Thursday, August 30, 2012


I left home 2 weeks ago today. I am in my last stopping place until I head to Estes Park for my year-long fellowship. I'm in disbelief at how fast everything has happened. It's remarkable how the days fly by when you're not dreading them.

By the time I leave here, I will have spent 5- FIVE- nights in once place. That is the longest I will have been anywhere in nearly a month. While that doesn't sound significant, after having spent 6 years in one place, it's quite a transition to become so... well... transient. (And I'll let you in on a little secret- I kinda like it.)

Last night as I was attempting to sleep, I caught myself becoming anxious about what I would do when the year is over, but then reminded myself that a billion and one unpredictable things could (and will) happen in this next year. There is not only no need for me to try to plan my life out all at once, it's also impossible to do so.

I have loved these 2 months away from work, from responsibilities, from expectations, from all of the "shoulds" I lived under for years. I broke free and am reveling in the moment. For a time, I would assert the disclaimer that I knew this would not last forever and that I could end up regretting this move. It was an effort to displace any potential remarks that could (and did) come about the impending end of the year with no income. But I finally saw how unproductive that was. The only moment we have is the one we currently inhabit, and the last 2 months of my moments have been spectacular. Truly. The one I'm sitting in now as I type this is also pretty fantastic. I have no idea what's around the bend, but that's ok. Even if hell is about to fall, it shouldn't steal the joy I have in this quiet peaceful moment. The next moments can bring what they may, and I will live in them when they arrive. 

For today, for now, for this moment, I am done with trying to figure it all out. I'm going to allow myself to be completely absorbed by the beauty of the day, time with friends, and knowing that everything is all right. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Peace at Midnight

Even in my most triumphant moments, there exists a bittersweet remembrance of my mother and my sweet friend who are no longer here to celebrate these times with me. It used to taint everything with sadness, but as the years have passed and I have grown, I've found it to be an inspiration. These people who poured their hearts and souls into me invested their lives to help make me who I am. Even in their absence, they've propelled me forward through a lasting legacy of unfailing, unflinching, unabashed love. How could I feel sad when I am so lucky to have been that loved? 

As anyone who has lost a part of their heart could tell you, you will miss it, always. But you can either wallow in sorrow forever and let the rest of yourself die while your physical body walks around, or you can live a life you, and those you miss, will be proud of. 

So here at 12:56 AM (mountain time!), I remember those who are no longer physically present with a grateful peace instead of a heart-wrenching sorrow. 

It's been said that 'time heals all wounds', but that's a load of shit. It's not time that heals. It's you.

                                       Mom when she was young.                                        A life changing friend. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Adventure Thus Far

My packed up car

This trip has been a roller coaster of emotions. For the last several months I've been preparing for a far off distant thing that was only an idea. And then, the day arrived. The morning of August 17, 2012 actually showed up, and shoved me out the door of my friends' house, where I had been living the previous 2 months, reminding me that I had to go because I said I would. I do my best to do what I say I will do. This time it was really hard. I was terrified. I cried for the first 2 hours of my drive and wondered what the fuck I had been thinking.

I'm sitting in my plush hotel in Omaha, Nebraska basking in my last night alone for awhile. I have a king-sized bed, glass of wine, journal, a book I stole from a new friend I stayed with in Chicago (who also happens to be one of the people I'll be working with in the upcoming year), and a few hours to reflect on the last 7 days. Holy shit. Only SEVEN days??? Those seven days have felt like months. In a good way. 

My trip started with a 2 night visit to my long lost cousin in the Pittsburgh area. We hadn't seen each other, or even really talked much since we graduated from high school in 2002. An entire decade had escaped us somehow. We discovered how much we had to catch up on, how much we had in common, and how much we really needed that time with each other. It was sad that so much time had gone by and we had no idea that we held such large parts of each other's hearts, but on the other hand, the timing of it was impeccable. It was, in spite of how it may seem, not at all late, but rather just in time. We talked, drank wine, and made cupcakes. It was as though that decade apart had never happened. Those two nights were exactly the transition I needed to be able to continue to the next part of the adventure. Tearless.

Lemonberry cupcakes and wine

The next part of my journey took me to Chicago, Illinois where I was able to hang out with friends I had met in Kenya in July. (cue: 'It's a small world after all') Here, I marveled at having met them on another continent while running to catch janky run-down matatus,  attempting to avoid being pick-pocketed in chaotic dirty Nairobi, and lounging on the beach after preparing fresh fish for dinner, and was now hanging out in bustling Chicago catching a metro to the Willis tower, eating 'Chicago dogs', and lounging by a rooftop pool. I stayed with one of them the first night, but they were both heading out of town for work, which left me wondering what to do with myself for the next few nights. 

On the deck in Willis Tower

As luck would have it, one of the other Fellows I'll be working with in Estes Park had mentioned in one of our correspondence emails that he would be driving out from Chicago. Prior to leaving Pennsylvania, I sent an email and asked if he wanted to meet up at some point, and if he knew of any cheap places to stay as my friends wouldn't be around. He offered his place as an option, and though I fully realized that could be a horribly dicey situation in that we could meet, hate each other, and then realize we would have to inhabit the same house for an entire year, I accepted anyway (which turned out to be a funny story because he had the exact same thoughts). Thankfully, we hit it off and I stayed for 3 days/nights- which was awesome because instead of hanging out in Omaha for 72 hours alone, we woke up and had conversation over coffee, met one of the other Fellows passing through for lunch, laid around a park talking and drinking beer, made dinner and watched one of my favorite movies, went to Green City Farmer's Market for breakfast the next morning, hung out in a coffee shop for hours to read and write, then finished the visit on the morning I was leaving (which was today, though today feels like several days), with coffee and conversation

My new friend and fellow Fellow is a giant

And this all brings me back to the present where I now happen to be in Omaha, Nebraska, but only for one night. This is the perfect amount of time to spend doing exactly what I'm doing. I got an awesome 90 minute workout in, had my only proper meal of the day (my favorite peanut butter puff snack, Cheeky Monkey, was breakfast and lunch), wandered back to my room with my second glass of wine, and am compiling my thoughts before heading off to shower, read, and get a solid night's sleep. 

When I began this trip, I felt more scared and sad because I had no idea what was coming. I just knew what I was leaving. As the days have progressed, my fear and sadness have been transforming into excitement and joy. I've had the opportunity to reconnect with people I already knew I loved, in addition to meeting new inspiring people that deeply resonate with me and my life- people that are showing me just how much I had been missing out on by being afraid to take the leap I had known I needed to take for years. But again, like the time with my cousin, though it seems as though I'm "late", I'm actually right on time. 

Tomorrow morning I will get a quick cardio session in, pack up my things, and make the final 8 hour jaunt to Colorado where a whole new part of the adventure will begin in Denver. I will, for the first time, get to meet my dear friends' baby girl, and spend a few nights catching up with them. Then, I will head to Boulder to spend a week with a friend I met last November who has, in spite of not knowing me that long, been one of my biggest supporters. She provided more calming comfort than she will probably ever really know. And last, but by no stretch least, I will go to Estes Park on September 1st to begin my new role. 

Here's to old memories, and new beginnings. Cheers~

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Importance of Coffee and Conversation

What do Ireland, Italy, Belize, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Kenya, uprooting your life, and traveling across the U.S. all have in common?


As I've been making my transitions from Pennsylvania to Colorado, I realized the one thing I've always had access to in some form or another no matter where I've traveled is coffee. It's never been an addiction. I don't "ABSOULTELY-HAVE-TO-HAVE-A-CUP-BEFORE-I-CAN-FUNCTION." I don't always have it when I'm at home, but home has become a rapidly moving target, and the ritual of coffee at some point in the day gives me a constant. Regardless of what has changed around me, that one thing is something I've always been able to find. Additionally, that cup of coffee very often comes with company and a good conversation. Each conversation I've had has been its own little constant- the same sage in different bodies giving tiny precious reminders of why I decided to set off on this journey.

In spite of my efforts to be as present and "in-the-moment" as possible, I can't help but feel as though my life is a movie or a dream. A cup of coffee is like the spinning top, the totem, in the movie Inception. It's a signal to me that I'm awake in spite of my seemingly dream-like storyline. It hasn't quite sunk in that I'm one of those people I always wished I could be...

But here I am, sitting in Heritage coffee shop in Chicago, Illinois with a new friend and soon-to-be colleague, working on our computers and sharing stories about our lives and upcoming adventure. It is these moments that help shift the bittersweet transition from bitter to sweet.

I would have never realized how these simple routine daily activities can be, and unwittingly are, some of the most important parts of our lives if I wouldn't have walked away from nearly every comfortable routine I've ever had. Creating simple portable routines and rituals when our lives are in flux helps to give us grounding so we can take off in other areas.

And so, for my ritual, I have a hot cup of coffee and a quality conversation nearly every day no matter where I am.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Trust Yourself (also: Nothing to Fear)

I'm leaving in 4 days.

It really hit me as I was making plans today, then realized, I've run out of "oh, we can do that next weeks". There are no more next weeks. It is this week. In these next few days I need to finish lining up my ducklings and say my goodbyes.

It is 11:41pm and I am desperately tired, but insanely antsy. I feel like a caged animal waiting...

I vacillate between complete and utter excitement and gut-wrenching terror.

I wake up every morning feeling like I'm going to vomit.

There, I said it. Those are (some of) the reasons I haven't written in awhile. I've never felt so scattered and so exhilarated before in my entire life, and I'm not really sure of how to communicate myself. Nor do I always feel like doing so. The closer to the 17th I get, the more I feel the urge to pull inward.

That all said, I feel an underlying sense of peace. In spite of my twisting stomach, I somehow know this is the best thing I can do for myself right now. That decision I made in November of 2011 is entirely changing the course of my life. I'm doing what I was always too afraid to do- leave the safety of my illusion of security to find out what I'm really capable of doing. I'm setting off knowing that I have no choice but to trust myself. I have to trust my instincts, trust my heart, trust my abilities- trust that I will be able to take care of myself no matter what I encounter.
"Why are you scared?" a few of my friends will occasionally ask... At the end of the day, nothing of substance. I'm scared of the unknown. I'm scared because I have virtually no idea how anything is going to pan out from this moment on. I let go of the cushy predictable job, my cozy apartment, my comfortable routines, and have thus  opened myself to a whole new world of possibilities. 

But therein lies the beauty of it. I don't know- I'm open and ready for anything because there are no expectations. I am living based on what I want to do instead of what others think I should be doing. For the first time in a long time, I can say that I am proud of my life. I can own every failure and triumph because I'm no longer allowing someone else tell me how I should live. 

Is this process comfortable? No. Absolutely not. Is it indescribably fulfilling? Completely.

When it's all said and done- there really is nothing to fear. Any fears I may have are tied to issues of predictable security, and as I've seen over and over again, it doesn't matter what you have or what you do- you can lose what you have in an instant. Your amazing job, your impressive home and car, all of your neat geeky gadgets can be wiped away- even the people you love the most. So really, life boils down to the choices you make and who you are when everything falls away.

I've always wanted to be able to say I'm proud of my life- that I'm excited about what could happen.

Now, I finally am.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Home is the Love You Carry With You

12 days.

Holy shit.

I'm leaving in 12 days. Less than two weeks.

This realization began to finally settle in as I re-read the cards given to me at my farewell party last night. Looking at pictures of my 2 year old niece and 4 year old nephew that my sister had put in my card caused me to reflect on the last few years- I remembered part of why I stayed so long was wanting to stay long enough for them to be able to remember who I am.

They remember me now. They ask when I'm coming to visit. They are little people with likes and dislikes, thoughts, ideas... I had a brief teary-eyed moment as I realized my monthly visits to Philly to see them will be reduced to once or twice a year.

Then I thought of the last two months, of the people- my friends and family- I've been able to really spend quality time with, and I felt really really sad. Sad because these people who have loved me, in spite of my quirks and neurotic (sometimes obsessive) tendencies, will be much further than a quick car ride away. Dinners, lunches, trips to the beach, hikes, and happy hours will all boil down to long distance Skype, emails, and phone calls.

But then I remembered that it is also because of them and their love that I am able to take off. They have loved me through some of the most difficult parts of my life, and helped me to heal. I can leave with my heart whole and intact with the knowledge that they will be with me wherever I am. 

I am unspeakably grateful for these people- these talented, passionate, intelligent, strong, loyal, loving people- who, for whatever reason, have made room in their lives for me. They are my family and my home.

As the days wind down, and I prepare to pack up my car to venture westward, I am shifting my focus from leaving what I love to remembering that what I love is the reason I am able to go. For much of my life I've had a pervading sense of lacking a home, but now more than ever, I've been learning that home  isn't necessarily a specific place or person. Sometimes, home is the love you carry with you.

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, 
while loving someone deeply gives you courage."
-Lao Tzu