If you only read one of my blog posts ever, make it this one

*I’ve never used my blog for this purpose before, so I hope you’ll forgive me – thanks in advance for taking a few minutes to read through this.

I’ve made no secret of how wretchedly awkward I was as a kid. (And as a teenager, and as an adult.) I was a pigeon-toed, bookish, hyperactive dweeb who on any given day could be found participating in a number of cringe-worthy oddities… like crab-walking my way from one class to the next, or accessorizing my backpack with keychains the size of dinner plates. I was, to put it kindly, a spazzy little weirdo.

Which is to say, making friends wasn’t always easy.

However, when I was 12 years old, I met my now best friend Jessi – who introduced me to Young Actors’ Theatre. It was a marvelous nonprofit organization, founded by Jessi’s own mom… which existed to take spazzy little weirdos like me and expose them to the absolute miracle of theater.

The several years that followed were peppered with performances – during which I learned to sing, dance, act, and bring ancient masterpieces to life on stage. More than that, I was taught some priceless life lessons: Dedication, when I stayed late to perfect my high kick as a dancing napkin in Beauty and the Beast. Commitment, when I had to turn down social activities for rehearsal. Humility, when I didn’t always get the part I wanted. And of course, appreciation for the arts – and the creativity, talent, and genuine hard work that goes into them.

But most of all, friendship and fun, and the satisfaction of contributing to something bigger than myself.

Not to mention – these experiences introduced me to a group of truly wonderful, talented people… who didn’t appear to care what an awkward dweeb I was (and in fact, were pretty awkward and dweeby themselves)… many of whom I’m still lucky to call my closest friends today.

During the very last scene of the very last performance of the very last show I ever participated in at YAT, my character was supposed to cry. I was playing Lady Capulet in Romeo & Juliet, and was supposed to bawl when I discovered my daughter’s lifeless body. The thing is, crying on command is actually a pretty sophisticated acting skill… and one I didn’t possess. Therefore, in all the performances up until that point I heaved what I’d hoped were convincing sobs, screwing my face up with contrived, tearless emotion. But on that night, for that show, it struck me that this was likely one of the last times I’d be performing with this group… and I didn’t have to pretend one bit. Thinking about how much I would miss it, I clung to my friend playing Juliet and cried actual, flowing tears – likely one of the better moments of my young stage career.

All this to say, those years and experiences were some of the best of my life.

Young Actors’ Theatre taught me that it’s not only okay to be spazzy and weird… it’s actually encouraged. We need more weirdos, more rebels, more dorks – because those are the people who grow up to make the world a brighter and more interesting place to live. And it’s through continued commitment to the arts that we can foster this among future generations, and make sure that every child has the same opportunity to grow and thrive.

As a nonprofit, YAT only exists because of contributions from the community, and people who share a passion and commitment to their purpose. Which is why on this #GivingTuesday, I’m asking that my followers consider donating $5 (or more) to this organization which has played such a huge role in my life – and the lives of countless others.

Even with my relatively short tenure there, I credit YAT with shaping much of who I am as an adult – and it is my sincerest wish that it continues on forever… to give kids like me a creative outlet to develop character, and become the best versions of themselves.

Please click here if you’re interested in donating, every little bit helps! If you do, I can personally promise that it will go to good use – and you’ll be helping some spazzy little weirdo like me find a place in the world. ūüôā

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A word about getting back together with your ex

So here’s some gossip-worthy news, if you haven’t put two and two together yet: Taylor and I (yes, the boyfriend I was with for just shy of four years, then broke up with, then spent six months learning who I was without) are back together.

I’ll start by saying that I hate that terminology – the way you might characterize a sitcom romance. “They’re back together” like it’s just another ordinary day at the park, like it’s equally as temporary of a situation as the one that preceded it. “Back together” the same way that some wayward friend is “back in rehab” or “back to old habits.” More, even, than its temporal qualities – I hate that it implies regression. Why not “forward together” or “beginning anew”?

I’ll stop there – but suffice it to say that this hasn’t felt much like being “back” to anything.

It started in May. I was hesitant, the way that only a broken heart can be. Pessimistic and cynical, I treated the whole thing like a bubble about to pop. “This is nice,” I thought. “This will be nice for awhile. And when it all comes crashing down, well – at least I’ll know that I’ve gotten through it before, so I can do it again.” I traipsed through this new affair like a minefield. Sooner or later (and that inevitability weighed on me at every turn) this would have to end, and end badly.

In the meantime, though, I accepted love back into my life the way a recovering addict might entertain the idea of just one more heady dose of the good stuff: Yes, I’ll regret this later. I’ll be worse off afterward than I was before. But right now, right at this moment – isn’t it nice? Isn’t this delirious ecstasy absolutely, incontrovertibly worth it?

Because it was. It was better than I even let myself admit.

I feel I can best describe this sensation by likening it to an unfortunate stereotypically female trait of mine. Growing up, my mom always used the same car mechanic: a shop owned by a friendly pair of guys who were, coincidentally, both named Dave. My mom always took her car in to the Daves, and – when I got old enough – referred me to them as well.

Being only 16 at the time, and a typical girl when it came to cars, their garage was like the Starship Enterprise to me. How was it, that when I described a problem to them (with all the eloquent precision of: “Um… it goes ‘ee-err-ee-err’ when I first start it”), they were able to hoist my car up toward the rafters, dive elbows-deep into its greasy underbelly, make a few tweaks here and there and just fix it? The interworkings of my Toyota were as unfamiliar to me as the infinitesimal anatomy of a human brain cell, or the exorbitant vastness of the universe. I would stare at them, astonished, as they wiped their hands with a blue rag and told me I was all set.

It had all the makings of sorcery.

Which is why to this day, I still imagine auto shops to be a magical place where you bring broken things of all shapes and sizes to be tweaked, tinkered with, and tuned up – then returned to you in their best possible form. Things that otherwise would be doomed to remain unfixed forever can surely be mended at the hands of an adept mechanic.

This is what it felt like to be back in my relationship. Like I hadn’t actually ever left it – just placed it in the capable hands of some wizard at a relationship-fixing garage for awhile, letting the Daves do their work. And unbeknownst to me, my love life was undergoing heavy diagnostics. The engine was being polished, oil changed, brake pads replaced.

And when it was returned to me, it was like my beat-up old jalopy was back in the brightly-lit showroom of the dealership all those years ago. Its freshly-waxed paint gleamed and winked at me almost smugly – like, “What? You didn’t think I was still capable of this?”

It was, truly, even better than new, because it still bore all my favorite memories – the drive-ins, the road trips, the mistakes made and lessons learned. Everything we’d been through together had made it stronger, and the time apart made it invincible.

And it wasn’t the Daves I had to thank for this, of course; it was Taylor himself. He’d lifted the hood of that old clunker and brought out the toolbox – tuning and tightening what had become loose over the years, giving some much-needed TLC to parts that had rusted over from neglect.

At the risk of deviating too far from the metaphor (off the comfortable path of analogy and into the perilous jungle of factual testimony), Taylor had undergone a transformation and reinvested in ways I hadn’t thought possible… and without my involvement, no less.

Needless to say, coming back was like returning home and falling in love with a whole new person all at the same time.

Likewise, I’d gone through something of a personal upheaval myself. Small and lost in a new city, alone for the first time in my life, I’d faced truths about myself I can’t say I would have unearthed in a hundred years otherwise. I’d filled my life with enriching new experiences, animated new characters, and desires I hadn’t dared to voice before (like “I think I’d like to learn to play the guitar”). Questions about love, God, writing, life, and the human experience littered my journals in disorganized but impassioned scribbles. I was forced to face the question, with increasing urgency: “Who are you, Susie?” (The answer to which, you’d have to agree, would undoubtedly inform the success of any future relationship – romantic or otherwise.)

We were being simultaneously tweaked and tuned up, he and I –¬† and when we climbed back into that car, the engine purred.

I knew how this sounded. I’d been on the receiving end of this conversation before, and I knew what it was like. Sure things are better now, of course they are. It’s completely logical to think that people change, and two tumultuous souls can just split up for six months and come back to the world’s best relationship. Things are perfect, life is great, nothing could ever go wrong… call me when you wake up.

It was, frankly, too good to be true. Anyone listening would be doing so with jaded ears. Hell, if I were my own friend, I would be listening with jaded ears.

My friends were there, after all. They saw the hurt. They’ve heard these claims before. Like the addict trying to convince the world that after dozens and dozens of false alarms she is finally off the stuff for good (“really, this time, you guys!”) – the world shakes its head sadly, pats her on the knee and says sadly, “Sure, honey.” I heard my own initial skepticism echoed in my friends’ voices, and I didn’t blame them one bit.

But can you blame me, then, for being timid about sharing the news? I tiptoed around this conversation with my friends and family with such delicacy that it was months before the majority of them even knew. We gallivanted around Portland like convicted criminals, wearing hoods and sunglasses and peeking around corners for anyone who might recognize us. I waited until the last possible second to admit to myself – and, shortly thereafter, the world – that this could maybe possibly actually be real.

I made my final announcement in (characteristically) the most immature way possible – by posting a photo on social media with no explanation whatsoever, other than the hashtag “#bringontheinquisition.” Comments and texts flooded, and I answered their probing curiosities with as much grace as I could muster. I was honest when I conceded “You’re right, it is crazy. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe this is all a glorious hallucination, and I will wake up any minute.”

But it’s been five months now, and I haven’t woken up yet. Things are more wonderful than they ever have been, and I’ve stopped expecting the bubble to pop.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no delusions of perfection. I know that – like anything worth having in this life – love takes work. My love will not always be this glimmering display of glossy paint and a purring engine. It will take periodic check-ups and oil changes. The tires may need to be replaced.

But maybe the difference is in the acknowledgement that one broken carburetor isn’t enough to trash the whole car. Maybe it’s understanding that it takes two to tango, you get out what you put in, and the machine is only as valuable as the work you invest into it. Maybe it’s the recognition that it’s evolved from a junker to a rolls-royce… and that’s something worth protecting.

But in any case, this is me telling the world that – yes…

Taylor and I are back together.

Turns out age 26 is actually the greatest

I’m sorry. I’m going to disappoint you all. I’m not going to talk about a single thing I said I would in my last post.

Because the fact is, I’m frankly incapable of talking about (or thinking about, or reading about, or dreaming about) anything other than what I’m about to tell you.

…You guys. I’m going to Europe.

No need to adjust the settings on your computer monitor, folks, you read that right. Exactly six months from right this moment, I will be traveling to London, Paris, and Rome with the greatest man who ever walked the Planet Earth.

On my 26th birthday last week, while I was busy having a quarterlife crisis – lamenting my lost years and wondering when the heck I’m going to get around to being an adult – Taylor was preparing to give me the greatest gift a human being can give another: a plane ticket, a binder full of hotels and attractions, and four travel books detailing the different European hubs we’ll be making our way to in April… forcing every other boyfriend, from here on out, to live in this gift’s perpetual shadow. Taylor makes even Ryan Gosling look like a common street corner scrub. (Upon hearing the news, a friend of mine even exclaimed, “What the hell? My husband got me pajama pants for my birthday.”)

I unwrapped my gift with tentative enthusiasm, then genuine confusion, followed by utter disbelief. As realization set in and my eyes bulged out of their sockets – I leafed through the travel binder carefully, timidly, afraid that if I turned a page too quickly or jostled the giftbag in my lap the whole fragile thing would crumble. “No,” I said. “No. No. TAYLOR!”

He told me, giddily, that we would be leaving in exactly six months to the day – my half-birthday, in fact – and that we would be seeing the most beautiful and romantic sites the continent had to offer. (Including, forgive my dweebiness – PLATFORM NINE AND THREE QUARTERS AND THE BEATLES MUSEUM)

Tears followed, along with a breathless call to my mom. Taylor ushered me through the rest of my birthday celebration – including sunset cocktails and dinner Portland’s nicest rooftop restaurant overlooking the city – and it was all I could do not to babble to every stranger I met about our plans. Everyone from our Uber driver to the hostess who sat us at our table inducted him into the Boyfriend Hall of Fame.

So, for some background: I’ve been to Europe before, with my high school vocal ensemble. It was an honor, to be selected to travel halfway across the world and sing hymns as old as the buildings we occupied – hearing our voices reverberate around high-ceilinged domes, walls lined with frescoes, itching in our long choir robes.

However, I was 16 – and with all my best friends and a handful of really cute boys. And admittedly (and perhaps characteristically), we were much more consumed with the tapestry of young love stories being woven around us than the thousands of years of history beneath our feet. We scampered past timeless works of art without pause, whispered to each other as our tourguide pointed out monumental statues, peeked around the corners of architectural masterpieces to giggle at the sight of our crushes.

I even remember, jetlagged and sorely uninterested, actually falling asleep at the pulpit of a grand Spanish cathedral… because why should I care about some historic Catholic Church – with its breathtaking ceilings and intricate stained glass windows – when, like, Stephanie and Gabe were totally holding hands under the table of that last cafe?

Youth is wasted on the young.

Not to mention – even if I’d had a more mature grasp of the setting around me… we ventured to the parts of Europe that (at the risk of sounding like a spoiled American brat) I might not have sought out of my own accord. Poland was gorgeous, to be sure – but seeing the mountains of shoes and eyeglasses of victims strewn about Auschwitz, and the horrifying chambers¬† – labeled on one side “Able-Bodied Men” and on the other “Women and Children” weighed heavy on my young heart.

An earth-shattering experience, no doubt about it… but it didn’t jive well with the Lizzie McGuire version of a European vacation I’d come to expect.

Needless to say I’ve been itching to return, from the moment my feet landed back on American soil a decade ago.

But Europe – Europe – that’s the stuff of miracles, isn’t it? Boarding an airplane, crossing an ocean, and landing on a foreign shore… replicating in reverse the journey our ancestors made generations ago… entering a continent with such rich history and culture, buildings that are more than 300 years old?! It was a dream, sure – but the kind of dream that only presents itself once or twice in a lifetime. I thought would come true again maybe for my honeymoon, or as a faraway work assignment from some yet unidentified future employer… or maybe in retirement, when I would think up the idea in a lace nightgown while sipping tea.

But for my TWENTY-SIXTH BIRTHDAY?! Not in a million years.

I’ve been asking everyone I can think of – from my neighbors, to my entire extended family to the FedEx guy – what recommendations they have. With only 11 days to make it through 3 (possibly 4, we’re mulling over Edinburgh) cities, I need all the advice I can get.

My travel books are dogeared, torn, folded, crossed out, and scribbled all over. I’ve got a jetlag-avoiding Melatonin regimen from one friend, a packing guide from another, a language-learning app from a third, and a long list of attractions, museums, and restaurants. Taylor and I have an entire movie marathon – from Eurotrip to French Kiss – to get through by April, and all of my friends and family are tired of hearing me talk about this.

So I pose it to you, faithful readers: What should we do, where should we go, what can’t we miss?

And also: AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!

Don’t call it a comeback

It’s been so long, I don’t even know where to start.

Part of me is even timid about typing these first few words, because I imagine you all out there with pitchforks and torches – ready to take to the streets and call for my head. Because how dare I just disappear for months on end and then pick right back up where I left off like not a day has passed? The gall – the wretched, appalling nerve of it!

Or worse: There’s no one out there. Not a soul noticed my absence, the internet has carried on unfettered, another blog bites the dust, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.

Whatever the case, I am sorry. My last blog post was – GASP – over seven months ago. The things this world has seen since I last wrote! How far we’ve come, how much has transpired!

Some brief highlights, since the last time my fingers graced this keyboard: Caitlyn was still Bruce, and Ben & Jen were still together. The world had not yet been struck dumb by the maddening viral sensation known as the dress (#whiteandgoldforever), and the possibility of parallel universes as proven by the Berenst#in Bears. Donald Trump had not yet given every comedian in the world liquid gold joke fodder for months to come… which is a shame, because both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were still on Comedy Central. Portland was a comfortable, breezy 70 degrees (not this current mid-autumn sauna absurdity), and my tummy was a little bit smaller ’round the middle (miss you, Pure Barre!).

It’s been so long, in fact, that I can scarcely remember how to do it. Did I usually ramble like this? (Yes.) Did it always take this long to piece together sentences? (Most likely.) Was I always draped in a blanket like a five-year-old playing superhero? (Yes, but now with wine.) How did I ever decide what to write about? In looking at my blog for inspiration, I’m pathetically unable to identify any kind of theme or pattern. Why was I sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes instructive, poetic, or ridiculous? What was that thing where I did a Throwback Thursday feature for a hot second… and then just let it taper off like a Raiders fan’s dignity?

My fingers feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz when he rusts up – I need to take an oil can to my wrists to even remember what my muscles are supposed to do.

But a lot has gone down since I last said hello to the world, and I feel an obligation to my followers to keep you in-the-know. (I’ll also take this moment to give a shoutout to those followers – hello Mom, Dad, and kidnap victim I keep chained in the basement!)

As such, with any luck you can expect the following posts in coming days:

  • The Bearded Ryan sequel (the saga continues!)
  • My inevitable quarterlife crisis when I turn 26 in two days (I thought I was freaking out last year. Now I’m very definitely in my late 20s and I’m already hyperventilating about it.)
  • I got promoted! So you get to hear me drone on more about how much I love my job and my coworkers are so great and I’m so happy and blah blah blah Susie we get it.
  • I am also no longer alone (hubba, hubba), have spent my life’s savings on vacations this year (Denver and Dallas and Seattle, oh my!), and went WHITE WATER RIVER RAFTING IN CLASS 5 RAPIDS NBD EVERYBODY.

So here’s hoping my blog continues to be interesting (actually let’s manage our expectations – here’s hoping I can just keep it current).

Thanks for reading, y’all, and hope to see you again soon!

Why Portland is the Greatest City in the World, No I’m Serious, Stop Arguing You’ve Already Lost.

So next week marks a full three months since I moved to Portland.

I know, I know, that’s not completely¬†true. Technically I moved to the Portland area a little over a year ago, but aside from my god-awful daily commute, I didn’t do a whole lot of exploring in the City Proper. Which is nothing short of a travesty.

But since then, I’ve upheaved my whole life and plopped my lost little self down in the throbbing heart of the¬†city… and believe you me –¬†I’ve¬†made up for lost time.

I considered trying to tally the number of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, food carts, and shows I’ve been to since beginning this exploration… but just the thought of that task overwhelms me.

Instead, I’m just going to sit down for a moment and explain to you how absolutely, unequivocally, head-over-heels¬†in love¬†I am with this incredible¬†town.

Elizabeth Gilbert taught me that when keeping chickens, there are some circumstances where you have to introduce a new hen to the¬†flock. And you can’t just toss it in¬†with the old chickens, or they’ll see it as an invader – instead, you slip the new bird into the coop in the middle of the night while the others are asleep.

In the morning, when the chickens wake up, they don’t notice the newcomer – thinking, “She must have been here all the time, since I didn’t see her arrive.” The thing is, awakening in the¬†flock, the newcomer herself doesn’t even remember that she’s a newcomer – thinking only, “I must have been here the whole time…”

This is exactly how I arrived in Portland.

Without further ado, here’s¬†why Portland is the absolute best city on Earth, no arguments, I’m not even listening to you anymore:

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Friends. Before moving here, I was so nervous about starting a brand new life by myself, so worried that I wouldn’t know where to go or what to do, so terrified of¬†being alone¬†and so far from everything I knew and loved. I’ve had¬†the same group of friends¬†since I was 12 years old, and I’m not historically good¬†with new people… so before the move, I caught myself awake in bed¬†at 1am, reading articles entitled things like “How to Make¬†Friends as an Adult.”

But as it turns out, Portland was basically built for people just like me. Want endless new activity options like haunted pub crawls and underwear¬†bike rides? Check! Looking for somewhere with a rich culture, and inhabitants who are immensely passionate about art, music, craft beer, or all of the above? Check check! Need a city where¬†60% of the population are fellow transplants from other states, so literally everyone you meet¬†is on a let’s-explore-and-try-new-things-and-go-on-adventures kick? Check, check, check!¬†Living in Portland is like having a making-new-friends starter kit.

portland

Weirdness.¬†They’re not kidding when they call Portland weird – the whole city is an island of misfit toys. If America¬†were a high school lunchroom, Portland would be the table of eclecticism – it would include a few band geeks, some sign-carrying activists, brooding artists, gregarious performers, bookworms, that guy who goes barefoot because he thinks shoes are a sign of oppression, and probably a unicyclist.¬†If the whole rest of the country asks you to fit into a stereotype (“Oh, you’re from San Diego? Do you surf?”), Portland is where stereotypes go to die. It’s the type of city to open its arms and say, “Yeah – we know you’re a freak. It’s cool, though, we are too. Come on in.”

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Weather.¬†Speaking of¬†San Diego, the main thing I was warned about here was the rain. In fact, it was more or less¬†all I heard about. When I finally¬†arrived¬†here, and I¬†kept¬†hearing about the rain, I actually got really defensive about it. I told all my San Diego friends that it didn’t even rain that much, we actually went 125 days in a row¬†last year without a single rainy day, and that it was beautiful and sunny a LOT of the time and that they shouldn’t believe everything they hear.

But¬†as a bona fide Portlander now, I’m not going to say that anymore. In fact, I think I’m contractually obligated to tell you the following:

It rains. SO. MUCH. All day, every day. Portland is a horrible, gray, rainy city all the time. Tell your friends. No sunshine, EVER. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.

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People.¬†The other thing? Portland people¬†really are the best people in the world. I don’t know what it is, maybe there’s something in the water. Maybe we’re all just so relieved to finally fit in somewhere, maybe we’re all just collectively exploring who we are, maybe we’re just¬†sharing this adventure together. But Portlanders are a special breed – legitimately kind, genuine and curious and dimensional.

And¬†good people. Remember that time when a complete stranger went miles out of his way to help me change a flat tire? Remember Bearded Ryan, the superhero who embarked on a wild goose chase to track me down and return personal documents to me that he’d found on the side of the road? And of course, the person who had every right to screw me over, but instead left me a friendly reminder to be a better person:

These were all Portlanders. Do you get what I’m saying?

The city.¬†You guys, I get to¬†walk to work every day. Which is something I’ve never had the privilege of saying, and it’s freaking oh-my-god-crazy-fantastic.

Have you ever lived in a city before? I mean in an actual living, pulsating city with an actual heartbeat and a personality? Have you ever walked through that city by yourself on a lively evening? Have you done it in boots and a peacoat, with really good music in your headphones, and the kindest people on Earth nodding at you cheerfully as you pass?

I have!

The country.¬†Little-known fact (actually it’s probably pretty widely known, I’m just really in the dark about everything, all the time): Portland is the largest city in Oregon. And even Portland, in fact, is pretty tiny with all things considered: it’s made up of approximately 584k people – about¬†18% of the population of, say, San Diego County for instance.

And the rest of Oregon? Get this: the entire state is made up of less than 4mm people. Meaning Portland makes up roughly a sixth of the population of Oregon, even though the city itself only accounts for 0.14% (less than a quarter of a percent) in total square mileage.

All this to say, a¬†lot of my state¬†is made up of the polar opposite of my quirky urban setting: quaint, rural towns where people raise livestock and farm¬†Christmas trees on acres and acres of land. Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a pie auction in one of these towns –¬†the proceeds of which went¬†to a modest scholarship fund for high-achieving youths at¬†their local high school.

estacada

A¬†pie auction, you guys. Pies that had won awards at county fairs, women who I’m sure had perfected recipes over generations, a hundred people crammed into what used to be a high school gym – where everyone knew each other by first name and teased one another affectionately (“Next up – a chocolate fudge pie, which¬†we all know is going to Hank…”). It was wholesome and authentic and it absolutely warmed my heart.

The forest. Last but not least, Portland would be incomplete without the glory of nature that surrounds us. They don’t call them evergreens for nothing – the Pacific Northwest is overgrowing with¬†life. Vines creeping around light posts, rogue leaves¬†peeking through cracks in the sidewalk… and moss, endless and¬†everywhere.

You get the sense that if the apocalypse came tomorrow, it wouldn’t take long for the Earth to reclaim this city – the land is practically twitching with anticipation for it.¬†In literally every direction there is¬†green, trees and plants who seem almost smug in their assuredness. And it only takes a short stroll off the beaten path, into another world where long leafy tendrils are draped across great mossy branches – to be reminded of how small we really are, how trivial our problems, how life will continue going on long after we’re gone.

That’s what Portland is, really – the perfect blend of city, country, and forest. The most amazing people, the most incredible culture, and the most delicious food carts. (Oh right I didn’t even talk about those…)

Long story short, here I am: three months in, surrounded by a collection of truly amazing people and with a ton of new experiences under my belt… and I’m actually awed at how anxious I originally was. Because now that I’m here, it seems odd that I’ve ever been anywhere else.

I slipped into Portland like a bird in the night, and it feels as if I must have been here the whole time.

Throwback Thursday: The Nutshell Version Turns 1!

GUESS. WHAT.

After the next Hunger Games movie comes out, they’re going to start releasing prequels so the ADVENTURE ISN’T OVER YET. (In unrelated news: I have the literary and cinematic maturity of a 13-year-old girl.)

That’s not actually what I was gonna say, though. Guess what else!

That’s right – this week marks my¬†one-year anniversary of starting this blog!!!

This fact was brought to my attention by Timehop, perhaps the greatest social invention of our generation.

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“You LIAR, I’m looking at your archived posts right now and they go all the way back to December 2013!” – Nobody

Well, Nobody, technically you’re right. I had a full two months of blogging under my belt before I worked up the courage to tell anyone. But I’m still counting this as my anniversary because uh… well, because this is my blog and I don’t have to answer to Nobody. (baddum, tsssss)

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I thought I’d pull a 90s-sitcom-series-finale and do a flashback montage of all¬†its¬†greatest hits.

The thing is, guys, this blog changed my life.

This blog post got me a job (a job I absolutely love). This one was featured on Freshly Pressed, which catapulted my love of blogging to a new dimension. This one helped me cope with my tumultuous year of three-moves-in-10-months, and this one and this one acted as writing therapy as I went through my recent break-up.

I wrote not one open letter but two – and I went through this weird phase where I really wanted to share my thoughts on random things like happiness and motivation and decision-making.¬†I’m honored and¬†humbled¬†to report¬†that my schoolteacher aunt used¬†this post¬†to demonstrate the literary term “hyperbole” to her students.

I also got the opportunity¬†to publicly reminisce about my childhood via journal entries dating back to 1997, tell a heartbreaking story of 5th grade love and loss,¬†and¬†unearth an old¬†Girl Scout project that hadn’t seen the light of day in 10 years.

And finally, I talked about being awkward an awful lot… because I am.¬†I am really awkward.

It’s been a pretty sweet year, y’all – thanks for humoring me. Here’s to many more random posts to come.

Okay fine let’s talk about Tinder.

I’ll be honest, you guys. I debated for a long time whether I should write this post. because (a) My family, friends, and coworkers read my blog… and I’m not sure how eager they are to hear of my online dating exploits, and (b) “Online dating exploits” would be one thing, Tinder is another.

Up until a few weeks ago, all I knew about Tinder was that it was a dating app… and, more specifically, that it didn’t exactly have a¬†reputation for creating deep, successful, long-standing relationships.¬†It was suggested to me as a way to meet people, now that I’m a single gal living alone¬†in a big city.

But being on Tinder is vaguely akin to reading 50 Shades of Grey or watching Magic Mike – everybody knows that everybody’s read/seen it, but there’s still something of an unspoken understanding that no one openly talks about it. You don’t do¬†it in public. And if it does ever come up in conversation, it’s selective and deliberate.

I even heard that here in Portland, “We met at New Seasons” (a local organic grocery store) has become code for “We met on Tinder.”

Which is why, when I joined Tinder, I told myself I was joining more as a social experiment than anything.¬†I think I even used the words “it’ll make a good blog post” at some point in my internal reasoning.

First of all, here’s¬†how Tinder works:

You fill out a comprehensive questionnaire detailing your values, passions, and personality type…

You’re given the opportunity to profile¬†what you’re looking for in a partner, likes, dislikes, and…

You just swipe. Right if you like them, left if you don’t. And what information are you given to make this decision? Family history, religious affiliation, political views, life aspirations… picture, name, age.

So in other words, being on Tinder is kinda like saying, “Here, lemme just sit down and pass superficial judgement on complete strangers for a few minutes. NBD.”

To be fair, you are also given a 500-character description, and you get to see whether you have any shared interests or friends on Facebook.

…That is, if you take the extra step of clicking on their profile.

But as one of my more Tinder-savvy friends pointed out, there’s a reason that requires an extra click. The idea, she tells me, is to just make a split-second gut decision. When I explained to her that I open every single profile, read every single description, and scroll through all of the available photos, she said, “God, that sounds exhausting.”

And she was right. Tinder is exhausting, in so many new and interesting ways.

My two least favorite features of the app:

  • When you swipe left, it¬†stamps the picture¬†“NOPE.” Which¬†would not have been my specific inflection, okay? I’m not a jerk. It should be something more like “I’m sorry, you seem great, but I’m just not that into weight lifting…”
  • When you’re notified of a match, you are prompted to (a) tell your friends (which seems odd) or (b) “keep playing.” Like the whole thing is a game. Which I guess it kinda is.

And it’s exhausting, most¬†of all, because it’s starting to make me lose faith in the male race. Or just humanity in general. To save time, I created a few ground rules for myself of what would qualify someone as an automatic no:

  • Mirror selfies (I know, I’m sorry. You probably just don’t have any pictures of yourself so you’re improvising. But I just can’t get over seeing a toilet and towel rack over your shoulder. I can’t.)
  • Spelling errors (I try not to be a nazi over this, but if you have 500 characters to display yourself to the world and you do so with a typo, we probably shouldn’t hang out.)
  • The words “no drama.” (You boys are JUST as dramatic, don’t be insulting.)
  • Pictures of you lifting one corner of your shirt to show your abs.
  • Actually, come to think of it, any picture that only exists to show your muscles. (Are there really girls out there who swoon over this?)

IMG_1426This was an ACTUAL guy’s ACTUAL profile picture. I’m not making this up.

After awhile I started noticing trends – like “looking for a down to earth girl.” What does that even¬†mean?

Like, what would the¬†opposite of a down to earth girl be? An up-in-the-sky girl? Cuz that’s me.

Also, “adventure” is a word that comes up a lot. As in, “I love adventure” or “Let’s go on an adventure.” I’m not sure what to make of this, but for me it conjures images¬†of Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

Not every guy’s profile falls into these categories, though. I’ve come across a few good ones…

IMG_1305IMG_1307

IMG_1315

Some guys feel honesty is the best policy…

IMG_1428

Some use it as an opportunity to express¬†their poetic side…

IMG_1274

This guy, who used his four pictures to make a zoom-in meme:

picstitch-1

And then there’s this old gem:

Wontmurderyou

It’s also exhausting just based on the sheer volume of possible interactions. No joke, here was my very first hour on the app:

IMG_1270

The number¬†of human beings on this app is staggering. And since I’m not exactly the best follow-up person in the world, having to keep up with dozens of conversations at once isn’t exactly my strong suit.

Luckily, some guys make it really easy by weeding themselves out for me:

IMG_1300

IMG_1429Okay, that one was kinda funny.

I could list more, there are a lot of creep-os on Tinder, but I’m already toeing the line on appropriateness here so I’ll stop.¬†And anyway, not all conversations are bad…

Like the guy I had a serious, very technical, in-depth conversation with about how to¬†rate¬†potential romantic partners…

IMG_1430

Or¬†this guy, who used my only weakness against me…

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All in all,¬†the whole thing has been super bizarre. I have not met the guy version of Tinderella, I have no success stories to report, and I still feel squeamish even posting this because Tinder is so taboo. In fact, now that I’ve got my blog post written I might just go ahead and delete it.

…Maybe just after a couple more swipes.

Wherefore art thou, Bearded Ryan?

To the really solid, upstanding individual who broke into my car this weekend:

Hey, you. Good old you. How ya feelin? Is your arm sore, from that rock you hurled through my car window? Any cuts or scrapes from kneeling in glass shards as you rifled through my glove compartment? Did you pull any muscles lifting my junk out of the back seat? Any pinky toe blisters from the shoes you used to run away?

How’s your conscience, knowing that you pulled this crap¬†ten steps away from a preschool?

No matter. I hope this letter finds you in good health. I’ve known a wayward soul or two in my time, and I know there’s probably more to your story than throwing rocks through windows.

Maybe you’re a teenager and¬†it was¬†a dare, and you’re just trying to fit in with the wrong crowd. Maybe you’re a single dad just trying to provide for your family the only way you know how (after all, the Notorious B.I.G. dedicated his Ready to Die¬†album to “all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustling in front of, that called the police on me – when I was just trying to make some money to feed my daughter.”) Maybe you’re struggling with a crippling addiction, and it’s taken hold of your life so entirely that you don’t even realize what you’re doing anymore.

Whatever the case, it is my sincerest hope that you’ll straighten up and fly right before it’s too late.

In the meantime, though, I’m going to offer you some unsolicited advice. Businessperson to unethical businessperson.

First of all, I’m curious how you landed on my car as an ideal target. I drive a 2007 Toyota Yaris that hasn’t been washed since the last olympics.¬†I literally go WAY out of my way every day to park a half a mile away from work just because parking is¬†free there. And my car’s cleanliness is the biggest embarrassment of my life, to the point that I used to have nightmares about giving¬†my boss a ride somewhere and him finally becoming privy to¬†what a disgusting creature I am. My ex boyfriend lovingly nicknamed my vehicle¬†“the garbage disposal.”

And you thought – hey I know, I’ll just go ahead and bypass these BMWs and Lexuses scattered around the PAID parking spots of Portland and go to the cheapskate neighborhood instead. Look there!¬†A dirty, decade-old car full to the brim with empty Gatorade bottles, chip wrappers, and parking tickets? JACKPOT!

How long did it take you to figure out that I’m just as broke as your sorry ass?

…30 seconds? A minute, maybe?

Then, I imagine you grabbed the only item of potential value you could find, a box of random documents, and tore out of there.

Just really poor choices, all around dude. Take a minute to reevaluate your life.

But this story isn’t about my car getting broken into. Let me tell you a better story about Superman a bearded guy named Ryan.

Mr. Loser Rock Thrower didn’t make it far with my box-o-documents before ditching them around a corner. There they sat, for who knows how long, until Bearded Ryan came across them while walking his dog. He curiously nudged one of the envelopes open with his toe, and my passport went skidding across the sidewalk.

Alarmed, he picked up the box and the remaining documents and brought them home.

…Where he proceeded to go all storybook hero and track me down Liam Neeson style.

I’m admittedly filling in holes here, but here’s the story as¬†I understand it.

Get this, you guys: When he got home, Bearded Ryan did a Google search for “Mary Wittbrodt” which yielded about thirty thousand¬†results (there are a lot of Marys in my family), but he was still somehow able to track down my dad’s old company in San Diego. He called them, and they told him my dad had retired, but he still somehow obtained his contact info. He called my parents’ house but they were out of town, so he left a message.

This would ALREADY have been way above and beyond what any average¬†human being would consider going through in a situation like this. Hitting a road block (like my parents’ voicemail) would have been completely rational justification for calling the search quits.

But did he call it quits? EFF¬†no, this is Bearded Ryan we’re talking about!

He saw on my college transcript¬†that I go by the nickname “Susie” (BINGO) and then started his search all over again with that name instead. Lo and behold, he found me through my company’s website – which is how I got a call from our confused receptionist at around 11:30 this morning.

“Hi… Susie? I’m sorry to bother you, but I figured you’d want to take this call. I’ve got a man named Ryan on the phone who says he was walking his dog and found your passport…”

Minutes later, I was at the scene of the crime, surveying the damage and broken glass… when Bearded Ryan called out behind me, appearing like the angel Gabriel with documents in-hand.

If my life were a movie, this would be the part where that blossoming romance¬†riff would play (you know the one I’m talking about, the music the Sims always made out to), and we would run into each others’ arms and live happily ever after and have literally THE BEST “how we met” story of all time.

But because this is real life, and I am real awkward Susie, that’s not exactly how it went down. We gathered the papers together, most of them smeared with rain, while I kept thanking him over and over again (Bearded Ryan, how do I thank thee? Let me count the ways…). The extent of our conversation was him giving me some rock-solid advice for how to avoid identity theft now that Mr. Loser Rock Thrower probably has all my information. I asked him if there was anything I could do to repay him and he said, repeatedly, “I’m just glad I found you.”

Then we shook hands (I think? It’s all a blur to me now…) and he rode off into the sunset while I stood there gaping like a goldfish.

A few hours later,¬†my parents got home and heard Bearded Ryan’s concerned message – and promptly called their daughter, who was (regrettably) in a meeting.

Put yourself in my parents’ shoes for a moment – just returning from a vacation, 1,000 miles away from their eldest daughter who isn’t answering her phone, and a message on the answering machine about some stranger finding her¬†passport¬†on the street.

Yeah, they might have panicked a bit.

But have no fear, everyone, because Bearded Ryan came to the rescue again. My parents called the number he left and had a nice, long, buddy-buddy chat. He assured them that their daughter was, in fact, safe Рand filled them in on some of the finer details of my unfortunate predicament.

When I finally got their frantic voicemail a little while later, I called them back immediately thinking I would have to talk them out of total hysteria. But to my surprise, they were cool as cucumbers – just wanting to talk insurance logistics and to scold me, again, for not renewing my AAA membership.

Damn you, Bearded Ryan, you’ve done it again.

My conscience still feels totally out of balance¬†about the fact that¬†I completely failed to express my gratitude in any tangible way. I mean, the guy talked to¬†my dad’s old employer from like¬†seven years ago¬†halfway across the country. There aren’t even enough italics in the world to convey the lengths he went to… just to return a passport to an idiot girl who was stupid enough¬†to leave¬†sensitive documents¬†unattended in her car in a sketchy part of town. And then, to top it off, he talked my parents off the veritable ledge of absolute terror while I jabbered away, blissfully ignorant in a work meeting.

I’m tempted to go on a similar Liam Neeson-type scavenger hunt to track¬†him down… but all I know is (1) his name is Ryan, (2) he has a beard, (3) he owns a dog, and (4) he lives within reasonable proximity to my work.

Which basically narrows it down to, oh, a third of the male population in Portland.

Le sigh.

Bearded Ryan, if you’re out there, thank you. And also…

I love you
Let’s get married
And have upstanding-citizen babies
Let me buy you a drink!

Here Lies Susie, Rest in Peace. Cause of Death: Pure Barre.

You’ve heard of Pure Barre.

I feel I can safely assume that, because I’ve heard of Pure Barre, and I’m usually the last person to hear about things.

But for those of you still in the dark, Pure Barre is an exercise program created by masochists to torture women under the facade of being a distant cousin of ballet.

…Or something. I don’t know. Look it up.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to get in shape ever since my doctor called me a fat lard a few weeks ago… and I’ve been hearing a lot about Pure Barre lately.

And since I pretty much do whatever I want these days, I went ahead and signed myself up.

I’ll be honest, I went into this thing all cocky. My limited exposure to the program had informed me that it wouldn’t be cardio, there would be no jumping or bouncing, and they I would only be using 2-pound weights. Pshaw.¬†I spent like two weeks working out this year, and I did dance… oh, a decade or so ago, so I GOT THIS, right? Should be a piece of cake, a la mode.

But it was not a piece of cake a la mode. It wasn’t even cake a la¬†no mode. It was… slabs of concrete on a plate.

My first impression walking in is, damn. These girls look GOOD.

I don’t mean runway model skinny, I mean FIT. I’m talking, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider fit. These girls look like they’d be right at home with loincloths around their waist, traipsing through jungles with a machete. The movie Avatar comes to mind, only these girls aren’t blue.

And hawt. Oh my god. Easily a room full of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen.¬†I suddenly feel¬†overwhelmingly self-conscious in my sweats and oversized T-shirt. They make¬†me jealous of turtles, how they can just hide inside themselves at whim.

Boys, I’ve uncovered the secret. If you want a hottie, hang out outside a Pure Barre studio and thank me later.

Then it occurs to me:¬†there’s no way all these girls are this fit, and this hot. This is fake, this is part of the gig. They pay these girls to come to these classes the same way¬†beer commercials use subliminal¬†advertising with big busty blondes – to make men think, in caveman-style logic: “Me drink beer. Me get pretty girls.”

Me go to Pure Barre studio, me become pretty Avatar-fit girl.

Luckily, all the fellow-attendees-slash-possibly-paid-actors are really nice. They twirl around me as I stretch awkwardly on the floor, and give me enthusiastic encouragement for my first day.

The instructor pulls me aside to give me a basic overview of what to expect – and she says, two or three times, “Don’t worry. All these girls in here – every one of them had a first day, too.”

Translation: You will suck at this.

The class begins, and we go to the bar to perform a series of leg strengthening exercises.

Did I say “leg strengthening exercises?” No no, that’s the wrong name for it. You’re probably picturing squats or burpees or some nonsense.

Nope, what I mean is Рwe just stood there. Just stood there, with one leg down and one straight out. Or on our tip toes with knees bent. Or with flexed feet, turned out feet, pointed feet. We barely even moved. The most tiny, miniscule movements Рtighten and hold, tighten and hold.

From outside, it probably looked like we were doing barbie doll impressions, twisting the leg socket by a half an inch and then just standing there like a statue.

Which made it all the more infuriating how unbelievably, indescribably HARD it was.

At Pure Barre, they have an expression called “embrace the shake.” What they mean by this is, by the end of the class you’ll have exerted your muscles to the absolute breaking point – and your muscles’ way of expressing this to you will be to shake uncontrollably.

We’re meant to embrace this.

I am¬†embracing the shake within the first eight minutes of class. Not just slight twitching, mind you, but absolute violent spasms. I look like a frightened cartoon character, my knees knocking together. “Way to go, Susie! Embrace the shake!” the instructor¬†tells me.

I don’t know what this means. The shake isn’t something I can¬†control.¬†I’m not embracing anything,¬†I’m just trying to stay alive.¬†If I could send the shake away with some cab fare, I’d do it. I want to spit in the shake’s face.

After days and days at the bar, when I’ve given up all hope of my legs ever returning to normal function and I’m starting to forget my name, we retreat to the mats.

I’m no anatomy expert, but I truly did not even know there was this much sweat inside my body. Where does it all come from? And how is it produced¬†by doing nothing but¬†standing?

On the floor, we do more teeny tiny movements – this time working itty bitty muscles in my abs I didn’t even know existed. Sweat is dripping off the tip of my nose like a leaky faucet.

After weeks of impossibly miniscule gestures involving a ball and a resistance band, mercifully, the class comes to a close.

I practically collapse on the floor. I am dying I died I’m dead.

The same girls frolic up to me cheerfully, asking me how I enjoyed it. Gathering my remaining pride, I can only muster a single syllable: “Tough.”

They laugh conspiratorially. “It gets easier, we promise!” Then they skip tra-la-la back into their Avatar forest while I lay helpless on the ground.

Exiting into the crisp Portland night air is nothing short of heavenly. The icy wind laps my pink face like a loyal dog, and any remaining drips of sweat are stopped dead in their tracks.

It’s wonderful… until I realize home is 17 blocks away.

And¬†I suddenly realize I can’t walk. I can’t even remember what it’s like to walk. I’m like an infant re-learning my first steps. Even swinging my arms hurts.

I somehow stumble awkwardly home, and climb into the shower practically on all fours. As I type this, I’ve been sitting in the same position for the last 2.5 hours because getting up sounds so unbearably painful.

I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into here. This has been horrifyingly intense, and completely overwhelming. I’m exhausted, weak, and I ache all over.

…And, truthfully, I can’t wait to go back tomorrow.

What it’s like to be alone

What is there to say?

What is there ever to say?

It’s been so long since I dipped my toe in the murky waters of chronicling my life that I can scarcely remember how to do it.

But since time is a weighty currency not one of us can spare, I’ll get to the point:

Due to a set of circumstances I am nowhere near ready to disclose on this blog… I am single. And now living alone in a¬†city apartment in Portland.

Having been in my most recent relationship for just shy of three years, and the one preceding it for four, and the one preceding¬†that for one…¬†I’ve been somebody’s girlfriend for eight of the last nine years, and my entire adult life.

In other words, being single is entirely unfamiliar territory.

And, let me tell you: it’s hard.

It’s hard not having an automatic recipient to your random thoughts throughout the day. It’s hard not having a witness to your life, a sounding board who knows all the right backstories to every character in your story. It’s hard not having someone to wonder about, to care for.

Being alone Рwhich I count as a separate entity Рis also hard. Even surrounded by people, the world can be a lonely place. What if I told you that you had to spend the rest of your life, every single moment until the end of time, with the same person? More time than even your best friend. More than your significant other. More than any member of your family combined.

And the weird thing is, that person is you. YOU are the person you’re going to have to spend eternity with, forever, regardless of the presence of others. And, consider this carefully… do you even like yourself? If you were someone else, would you¬†want to spend eternity with you?¬†Or do you even¬†know yourself to begin with?¬†What kind of person are you? What do you like to do?

That’s what being alone is like, and it’s terrifying.

…But, okay, it’s also awesome.

Being alone Рas far as I can figure (having had about two weeks under my belt) Рis also an awfully exhilarating adventure.

I feel thoroughly unqualified to adequately express my experience thus far… so by way of explanation, let me just describe my day today:

I woke up by my own accord.

I don’t mean to say that I didn’t set an alarm, because that’s been true of most weekend days in my life.

I mean that when I got out of bed, it wasn’t because I knew someone else was up and puttering around in the kitchen. It wasn’t because waking up was the polite, considerate thing to do. It wasn’t because on some unconscious level I knew it would be improper to sleep any later, and that it was “time” to start the day.

I woke up for the luxuriously simple reason that I was done sleeping.

Once awake, I asked myself a deliriously wonderful question: “What would you like to do today, Susie?”

And as bad at I am at decisions, I knew the answer right away. Gosh darnit, I want some eggs benedict.

And here’s the crazy part; are you paying attention? I got some eggs benedict. I walked¬†to a locally acclaimed breakfast joint just a few blocks from my apartment, and asked for a table for one.

Because I wanted to watch the Charger game (no, I don’t want to talk about it), I was situated in the far¬†back of the restaurant with my very own dedicated TV.

I was in heaven.

eggs benny

This restaurant (not that I’m in the business of promoting random restaurants) offers bottomless mimosas for $9.

mimosaThe secret to bottomless mimosas is to make sure you get your money’s worth. $9 is a pretty penny, UNLESS you have a fair few of them to balance it out. #lifetips

Also, while most boring places will offer you breadsticks or some nonsense while you’re waiting… this place serves complimentary homemade doughnuts. So, no big deal or anything.

doughnuts

Gee whiz, I sure hope nobody’s paying too close attention to me photographing all this food.

After swallowing my last bite of eggs benny and watching the Chiefs return a Chargers punt 50 yards, I made my way back into the misty sidewalk and headed home.

Before reaching my building, I stopped off at the local supermarket and treated myself to a some fresh veggies and (because I won’t be kissing anyone anytime soon) cheese curds entitled “Garlic Cheddar – Vampire Slayer.”

I munched on them while watching (who am I kidding?) crying over Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

After I was all cried out, I started to get sleepy, and (because there was no one around to suggest otherwise) I went ahead and took a two-hour nap.

When I woke, I dolled myself up, grabbed a book, and walked down to my favorite vietnamese restaurant. I reveled in every last nanosecond of slurping my pho (because why hurry?) as I devoured Truman Capote.

bat

The pho place is the hokiest hole in the wall you’ve ever seen, and their source of music is YouTube playlists. I made it through two of them (I know, because the proprietor had to yell at her son to change it twice) before pushing my bowl away, thoroughly satisfied.

When¬†I left, the owner gave me a bright, genuine smile and shouted, “Happy holiday! Happy holiday to you!” as I walked out the door.

On my way home, I passed a bar and Рwhat the hell? Рgrabbed a glass of wine. I met a girl named Jennifer, Asian and gorgeous with dark-rimmed glasses, who spent the evening convincing me that I should care more about the Blazers than the Chargers. (I am absolutely not convinced, but A+ for effort.)

When I arrived in my over-budget, outdated, turn-of-the-century brick apartment, I cranked on my noisy radiator and plopped on my horribly uncomfortable couch to write a blog post.

And you know what? I absolutely adored it. Because it’s mine, all mine, and this day is mine, and this life is mine, and every decision I made or will make in the future will be mine.

This isn’t a novel idea. I’m sure there are people all over the world – in the most remote African villages, even – who wake up in the morning and decide what they want and then go get it for themselves. This is probably very simple for some people. You might be reading this right now and think, “What? You had to double your rent and move into the throbbing heart of a new city to learn this? This is Adulthood 101, you idiot.” And you’d be right.

But the thing is, when you lasso your life with someone else’s, you forget how to want something and go get it. Your life becomes this multi-colored mishmash of desires, and everything becomes gray after awhile. “Do I want this? Or does he want it, and I only want it because it’s what he wants?” You truly can’t tell the difference. Because there is no difference. You are one being, a single floating amoeba.

But now, I’m forced to press the question, over and over again, “What do I want? What is important to me?” And I keep surprising myself with the answer.

So as terrifying as it’s been so far, it’s also like some part of my subconscious – the adventurous, spunky, ‘why-the-hell-not’ part – has been locked in a closet for the better part of the last decade, and has finally been let out to start stretching her legs.

And boy, is she ready to run.