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)

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!

Awaiting Departure

Written yesterday, 12-26-17:

For the first time, I am traveling this holiday season. My first destination is Frankfurt, where I’ll stay with my older brother, get a taste of Germany in the winter, and ring in the New Year. My second travel destination is Paris, for a short study abroad trip, where I will get to read and write in Hemingway’s old haunts.

Because of this impending trip, the last few days, weeks really, have been a roller coaster of emotions.

First, there has been stress; I was so worried about planning every detail and then so overwhelmed when I discovered that I physically couldn’t do that AND live in the moments leading up to Christmas with my family—and that was all the time that I had with them.

Then excitement; obviously, I mean, I’m going to Europe! I’ve been once before, when I was seventeen, and I fell in love with Germany in July (who wouldn’t?). So, three years later, it’s finally time to reunite with this particular long distance love, at the opposite time of year, AND get to see Paris for the first time. It sounds like a dream when I simply say where I’m going, let alone when I dive into my plans.

But there was also sadness; I traveled on Christmas, my absolute favorite holiday of the year, leaving my cozy house and actual long-distance boyfriend after only six days together, and then my trip took longer than expected because of a ridiculous Amtrak ordeal (in short, it should NEVER be okay to sell bus tickets as connections to train tickets and then refuse to wait for that connection that YOU SOLD @Amtrak). On my extended bus ride, I was having vivid flashbacks to my freshman year of college; I was experiencing the same kind of loss, the kind that you feel when leaving behind those you want to take with you, knowing you have to in order to get the most out of the amazing experience in front of you.

And anxiety; do I have everything? Will I get everything taken care of before it’s time to leave? Do I have everything on my list? Wait, did I even make a full list? Do I need two coats? Should I have convinced someone to fly with me? Would that have made this less stressful? Also, am I going to get sick, between the airport and my lack of sleep and trying to fit what I can of my usual five-week holiday break into one? How can I be thinking all of these things at once??

Finally, exhaustion; this past semester was easily the most difficult, and I feel like I have yet to totally shake the anxiety and weariness I gained from it. I keep having to remind myself that it’s over, and that I deserve this trip, and most importantly, this entire trip is FOR ME. To rest, to spend time with my brother, and to learn and create in a beautiful, historic location. Trying to triple check every detail of my packing wasn’t helping my mental health; I wasn’t as organized as I would’ve liked and my obsessiveness was only adding extra pressure. In the last few days, I’ve had to do my best to check myself, to say “I don’t need that,” or “I don’t need to worry about it,” and move on to do the things I’ve been meaning to prioritize, things I was forgetting because my brain was too tired and preoccupied.

To that end, I feel better. I’m sitting at my gate in O’hare, two hours early, with everything as taken care of as I can make it. I did not get enough sleep (as my teacher stressed we should), but I never do before important travel or other events. I’m doing my best to self-care in any other ways I can today.

That’s my goal for this entire trip: self-care. I realized in taking the time to write all of this out that I need to make time to do what I value so that I can check in with myself, feel grounded, and grow from there.

Here’s to exploring, engaging, and writing for myself in the New Year. 

Stay tuned for more from my travels abroad!


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).

Time & Turning 20

Time is a weird concept.

I come from a family of procrastinators, so I believe my inability to measure or efficiently use time was genetically inherited. I am now twenty, two whole decades old, and the idea of time is still too much to comprehend, much less manage. I told myself when I was younger that I wouldn’t be late to things once I was in charge of myself – of my time and my ability to travel. But here I am, still rushing to apply makeup and scrambling to grab my belongings five minutes after I should’ve left, the same way I have grappled with a deficit of moments to spare since I was sixteen. Or, maybe, that’s just when I became more aware of time, in a larger sense, passing too quickly, out of my control.

Everyone who’s ever spoken to this phenomenon was right; I know I lived every minute until now, but it still feels like time has rushed despite the exquisitely long, horrible and beautiful seconds, minutes, hours, and days. It is easy to quantify, but hard to express and appreciate the depth of what those units of time represented.

So, still, this is how I would quantify and qualify 20 so far:

Taking down posters I put on my ceiling to remind me to keep reaching for my dreams because reaching (writing) is finally changing from raw and formless to meaningful crafting. I am proud of my improved expressions of self and am working to share some of them. 

Learning to recognize myself in different places and with different hairstyles –

Donating my hair three times thus far in my life. 

Working two summers in a library I love, constantly in love and endlessly perplexed at how many books I still need to read.

Learning both sides of the lit mag world: sending the rejections and receiving them.

Disregarding/moving past the rejection because of a confidence I’ve found in myself and my abilities in the last two years of college.

Living with and making good friends.

Keeping important friendships from childhood over distance and allowing others to fade as adulthood takes us in separate directions.

Still appreciating when the first person to wish me happy birthday is a friend from high school that I haven’t really spoken to in those two years.

Being halfway done with college.

Maintaining a 3-year relationship, growing from 16 to 20 with the same person.

I think that’s the key to this next chapter of time in my life; 20 is growing. I’m no longer a teenager, and so I’ve never felt like more of an adult. At the same time, I’ve grown enough to better understand how much more growing I have to do.

I know other birthdays – 18th and 21st – are supposed to be bigger deals, larger markers in time that stand for freedoms and legal rights, buuut, I’m excited, in this moment, to be 20. The number feels round on my tongue, full in a way that to me signifies a time full of both finding (working for) stability and opportunity.

Spring Break 2017 in San Diego

It was about eight weeks ago, but I’m still not over my most recent cross-country trip! For spring break, I flew with my roommate, Lindsay, to her home in San Diego. I had such a great time and took way too many pictures, so I thought I would share a travel log of our daily adventures in SoCal with some of my photos.

day 1

Day 1 – We had an evening flight into San Diego, so our first full day started after we caught up on our sleep. The first thing we did Friday morning (St. Patrick’s Day) was get our nails done. Then, Lindsay and I followed her dad to their weekend house in Palm Springs. I spent about three hours in the car jamming with her and taking in the desert and mountains. The views everywhere of dusty expanses rising to green mountains were unreal; I felt like I was in a movie. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures out of the car window.

Day 2 – After meeting more of Lindsay’s family in Palm Springs Friday afternoon, we made plans to go to College of the Desert Saturday. Basically, there is a really cool flea market held on College of the Desert’s campus. Lindsay and I scored some cute stuff, including intricate silver friendship bracelets.

day 3

day 3 2

Day 3 – Sunday was a kind of lazy day. Lindsay’s parents treated us to an excellent brunch by the pool. We spent most of the day floating in the water or soaking in sun rays from chairs on the patio. The views continued to be amazing; you can see Big Bear from their yard.

day 4

Day 4 – Lindsay took me shopping at the outlets in Cabazon. There were so many stores; we were there a few hours and only made it through one section of them. Afterwards, I had In-N-Out for the first time – it is so good! And God bless California for being so conscious of different diets – I didn’t have to worry about feeling weird for asking for no bun, it’s an option on their menu. Before we headed home, she drove me through Palm Springs and we walked through a few smaller boutiques and, as you can see, took photos in front of the Palm Springs sign.

day 5

Day 5 –  Tuesday, we drove back to SD, on winding roads cut through mountains. Before we made it out of the desert, we stopped to see these touristy dinosaurs; I’m not really sure what their purpose is? Anyway, as we drove, I was busy taking pictures again when I was supposed to be in control of our music. I was fascinated when we drove past a California dairy farm; it was so weird to see cows on such flatland and without weather-paint-peeled, red barns for shelter.

day 6.jpg

Day 6 – Wednesday was another very chill day. Lindsay got her hair done, I feverishly wrote an essay I’d been working on, and then we found another place for photo ops. I look dorkishly happy, and that is mostly because of sunshine.

Day 7  – Lindsay took me to Pacific beach, then Coronado, and then we went to Balboa Park. Thursday was packed with so much summer beauty, I can’t believe people get to live with such rich flower and water scenery all year round.

Day 8 – We were so active! We went hiking to Razor Point, which is the only mountain hiking I’ve done in the US (the only other mountain I’ve hiked was in Germany) and the view was more than worth it. Next, we trekked the stone sidewalks in windy, hilly, La Jolla so that I could see a beach with actual seals! They were so unbothered by all the people taking their photos, and I swear some of them were posing. La Jolla’s ocean side cliffs were my favorite sight of the trip. The flowers on the path were so vibrant, wrapping around the white fencing that served as a guard rail on the path. They beautifully fringed the bottom of my pictures of steady teal waves washing into the arc of sand and stone. There were benches along the path, and I could easily imagine myself coming to sit there and stare at the water on a regular basis. 

Day 9 – On our last full day in California, Lindsay’s parents took us to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park. It was probably the best zoo experience I’ve ever had. We took a bus ride through the sanctuary part, and it was so cool to see all the animals with a lot of space, just kind of relaxing in their groups. I also got to see that little three banded armadillo, Tattoo, up close, and he was super cute. 

Oh, and that evening, our last in SD, we went to a ship launch. Talk about cool, probably once-in-a-lifetime, experiences. We got to sit on the platform even, and listen to the company’s president and a local representative speak, and have the Marine Corp band right behind us. There were also killer cupcakes to eat and fireworks after the ship was in the water.

All in all, spring break in San Diego was a lot of fun. I want to thank Lindsay and her parents for letting me stay with them and showing me all these cool, beautiful, warm, west-coast things I had never gotten to experience before. I think I kind of fell in love with Southern California, and it will definitely not be my last trip there.


College is a Time to Treat Yourself

I know the timing of this is a little ironic as it’s finals time – a period notorious for being difficult to get ourselves through in one piece. Regardless, I’ve been reflecting on how well I’ve taken care of myself during the last two years of college, and how good I feel right now, about myself and my life.

We all know college is supposed to be when we take responsibility for ourselves as adults, but I think it should go further than that. I think it’s the best time to start treating ourselves well. We need to treat our minds and bodies the way they deserve to be treated because it sets the stage for the rest of our adult lives. It’s like that famous Tolle quote, “If not now, when?” I think that if we don’t treat ourselves well now, we probably never will, or, at the very least, it will be even harder to do so down the road.

I didn’t come to this conclusion on purpose. I realized that in the last two years that I’ve been responsible for myself, I’ve naturally been drawn to doing the things that I want to do. I’ve done a lot of stupid things like stay up late for no reason when I have class the next morning that I’ve realized aren’t good for me. On the flip-side, I’ve also done some really healthy stuff for myself purely because it made me feel better, be it physically, mentally, or emotionally. 

Here are 4 really simple ways to treat yourself (or continue to treat yourself) right next semester:

#1 – Exercise

You’re thinking, “Duh,” right? I get it, everyone knows that to be healthy you should be physically active. But I want you to start reading this by feeling positive instead of negative; think of all the places you walk! A lot of time in college is spent walking through campus to class, or if you’re on an urban campus like mine, walking through the city. We are definitely getting our steps in.

To take exercise further, and remain positive, don’t think about hitting your campus or apartment building’s gym as a chore to attempt to lose weight. Think of it as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. Last year, I got into a routine of doing maybe 15 to 20 minutes of cardio every morning – just enough to get my heart elevated before I started my day. My anxiety was so bad freshmen year, and it was one of the major things that helped. I also started attending yoga at the dorm building across the street from mine once a week. This year, I was lucky enough to even be able to sign up for an actual credited yoga class. You may not have that option, but look up free yoga or gyms to hit up a few times a week! Make your only goal to spend some time releasing your endorphins, raising your heart rate, and clearing your mind. You deserve that.

#2 – Eat Well

If we’re going to talk exercise, we have to talk diet, right? Like I said, as college students, we all depend a little too much on eating out and microwaveable food sometimes. I’m 100% guilty of attempting to survive off of (gluten-free) chicken nuggets. But the cool thing about buying your own groceries is that they can be as healthy as you want them to be. For example, I like making chicken nugget salads and throwing together my own chicken noodle soup with organic broth and veggies. My roommate and I alternate who’s going to buy fruit bowls for us to share for the next week. Once in a while, we grab salads from Panera. The point is, it’s worth it to buy fruits and veggies instead of tons of sugary or salty snack food, even if it costs a little more (I personally don’t think there’s much difference $ wise). Plus, there are plenty of ways to find those kinds of snacks that taste bad for you, but really aren’t – and I would know, as I don’t eat gluten or much dairy. If you also have a food allergy or intolerance, college is cool because there is a very good chance your new friends will be supportive and willing to educate themselves on what you can and can’t eat. I know I used to be shy about telling people because it can be a hassle, but college has completely changed my attitude about it. And let’s face it, it is so much easier to be straightforward about allergies/intolerances than to have to explain why you’re having a bad reaction later. So again, eat what makes you feel good – it will literally make everything better.

#3 – Do What You Want

Speaking of prioritizing my diet, I’ve also begun prioritizing my time. As I’m sure pretty much every college kid has realized, thanks to tweets/tumblr posts of it going around, you don’t have to be friends with/hangout with people just because you see them five days a week anymore. In college, you’re lucky to see your roommate five days a week, between class and work schedules, not to mention other friends and significant others. The point is, you can opt to spend your time doing whatever you want with whomever you want. Personally, I would much rather stay in and try to get to some homework done while watching Netflix with my roommate two out of three nights in a weekend (weekends start on Thursday in college), than continuously going out with people I don’t know as well and procrastinating. That’s a choice; a lot of people would rather go out. The point is, you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone either way. You don’t have to apologize for your choices, whether they’re social or antisocial. Distress when you feel like you need to, and get your work done when you feel you need to. Basically, you do you.

#4 – Wear What You Want

Another obvious one? Yes, but I’m kind of fascinated by how great I feel some days when I spend a little more time on my appearance. Maybe it’s just that everything was so casual at my high school and I now go to an art school, but I’ve stopped wearing sweatshirts four days a week. Which is good – I have a ridiculous amount of other clothing. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you had the same habit I did before college where you saved all your favorite clothes for a “nice” occasion, stop. Wear clothes that make you feel good every day. Even if you have a 9 am, and you’re set on wearing leggings, wear your “good” ones. Clothes can eventually be replaced, but you can’t go back and change how a bad first impression or a negative/insecure attitude you had after telling yourself you “should” just wear those old pants and shirt because who cares? Do yourself a favor and be the one who cares.

#5 – Anything Else That Makes You Feel Good

Do you enjoy writing or journaling? Cleaning when your roommates are gone (any other Monicas out there?)? Watching Shameless after a day of three classes? Go for it. I know we’re all busy, but we are also probably more in control of our schedules now than we’re ever going to be, so do what you need to do for yourself to have a good day, week, or semester.

I know that none of us have a lot of time or money to waste, but don’t think of treating yourself well as a waste, or as something you have to spend a lot to do. You deserve it, and you can show yourself love in all the little ways that I just talked about.

First Trip of 2017 – Excerpt of “Distant Stars”

Last semester, I took a course here at Columbia (with author Patty McNair) called Travel Narratives. It combined my love for the essay with travel. It was challenging, but it resulted in my best work yet. But that’s not what I’m sharing here – I just wanted to give a backstory for why it’s important to me to write about my first trip of 2017.

Now, it’s hard to be in an unfamiliar place and not observe its details, especially in relation to any of the underlying emotional introspections. Fortunately I had an essay due the Monday after my trip for the advanced nonfiction workshop that I am currently taking (with the lovely Jenny Boully). The parameters of the assignment allowed me to frame my thoughts on the trip by using a beautiful flash nonfiction piece by Roxane Gay, called “There Are Distances Between Us”  as we had to choose fragments from other people’s writing to sample with our own; the italics below are from her piece.

The first place I got to travel in 2017 was from Chicago (O’hare) to Ironwood and then up to Houghton, to visit my boyfriend at Michigan Tech during their annual Winter Carnival weekend. I am still working to rewrite this short piece, but I wanted to share an excerpt of it:

We are red stars on maps protected beneath hard plastic in highway rest areas tired travelers touch to make sense of where they are. I have counted the miles, yards, feet, and inches between us. There are too many.

I woke up at 3 am to catch a flight that would cross the 414 miles between us. My red star is Chicago, yours is Houghton, Michigan, but I was flying to Ironwood. A compromise on your part; I was able to spend less money, but you had to drive two and a half hours. It was a win-win for me; I had two and a half hours of sitting in my favorite spot, the passenger seat of your truck. Running on just three hours of sleep, I curled my hair and finished assembling my suitcase as quietly as possible so I wouldn’t wake up my roommate.

At 4:45, I pushed my purple luggage across the maroon marble swirls of my building’s lobby floor and waited anxiously for my shuttle. It was a quiet ride, as I was the only passenger my shuttle driver had to pick up, save for the brief small talk he initiated. He asked where I was going, if I had been before, what the weather was like. The questions flowed into a summary of my travel that felt more like a glimpse into our relationship, but without any hint of the struggle that came with distance: I was going to Michigan Tech, where my boyfriend goes to school, for their annual Winter Carnival. It was my third time going, and we always looked at the giant, elaborate ice sculptures and watched Tech’s hockey team play (win). I guessed there were two feet of snow on the ground. This struck him and lead directly to the question of whether there would be hot chocolate. Yes, there would probably be hot chocolate, I answered, realizing his mind had gone to warmth while I already knew that despite freezing temperatures, I’d probably never be out of arm’s reach from my tall, flannel-clad, and dimpled surveying major.

We made it to O’hare by 5:30, so I bought an iced green tea from Starbucks and waited next to a woman, in her fifties or sixties, reading. Our airline, Air Choice One, was the smallest in the airport, shunted against a wall in Terminal 3. The check-in desk didn’t open until 6 am, so we waited. After 6 o’clock had come and gone and still no one was standing there, our conversation started as we fretted over having time to get through security for our 7:50 departure. After three or four rounds of back and forth “Yeah, they should be here, I’m getting nervous,” I finally went up and rang the bell. The same short, dark-haired young woman who had checked me in and lead me out to the 9-passenger Cessna last year appeared from a back room. I asked about their opening time as I handed her my license, and she briskly responded that yes, they did open at 6, and all people need to do is ring the bell. I said no more, but the older woman had followed me and expressed our shared frustration more bluntly.

We separated after security, but I found her again at our gate. That was when we exchanged travel details and I learned she was some kind of teacher who travels to evaluate students. After I gave her the same spiel I gave to my shuttle driver, her response was much different: “Your boyfriend is really lucky.” I blushed, knowing that if I weren’t just as lucky, I wouldn’t have been sitting next to her.

Around 7:30, we walked onto the tarmac to board the tiny plane that would take me to you. I was on my way to my best friend, but just for three days. A grand gesture that had simply turned into necessity. It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last. I often tell myself that we only have two more years of this, that we’re halfway done, and it almost makes it feel better. But even if your daily absence feels like exasperatedly reaching for something my fingers just can’t grasp, it’s also a feeling I’m used to, a feeling I know I can handle. A pain I decided a long time ago was worth it.

Thank you for reading! As I said, this is still a work in progress; there are about six more pages and “Distant Stars” has been the working title. Once it’s further along, or perhaps finds a home in a lit mag, I’ll share the rest!