March 28

My goodness, this has been quite a busy past few weeks, but I am back, and I am ready to start my last quarter of undergraduate education! (Who’s freaking out? Not me…)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I’ll update you on life as it happened for me this last half of the month of March. And I’ll do so in my favorite way—as a list:

  • I took two in-class finals and wrote two research papers, both of which stressed me out more in thought than in action.
  • I ended up with an A- in my history seminar, which is a big deal if you’re at all familiar with the way grades work at Northwestern! And my sociology and geography classes weren’t awful either.
  • I read and finished reading a book! It was Hell Bent, by Benjamin Lorr. I am weird and like to read about yoga, guys.
  • I had my annual pre-spring break screening of (500) Days of Summer. A bit of background: After knowing the soundtrack very well for months in advance, I finally got around to watching this movie on the Friday before going home for spring break at the end of winter quarter my freshman year. My roommate was gone, I was lonely, my room was hot, and I was still reeling from a breakup that had taken place about two months before, and this movie made me cry so good, and it is what got me over the hump of my breakup and back into the world again. I have lots of feels for this movie and still like to watch it annually before spring break.
  • I cooked an awful brown rice and edamame dish with puréed scallion sauce that gave me 36-hour onion breath and subsequently got tossed out (which is a big deal for me, because I always eat my leftovers).
  • I completed Pure Barre’s 20 classes in 30 days challenge, even despite being out of town for a week!
  • I got my third set of highlights in my hair, and it looks awesome and even more blonde than before.
  • I (re-)watched all of season 1 of Portlandia and read the cookbook that goes along with the show.
  • I also watched Forks Over Knives, which, like many things I have watched and read these past couple of years, affirms my skepticism for eating meat as often as I used to.
  • I resurrected my semi-dormant food blog and posted a recipe for a green smoothie! (Let’s see how well I can handle running two sites at once, lol.)
  • In light of her 21st birthday, one of my lovely friends took me and a bunch of my sorority sisters out for all you can eat tacos at DS Tequila Company in Lakeview in Chicago, and I drank delicious margaritas and ate too many tacos, then I found out that her mom was footing the bill. I will return this generosity when I can! So thankful.
  • I had an amazing unofficial St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Chicago with a few of my closest friends that involved lots of Guinness, macaroni and cheese, jello shots, inebriated Mario Kart, pinball at Headquarters Beercade, free Jameson shots at Mad River nearby, truffle fries at DMK Burger Bar, karaoke and green beer at Trader Todd’s, more singing and drinks at Lincoln Karaoke (at a friend’s birthday party, where I ran into an ex of my current male interest!), beer at Half Acre Beer Company, and surprisingly no hangover the next day! (Days like these spent roaming the city with my friends are what make me love Chicago to the core.)
  • And last but not least, I spent a week in beautiful, sunny Key West with my best friend and her incredibly wonderful mom and mom’s friend. I had a blast. I will blog about the trip and share photos tomorrow so that the experiences I had there can get their share of the glory.

I have to admit that, reading over this post right now before hitting publish, I myself am astounded at what I’ve done in my life since I’ve last blogged on here. I have been busy busy busy, but now I’m back and ready to make even more memories in this final quarter of college. It’s great to be back! 🙂

Why I Am Excited to Go to Key West Again

Part of what has complicated this past week for me has been the prospect of spring break. It’s stressful to figure out where to go and who to travel with when you’re like me and funding your own trip. Some things sound great and some don’t, plus some things sound expensive and some don’t.

A few weeks ago, my best friend asked me if I would like to join her and her mom in Key West for spring break, and I immediately, excitedly said yes. Then, a week ago, my roommates told me about a trip they’re planning with some other girls to Disney World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, and that sounded fun too.

One thing I’ve learned about growing older is that I’ve started to become a lot more hesitant about things. While I used to be able to make a quick decision and stick to my guns, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started thinking and overthinking my decisions, and soon I end up with a lack of decision. What is more affordable? What will offer the most memories I’ll dwell on in future years? What will I enjoy more?

I have been waffling back and forth with the decision on whether to go to Disney World or Key West. If I go to Key West, the hotel room is already paid for and I’ll be there for a full week, but if I go to Disney World, while that will be fun, it will cost me about $300 more because I’ll have to chip in for the hotel, and that option is from Wednesday to Sunday.

This morning, I talked to my mom and she advised me to do Disney, but I decided tonight that I will be buying a plane ticket to Key West after all. I had a conversation with my best friend over dinner, and the fact that her mom is generous enough to offer me a stay in a luxury hotel in Key West and to help pay for my meals just out of the kindness of her heart when she knows I wouldn’t be able to do so otherwise, based on my own family’s finances, means a lot. I know I won’t have the chance to travel with a huge group of girls probably ever again in my life (well, who knows?), but there’s also a lot to be said about traveling with your best friend and her lovely mom, both of whom care about me so much.

So in honor of this difficult decision that I will be sticking to, here are the reasons why I am so excited to go back to Key West (largely based on the half-day I spent there when I went there on a cruise four years ago):

  • The Key Lime Pie (duh)
  • Hemingway history (because I’m a history nerd)
  • The Audubon House
  • Sloppy Joe’s Bar and the rest of the amazing nightlife (Duval Street, whaddup)
  • Ghost tours!
  • Beaches
  • Quirky shopping
  • A week of more relaxation and less stressful schedules
  • Warm weather
  • Sunsets
  • Southernmost Point (with me pictured above!)
  • The Key Lime Pie
  • The food in general (and a possible dinner cruise?)
  • A stay at the Waldorf Astoria (fanciest hotel I’ll have ever stayed in? quite possibly)
  • Renting a bike and riding around the island
  • Boozy karaoke
  • Drag shows
  • Did I already mention the Key Lime Pie?

Decisions have been hard for me lately, but I am confident in this one. I am an opportunist, and I hate missing out on things, but you’re only missing out if you’re preoccupied with it instead of focusing on what you are doing, which can be as cool as tagging along with some awesome people to a warm, sunny island in the Florida Keys.

Where I’d Rather Be

I spent this morning, from when I woke up at 7:30 to sometime around 2 p.m., in a somewhat sour mood. Mondays through Wednesdays, I experience a rather stressful schedule, the worst being Tuesdays and Wednesdays when it feels as though the week will never end. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I walk 30 minutes each way to and from my internship, which ends up culminating in two hours of me walking places all over Evanston because I have to return midday for a class.

My weekday schedule hangs at such a delicate balance around my class, work, sleep, and eating schedules that you throw in one extra element (a research paper this week), and I freak out a little.

Okay, a lot. Or at least enough to call my mom in stress-tears and ask my Facebook community how to cure stress nausea.

This awful schedule will follow me through mid-March, and then after spring break, it will get more manageable at least. But until then, I have to look on the bright side. For me, that bright side is actually the walking (even in these 10 degree temperatures—brr!).

You see, I enjoy walking. I like to put on music and zone out while I follow my path and catch some fresh air. When I’m not in a hurry and worrying about whether or not I will show up to class or work on time or if I will have time to scarf down my lunch, I find walking to be a peaceful, meditative time—not that I meditate at all, but any opportunity to get away from my thoughts for a while is always a good opportunity.

In these cold winter months, I love to think about how much I enjoyed hiking in Sedona, Arizona last April during my birthday weekend. My mom and I went on a little weekend jaunt to the quaint desert city to celebrate my 21st birthday, and although I did a lot of cool things, like kayaking to a winery and touring the outer rim of the Grand Canyon, one of my favorite experiences was hiking.

My mom isn’t much of a hiker, so it was all my idea, and then it was all my fault when, on our five-mile hike (which our hotel’s front desk lady described as “the kind of path I walk my dog on”), we hiked up strenuous trails and got a little lost in the High Sonoran Desert.

Whoops.

My bad.

One thing I can say about the stress I’m feeling right now is that, even though I’m running from obligation to obligation, it is nothing compared to the stress of potentially getting yourself and your mom lost in the desert. I laugh when I look back on it now, but at the time, I was terrified and had started eyeing up the cacti around me as potential water sources for when we never found our way back.

I make the hike sound dire, but besides that whole Megan-messed-up-the-trailheads thing, the hike was phenomenal. Five miles really isn’t a lot (I walked 6 to and from and to and from work today!), and having the opportunity to view majestic red rocks and canyons, then hike into them, is something you can really only dream of.

When I’m so stressed out about my schedule, I like to think about how lucky I am to walk a lot, since in my head, it’s preparing me for the next beautiful hike I take. Plus the whole getting lost thing doesn’t happen in town, so there’s that too. Silver linings, folks. 🙂

Living in Larger Places

It’s funny how, as you get more and more comfortable living in a new city, your sphere of living increases.

The other day, I was thinking back to my freshman year of college. Three years ago, especially the fall of that year, I hardly escaped campus, it seemed. I didn’t have a huge reason to. My dining halls were all on campus, I could get delivery if I wanted anything not at the dining halls, my friends all lived down the hall from me, and my classes were all five minutes from my bed. It was a pretty sweet life, but such a small sphere of living doesn’t last for long.

Winter quarter came, and I started my first journalism class, which brought me as far south as Chicago’s Chinatown, and I also started shopping by myself in downtown Evanston as I got more comfortable being by myself in such a new place. Then the spring came, and I was taking photos and shooting videos in downtown Chicago. Gone were the days when I hauled the student broadcast station’s camera down the street for b-roll and thought, “Golly gee, I’m so far away from campus right now!” My apartment is now farther from campus than I had this though way back when.

As I have spent more and more time in this area, especially the summers of 2013 and 2014, more and more has opened up to me. I have driven to Lincolnwood, Illinois, taken the buses and trains to the far western reaches of Chicago, and rode with a friend to Hyde Park on the South Side. My address is Evanston, but I feel like I live in Chicago too, based on how often I go and how much I know about it. Plus the fact that I feel comfortable to go to many places in the city by myself and walk around as if I live there.

Life was definitely simpler when I didn’t have to go hardly anywhere to live my daily life, but what’s the fun in that? I’ve traveled far into Chicago to see a movie when I can see one within walking distance in Evanston, I’ve taken a yoga class in Uptown when I could on campus, and I’ve gotten pizza many times at the original Uno in River North when I can get Giordano’s delivered to my door.

Now that I’m living off campus, I actually step foot on campus about two days a week, when I have a class meeting in the library. (My other two meet at a building right by my apartment. I call that good winter planning.) I used to never leave, and now I only go back when I really need to.

The more you get out and see the place you live in, the more comfortable you feel in accepting it as your home. With a city as approachable and welcoming as Chicago, it happened without me even knowing it. While there’s no city I know of that can provide me with everything I currently wish for in a home (including winter lows in the mid-40s—and I’m even being generous), Chicago and Evanston do it pretty well for me, at least for now.