering right now and it was a performance that actually sent shivers down my spine. It was so honest and emotional and the silence that filled the room between notes was so strong and unifying. It was magic. So here is the song, hope you enjoy. Also, you should purchase the song because all the proceeds go toward the cause.
There is not much that I love more in this world than good music. In fact, my friend Ilana says that I have an unreasonable need to constantly have music playing around me. But, you see, nothing in the world, besides perhaps a great book or movie, inspires me more than music. And this summer, thanks largely to being assigned sign out duty with Ben Burns at work, has been a summer filled with more musical discoveries than ever before. It really is beautiful.
I could talk for days about how amazing some artists are and these are no exception. But instead of rambling on and on about how these singers and bands break boundaries and blow my mind, I figured it would be best to give you a sampling of their songs. So, if you're a fan of amazing music I recommend that you give these a listen.
Here is what has made up the soundtrack to my summer:
As my friend, Nicola, once said: Bear's Den is the perfect fireside band. The band's amazing lyrics combined with their haunting sound creates something that I've never experienced before, and that everyone should. It was difficult to pick just a few but here are probably my top four most played songs: "Above the Clouds of Pompeii", "When You Break", "Agape" and "Isaac"
Everyone knows the song "Take Me To Church" but not many know the rest of Hozier. I have to admit, my best friend told me that I should start listening to him about a year ago and I just shrugged it off, thinking that I would eventually. I didn't realize that I was missing out on some of the best music I've heard in a long time. The raw emotion in his voice and the beauty of his songs is something gets deep into your bones and makes you feel as though it's a part of you. Here are some of the best: "Work Song" and "Like Real People Do",
Sleeping At Last
I'm not ashamed to say that I learned about this man from one of the Twilight soundtracks. He sings the song "Turning Page", which is hands down amazing and the song that plays in the wedding scene. Say what you will about those movies but they have damn good soundtracks. Anyways, so my sister and I started to listen to his other music recently and, surprise surprise, it's amazing. Like crazy amazing. Like make you want to cry because nothing should be that beautiful amazing.
He has a ridiculous amount of music out there, but by far his best EP is one called "Light". Take a gander. Here are the songs "Light", "You Are Enough", "Turning Page" and "The Projectionist" (my all-time favorite because, lyrics).
I learned about the staves via the documentary, "Austin to Boston", which I was turned on to by Ben Burns. It is a film about Bear's Den and several other musicians, including the Staves, who travel in VW Vans across the U.S. on tour together. It's amazing. Watch it. And it was there that I learned about this trio of women who, when you hear them harmonize, you'll wonder if you're being serenaded by angels. No joke. Their harmonizing it on point.
Here are the songs "Black and White" and "Wisely and Slow".
Ok, many of you already know that I am a fan of Passenger and have been for a little while. But since January my love for this man has grown exponentially. He is hands-down one of the best lyricists I've ever known. He is a true poet and I could talk days on end about his talent and the complete honesty of his music. It's unlike anything I've ever heard before and he doesn't just sing silly love songs. He's awesome. Really pay attention to the lyrics.
Here are some of my favorites: "The Wrong Direction", "Whispers", "Riding to New York" and "Fear of Fear".
Choosing these were very difficult, so I have to also say that you should listen to, "Holes", "All the Little Lights", "Things That Stop You Dreaming", "Scare Away the Dark", "Heart's On Fire", "Catch in the Dark", "Start a Fire", and like a bunch more...sorry.
Of Monsters and Men
So I've always loved Of Monsters and Men, ever since they came out with their first album a few years back. I knew they were releasing a new album since there were posters for it covering the metros in Paris towards the end of my stay but then I came to the U.S. and I didn't really hear anyone talking about it so it just fluttered from my mind.
Then Burns and I remembered this album, entitled "Under the Skin", and played it a few weeks ago during Sign Out at work. Long story short: IT'S AMAZING.
I know I've been saying that a lot this blog post, but trust me.
It's also nothing like the other artists I've posted thus far. It's louder and more of something I would work out to, which I do. I get to the gym, put this album on and go. It's great.
Some of my favorite from the album are "Hunger", "Human", "We Sink", and "Wolves Without Teeth".
My good friend and roommate, Victoria, introduced me to this band of 6 and boy am I glad. They're great. They are also on the louder, more upbeat side and we will be seeing them live in Brooklyn on Tuesday for $20. Those are the perks of loving artists more unknown.
This is a powerful band, perfect for blasting in the car ride home from work and to start you off I've put some of their more well-known songs, "Bottom of the the River", "Dance in the Graveyard", "Scared" and "Chasing Twisters".
Hope that you enjoyed at least some of these artists. I've been finding more and more artists every week and it's been great, the best summer for music since I can remember!
Here's one more song for good measure!
Thank you for reading,
Song of the Day
"Moving Forward" by Colony House
I have known Ariana for the greater part of my life. I was first introduced to her when my mother enrolled me in dance classes at her mother’s dance studio. I was three and she five. I won’t pretend to remember the first time we met or our first interaction with each other. In fact, the earliest memory I have of her was when she was the assistant teacher for one of my dance classes and she had us all sit in a circle and stretch while she introduced herself to us. It’s a pretty fuzzy memory but I remember being blown away when she said that she was eleven or twelve. So I must have been about nine at the time. This just goes to show how poor my memory is.
Anyway, years went by and I continue to have limited interaction with Ariana. I would gape from afar at the clear talent that she possessed even at an early age and how she was choreographing entire routines for competition when she was thirteen. Thirteen people!! And they were award winning routines. Already there is reason enough for her to be inspiring.
When I started performing in routines with Ariana is when I started to really get to know her. At first I was extremely intimidated. She was an amazing dancer, winning overall everywhere she went, and teaching classes before I could even use a staircase without falling. And suddenly I was in classes with her while also being taught by her. But my nerves were all in vain. Because I soon learned that there was nothing to be intimidated by because to top it all off, Ariana is one of the most kind-hearted people you will ever meet, especially in an industry so cut-throat and terrifying as the world of dance.
Over the years my friendship with Ariana blossomed over common interests – books, music, art, morbid themes, and storytelling – and today I consider her one of my closest confidants. I can always rely on her to be there with a smile on her face, willing and eager to hear what I have to say. At times our similarities can be detrimental to the point of being kicked out of restaurants because we can’t stop talking and stay for four hours, other times it’s a great thing when you really need someone to go see the latest teenage-dystopian-themed-blockbuster-movie with. She is always there. No matter what. So thanks Nan.
But back to the good stuff.
If you knew how much work this young woman put into her craft you would probably die of exhaustion just hearing it. And yet she does it. She has been choreographing nearly all the competition dances for her and her mother’s studio, Chickee’s Dance World, for the past several years, choosing music and editing it, creating amazing concepts, holding classes at other studios, participating in her school’s dance team and company as well as a local dance company on the weekends, and all while attending Stonehill College and graduating with amazing marks and in the Honors program.
She makes appearances at other studios, runs summer camps, while offering summer class series like her much loved “5 for $35” series or the current college and adult class series and continuing the regular choreography sessions with her competition students, over 30 of them, simultaneously.
Ariana has had an award named after her, been a judge at dance competitions, attended many conventions and taken classes so widespread that it shouldn’t be possible. And every year when we think we have seen it all. We think that we’ve witnessed her very best, believe that she can’t possibly top the routines that she’s putting out there. But then she comes back the following year with something even bigger and better. She has truly proven herself to be an important up and comer in the dance community and at the impressive age of 22.
What I think is most inspiring about this young woman is her ability to touch the hearts of those around her through her craft. Her routines really mean something and when you watch them performed by her students, or even better – by her, the passion, the meaning, the love is tangible. It is in the air, filling the minds and bodies of all who are lucky enough to witness it. And that, my friends, is why she is a human that inspires.
Nan, I am extremely proud to be able to call you one of my closest friends. You are beautiful inside and out. Thank you.
Song of the Day
"The Projectionist" by Sleeping At Last
A beautiful song about the art of storytelling
I am starting this new segment of my blog for several reasons:
1. I think that there are many people in my life who don't realize just how amazing they are and how much they make a difference in other people's lives.
2. I think that it is important to feel appreciated, appreciate others, live a life full of happiness and love and to spread that happiness and love to those around you.
3. I think that what most inspires me is to meet new people and to hear their stories. Humans are pretty amazing people with some pretty amazing abilities. It's about time we start to show our appreciation for those who use those abilities for good and not evil. <3
So, that brings us to the first of many to follow.
Today I'd like to bring our attention to the first Human That Inspires : Jesse Katen
I should start out by saying that I don't actually know Jesse that well and I'm not sure we've actually spoken one-on-one in person, but that should just say to you just how inspirational he must be!
I first met Jesse through my experience going to Sophisticated Productions Dance Competitions all throughout my middle and high school years. He was very frequently the special awards judge. What does this mean? Well, basically he made people feel amazing.
His awards we not based on technicality or endurance or anything like that. It was just if he saw something special, something that really stood out to him in a routine, and he would create an award for it.
He would then call said numbers up at the beginning of the award ceremony and give a short explanation for how this routine touched him in a special way before announcing the personalized award. And let me tell you something: I wanted a special award more than I cared about getting a high scoring routine. Why? Because it meant that I had actually touched someone, I had done something more than expected of me, I was being appreciated.
So, when I first met Jesse, he was already making people feel special. In fact, it was his job to do so. And I thought that was pretty cool.
But over the fact that this man spends his life making other feel amazing, he is also just a genuinely great person. He is incredibly sweet and always wearing a smile.
I won't pretend like I know all that much about him. I know that he owns his own dance studio and he is a member of the Rotary Club, loves Maya Angelou and that he works as a judge/special awards judge for competitions. He is doing what he loves and he is making young dancers into respectable, caring, wise young women and men. I mean look at his note that a ten year-old gave him the other day:
I hope that he knows how much of a positive influence he is being on these young girls and boys and that he is shaping them into such strong young adults.
I have never seen a Facebook post or heard a word from his mouth that expressed nothing but the positive and caring attitude that Jesse is so known for. Reading his posts and keeping up with him often brings joy to my day and he always give such good advice when commenting on my own page.
I hope he knows that he is such an incredible role model and inspiring person in my eyes, and I have absolutely no doubt that he is the same thing to many, many others. He is the type of person that we should strive to be and I'm glad that I have been blessed enough to have Jesse Katen in my life, even if he isn't as much a part of it as I might like :)
Jesse Katen: you are one inspiring human being. And for that, I thank you.
Yes, that's right, I'm finally posting about my trip to the homeland!
The Keohanes hail from Southern Ireland - Cork to be specific - and while I wasn't able to make it down there this time, I certainly did have a fabulous time in Ireland during the few days that I was there for.
I must say, I give a TRIPLE THUMBS UP to the Paddy's Palace hostel! They were amazing! It was only 10 Euros a night with free airport shuttles and if you booked over two nights you got to go on one of their world-famous tours of Ireland for FREE. I told my family and we all agreed it was too good to be true and that it would probably be a sketchy hotel and pretty uneventful tour, but I was pleasantly surprised. IT. WAS. AMAZING.
I saw some amazing sights and visit adorable little Irish towns including the Wicklow Mountains, Kilkenny, Glendalough and of course Dublin. And not only were the sights awesome, our tour guide was fabulous. He gave awesome information and was so funny!
Here are a few picture from the tour:
And, of course, Dublin itself was not so bad either.
I must say that Ireland was one of the kindest places that I've ever been (next to Scotland, of course). Everyone was so happy and friendly and it was so refreshing to have a change of scenery. I recommend that everyone take some time to come to this awesome city.
It was interesting because, while it was clearly a city, it's nothing like the cities here in the US. It feels smaller, more intimate and more humble than our cities. The history is rich, the people are authentic and, while the weather has some trouble sticking to either rain or sun, it's undeniably beautiful.
Oh, and they are obsessed with literature and all things Oscar Wilde.
It's my kind of place.
Basically this place is totally is completely wonderful. I love it and I can't wait to be back.
Everyone should take a trip over here before they die if able. I promise you won't regret it and I am extremely grateful that I was able to experience it.
Thank you for reading,
Song of the Day
"Work Song" by Hozier
This song is powerful, beautiful and more than addicting
It's about time that I post in this blog again, so here it is, and this time it's a bit more personal and much more emotional than I'm used to, but I'll try to maintain my usual humor as much as possible.
Today is June 27th...
Exactly one month ago I stepped off the airplane and onto United States' soil for the first time in almost four months. So much happened in those four months to me not only on a physical level but most definitely on a spiritual level.
One thing I've noticed is that over this past month I have been infinitely more happy than I have been in a long time. I realized this as I was driving home yesterday and I spent some time thinking about it and the reasons why this was. You see. I've been trying for a long time to be happy and it has been one of the hardest things I've ever done.
On a Sunday afternoon in early January 2010 my parents sat my sister, brother (who was home on break from college) and me down, saying that they had something they needed to talk to us about. I thought that they were going to tell us that our dog, Molly, was going to be put down. She'd been struggling with a tumor in her skull and half of her face had sunken in. Instead they told us that they'd decided to separate after almost 20 years of being married. I had just turned 15. It was, and continues to be, the worst day I have ever lived through. And, for that reason, I am not going to go into much detail.
What was to follow was six years of deepening depression, self-hatred, self-harm, eating disorders, severe body dysmorphia, orthorexia, and most prominently: anger.
I was angry at everything and everyone. I hated people and couldn't be around my family without snapping at them for even the littlest of things. My parents sent me to therapy after four years of this and, while it helped a bit, it wasn't enough. I feel horrible for what I put my family through, especially my sister, who would try at times to be the peacekeeper. It was no use. I was just so unhappy. I would spend many nights either screaming or crying my self to sleep. When I was eighteen it got to be so bad that my father asked me to leave his house and I moved in full-time with my mother.
For those of you who know me personally and seem surprised by this, don't be. I almost never showed it when I was out with friends or at family events (though, not always).
Being with my friends was how I stayed sane.
I truly believe that without my amazing and enormous support systems that kept me distracted and somewhat happy - even if it was only part-time - over these past years, I wouldn't be here today. During the particularly bad months I remember thoughts of suicide were so often on my mind that I was sure I would give in. I had to continuously remind myself what it would do to my parents, my friends and that there were tons of people who loved me.
Being away from my father's house turned out to be great for me. Because most of my anger had been focused on my father's new wife, being away brought about the slow but steady decline of this hatred that had been filling me for years. It took until I was away at college for though to see a real improvement.
But then my mother noticed something new. Instead of focusing the anger on everyone around me, it was transferring to myself. Before long. I hated myself. There is no other way to phrase it. Because that was it. I really, truly and fully hated myself. I hated the way I acted, the way I sounded, and - most dramatically - the way I looked. I even started showering with all the lights off so that I wouldn't have to see body in the mirror getting in and out of the shower. (I'll get more into all this in a separate post).
Throughout it all, I continued to rely heavily on the amazing support of my friends and family. I don't understand how my mother is able to remain so kind to me after all I put her through.
By the time I was ready to leave for France, I was an emotional wreck. I needed to get away more than ever.
Over those four months I learned the true meaning of heartache.
Don't get me wrong, I had the most amazing time. I saw beautiful places and met amazing people. Making a long list of plans for the future and find inspiration everywhere. I even started to let go (slightly) of my very negative body image as I began to relish in the way the European woman embraced their curves and seemingly ate a diet consisting of purely cheese and pastries. But I had never been away from my friends for that long and I missed them dearly. Thank goodness for internet.
But I didn't really know what it meant to miss people until then. Sure, I'd go summers without seeing some friends until we came together at the beginning of the school year. But during the summer I had my friends at camp to keep me distracted. In Europe, it was just me. I had friends, yes, but nothing like the friendship that I had come to rely on over these past years. It was only surface-level. We were all kind to each other and were good company, but none of us were really all that similar. If we hadn't been thrown together due to our rather unusual circumstances, many of us would probably never have become good friends (with a few exceptions, of course, **ehem** Kit Klaes and Natalie Lapointe).
Coming home, I was picked up at the airport by several of my friends from the summer camp I work at. All of whom have become such a huge part of my life, I'm not sure how I have ever survived without them. Literally.
I spent the first week of being home meeting with all my friends who I had been missing while away. My friends from camp, the few good friends from high school that I've stayed in touch with, my dance family and the small family that I've made at the wedding venue I've worked at the past four years.
Never in my life have I felt so loved. Never have I felt like I belonged like I do with these people, especially my camp family. And ever since I've been back, I've spent a lot of time being with only the people I know who make me happy and doing things that I know I want to do.
I moved to New York to live with my brother recently. I had been planning my trip there for a while now, but most of the original plans had fallen through. So, still determined to salvage my plans, I packed up anyways and headed south. But, after only a few days, something in my gut felt wrong. I knew that I belonged back with my friends and all the people I had spent the last four months wishing I was with.
But my brother had been anticipating my visit and seemed excited that I was with him. He didn't seem to want me to leave, and I didn't want to disappoint him. I also didn't want everyone to think that I had failed my "big" move to NYC. Which really entailed getting a random job at a vegan juice bar/restaurant.
After several emotional phone calls with my mother, it was decided that I was to moved back home.
It was the best decision that I ever made.
I am surrounded by nature, peace and people I love. I am back working at camp (well, kind of) and I am happier than I have ever been. I think it is because I am finally starting to just do what I want. I am not worrying about what everyone is thinking of me, because I am only surrounding myself with the people who I know love me for who I am and not what I look like or people who like something that isn't the real me. I've felt so at home with the people I'm around and I've never felt more wanted in my life.
I've found my happy place.
Thank you for reading,
P.S. Thank to the amazing people who have kept me going through all these years:
Kate McGahie, Bethany Morrill, Ilana Mahler, Maura Dalianis, Ariana Sacco, Claire Mullan, Chickee Sacco, Nate Greene, Nate Lucas, Victoria Farrell, Curtis Reid, Ben Babbitt, Elena Viapiano, Audrey Keohane, Erika Wilson, Nicki Barrett, Sam Mahler, Jenn Stone, Liz Chasse, Tori Esteves, Kit Klaes, and, of course, the amazing Victoria Carrier and my unbelievably supportive family.
Song of the Day
"Scared" by Delta Rae
Everyone should go check out this band. I know that I posted a song by them in the last entry, but I just can't get enough!!!
My last blog post was written in an airplane on the way back to the United States all about what my experience studying abroad had given me. In it I mentioned that it gave me a new perspective on things. And I said nothing else. Well, this post is to explain that statement.
When I said that I had a "new perspective" I meant on two particular things: my college and my country.
When I left the United States for France it was safe to say that I was less than Patriotic. The only time I really expressed any love for the US was when I was tailgating and singing along to some extremely patriotic song lyrics at country concerts in the summer. And even then it was more for the tradition of it all. I have always been one of those people who just can't help but see all the bad things about our country.
I felt that we were often ignorant towards the rest of the world and other cultures, obnoxious, unhealthy, obsessed with technology, self-centered, overly fast-paced and just generally hated by the rest of the world.
Turns out, leaving the place you've grown up in and spent your entire life for months on end can cause an extreme case of homesickness. And this homesickness can lead to a very real appreciation of the place you call home. It wasn't until I was missing all of it's wonder and beauty and consistently explaining what life in the U.S. was like to the Europeans that I really appreciated how amazing of a country it is we reside in.
The United States is truly a place unlike any other. Sure, we are practically an infant in comparison to the countries of Europe and Asia and, sure, we tend to be a bit obnoxious with our American pride. But why shouldn't we be?! We contain some of the most amazing geographic locations, we are full of people chasing their dreams and you can drive to any state you want and witness a completely different way of life while still remaining in your own country. I'm not kidding when I say that Europeans - especially those who haven't been to America - are completely enraptured with The United States. And, not to mention, our country is ENORMOUS. The state of Texas is bigger than most countries. You can go on a life changing journey from coast to coast and not even have to leave the comfort of your own country.
I think it's safe to say that upon coming back to the United States last week, I was a changed woman. I love our country inside and out. Yes, we have flaws, but I think going abroad for months and months will allow you to realize that all countries have flaws. And I mean a lot of flaws. And for the enormity of the United States, I'd say we're doing pretty good.
So, I'd say that the way my perspective changed on my school was very similar to the way it changed on our country. Though when I left I can't say I didn't like Umass. I love Umass and I always have, but I was never a die hard "Go Umass" type of student (which we certainly do not have a shortage of over at the zoo).
People who attend Umass Amherst are so freaking in love with their University it's scary.
I never really understood this. I mean, I liked how much diversity there was. I could literally take a class in anything I wanted to. I could easily meet and make new friends because there are just so many people that it's actually impossible not to find people you like or people who merely share the same interests as you. People are generally all pretty cool there too. I also never have issues with food since we've pretty much got the best food in the entire country and there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not thankful for that miracle. Without a doubt, Umass is a great school. But there was always something missing for me. I couldn't figure out why people were just so overy obsessed. It's good, yeah, but I don't know if it was great.
Now I get it.
Having to attend a university in Paris puts it all in perspective for you. In Europe (excluding the U.K. who have a similar University construction to us) there is not really "college". You finish their equivalent of high school then people generally will go out in the world and begin working and building a family. Some people though do decide to continue on with their education.
For these people, they don't live on campus and they don't have meal plans or anything. There really isn't actual campuses. Most of the time it's just a cluster of a few buildings. People don't identify themselves as "ICP students" or "Sorbonne students". It's just not the same. It's more like everyone is just taking classes at these schools while continuing their life as usual. And the fees are sickeningly low. A year of college in Paris is about $1,000 for a student. (For me it was much much more expensive as I was still paying for housing, food, program excursions, etc.)
While I was taking classes in France I began to realize that I was really missing Umass. I missed the way everyone was living together, walking to classes together, eating together, etc. I missed the feeling of community and the way that everyone was happy to be at the University. I missed the way that everyone would walk around in their Umass gear 24/7. I'm not exaggerating, if you weren't sporting at least one item of clothing or at least one accessory with the Umass logo, you'd get weird looks. I missed being on a college campus.
There is no denying that Umass Amherst really is a community and really is a network. No matter where you go in, what I think is safe to say, the entire world, you'll find someone that goes to Umass or that knows someone who went to Umass. It's crazy. And I love it. I may be spending several semesters away from Amherst and taking a break to hike across the country, but don't be fooled: I love my school.
I love Umass Amherst.
Everyone should go.
Coming back last Wednesday was one of the strangest feelings, but I have never been happier to be in this wonderful country and now I have the itch to travel to every state, to really know my country and to really appreciate it for all it is. But, there is no doubt, I am a New Englander through and through and I think that if there is anything that studying abroad has given me, it's an even deeper adoration of how amazing our little section of the United States really is.
Thanks for reading,
Song of the Day
"Bottom of the River" by Delta Rae (Thanks Victoria!)
As I type this blog post I am sitting on my plane back to Boston, Massachusetts. When I touch down in the United States it will be the first time that I see my country in almost four months. I have never been that long away from home – let alone out of the country. Actually, this was the first time that I’ve ever been out of the country (besides a cruise to the Virgin Isles, which I don’t really count). This trip was full of a lot of firsts in fact. First time out of the country, first time taking a taxi, first time arranging flights and travelling on my own (besides a small jump to LA, but I had help with everything except the actual boarding of the plane), first time living in a city, first time being in a place that didn’t speak my language, etc. You get the point.
Needless to say, all these experiences led to me learning a lot and gaining new skills. And here is just a taste of what this experience has given me.
The Ability To Read Maps:
My small map book of each arrondissement was my everything while living in Paris. I’m pretty sure that there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t use that thing. After a few trips to the same areas you start to memorize the streets, but Paris is such an enormous place that it would be simply impossible to learn all the streets. Learning to read a map was a MUST when trying to go anywhere new. One time I got a bit lost and I hadn’t mastered the map yet, so I told myself to just keep taking right turns until I ended up back where I started. DO NOT DO THIS. It doesn’t work like that in European cities. It’s not New York. Most of the time the area you’re in looks like this:
So it’s safe to say that reading a map is a must. It reminded me of the days when we had to use the enormous atlas that we kept under the driver’s seat of my Dad’s car when we went on vacation. There was a huge map of each state and it how we found our way driving to New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, etc. Those were the days before GPS systems were a common staple in cars.
A Master’s Degree in Airport Procedures:
Counting the flight that I’m on now, I’ll have taken something like 17 flights since August. Most of which took place during my stay in Europe. When taking a plane is cheaper that most train tickets and more practical that the 16+ hour bus rides, you tend to choose it as your main means of transportation.
Because of this, I have had to go through airport security more times than I care to think about. By now it’s become simply second nature to me. And, naturally, the people in front of me who forget to put their liquids in a bag or to take out their laptops or don’t take their shoes off in advance tend to drive me crazy. SORRY.
But even though it seems like I’ve been in the air more than I’ve been on the ground, the idea of flying still scares me beyond all comprehension. I understand that there is some kind of science behind all of it, but to me it just doesn’t make sense. Nothing that heave should be able to fly. Especially when it’s wings don’t even flap like a bird! I don’t have anxiety when flying, but that’s because I’ve become a professional in pushing all question as to how this is happening and all the thoughts about how we could plummet to our death at any moment far, far away from my mind.
A New Coffee Addiction: COSTA
Anyone that has spent any time in the UK will know what I’m talking about. Costa Coffee is like a much better version of Starbucks. In the UK a Costa can be seen on every corner (it originated somewhere there) and, much to my delight, there are four or five locations throughout Paris as well. It was my haven during this past semester. I could order a coffee and maybe a snack then sit and work for three hours or even more on papers, projects, stories, etc. and not be rushed to leave. If you’ve never been there, it set up much like a Starbucks with hip, comfortable chairs and table to sit and work at while you drink your coffee, except they have better food, better coffee and it’s all much cheaper (Starbucks in Paris is much more expensive than in the States, and even then it’s not cheap!) Costa, you’re the best, but Dunk’s: I’m coming for you.
Must this be said? Travelling is like getting tattoos; once you get started you just can’t get enough. It’s also like Cheeze-Its in this way.
At first, I was terrified. I landed in Paris and went through hell to get to my host mother’s house, was exhausted and overwhelmed and miss my friends and family so much. I thought to myself for the first few days that it was a mistake and that all I wanted was to go home and never travel again. But soon, these feelings start to fade and you grow more accustomed to being in a place that it so vastly different from home.
Then I started travelling. We went to La Loire, Champagne, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Brighton, London, Dublin, St Andrews, Cannes, The Highlands and more and the more I did it the more I fell completely and utterly in love. All I wanted was more. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to hike the amazing mountains that there were to hike. I wanted to meet people of different walks of life. It’s such an amazing feeling and I really encourage everyone to spend at least part of their life doing some travelling. It may be frightening at first, but trust me, you’ll love it.
A New Perspective on Things:
Getting to see and experience so many different ways of life really does give you a new perspective on things, as cliché as it sounds, and primarily on the United States and my home university, Umass Amherst. I’ve decided to make a separate post on this matter since I think that it deserves a more in depth explanation.
A New Appreciation for my Friends and Family:
I never knew I could miss anyone so much. It would actually hurt at times. Enough said.
Approximately 15 pounds:
I kid to my friends about this. But I really did gain a substantial amount of extra pounds while away. Primarily this was due to not only eating lots and lots of not-so-healthy foods (primarily bread-based food) but also because I basically didn’t exercise my entire time abroad besides lots of walking and the occasional run. Going from at least 1.5 – 3 hours of exercise most days of the week to this was probably my downfall.
An Empty Wallet:
Yepp. Having no income for the first time in five years while also spending more money than I ever have due to travel expenses, hostels, food and other such things, really does some damage. Sorry Mom and Dad.
An Experience to Last a Lifetime:
While this is actually the tag-line for Camp Harrington I feel like it was a perfect time to borrow it because it really will stick with me for a lifetime and I will be forever grateful for it.
Thank you for reading,
Song of the Day
"Thank God For Home Towns" by Carrie Underwood
I have been neglecting this blog a bit and while I do feel a tad guilty, I feel like it's justifiable because I'm busy doing some pretty amazing things. For instance, right now I am in Cannes, France where I am interning at the Cannes Film Festival. This experience itself warrants multiple blog posts, but I figured while I'm sitting at the desk at work, with nothing to do (the festival is coming to a close so most clients/buyers are heading home) I could start to play a little catch-up.
So, that brings me to the topic of this entry: AMSTERDAM
I went to Amsterdam back at the end of March with one of the other students in my program, Eric. It was a short weekend-long trip, but definitely plenty long enough to get to know and experience the city.
If I were to describe the city in four words it would be: TULIPS, CHEESE, SEX and MARIJUANA.
During the day in Amsterdam you may not notice the way in which it differs from most other cities you might visit in Europe. The only hints towards it's legendary liberalness might be the many Hemp-flavored souvenirs in the small gifts shops on every corner or the occasional scent of marijuana smoke if you walk by a "coffee shop" as the door is being opened. Other than that, walking around in the day you will see bikers, canal boats, lots of flowers being sold at large markets and, of course, tons and tons of amazing cheese shops. If you go for a stroll through the red light district during the day, yes, you will see prostitutes and sex shops, but they seem so mild compared to what you might see at night.
The entirety of our time in Amsterdam was spent dodging the rain that was constantly coming and going. Yes, it was annoying, not there is not positive side it to. It sucked. It's hard to really get a feel for how cool of a city it is when you're cold and wet. Many a time we thought about going to the Anne Frank House but then changed our mind because the line was just so long. After a few days we said, "screw it, if we don't do it now when will we get another chance?"
So we got in line and prepared to face the elements for about an hour. That one hour in line easily faded into an hour and a half and then two hours. By the time we had inched our way into the tiniest museum I've ever been to, I couldn't feel my fingers and I was shaking from the cold. My hair was wet (the wind kept blowing off my hood) and I was close to insane. But, nevertheless, we went in. It was quite a moving experience, and I'm glad I did it, but I'm not sure that it's worth waiting in like for two hours and almost dying of hypothermia - so keep that in mind people!
We checked out some other museums, like the Van Gough Museum, which, while not the cheapest thing out there, is an awesome place to go. It's quite a trip to see so many priceless paintings that we've seen replicated thousands of times on posters, t-shirts and on television. It's a great place to go, but one thing to remember, Amsterdam doesn't cater to students the way that some other European cities, like Paris, do. We had to pay for everything that we did. Which is a bummer since we are poor college students.
We spent one of the nights walking around in the Red Light District and I must say it's quite a trip. First of all, do not go here on a cute little family vacation. You will be scarred for life and will never be able to look at your parents the same way. Plus, you wouldn't be able to really appreciate how cool it is. I mean, you walk through the streets and there are doors lit up with girls on display acting way to casual. They are drinking coffee, texting people, and just chatting with each other through the doors. ummm...what?! Yes. There are sex shops, sex shows and sex for sale everywhere. Lights are glowing, people are bustling through the tiny streets and man do you smell the weed. But I think the strangest part of it all is that as you walk in and out of the small streets that are lined with the girls, you walk by every sort of person. I saw elderly woman, small children and everything in between as they too wanted to get a peek at just what the buzz is all about.
In the end, though, my favorite part was the hostel that we stayed in: LUCKY LAKE HOSTEL
The place was by far the coolest place that I've ever been. I kept saying every time we'd wake up in that beautiful place that I wished I could simply leave everything behind and move there forever. I'd love to spend a few months living and working at that hostel. Perhaps in the future that dream will become a reality. Who knows.
Basically, instead of a building with a bunch of rooms, the hostel is completely outdoors. It's like a campground in a way. Instead of a "room" you stay inside small campers (unless you want the slightly less expensive bed in a small cabin, which is what we did, and it was really really nice still). These campers are painted all different bright colors and one was even converted into a small theater! Then, in the mornings you get up and eat the breakfast that they provide in the breakfast bus. It's literally a school bus that has been converted into a kitchen and dining area, with a few picnic tables outside under an overhang that you can sit at as well. The place was a dream and I was, to say the least, obsessed. I recommend that everyone go there. Just do it. And the would shuttle us back and forth to the Metro every day for free.
Song of the Day
"Scotland" by The Lumineers
About This Blog:
I started this blog as a way to challenge myself to write more over the 2014 year, but it has blossomed into so much more than that. I use it to let people in on what's happening in my life, talk about things I find important and to spread the news about amazing people, places and art.