Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

Happy new year! I know it’s been a little while; the end of 2018 seemed to fly by. I’m in disbelief that it’s actually 2019–this is the year I graduate from college!

To kick off this year, I wanted to follow the trend of compiling some of my favorite things from 2018. I love a good list, so I put together some of the books, movies, and music I read, watched, and listened to this year that I think are worth telling everyone about. I’ll include that below.

But while I was reflecting, I realized that even though I thought most of my experiences this year had been kinda tough and not worth revisiting, the opposite was true. My list of experiences that I’m grateful for this year is my longest (and I’m sure I’m missing a few things, too).

For starters, I began my year in Germany and then really kicked it off in Paris. Even though I was feeling lost in translation–in many ways–it was still Paris. And it gave me friends and memories I don’t think I’ll ever lose.

I spent another lovely spring break in San Diego and Palm Springs.

Fast forward to my 21st birthday (finally!) in June, and I celebrated it with my queen Taylor Swift and my person, a boy who I’ve been sharing my favorite music with since 2014.

In the midst of a messy summer, I took a trip with my mom that grounded both of us.

I went on a sunset boat cruise on Lake Michigan. Aside from being absolutely beautiful, it felt like the perfect symbol of things falling together. I started a new job, I was pursuing another, and I was making peace with the time it had taken to get to that point.

I finally brought my roommate and college bestie home to meet my childhood bestie and see my small town. It was a quick but restful weekend.

The job that I mentioned pursuing is going really well; I loved my first semester of working at a newspaper. It’s equal parts challenging and rewarding and watching the daily collaboration is kind of mind-blowing, in the best way.

I spent Christmas in Alabama with JT’s family. I was really nervous to do something different for Christmas (I’m used to MI christmases with my family), but it was a really great week. We watched the sunset on the beach in Gulf Shores on Christmas Eve, went for a boat ride on Christmas Day, and even saw dolphins.

Finally, I ended the year with JT and his friends dancing, a very fun NYE for the most part.

Now, it’s the first day of 2019 and JT and I are exploring the area that we plan to move to after graduation. It’s a scary and exciting glimpse into the future–this coming year in a nutshell.

So here’s to 2019; thank you, Universe, for the people and amazing experiences I got to have with them in 2018. I’m open to all the opportunities, connections, and memories you can bring me in this new year.

And I wish the same for you ✨

From 2018…

Book recs:

1 – The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, Hanif Abdurraqib

2 – Mean, Myriam Gurba

3 – Refuse, Julian Randall

4 – Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado

Movie recs:

1 – A Star is Born

2 – The Favourite


1 – Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves

2 – Dan + Shay (self-titled)

3 – Shawn Mendes (self-titled)

You are Most Important

This past Wednesday, October 10th, was World Mental Health Day. It happened to coincide nicely (so much sarcasm here) with the worst anxiety I’ve had in months, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about my mental health this week.

Some people may remember, but my freshman year of college was a really, really difficult transition period for me. I know that sounds dramatic on the surface, and that not everyone can relate, but the displacement and anxiety I felt about everything (e v e r y t h i n g) was new and seemed extreme. I learned what panic attacks felt like for me and how to recognize when my body is responding anxiously and what habits or patterns of thinking contributed to it. I am not here to say it was magically cured because I figured out how to pay attention to it or that it has just resurfaced suddenly; I’m constantly learning more about what makes me anxious and, lately, constantly feeling anxious.

But that’s not what I’ve wanted to share all week. What I want to share is something I realized after a particularly bad day of panic earlier this week:

I have to stick with decisions that I’ve already made with my best interests in mind.

For example, if I’ve decided that I’m going to do an assignment for a class a certain way because it’s my best stab at meeting the requirements in respect to what I can physically and mentally handle, even if it means ignoring a certain guideline, that’s just how that assignment is going to get done. Second-guessing myself and trying to change everything at the last minute to avoid a lesser grade or an annoyed professor cannot be my gut reaction before I turn things init’s just not that big of a deal.

I wrestle with that concept a lot because I am a rule follower. Unless I think a rule is really ridiculous, I’ll comply. Even then, I’ll sometimes follow it because that’s just the ideology I’ve been ingrained with. Following rules has gotten me good grades which led to being high school Valedictorian and receiving an academic scholarship to the college I really wanted to go to and all sorts of praise from teachers along the way. It’s obviously rewarded me, and sometimes even pushed me to do my best work. And so, old habits and all that.

Regardless, there are instanceslike in your senior year of college where you’re feeling tremendous stress to figure out the next steps of your life and you have a job you love that demands a lot of time, and so much homework, the thought of your to-do list physically knots your stomachwhen you have to prioritize.

Put yourself first. You are most important.

Ironically, I’m doing that now as I type this, taking a break from that stupid to-do list because this is what I feel like I need to be doing. Also ironically, I found myself sharing this advice with one of my closest friends just this morning. And I will keep telling myself:

Stick with decisions you’ve already made with your best interests in mind because folding to the expectations of others is not worth your wellbeing.

This doesn’t mean I’m just gonna b.s. my homework for the next semester and a half; frankly, I care too much for that. But it’s about knowing when I’m caring more about an A than how many hours of sleep I’m getting or whether or not I’ve done yoga in the last two weeks or any self-care that helps me manage my anxiety. Because so much more harm is done when I ignore it and pretend that everything is fine because I feel like it has to be, like I don’t have time to acknowledge the actual state of my mental health.

I have to make time. I hope you make time, too.


Sometimes You Gotta “Gilmore Girls” It

Last week, I posted about being a funk and the 3 key things to focus on to try to get out of it. At the end of the post, I said that even after focusing on what you can control, sometimes you still have to just leave things to good, old-fashioned patience. You have to realize that if you’ve already done all you can do, you are still making things happen; you’ve set things in motion and now you gotta wait for the universe to put everything into place as it should be. I learned that for me anyway, to really step back and take that time, I have to be completely distracted. Like spontaneous mother-daughter road trip, completely “Gilmore Girls”-style-avoiding-responsibilities distracted.

So that’s what my mom and I did. Well, first, I spent a week at home helping with preparation for my little brother’s grad party, seeing family and friends, and just grounding myself. But then I made a forgetful mistake and missed the bus that was supposed to take me back to reality. My mom and I brainstormed solutions to get me back on track, except instead of simply getting me where I had planned to be, we spit-balled about making a quick weekend trip to see family we hadn’t seen in almost two years. It was something we’d been talking about doing, and luckily enough, my mistake gave us the perfect opportunity to move on this impulse. So we regrouped, packed, made arrangments for things to be okay in our absence, and we hit the road.

The hours spent in the car with my mom (and absolute best friend) and the hours spent sitting in living rooms, happily catching up with relatives while relaxing or eating (delicious) family meals have me reflecting on several things.

The first thing shouldn’t come as a surprise; sometimes you need to escape to for a clear head, but make it something you’ve been meaning to do. I’m so glad we took the time to see loved ones because there are few things that make your heart fuller than talking and laughing with people that want the best for you.

The second is closely related; it’s okay to let your family take care of you when you’re struggling to take the best care of yourself. Revel in the support you’re lucky to receive and remember to return the support when you can!

The third is how important it is to stay. To relax, to find peace, to nest. It’s ironic that I learned this on our Lorelai-esque trip, but while allowing myself to sit still instead of fretting over what I could be doing or what I was afraid of, I felt so much better. I remembered how to just be (and that’s important when you’re at the point in your process where that’s all you can do).

Fourth–arguably most important–is a reminder that there are very few things in life that can’t be solved by hours of heart-to-heart talking with your momma.

Fifth and final reflection today: once you’re rested, good things will come, and you’ll be ready to meet them. On the last night of our trip, I found out that I got the job I’ve been waiting to hear about. Now, I am back to reality, and feeling much better than when I was trying to force myself to face things I wasn’t quite ready to (and that weren’t quite ready for me yet).

Writer’s Block

I DID NOT plan to lose my voice in Paris. I don’t mean my physical voice (though there were moments when a cough threatened to overtake my roommate and me). I mean the voice that is coming through right now, my writing voice. Literally, the most important thing that I have. My go-to form of communication and expression and processing. If you’re not a writer or an avid reader, maybe this is something you’ve never thought about before, but just like everyone has a unique way of sounding like themselves while talking, every writer has a way of sounding like themselves on the page. My voice may be slightly different when I am typing a personal essay versus this blog post here, or an entry in my writing journal versus my personal journal, or even a tweet compared to any of my other methods, but they all sound like me.

I’ve mentioned my Paris journal repeatedly, as well as shared a couple entries from it; we had to write at least two a day. I have been practicing journal keeping for most of my life, but more seriously for the last two years. I am proud of my current writing journal, it is where I let ideas take form before I share them here or use the seeds I’ve planted in other work. It sounds like the writer I am growing to be, like the writer I want to be, and it takes practice to do that. My journal’s sophistication vastly outweighs that of any of its predecessors; it shows what I’ve learned and honed in my last three years of writing workshops, in the most casual and intimate way.

Last summer, while walking through a tourist shop in Fishtown (Leland, MI), I came upon a beautiful notebook. The cover had an illustration of a mermaid with a blue-scaled tail, accompanied by the Anais Nin quote, “I must be a mermaid because I have no fear of depths and a great fear of living a shallow life.” I loved it. More illustrations and quotes were on every few pages. As I held it in my hands, I decided it would be my Paris journal. I was sure I could fill the pages that were inspiring me with more words I could be proud of.

I wrote a detailed take on my first readings of Hemingway before our trip on the first few pages, on Christmas Eve–off to a good start. I didn’t pick it up again until our second day in Paris, and I found that nothing I had to say seemed worthy of writing down, nothing held the same level of reflection or insight or hint of my personality or craft ability. I am sure that my writer’s block came from stress and discomfort and sensory overload, among other things. I am also sure that feeling all of those things, in PARIS for crying out loud, made my frustration worse.

Eventually, I found my voice again. I realized later that it was because I was forced to keep at it, making myself dig for something to write every day about the trip and about the discussions we were having in our workshop. Every time I returned to the page, I got a little closer to sounding like myself. I stopped letting outside forces intimidate me; I stopped half-heartedly participating. I had to be present, in my body, drawing on my previous experiences and challenging myself to grow.

Getting out of my writer’s block was not a miracle; I made it happen through writing when I was most unsure of what I was putting on the page. I’m not sure I could’ve learned a more valuable lesson than that as a young writer.

Unexpected Lessons From Abroad

In my previous posts, I’ve mentioned that Paris gave me a lot—a lot to think about, to write about, to be happy or humble or appreciative of. The commonality between each of the things I feel like I gained from my trip is that I didn’t expect them. Or, rather, all of my expectations were far exceeded in the City of Lights.

Friends ~

I hoped to make friends; I did not expect to meet people that I know would do virtually anything for me. I did not expect to know that after a week of knowing them. That is huge, that will never not be huge, and even if we don’t talk or spend as much time together now as we did in those whirlwind two weeks, I know that we’ll always have Paris, and because of that, I will always have them if I need them. I see so much beauty and potential in all of them, for individual reasons, and I felt that reflected back to me. That support is everything, the feeling of it can’t be diminished, even over time and distance.

(Not) Writing ~

I planned to write things that I am proud of; looking back now, I realize that I did. But in bits and pieces that mostly came together in the end, because I learned that even when you travel to a magical foreign city, TO WRITE, you can somehow find yourself with a case of writer’s block (see my next post all about this biggest pain in my butt, I mean lesson).

Self-Love ~

As I wrote before I started my international trip, I intended my travel to be full of self-love. I wanted to allow myself to enjoy all the new experiences I was having, but to take the best care of myself that I could so that I could minimize any other negative feelings or experiences. That’s a lot to ask of yourself in a completely foreign place, where you have no established routine, no recognizable situations of anxiety or overwhelm because each situation is new.

So, no, I didn’t always take the best care of myself that I could, despite my best attempts. This lead to slight illnesses, embarrassing mistakes, and experiences that I can only learn from. The unexpected lesson being: you have to love yourself even more when you mess up. It does no good to berate yourself internally when you are travelling. You may be surrounded by amazing new people who will do what they can to make you feel better, but ultimately, it’s up to you to brush off what you’re upset at or not proud of. It’s the only thing that will allow you to take the lesson and move forward. When you’re limited on time, this is especially crucial; you don’t want to spend a few days down on yourself when you could be out, letting yourself live your best life in a beautiful new place.

Accepting My Limits ~

Before Paris, I had a mental image of museum hopping and going out every single night. Basically, being much busier and much more extroverted than I am in my daily life. However, very quickly upon getting there, I surprised myself; I accepted that I could not do everything. We had two pieces of writing, plus a typed assignment, and often upwards of 50 pages of reading due each day. So, with studying alone, I had A LOT going on. That isn’t to say I didn’t explore Paris. I think everything that I managed to do – multiple city tours, two trips to Montmartre, thrift shopping all over the city, browsing Parisian book stores, a visit to the Louvre, a trip to Versaille, seeing the Eiffel Tower and going on a sunset boat cruise on the Seine, hitting three Parisian bars in one night, going to a jazz club, finding my own way to the Pantheon, and many fabulous meals and glasses of wine in cute cafes – was not too shabby for my first time in Paris.

Yes, I could’ve done more. A constant question I’m asked is if I went up in the Eiffel Tower. My answer has surprised and disappointed many; no, I didn’t. I intended to, to visit it a second time, to be more dressed up and to take in the spectacular view of Paris from the Tower itself. It didn’t pan out; only one other opportunity outside of my group’s first excursion presented itself, and that day, I needed to focus on that self-care stuff I was talking about. Maybe that doesn’t explain it well enough, but this time around, I was happy just to see it. It felt like enough to know that it was there, to be staring at it from the gray marbled steps first, and later, from the riverbank. I saw it against Paris’ beautiful, dreary, blue afternoon sky, and I watched it glitter in flashes of gold at exactly 6 pm against the blanket of navy that had crept over the city.

I was content in knowing that I would be there again someday, and we could get to know each other better then. Maybe that’s the real lesson from all of this; I know myself better now, after my first time in Paris.

Heading Home, Finding Direction

Last departure thoughts, 1-19-18:

Leaving Paris before sunrise feels disrespectful, like a lover stealing away in the night. I tried to take in my last glimpses of the city through our shuttle windows, but everything was still horribly out of context. Paris is far too large and old to have figured out in two and a half weeks. She’s too complicated, and claiming less is an insult.

I am happy to be headed home, to my own bed for the first time in almost a month, to my best friend, to my boyfriend, and to my family. I am excited to hear American English, to not feel my harsh Midwestern voice so out of place. To be back in control; yes, I have been able to wander this beautiful, foreign city alone, but I haven’t felt confident or knowledgeable. I am out of my familiar, and I’m feeling exhausted because of it. I want to rest, I want to organize, I want to take charge of my life again.

Rediscovering this journal now, a month later, is so fitting. I’ve been swept up by the spring semester, and I am still striving to feel that sense of control, even back in my familiar at home. My trip happened so quickly, it was hard to put into words at first, or to know if I had written any that I felt were worth sharing. This past month has given me enough time to try to put this into perspective, and I think evaluating what I gained, what I learned, during my travels just may be the key to unlocking a new sense balance and a positive attitude for the future.

Stay tuned for the reflection(s) to come!

Our Last (Parisian) Day

I journaled this a month ago today, on our last full day in Paris:

There was so much beauty in the ending, in our last vividly matte, gray, rainy day of Paris. There was no longer the stress of class weighing on the back of my mind; I could finally appreciate all the wrought iron terraces and intricate cement or stone buildings for more than the few seconds I was able to ward off thoughts of, “What’s next?”

After two a and a half weeks, I finally felt comfortable. Using the Metro, hearing their weird sirens, being a little more cautious with my belongings in public. I had just started to wander on my own, finding the Pantheon on our last Sunday. I think if we’d stayed longer, maybe another week or two, I might’ve gotten confident enough to use the French that I know, rather than only using the standard, “merci,” and “pardon,” or “au revoir,” and “bonjour.”

We—a small group of the classmates that turned into great friends—finally spent the day shopping. I got a new jacket and a scarf, and found gifts for my brother and boyfriend. I used my phone’s data without reserve, calling my mom from the store, feeling so relieved when she picked up and weighed in her opinions on my purchases. I tried Paris’ acclaimed (read: ridiculously good) hot chocolate, and I even found a gluten free bakery, completely by accident (I had a chocolate eclair).

Our final dinner, at Chez Bebert, was full of more laughter and wine (as our whole trip has been), and none of the self-consciousness that I felt during our arrival dinner. I realized during our last supper that while Paris has given me a lot, the people I have gotten to know are easily my most treasured souvenir (read: I love these people so much).

There will be more to come from my Paris journal!

(Also, the photo is from the first night, as it’s probably the best whole-group shot.)

ALL My People

It’s move-in weekend; the bluntest reminder that I have two homes. My definition of home is roughly 4 parts people and 2 parts geography, and I don’t want to write to the idea of being grateful for places (today, anyway). So, to finish a piece I’ve been working on for weeks about the amazing people I have in my life, I want to talk about the wonderful phenomenon of realizing you have more people that you know (or remember) you do.

My two homes include the one I grew up in, and the one I made for myself when I left for college. My first transitional period of leaving one place and claiming another was one of the most difficult and lonely times – at first – but the magic to that drastic change was that it showed me who I had. And, more than that, it gave me new people. It was a time when my world felt uprooted and, consequently, so small that I regularly counted whom I had to go to. Only, I didn’t count everyone. There were people I forgot or was too preoccupied or scared to reach out to.

I have come to acknowledge this miscounting of the army of those I rely on and gain perspective, inspiration, and help from as a bad habit. I’m doing my best to break it.

Thankfully, in the last two years, I’ve made so many friendships. Some last days, some last semesters, and some have lasted from the first day of move-in freshman year and continue to grow stronger. In any case, I’ve appreciated crossing paths. I’ve also tried to strengthen old connections; I’ve realized the value of a coffee date and good conversation or even weekly phone calls with friends who have known me since elementary school. These small efforts show people that they matter to you, and I’m doing my best to do better at that because the crux of my bad habit is focusing too hard on a few and forgetting that I have, like I said, many wonderful people in my life.

The biggest lesson I learned during my rough transition into college was the importance of allowing my two homes to coexist peacefully, to appreciate each for their different qualities. And so, I have to connect that lesson to people, as they are what I think of before physical locations. What I mean is, the phrases ‘my family’ or my ‘best friends’ include people that have never met or lived in the same place or even know what my daily life looks like. And that’s fine – the point is that if I picked up a phone or got on a train or a bus or a plane or needed any kind of advice – from writing to life – someone would be there, someone would answer. It’s my instinct to want to organize and thus quantify how many someone’s I have, but the premise of this entire idea is that I can’t – and that that is the greatest thing The Universe has shown me so far.

Here’s to a great school year of being surrounded and supported (no matter the distance) by those who make you feel like you matter.


(Image from Pinterest.)

Best Self Discovery

I recently read Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl’s advice always seemed to, either directly or indirectly, speak to the concept of being your best self, encouraging her advice seekers to be honest and compassionate with themselves and/or those in their lives.

This concept of being your best self, even the simplicity and elegance of the phrase, has stuck with me, causing me to give a lot of thought to what my “best Kristen” would act like. In no particular order, here are the qualities and behaviors I think my best self has (or could have):

Evaluating my own reactions; in other words, not getting angry or upset so easily. Using rationality over emotions more often to avoid unnecessary words or actions.

Letting go of things I don’t need and things that I can’t change; releasing negative emotions like anger, hurt, judgement, fear and other feelings that don’t serve me – only love, positivity, determination, and compassion do.

Having confidence; always feeling comfortable in my own skin, owning my body and knowledge and experience and not being afraid to take up space.

Being productive; doing things that serve me, mainly writing and accomplishing tasks/goals that I have, as well as reading and spending quality time with people I love (not spending so much aimless time app-hopping on my phone).

Also taking time for myself; a bit of unproductive phone time, but mostly healthy, reflective activities like morning walks, workout or yoga sessions, and the above listed activities.

Giving; to be generous with my time and attention and material things, but with healthy boundaries.

Learning; being open and ready to absorb new skills, information, and to meet new people.

These are definitely not the end-all, be-all of “best self” attributes, but the entire process of coming up with this image of my personal best self has been cathartic and motivating. Especially because, while I was in the middle of giving my list thought, I had an appointment with a craniosacral healer, Jamie VanDam. She spoke to me about making clear intentions and being aware of the energy I allowed in as well as the energy I was emitting outward.

Each of these ideas – being my best, setting intentions, being aware of energy – were ones I was familiar with, but not as fully immersed in before I thought of them together after being first inspired by Cheryl Strayed and then through my craniosacral work. I am not saying that you need to read any of Cheryl’s work or to have energy work done on you – though both are wonderful things – but they seemed to be the dominoes that tipped together to help me take a new approach to self-improvement.

I hope you find the things or people that inspire you to reflect (and act) on what does (or could) make you your best self.

Sam Hunt

There is an artist, a singer and songwriter, that has been a part of my three year relationship with my best friend from the very beginning. Last Friday night, in Clarkston (Detroit), Judd and I finally got to see him perform live, and I had a lot of feelings about it. I did my best to put the short version on instagram (@13kristenelizabeth) this past weekend, but I knew I couldn’t resist telling the long version.

I think it was on our very first date in May of 2014 that Judd asked me if I had heard of Sam Hunt. I hadn’t, and I attribute that to the fact that he was an artist in transition from uploading free music to SoundCloud to preparing to release his first studio album, and because it wasn’t exactly common knowledge that he was the writer behind Keith Urban’s “Cop Car” and Billy Currington’s “We Are Tonight.” Judd, however, explained all of this to me, clearly passionate about the music this man made, taking pride in finding this talent before he became mainstream. It didn’t take listening to many of Sam’s songs for me to understand Judd’s enthusiasm, or for me to be impressed with his taste in music, still one of my favorite things about him. To me, that summer is signified by “Leave The Night On”; my favorite thing was to be in the passenger seat of Judd’s truck, listening to him sing along (quite well). A different song, “Take Your Time,” later became “our song” because the concept of it aligned with how we started – without forcing anything, just getting to know each other; the stealing of covers and meeting of each other’s mothers fell into place later.

The difficult thing about falling in love with a new artist, for us anyway, was seeing him live. We tried and failed to our second summer; it was announced that Sam would be performing at our local country music festival (Birthday Bash), so we got tickets and parking passes and shared our increased excitement as the countdown to Birthday Bash slowly ran down. But the second day, the day Sam was supposed to play, was cancelled due to rain and flooding. Since then, we’ve waited for another opportunity, which turned out to be last Friday night for the #15ina30tour. We bought presale tickets, made travel plans, and then spent last week leading up to the show just geeking out because we were finally, after three years, going to see Sam Hunt.

It was everything and more that I hoped it would be. Sam created exactly the kind of atmosphere you want at a concert; bright, but deep, every moment magic and meaningful. Sam was all smiles and dance moves and sweet words, so obviously content onstage and with his life in general right now. He even mentioned that he still feels like he’s on his honeymoon (congrats to him and Hannah Lee; I love their love story).

Anyway, more than briefly mentioning Hannah and his life, he took a portion of the show to give his backstory. I know artists sometimes take time to share personal messages, but I guess I didn’t fully expect, or know how to react to, his down-to-earth, understated, and culturally relevant manner. After taking the time to share his life story, he brought up how our generation is the first to completely grow up with technology, making us the most connected generation yet. In his (adorable) Georgia accent, he said that this ability to connect so well no matter where we come from will lead our generation to break away some of the divisive walls that have been built between people. Then he shrugged and explained that “that’s what’s been on [his] heart lately.”

The elegance of his simple remark to me was that he never once said anything about opinions or beliefs or condemned anybody, he was just pointing out our shared humanity. In his talk of connection, he was connecting in a personal and positive way. To me, his small heart-to-heart shines among my brightest memories from the concert.

After our night at the #15ina30tour, I feel more in awe of the genuine and talented Sam Hunt, and even more in love with the guy who first introduced me to him. The man that has spent the last three years singing his lyrics to me through vibrant, freckled smiles and who held my hand and danced with me the entire night, as carefree as always. As carefree, in fact, as he’s always been and as I have been slowly working towards becoming in the three years I have been lucky enough to have him as a positive force in my life. I like to joke that I’ve been living for the bass drop in “Breakup in a Small Town” since 2014, or that I’ve been living for Sam since then, but really, if I’m going to use that phrase, it would better apply to man that showed me Sam’s music and has been so graciously taking my time. I can’t thank him enough for filling my days with happiness and good music, or for sharing special moments like those we spent with Sam, last Friday night.

Also – I just wanted to note that I was psyched to see Maren Morris too, and both her presence and performance were simultaneously radiant and bad-ass. Chris Jansen was a sweetheart, and Ryan Follese was as nice and down-to-earth as he was that one time I saw Hot Chelle Rae perform (probably the coolest thing I did when I was 13).