New Year, New You.

Ever since I was 18, traveling for the Christmas holiday has been the norm, one that I expect and cautiously dread, though the experience is always assuaged by Starbucks red cups and the onslaught of holiday hits that this pop-loving heart can't get enough of. Whether it was flying from Seattle, Bethlahem, Albuquerque, or Mexico, it's all a part of it. But all of those trips have always landed me squarely at SFO, hopping into my parents' SUV, talking about my flight, what's new at home, and what the Christmas Eve menu is going to look like. This year was different; this year Austin and I booked tickets for Florida to visit his family for a few days and then to spend the rest of our two week vacation in Cuba.

I've always been pretty attached to my family, especially my parents. Their voices and opinions are instilled in me, if not ingrained. When I was a kid or a teenager, this was a helpful thing; if left to my own devices, I would have made many a bad decision, not just limited to my already questionable fashion sense or penchant to talk about poop. But I've been doing a lot of growing up this past year, not in the ways that people expect progression to look like, but in the ways that are teaching me about who I really am, how to love and be loved (starting with myself), and what I actually believe or don't believe. These questions have opened me up, softened me, but being a personal essayist has made it hard to write about in any sort of declarative way. I've been taking myself too seriously, a severe buzzkill when it comes to artistry of any sort.

One of the byproducts of sitting with bigger queries has been that I'm looking critically at my tribe, what I've been taught and what I've contributed to, just trying to get curious about the stories that have been passed down generation to generation, especially about who the women in my family are and ought to be. A few years ago, it would have broken some glitter-covered heirloom glass piece of my heart to not be home for Christmas, whose unfettered expectancy I always joyfully anticipate, missing out on all of our traditions and rituals, feeling connected to my family in this way that only Mariah Carey knows how to facilitate. But this year it almost felt fitting-- when your internal world is shifting and looking like new land all over again, it helps to have your outsides match your insides.

These past few weeks will take time to elucidate, a gift I fully plan to use. Until then!

life, updates, etc.

Sometimes, a good old-fashioned life update is what's needed. As much for me as it is for anyone else, it's hard to expand on life thoughts without knowing what the stuff of our days is in the first place.

Is it just me or has 2016 felt like something new altogether? I've been so in it , gloriously in it, there's a part of me that wants all of life to be this way, but there's this other whispering part of me that knows how important it is to create in the midst of change and the normal. This is where beauty births and it's important to notice it.

Logistically, little has changed these past several months. I'm still working at the same company, with more responsibilities and more contentment. Something shifted for me around my 30th birthday when it came to questions about career, worth, and my path; in March, my best girlfriends and I retreated to Napa Valley for the weekend. These women are from all walks of life and though they don't make up the entirety of my people, they are so formative and so inspiring. I was knee deep in wanting my job and career to look different, knee deep in feeling so discontent and disappointed in myself, that part of what I really wanted out of this celebratory time with these women was some concrete plan of how I was going to move forward toward something I could be proud of.

What I got instead was a poem, by Sylvia Plath to be specific. It talked of fig trees and how each branch represents a different life: an author, a mother, a teacher, etc. If you sit paralyzed not able to choose, the figs fall off the tree and wither beneath you. Or, OR, you choose one. Mostly this concept felt entirely true and entirely dreadful. 30 years old and unable to choose! Or, maybe worse, 30 years old and choosing but not able to be happy with it. But there's another way to look at it, one that has brought such comfort and joy: at any given point, we move toward the fig that's the ripest. That's all anyone does, really. When enough of whatever needs to align finally aligns, we move toward the fruit that's the closest and the ripest and we eat it for all it's worth. And then, we move on to the next fig, something entirely different but suddenly ripe and appearing.

Tech Recruiting is the fig that's the ripest for me right now, because it's where I am. It's not to say that graduate school or writing or therapy or law isn't going to be a fig someday, but that's also not the point. This is the fruit that I have, and I'm going to eat it for its deliciousness, give it all I have and dance in the midst of it. It's mine to enjoy right now, and that is good news.

And now, miraculously, weirdly, glroiously, it's opened me up to something else and something that I didn't see coming: a way to use these skills to help people who could benefit. Since embracing where I am, I get to expand and create and lean into something related but new, a unique but closer fig, if you will. I'm spending a lot of energy thinking about and working on onramping opportunities for lower-income adults in the Bay Area who want to move into careers that can sustain them economically and financially in their homes and in their communities. It's a blooming thing growing near the fruit that I've already picked and am enjoying, like a bud that I can't quite touch, but somehow that doesn't take away from its hope.

And so

Here we are! So many months later. This is a blog post that I've stopped and started more times than I care to admit, because it's awfully hard to start something out of nothing, whether it be a blank page or a new venture or a brand new skill; going from 0 to 1 is a wholly different thing than going from 1 to 100.

What I'm trying to say is that I haven't been here in a long time. This isn't because of any particular reason or event, but rather because life goes in seasons, and some are made for the taking and enjoying, while others are more reflective and still. The past several months, the whole of 2016 really, has been like a growth spurt: lunging and awkward like my 13-year-old self, fast and foundational. The living has been so, so good and true. I have truly loved it.

And I have missed this space. I have to keep reminding myself that we are seasonal creatures at our core; we were made to adapt to each changing interval, acclimating to both the feast or fallow that came with it. I'm not the best at this, with my longing for freckled sunny skin and my purchasing of frozen berries all day errday, but few of us are. It's funny sometimes to consider how our bodies were made for a time and place so foreign to the one that we're living now— hunting and gathering, harvesting with the summer, taking shelter with the winter.

It's okay to take breaks. It's okay to let things go when it feels good to do so. It's not failure, it's congruency. I'm trying to lean into more of what feels kind, and so here we are. See you soon.

November 8

When I was in college, I fell in pretty hard to the church scene. I would go to these gatherings at 9 pm every Tuesday (a time slot that my current 9:30 pm bedtime cannot even fathom), and see loads of friends and sing our little baby hearts out to worship songs and listen to a sermon and generally feel connected and valued. It was a great place, a great community, and a story for another time. But when I would spend time alone, not raging until 11 pm on a Tuesday, I would take some "quality time with God", which ended up being me writing down prayers in a leather bound journal that I bought at the Barnes and Noble in U-Village. As with all of my journals, I still have it, and the other day I cracked it open, half wincing for my 20 year-old self and her woes, half so curious to remember all that was so true then, that thankfully passes with time eventually. True to memory, most of my writings were prayers, mostly for friendships and crushes. I wrote about the same boy for about 2 years, many friendships, papers that were due, internships and career dreams realized and lost, general next steps. I haven't been as diligent about writing or praying since, and even though so much of me feels different now, I love that I have these records of what I believed and what I wanted, because you can tell an awful lot about someone from what they believe and what they want.

Back then, I had this notion of God and of prayer that I will lovingly call transactional, not un-ATM-esque. At the heart of my worship fervency laid a fundamental view that my prayers (ie, longings, desires, general anything's) would be answered and fulfilled if I was emphatic or disciplined enough. This would be a highly convenient system if it was true, mostly because of its ease, but also because that is how a lot of us have set up our lives; we are always seconds away from getting anything we could ever want or need, and if you have the capital and are able-bodied, there are very few obstacles.

The last (few months, but especially) week or so has been a trying one for my family. This is not the place to go into details, but it's not an unfamiliar story for any of us. Bodies break down in this imperfect and frustrating way and people you love aren't invincible, and even though we know that, and it's how life is, so on and so forth, it's not so casual or distant when it happens-- it can't be; it shouldn't be.

Way back in the journal days, when there was something that I wanted badly enough I would decide that that prayer deemed a different sort of reverence, so instead of writing it down or just saying it out loud, I would get on my knees, because at some point someone said that that was the way to do it, and I would beg. It was raw and connected, a far cry from the way I would conduct myself in front of people, and long before I had any beliefs one way or another about how our bodies are connected to every other part of us, it felt special and real.

I've never been great at figuring out what I want, if we're being honest. My best friend and I growing up would have sleepovers on Friday nights and ask each other "what do you want to do?", and she'd say that she didn't care, and I said that I didn't care, and we'd go back and forth like that until some blessed opinion would surface, probably from one of our siblings roaming the house while we sat in our 9-year-old complacency. Maybe it's that I've always been more externally focused than the average bird, taking my cues wherever I could find them, or maybe girls and women aren't typically encouraged to be opinionated; we're taught that flexibility and accommodation is the mark of feminity, and so we float.

There's another view, I think a truer view, which leaves us where we are. It's where I currently am when I think or talk about my family, or career and the questions therein or anything else that feels unfinished, maybe even fragile. It's not active movement from point a to point b, it's been difficult to articulate or share, but I wonder if most of life and of prayer is learning to deal with the tension of where we want to be and where we are, what we want and what is not yet, and that the most we can so often hope for is to not have to deal with it alone.

October 19.

Austin and I were traveling last month in Colombia, mainly on the Western side. It was dreamy from start to finish (with pictures to come soon!). The way that it began was a weekend email from my most adventurous friend saying that flights to Cartagena were super reasonable and did we know that her aunt actually had a place there that we could stay for free? The timing was difficult; my brother was getting married the weekend before, and we would have good friends visiting SF as well, but I love traveling with Camille and we had been wanting to explore some part of South America, and when you really want something, you make it work. So a few months later, there we were.

When we all met up on our second day (she had been there a week before us) Camille was talking about her trip and how wonderful it had been and then she talked about how she also just didn't feel like this was her place, how she wasn't really connecting to it. Camille had lived in Thailand and Burma for 5 years, making Asia her home. She effortlessly wore skinny jeans when it felt like a hair dryer blowing on high outside, and she adopted every puppy she could find. But when she talked about this not being her place, and something else being her place, it reinforced what's been happening inside of me for a while now: how I miss the places that I've been and lived, how I long for them even while I so enjoy where I am now; how I feel their absence.

It's interesting to think about how a place's meaning changes over time, like how I was so set on leaving the Bay Area when I was 18 for the more theater-centric East Coast in hopes of fulfilled improv dreams, but landed in rainy, perfect Seattle instead. Or how I was ready to leave the PNW 4 years later, after college, after life-changing friendships and heartbreaks and mind blowings. How New Mexico was this desolate, raw, unforgiving painting when I first arrived-- how I was both scared of the loneliness and comforted that it mirrored what I felt inside. How the first salad I had in Gallup literally had green jell-o inside of it. How dating someone who loved it there helped me to learn to love it, all of it, the sticky kids and wild sunsets and long drives and walks and runs that fed me, as I learned again how to feed myself. How I longed for community-filled Seattle even when held by such beauty. How I missed NM when I moved back to the friend-filled, familiar PNW. How I missed my family and California rays and my aunts and my grandmas and 280 and its its and the Giants. How I'm here in SF, truly here, in an amazing apartment with my husband, our soul-dog, with jobs no less, and my heart sometimes aches for Seattle and for New Mexico. San Francisco was the old thing that I wanted to leave when I was 18, and it became the new thing that I wanted to come back to 10 years later. Seattle was the old college town that I wanted to leave at 22, and it was the known refuge I sought when I was 25. New Mexico hadn't hardly ever crossed my mind until I was assigned to go teach there 6 years ago, and now it appears woven into my daydreams and every Chris Pureka song.

I read that last paragraph and think immediately about how discontent I seem. "Just be happy, Lindsey!" my worst critics shout. But I don't think I'm alone in this missing, especially if you're someone who has had whole lives, whole livelihoods with friends and partners and memories in other places. I don't think the right question is, why aren't you happy now? I'm actually really happy right now, but in a different way than I was 10 years ago, 6 years ago, 1 year ago. What I'm actually doing is mapping a whole decade of my life geographically, but we all have our different data points that help us hold on to how life has moved on: mapping with relationships or heartbreaks or or careers or adventures.

It's no surprise that we don't typically grieve well (in our society, in my family unit, in general). Most of us are removed from the bloody births and deaths of life, and we don't know quite what to do with sadness. But I'm drawn to people who do, who don't scoff at the word 'grief', who let themselves be curious about it. We hardly ever let grief do its job, though, including me, and maybe we also forget that it's important to let ourselves be sad about the good things that happen too: the changes, the way life moves on.

Change is defined as "making and becoming different", that things are no longer what they once were. The changes can be primarily good moves, things that you had been hoping for or wanting, or they're the byproduct of tragedy, of never choosing that particular outcome. But either way, I think they're important to pay attention to, important to let yourself take in.

It's like how I really love being married to and living life with Austin. He's the most kind, hilarious, brave person I know. And, AND, I miss living in a house full of people coming in and out, like I did in Seattle. I miss living in that sort of dynamic community, and even though I wouldn't want that living situation to be my forever, even though when I met Austin I knew I would marry him, even if living with him was what I had wanted, a part of me needs to grieve what was, that things aren't like that anymore, because if I don't, I won't be entirely free to enjoy what is.

New parents tell me that it's similar when it comes to their kids' milestones. They cry when their child takes their first steps or has their first day of Kindergarten or weanes from nursing. We don't put these things into the category of anything to be sad about-- they represent appropriate development and growth, after all-- but we all know that feeling, and how it's not that simple. There's a "both/and" quality about the moving on; it is good and what we wanted, and it means that things won't ever be exactly that way, ever again.

This is life, this is the good grief, this is the thing of it. I've been letting myself miss my people in Seattle and NM more lately, which has helped, thinking about them when I want and need to, crying when it feels good, making more phone calls, reading old journal entries, looking at photographs.

Part of it is that SF is still new and feeling known is a long, arduous process that often takes a backseat to Netflix. The amount of times I've thought to myself or said out loud "how in the world do you make friends in a new place as an adult?" is real; the struggle is real. But then I am reminded of the age-old truth that belief or feeling does not always precede action, that often we have to do take the next right step anyway, without feeling like it, and the rest will come. So we go out when we feel like staying in, or I try that new group or book club without being sure, and what do you know, grace upon grace, one Saturday night in October you find yourself taking the bus to meet Austin and two new friends at their place wanting to get there to debrief your day, looking forward to feeling understood. And as all Saturday nights should go, we found our way up to their rooftop to take in our city, all of it, the familiar home and new adventure, all that is still waiting for us and all that holds us up.

It reminded me that just like how we are all of the ages we've ever been, we are the product of our experiences and places; we take them with us. And on this morning with my pup and husband sleeping in this gentle foggy light and an acoustic song about long desert roads in the background, I am much more homefull than I am homeless, and so grateful.


(written about 5 weeks ago)

You guys. So much to say! And the paralysis of getting this post right is, well, paralyzing. But, suffice it to say that what has happened in the last few weeks is what always promises to happen when your eyes and ears are open to the universe answering an open-ended question: perspective shifts and sharpens, and we realize that knowing the answer is more of a remembering than it is a finding. I should have known.

The day after I published last, I got a call from an organization that I admire inquiring about whether or not I'd be interested in becoming a fellow of theirs, with the end goal of opening a charter school. In the span of that decision process, I was asked by that organization's CEO why it is that I "can't figure out what I want to do with my life." In a separate instance, I sat around a table of fellow ex-TFA'ers (current teachers and scholars, mostly) and ruminated on how confusing it was that vocation and contentment continue to be so confusing. Along other lines of life and happenings: I have missed Seattle wholeheartedly this summer. I rediscovered my music library from high school and the results are gloriously damning. I started taking guitar lessons.

But alas, I did not get said fellowship (a truly poor fit from the start), and the few short days of amusing the possibility brought up some curious feelings. I began to foreshadow how I would miss the life that I'm currently living: bringing Rufo (dog) into work everyday, feeling valued by the company, being able to live in our cozy studio in the Western Addition. Everything is a trade-off, isn't it? I also immediately threw myself down a path of 'what would this person, and this person, and this person think?' People who work in education would be concerned (school leadership without the proper training is a disaster, and often a very costly one), my parents would be impressed, my coworkers would be surprised, my friends would be all across the board. It would awe certain people and not others. Win me points here, but not there. But that's what happens when you're as externally focused as my little baby heart tends to be-- it's a game that you can't win. The cards are marked, the game is rigged, and it's best not to start in the first place.

But, of course, easier said than done. Those older and wiser tell me that not caring what people think comes with age. I really hope so. What a gift to have some irreverance come earlier, and what a long and active road it is to get to that place; the term 'gift' feels like such a passive understatement.

Like many, I've always put a lot of stock in what my parents think (or what I think they think). I hold onto a fistful of off-hand comments or conversations from long ago or from the other day, and feel deeply sensitive to their views and wishes, which, of course, are rooted in so much that I cannot control. As Anne Lamott said at her UC Berkeley commencement speech, "[your parents want] you to do well in your field, make them look good, and maybe also make a tiny fortune. But that is not your problem. Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are."

And then she goes on to suggest that if your parents are hell bent on you excelling in the field of, say, microbiology, that they are free to enroll in their own program and forge their own way. My choices have to be my own. And even in two years of therapy, I probably barely scratched the surface of this dynamic; and though I don't know much, I do know that my desire to please and impress my family is stunting.

I was having breakfast with a good friend a few weeks ago, and we were talking about she has a flower bed on her rooftop that she's tended to pretty vigilantly, but for some reason the flowers that she's planted there die pretty quickly. They get plenty of sun, and it's a secluded spot, so there's no real reason why they wouldn't thrive, but they don't, and still she waters. She was telling me that it reminds her of pregnancy, actually: the woman has to incubate an environment that's friendly toward new life, so she eats well and exercises and doesn't drink. But she can't control whether or not something grows, and she can't control how it does. The actual development of the baby is a hands-up-white-flag-surrender situation, even as she makes sure that she's doing her part. It's both incredibly active and very passive, which (not speaking from experience) seems like an exercise in trust and major anxiety regulation. The metaphor alone slays me: that we can only create an environment where something can grow, but whether or not it does is not something we can manage. This was true with dating, it's true with friendships, clearly it's true with child-rearing, but it's also true with career.

Nurturing a place where something has the best chance of growing means letting go of the grabbing for approval and validation from those who (in this instance) don't serve me, even and especially family, even and especially old acquaintances, even and especially anybody that I please. We live in an age where, if I wanted to publicize and ask for affirmation about every aspect of my life-- my job, my commute, my marriage, my writing, my free time, my friendships, my adventures, my outfit, my dog, my face-cleansing routine-- I could, all day everyday. But on that micro-level of social media, it makes me nauseous to even think about playing that game (says the blogger). I never leave a rabbit hole down instagram or Facebook feeling more inspired or enthused, instead I emerge wondering how this person's arms are so toned, or how this person got a particular job, or why that couple looks more in love than I feel sometimes. It's silly and, for me, a gigantic waste of precious time.

But I need to apply that aversion to the harder, bigger, monolithic work of becoming apart from my parents' views in the ways that will allow things to grow. In the ways that for some people, happen when they turn 18, or 25, or when they're sent out on their own, or when they get married, or when they get divorced. And for others, holding onto this misplaced anxiety leaks out throughout their lifetimes and masks itself as ambition or laziness or restlessness or long hours. Clearly, I cannot deny anymore that my struggle with career is tied and knotted up with my fear of letting my parents down. In the words of the great Josh Ritter, every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied. The process of unwrapping and untangling doesn't happen overnight--how can it when the coils and snarls took 29 years to form?--but rather with presence and conversations and fights and truth-telling.

Write that.

There are parts of all of us that aren't really hidden from others as much as they just don't come up in normal conversation. They're opinions or anxieties or just realities that root deep down, and if we're lucky we can share them with a close friend or partner and that turns out to be enough. But sometimes my deep down matches your deep down, and we would never know otherwise.

Like, say for instance, maybe to use one tiny, miniscule, completely unrelated example: ever since I stopped teaching 4 years ago, I have been having a mid (quarter?)-life crisis regarding work and career. Each new venture, in whatever industry or role-- prestigious or not, education-related or not, well-paying or not-- has resulted in me feeling like an utter failure, like a fraud, like I'm both wasting my time on things that don't matter while at the same time not being very good at the work in front of me in the first place. I'm instantly defensive when people ask what "I do", especially people who I knew from college or from Teach For America. I have literally lied about it before and made my tech recruiting sound philanthropic and leadership-oriented, knowing that my fabrications would never be uncovered, young con artist that I am.

I grew up in a family where success was valued, where my parents worked hard to send my brothers and I to good schools so we could get into good colleges, so that we could find something we cared about and get really good at it. I was competitive with myself from an early age. My grandpa would come over for dinners and quiz me on my multiplication tables circa third grade, and I would study my flash cards like crazy to impress him. And while the academic part of school came easily enough in the earlier days, I'm not sure if I necessarily ever felt particularly smart as much as I just felt driven. I mean, for goodness sakes, my plan until high school was to go to Stanford and play for their women's basketball team. LOLZ.

If I think of life in terms of when my dreams were the biggest and most brave, it's not the magnitude that has necessarily taken a toll, but rather my own belief in myself and the legitimacy those dreams held. At some point around the TFA days, or the long unemployment shortly thereafter, a voice and a narrative began to emerge that screamed "Failure!" any chance it got, and I suppose the work that lies ahead is one of figuring out what that is.

It's always nice to write from a place of knowing, isn't it? It can be an afterthought of that one really vulnerable thing, complete with some well-timed self-deprecation and perceptive wisdom, offered as a gift to both anyone who reads and who wants it, but also to my future, distant self, someday lost and wandering, brought back by dusted off retro wisdom. The image alone slays me. And while I need that sometimes, the afterthought and the well-packaged perspective, avoiding the messy doesn't help in my lowest-of-low moments, the kind that spiral and bring me and my general vicinity down.

And the first step to talking about it, I think, is to name the elephant in the room, the one that is scary in its enormity. There is nothing unprivileged about a struggle to sit in the uncertainty of career and jobs. This is the plight and the writings of an upper-middle class white woman who got to go to and graduate from college because there were never any questions that she wouldn't. This is privilege, first and foremost. And, this is my story. It's real and good because all of ours are both. But the reality that so many people live without the luxury of choice when it comes to how they will pay the bills is heavy and real, and if it's possible to hold both stories as legitimate, then I'd like to try.

I was talking the other day to Austin while we were sitting in the park, the sun beating down in the warm-breezy way that is San Francisco. I knew that we had the afternoon to ourselves, but having that free time meant that I would have to sit down to my computer to write something, or else my conscious (the part that says "you belong here. sit.") would haunt and poke. But writing hasn't felt good for a while now, and when we were sitting in the park, I was trying to articulate why. It feels hollow, I said, and I know that I should be publicizing more on social media (ugh), but I really don't think that any of it's very good anymore, and quite frankly I'm embarrassed to put it out there. I said that I didn't feel like I was living a life worth writing about, like I've just completely settled and there's not a lot happening. I'm not living a great story with my days anymore, I said, and I'm frustrated. I work, I work out, I read a bit, watch a show, go to sleep and do it all again the next day. All I want is for this feeling inside of me that feels like a failure with every job and every thought of any career, I need that surgically removed. I need a therapist surgeon and I need help.

And then he perked up from his happy place of sunshine and Rufo time and said 'write that.' Write about that feeling you want to be removed. Write about the struggle. Stop dancing around it. Start doing things that may not make everyone feel great. Write like you have stuff to say, because you do. And I said, okay I think I can do that. And he said, well then go do that.

So I guess this is that. Or this is the introduction into that. I want this feeling inside of me, that shows up often and without invitation, that feels so judgy and discontent and mean, to leave and shut up. But it won't unless I decide to climb that mountain. So instead of making grand and panicked plans to compensate-- to go to law school or open a charter school or work for the White House, or cry uncontrollably in my bright pink robe because I'm turning 30 next year and none of those things feel particularly viable (I'll take the last option, thanks!)--I'm going to start writing and sharing and trying something I haven't done before.

Because you know what? Me too, me too, me too.

I'll take it.

I took myself on a writing retreat, to repent, in a way, for so many days not writing. I recently quit my job for another that will be less flexible, but more social, with more opportunities. It was probably as easy of a transition as I could have ever expected, which I will put away in the bank of emotional stamina and come back to when that is not the case.

In any case, here I am in the high mountains of Aptos, CA, perched smack-dab in an apple orchard, doing the hardest part of a writing retreat: writing. Austin keeps telling me to "relax, do whatever feels best", and I'm with him on that, I really am. But I don't necessarily think goals have to be the opposite of relaxing, especially when I know that this act of sitting my butt in a chair and letting it happen, is one of the most life-giving works I could ever do, that it heals and stretches and opens. And, not to mention, I'm here alone. So it helps that I have a purpose, that I'm not going to spend the entire time doubting if I'm doing anything worth while, if I'm wasting it.

If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? If a single woman spends a vacation completely alone, is it fun?

We could use more wasting time, in my opinion. We could use more spacing out and doing nothing for a while. Which I think is why I love driving so much. My friend Mark thinks that I can't part from my car, even though it woud make sense to, living in the city and all, because of New Mexico. We talk about living in New Mexico as an event. "Because of Apollo 11." "Because of New Mexico."

I loved driving before that point though. When I first got my license, I would drive circles around the streets close to our house, next to two (separate) boys who I had always had life-long crushes on (simultaneously, of course-- gotta diversify that portfolio), who lived up a few big hills from my home. I'd sneak side-glances to see if they were there, which they weren't, and then keep driving. I was most likely listening to Five for Fighting or Dave Matthews. Most definitely was. In college, I found my looping routes as well. They were the loops I would take when I was driving home but not quite ready to be home. I'd drive around Greenlake in Seattle a few times, most likely listening to Taylor Swift- not much has changed- or Hillsong United (I'm never publishing this), singing along, resting in the in-between place. I adore the in-between place. At my core, I don't think the best part of the journey is the destination. I fucking love the journey. Or at least, I fucking love car journeys.

In this case, though, the desination is pretty sweet. I mean that in both the hip 'sweet' way, as well as just the big sigh of relief of "ah, I'm here" sort of way. Bless you, Airbnb, bless you so hard. No hotel could or would ever compare to having a tiny cottage all to one's self tucked into the Santa Cruz mountains, it just couldn't. Maybe this is why family camps were born. Remember family camps? Where, for one week per summer, your whole family would pile into a 'rustic' cabin, which I'm realizing now must have been dreadful for my mom, and just do fun, individualized things the whole time? Camp in general was my bread and butter growing up, I realized the other day when Austin and I were driving through some of my old camp stomping grounds. I had as awkward of a teenage stage as anyone, but I shined at camp, as least in relation to my other life of losing every student council position that I ran for.

I haven't been back to any of the places I used to frequent over the summer, the camps specifically, I mean. I don't really have a reason to, nor do I have a desire at this point in my life, but lo and behold, this weekend I am, hand to heart, a mere few miles away from one of the most prominent camps, Kennolyn. But it's not the knowledge that it's close that feels comforting or familiar, it's the fact that this skyline and these trees hold such sweet invitations to remember, which I suppose is just a roundabout way of saying memories. I'll take it.


Hellloo-ooooooooo!!!!!!! I've been thinking that this space would feel like a cold, damp, forgotten room where old camping gear sits and spreads, where you never want to show first time visiting guests when giving the grand tour. But of course, so much of how we feel in any given place is so often what we bring into it. Which is to say that perhaps I've been feeling parts of myself becoming cold and damp, a bit forgotten, and that returning here scratches an itch that's been burning for a little while now.

Since we've last spoken, so much has happened that I can hardly contain myself. Austin and I found a tiny, charming apartment in the hippest little neighborhood in San Francisco that I ever did see. And! He's working full time in a job that he's enjoying. And! The last time I traveled to Seattle for work, I didn't pine to live there again. I pined for my sweet friends who still call it home, but not for the place itself. And! (last one) I quit my job last week, and will be working with a company in these parts, with an office and people to see and be seen with everyday.

But, you know, more on that later. I was talking with a dear friend yesterday about this new move on my horizon, and how my quality of life is sure to improve from where it has been. An Italian anxiety-case at heart, I always jump to what could and will surely go wrong: I'll fail at this job, I'm making a horrible mistake, being on a more traditional schedule will take over my life, that I'll spend my entire existance commuting and being angry. But, I confessed, working from home five days a week has been more trying than I ever thought it could be. While I would never claim that I understand depression or how it works, I feel depressed during the business hours of Monday-Friday, so resigning and lonely. And then my friend said something that stuck. She said, "you are a soulful person, and there's nothing soulful about your days right now." She's right, of course she's right, but it got me thinking that there is a domino effect when it comes to our habits, or at least to my habits.

Fulfillment breeds more fulfillment, and gratitude breeds more gratitude. Just like resignation breeds more of the same, and so does dullness. There are seasons and then there are choices to end those seasons, and I'm not sure I have much more to say except that I feel back and that is no small thing.


i walked though long island city, woodside, elmhurst, and jackson heights. i shook my tambourine the whole time, because it helped me to remember that even though I was going through different neighborhoods, i was still me. [oskar schell]

we shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started. but I suppose it's often that way. the brave things in old tales and songs, mr. frodo: adventures as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. but that's not the way of it the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually... their paths were laid that way, as you put it. [tolkien, courtesy of samwise]

letting it all out.

My family has a dog named Ace, a shitzu-poodle who I often describe as ‘a stuffed animal with a heartbeat.’ Ace is friendly and docile, looks more similar than not to an ewok, and has short stubby legs to hold up his barrel body. He has the physical stamina of a potato and the obedience of a very confused toddler. He is both our family darling and butt of most jokes; he is ridiculous. And he is ours.

Austin’s dad owns a Kansas-City based dog training resort where he specializes in all things dog. Chris, at any given point, has three or more dogs accompanying him from place to place, doing tricks and being off-leash and reminding most onlookers of a father walking with three furry kids; perfectly dutiful to his every move. He is consistently pulling out treats from a mysterious pocket, egging his many poodles to ‘dance’ or ‘jump’ or be general circus animals; it’s cute, it’s intimidating, and it’s the single best advertisement for his business.

Chris was visiting us this week with his pride and joy, a miniature poodle named Charlie, and I had my hesitations. Namely, I did not know how it would go to have Ace and Charlie in the same room. Due to his affinity for sleeping pretty much always, Ace doesn’t get out with other canines¬, though I can only imagine that carries his signature lethargy into all situations. But moreover, to be honest, it’s always a little embarrassing having Ace being around people who know what they’re doing with dogs. It just is.

And so when Ace, in the first few minutes of loving on Charlie as only Ace can: with lots of licks and taps and heavy-laden chases, pooped a fast one in the middle of the living room mid-run, not realizing what was happening, all semblance of coolness went out of the window and that was that. ‘I get it,’ I thought, as Austin, Chris, and I watched it happen. ‘The relief of letting it all out is always better than trying to keep it in for everybody else’s sake.’ You can only do what you can do.

But alas, who hasn’t been a nervous pooper? Not me, not ever. And certainly not Ace.


It’s therapy 101 to let your problems just be your problems, to not apologize or justify that it could be worse. Everyone’s battle gets to matter, even in the midst of such national sadness, even in a drought, even when it’s 65 degrees outside in the middle of December. And yet the voice that’s as old as a scar still shouts that I have no right not to be grateful, that complaining drains the room and the page. Sometimes I nod in feeble agreement—oh right, right, sorry about that— and sometimes I picture myself hitting that voice with a baseball bat until it splatters against the wall and breaks the bat in two. So there’s that.

I haven’t been writing. I sit down to write and try to start from where I am but the voice that emerges is either 14 years old and annoying as all hell or empty like a shallow well. I am scared of posting something badly written, and so I censor the words because the voice that’s trying to get out is just sad, and I’m just not sure I can do much with sad. I like to write from the place of redemption and hilltops; I like to be relatable insofar that I can still offer sage wisdom at the end. But I feel watery and raw and homesick, and though I know that joy comes in the morning, the night is the night is the night.

I understood that moving was eventually going to become sadder and somewhat more demoralizing than just being difficult. I knew that at some point unemployment or loneliness or familial disappointments or root canals would become the points of punctuation in this winter of our best efforts. What I didn’t expect was such a drought of strength, such a desire to withdraw from my family and this place. I’ve never believed that we have a set limit on how much we can handle, but lately I’ve felt like my ability to give has been slowly chipped away and depleted by worrying about Austin, by trying to manically please my parents and get out of their way, by reaching for optimism in the midst of rising prices and thwarted tries, by watching too many home videos of a lonely little girl, by missing Seattle friends but desperately wanting to love this place.

It’s times like these when I’m so grateful for my therapist’s voice in my head, for the fierce permission and solidarity she always offered. I’ll imagine taking these thoughts into her office like I always used to, and then try to imagine how the conversation would go—how she would listen, what she would be feeling while sitting with me, what she would challenge to go deeper with, what she would give, what I would let myself receive.

It’s okay, more than okay, to be sad, she would say. I am not responsible for anyone’s reactions to me or my emotions; I am free to express what affects me, regardless of how it makes anybody else feel. It’s still okay to be sad. Treat the tears as I would a rainy day: a warrant to curl up and hold hot tea in my hands, watching the steam rise and stick to the inside of the window as rain bathes us all.

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.

Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
— Rilke

not the only reason.

I’m not the best with social media—never have been, probably never will be. I use it to read interesting articles or to gleam a poignant quote here or there, or sometimes I become uncharacteristically sports conscious and will root for a winning team, but that’s about it. I don’t think many would know about my life just by tracking my comings and goings on Facebook or Instagram, but it makes explaining why I'm here and Austin's there long-winded. I find myself clarifying over and over the same scenario, and contrary to how often I talk to myself and apparently love the sound of my own voice, even I get tired of it. So here we are!

Austin and I parted ways in Spain for me to come back for the promise of an exciting job merging education and tech recruiting, and for him to have time to himself to become truly fluent in Spanish without my beginning proficiency dragging him down. By the time he returns, we will have been apart for five weeks. At first, this felt jarring and deeply sad; we had been together almost non-stop for months and had gotten into a comfortable rhythm in between the many breakdowns of expectations and disappointments. But ultimately we knew that I really wanted to pursue my dream of being a mover and a shaker in my job, and being completely immersed in all things Spain had been a dream of Austin’s for a long time. And so, tears were shed and plenty of chocolate was consumed, and we said adios.

From day one of pre-marital therapy, I’ve been hearing and reading about the concept of relational differentiation: how the most healthy relationships are not built on two people becoming one, but rather two people developing and celebrating their own identities and being the guardians and biggest fans of the other. When done well, the result is the most pure form of agape love: we can love each other for who the other really is, instead of who we desire them to be. The idea is that we don’t need each other in order to be okay. Austin doesn’t have to be a container for all of my emotions, like children need to do with their parents; I can regulate my own okay-ness and still be present with him, and he can do the same. And when we made the choice to part for a bit, to not end the trip together, I felt like I could pretty much write a book on how differentiated we were. Two years in and we had done it! What else can we master because enlightenment is ours!

And of course, this is always the first sign that I’m going to get my ass handed to me.

Doing (a very short stint with) long distance has been the opposite of being in a groove— if traveling together had been a gentle wave coasting against the shore (we were each others’ social lives, after all), long distance has been an irregular tide infested with jelly fish with a surprise drop on the ocean floor. Not only are we our own certain brands of lonely, but it points to how much of our relationship has been built of enmeshment— of me needing Austin and him needing me. The rhythm we moved into while abroad was more mature than we’ve been in the past, but we were each others’ only people, and somewhere along the way, it became too foreign to be without him, which is why the decision to be apart felt so overwhelming.

Since coming home, however, the distance I most feared would happen has manifested and taken full force— I’m starting a new job in the ‘burbs of San Francisco and living with my family, and Austin is wandering the streets of Madrid meandering through free museum entrances and drinking 2€ cervezas. He doesn’t understand why I feel the need to have a cell phone and I don’t understand why he doesn’t think stylish connectivity is important. It’s hard and scary for us to be on such different pages, for my loyalties to be with him and also with my very generous parents who I’m living with and also with a new job and also with my friends and also myself and my solitude. And of course, it’s really hard for him to be living and traveling alone, a monumental feat for my people-loving husband, and be dealing with gut-wrenching loneliness and, at times, disenchantment. For me to not be able to be what he needs and for him to not be able to be what I need. We fail each other daily and haven’t quite found how to repair over the phone; and so we live in the relief that this isn’t a forever reality, that it’s just for now, and we let it be weird and more distant than we’d like, we let the pages be separate.

And all the while we know that the rift is both good and bad, that it means we each are pursuing what matters to us as individuals, that my desires and needs matter just as much as Austin’s, that we each are fighting for our own and for the other, that we’re letting each other be the other instead of just an extension of ourselves. The space between where we think we should be versus where we are is hardly ever easy to pilot, but smart people who have lived more life than us tell us that despite our feelings, all is going according to how it’s supposed to and that this is normal. That maybe this disappointment of not being able to be what the other needs is really the first step—that accepting the reality that I will often come up short, that I can’t always be what he needs and he can’t be that to me, means that we’ll eventually be that much more free, that much more separate but together.

Sometimes when I’m talking about this with people, the comment “Well I’m sure this will bring you closer than you ever thought possible eventually” weaves its way in, and I have felt angry and also worried — I certainly don’t feel closer right now, would you?!—that I’m missing the marriage mark. And then I was relaying this reaction I had to a friend the other night, and she snapped right back with “that is not the reason we do everything [in order to be closer with our partners]” And I thought, YES. Preach it, teach it. It’s not the only reason to do something. I am so proud of both of us for choosing our own longings and setting a new precedent for how we can relate, for not wanting to be enmeshed but so often fading into it anyway, for focusing on our personhoods and therefore, how we can love those persons better. It is good and disheartening and beautiful and brutal, and if that’s not a litmus test for things worth fighting for, I don’t know what is.


Wowowow. What a lapse! I’m attributing it to the cesspool of interviewing and being in my childhood hometown, catching up on things like DIY car washing and watching the Giants champion. I’ve been wanting to come back to this space, but not sure what that would look like while getting used to all that is new around these parts. Turns out that it looks like a lot of procrastination¬; I’ll have ‘write things’ on every to-do list everyday, and yet even dealing with the IRS looks more attractive than having to face a blank screen. Alas.

I just finished Meg Wolitzer’s ‘The Interestings’ and can’t seem to shake it. It’s sharp, aptly paced, and full of insight that feels like home; and when an emo song comes on my playlist, I think of its characters and miss them. Maybe because I was a theatre kid not too long ago and have since left it altogether? Maybe because the ending of the novel mirrors how the world is feeling lately: finite, aging, maybe a bit lonely?

And so, I’ve been thinking more about death lately, which is always fun (not to mention, I’m in good company with all our favorite writer and feminist, Lena Dunham. Her new book is all swoon). As a lifelong and recovering hypochondriac, it’s not a foreign trail of thought to go down, but I would never say it’s a welcome one. After (surviving) many an airplane, train, and boat ride abroad, I was momentarily feeling great about mortality and the like– more at peace with its closeness, and perhaps even braver than before. But I’ve been spending so much time with my immediate and extended family, which has been fun and comforting, and also punctuated by illness and endings every so often by people we love, by those we will miss. Not to mention all that is happening in the world: ISIS and Ebola and sickness everywhere. And moreover, I’m living where I grew up, which means that it’s undeniable how much time has passed since this memory or that one.

When fear starts to take hold, I try to practice the art of treating my irrational fear as a part of me, a person I can invite to the table and ask why it’s there, what its purpose is. Fear of all things death, why are you here now of all times? What is it about being home that provokes you? How can I calm you down?

In other news, Austin is still in Spain (to return at the end of this month!), I am thankful beyond thankful to have a job lined up that I’m excited about, and photos from Spain are now on this blog! Right here! Just click on the ‘travel photography’ section and take a gander. More from Asia and the rest of Europe will be up soon, but for now it’s a good start and in line with my newly adopted mantra of taking things gently– accepting that life in the Bay will take hold with time and not in a few weeks, accepting that questions about career and calling have to be lived to their answers and not the other way around, and that maybe taking the next right step is plenty enough.

coming home.

One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee replied simply, “The one you feed.”

My writing hasn't focused on specific memories, if you will, about this trip. It's focused on things I want to write about, which don't so much have a time and place attached but rather a feeling or a paragraph. I felt bad about this for a few seconds the other day and then remembered that: a) travel and life have to be lived forward but often reflected and experienced backwards; and b) this space is mine, and if all I feel like doing is copying and pasting lyrics from Phil Collins' greatest hits, then that's spectacular. Even so, I look forward to telling those stories in time. They often involve monkeys and translations lost and Austin talking in a southern accent and they make me very, very happy.

I have one more week left of this journey before heading back to another: a new city with a new job and new people and a new way of relating to my family. I've decided to come back early for a job opportunity, and Austin will stay in Spain fulfilling our commitment to the farm and fulfilling his dream of becoming fluent in Spanish. It was a trying and highly emotional decision to make those flight arrangements last night; extra water was needed for tear dehydration and everyone was called for advice, for groundedness. This time has been such a gift in the challenge and the relief of it, and though I never want to assume that I ever deserve a day more, to choose prematurely to come back for job reasons was hard- like maybe I was giving up, unable to attain this goal of a finished and whole trip, like I was letting my anxiety about the future get in the way of myself and the progress I had made. And so in the deciding of whether or not I was prepared to transition, a dear friend was asking me to consider the utter tranquility and balance this past month on the farm in Spain has offered me. "This is the time", she reminded me. "Are you really ready to give that up?"

And the truth is that I'm about as ready to give it up as much as I'm willing to become a cat breeder. Which is, you know, not so much. But I've been thinking a lot about the two wolves, and how true it is that the messages, activities, words we take in manifest in how we think about ourselves, and therefore, how we are to everyone and everything around us. And moreover, how much of a teacher it's been to have the most expansive break in the hustle, the to-do lists, the responsibility, to cultivate and foster the good wolf and to see more clearly than ever where I feed the bad.

I'm not sure there's a greater lesson than that– how my defaults and habits so often translate into negative self messages, how my most true and free self feels the most permission to emerge. Social media comes to mind as the main culprit; a 2 minute escapade down the instagram cesspool catapults me into a despair of comparison and doubt without fail, wherever I am. How a golden light walk outside is the perfect antidote. How reading can sometimes inspire and sometimes bring me down, and how writing even just half a page lets my stories breathe and find ownership.

We can feed the wolves wherever we are, with whatever we have. We can practice the next right thing first before we need to believe it, which I believe is the ultimate secret: that belief follows action.

John Steinbeck, in Travels With Charlie, talks about how some people leave their voyages before they even get home- checking out in their minds and actions, there but not really there. And then there are some who take it with them; maybe a part of themselves is still in Spain or Bali, for example. They're at home, being a friend and contributor, taking walks and having a commute, but you can still see siestas in their eyes or the sound of the sea in their sway.

And so I suppose, it is with me. Or at least, that is my hope, which is good and true in and of itself. I do not believe there is a 'real life' there and straight vacation here; I believe it can all be real and it can all be moments of quiet if I can fight for and hold onto the things I've learned to feed the good. And, if I can reflect honestly on why I felt so strapped before, what took up my time that didn't serve me, what brought me down.

Reading over my journals in the past months, I keep using the term 'holy ground', which I love. I first held onto that term while in Cappadocia, about early Christians and the mystics that emerged and all the people who found refuge, safety, and time in those caves. God anointed this place, I thought, and it still feels holy. And it turns out that so does Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Bali, and Western Europe. So does Seattle and so does Burlingame. So does my most free heart, and so do my biggest failures. And when faced with that reality, the most simple prayer and love song seem appropriate: thank you, thank you, thank you.

just not.

Simple simple today. All's well here. Basically this farm is the most beautiful place in the world and there are more dead (and alive) flies in our bedroom than I care to go into. WWOOFing is the stuff– putting down our backpacks in our semi-permanent residence after carrying those weights for months was the proverbial taking the bra off at the end of the day. I know not of anything better.

Because it's September and because I'm an angsty Anne, I've begun applying for jobs for when we return to the Bay, and it's been...tough? tedious? mostly the worst? The question of careers has felt like a persistent rain cloud, following me any and everywhere for the past year or so, and this trip has been such a welcome relief from the anxiety that the question always provokes. I've been happily not thinking about what the next step entails since May, and this week of refining my resume and searching for open roles and emailing my network felt like I was trudging through a thick sludge of procrastination and apathy. This can be contributed to many factors, the most pressing of which being that thinking so much about different possibilities two or three months from now doesn't leave a lot of room for the substance of Spain. And I suppose I'm just not ready to let that substance be watered down yet.

There's a fiesta happening at the farm house today (which is to say that there are full on speakers set up for what I can only assume is inevitably turning into an open mic night?). Don't take my word for it, though; last week when I tried to order a coke from a bar, I accidentally ordered cocaine. So, you know.