Woah. This might be the longest my blog has gone without any action.
I love posting here, visiting these cabinets of wonder when I feel so compelled. Before I start typing a post, I try to take a moment to remember why I began this blog, what it’s given me over the years, and what others so kindly tell me it’s given them. I made sure to do that tonight, because it’s really been a while. I can’t believe how busy life has been lately. But it’s the kind of busy that has had me wholly embracing the ups and downs as they’ve come, and reflecting privately on the written page instead of publicly, here. And that felt pretty good. But: hey there, wonders. It’s a pleasure to be back.
So. Here are some things.
In anticipation of moving to one of the most expensive cities on the planet, I started (and have since stopped) working at a restaurant. It was quite the experience, which, along with some fast cash, was exactly what I was looking for. The server who trained me (and who quickly became my best restaurant friend—those of you who have waited tables know the kind of crucial ally I’m talking about) said he’d never seen someone scribble so many notes while he was speaking. What can I say? I’m a student at heart. And I enjoyed learning the ropes at this neighborhood pizza place. During shifts, my mind filled with conversations with customers, the ever-changing draught list, orders of tiramisu and goat cheese pizza and echoes of “extra olives, please.” It was a great gig that left me feeling satisfied in the way that only jobs that work you really hard can leave you feeling.
The cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. bloomed especially beautifully this year. In late April, I took an afternoon to have an adventure in the District: just me, my camera, and a few thousand tourists. It was lovely.
It’s only recently that I’ve come to appreciate this country’s capital and living near it for many years. I don’t think I would have gleaned that appreciation and that fresh perspective on D.C. had it not been for living here for the past several months. I have a great group of Elon friends living downtown, and it was so fun spending time in the city on a regular basis. I’ve never been one to really believe that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in this case, it just took a few months getting close to the city and an afternoon of blossoming cherry trees to convince me that the D.C. area is a pretty great place to be from.
In April, near the end of my best friend Maggie’s first year of graduate school, I visited her in Pittsburgh. It was so great to see her life up there, meet her grad school friends, and hear her read part of her thesis at a reading at a delicious whiskey distillery. Being surrounded by words, whiskey, and writers is always a good thing. These particular writers said interesting things, like: “Friends, I want a cider and a giggle.” (Don’t we all.) They spoke about making interesting things, like homemade garlic butter biscuits, wooden structures, and tasty beer. And some of the very poignant ones got me thinking about interesting things (which is ultimately what we want from writers, right?), like my what first grasp was, and what John Krasinski looks like while he’s brushing his teeth, and who around me might have a heart heavier than all the bricks I’ve ever seen.
It’s always a privilege to read and hear Maggie’s words, and it was a very special weekend. And it was made even more special by the fact my other best friend, Julie, came to hang out with us for the weekend, too! Many of you know that my most favorite thing in the world is when my favorite people come together and our worlds collide. This was that. And it was dreamy.
Speaking of favorite people coming together: for a few days in June, our family was together in Virginia. It’s a rare thing for all of us to be in the same time zone, much less the same house. (As I type this, the five of us are in three different time zones. Somehow, we make it work.) It was so great to be around my siblings again. We’re all “launched” now and enjoying our separate life adventures, but I not-so-secretly love being squished under one roof with my parents, big bro, and little sis. Ben gets me up at the crack of dawn for workout sessions and if I’m lucky, Katrina lets me crawl into bed with her to watch movies and snuggle before falling asleep at night. What more could a middle child want?
And, in July, our family had the pleasure of meeting Ben’s girlfriend, Ali: a wonderful woman and such a light in Ben’s life. They were recently introduced by mutual friends who told each of them beforehand, “You have to meet this person. They’re your soulmate. Just wait and see.” Doesn’t get much better than that, huh?
Last weekend, one of my closest friends from Elon got married. (Rach, it feels like just yesterday we were traveling around the U.K., eastern Europe, and west Africa together!) I don’t know if I’ve ever been in the presence of such joy and selfless love as I was during Rachel and Jason’s beautiful wedding reception. I think it’s fitting that the words we use to describe this kind of bliss revolve around light: radiance, glow, brilliance. The night and this couple was all of that emanating light and more. It was a wonderful evening in Massachusetts with our close friends and with Rachel and Jason’s close-knit families, and I’m so glad I was able to be there to celebrate them and the amazing shared journey they’ve just begun.
A definite highlight of the past few months was spending four days in Putney, Vermont in late May. I was there for training for one of my summer jobs, as a leader for a National Geographic Student Expedition in Ireland. I’ve never been surrounded by such like-minded people as I was in gorgeous Putney. I was blown away by how much my fellow leaders had traveled, all the languages they spoke, and how much they enjoyed their jobs as writers, photographers, teachers, and—naturally—as globe-trotters. I wasn’t the only new leader this year, but there were only a handful of us, and so it felt like I was one of the new relatives at a very close-knit yet welcoming family reunion. And it was awesome. I’m so happy to be a part of this clan, and I look forward to hopefully spending my next many summers leading trips for Nat Geo!
Which brings me—by winding way of so many other things—to the present moment! I am sitting in a roomy apartment just off famous O’Connell Street in Dublin, Ireland. I’m listening to a super fun song, have a few tealight candles lit, and am about to go for a pint at Dublin’s oldest pub. I arrived in Ireland a week ago and spent most of last week adventuring around the south and southwest parts of the country, enjoying some travelin’ alone time before returning to Dublin to begin Nat Geo duties. It was a great few days of backpacking, and I’m amazed I actually made it to Ireland in the first place. More on those adventures later :) But I’m very glad to be here in this spacious apartment, complete with huge windows, a lovely desk, and—I can barely believe it—a spiral staircase.
I just finished selecting a few famous pieces of Irish literature to share with my students on our first full day in Dublin. I can’t wait to write with them, guide them, and explore with them. The students and my co-leaders arrive tomorrow—I’m so excited. We’ll be exploring and writing our way through Dublin for a few days before heading west to Galway and the Aran Islands. 24 creative writing and photography students, 3 trip leaders, and a whole lotta exploring to do—here we go! Follow us on our National Geographic blog over the next two weeks for some poignant photos and powerful prose.
It’s been a very busy and sleepless weekend running around Dublin, and I doubt I’ll be blogging here again until I’m back in the States and have managed a full-night’s sleep (what’s that feel like again?) But how nice to be back on what my good friend Sean calls “the Interwebs” again, sharing with family and friends. How nice to take a moment in the middle of an incredible summer to reflect a bit and find a comfortable nook in these cabinets of wonder. Maggie recently wrote to me about how life often seems to be a constant negotiation between all the varied and sometimes dissonant parts of ourselves, our loved ones, our duties, and everything else. Even when it feels impossible to slow down because of how much there is to do or say or feel or think, how comforting to know that, as Mags said, there is a wholeness—even though so much else feels fragmented. If we can lie down at the end of the day and know that we’ve spent our time investing in the things we care most about and being true to what we love to do—even when there’s so much chaos or confusion or uncertainty that it hurts—than we’re okay. We’re more than okay. We’re exactly where we need to be, being intentional and true amidst the craziness.
So: cheers to the craziness, friends! Talk to you soon.