Hanging On To Summer

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I know that the weather will fluctuate over the next month or so, going from classic DC area summer weather to true chilly autumn weather. However, I am not quite ready to give up on my summer yet. You would think that Labor Day would have served as the traditional reminder that summer is over, but it wasn’t until I had to open my sock drawer for the first time in five months that I realized I would soon be transitioning from sandals to snow boots (okay, probably not snow boots, but I couldn’t skip that opportunity for alliteration). So for the next month or so while I can still justify it, I will be pretending it is still summer.

Being an adult is weird because the concept of summer isn’t quite the same as it was during school. Summer is no longer determined by having a designated set of days of relative freedom, but is instead marked by taking full advantage of three day weekends and sunny lunch breaks. I “started” my summer a little late because I was trapped inside working, but I happened to binge watch Outer Banks on Netflix and had immediate nostalgia for summertime. The show is good ole trashy fun, but it really reminded me of the perks of summer (when previously I had been focused on the negatives of summer in DC: mosquitos, sweat, humidity, the constant sound of A/Cs running).

I missed that feeling when you’re driving with the window down and you don’t have to rush anywhere. I missed that moment when you stepped in from the heat and the A/C hit you. I missed reading a book outside under the sun. I missed having a cold beverage after an hour spent toasting outside. I missed it all.

Now some of this nostalgia is misplaced. I never spent my summers running around with friends (I was at camp or work or my friends had left the area). Unlike the tan teens of the Netflix show, I burn – my Irish skin and I are meant for the shade, not the sun. And I have spent very few days lounging about on a boat. But the semantics don’t really matter.

I want to spend the next few weeks soaking up any sunshine I can find. And I want to go for drives with no set destination with music playing on my car speakers. I want to listen to the birds chirp and (now that it is less humid) I want to go for late night walks and read a book out on the deck. I want to pretend that life doesn’t start up again at 9 a.m. on Monday morning and the biggest worry I have is whether or not I’ve reapplied sunscreen recently.

I mean, I get the love for crisp autumnal days and spooky season, but can I linger in my summer haze for just a few more days?

That First Blank Page

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I’ve recently started a new journal – the most exciting and daunting step. There’s something terrifying about a blank page. What if I misspell something on the first line? What if I start with pens that bleed through? Do I want to do the same things I need in my last journal? Do I want to try something new?

I use my journals for a variety of things. This wave of journaling started in college when I wanted a place to put all my cards and notes and photobooth pictures. I bought a cheap journal and taped in each piece so that they weren’t floating around my dorm room. I repeated this habit my sophomore year. I bought a notebook and started to do the same process when I studied abroad in Australia (those bits and bobs are still in a bag somewhere waiting for me to tape and glue them in). I was more successful with the journal I used in Sweden – I organized it in order, placing all of the ticket stubs and plane tickets from each weekend trip together. My senior year of college it was a nice memento from school and I happily taped everything in.

It wasn’t until I moved to London for grad school that I expanded my use of journals from travel mementos to an actual journal. (This was around the time of the bullet journal fad so it’s not surprising I wanted to get in on that.) This journal was filled with cards and ticket stubs, grocery lists and rants. Taped and glued and highlighted together, this journal went beyond that experience, blending that year with the one following it.

I recently filled the last page and started a new one. I’ve used it less frequently because it’s still so fresh. There’s no mistakes so far, no bend in the spine. It sits closed nicely and doesn’t have pieces of paper sticking out in weird directions. This new notebook doesn’t hold the same memories as the last. At least not yet.

And like the beginning of anything new and exciting, I find myself overthinking. But with a new decade, maybe it’s time to dive in.

So I wrote a to do list on the first page, copied over from the end of my last journal. I taped in a ticket from a show I saw. I marked a page with a highlighter.

And suddenly, it’s a lot less daunting…

Homesick

Hometown, Travel

When I moved away for college, I didn’t have a whole lot of homesickness. Flying across the world didn’t spark constant sobbing sessions of wanting to return home.

I think there’s a couple reasons I avoid what for many can be a debilitating limitation to their exploration of the planet.

The first was that home, as in the physical location of my house, wasn’t that important to me. I love my bed and driving down the GW Parkway and I love my belongings, but I have very little attachment to my home of 20-something years.

Maybe I spent too much of my childhood driving to and from school or maybe location wasn’t as important as memories. Either way, it’s nice to go back but not something I crave.

Another reason I avoided homesickness was avoidance. If you’re too busy to be homesick, you won’t notice the time and distance from your home. From the second I arrived in Indy or Sydney or Stockholm or London, I was busy.

I had things to do and people to meet and bags to unpack. I had a couple of stress/frustration/fear/PMSing sobs, but never felt horribly homesick.

Yes, it was tough to go away – but I wanted to go. I wanted to go to college and I wanted to study abroad and I wanted to get my masters and I wanted to travel. Those plans and the excitement attached kept me going.

The third reason I avoided homesickness was that I digitally detached from home. Yes, I texted my mom to let her know I arrived at my destination and yes, I sent the occasional text to a high school joking about some song I heard playing, but I avoided phone calls and FaceTime sessions for the first six weeks. I also didn’t go home a week in. It gave me a distance that allowed me to skip the wallowing in leaving home and focus on the exciting part of being in new places and meeting new people and learning new things.

I love my home. And I love my family. And I love returning there (even if my nice bed is no longer there and I sometimes end up on the couch…). But I also love my new home and my found families and the experience of going far far away. It’s just as much an adventure to return home now as it was to leave. And when it’s time to leave again, the excitement returns all over again.

Creativity for Creativity’s Sake

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I’ve been thinking about the benefits I get from being creative in a variety of ways. I sang and played instruments for years; I tried cross-stitching and embroidery; I wrote prose and poems and blog posts; I spent hours making little watercolor roses. I have artsed and I have craftsed. And I was never amazing at any of it.

But I’m starting to realize that that is quite alright. If I find joy (regardless of the outcome), isn’t that enough?

I think I grew up placing a lot of pressure on myself to perform to high standards (set both by myself, as well as by my education and my upbringing near a city like Washington, DC). If I was going to do anything, I wanted to do it well and I wanted to do it with purpose. Because of my mentality, I struggled to be creative if I wasn’t “good”. Writing or painting or crafting seemed to only be worth it when I liked the outcome, regardless of whether I enjoyed the experience. I could never start a creative project if I was concerned about whether the outcome would be good.

(If you haven’t yet seen Set It Up, it’s a rom-com on Netflix with a scene where the main character’s roommate encourages her to write the worst article of all time in order to break her writer’s block. 10/10 recommend for any rom-com lovers out there.)

Now that I’m a little older, I’ve accepted that I will probably never be a professional artist or a professional crafter – and that’s okay. I like where I’m heading career-wise.

But I miss the feeling of creating. So the other day, I pulled out my paints and a mini canvas and started painting for the sake of painting. A layer would dry and I wouldn’t love the outcome so I would paint another layer. After a while, I felt comfortable with letting this cheap canvas sit. It won’t be on the walls of the Louvre any time soon but I enjoyed the feeling of a paintbrush in my hand.

A lot of this reflection is related to November being right around the corner. Each November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. Nanowrimo is an online challenge where participants write throughout the month with a word count goal (usually 50,000 words). Fun fact: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was a NaNoWriMo book. The idea is to get in the habit of writing everyday and in the habit of writing without self-editing. The challenging part is getting everything written without giving in to the urge to edit each paragraph – that’s what December and January are for. The organizers set up writing meetups around the world and have accounts designed to challenge you to write in different ways over different chunks of time. I’ve participated with various levels of success in the past and am debating trying this year.

But it fulfills my desire to creative without an expectation of perfection at the end. I don’t think I’ve looked back at what I’ve written during past Novembers, but that’s alright by me. (I may look back in ten years and die from laughter and/or embarrassment) but at the time those were the words I needed to form.

Will I succeed in writing a novel (with no edits) by the end of November? I don’t know. Will it spark my creative juices? Perhaps. Will I expect perfection? Hopefully not. Happy NaNoWriMo, y’all.

Let me know if you’re planning to participate or if you have in the past.

Happy Places

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I recently read a blog about places that make you happy. I could name a thousand times I smiled on a trip or places that took my breath away, but there’s those comforting spots that you always return to – those spots where you’re most at peace.

If we’re honest, I’ll always include my parents’ couch on this list. Even if it’s just for a moment, there’s something very calming about being sucked into a recliner with a blanket over my lap while I hear my parents go about their daily lives.

I also think about the top of Primrose Hill in London as one of those spots. Especially early morning or as the sun is setting, there’s something about being so close yet so far from everything and everyone. After I’ve managed to catch my breath from the hike up (it’s really not that high, I’m just lazy), there’s a peace there that I haven’t found in many other places.

I recently visited where my grandma grew up in West Virginia – there was no cell service, minimal noise, no light pollution, and just a slight chance of a bear wandering down the mountain to say hello. We paused one night and looked up at the stars. That’s one thing you don’t get in the city – stars.

In reflection, maybe I’m just chasing the stars that hung above my parents home when I was a child – like the stars above West Virginia or lining the sky over Uluru in Australia or imitated by the thousands of sparkling lights in London.

Maybe under the stars, I feel myself at peace. And happy.

Seasonal Transitions

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We’re at that strange point of the year where we’ve had one or two cool days and all of a sudden every bone in my body is ready for winter. And when I saw cool, I mean not a thousand degrees out and humid.

Maybe it was the first load of Halloween candy displayed at the beginning of September but I’m fully in an autumn mindset.

I’m dreaming of crunching fallen leaves beneath my feet and wearing a scarf everyday. I’m thinking about road trips to see the leaves change colors and switching out my summer clothes for warmer sweaters and tights. I’m looking forward to hands wrapped around cups of tea and that tingle that comes from being hit by a brisk wind.

I am officially over sweating and tourist season and sunburns.

So everyone grab a cozy sweater, light a candle, and lets all pretend it won’t be 90 on Sunday.