Goals For the Season

“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.”

MARK VICTOR HANSEN

Four years ago today, I sat overlooking the Rocky Mountains on an afternoon trip to Estes, Colorado, with one of my best friends. We spent the day hiking around the lake, driving through Rocky Mountain National Park, touring the Stanley Hotel, and photographing our journey along the way. I held my mother’s film camera tightly—just like I had in London, Paris, and Italy, right before this trip to Colorado. I still didn’t understand aperture, f-stops, or what to set my lens speed to, but that didn’t stop me from snapping through a film roll. I had always wanted to understand the rawness that film captured, and at the time, I was learning to love the light leaks and imperfections my processed photos held.

Right before this trip, I had let go of my biggest goal of the season and focused on what would come of grad school and writing. Around this time, the idea for my first novel came to me in the parking lot of the Elementary school where the kids I nannied each day attended. That idea later manifested into my fascination with the love that hangs in the words of a handwritten letter and how that interest and prompt would then become the thesis for my master’s degree. When I spoke about grief this time in September four years ago, I had no idea that later I would experience my grief more than ever before.

At the time of this photo, I was in a brand new relationship with its issues. I struggled each day to see the longevity of that love. At the time, my trustfulness gave power to the process of just following what felt right. I knew little of my callowness, but I later would learn that I did know something—I was trying to navigate the same raw and imperfect emotions that I would one day learn to love. I did everything I could to make the view come into focus for photography, but I needed my personal view to focus on what I was experiencing.

What I needed to improve on in 2016 sometimes feels like the same thing that I need to improve on in 2020—allow myself to be imperfect. 

For the first half of 2020, I began setting goals and then painstakingly laid the foundation of who I want to be and where I want to see myself in 2021 and 2025, and 2030. These goals became my benchmarks for recognizing change within my life. This included goals like “make two new friends,” “get a job,” and “start paying down student loan debt.” I have kept track of these goals in my 2020 planner—something many believe was the worst purchase of 2020, but for me, it was one of the best investments because it set into motion the process of becoming the person I most wanted to be.

My planner allows space for me to track my goals and to feel productive with my time. I feel best when my day is full, where I am productive, and I am working towards who I want to be. I hold myself to this standard because I know how good I feel when I get up early and tackle the day. At the end of those days, I feel tired and sleep better than any other day. At the end of those days, I look back at all the little red checkmarks and believe I made something of myself.

But because of that, the biggest challenge I face is allowing myself the space to be imperfect and making room for error. I look at an empty week in August and wonder what happened? Where did the desire to be productive go? Why wasn’t I proactive for my future? 

My negative self-talk can be all-consuming. Sometimes, I get angry at the girl from 2016 who was learning to love raw and imperfect emotions. What happened? Where did your desire to be productive go? Why weren’t you more proactive? Why didn’t you think of me, our future, and how your impulsivity brought me heartache?

I knew I would curse that Hannah for years to come. How disappointed I was in her for just rolling over on one of our goals and forging through the warning signs that she ended up internalizing. But something I am learning to understand is just how important those decisions in 2016 were for a growing me.

What I was learning in September 2016 is the same goal I am setting for myself this autumn. The goals I have set for this season include focusing on how I spend my time and allowing myself the space to learn from the past and what I deem as “imperfect traits.” 

Journaling and tracking my days are just some ways where I feel like I can take control of what I want for my future. I have found that I lose track of time quickly—weather it is scrolling aimlessly, binging the next season of a Netflix series, or cleaning all day while I put off what I really should be doing. A goal is to spend shorter intervals of time on tasks and breaking them up into sprints instead of marathons. And with that goal comes the responsibility to allow room for rest days.

This trip to Estes feels like a lifetime ago, but it was one day that put my future into focus. When you overlook the world’s vast beauty, it changes the way you view how small the imperfections are in your life. At that moment, I didn’t think about what I should be doing to better myself for the future; I was thinking about how beautiful a moment could be. So here’s to finding the beauty in imperfections and setting ourselves up for futures we sit in awe of when we set out dreams in motion.

It’s 2006

and A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out is playing through my headphones as I take on the bunny slope at Steamboat mountain during snowboarding school. I feel unstoppable, on top of the world, and invigorated. I am dressed in an all-pink outfit while my braids flap in the wind. The blonde girl you connected with is screaming the lyrics with you during the lunch break as your teacher, “Goose,” looks on mortified, but you can’t help but laugh.

Being in Steamboat again floods all those memories back, but I actually began to reflect on all of this weeks prior when I hear the songs that I used to burn on every CD I could get my hand on. It started with me buying way too much music on my iPod Nano to discovering the world of Limewire and having everything I could have wanted at my fingertips.

And because of that, there is an etherial period from 2003 to 2009 where all the music I sang along to then stricks a chord with me as an adult. I hear the famous note from MCR, the guitar rift from Sugar We’re Goin’ Down, Alex Gaskarth’s strain, and Brendon Urie belt out lyrics, and I can’t help but feel the same as I did when I was singing along as a teenager.

In the past decade, I have funneled into more acoustic singers, moody folk, indie bands, atmospheric instrumentalist, and orchestral ballads. Still, this music lives within some of the best memories and low times. I remember the first time I heard I Write Sins Not Tragedies on the radio, and having the CD blast in the car when I had my license. I remember feeling an immediate bond with and jealousy of my Freshman Year roommate after we exchanged numbers via Facebook, and she told me she was at Warped Tour.

This music brought me friends, connections, boyfriends, and conversation. I dated the boy that thought he was a rockstar and played in a cover band. He played songs that I played over and over in my bedroom as I dreamt of the punk boys and then realized they were better suited in the dreams. The songs brought me inspiration in the past and are nothing but happy memories now.

All of it felt full circle once Remembering Sunday came on shuffle while winding the curves of Olympic National Park in Washington and I watched the massive lakes glisten under the sunshine, and immediately felt like a teenager riding in my car and looping the song over and over just to feel at ease. 

Learning from Friendship

One morning while my stomach growled and my boyfriend slept, I stayed tucked in under the duvet and scrolled on Instagram like I do most every morning. It’s a trait I wished I didn’t have, an addiction maybe. It’s like my thumb mindlessly goes to the folder on my phone and selects the app that I numbingly scroll through for an hour, looking at the photos my friends posted while I was asleep.

Something I realized during those mornings is that my friendships span time zones. That means I’m never without a new post from someone, but also that means I don’t see my friends very often. Some of the people I consider best friends are here in NY, while others live in different states, countries, and continents. Social media makes it so there is always something to see, like, and comment on because my friends are updating their feed. But, if you look at mine, I’m barren.

I last posted in January, and before that was October, and before that was August of 2018. You would see that its cold in New York, that I love pumpkins, and I moved to the city nearly two years ago, but then again last time I posted was in January so for anyone else that follows me, but doesn’t speak to me on a regular basis, they may have no idea where I am at the moment.

I used to post weekly when I lived in London. That was the one time I was consistently updating social media with photos. I loved refreshing my page with my travels and adventures, yet here I am in August 2019 knowing that I’ve gone on three cross-country trips, traveled to 11 different states, to two different countries, and graduated from my Master’s degree. Could you even tell that from the look of my Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter? No. All incredible feats and adventures, yet all I show are a few photos of my time.  

I’m okay with that, most days. I’m okay with adding the photos I have taken to my photo wall in my apartment; growing the memories for myself as opposed to showcasing it across social media. My partner took the leap in February to get rid of all his social media; deactivating and deleting everything. Sometimes it feels freeing for him, the societal pressure lifted, the popularity contest of likes is eliminated, and people stalking are gone, but sometimes he misses out on the things his family and friends share; the people he cares about the most. Sometimes I feel inclined to show him what is going on with all of them, but at the same time, I wonder if the solitude is what he needs.

However, it’s those people, the ones who tag us on social media when they post a photo of us or find a meme that reminds them of us, that has me keeping my account dormant. When I look at the photos I am tagged in on Instagram, I see the photos my friends posted with me in them. Some were from the day we took them, others flashbacks and appreciation posts. They commemorated our accomplishments, fun times, birthdays, and life-changing events. There were posed photos, candids, and selfies. There were shots taken in Naples, Florence, Boulder, London, New York, and more. There were in dorm rooms, at sorority events, concerts, sports games, and plane rides. 

Seeing all of that made me think of friendship and the connections we share with other humans. It made me think about the memories I have with others and how people impact our daily lives. It’s rare that I go a day without talking to a friend or two. My phone gives me this untethered, but a tethered connection with people all over the world. Reading these heart-warming captions about how much these people appreciate me does a lot for a person’s self-esteem. I feel lucky that people from elementary school and middle school still appreciate me as much as my most recent college and grad school friends do. It’s nice knowing you can from these core relationships at such a young age.

I am lucky my hometown friends still ask when I am coming home next or want to travel with me elsewhere. I am lucky that my college friends are inspiring and are continually encouraged me. I am lucky that I live in such a small but huge city that constantly introduces me to people of all backgrounds and interests. I meet people that matter to me and they are constantly impacting my life for the better, but I am also learning from those who help me grow as a person.

Some of my friends make me grow for all good reasons. They are my cheerleaders; the ones who encourage my dreams and are there for the nightmares. There is so much I could say to thank those who have impacted my life for the better, because I know that are the reasons why I feel connected and loved. But this post is about the “friends” that teach me about friendship and what I could do to be a better person; not just a friend, but as a daughter, girlfriend, sister, and stranger to the people I pass on the street.

I encountered a situation the other night that helped me realize that I have grown with my ideas and knowing what is good for me. Sometimes friends can let us down. Sometimes their words and their actions can belittle us into thinking we are worth less than what we are. They can blow us off, ignore our calls, and never see how their actions can hurt. I try my best to never be that friend, I try to engage with my friends anyway that I can. I like writing them letters when I can’t see them, I like FaceTiming instead of texting, and giving in ways money could never provide.

I listen to these friends, the ones who cancel on plans last minute, rant about others, and fuel the anger in their emotions, and try to learn from them. I see how they act and treat others, and I try to do my best to listen and talk kindness back into their lives. I try to encourage through my experiences and remind them that we can change what we choose to change. I think I do it because I have had people in my life who have impacted me in a positive way and left me as open to opportunities as growing points. I listen to them and hear the negative speech and wonder “why would you just give up?” 

I know I forget to text back sometimes, I know I forget birthdays and anniversaries, and I know that I have let people down in the past. I know I can act like those who speak negatively, the “friends” that I want to learn from. Sometimes when life is hard, all you want to do is rant to someone, someone who wouldn’t judge and knows what you are going through. I guess I write these posts, or journal entries, to do the same; to get out my thoughts about something, but something I have been trying to do recently is to find the positives in negative times and try to follow up negativity with something that makes me happy.

I think about the people who feel lonely and don’t want to be alone, but feel like they have no other choice but to be alone. It saddens me to think there are people who don’t feel supported or loved. It worries me that there could be someone I know, talking so negatively about someone who doesn’t deserve those words and judgment. We worry so much about our image, the one we put out in the world whether we say we do or don’t. We are aware of the implications that come with putting ourself out there and feeling the pressure of a bully saying they don’t like it.

I want more people to be cheerleaders. I want more people to donate their time to something that helps those that are struggling. I want more people to hug one another and help each other through difficult times because I don’t want anyone to feel like they are alone. If you are reading this, and feel like you could use someone to talk to, please feel free to contact me here, I will always try my best to be there for you, even if you feel like no one can be.

 

Driving Across the Country

Yes, you read that correctly. Together, my partner and I voluntarily embarked on a cross-country road trip in a rental car from our apartment in New York City to Spokane, Washington; a 2,600-mile excursion.

Firstly, before I explain the adventure, we need to circle back to December 2018 which is when we first discovered the two of us were capable of one, driving a car since our relationship solely lived within the confines of a carless relationship in Manhattan, and two that we had previously completed a 21-hour drive within a 24-hour rental window.

See during Christmas, flights to Florida, let alone Naples, Florida, are outrageous. So, being the young adults we are, we felt it was worth saving 600 dollars if it means we could rent a car for 120 dollars and get there in a day.

As it was a success, we found ourselves planing for our Summer vacation. We were just in Washington the month prior, however, we were heading back for a family trip with my partners extended relatives. I was, and still, jobless, so finances were a bit tight, but something I really wanted to do was see my friends in Colorado.

It has been three years since I was back in Boulder, Colorado. I flew out for a majority of my friend’s graduation, but it felt like a lifetime had passed since I was living there amongst the foothills. Showing my partner, my home in Naples was priceless.

Side note: I don’t think he fully understands what it meant to take him to my favorite spots, show him my schools, and introduce him to my local friends. I felt in the past relationships I had, I had to plead to have my lovers visit and still I was left with heartache in the wake of my pleas, so it felt indescribable to have him by my side. 

To reiterate, I know this one is a keeper because last summer we went to Germany. And obviously, we know how to plan showstopper summer vacations, but I am honestly eternally grateful to have met someone that appreciated exploring new lands alongside my anxious, antsy, anal travel habits.

He was the one to suggest driving. This time around, it wasn’t any cheaper to drive vs. fly, but a stop in Colorado meant a lot more money. We were going to need a rental car there, so we were going to need to pay more on top of the cost of flying. Luckily we were able to break up the trip into digestible bites.


New York, NY to Chicago, IL: The Pricier Leg

My Brother graciously offered up his couch, as he has for the past four years at his apartment and allowed my gang of hooligan friends and partners crash at his place for every time I planned a trip to the area. We planned to leave at 10:00am, however, knowing it was a 13-hour drive, we decided to change the rental to 8:00am so we would make it in time to catch dinner and a drink with my brother.

It was the lesser of picturesque drives and had THE MOST tolls, one being 15 dollars, but it was the shortest days. We had all of our energy in front of us as we took to the open roads of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. We learned we have minimal interest in moving to a mid-western city, but can very easily find a way to pass the time with luxurious rest stops and car games.

Chicago, IL to Boulder, CO: The 24-hour Challenge

After an “active” evening in Wrigleyville, we stuck to our timing of leaving my brother’s place at 5:00am. The friend I was staying within Colorado just had a baby in April, so I wanted to be courteous to their fragile sleep-schedule, as well as catch them when they were all still awake since it had been so long since I had seen her last. We hit the open roads, and a few more tolls, and headed for the Rockies.

We were tired, I struggled to stay awake in the beginning and were struggling with the various on-ramp highway and frequent exits as we left Chicago––fighting to get across seven lanes of traffic was not something either of us wanted to do that early in the morning. But, luckily the sprawling fields of Iowa and Nebraska made for comfortable cruise controlled rides and afternoon naps. We were delayed for a bit in Nebraska when we hit bumper to bumper traffic, slowing us for an hour in the hottest stretch of land with rumbling tummies, but rolling into the mountains of Colorado, and arriving at my friend’s home with Indian food and a babies waiting for us made the difference.

Boulder, CO to Spokane, WA: The Scenic Route

Now, we both knew the fastest way to our destination would have been going from Illinois to Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, but because I wanted a day to catch up with some college besties, then we decided to make the trip a little longer to hit more scenic spots. We woke up earlier, again, to ensure we made it to Yellowstone during the daytime. Before we could leave Colorado, we had to stop at Santiago’s. If you haven’t been, you need to go. My favorite breakfast was their burrito, on bacon day, with half-n-half sauce; it’s not spicy and not too mild.

This leg was the longest, but also the one with all the firsts. This was my first time in Wyoming and Montana and my first time in Yellowstone National Park. It was so worth the four extra hours and 200 miles to drive through the park, and we left with a year pass for a chance to visit more in the country. Driving along the Grand Tetons, which are pictured above, was spectacular. I saw Old Faithful blow boiling water into the air and Bison graze on the grass outside my passenger side door.

We made it to northern Montana before midnight, which meant we had several hours to nap before our 8:00am deadline. It was the first time I had slept in a rest stop and boy was it cold in Montana at 3:00am, but I wouldn’t change seeing the sunset and sunrise over Montana’s Rockies.


By the end of the trip, we were sleep-deprived, stinky, and disoriented from time changes, but it was such a fantastic experience. I highly recommend grabbing a friend you can spend hours talking to without eating and embark on a trip around the US!  Take a look at the playlist we played on repeat and our mapped journey below.

 

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The Mountains are Calling

In 2012, my father suggested I looked into universities in Colorado when we were there for a family ski trip. I had spent my entire life on the sandy shores of the Gulf Coast, all my friends I had made were staying in-state (for the most part), however, I kinda always had an inkling I would move away from the beaches I had grown accustomed to visiting. 

Every year I looked forward to heading to the mountains. I loved the snow, outdoor activities, and chill in the air. When my father suggested looking into the University of Colorado and the University of Denver, I signed up for informational sessions and tours. When we landed in Denver we headed straight to University of Colorado-Denver campus. It was a gray cold day and the clouds hung low over the gray buildings. I had loved the time I spent previously in Denver, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t moved by the campus. 

The next morning we spent the afternoon at the University of Denver. It was all that I was looking for in a school, except for a football team. The campus was gorgeous, the faculty and students were kind, I found myself gearing up for the application process. We left early from the orientation to make it to the CU-Boulder session. I was ready to sign up to be a member of the 2013 freshman class, but then I saw the foothills off the highway on our drive on 36. 

We parked and sat through a lengthy informational setting, and then took a tour around campus. I think it was the first steps onto the quad where in my heart I knew, this is where I need to go to be my happiest. 

I spent three years at the University of Colorado-Boulder as a double major in psychology and sociology, where almost every day walking to class I snapped a photo of the foothills that were the backdrop of my campus. Seeing them peak out above the football stadium made losing not so bad, but winning even better. Every season painted the mountains with breathtaking colors, and I never got over how lucky I felt to be a part of the school.

Although I traded the mountains for over industrialized skylines, I still find myself craving the mountains. Even a trip upstate means me gawking out the train window to grab a glace at the Catskills. Any chance I can get to heighten my vantage point, I do it. This past summer I traveled to Eibsee, Germany. After sitting it the shadows of the Zugspitze for a minute, I knew I had to see the view from the top. 

We all loaded in the gondola and I glued my face to the window to see the sights. Stepping off I breathed in the cool air and a calm feeling came over me. I looked over Germany, Austria, and Italy, and knew I was where I was happiest. 

Happy International Mountian Day! Check out what the UN has to say on why #MountainsMatter. 

New Home, New York

I have been going through so many life changes that it has been rather difficult to catch my breath. When my plane flew over the New York skyscrapers and I looked down over the possibility of my new home my breath escaped me, except it wasn’t taking my breath away in a good way.

Excitement jumps for joy inside of me when it comes to adventure, but then for once, I was worried this was going to be a mistake. I fell a victim to it. I fell to the anxiety that was: I have two days, if that, to find a home in a city I have only previously spent 72 hours in. Not only was I worried, but I was utterly terrified that I was going to step off the plane onto the jetway and combust.

I have moved just a few times in my life. Naples, Florida is where I resided in for nearly eighteen years. It was the only home I knew for so long, but I was so ready to find myself elsewhere. I moved to Boulder, Colorado, the Patagonia Disneyland of the West for college and took my home to an all-time high (elevation that is).

I left the mountains and moved to gain a broken British accent while living in London, England. I felt like I would never live anywhere except London. I found myself there more than I ever did in Boulder or Naples. I shed all my imperfections and strengthened myself and views the world so vastly in such a short amount of time.  I was spinning all my grad school gears towards the United Kingdom.

I fell in love and that changed things. I always felt my parents holding onto my invisible reigns, but they would have always let go so I could follow my heart to the U.K. I started to see how hard it would be to live abroad and stay abroad due to immigration laws. As I was realizing that, I was finding what I loved in my own home again.

I would have never thrown away my dreams to be with him just as I would have never hoped he would do the same for me, but I was swayed most likely subconsciously to stay close to what I loved here. I started looking back at the school I looked at originally for my parents, but now it wasn’t to humor them but to see if I could find myself once more in a new city here. I was ecstatic that NYU admitted me into their program.

I was envisioning how much I would grow and how excited I would be to have everyone come to the city and stay in my cozy East Village apartment. When I walked around New York I was reminded of that, but I was overwhelmed. I watched too many Friends leading up, and my apartment views were slightly skewed. They are smaller than Monica’s Mansion.

I have to say its so important to trust your gut. I may have stayed in America for tons of different reasons, and I may have lost sight of them when I felt weakened by apartment viewings. I knew I loved my apartment before I viewed it. I saw other places, too many places, but nothing compared. I am grateful that it didn’t slip through my fingers like it could have. It was an experience none the less.

When they say 70-90% sure on the apartment is enough they mean it. This is what I found helped me not find 100%:

  • Research before and find the median prices and keep an eye out for what is for sale.
  • Go in with a price range, but expect to change it.
  • Breath. Between. Viewing. They may be short, but don’t hold your breath.
  • Figure what you need and know where you can and cannot compromise
  • Research the building, there is a difference between 4 complaints and 400.
  • Brooker fees suck, but sometimes fee-less apartments suck more.
  • Love the area, you are going to be spending time walking there.
  • Envision yourself in there, if you can’t, move on.
  • Have all your paperwork ready or readily available.
  • Apply when you know and don’t let doubt prolong the situation.