All I do is dream of you

Study abroad has given me a lot of time to really reflect on my place in life, caught in between being a child and an adult, trying to live like both. It’s like Britney once said, “I’m not a boy, not yet a man.” Well, she could have said it like that, but she’s a girl… Anyways, no matter what’s going on here, whether I feel lonely or am having the time of my life, I always come back to one thing I know about my life – I’m incredibly lucky.

Back in the days of writing college essays, senior year, I wrote what I thought was a really striking and creative line while applying for a scholarship that I didn’t receive. I called myself a “reckless opportunist.” I don’t think I really understood the limitations of my opportunities back then – I mean hey, I hadn’t even been to college. The longest I’d ever been away from home was three weeks, and it was just one state away. A “reckless opportunist” was something I wanted to be but hadn’t quite achieved. 

Today, at 20, I can say that I’ve now had some pretty incredible opportunities. Going to a diverse, open, and challenging school just 30 minutes outside of Chicago and studying abroad in England the two biggest opportunities I’ve had. And I think I’ve recklessly taken advantage of them, especially this study abroad experience, and soaked up each ounce of time and every moment. And for that, I’m fucking lucky. I’ve gotten to do things I’ve literally dreamed about. Like actually in my sleep. Although it’s been different than I could have imagined and harder than I thought it would be, it’s been a blast.

All this aside, I sometimes feel like because of these opportunities, I’m floating in and out of peoples’ lives, trying to connect fragmented moments with friends with texts and Skype and Facebook. It’s like I’m a collector of friends, a collector of experiences. I have friends all over the world now, which is so eye-opening, but there’s always a fleeting feeling that I know I have to leave them. A feeling I’ve felt for the last three years, leaving home for Northwestern, Northwestern for home, both for England. But every one of these connections I hold dear, and no matter whether or not I ever see some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met again, no matter where they’re from or how long I’ve spent with them, each person adds a little something to me that makes me more and more who I am supposed to be.

And as hard as it is to be here and know that I have to pick up my bags and leave, this is the time for that. I’ve learned from experience that it’s possible to keep up with those that matter to you. For me, it would have been impossible to live the kind of life I’ve been so privileged to live without learning that skill, and without learning that there’s just as much to be found in transience and change as there is in stability. I have the rest of my life to be stable, to settle down. 

So for now, I get to live in a dream. When I was in Amsterdam, it felt like it was my dream away from the reality of England. England is like the dream of my reality of student life at NU, which in turn is like a dream from home in Arkansas, which is a dream from all of these other places when I’m away. And the best part about it is that this dream time, this exquisite time where I can explore myself, the world and its inhabitants, is that it’s strengthening me and teaching me how to live in the approaching reality of adult life. Living in happiness, which I am doing now and always strive to do (sometimes, like everyone, unsuccessfully), makes you realize that it’s always there, waiting for you when you don’t have it and so obviously there when you do. 

I’m happy and I’m lucky. 

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Live mighty, live righteously — takin’ it easy

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Amsterdam – Amsterdo – Amsterdon’t

Amsterdam was quite lovely, aside from some cold and rainy weather. It was a lot more chill than I expected, but in a really nice way. It’s an absolutely beautiful city of canals and brick buildings, juxtaposed with plenty of grit.

Amsterdo’s

  1. Stay at the Flying Pig Downtown. I stayed at the uptown one the first night, and it had a really cool environment and was easy to meet people. The uptown one is really far away from everything (except Vondelpark), so I figure the downtown one is the place to stay. If you don’t mind being really far from everything and not being able to meet people, the Stayokay hostel is pretty nice. It was fine considering I was with friends.
  2. Anne Frank House. It’s something the world doesn’t owe us, but we owe the world. It will humble you, make you question humanity, and ultimately help you appreciate human resilience. “One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we will be people again and not just Jews. We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever. We will always be Jews as well. But then we will want to be.” -Anne Frank
  3. Vondelpark. I got lost there, alone, on my last day (after having visited a nice coffee shop called Dolphins. It was deliciously beautiful that day, the sun reflecting off the water, fallen trees still rooted and growing towards the horizon, and unusual European playground equipment. It was a nice time to sit and reflect on my experiences so far. I climbed up this weird chamber with a bunch of ropes in it (which was difficult considering I’m not 3 feet tall anymore, although I don’t know how kids reached those ropes…) that ended in a slide. It felt good.
  4. Get on the beer trolley. We met these 30 year old professionals that invited us up on their beer trolley and ended up spending about four hours with them. They bought us slippers, tons of beer, some cake, took a trip to the coffee shop with us, and ultimately showed us a really nice time. Sometimes, you’ve just got to give up your plans and do what feels right, which was getting on the trolley.
  5. Coffee shops. Obviously, there’s some major reasons to go to Amsterdam. Go to a coffee shop, order a drink, eat a space cake, and chill out with your friends. This is what life’s all about – and you may just end up laughing for an hour about twitching eyebrows.
  6. Van Gogh collection. The Van Gogh Museum was closed, but the collection was showing at the Hermitage. I never appreciated Van Gogh until I saw it up close – you can’t see how incredible the brush strokes are in pictures.
  7. Red light district. This is really one of the only places in the world where you can see something like this. I got offered drugs. I got pawed at by scantily clothed women while trying to sign to them that I really wasn’t interested. I saw a 75 year old prostitute. I watched curtains open and young men sneak out glass doors, head bowed down, embarrassed and satisfied.
  8. French fries. Holland’s most notable cuisine is actually french fries covered in mayonnaise. Get one. Get another. Get five on your trip – the rest of the food is overpriced and not particularly special, not to mention not Dutch. Save money on food.
  9. Bike or tram card. The trams are really easy to use, and it was only 16 euro for unlimited travel for three days. We would have rented bikes, but the weather was quite nasty. It’s a really bike friendly city.

More Amsterdam 

  • Heineken Experience. Fun and free beers at the end, but not an absolute must see. If it’s your thing, go!
  • Hash, Marijuana, and Hemp Museum. A little expensive for the two rooms it covered, but interesting nonetheless. I saw an actual live, growing plant, which was kind of crazy to me.
  • Markets. Basically a bunch of knick-knacks and weird things, but worth seeing. They’re free anyways and you can do one in about 20 minutes.

Amsterdon’ts

  1. Don’t shop at the first coffee shop you find. Really look into the prices and explore. I really liked Dolphins, near Leidseplein, and Barney’s, located downtown.
  2. Don’t do a pub crawl, especially when a bunch of fun 30 year olds invited you to a houseboat party. The pubs are really American, and the people that did it were mostly weird.
  3. Don’t lose your tram card. Oops.
  4. Don’t buy a sandwich at the Hermitage. They’re gross.
  5. Try to go when you know the weather will be nice – the city is really beautiful, but it was prettiest when the sun was shining.

Next time I visit I’d like to

  1. Tour the countryside. See a windmill. Go to a clog factory. Go to a cheese factory. See the tulips.
  2. Go out in Leidseplein (don’t bother going out anywhere else unless you know somewhere is going to be a sure hit).
  3. Evening canal tour with wine and cheese.
  4. Go to more coffee shops. Come on – we all know that’s really what this city is all about.

Where the horizon lies

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It’s been a busy week since I last posted – classes have started, I’ve been to my first proper gay club (as in not the shitty Little Rock one), seen one of the seven wonders of the world, and walked down the roads my ancestors once walked on (not China).

So first on the list – classes. I’ve got about 6-7 hours of class a week, depending on how my teachers are feeling. I think there are occasional tutorials that might add time to a few weeks, but it’s a total joke compared to NU. It’s not like I came here to actually do work (sorry mom and dad, but I promise I’m learning and experiencing things that I couldn’t get in any classroom).

My American Theatre History class was literally just listening to Brits stereotype America for an hour based on “American” images (dolla bill sign, the flag, Mall of America?). It was extremely uncomfortable as the American in the room, but nonetheless very interesting. Learning about how the rest of the world sees the States is really eye-opening.

My London Theatre class has us going to theatre in London, mostly avant-garde stuff. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first play, Love and Information by Caryl Churchill, but I’m really excited to see what’s next.

My two Psychology classes, Developmental Psychology and Music Psychology, have some potential, but so far we were just kind of introduced to the subjects.

Second on the list, the G-A-Y Heaven club, is going to go mostly untalked about… jkjk. It was definitely a great experience – there was a volunteer strip show that was really surprising. The people actually got buck naked! Some brave souls – you couldn’t pay me to do that. Mika played there last night, but alas I had to get up at 6:30 in the morning today, so I was not venturing out.

Today I took a trip to Stonehenge and Bath. Although I knew a few people on the tour, I stayed mostly to myself, which was really nice. I felt like they were sights best taken introspectively. Stonehenge was different than I thought it would be, less giant and put together, but it’s definitely something I feel like I needed to see once in my life. It was pretty spectacular to feel like I was in a place I’d seen so many times in history books.

Bath was very beautiful. I didn’t really like the tour of the Roman baths there, but the city itself was wonderful. Although I didn’t feel any magic familiarity with it, there’s something weird knowing that my great-great-great (and so on) grandfather is buried there, and that it’s where my mom’s side of the family is from. Somewhere under the ground are specks of genes that you can find in my own body. Something about that makes me feel somewhat immortal (as long as I don’t lose the evolutionary battle, which may turn out to be a struggle… any volunteers ladies?).

Sorry the post was a bit long, but I’ve been really busy!