Posted in Changes, Lessons, Love, Snapshot, The Barista, Time, Travel, Wishes, Work

Life out of season

I loved Denver – she was just my type.

In appearances, the mountains glistened, the city sprawled, the old became new. In personality, there were a thousand places to go, craft scenes to explore, people to meet. In soul, she was vibrant and alive and six hours from everywhere.

No wonder it was so easy to fall in love – Denver was just my type.

But something was never quite right. Long timers warned me. She’s changed, they said. I didn’t care.

But Denver didn’t love me back. Oh, we were friends, certainly. She took me along for the ride. But the lust was never reciprocated. I was one of many to court her, but in the end she chose another.

She was the heartbeat of Europe with the familiar shoes of Iowa and an exotic note all her own.

She fought me. Threw housing problems, ill-fitting jobs, broken relationships, car theft and exorbitant prices my way. I ignored these signs. I had friends! I had adventures! Surely, we were meant to be, Denver and me.

I loved Denver. She was just my type.

But then, one day, as dreams began to form again, I looked at the dart I’d thrown on a map. I looked at Denver. And I realized with sadness that she didn’t love me back. She’d never given herself to me as I had to her.

The suffocation of the unrequited love affair began. I felt our connection crumbling. I was a barnacle clinging to her rather than a lobster paired for life with this beloved city. Trapped, I felt the urge to flee. What now? Where do I go from here?

I loved Denver. She was just my type.

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Posted in Backyard Tourism, Career, Current Events, Dating, feminism, Love, Snapshot, The Barista, Travel

The Serenity of Singlehood

Although statistically the median age of marriage has skyrocketed since the early 90s after remaining static for a hundred years, there’s still a stigma associated with being without a partner.

Don’t believe me, city dwellers?

When was the last time that you read an article that genuinely celebrated the author’s singleness, instead of making-do until the next relationship came along?

I’ve struggled with this mindset.

I have always warned potential mates, “I’m really good at being single,” as a way to prepare them for the fact that I’m going to continue to live my own life with my friends, dreams, and aspirations. If I’m choosing to include you as a significant other, it’s because I want you around as a part of it, not because I’m going to replace everything else in my day with you.

Unsurprisingly, most guys aren’t a huge fan of this.

No worries for me. Like I told them, I’m really good at being single.

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I’m currently reading the book All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. I was on the waiting list at my local library for six months, and it is well worth waiting for. Allow me to share a couple of excepts that resonated with me.

On life after a breakup:

Suddenly, my life was so much richer and so much more full of people to depend on and relate to and connect with. I never felt more fundamentally lonely…than when I was in a relationship. And I’ve never felt more supported and connected and fully appreciated than when I was single!

And on marrying later in life after living in a big city:

It’s not such a bad thing to always have something to do, someone to meet, work to complete, trains to catch, beers to drink, marathons to run, classes to attend. By the time some women find someone to whom they’d like to commit and who’d like to commit to them, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that they will have, if they were lucky, soaked in their cities and been wrung dry by them, that those who marry later, after a life lived single, may experience it as the relief of slipping between cool sheets after having been out all night. These same women might have greeted entry into the same institution, had they been pressured to enter it earlier, with the indignation of a child being made to go to bed early as the party raged on downstairs.

Many of my small town friends are married. I danced at their weddings and coo over their children. They tell me of their domestic lives, and I cheer for them while inwardly shrinking back in horror from the entrapment of even a long term relationship. There are so many mountains to climb, cities to get lost in, men to flirt with, wines to sample, nights to wane with conversation. For me, singlehood offers the best of all there is. With some recent developments, I’ve realized I’ll be single for at least the next two years, and that concept doesn’t frighten me at all. Oops, I might not date until I’m 27? Meaning at the absolute earliest I’ll be married at 29, if then? Ah, well. Did you hear about that new taco place on Tennyson?

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Last night, I borrowed a sleeping bag from a friend (as mine was lent out to someone else), and headed out into the mountains. With the fire ban in effect, I decided to just car camp near the base of Mt. Bierstadt. I’d hoped to hike it in the morning, but as I rolled by the parking lot, the cars overflowed onto the roadside even at 6:30 in the morning. Anxiety welled up in me, and I realized that I needed solitude. I kept driving down winding roads, occasionally turning and barely keeping track of how to get home. Eventually I found a place to walk around. I spent a good hour strolling, encountering only one other soul as I listened to the river beside me and rejoiced in the gray skies relieving Colorado from the relentless heat.

There was silence. There was solitude. There was no one to call and check in with, no one to text that I’d changed my mind. It was simply the delight of following the open road, following what my body and soul so desperately needed.

Certainly, there are moments of loneliness. But at the end of the day, I crave freedom more than warm arms. I prefer to forge a family out of the friends and city around me than to create one by law. Thanks to the generations of women before me, I’m able to be wild and nomadic and make my own rules. I’m able to be alone or surrounded by people on a whim. It is here, in this self-made world, that I am truly able to find serenity in singlehood.

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Posted in Backyard Tourism, Growing Up, Languages, People, Snapshot, Stories, The Barista, Time, Travel, Wishes, Work

Soul Wide Awake

I know you don’t mean to insult me when you call it a vacation. But I don’t think you realize how wrong that word is.

A vacation is an escape from reality – relaxation, scheduled time to recharge. A vacation has hotels booked, tours planned, beaches chosen.

This is not a vacation.

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I am not escaping from reality – I’m finding it. My soul, at rest in the world of money and responsibilities, stretches and swells here. It fits my body perfectly instead of wearing my skin like a hand-me-down coat: not uncomfortable, but ill-fitting and not my style.

My plans are but a vague outline, often changing on a whim as a passerby says, “We’re going here, want to come?” I stay in a 12-bunk dorm, forgoing privacy and pray the locks hold on the cabinet where I’ve stashed my passport. I dine on street food and cook pasta leftover from a long departed traveler – that is, if the whirlwind of the day reminds me to eat at all.

I wear blisters on my feet with pride as my legs ache from getting lost all day in an unfamiliar city. I sneak into quiet streets to consult my map and compass as to not draw attention to my foreigner status, and curse my body’s need for sleep.

I listen to the cadence of a new language swirl around me and stare at signs, struggling to decipher their meaning. I cringe in shame when a hostel worker or airline employee glances at my American passport and immediately switches to English for my benefit.

You think this is a vacation?

No.

This is travel.

For now, I become she who has been hidden since my last journey into the unknown.

I become she who feels more intensely, sees in brighter colors, and smells the universe each morning. I live with abandon and belong exactly where I am.

I am she who is confident, beautiful, fearless, strong, and fierce. I am she who is curious, radiant, defiant, wild, laughing, and free. I am she who holds her arms open to the world and says, “Here I am! Give me the best you have!”

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My soul is wide awake, and every moment is a precious gift.

And then I return.

Back to the world of routine. Of bills and schedules and putting gas in my car. Of small talk and appointments and wearing a path in the sidewalk I tread each day.

In the traditional world, a groove becomes a rut, and I soon look up from the bottom with fear and trepidation building.

“I can’t leave this,” I tell myself. “I’m too afraid. This isn’t fun, but it’s comfortable. This isn’t right, but at least I know where I’m sleeping and how to get around. I’m afraid to go again. I should stay where it’s safe.”

But that tiny spark that can’t be put out whispers to me, “You must go.”

You think I’m going on vacation?

No.

This is breathing.

This is living the best version of me.

This is seeing my soul wide awake.

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Posted in Growing Up, Lessons, Musing, People, Snapshot, The Barista, Time, Travel

impostor syndrome

At twenty-five, I’m starting to see my peers as adults.

We’re no longer floundering around, renting our first apartments, burning our first meals, ignoring the squeals on our brakes until our cars are unable to stop.

We’re looking for a place that suits us and our budget instead of one or the other.

We’re developing spice racks – and have a few key dishes we can whip out for guests.

We regularly change our oil and cheer when our insurance rates go down.

We have a logical, thoughtful exchanges that I’m far more accustomed to having with people 3-5 years older than me, and later find out my conversation partner is a few months younger.

I look around in astonishment and realize that without my consent, I’ve grown up. I have conversations about retirement accounts and the practicality of millennials being willing or able to leave the workforce. I track my expenses and have a budget. I have a shiny university degree that says I show up and do my work. I keep being put into positions of authority where I hire and train and manage people and places.

By all external manifestations, I’m an adult.

And I feel like I’m an utter impostor.

This isn’t one of those “Adults shouldn’t have to grow up! Be a child! Have fun! Enjoy life!”

I’m a traveler. I absolutely adore life.

It is the responsibility aspect.

I get surprised when someone comments that I’m doing really well at something, or call me a sweet person. I’m just floating through life, doing what I think I should be doing. I don’t feel like anything I do is exceptional – it simply is what it is.

I sometimes feel like I intentionally stopped at 19, but my body continued without me. Hence I feel like an impostor. The only time I get carded anymore is when I’m with a beardless man (which in and of itself is a little insulting – I mean, yes, I’m plenty old enough to buy this drink, but really? I don’t look 30 yet!).

I was talking to some friends about this situation the other day, and we bemoaned wishing we were still 19. Back then, we had no money but somehow everything just worked. We had all the adventures, all the magic, and being poor was more fun than stressful. We didn’t sleep but had energy, we didn’t eat well but it didn’t affect us.

Now, just a few years later… it all falls apart. We get home from work and are too tired to do anything. We manage to socialize once a week or so, but after a few hours happily escape to our beds. Money means something, and the lack of it is scary. We thank our lucky stars that we don’t have children to throw into this mess of life, being responsible for a tiny creature when we can hardly afford to clothe ourselves. (Oh, yes, living in an expensive city because we love it and want to work at something we love has its disadvantages.)

We’re impostors. We feel like we don’t belong here – and yet somehow, we’re told that we do. Others look at the beautiful final reel instead of the raw footage and think somehow we have it figured out. Somehow, someone, somewhere, decided that we deserve the title of being an adult.

I may not believe it.

I may get confused when people assign it to me.

But somehow, it’s mine. And if that’s the case, I need to claim it, redefine it, make it fit me rather than the other way around. I need to be comfortable with it, greet it like a friend rather than a person I need to impress.

It’s a dangerous thing, this impostor syndrome.

I met a delightful stranger the other day. Very rarely do people answer the question, “How are you?” genuinely. But she did. She looked at me sadly and said, “I’m wrestling with the wolves, trying to decide which one to feed. So I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico for tonight.” To my surprise, I saw her two days later. “Wait,” I exclaimed. “Why aren’t you in Mexico?!” Her eyes twinkled, and I could see the relief that had been absent before. “I moved to Boulder instead. The universe reorganized itself – I’ve never wanted to live there! But things just… worked. So I moved instead of leaving.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever run into this young woman again. But she has it figured out. She allows herself to get lost and find herself again. That genuine response to reality was confusing and beautiful all at once. She embraced the uncertainty, and in doing so, staked her claim on who she wanted to be.

So today, I sit here sipping coffee and dreaming. I may feel like an impostor, but I’m going to find me.

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Posted in Lessons, Love, Musing, People, Snapshot, Stories, Time

this present moment

A friend recently told me that they only ask questions if it pertains to who a person is right now.

“I want to know who you are, not who you were.”

Not going to lie, my brow furrowed.

I see a strong vein of truth that I agree with, but almost equally powerfully disagree.

I am who I am because of who I was.

A conversation here, a crazy night there, a struggle, a triumph, a journey, a moment.

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To only want to know a person in this present moment is to lose the rich tapestry of being alive.

The past gives depth. The future gives growth. The present moment is only a snapshot. I would not be who I am if it were not for the experiences that led me to this moment. I am on a trajectory for tomorrow because of where I am today.

You are always told to live in the present: YOLO, carpe diem, all that.

The present is a beautiful thing. Time is a beautiful thing. But to only know one part, be it any part of their timeline, is to miss the true beauty.

This present moment is a kaleidoscope of memories and dreams, taking a deep breath to appreciate a thousand coincidences and questions that drove you to right here.

This present moment is full of opinions and beliefs that are wildly different from the past – but why? When I meet someone, I don’t just want to know that you agree with me, I want to know why. What led you to be the person you are today?

There’s a story.

A beginning, a middle, and an end.

I want to know you, who you are today. But I want to know where you’ve been and where you are going. I want to know why you justify some things, why you forgive others, what causes triggers and emotions to flare. I want to know what makes you you.

Those answers rarely are found in the present moment.

They grow, they develop, they change.

If I want to know you, I want to know why.

I want you to be genuine.

I want the intimacy that comes with revealing.

I want to share in your joy and laughter, your heartache and pain.

I want to know the past, dream of the future, and have it all come back to this present moment.

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Snapshot, Travel

a moment with an angel

I’ve always had an odd affinity towards cemeteries. In high school, we lived towards the edge of town, about a half a mile away from the local one. My first babysitter passed away shortly after we moved to that house, and then a classmate was killed in a car accident and buried only a few gravesites away from her. I spent a lot of time walking to the cemetery to visit their graves and see what mementos had been left, then strolling the rows and reading names.

I tend to visit cemeteries as I move, but not so much when I’m traveling. Perhaps it’s the permanence – a place to reflect, a place to slow down – something I don’t have time for when I’m on the road.

I’ve been on the lookout for a particular angel statue like the one from The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. I’ve probably been to thirty different burial grounds in the last decade, every time peering closely through the rows of memories to see if my angel was hiding among them. This once led me to the legendary “Black Angel” of Iowa City, where legend has it that if a non-virgin kisses the statue, they’ll be struck dead. I didn’t press my luck.

This week I caught a glimpse of an angel from afar that looked like her. Had I really found her? Just like that, my pursuit was over? I was surprised at how relieved I felt when I got closer and realized that this angel, too, was not who I was searching for.

Do I really not want to find her? Is this what they mean when they say it’s all about the journey?

She knows not where she’s going

For the ocean will decide

It’s not the destination

It’s the glory of the ride

Maybe looking for this angel makes me feel less crazy for finding peace in a graveyard.

Maybe it’s an excuse to keep exploring new cities, believing that she must be out there somewhere.

Maybe I want to believe my imagination is a better artist than those who designed the tombstones.

I keep looking. I want to keep looking. I don’t want to find that angel. I don’t want the chase to be over.

It’s the heart of nomad: the yearning for something unknowable.

I want to travel. I want to see the world. I want to have my life matter. I want to be on the move and constantly stretching and exploring.

Tonight though? Tonight I sit by a fireplace under a blanket. I smell dinner cooking and look forward to the glass of wine I’ll share with my friends. I listen to Sarah type away at her work and Phil play with their cats. I have a small stack of books beside me and the snow is falling gently outside the window. My parents and sister are driving across Nebraska to join me for Thanksgiving. I explored a new part of the city with Kara earlier today.

Yes, I want to keep searching.

Yes, I want to keep traveling.

But this moment? This, too, is part of the journey.

This moment of contentment doesn’t mean that Denver is my forever home.

But it does mean that it is okay to be still.

It is okay to be vulnerable.

It is okay to dream of the future, but not be afraid of the present.

Every moment, whether in Berlin or Sydney or Santo Domingo. Every moment, whether in Des Moines or Dallas or Denver.

Every moment.

It isn’t wasted.

Perhaps that’s why I like cemeteries so much.

Because in the sea of memorials, I see lives that were full or short or difficult or adventurous.

And each life meant something.

Each one was loved by someone.

Each one was missed by someone.

So I keep searching.

Because each moment in this life is worth something… even if it’s spent looking for a statue I hope I never find.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Growing Up, People, Snapshot, The Barista

backyard memorials

I’ve been living in Colorado for ten months.

I would consider this to be the beginning of the best parts of moving to a new location.

I am starting to learn my way around the city, but I’m still new enough to see the wonder and excitement of being here. There’s still many corners to explore, but I’m not entirely reliant on my gps to get me there. I’m settling into friendships that are no longer hard work to maintain, but rather bring the energy of comfort.

I remember when Iowa City got to this point – when I started wanting my friends to come visit so I could show them around instead of awkwardly getting turned around with them. It’s the time when instead of being a drifter, I start to be local. As odd as this sounds, I had That Moment with Glenna this week for a rather somber occasion.

We were only about 8 years old during the Columbine massacre in 1999, but the effects of that radiated throughout our lives. As our friends get their teaching licenses and have their own classrooms of children, we hear the stories of the drills they go through to keep their students safe in the event of another Sandy Hook.

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When I first moved out here, I lived in Littleton – only about three miles from the high school. I first went to the memorial alone, weeks after arriving, and still in awe of the mountain range before me. “How,” I wondered, “could anyone do something so horrible with something so beautiful beside them every day?”

Shows my naivety.

I brought Glenna to the memorial this week. We walked around slowly, reading the tributes and the memories. There were some dying flowers contrasting the colorful autumnal changes. The sun was shining in the late afternoon and a warm breeze danced around the quiet, sunken space. We walked to the top of the hill, pondering the students from the school. Where are they now, and what have they done with their lives? What about generations to follow – what is going to university like and realizing that the entire world knows about your high school?

As we walked back down, Glenna took hold of my hand. We stepped in silence, slipping away from the memorial and past the children’s playground on our way to the car.

It was my moment of showing my friend something important that brought me to my next stage. This is becoming home. And moments of sadness and remembrance are a part of that.

I may have no personal connection to Columbine, but it is now woven into my story just a little tighter. And even just for a day, looking out over the mountains in the shadow of the high school, I took a breath and was thankful to be surrounded by home.

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Posted in Funny, People, Snapshot, The Barista

paying it forward: mr. sydney

Several years back, I was rescued by a couple in Lichtenstein. After being thrown out of a hostel for having the audacity to show up at 9:08 when the reception closed at 9pm, they drove from the next town over to pick me up and let me couchsurf at their place. They also gave me chocolate.

Since that time, I’ve kept a keen eye to help out a traveler in need. Sometimes I’ve been fortunate enough to have this happen accidentally.

Not long ago, a man walked up to my friend and I and asked if we’d be able to call him a cab – his phone had just died and he was visiting friends in town. Since Uber and Lyft both require a credit card to be attached, I didn’t want to play that game. After looking up taxi companies and realizing that all of the ones nearby were limousine services, I grabbed my keys instead.

“Come on, I’ll drive you.”

My friend pulled me aside. “Remember,” she admonished, “No means no. Don’t let him hurt you!” I shrugged. “I’ll be fine,” I thanked her, and walked with the stranger to my car.

We drove to a big box store so he could grab a charger. “I’m just visiting a friend in town,” he apologized. “I don’t really know where she lives. Somewhere with a big green space down the middle of the road.” I could hear a tinge of an accent, but couldn’t place it.

“So where’s home?” I asked as we pulled into the lot.

“Australia. Sydney. I’m here for a marketing contract.”

We picked back up on the conversation as he returned with a charger and breathed life back into his iPhone.

“Yeah, I was in Sydney once. I saw more things that could kill me in five minutes than in three weeks in New Zealand.”

That touched a nerve. The stranger exploded, “All you Americans think is Australia is so dangerous! That we’re all kangaroos and poisonous spiders!”

I backpeddled a little bit, but the stranger calmed down. “Sorry, sorry,” he said. “Also, thank you so much for the ride.”

“Hey, man, I get it. I’ve been lost in another country before and had some great people help me out. I’m always looking to pay it forward.”

“No, but seriously, thank you. This is so much better than finding a taxi and figuring out where I’m going.”

By this point, we’d driven halfway across the city. The stranger told me he and his friends had been out drinking – plausible. But where he’d wound up? A little less likely. The cafe he’d run into me at was off the beaten path, far away from any of the arteries of the city. Then again…

As we pulled into the driveway where his GPS told him was his current home, he reached into his bag and pulled out a handle of Jack Daniels. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. Want a swig for the road?” he offered.

“Nah, I’m good…” I put my car into gear. Maybe it wasn’t so strange that he’d wound up so far from home.

Posted in People, Snapshot, The Barista

with cool weather comes scarves

I currently live behind our local variation of Kroger’s, so rather than doing a big shopping trip once a month or so, I’ll go whenever I need something.

Being me, I tend to run out of everything at once, and am far too stubborn to make two trips or use a cart.

Today, I was being my usual awkward self, hugging a pack of toilet paper to my chest, my right arm desperately clinging to a basket with a soap refill, deodorant, and orange juice, and my left arm groping through the clearance section. An employee came out the doors behind me and looked at me.

To my surprise, instead of simply saying, “Can I help you find anything?” and moving on his way, this older gentleman continued to chat. “Oh, yes, looking through clearance is fun. But if I can help you find anything, just let me know! By the way, I love your scarf!”

I looked down at my frazzled self, hair unwashed, jeans with paint, and the mess of purchases mostly hiding the scarf in question. And then I smiled, because this employee genuinely liked it.

“Thanks! I got it at a thrift store!”

We then spent a few minutes chatting about thrift stores versus garage sales versus brand names. As I turned to leave, he reiterated, “I really like that scarf. You’d never tell it came second hand!”

Now, I’d been having a bit of a rough day (think like a country song). So to have a complete stranger take two minutes from his day to not look through me, nor need anything from me… well, that felt good. He was standing by the door when I checked out about ten minutes later and paused me again. “I hope that you have a very nice day,” he emphasized, and waved me on my way.

As I walked home, I felt my heart lift a little bit, still clutching that toilet paper.

Even when things are hard, there are always good people in this world that will go above and beyond what their paycheck dictates they do. And I was pretty lucky to find one of them.

Posted in People, Snapshot, The Barista, Time

one is silver and the other gold

One of my oldest friends moved to Colorado today.

Sarah and I met in middle school. Eleven year old kids, our lives were obsessed with Neopets and who was going to have a sleepover that weekend.

Now, thirteen years later, we’ve been friends longer than we’d been alive when we met. Our lives are now obsessed with Reddit and who is free that evening to grab a beer.

Sarah moved away at the end of 7th grade. There’s really no logical reason why we’re still friends – I didn’t get a cell phone for another four years, Facebook didn’t exist yet, and people moved in and out all the time.

But somehow, it stuck. Through different cities and countries, we somehow kept in touch. She moved to Panther town, I moved to Slovakia. She moved to Minnesota, I moved to Berlin. And now, we both live in Denver. She lives closer to me now than she ever has – a mere twenty one minute drive away.

Sarah and I have gone through a lot together, sometimes going months without speaking. Then suddenly, one of us will send a text or shoot off a message. “Hey, girl. What’s up?” or “This thing happened. Let’s talk?”

Sarah was there for me when I walked away from Christianity – talking to someone about agnosticism and what it meant to leave familiarity behind. I squealed with excitement for her when I found out she and Phil had proposed to one another – finally, a good man after heartbreak in our growing years.

Today, my oldest continuous friend moved to Denver.

Today, the Chaser and I spent an hour with Sarah and Phil, running boxes and couches up to their new apartment.

Today, my oldest friend now only lives a few miles away in her brand new city, and the cycle of life continues one day at a time. Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.

Welcome to Colorado, Sarah. Welcome home 🙂

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Sarah’s cat, Bishop, was not nearly as ecstatic to be in Colorado as she was.