my twenty-sixth year.

Celebrating my birthday three weeks and two days into a new year means that I spend most of January in a state of self-reflection.

This year of my twenties was very different than many that have come before or will come after for one simple reason: I stayed in one city, lived in one apartment, and spent most of my days being a graduate student. Compared to the change and movement of the last six years, it was kind of weird.

A brief rundown of my 20’s thus far: 20: spent a semester in Rome; 22: graduated from college, moved to Boston, started JVC; 23: finished JVC, moved home, moved to St. Louis, started a new job; 24: applied to grad school; 25: quit my job, moved to DC, started grad school; (and looking forward!) 27: graduating from grad school, then… job/moving/all the question marks?

“Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.” -Sister Corita Kent

Twenty-six was a brief moment of stability in the hectic time of my twenties when so much has changed so quickly. It was the only full year I will ever spend in graduate school. It was possibly (but hopefully not!) the only full year I will live in DC. This made it special, but I’m realizing now that everything that comes after makes it meaningful.

I went back and forth to Missouri and zigzagged across the country and up and down the East coast. I welcomed friends to DC.

I was invited to a record-setting seven weddings and was able to dance and celebrate with so many people and relationships worth celebrating. I caught up with old friends, had phone calls with best friends, and reunited with some of those that are most dear to me. I made new friends and invested into new relationships.

I took a class that changed my life. I finally came to terms with my innate need to create and make things. I wrote a lot (although obviously not here, which I’d like to change).

I went on a bad date with a stranger from the internet, then a lot of dates I didn’t realize were dates. The not real dates were much better, but when we finally realized they were real dates, those were the best of all.

I cried on an airplane and on the bus and walking down the street. I scanned my metro card, walked a lot of miles, and became even more of a pro at flying Southwest.

I started listening to podcasts. I went to some overpriced exercise classes before I remembered that I was a poor grad student. I continued to play 1989 on repeat.

I fell in love. And didn’t even realize it. It was (and is) terrifying and wonderful.

I read The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up and got rid of half my wardrobe. I looked forward to Hannah Brencher’s Monday Email Club every week and devoured books by Shauna Niequest. I finally became a person who underlines the important parts of books.

I said brave, hard things to people I love.

I saw the cherry blossoms bloom and went on picnics. I collapsed in my bed exhausted at 9pm. I spent (arguably) too many 12 hours days in the Car Barn.

I tried to like mushrooms. I ate a lot of pizza and a lot of kale. I ate ice cream until I remembered that I was lactose intolerant. I took pictures of a lot of food and put them on the internet.

I don’t even want to know how many to do list’s I wrote.

I followed politics more than ever before. It was a little terrifying.

I prayed: sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes with tears. I spent an hour almost every Sunday at mass at Holy Trinity. For the first time in my life, I officially joined a parish. It felt like adulthood.

I was reminded again and again that the mess and chaos and pain is where the good part of this life starts. I let people into my mess and my hurt and my junk–and they showed up for me in ways I am eternally grateful for.

I said yes. And then I practiced saying no.

And perhaps the most important part of my 26th year was this: I finally began to see the value of staying in one place. It took me long enough to get here, but I’m grateful for every meandering step along the way.

Bring it on, 27.


the river, the woods, and the meandering chase (also: say yes).

“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” –Rumi

In Chase, Chance, and Creativity, Austin discusses the idea of the meandering chase, which resonates for my own experiences. As a child, I saw the lives of adults as linear processes that went from event to another, always in a clear, well thought out succession. I have quickly learned, however, that adulthood is not quite so neat and tidy. In my life there have been a number of times when I could have continued on the path I was on, but I instead chose to change direction. In the four years since I have graduated from college, I have lived in 4 cites, had 5 bedrooms, lived with 13 different housemates, and held 4 different jobs. While this meandering route does not always make sense on the surface, I have come to see my path as a broad river, where I occasionally deviate to smaller branches and tributaries along the way, but it all remains part of the same stream.

I have been keeping journals regularly since 2003 when I was 14. Most of these journals now live a box underneath my childhood bed at my parent’s house, but when I was home over Christmas, I went through some of them. Some hadn’t been touched in years and were mildly embarrassing (8th grade and sophomore year of high school, I’m looking at you), while others were much more recent, like from when I participated a service program right after undergrad. As cringeworthy as it may be, I make a regular practice of rereading my own writing. Upon my most recent journey through the past, I came a particular comment someone had made that struck a nerve in me. I didn’t understand it in the moment, and six months later, I scribbled a note in a margin saying that I still didn’t understand; two years later, I still feel the same way.

While distance makes it easier to see where the meandering chase takes us, I wonder if it is possible to ever truly make it out of the woods and in the moment see where the path is leading. Is that a place we should even aspire to? I strongly believe that to create there are things in life we must do, whether or not we can explain our reasoning for these actions at the time. We must trust the process, the meandering journey through the woods, and where it will lead us.

Over these past few years in particular, if I have learned anything about how to cultivate this process and thus serendipity, it is this: just say Yes. Say Yes to travel, to impulsive plans and last minute bus tickets, to being open, and to talking to strangers. Say Yes to learning, to curiosity, to new books and ideas, and to not being afraid to fail and fall flat on your face. Say Yes to saying what you feel, to putting yourself out there, to taking a new road, but mostly, say Yes to people. The people that have changed my life the most have not always been who I have expected, and I am continually grateful for that and for the individuals that make up my own network on this meandering chase.

[This was written for a class I’m in this semester on Networks and the Creative Process.]

the end of the beginning.

My feet are cold now when I walk to campus. I bury myself in layers most days, with my new bright red scarf wrapped around my neck. My headphones are usually playing 1989 by Taylor Swift (or some other bad pop song), and I’m humming along as I meander through the streets of Georgetown on my way to work or class. Pumpkins and brightly colored leaves have been replaced by twinkling lights and Christmas trees in windows.

I’ve gotten to see DC in every season now–an introduction in spring, a beginning in summer, settling in during the fall, and now transitioning into the dark days of winter.

2014’s coming to an end all too soon, but as far as DC and my adventures here are concerned, I’m only just beginning.

It’s only been a few months, but this place feels like home.

The song ends, but I’m still singing along.

“The best people in life are free.”

baby steps.

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention.” —Mary Oliver

My feet have new calluses, and my body has bruises. Tender parts of me are becoming worn and battered before my very eyes.

I’m getting tougher, as I learn this city.

Somehow, I’m beginning to find my way around, as bewildering bus routes become familiar and strange names on a map become regular streets. Eventually, I’ll really know my way around, but for now I’ll celebrate these baby steps.

Being in DC and making all of this work feels like an accomplishment, like badges in adulthood. Bus route? Check. Assembling bedroom furniture solo? Check. Grocery shopping via public transportation? Check. My life here is coming together slowly, and I’m making my way towards the point when this won’t be strange anymore soon, very soon.

My first week of graduate school classes felt like being an undergrad again–except I was 7 years older and a completely different version of myself. I’m learning that what worked for me before might not work for me this time around, and I’m going to try not to mourn or force that (especially when that means learning to enjoy studying in the library, which I loathed during undergrad).

As always, it’s the people that seem to matter most. I’m still learning new faces. (And desperately trying to remember the names that go along with them.) While community doesn’t happen overnight, I’m grateful for the beginnings of friendship.

Mostly, I feel like I’m running around a little crazy. It’s like I’m moving at breakneck speed, and I don’t know when I’ll really slow down.

And now, suddenly, before I even had a chance to realize it, I’ve been in DC for over a month.

Finally, I may have found a routine. I’m still re-learning how to be in school and how to write academically and analyze scholarly texts. Slowly, it’s coming back to me, and I spend most of my days feeling like a sponge, soaking up information, new ways of thinking, and conversations.

I certainly haven’t learned how to juggle it all—I haven’t stepped foot in the gym since I got here, and I’ve eaten a lot of pasta—but that’s not really what I’m striving for these days.

I’ll get the hang of it all, somehow, someway. In the meantime, I’m just looking for growth. I’m trying to pay attention.

And I think back to a year ago when I was scared to death to pursue CCT and about the meandering road I took to get here. I fought this step for so long, and now I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It was all part of the journey I needed to take.

But it isn’t ever what you think it’s going to be. Tonight there was a man was singing “Like a Rolling Stone” at my Metro stop, and I couldn’t get these lines out of my mind. How does it feel? How does it feel to be on your own? 

How does it feel? It feels like a lot of work, never enough sleep, and hundreds of pages of reading every week. It feels like sticky humid days and now crunchy leaves. It feels awkward and uncertain, welcoming and encouraging, and challenging and empowering.

Mostly, it feels pretty great.

I’m so grateful.

DC: week one.


This city. This city, y’all.

It has the potential to make you, but first, it will break you. If you aren’t careful, it will eat you up and spit you out. “If you aren’t passionate enough, you won’t make it,” they say. They shake their heads, and you worry (again) that you don’t have what it takes.

This city will take all you have, and it will won’t be shy about it. It won’t take it’s time. Before you know it, you’ll be disorientated standing on the side of the street, holding a distraught new friend in your arms. Tears will slip from her eyes, and you’ll blink back your own.

You’ll sit with her in the back seat of an Uber, talking life and dreams and relationships and loss. Somehow, the driver will say the most meaningful things you’ve heard since arriving.

“When one door closes, ten more open,” he says. And then, later, “Everyone needs someone.”

“Yes, yes, we do need each other,” you think. We need each other deeply, desperately, but not in the way he means.

Mostly, you just need friends who know how to listen and be a rock of support in this city of ambition.IMG_8252

Now that you’re finally in this city of hustle and bustle and noise–so much noise–you still don’t understand. You still wonder and pray and hope and wish you knew the answers.

But you also know that this city somehow holds the truths you’re meant to discover. They’re just around the next corner, beyond the curve in the metro, on the faces of the strangers on the bus.

As always, distance can be overwhelming. You are so far away from all those you have held dear these past years. The night you fell apart, sobbing that you didn’t want to learn to live without them, feels like a lifetime ago… but it was two weeks ago.

Somehow, you’re a different person now. Somehow, this city has already changed you, quicker than you believed possible.

You fall asleep every night in a new bed, in a new room, mind racing, heart full, body exhausted. And you can’t imagine any other way.

You can’t imagine doing anything else with this life.

You can’t wait to see what next week will hold.


these four walls.

I’m sitting on the floor of my bedroom, surrounded by the books, shoes, and birthday cards that represent my memories over the past two years. Slowly, all of these things are beginning to move into boxes that will be stored at my parent’s house, suitcases that will travel with me to Washington, DC, or bags to be donated. My room is emptying, and the walls are becoming bare.

It’s all slowly slipping away; life as I know it is slipping away, and I’m going with it.

I’m making to do list’s that seem never ending of tasks both big and small that need to be completed Before. Before what? Before the After I don’t even know how to imagine. I’m crossing items off my list, but I don’t know how to quantify the things that really matter. Instead, I focus on the things that I can: haircuts and health insurance, bills and boxes. I focus on this room, on somehow finding order through folding, sorting, and brushing away dust.

I look around at this tiny bedroom full of furniture borrowed from relatives and purchased at thrift stores, and I think how strange it is that this physical space can symbolize so much to me.

In the beginning, this room was freedom, blessed independence that I paid for on my own. I was proud of it, and I was proud of myself for learning how to fight my own battles.

The room quickly got messy, which was comforting at first, but later exhausting as clutter and unending noise dragged me down. I worked to make it neat with freshly laundered sheets, organized papers, and shoes lined up in a row, but I was just seeking perfection I’d never find.

Later, there were nights when this room was too much space, as pictures on the walls reminded me of the distance from those I love. I felt lost in it all; I didn’t know how to bear the weight of it on my own.

Then, there were the days when this room was desperately, never enough room to grow. It seemed to shrink each time I stepped inside. I couldn’t find space to breathe or to give myself a break. Simultaneously, my twin bed felt too big to be alone in and too small to contain my dreams.

If these walls could talk, they wouldn’t have any particularly exciting or scandalous stories to tell, but they could tell my story. It’s a story I think is common for most individuals in their early twenties: feeling like you’re playing a pretend adult, navigating the professional world and the confusing ideas of networking and “business casual attire”, long phone calls with friends who live too far away, hitting the snooze button again and again, inner wrestlings with self-doubt through scribbled journal entries, and going to sleep with a smile on your face because of small victory. This room has been witness to all that and more; it’s seen laughter, tears, doubts, prayers, and many questions.

Oh, the questions. I’m still working my way through those, as I sort through my possessions. Somehow I need to figure out what stays behind, what goes away, and what comes along into the After. I’m slowly disassembling this life, and I sort the pieces as I go, wondering where they’ll fit next and where I’ll fit next.

This room has meant so much, and these four walls have summed up this stage of my life, but they can’t come with me. I’m slipping away; I’m leaving them to start something new far away from all that’s familiar.

I still don’t know exactly what that new life will look like, but that’s okay right now. One of the lessons of this room has been accepting that I need to follow my path even when I can’t imagine what’s next. But, I do hope this next room has space for a bed bigger than a twin. I may not feel like an adult quite yet, but I think I’m ready for that.

on long distance friendship and delayed gratification.

A little less than a year after graduating from college, my friends and I decided that we should start writing a traveling notebook together, chronicling our post-graduate adventures that have taken us separate ways. (Obviously, our idea was loosely inspired by the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie/book.)

Since there were ten of us participating in this project, we decided on two notebooks that would rotate around. They would travel around the country in alphabetical order, and each person was supposed to keep the notebook for a week and mail it on.

Well, our pace has slowed, but over two years later, the notebooks are still going!

And boy, what have these notebooks seen: interviews, first jobs, resignations, unemployment, underemployment, promotions, heartbreak & breakups, engagements, new boyfriends, applications, a whole slew of post-graduate degrees (DPT, MSW, JD, MA, MS, and a soon to be PhD and MD), published authors, tears, laughter, struggles, questions, friendship bracelets, mix CDs, Irish bookmarks, cross-country and cross-continent moves, apartments, and SO many address changes.

Life has kept us from being in the same physical place over these past few years, but the notebook has helped to remember that we’re all still navigating this winding road together. It doesn’t make it less difficult that we aren’t all actually together, but it does sweeten the blow a little bit.

It takes awhile for the notebooks to travel these days; something about life getting in the way. So, by the time the notebook arrives, I usually already know most of the things in it; very little in it surprises me these days. But that doesn’t stop the excitement I feel when I see that familiar package in my mailbox.

The fact of the matter is, I don’t live in the same place as most of my best friends anymore, and I probably never will again. They have scattered all over this country, and soon I’m going to be scattering even further with my impending move for graduate school. But the notebook makes me feel less scattered. There’s a beauty in realizing your relationships are dependent on more than proximity to each other, that they go deeper than just the superficial things.

In a time and age, when I can text and send snapchats and post Facebook messages, the notebooks make me feel grounded. It’s delayed gratification at it’s finest, when I have to wait a few months to read the words someone wrote about something unsettled and know that it’s now settled. I can read about people feeling lonely and know that then that all changed. I can flip back through their pages and remember who we’ve been before and where we came from, and I can know that I will continue to be supported by them. The notebook feels permanent when the rest of life feels transient. 

And I’m so incredibly grateful for these ladies and the ways they continue to make their presence known in my life.