Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why I'm Done With Being Safe

There's a lot to be said for safe.

You can make a good case for it: we've lived our entire lives chasing it, being told it's what we need.

But I sit here twenty-two years after coming into a world that is anything but safe...after being raised to be a good girl, to look when crossing the street, to know who to call in an emergency, say 'no' when pressured, to drive inside lanes.

Safe is good. For many things.

But I sit here, realizing that as much as I love to cling to shreds of my childhood, I am not a child anymore. That today I am anything but safe. That I need to be okay with not being safe.

That I'm done with being safe. 

And of course, I don't mean common sense safety. I still plan to walk in lit areas, stay in the lane, wear my seatbelt, and listen to my gut instinct always.

But I don't want to live a life that's safe - where fear and uncertainty sleeps in my bed, holds me back, taps me gently on the shoulder and says quietly, "What if it doesn't work out?"

Next month, I will begin my last year of college and the future - my future - is suddenly looming ahead. Gone is the shy, meek, but bubbly girl of eighteen who graduated from high school wrapped in the safety blanket of having four years to figure out her life. 

Those four years are nearly over and while I don't quite feel like a ticking clock, I can sense a change...a deepening. A shifting.

I'll be twenty-three next year. I'll be a university graduate next year. I'll be on my own next year. So "safe" doesn't really seem to do it for me any more.

 Like a skin being shed, I can feel the beginning - a slipping out of this world of safety.

It's a culmination of things, I think. Watching my younger siblings, high school students, even college freshmen...and feeling the overwhelming difference. How I am still incredibly young  - and yet forever no longer young, as anyone "young" sees the old college senior who doesn't use Snapchat every moment or say "fierce" (that last example alone dates me). I think Europe started the shifting within me, proved the catalyst. Speaking a different language, living among strangers, missing the ones I loved and yet not able to do anything about it, because if anything happened there was no one to take care of me but myself.

I sit here, much older and wiser, sadder and quieter than the eighteen year old girl who dreamed of the four years ahead of her. Who didn't look too far into the future. I'm quite fond of her. And yet glad to not be the same as her. I've learned to treasure both laughter and tears, the comfort of company and the sweetness of being alone.

I'm ready for a life that is real and wild, dangerously real. Safe is a mindset, one to which I clung to many times.

But life is not safe or tame, as one beaver reminded us in a snowy tale of lions and wardrobes: 

"'Safe?' said Mr. Beaver. 'Who said anything about safe? 
Course he isn't safe. But he's good.'"

Your heart will be broken, life will be terrifying, people will make you feel small and unintelligent, mistakes will be made. But this is all a part of living real - and so is the independance of surviving in another city, of driving hundreds of miles alone, of scheduling interviews, of believing that you have strengths and no one can make you feel inadequate about them, of opening up to someone even if the outcome is not what you hoped, of trusting that you have a voice and you are valid in what you say, of holding steadfastly to your ideals and principals in a crowd.

We weren't made to live in boxes labeled "Safe." Like Ann Voskamp said, we were made to be dangerous disciples of the Unsafe God. So I'm opening up my mind to what that means...to going deeper in and further up, to being split open and trying to understand the messiness in my soul, to breathing in change, to let the untamed and unsafe lion tear through the layers I've built over the years.

When you're young you think you know best (I still do most days), but then tonight I sit here and it's as if I've turned around to look back over my shoulder at what lay behind, at what I'd been clinging to and wrapping around me like a dragon skin. What had been wrapped around me, what was so much so the skin I lived in that I didn't even realize it was there.

The band Daughter sings a song of aching truth that thrums in the blood and lingers in one's chest:

Underneath the skin there's a human
buried deep within there's a human 
and despite everything I'm still human

I'm shedding this skin, still human underneath somehow - through some mad, wild grace. And grateful for all I've learned, for this process of shedding and changing.

And I'm ready to live wild and real.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rainy Days are for Stories

Today it rained - I woke up to the gentle, melancholy drumming of rain against swaying green and stained grey wooden fences outside my windows.

It's a day for chocolate-colored mugs, slender and tall, full of swirled coffee and pale creamer. For lighting fall candles - the rich, woodsy scent of Fireside lingers in the air, intoxicating and cozy all at once - and quiet murmuring music. It's a day for breathing in the moments in between, for stories flashing before eyes, for emotions swelling, for ink staining paper with graceful sloping. 

My fingers move over the keys, and I think of the myriad of stories within me, bits and pieces scattered throughout - here and there on shelves, intricate and delicate and strong and raw. It's days like these when I wish I could press my fingers to paper and the stories would spill out in their entirety, whole and complete and finished, ready to be shared and read and felt. 

There are so many stories I want to share with you...

The story of a girl in a world bound by song and words, where singers have power and orders of apprentices + masters dwell in an ancient school, and loyalty comes with a price, friendship does not come easily, and everything is grey, never black or white. A story of two people simultaneously drawn together, setting into motion consequences that bring the world down around them. 

The story of three darling children who encounter a pirate with his ship, a land where no one grows up, and a boy + his shadow. The story of second chances, of shipdecks and the salty tang of freedom, the confusing loss of friendship and the betrayal of youth, and learning that to some love is and always will be a forgotten adventure. 

The story of a family, dysfunctional yet dedicated to keeping up appearances and all the balls in the air and always prepared with the answer "Oh, things are fine," until one holiday dinner, when everything comes crashing down. A story about a dying grandmother, a college senior on probation, a depressed father, an unwanted baby, and a therapist. Of falling apart at the cracks, the little secrets that become devastating over time, the reminder that family is unavoidable, and that sometimes the messiness we hide is what binds us together. 

The story of a wolf who once came across a little girl in red...and many years later, returned. The story of the intoxicating thrill of darkness and its secret whisper, of promises made in the dark and the madness of discovering you are not alone in your head. Of a girl fighting to look in the mirror, of the farmboy who hunts and brings her smiles, and of the wolf who knows her better - and worse - than anyone else. 

The story of a twenty-something year old who did all the right things and stayed in school and believed she'd meet her soulmate, only to wake up one day to realize that she's grown up, working in her mother's cafe, and something feels empty. A coming-of-age story about perspectives shifting, of childhood dreaminess hardening into something hollow and confusing, of realizing that perhaps there is no high point in life and maybe soulmates don't exist. A story about the art of finding yourself while trying to find someone else, of the surprises life throws at you, and the danger + thrill of opening yourself up to the idea that love looks different to everyone. 

The story of a small girl in a land not very far away, in a time not long ago, who one day finds a door to another world. A world of elves and Kings, of two races dived from a bitterness as old as time itself; where a thief and a spy roam the halls, where Stones and destiny thread together to form the boundaries of the world. A story of adventure and friendship, of the painful splintering of ideals and hopes, of finding strength in love and sacrifice, and the gradual realization that we are all stories in the end. 

The story of an insolent Wizard with hair as yellow as the sun, of a dragon who hates everyone, including his magical master - and a paradox of a girl, so uncertain that the world passes her by while she sits in the sunlight, eyes closed as she listens and feels the dizzying ache of change and not knowing you are. 

The story of a guard granted entrance to the heart of the kingdom and charged to protect its ruler, renowned for her unflinching lack of pity and softness. The story of a stone Queen, hard as iron and strong as the foundations of the earth - who rules with the ferocity of a warrior and the shrewdness of a spy. Who understands the price of innocence and happiness, and the hardness that destroys it - who knows that ice can melt but nothing can soften stone. 

The story of a boy caught up in a choking tyranny, who was born into a world blind to its faults and horrors. Until a radical prisoner is captured and spreads havoc throughout the land with her strange story, reckless determination, and lack of fear...a story of principals and edicts, of the sharp edge of fear controlled by comfort and ignorance, and the danger of new ideas. 

The story of a girl and four lads in a small English town, where streets are crossed in two steps and everyone's name is familiar to everyone else, and home is a place you can point to - not just an idea. A story of chasing dreams and sweeping floors, of trying to be remembered and tasting the exhilarating uncertainty of youth. 

The story of a girl passionate about the belief that life is an adventure best traveled with a carefully planned map, and a glowing future ahead of her that holds theater, the love of her life, and a wonderful red-headed boyfriend. Only to find herself years down the road with the sobering fact that life somehow stole her map, and nothing is what she thought it would be. A story of the slow, painful, stirring realization that nothing in life is certain - even love - and that change is inevitable; a story of growing up and looking in the mirror to see someone completely different staring back, and learning that perhaps becoming someone else is the best mistake you can ever make. 

Yes...rainy days are days for writing. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bare Face + Yoga Pants: Proud to Be American

flannel: Merona by Target (similar here & here)// capri yoga pants: Mossimo by Target (similar)// bag: Charming Charlie's
// sunnies: Tatler// sandals: Pali Hawaii

I've been back in the States for about a week now...if you follow me on Instagram, you know that right after getting off a plane in Texas, I hopped in a car with my family and best friend to drive to Destin for our family vacation. We had the best. beachhouse. ever. (any Psych fans?) and there was much sand, sun, coffee, and pasta. Mmmmm. 

And now I'm back home, trying to adjust to the different time zone - jetlag is a real thing friends, I crash every night at 9 pm) and enjoying being lazy + catching up on sleep. Which means I'm also loving being able to wear whatever I want without judgement. After a month in the fashion capital of the world, you don't just walk outside wearing anything. Even a casual outfit has to be well-put together or you receive subtle stares. And forget about yoga pants. That's one thing Paris doesn't do. 

So naturally when the opportunity arose to head down to our local farmers' market the other day, I decidedly didn't change. And it was glorious. There was also absolutely no make-up involved. Because sometimes, you don't have to wear it. And that's ok. During the school year, I frequently have no make-up days. Is my skin or face perfect? Nope. But life goes on, friends. Besides, I always feel a little rebellious when I don't wear makeup: like I'm saying 'hey, world - this is my face and I'm going to rock it, so deal with it.' #word 

Side note: 
I picked up these Pali Hawaii sandals in Destin after both my brother and his girlfriend got a pair...after being on the fence for a bit, I now love how simple and basic they look. Almost like a more beachy version of Birkenstocks...anyways, they're rubber (a plus if they get wet), ultra comfy, and go with everything. They're $12 dollars here or a little more on Amazon, but I got mine in Destin for $8. Weird-shaped foot tan, here I come. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What I Will Miss About Paris

Hello, dear readers - I'm finally back in the States, safe and sound, 
after a very long 10 hour flight and at least 3 in customs. 
I'm settling in back home and trying to catch up from jetlag 
whilst sorting through my hundreds of pictures. 

And of course letting my thoughts + emotions on life abroad settle in me. 
In the meantime, here's something I wrote during my last week in Paris. 
Much love and thanks for sticking around despite the lack of updates...
I promise there will be plenty of Paris posts soon!

It's my last weekend in Paris. In three days I will be on a plane, heading back to home + my family. And it is so strange to write these words...it still feels like I only arrived just a few days ago, and yet in exactly three days, I will leave for home, for a different country.

In so many ways, I still feel like newcomer, lost in awe of this city of which so much is still so unexplored. And yet, in other ways, Paris is as near and dear to me as if I have been here a year. Ordering at cafes in French comes easily, my morning route to classes is well-known by heart as I walk it twice a day, the Metro is second nature, and I take my lunch outside like any good Parisian. Scarves are a daily accessory, as is always wearing at least one piece of black clothing, my hair is always loose and wavy (no straighteners here), and my make-up has become more simple + natural-looking.

There is so much about Paris that I love - that I will miss dearly.

I will miss the open windows and fresh air. The beautiful, well-dressed men in suits and well-cut pants. The 50 euro cent cappuccino from the espresso machine at school. The sparkling water offered at every bar and restaurant. The fresh baguettes, crisp and hot, spread thick with creamy, salty butter. The delicate, wrought-iron balconies and beautiful, old architecture that makes up every street. 

The fresh crepes and spicy chicken kebab sandwiches sold in tiny shops. The gorgeous, cool weather even on sunny days. The stately flurry during weekdays and the calm, almost deserted, laidback atmosphere of the weekends, Sundays especially.

The magnificent, sprawling cathedrals that rise dizzyingly above me, splendid and awe-inspiring with jewel-hued stained glass windows and stone arches that soar to the heavens...and beneath it all, the hushed, sacred stillness and whispered prayers of thousands of years lingering in the air.

 The delightfully charming French children, infinitely polite and well-dressed, independant, joyous creatures. The beautiful Seine with its blue-green waters and romantic magic. The sweet, crisp classes of white wine in cafes - Chardonnays for only 5 euros.

The overwhelming history that spills out on every corner and bridge and museum. The fact that I can walk in palaces and prisons and former train stations, gaze at Monets + Renoirs, Van Goghs + Cassetts just a fingertip away. That I've live in the same city as the Mona Lisa for the past month. The gardens and parks filled with fountains, ice cream carts, carousels, and countless benches of people watching people.

 The strange, delightful feeling of privacy and anonymity  - Parisians  don't make a scene nor do they pay attention or want to know why you are making one; they care for their business, protect their privacy fiercely, and stay out of other peoples' business. The fresh produce on every cornerstore as well as boxes and boxes of coffee, tea, and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). The mouthwatering pastries freshly baked every morning and only a few euros each. The open-air cafes lined with tables and wicker chairs on the sidewalk. The dizzying, enlivening, wonderful sense that Paris is alive and thrumming with art + love.

The slightly unrealistic yet tangible, magical feeling that you could be swept off your feet in this city of love - because it's Paris, and sometimes anything seems possible. The comforting sense of silence on the Metro because most of those around you speak a different language, leaving a freeing feeling of being enveloped in a bubble of quiet where no speaking is required on your part.

I will miss all of France, not just Paris. The beautiful yellow-green of hills and trees in the sprawling French countryside, bright against the overwhelmingly crisp blue skies + waters. The charming small towns and villages with bright window shutters and cobblestone streets perfect for wandering. The gentle breeze as someone passes you on a bike, golden-skinned from the countyside sun and embodying the slower, kinder-to-oneself mindset in France.

Yes, I will miss France. Especially Paris. It now has my heart forever.

Au revoir, ma Paris.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I Wish I Could Show You Paris

Dear readers, I have to echo Hannah Katherine yet again (and now I understand her post even better)...I wish I could do more than tell you about Paris.

I wish I could show her to you in person.

I wish I could give you the flaky, buttery taste of a pain au chocolat or the sight of French men + women strolling through the streets in their simple but impeccably chic style of suits,  blazers, dresses, well-cut trousers, and always always a beautiful scarf.

I wish you could sit outside one of the numerous cafes that line every street and gaze at the steady stream of people passing. Unlike London, her urban and male counterpart, Paris is stately and dignified in her busyness: even during the busiest time of a workday, while traffic thrums and people walk briskly, the cafe tables + seats on the sidewalks are always filled with the chatter of French, cups of cafe au lait or cappuccinos, and pastry crumbs.

 I wish you could see the lights by the Seine at night, all aglow against the velvet black sky and flickering waves with the magic that is Paris at night. I wish you could feel the cool breeze against your cheek and hear the soft, rich vibrations of jazz while curled up by the river with sparkling Perrier or champagne gently fizzing down your throat.

I wish you could feel the sun's warmth while strolling down the streets of Paris with the sweet scent of chocolate and fruit wafting from the Nutella crepe in your hand. I wish you could feel the softness of springy, plush grass beneath your cheek as you lay in a park, stretched out in the shade of trees with cheese and white wine beside you, with the day warm and bright on your skin.

I wish you could hear, all around you, the sounds of Paris in the summer...the slight breeze rustling through the trees, swirling between patches of cool shade and the bright sunlight gleaming on soft, thick butter-green grass, the melodic thrum of French and laughter rising from the banks of the park where the locals lay enjoying the sun + fresh air, and children's' giggles ring out against the jaunty tune of the carousel and the gurgle of the fountains.

I wish, I wish, I wish.

I can only do my best to put into words what I feel and see and sense here in this beautiful city. And say, that while one can (and should!) dream + read + think about Paris...at some point in your lives, dear readers, you must make your way to this city.

There is no way to properly describe her. Paris can only truly be experienced.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Existing in Paris

I began writing this post during my first week in Paris...but like most of the personal writing I've done here (shockingly little), it's taken time to finish. I find myself at a loss for words during rare moments of quiet. I think perhaps because the past two and a half weeks have been a flurry of studying French, speaking French, mastering the Metro, trying to think in French, and surviving in a brand new city - in a brand new country. 

Add to that the fact that our schedule has been jam-packed, leaving for little alone time, and I've realized like most dramatic things...you have to let it be. Let it settle inside of you. As Hannah said, sometimes you have to feel it for a while before you can talk about it. 

I've only been in Paris three days (has it really only been three? It feels like a week and then at times only a day) and already, already, I have fallen in love.

She has indeed worked her bewitching charm on me, and I am incredibly delighted and thankful that the substantial amount of friends/acquaintances who spoke disparagingly of Paris, who warned of dissolution were utterly, completely, and totally wrong.

I was warned that it was a dirty city, that the people were unfriendly, that the food was horrible, that everything about the city of lights was essentially a disappointment.

I have never been more happy that so many people were wrong.

As one of the characters in the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris says, "That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me."

As someone who has been from the West Coast (San Francisco) to the East Coast (New York), I've seen my fair share of big cities. And while Paris is so far the only major European one I've visited, it puts all others I have seen to shame.

Urban yet ancient, a metropolis yet charming, filled with the sights and hum of modernity (metro stations, street signs, crosswalks, stores) yet overwhelming with Old-World leisure and beauty. I step out my door and wander throughout the city, and everywhere I look is beautiful architecture, wrought iron balconies, bright blooms spilling out of window flower boxes, striped awnings of cafes, cobblestone sidewalks, bakeries on every corner, massive stone churches rising up next to shops and businesses.

This is Paris.

While pastries are a routine part of life, where one walks everywhere, where meals are savored and enjoyed for more than an hour, where style is simple yet effortless, where fresh air is a requirement for all inhabitants of this city, where bicycles are more common than taxis and cars, where ancient history is only a short stroll or ride on le Metro away.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Notes from Paris: The First Day

Bonjour friends! It's my third day in Paris, and I wanted to share some brief thoughts from my first day in this city. Enjoy + keep on the lookout for more! P.S. The food is as amazing as it looks. I've already eaten my weight in bread. And walked it all off! 

It's half past 9pm here in Paris as I write this on my small French bed. Ratatouille's theme is playing softly in the background, dusk is falling just outside the balcony windows, I've just finished eating dinner with my French host family (Croque Monsieur! Fresh salad with homemade vinegrette! Creamy Brie!) and I still can't believe I am spending my first night in this magical city. 

After weeks and months of feeling surreal, it is finally beginning to sink in that I am in Paris.  

Oh, Paris. 

The world is full of pale dawn, the house is asleep, and yet somehow I can feel the gentle tug...hear Paris's call. She is waiting for me just beyond that window - that magical city of lights and love and of history rich beneath one's foot. Waiting with her sprawling cobblestones and Old World architecture and faded stone walls that have seen so many people come and go, each one with hope in their eyes. 

Paris, I think, is different from any city - there is an undefinable magic in even her name. Paris. A place of dreams and broken hearts, of soul-searching and finding oneself, of breathing in and letting go. 

I am ready for her, in all her Old World charm, and sweltering heat and chilly nights and any + all disenchanting notes of discord found within a big city. 

Something within me can already sense that Paris is kind to me...that she will work her magic on me like so many before, that she is the city in which one can wander lost, hopeful, heartbroken, in love, with friends or a special someone, and even alone. 

Paris's magic, I think, touches all types. 

But 8+ hours of jet-lag and having two days crammed into one are taking their toll on me...so I am off to sleep and sleep. 

Tomorrow marks my first official day of exploring Paris. I'm sure there'll be cafĂ© au lait, croissants, and style a plenty. 

Bonne nuite, mes amies!