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WE’RE HAVING A FIRE! Sale.

Ah yes, another instance where my life’s events bring me right back to an Arrested Development reference.

 

In the middle of the night last night, I awoke to some weird sound in my room. Almost like a spark or something. My roommates, boyfriend, and family have all seen me wake up hastily due to an alarm or slight movement, so this, ‘barely able to open my eyes’ for something potentially harming was new to me.

I saw a red-ish glow and wondered if my room caught fire thanks to some ignition next to my radiator (I’ve never had one before. I have no idea how dangerous these can be??) I wanted to be alert; In high school a classmate of mine burned her whole house down because of her heated blanket. She lost everything. I couldn’t help but think of her story: how she tried diffusing it, but her brother wouldn’t wake up to help–he thought she was crazy.

I didn’t want my whole house burning down, so I tried opening my eyes more, but I couldn’t tell if the red color was from my electrical power strip cord “On/Reset” button, or if it really was the start of a fire. I hazarded a safe guess of power strip cord button.

I couldn’t help but think, What if this really were a fire? I think my mom and I would be able to take care of this quickly and efficiently enough. The firehouse does sit right around the corner from us, if we would need them. But probably not.

And then I thought, Wow, I wonder if I should be more alert about a situation like this?

And then I thought, Never have, probably never will be.

I’ve wanted to talk about my family’s instinct around fires for a while now, and last night’s event” is a good enough spark for me to share.

 

Let’s go back to 2004-ish. I was somewhere around the age of 10-ish. On Christmas Eve, my oldest sister Jodi and her then-boyfriend-or-husband (depending on the year), Josiah, wanted to make the family dinner. My parents owned a duplex: one home sitting one floor above another home. So that’s 2 kitchens, 2 living rooms, 2 dining rooms, etc.

We used to use the upstairs home for renters, but when my parents started to separate, my mother took the upstairs. Since the upstairs didn’t have a family of 7 living in it for the last 15 years, it was much nicer and cleaner: better for family dinners and events.

Anyway, Jodi was cooking upstairs when suddenly she started an oil fire. As everyone should know, oil fires cannot be extinguished from water. The fire was somewhat contained in her pan and she tried using the intercom to talk to the rest of the family below.

She held the button and gently exclaimed ‘fire!’ a few times. Knowing that our intercom system was not the best, she told me to go downstairs to ask for help.

When I got downstairs, one family member was in the kitchen while another read very relaxed in the living room. I could already hear Jodi’s muffled voice through most of the static on the intercom. Someone said, “Is she saying fire?” calmly. The other said, “I don’t think so,” and continued reading. I said “Yes! There’s a fire! She needs help.” This was more exciting for me than worrying. They said “Oh” and walked upstairs.

Josiah rushed to Jodi’s side and said, “Fire! Well put it out!” He quickly took the pan from her, and rushed it under the sink while Jodi yelled, “No!” (the most concerned she got about this at all). The fire expanded in the pan and she took the pan shakily outside to our back porch. On the way, some oil spilled out and burned the carpet. I can still picture it perfectly, though that house has been bulldozed for probably a decade now.

She diffused the fire situation. And that’s the day I learned about oil fires. None of us panicked. Being the youngest, I did what I was told. Jodi being the oldest, she handled it. It seemed like an exciting story for me to tell friends at the time, but as I got older, I realized just how funny it was instead. Not because of the content, but because of how calm we were–and how I’ve learned how freaked-out other people are in emergencies.

 

A couple-to-few years later, I was downstairs when our landline rang. I picked it up.

Caller: Hi, this is Mr. McCorry, your neighbor a few doors down.

Me: Hi, yes!

Mr. McCorry: Who am I talking to by the way?

Me: Tobi

Mr. McCorry: Oh Tobi, hello. Yeah I was just calling to let you know there’s some sort of smoke or fire coming from your backyard.

Me: Oh, really? Huh.

Mr. McCorry: Yeah, so you’ll probably want to tell your parents about it and check it out quickly.

Me: Okay, thanks.

I should note that he did not sound rushed or panicked either. Because of this, I didn’t run to find my mom. I think I had to walk upstairs to get her, then we both casually walked downstairs and outside together. There was some smoke rising in the air. We were not surprised, we still did not rush to the scene. There was a small life-vest from our shed that was in flames that someone threw on top of my mom’s camper. The fire didn’t spread from the vest, but the smoke grew really tall. My mom grabbed the hose and put the fire out. The vest burned a hole in the roof of her camper and I don’t know if she’s ever even used it since.

 

That story, obviously not as exciting as the first still stood out to me. Again, when I continued to tell people these stories, they were more worried than I was in the moment. To me, I know that panicking doesn’t get anything done, but to everyone else it seems that’s their first instinct.

And I’ve realized that’s also why people like me working at my hotel. The building was built in 1876, so there are a lot of things that break and go wrong. Any time there’s an emergency, I don’t have time to freak out. I just have to get it done. And I learned everything I know about the hotel industry from my old boss, who also comes from a large family (so this might be cause for some study or something).

A couple of months ago, my car broke down on the highway late at night, 90 miles from home. My boyfriend commended me for how calm I was. He mentioned that if it were his car, he’d be bugging. I said it won’t get us anywhere.

Now to me, my version of freaking out is calling a family member first. That’s my instinct. And it probably comes from these fire incidents. When my car broke down, I called my oldest sister since I knew she was still awake on the West Coast. Then I called AAA. But really, I should have called AAA immediately. I knew what my sister was going to say, I knew what I had to do. But I still called her first. That’s my version of freaking out.

But my boyfriend still thinks I was calm, cool, and collected.

And when it comes to work, (keeping the thread of my post-grad life), I do my job efficiently and effectively. No time to waste or panic. Just get it done.

So, I guess in a way, my family and I are like Tobias Funke…but only when he adds, ‘sale’ at the end. After all, there was no fire in my room, and if there were, I think we would have taken care of it just fine.

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Let’s Get the Juices Flowing…wait, there’s juice here?

Hi, all!

Of course, by “all,” I mean my 2 fans/subscribers/robots…or however you want to interpret my low reader-count.

I know I’ve said this before, but I want to be consistent with my blog posts. I want to write. I want to keep the juices flowing and I want to fill my “unemployed” time by doing something that doesn’t make me feel like a piece of shit. Of course “unemployed” is in quotes because I still have my hotel job. I’m around the 3.5 year mark with this job and while I’ve worked my way up, it’s still “winter” (post-labor day), which means I hardly have to be at work at all. That’s life at the beach: overworked in the summer, and a lack of money and self-esteem in the winter.

This would mean I have a self-esteem in the summer, which is incorrect, but really I just mean I have so much free time now that it leaves me alone with my thoughts and self-loathing about not having a better job and still living at my mom’s.

Of course, the post-grad life entails lots of loan payments, which I’m used to, but without having rent, it makes my life soooo much easier about paying it all off faster. But the self-loathing comes back. Because I live at my mom’s.

So I’m trudging along. I’m applying to places. I’m not hearing back. The low-self-esteem gets lower. But I’m trudging along. I’m crying. I’m trudging along. Next thing I know, my prediction from my last blog post about me being stuck (a huge fear of mine) will actually come true. And I’m only that much closer to being 25 years old. Which I get is still young, but it just takes me further from the path I want to be on.

Anyway, I wasn’t trying to make this post so sad. My point is, I want to write again but I know I get distracted and I know sometimes I don’t want to write especially because looking through my posts reminds me just how the same” everything still is. So I’ll try to get the juices flowing. But knowing there’s juice, I may just drink it all. #BusterBluth

Ways that I am now Buster Bluth:

  1. There’s that whole “juice” thing.
  2. Living at Mother’s. (Thankfully my mom’s name isn’t Lucille)
  3. Having trouble finding a job for me.
  4. I have a pet turtle (but I’m better about taking care of mine)
  5. I’m the youngest sibling
  6. I’m sensitive

I think I’ll stop trying to find similarities between us…it’s for the best…

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Pros & Cons of Community College

I’ve thought about writing this post for years now. Ever since I started community college, I knew I wanted to weigh the pros and cons of community college versus four year institutions. I thought by graduation, I’d have answer as to which way is “the” way to go. But it turns out all I can say is that as my college life is officially over (I received my degree yesterday) that all these experiences make up my weird college life that brought the inconsistent blog ramblings of a late-teen/early-twenties girl just trying to find stability and tranquil in a difficult time.

So after my senior year of high school ended, I believed I was going to a four year institution, Suffolk University. This expectation stemmed from the fact that all of my sisters went to whatever schools they wanted to, on top of the support from my mother, speechlessly expressing that I could do anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. But as the complication of family life, money problems, and school insecurities from my mother all boiled from one pot, I volunteered to go to community college. Instantly my mom was relieved and I could tell how much this meant to her. I felt that I was forced to, and that suddenly my entire life’s expectations crumbled into that one, pathetic moment of changing plans in front of everyone on social media. But it didn’t seem all that bad because a lot of my close friends were also going to the same community college.

I had higher expectations for myself in terms of an education and an experience, but the truth is that I got an experience that students at higher institutions could never experience. Nearly all the students I interacted with at Brookdale Community College had full time jobs–or close to it. And while students in other schools had jobs, it never compared to the work-workload (rather than school-workload) that these CC students worked. Most of the students who attended Brookdale had to work for their education per semester, compared to others who immediately got loans and often got financial help from parents. But when you live at home, your parents expect you to be the adult you need to be post-college. So here were all of these students working as hard as they would post-college, but while in college. And while the coursework was honestly easier than my coursework at Syracuse, it gave most of my friends a better work ethic and more drive. It helped me to deal with budgeting, scheduling (though I’m a very good planner to begin with), and balancing life. All while living from home. Which is never easy, despite the possibility of free rent.

But the coursework didn’t prepare me for how difficult Syracuse would be.

Especially since because all of my general education core requirement courses were all knocked out within my first two years at Brookdale, that meant that I only had room to take all of my majors and harder classes all at once for the remaining two years at Syracuse.

So I do feel that although my first two years were “easy” in terms of school work, I do feel strongly when I say that my two years at Syracuse were much harder than most of the other juniors and seniors I was classmates with. Trying to cram all of my requirements into four semesters proved to be difficult, but again, I’m good with planning.

So the question is, is community college worth it?

I absolutely loved every semester at Syracuse, no matter how hard it got. I loved the people I met. The activities and clubs that my school offered. I loved what I learned in most of my classes. I felt like I could have even practiced more and gotten better internships and opportunities had I attended Syracuse all four years. I would have made more friends and been closer with them had I had that my freshman year.

All of those things that I got from SU and wish I had more time with doesn’t negate my money saved and lessons learned from community college, though. Additionally, obtaining my Associates from Brookdale actually helped my transfer process into Syracuse. ALL of my credits were accepted from Brookdale at Syracuse and the Associates degree actually waived me of other SU requirements such as more science classes (my weakest subject). So not only did I get away with getting a Syracuse degree with only two years to show for it, but I also got away with only taking one lab science course and two math courses, and I spent less money getting all that.

So while I brag, I’m also pensive and slightly melancholic over those who got to attend schools such as Syracuse for all four years. The bonds I could have made with others would be stronger and over a longer period of time. The internships I could have had would show more of my worth and experience (and thus making me more hireable). The knowledge I would have gained from a variety of choice electives would have given me more liberty to explore. But I didn’t have any wiggle room aside from required skill classes since all of my general ed courses/electives were filled from Brookdale.

But I don’t resent the fact that I went to Brookdale. My whole college career was a journey–including the year and a half that I spent not in college. I gained that work ethic. I practiced “true” adulthood*. I am where I am because of where I was and I saved money in the meantime doing so.

So, again, the question was is community college worth it?

My answer comes down to a matter of privilege. If you have the opportunity and the expenditures for a four year institution, by all means, go. Get the “real” college experience. Make those friends, join those clubs, get those internships, create those bonds, cry those coursework-related stress tears.

But if you’re not so fortunate, community college is honestly a fine option. The counselors won’t work out your schedule for you. Know how to finish in 2 years. Get that good GPA to move forward. Know how to get out and explore on your own. Don’t get stuck. After that, you’re set. It’s a stepping stone. It’s independence. It’s still college. It’s still an accomplishment. And it’s still worth it since it gets you somewhere else next. Also–join. those. clubs.

I may not have a job 2 months after graduation, but I still made it because it was hard and I learned how to do (and pay) for it all on my own**. It’s still something I’m proud of even if I never get a job…..But please hire me.

 

*This morning I went out for breakfast and stacked coffee creamers into a pyramid because apparently I’m still 4 years old.

**with help.

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Studying Abroad in Madrid

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As independent and courageous studying abroad can make you feel, there’s a flip side to that, in which you find your moments of childish nature coming to play. Just before your turn to order a meal in a language in which you only grasp basics, those outgrown emotions of fear, helplessness, and anxiety come to play. Of course these are feelings that are natural in growth and help push us to adulthood and help us live and learn in cultural society and significance. It might sound like gibberish, but I mean to say that our acts and moments of insecurity lead us from concerned tourists to well-lived/experienced travelers. We are a society and culture, whether we stay in those moments of fear or gravitate towards independence.

We are nurtured by the school and our host families. For the first time since I was 9, I don’t have to do my own laundry. Someone is cooking my meals every night. I don’t get a choice in what I want to eat for dinner. There is a cleaning lady every Wednesday. I don’t even wash my own dishes when I finish a meal. It’s a lifestyle of luxury and–although a little strange that I don’t get to pitch in at all– admittedly satisfying.

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Lost in Valencia with some new friends.

I’m trying to pick up on things as a culture, trying to absorb and understand or differentiate social cues. Part of me thinks that Spain isn’t really too different after all. And another part of me notes the contrasts as a little tally in my mind. I honestly feel like a childish adult, constantly looking around me to see and pick up norms. The only part of me that makes me feel like an adult is the actual loneliness (not used in a negative or bitter sense though) in taking the metro to class…

 

 

I originally had a comma after the word “class,” but I honestly came up with nothing. I’m not working here in Spain, so there’s no sense of adulthood in spending my saved money from previous hours of work in the US. Any side trips or excursions thus far have been completely planned by someone else. And yeah, I’m not necessarily doing any work myself.

I went to see Paul McCartney by myself and even then, I felt myself people watching and tip-toeing throughout the show, because my section never stood up for any songs, hardly sang along, and not to mention, the ruptured ear drum and hearing loss in one ear made singing by myself at a very large concert VERY uncomfortable.

These moments in which you feel helpless or lost though doesn’t mean that you are. I think it just means that you’re learning as long as you’re aware of your surroundings. It might sound obvious, but when you sink into a new culture–even if its one that’s not terribly different from your own*–I think those feelings of confusion and social excitement, and perhaps a tad bit of anxiety, only means that you’re doing things differently and it’s like growing up all over again. Rarely do we get those moments once you’re on your own, because you’re forced to just thrust yourself into whatever routine you need to do in your home country, even if you like that routine and lifestyle. And no matter how good at adapting you are, such as myself, I believe this struggle is bound to happen–as it should. And this isn’t to negate your home life nor to say “TRAVEL MORE TO BROADEN YOUR MINDS.” 13418907_10208325398804842_5343032056785349519_n

It’s purely observational that these fresh-minded, clean-slated, child-like ignorant moments only come in a fashion of memory and nostalgia. Unless you’re studying abroad and doing the best you can.  Typically a 23-year-old usually learns by building blocks on top of a city you/he/she have/has already created. Because you’re building on top of social norms, politics, cultural rules, routines, etc. that you’ve already come to understand and experience. Studying abroad is a new city, literally and figuratively. You have to start nearly completely fresh. Sure you might know how to communicate, plus there’s body language, and universal signs and cues in which most can dictate and decipher and get through easily.

But that first day of meeting your host parents for the next 6 weeks (or in some cases 4 months or longer) is just one of those moments where you take a breath and crawl.

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*Although I will say that the requirement to wear shoes around the house AND to only eat food in JUST the kitchen still weirds me out.

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LA: Now versus Then

 

If you couldn’t decipher my not-so pent-up aggression toward L.A., you might be too caught up in loving it so much.

Ugh, I sound like such a prick.

I’m sorry I hate L.A. so much. I don’t have to live there, I don’t know why I can’t just get over it. As much as I’m allowed to dislike the city, you’re also welcome to love it–and for some reason that bothers me. I’m not like this with any other place or thing. But maybe it’s because I wasn’t always like this with L.A., either…

Over three years ago, I used to crave the West. I was desperate to explore L.A. and all of its sunny magic. After months or years of talk, I booked my ticket during my birthday month as a ‘treat yo self’ gift. And it was such a great gift to myself!

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Joel McHale is really nice.

In my one week spent at Mely’s house in L.A., I fell in love. We took the metro system everywhere we needed, and it was cheap in comparison with NYC’s subway fares. I got to see and meet Joel McHale in the taping of The Soup. We saw Conan live. The view from the Gryffith Observatory amazed me. I loved that you could hike around there. Kodak Theater. How chill Kat Von D’s tattoo and boutique shops were. Overall how chill the whole vibe was. People were generally friendly. The shopping. There was so much to see and none of it was too touristy, even when it was a tourist attraction.

The weather that week was actually chilly, so I didn’t get to fall in love with the warm weather, but I visited my first Disney park then and there and had a blast. This was the first time I had ever been to an amusement park outside of summer. Options seemed endless.

Not to mention I had saved up money to specifically spend in L.A.

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Santa Monica Pier ft. Malibu in the distance to the right

A few days after my return, my sister Jodi called me to wish me a Happy Birthday and asked me how I liked L.A. I told her I loved it. I thought everything was accessible and exciting and that L.A. offered so much.

“Oh! Well I’m glad to hear it..,” Jodi started. She sounded like she was lying. Here’s why. “You know, Tob,” she continued, “I actually waited to tell you this because I didn’t want to ruin your expectations or your trip or anything, but I hated L.A.” My jaw probably dropped. “No, it’s actually really good that you liked it,” she said, this time sounding more sincere. “I just thought the city was too spread out.” Mom had said the same thing before my trip, but so what? I’m used to driving most places in New Jersey. “The transportation system sucked, but maybe it’s improved since I was there.” Maybe. Or she just didn’t know it well like native LA-er, Mely. “It was just frustrating.”

3 years later, we’ve switched roles….

I find myself saying how the city is far too spread out, some neighborhoods completely inaccessible by Metro. EVERYTHING appeared to be some sort of chain or franchise. I thought back to when Mely first came to Belmar, pointing out all the “mom & pop shops.” I thought nothing of it at the time because Belmar is very local-oriented, but I found none of that LA. People ended up being more snooty–but in a passive-aggressive way.

When comparing LA to NYC in attitude, honestly, I do view L.A. to be very fake about approaching matters, while NYC just honks at you if you fucked up and you get over it. I don’t know quite how to describe it. But that Hollywood Cinema lifestyle they exaggerate in shows actually seemed to be reality!

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What a view! ft. smog. View from the Gryffith Observatory.

And it’s not like LA is the only perpetrator of thinking they’re hot shit. You’ll find that ANYWHERE. But in LA too many seemed to take on this role of environmentally-conscious, vegan hipster, while wasting hundreds of gallons of water on washing their driveways and not really knowing what they’re talking about.

Again, this can be found anywhere. But I don’t know, in LA I couldn’t escape it. I couldn’t escape the weather when every day felt like the same, sunny day, yet so much of my life felt like a waste of time. One day to feel different would have been a blessing.

Let me explain.

I had only expected to be in L.A. for a max of 7 days. I was in L.A. a whole month. I was waiting for mine and Mely’s road trip to begin and it kept getting pushed back due to our transportation issues. I tried secluding myself to Mely’s house in order to avoid spending any kind of money so I could save it for the road trip.

I felt so completely stuck and because L.A. was so spread out, I couldn’t even escape this feeling for a minute. Friends kept suggesting I take a walk around the block, but the hot sun only pissed me off more. There was nothing but houses to see in Mely’s walking radius.

I went to Santa Monica for a weekend with Ali for her Frisbee tournament and got thrown some SERIOUS Santa Monica shade. Very rude people. I couldn’t believe it.

Ali, who was working at a coffee shop at the time, constantly felt like shit because she didn’t have a “real” job. I understand that frustration, but in L.A. I noticed with more than just her, that if you’re not in some sort of impressive industry, then you’re worthless. I can’t even give you an example of when or how I saw this, but I saw this attitude a lot in L.A. People were hardly friendly anymore.

Everything seemed fake.

So clearly in just two years*, my situations and reasons were completely reversed. And it might not all be L.A.’s fault. But ever since my second time there, I have a new rule: Visit a city at least twice before you move there, because once you get the exciting tourist stuff out of the way, it might not be what you think it is.

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Western sunset on Sunset Blvd.

Three years after our LA conversation on my birthday, Jodi now lives in Venice. After living in Maine and New Hampshire for over a decade, I can understand her exhaustion and frustration with snow and winter. Her endless texts and snaps of LA weather does not make me jealous,  no matter how hard she tries. And she’s had to adjust to driving everywhere. I’m almost waiting for her to grow tired of L.A.–especially since her dog has a lot of thick fur and loves the snow. But maybe I’ll change my mind again…or maybe she will. Either way, I just think it’s funny how a city is not always what you think it is, even after visiting.

Meanwhile, I’m still completely enamored with New York City. I love its seasons. I love how accessible and compact everything is. I love the hustle. I love the diversity. Its lights. Its size. Its sights. It doesn’t have everything I love–like mountains–but I’m still searching for my perfect city. And you know what, even after potentially years of searching I have ahead of me, I might just find that NYC is just the place for me after all.

 

*If there’s any confusion: it’s been 3 years since I first visited L.A., but it WAS only 2 years when I visited the second time. I have not been back since. And my aggression has not lightened in the year I’ve spent away from LA. Sorry.

+All pictures were from my first visit in L.A. and I still like them! So not all my emotions toward LA is hatred.

 

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Days Traveled, Unraveled: Home?

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After the best, most exciting time in Las Vegas, there was only one thing in my sight: “home.” But our next destination was Mely’s home: LA. We’d done it. Whatever you define “it” as. We saw 35+ states in two months. We made it back to LA.
I actually ended up back in Nevada just a few days later to drive Mely to a concert, which I was really ticked about, but ultimately had agreed to, so there was no room for my bitching. Although I wanted to bitch a lot. I was cranky and exhausted. I can’t emphasize that enough. Not to mention, I was getting texts from Julian every few days asking me about how I was or what I was doing. I knew he cared, I just didn’t feel like he did. Which isn’t the first person I’ve experienced this with. I was prodding him with annoying questions just trying to get him to feel something: anger, love, anything. Talking with him, while once comforting, became painful and pointless. We’d argued while Mely was at her concert and I was left alone in the shitty hotel in Las Vegas. I was begging him to tell me the truth about anything: new girlfriend, if he was out with someone, etc. He wouldn’t agree to it and kept asking why it mattered. I remember at the time being able to relate it to a Gilmore Girls episode–my best skill ever.

(See Season 4, Episode 11 “In the Clamor and the Clangor” when Luke & Lorelai are breaking the bells or just read a copy of the text here)

Luke: You know, none of this is any of your business.
Lorelai: It’s absolutely my business!
Luke: How?
Lorelai: Because! I wasted a week of my life adjusting to the idea that you had moved only to find out that you haven’t moved.
Luke: How much adjusting did you have to do? Nothing’s changed! I still see you everyday, I still cook your food, I still serve your coffee. What do you care?
Lorelai: I care.
Luke: Why?
Lorelai: Because I don’t want you to move.
Luke: Why? Why don’t you want me to move? (Lorelai stares at Luke and they are both interrupted when the Reverend walks in)

After that night, I finally decided that I had to stop talking to Julian. Being friends with him now was doing more bad than good–whereas in the beginning of our break-up, I needed him. I’m so happy he was able to still be there for me at the time. However I wanted to have one last good phone conversation with Julian before I ended it. His schedule was so busy, especially in comparison to the time zone difference in my schedule. So I told him I wanted to talk to him and we arranged that April 20 morning, we would. I had slept over Ali’s house the night before, and she wasn’t having a great night either. While I was actually looking forward to cutting myself off from Julian in hopes of freedom or severance or something, who knows, I also was very self-absorbed and couldn’t give Ali the attention she needed. So April 20 came around and I called him and told him I couldn’t talk to him anymore. He just simply asked, “why?” and I told him. I think he said he didn’t quite understand why now, but he said he’d respect my decisions or something. The goodbye was a little awkward.

15 minutes I called him back. In that 15 minutes, I had felt so shitty. I was expecting to feel liberated and relieved. Instead I just felt like I was broken up with all over again, even though this was my decision and I knew it was for the best. I hated feeling this way. I asked him how he felt about the situation–Are you upset that I’m cutting it off? What are you fucking feeling? I didn’t get anything from you in our last conversation. And his complacency and lack of answers just finished it off for me. Goodbye.

The rest of my “4/20” in California was a little weird. Mixed feelings about Julian. Trying an edible. Staying inside with Ali most of the day. It wasn’t anything cathartic nor miserable. It was a weird purgatory position and displacement of feelings.

But the next day I was going HOME. Back to New Jersey. I was too excited. To the point where it’s kind of sad. I never felt THAT strong of a connection to Belmar in terms of believing it to be the one place I’ll ever want to live. And I had lived in 3 different houses throughout Belmar, so it wasn’t anything nostalgic for me. I was oddly looking forward to having my job and that stability. I was looking forward to having my bed, despite how shitty my mattress was. I was looking forward to hanging out with my friends. But these things could also be found elsewhere–not just Belmar–so I shouldn’t have been that excited to go home. But I’m sorry to say that I was.

As I’ve stated before, I never want to give off the impression that I was unappreciative of my trip and the opportunities and experiences it has given me. It was exhausting and that alone was very consuming. Not to mention the break up, and the ONLY ONE friend traveling with me the entire time.

Now, almost a year later, I look back at my roadtrip with a complete romanticized version of it; I remember feeling shitty in certain places at certain times, but now I think I see it with rose-colored glasses. Which, I admit, is kind of weird. I crave the travel life again.

So when I actually got to the dumb, small town that I call home, I actually texted Julian. I told him I didn’t know why I felt the need to tell him that I was home, but I just wanted to tell him that really badly. I think part of me hoped it would change something in him. And I can’t remember how we ended our very brief conversation, but it was on good terms.

A month later, I was suddenly on not so good terms. I happened to discover that he had a girlfriend. I blew up on him very aggressively, saying that he lied to me that night we argued while I was in Las Vegas. He said he didn’t and that they had only just started dating. After long back-and-forth, we ended on good terms, with me joking that I wasn’t crazy. And that was the last time I ever talked to him.

So why do I mention Julian so much throughout these travel posts? And more importantly, why am I bringing him up in my final post when everything is over and it doesn’t really matter or affect my homecoming? Well, one, the point of ALL of these posts was to show my daily living in diary-like entries. To mark what actually happened on my trip. But two, I think I’m realizing now:

In the beginning of my travels, even when I was stuck in LA, no matter how frazzled, or messy, or all-over-the-place I felt, no matter what state I was in or how long I was traveling, Julian was my stability. That constant communication that we had grounded me, securing me with love, and comfort of knowing I was loved, and feeling loved. And on my birthday in Orlando, I missed Jess, Bobby, and my family the most, because they were my stability and love and support on my birthday each year in my past. And after Julian broke up with me, what stability did I have? That’s why my Northeast posts are all so upsetting and sad: I was with new faces nearly each night, no matter how well I knew them or not, it wasn’t consistent. And that’s why he wasn’t talked about much in my posts after that All-American Rejects concert in Indiana. The music became my stability between them, Circa Survive, and OK Go. After that, I just got cranky and anxious to get home.

And once I was home, I was settled again. I had that stability.

And it’s not that I can’t handle the inconsistencies of travel-life. It’s not that the grass is always greener. It’s not that I need stability of jobs, bed, home, etc. It’s just that you need to have those real, solid connections. Whether with friends, music, or to the city itself, you need to actually be able to immerse yourself in the thick of it. Why the hell would  Ohio be one of my more fun states? Because I had such good friends there properly showing me the Columbus or Cleveland way. I never expected St. Louis to be so fantastic, but we explored it in ways we couldn’t have imagined without weird resources on the back burner.

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So if you’re gonna take a trip–any trip–remind yourself: quality, not quantity. So I didn’t see the transcontinental 48 states, pshh. I can guarantee you, that when I finish up my remaining states (whenever that may be): it’s gonna be done really well. It’s not necessarily that organization is key. It’s the ability for connection and immersion. Within you, and without you.

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Days Traveled, Unraveled: Colorado

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Wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park (we got even closer)

Colorado was a long-awaited state for me, not only because it meant that I was closer to finishing this trip, but because I would get to see a long-time family friend, Alex. Outside of my immediate family, my extended family isn’t very big in numbers. And I even feel like my immediate family was too big, too busy, and too stretched out in ages, grades, sports, activities, over the country (sometimes world) to even have many family friends. We each had our own friends, but it was nearly impossible to have friends that 1. Knew each of my family member’s names 2. See them consistently enough. All of my oldest sister’s friends tell me the last time they saw me was when I was in a stroller. All of my friends didn’t even know I had many or any siblings other than Garth, because they were that much older than me. And any of my parents’ friends just weren’t really that close, except for select few. And Alex was one of those few.

Sure I hadn’t seen her in years, and our time together is always few and far between each other, but her mom and my mom had been friends since the 7th grade, so there was no doubt about reaching out to her, despite how crazy different we were.

The moment we arrived in Colorado, mountains appeared in the distance. It reminded Mely and I of when we desperately searched for a hotel near the Four Corners, and the closest one we could find was 40 miles out in Colorado. In the dark of that 40 miles, Mely looked to her right and noted how exceptionally dark it was in her window…until she realized it was the silhouette of mountains in pitch black. When we left Colorado that morning, we actually got to see the beautiful mountains. And that’s something that Colorado has better than any continental state in America. It’s gorgeous and proud.

Though the drive took a while, we still got to Alex’s apartment before she did. So her boyfriend let us in. We had never met. It was awkward. Not to mention, anybody could tell the large differences between our general interests. Here Mely and I were, clad in black, “alternative(?)” clothing, typically listening to indie, rock, and a dash of hardcore edge music. Here. In this apartment decked with hookahs, rapper posters, graffiti-printed cups, and other knick knacks that would never exist in Mely’s or my taste. So we kinda just hung back quietly to ourselves in the corner of their dining area, while he did his thing, too.

Alex came back, and she was very excited to catch up. We exchanged stories of our lives, and it turned out the last time Alex came to New Jersey, Mely was there too. They had briefly met, though Alex and I didn’t remember at all, but Mely only faintly did. It’s just really strange to me how it all connected to each other, somehow. Even though it’s clear why, it still is just funny to me for some reason. We asked Alex what Mely and I should do the next morning and she told us of Rocky Mountain National Park. Great! And here I sat, thinking that this girl and I had nothing in common, when really we both enjoyed hiking/camping. Neither of us did it a lot, but it’s what we grew up on. And although I was very involved with my music-loving, laptop-hugging, 21st century life, and she her very own seemingly rebellious life, we both could easily be extremely laid back hippies in a way. (Not just because we like camping/hiking, but we know what it’s like to rough it out, and can very easily manage without much of a care). You’d never be able to peg us for that, but it’s really neat that this was our bond.

IMG_5442So the next morning, Mely and I made our way. Like any National Park, it was gorgeous with sights and wildlife. We did very short, beginner trails around a little lake called Sprague Lake. I sat on a bench and took a good minute for myself just staring at the lake, the mountains, and the sky. The air was fresh. It felt good. It was brisk, but not too cold. Sounds corny, but nature always sounds like transcendental-hippie crap in writing until you do it yourself. Or at least in my experience.IMG_5451

 

We traveled up the mountains to find plenty of snow. We followed what we thought was a trail–and still was–but only just since the path and the nature didn’t differ much due to all the snow. The “trail” was more compacted and worn, but still feet high in snow. Mely and I danced around the ice as we walked with much needed walking sticks (branches that other nearby naturists had happily shared with us) .01 miles probably, to the lake. Which was also covered in snow. Had it not been for the inch of sign left (AKA uncovered by snow), and for the wide open space with no trees, we would have had no idea that a frozen lake sat beneath us. Happy snowmen greeted hikers from the lake, so naturally we took photos with our new nature buddy.

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We traveled further up the mountain where I found a very tall rock to sightsee some other mountains. I had Mely take my picture because it seemed impressive. But probably what impressed me most, apart from how high up I fearlessly was, was that alone: I was fearless. The fresh air loved my face, and the short climb up felt like real, solid work. Cathartic in a way. Rock climbing is a lot more brain activity than you would think, It’s a real mind game. And it felt good to practice best/easiest ways up and down with my head and my body. So it was me and nature, and the happy near-end of the trip, and the memories of rock climbing at Mohonk in New York with Alex, and the powerful, although lonely, fearless me.

I think a lot of people picture road tripping as an exploration of land, but also discovery of self. So much time with your own thoughts and with close ones can be very expansive, but in my case, I had a lot of other trips like that. This day with Rocky Mountain National Park made me realize that for a break–road tripping your own country isn’t always the best. You can (doesn’t mean you will) find yourself feeling just as stuck in your own head, no matter how many other distractions and new sights surround you. Road tripping is more than just gorgeous sights and exploration and culture. It’s work. And me climbing that rock–even though it took 2 minutes–was work. Me driving 10,000+ miles was just as much exhausting as it was work, but the exhaust took away from the pride. It’s like when you make something on your own; there’s a lot of pride in that. And I somehow found a lot of pride in some dumb rock (no Lion King reference/pun intended).

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Before we knew it, we were losing daylight. It was still the beginning of April, and though no other land beneath the high altitudes of the mountains didn’t have snow, we still were basically in Winter modes. Which is half of what made Nevada so much damn fun. But that is for another blog.

We headed back early since Alex didn’t live terribly close to RMNP. And we enjoyed some Buffalo Wild Wings in her town. We only slept one more night before we prepped for an early trip out. But what’s Colorado without Denver? I guess I mostly have a sense of that answer, since I hardly visited Denver…except for some claimed best authentic Native American fry bread place called Tocabe. The dessert fry bread, drizzled with honey and powdered sugar was a good breakfast for me before we headed out for Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

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