twentythree


My age does not determine a change in my life. My life is defined by everything I do between birthdays, not how much older I grow every November 28th. Turning another year older is a time to reflect on everything that has taken place since the last time this date came around. I was hoping to post before I turned 24, and have an end of my year recap, but it’s been a busy week so forgive me. I had spent a few days thinking about all the things I wanted to say, how sentimental I wanted to be. Instead I have chosen to wrap this past year up with photographs that captured my most favorite moments with my most favorite people. Twenty-three was an incredible year, and a year of unbelievable change and growth. A year filled with unimaginable day adventures and unforgettable nights.  I’ve accomplished the goals I set for myself and have gained such great satisfaction from proving to myself that anything I want is obtainable. I can sincerely say that I am entering my year of twenty-four as a confident, independent, strong minded and creative young woman. I see beauty in all things around me, and I have a wonderful circle of people who touch my life. Cheers to the year and all that lies ahead.

Turning 23

Thanksgiving in my apartment

ugly sweater Christmas party

Christmas morning at my parents house

New Years Eve in SD

Getting snowed in on our car ride back to Santa Cruz

Entering Winter Quarter/ Spring Break/ Spring Quarter….

Yosemite Trip

Bay to Breakers

Graduation and Summer

Washington DC

   

Turning 24 and closing out a great year so I can start another

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Tales from the Tub

I’ve been in my academic/internship program for about ten weeks now. As of the first week, I knew I was going to have to write a research paper. A research paper that should have taken all quarter to work on. But here I find myself, one week before its due date, with little more than a page written. I always procrastinate on assignments because I am a very quick writer. It’s the one thing I can say I am truly truly gifted at, fast writing- and not just fast writing, but fast writing that gets me good grades. In college I learned that if I started a paper two weeks before it was due, or if I started at 10 pm the night before it was due, either way I was going to get an A. The incentive to start earlier was that I would personally get more satisfaction out of the crafted piece of writing I turned in. I would appreciate how much effort was dedicated to the assignment. But the professor wouldn’t. If it met their standards it was an A. The same goes for writing it the night before and meeting their standards. I know I worked hard in college, but I think I developed some very bad habits. Looking back on the entire time I was at university, every paper I ever turned in, with the exception of the first quarter, was written over the course of the night before the due date. Even in summer school. No exceptions.

 

Anyways- how does that relate to what I am writing about now? This attention I am giving to my blog so as to procrastinate on the assignment I should be focusing on. Well….

 

Tonight I decided to stay in, to work on my research paper. With the Thanksgiving holiday, and next week being the due date, I didn’t want to have to write a 20 page paper in one night. I had been sitting at my desk for the last hour when I decided a bath would be the perfect way to unwind and get my mind in a good place. Maybe if I sat in the hot water long enough it would help me be more productive on my paper. I believe that was my ACTUAL process of thought. And I convinced myself that it was true too.

 

I let the bathtub fill up as far as it could without it overflowing once my body was submerged. After allowing about ten minutes to pass, giving it enough time to cool down, I sank into the water and let every muscle relax. My bathtub is the perfect size for my body, and I can almost slip my whole body under the water. The distance from my feet to knees do have to exit the water when I put my head under, entering that different world of warm muffled sound. The only sound underwater being the sucking noise of the drain, attempting to steal my bath from me.

 

I sat cross-legged in the bath and let my mind wander. I grabbed my bar of soap, pulled it under water, and squeezed it with my hand, watching it squirm away from me. I kept doing this over and over, watching my attempt to grip it fail miserably. The tighter I tried to hold onto the soap, the quicker it was gone. I don’t know how or why I became so entranced with playing with a bar of soap, but before I realized it, the water had turned murky. The repetitive motion of squeezing the soap had had the effect of essentially dumping soap into the bath. No longer could I see through the water as easily.

 

And, as my mind wanders, I started thinking about life, and the way it is like soap in a bathtub. I started comparing the soap to people we desire in life, an object we desire, a time we once experienced, a feeling, something that we once had and loved with all our hearts, but is now gone. And I started comparing the murky water to life. The consequences we face in life for our actions. The results of our behavior.

 

Sometimes we become so transfixed on obtaining something, on making it ours, that we will go to any length to chase it down, to bring it within our reach. And the more we focus on desire x, the more we lose sight of the world around us. The more we neglect the other things that matter, the other people, the other dreams we once had. Life is about balance. It’s about having multiple goals, multiple interests, multiple desires. Chase them all, and keep them all in perspective. But in your pursuit, don’t lose sight over what it is you’re after. Don’t let the world around you become murky.

 

I thought a lot about this when I first moved to DC. Everyone from home kept asking me, do you think you’re going to change? Do you think you’ll become preppy? Do you think you’ll get all political? Do you think you’re going to become an East Coaster?

 

When I first arrived I was completely overwhelmed by my new life and how hectic, fast, and professional it all was. The District was, and is, everything Santa Cruz is not. There is no way to even compare the two without first putting them on opposite sides of the spectrum. I remember being overwhelmed by how fast people walked, how it seemed like people were always in a hurry, how every person I met wanted to talk about what it was that they do, who they work for, who they know. I remember thinking that it was all the small things about DC that were unlike the person I am.

 

Over summer when I first started interviewing for internships on the East Coast, I read an article that provided advice for a phone interview. I was nervous, never having been interviewed over the phone before, and definitely never having interviewed for places that ranged from National Geographic, to Amnesty International, to Capitol Hill. I felt as if I was out of my league. Why on earth were these people giving me their time? The article I was reading told me to dress as if I was actually going to a real interview. That our state of mind changes depending on the clothes we’re wearing. I thought it was silly advice so I skipped on it, but being in DC it keeps coming back to me. I’ve never dressed so professionally in my life before, and I realize that when I leave my apartment in the morning, and walk to the metro, on the way passing the biggest lobbying firms and political consulting firms in America, surrounded by thousands of professionals, I get in this weird state of mind. It’s almost as if this aggressive, competitive instinct sets in, where I take in my surroundings, and I tell myself I can make it here or anywhere else, I can be as successful as I want in life. I can do anything these people can. And I swear to god, like 80% of that thinking is because I’m dressed nice. Because I can see myself in a world of professionalism, even if that’s not what I want. I can see myself at the top. There’s nothing I can’t accomplish. I’ve always considered myself a confident person, but it’s almost like an over confidence in those moments. An over confidence that is temporarily created by costume and environment. I’m not really sure how to explain it, or that I’m doing a very good job at doing so.

 

There was another change too. A few weeks ago I was trying to get to the metro to go to work. People were jamming the stairwells and escalators, and while there is an unspoken rule that one side is for riding the escalator and one side is for walking up it, no one was moving. I started getting pissed off, and thinking to myself, these people are idiots and they are going to make me late. It was as if I almost wanted to tell them, “excuse me, I work on Capitol Hill, can you please move, thank you.”

 

All of a sudden it was almost as if I got hit in the face by my own reality. My life is no more important than theirs, and earth to Allie, I am JUST an intern. Pushing people to get by and rushing past the crowd, as if I have somewhere so much more important to be, is obnoxious. It’s what I disliked about people in DC when I first arrived. If you’re in that much of a hurry, that you’re going to be rude to every person you come into contact with, you should try leaving the house ten minutes earlier. Over something so small as feeling rushed and irritated I started thinking about if I’ve changed since I’ve been in DC. Had I actually become an East Coaster in a little over 2 months?

 

The answer is no- if you can actually even say there is such a category of person as an “East Coaster.” I am still the person I was when I left Santa Cruz, if not a bit more centered, independent, and confident in myself as a young adult. I think the reason all of this is being written about in regard to murky water, is that I could see how living in such an intense environment could cause a person to lose oneself. This world is held together by networking, and who you know, and who people know you know, and who you know that they know. Every week there are functions, and banquets, and parties, and events, and promotions, and the list goes on and on and on. And then there are the trendy areas, and the trendy clothes, and politics of every damn thing ever, and blah blah blah. I love DC, its been very very good to me, but I could see how a person could change here. How you could become so focused with reaching a goal, working your way toward a certain job, obtaining a certain title of prestige, that you forget who you were before you got here. You forget that life doesn’t have to be go go go. That you don’t have to network the hell out of every person you meet. You forget that you haven’t always lived in blazers, high waisted skirts, and heels.

 

But then again- the bar of soap could be a person. And you could be chasing that person. Trying to get them, trying to make them yours, desperately trying to grasp at what is fleeting, and everything else in your life is getting blurrier. Everyone else is fading into the background. Everything that used to matter has just turned murky.

 

I don’t know- the soap could really be anything, I suppose. It’s yours to play around with. I’m just rambling so that I can avoid writing my actual paper.

A creative title escapes my mind

Why do I write?

When I have free time on my hands, something that I seem to have less and less of, why would I choose to pick up a pen and press it to paper, scribbling out word after word? Why choose to sit behind the glowing screen of a computer, fingers taping on tiny little lettered squares?

Why, of all things, do I write?

To write is to speak. To myself and to you, my anonymous reader. To give you my voice, my ideas, without risking the stumble of my tongue. I am articulate, but unlike speech, my own speech, writing is organized- for the most part. To write is to reflect on events that have taken place, to reflect on my behavior, to reflect on who I am and who I’ve been, and how those two are twisted together. With writing, I can clearly see the way that my past and present are what will push me into the unknown- the future.

If writing ceased to exist, or had I chosen to excuse myself from the process, the task of the often time consuming exercise that is writing, I would not be able to track all the people I’ve been in my life. All the stages I’ve passed through. Writing is a record of my life, and as the author, I am at simultaneously  the most reliable and unreliable source. As objective as I would like to think I remain, I am flawlessly biased.

I write because I need to share my experiences. I need to share them with myself in a way that allows me to dig deeper into what transpired, and ask myself -how and why? To write is to take a step back from a painting, to see the picture in its whole, as opposed to the distance we often stand at to absorb detail. When I write, I draw a line between who I am in that exact moment, and who the girl is I am writing about. To reread my writing is a more accurate view than staring back at myself in a mirror. The reflection of your physical existence is only a tiny fraction of the person you are.

To write is to truly see myself. To uncover the things I often don’t want to think about. To uncover the things I would prefer not to remember. I write because it is the rawest, most basic form of truth. In writing I am fully exposed. Writing is spilling secrets, admitting mistakes, cleansing conscious. In writing, I take subject x and give it life, even if that is only words between lines. In those words lives a reality, and by placing them there I am faced to confront it. With each sentence I unwind the twisted and confused.

For me, thoughts are intangible when they exist only within your mind. Writing something down makes it real; there is an acknowledgment that an event took place, that you felt a certain way. My writing does not have to be read by another person for this acknowledgment to be validated. Writing allows me to remember the details of how an emotion really felt. Sometimes we forget what the happiest day of our lives felt like, or what being truly depressed feels like. It is a way of reminding myself how much better off or worse I’ve been, and it’s a way to record how I’m currently feeling, so as to remind my future self one day. It is important to remember all the people you’ve been, all the ways you’ve felt, all the things you’ve wished would passed and all the things you wished would never end. In writing I remind myself of what I want in life, who I want to be, how I plan to arrive there. My writing is like a giant sticky note of my life.

In writing I forgive. I heal. I vent. I praise. I question. I spill. In writing I release everything within myself so that there may be room for more. Memory is so incredibly faulty. It changes with time, and the more time that passes the harder details are to arrange. Details can become lost. We often replace them with new details without even realizing. I don’t want to lose the details of my life that I love. I don’t want to hear the same story so many different ways that I can’t even remember how it first went. Writing is the original copy. It’s also a paper trail to everything that came before this very moment.

The last fifteen years of my life are locked in a chest in my childhood bedroom. I’ve been a compulsive writer for as long as I can recall, and I have filled thousands of pages with my thoughts. To read my most personal writing as an outsider isn’t the same as me rereading it. I know who I was in that moment, during that time, and there is a connection with those words that another person can’t have. I’d like to be published one day. I think that’s part of the reason I started writing. My first journal was in third grade, and I think a part of me, even at that age, knew to start writing down my story. In hopes of one day having enough work to pile together into something between hard covers. No lined pages. No spirals as the bind.

To completely over generalize, so much happens in a life. The moments that mattered most in mine are hibernating in that chest until their time arrives. It is my task to figure out what comes next- how to translate my writing into a story that reaches beyond my own life. A story that closes the gap between the writer and the reader. Words that allow my stories to become yours. The ultimate goal will be finding the best way to articulate the emotions I’ve experienced over people and events that were personal and unique to my own life, into words that can be transferred into the reader’s life, your life.

We are all experiencing the same condition, the human struggle. My writing is an attempt to show that no matter how our individual experiences differ, we’re all in it together.

Two Weeks

In two weeks from now my life is going to drastically change.

I will leave everything I’ve come to know these past months, and everything I’ve come to love.

I’ll be temporarily seeing faces that I have missed, before venturing off to the next destination.

This will be my second one way ticket in the last three months, and the second time I am going to a new place where I’ve never lived before.

I don’t have housing, I don’t have a job.

I like that life after college has allowed this spontaneity.

After too long of a separation, I am excited for my heart to feel at home.

It’s not where you are, but who you’re with.

Distance emphasizes what it is we want most in life.

A reflection on Veteran’s Day

One week ago was Veteran’s Day. I decided since I live in Washington DC I should visit Arlington Cemetery. Arlington is our nation’s cemetery for all those who have served in the armed forces, and it is where my grandfather lays. For as long as I can remember, Veteran’s Day, for me, was just another day off of school. I’d never celebrated it for what it represents, for whom it represents. Both my father and grandfather served for our country, as I’m sure so did many others in my family’s history that I am unaware of.

I am not at the top of the list of the patriotic, but I can appreciate what it means to be American. My life in America has meant the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion (which I choose not to have and no one cares, it doesn’t matter), equal rights, a good education, being raised in a family that can support me because they enjoyed the same privileges I do. I understand this is not the same for every American. Growing up in America, for me, has never meant growing up as the 1%. I don’t need to be in the 1% to enjoy every amazing opportunity that has been presented. I have been given so much. I’ve never struggled. I’ve never needed. I’ve never been hungry, homeless. Living a good life in America does not mean existing in this percentage that people have made out to be the mega monster capitalists of the world. I’ve never even thought about those who have so much more than I do, because I’ve always had enough.

Focus. I am getting off topic.

To be an American, means that I appreciate that there are people who are willing to risk their lives for my freedom. People my age who die so that I may live.  People who sacrifice their own opportunity at college, so that they can protect the freedoms that are guaranteed to me in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. I don’t agree with many of our country’s policies, foreign and domestic, but our country’s policies are not what Veteran’s Day is celebrating. It honors those who have dedicated their lives to protect a country. A country that I can live in and where I can freely express my opinions. They fight for my freedom of speech- so that I can say, “I fucking hate that we’re fighting other nations. I fucking hate the act of war. War is disgusting and destructive and it’s pathetic that this is the best solution the so called ‘smartest creature on earth’ can come up with.” Veteran’s Day is about individuals. It’s not about war. It’s not about America. It’s not about democracy. It’s about people.

The range of emotions that I experienced those hours spent at Arlington were so scattered. It was as if a child dropped a bag of rubber balls. Every ball representing a different emotion. Bouncing off into a different direction. A scattered spectrum. I felt Pride. Anger. Privilege. Guilt. Despair. Happiness. Confusion….. But most of all, I felt sadness. Rock bottom sadness.

After visiting my grandfather’s grave, I walked over to the area that was designated for all those who have lost their lives since 2001.  Row after row after row of graves marked for people who should be alive. People who were a year older than me. People who were younger than my little brother. Row after row after row. Mounds of fresh dirt. Lives lost so recently grass hasn’t had time to grow, head stones haven’t been made. This is my generation. They don’t belong in the ground.

Parents sat before their children’s graves, posted up in folding lawn chairs, scarves, mittens and blankets in their lap, braving the crisp cold Virginia morning air, to spend Veteran’s Day with their sons and daughters. I saw one father wiping down his son’s grave, while his wife rearranged the flowers at the base.

While walking through a grave yard as massive as Arlington it’s easy to be overcome by the sheer size of it. The perfectly aligned rows of polished white stone. Each with the same lettering engraved upon the face. The exact measured distance between each row. It’s so overwhelming. So impersonal at moments. You forget that bodies separate each row. Thousands and thousands of people lay beneath the earth you walk on. A sense of distance is created in a graveyard when you walk though the rows, and you think of the people as those whose lives have passed. Those who have been under the ground long enough for their body to be reclaimed by the same earth that gave it everything it needed to live. But when you see that fresh mound of dirt, the one where no grass grows, the distance collapses. This is new. This just happened. Someone just lost the person they love most in this world.  The presence of the parents, distance collapses. These soldiers are children. They have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. They’re not just soldiers. They’re not just faceless men at war, fighting in a far off land. A land you and I talk about, read about, which only exists for us in college lecture halls, on the tv, the internet. A place so fucking familiar, yet you and I will never go there. We’ll never know.

It really hit me in those moments that those gravestones aren’t just names and dates. They’re your neighbor, your best friend, your girlfriend, your fiancé. Your child. Your child. Your CHILD.  I kept coming back to the fact that all these graves were children. When I say child I don’t mean in the sense of a little kid. In the eyes of their parents, these were their children. It was the presence of all the parents that hurt my heart. It destroys the rule of nature, of decency, of logic, of everything that should be right in this world, to know that a parent buries their child. That a parent feels the pain of losing who they created. That’s not fucking right. Ever.

Seeing parents hug one another, comfort each other on this national day of loss, created that feeling within me. That one really heavy feeling that starts behind your belly button, and rises with pressure up through your chest, shoving against your rib cage, jamming itself against the bottom of your throat until that lump rises. Until tears flow. I kept trying to swallow, to resist the temptation to cry over people I had never met. Never would meet.

After wandering by myself for a bit I met back up with my friend who was speaking with a woman. I approached them and I heard her ask him to make a toast. She pulled out a Dixie cup, poured me a shot of Crown Royal, and we toasted to her son. I didn’t say anything. Language failed me. I couldn’t open my lips. Within minutes of meeting her I was choking back tears. They toasted to James, and then she told us the story of who he was, where he was, how he died. All of the details.  The pain in her story was unlike anything I’d ever heard. The words she used to describe how amazing, brave, talented, intelligent and missed her son was. She said he knew he was going to lose his life. How he called her and told her he felt it was going to happen soon and he just wanted to come home and never return again. How when it happened, in his last moments of life, he was still giving commands, making sure that those he lead and those who were hurt were taken care of. The story of someone’s loss, a mother’s loss, was unbearable. Her confession that things haven’t been right since. She hasn’t been the same and nothing makes sense. She doesn’t make sense to herself anymore. What it means to lose your child.

I had resisted writing about this for the past week because I didn’t know how. I didn’t know where to begin. The most important thing she told me was that her son asked her that if he were to die, that she would make sure that he was never forgotten. “Just remember me.” That he would continue to live in people’s memories.

I am not going to retell the details she told me. Her sharing of his life is something that will remain forever stored in my own memory. Rather, I’m sharing my experience with you, and the pictures, because it allows us to share a common, if general knowledge. A knowledge of lives lost. Children gone. For you and I. War is fucking awful and dirty and it takes people away from one another. It erases individuals who should be here. Be present. That is Veteran’s Day. Not forgetting.

“To generalize about war is like generalizing about peace. Almost everything is true. Almost nothing is true. At its core, perhaps, war is just another name for death, and yet any soldier will tell you, if he tells the truth, that proximity to death beings with it a corresponding proximity to life. After a firefight, there is always the immense pleasure of aliveness. All around you things are purely living, and you are among them, and the aliveness makes you tremble. You feel an intense, out-of-the-skin awareness of your living self- your truest self, the human being you want to be and then become by the force of wanting it. In the midst of evil you want to be a good man. You want decency. You want justice and courtesy and human concord, things you never knew you wanted. Though it’s odd, you’re never more alive than when you’re almost dead. You recognize what’s valuable. Freshly, as if for the first time, you love what’s best in yourself and in the world, all that might be lost. You are filled with a hard, aching love for how the world could be and always should be, but now is not.”

a bike through Georgetown and my obsession with Fall

today I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather DC has been blessed with, and explore a different area than I have been in. I rode all the way down M street, until it hit the Potomac river, and then I bike along the river for miles.

My Bike and I

I love anytime that I stumble across any type of artwork in this city.

On the other side of this bridge is where the most amazing bike trail began. I couldn’t believe I just happened to find it. My luck.

Picture perfect day.

The tips of Georgetown University

If only….