Today I am 30. During the past few months, I’ve thought a lot about the last 10 years. I re-read all my journals and reminisced about all the wonderful places I have been and friends I have made. Here is a very long but still not complete look back at these amazing 10 years. My apologies for such a long and self-centered post – feel free to skip to the parts where you make a cameo! My love and thanks to everyone who has shared this crazy life with me so far!
When I turned 20, I had just moved into a house at Miami University with my friends Michelle, Christine, Erin, and Tess. Our 4 guy friends lived down the street at a house called “the Boom Boom Room.” My roommates and I spent most of the year alternating between gossiping about each other and telling each other how much we loved each other when we were sloppy drunk. For Michelle’s birthday, we had a luau, which was fun except when someone smeared poop all over our bathroom. For Halloween, we dressed up as the village people (cowgirl, indian, policewoman, construction worker, soldier). I got elected Executive Vice President of my sorority and subsequently had to be a “sober monitor” at every party – kinda a buzz kill. We spent the best spring break ever at a beach house in Panama City, Florida, with the guys from the Boom Boom Room and a few randoms. We played pranks on the Boom Boom Room, and vice versa – one night, they turned everything in our house upside down; another night, we switched around the contents of every drawer in the house. They stole our house sign, took it apart, and reassembled it to look like a Dalí painting. A fraternity also stole our house sign, and several sorority sisters and I snuck in at 3 AM on Easter Sunday to steal it back. One beautiful spring weekend when only Tess and I were at home, we moved our armchairs to the front lawn, put the TV in the doorway, and watched TV outside all day. We ordered pizza for lunch and Chinese for dinner just so we could get up as rarely as possible.
That summer, I went to Mexico with a Language Learning program. I spent the days learning Spanish and the evening learning to like tequila. I had my first cross-cultural love: Jaime, who was 29 and cried when I left.
When the summer ended, I moved in to a house called “Tipsy Chicks” with my 4 roommates from the year before and our friend Megan. Hilarity ensued…
For my 21st birthday party, I wore a tiara and a t-shirt that said “Kiss me, I’m 21.” No one did. It was really fun until the cops came and gave my younger sister an underage drinking violation. Oops. I laid low during the fall because I was student teaching : 8 weeks teaching Spanish to 1st and 2nd graders, 8 weeks teaching French to high schoolers. I orchestrated the decorating of our house for homecoming – a balloon “M” covering the front of the house, giant banners, 25 paper silhouettes, and a home-made score board. We came in second to a house that had a guy painted gold like the Heisman trophy. Thanks to Ben Roethlisberger, we actually attended football games. We had a Chirstmas party entitled “A Classy Affair” that was decidedly unclassy thanks to egg nog and a beer bong. When we had a white trash party for Tess’ 22nd birthday, and I spent 2 hours trying unsuccessfully to give myself a hickey using our vacuum cleaner. We tried to recreate the magic of the previous year’s spring break by returning to Panama City, but it just wasn’t the same without the Boom Boom Room guys there. After student teaching in the fall, I was ready to live it up in the spring, so I spent evenings rotating between “Margarita Monday,” “Quarter Beer Night” and the like. The series finale of Friends aired two days before we graduated, and we watched it together in tears. When the year ended, we were heartbroken to leave college, and spent the extra week of our lease having a “Week of Fun.”
I went home and spent 6 weeks getting ready to join the Peace Corps. I went to Madagascar with 26 amazing other volunteers, and spent a 10 week training escaping my host family as often as possible so I could hang out with them. I may not have learned as much Malagasy as I could have, but I had a great time and made some life-long friends. We spent afternoons drinking Three House Beer (THB) at a pond in the village, and tried to sneak away for weekends dancing and singing Karaoke in the capital.
My 22nd birthday was the last Friday of training, and my friends surprised me with a (ridiculously expensive for Madagascar) bottle of champagne. All the pictures from the day show only the right side of my face because of a massive zit on the left side of my nose. The next day, it got infected and so swollen that I had to go to the hospital and get an IV with 12 GRAMS of antibiotics a day. I missed my own swearing-in but got out just in time to say good-bye to my training friends before we headed out to our various sites. I was placed in Maintirano, a tiny town on the Mozambique Channel where I joined Michela, another Education volunteer. Having her there for a year already meant that I hit the ground running. That fall, I taught 7th grade and 10th grade English, held night classes for adults, started an elementary school English club, and helped paint the world map on the school wall. I broke Peace Corps rules (with permission) and took vacation before I was allowed because my friend Laura from high school moved to the capital to do a Fulbright research grant and I needed to help her “get settled.” By that, I mean we went to a giant Halloween party with other volunteers. For Christmas this year, I joined 30 or so other volunteers on Ile Ste. Marie, where we ate seafood, drank punch coco, and played water polo with a greased-up green coconut. I went back to Maintirano and soldiered through the hot season. That March, I met up with Fritz, Matt, Jason, and Sahara to hike through the rainforests Masoala Peninsula. During the hike, we called it the “Death Match” or the “Trail of Tears,” but looking back, it was an amazing experience. Some of the places we went could only be reached by a 2-day journey on foot, so we were some of the only people to see those beautiful vistas. It’s just too bad it was 1,000 degrees and 100% humidity the entire time. That spring, Michela and I planned an English Festival, complete with carnival games, potato sack races, and a concert by our English Music Clubs. I finished the year of teaching and went back to the Peace Corps training site to train the next batch of volunteers with my friends Meghan and Suzi. I went home for my mom’s wedding, which had White Castle hamburgers at the reception (otherwise, it was really classy!). I also got to go to the wedding of Jeff and Ashley, two friends from Miami. The wedding was in Oxford, and it was a flashback to our college days! When I got back to Madagascar, I went to Diego in the North to teach English to an Environmental NGO, but mostly just spent my time cooking American food and watching the OC with Meghan, Suzi, and Matt. I went back to Maintirano just in time for…
My 23rd birthday was the exact same day as the Miami-OSU football game, and all my college friends were in Columbus, at the game! Unfortunately, I was alone in my concrete house in Madagascar, and hadn’t even told anyone in town it was my birthday. I was on my own the second year, so in addition to regular teaching hours, I took over the evening adult classes, English clubs, and the implementation of a grant to create an English Cultural Center. I got donations of books, got furniture made, bought a computer, TV, and DVD/VCR, and, with the help of the newly-formed Maintirano English Association, opened the first English Library in Maintirano. In December, a bunch of volunteers and I took a 24-hour boat ride to Nosy Be, a resort Island, where we played beer olympics, took excursions to snorkel and eat fish on itty bitty islands surrounded by coral reefs, and listened to the Mitch Hedburg CD about 1,000 times. My mom and step-dad arrived on New Years Day for their “honeymoon” and we spent a week in Fort Dauphin, a crumbling colonial city on the southern tip of the Island. We went to a lemur reserve, fed ostriches, and relaxed on the beach. Back in Maintirano, I started handing over responsibility for many of my projects to locals, preparing for my departure. For spring break that year, Matt, Libby, Micah, and I went to Morondava. We had intended to get up to the Tsingy, a forest of giant limestone pinnacles leftover from an ancient coral reef, but the road wasn’t clear, so we stayed in Morondava and ate seafood and drank THB overlooking the muddy brown waters of the Mozambique Channel. My last few weeks were full of going-away parties, gift-giving, and selling my belongings at a “garage sale” that may have been the most exciting thing to ever happen in my town. I left Indonesia with Suzi and Libby, and we stopped in Italy on the way home. We spent a week in Cinque Terre, 5 Picturesque fishing villages on the Italian Riviera. Having just spent 2 years in a fishing village, this was an appropriate morsel of westerness to digest before returning to the smorgasbord known as the United States of America. We drank wine, ate foccacia and gelato, and watched world cup soccer. I spent a summer painting apartments and visiting all my friends in the States.
At the end of September, I left for France on a teacher exchange to teach English in 3 primary schools. I had applied with my friends Suzi (from the Peace Corps) and Claire (From Camp Akita), and we had gotten placed in the same region, but they were, unfortunately, in towns 2 hours away from me by train! The first night in Clermont-Ferrand, Claire and I wandered into a bar and had a cider. As we were leaving, a buy came up to us and said “Are you American?” This guy ended up being George, my boyfriend of two years. George and I spent almost everyday that year together, doing romantic French things like going to the Irish bar, eating at Subway, and reading the New Yorker on his couch. For Mid-term break, Suzi and I went to Tunisia on a bus tour full of middle-aged French people. I went home for the holidays for the first time in 3 years, and got to spend New Years at a crappy bar in Cleveland which was still fun because I was with my college friends. Tess came to visit me in February, and we spent 3 days in Paris and 3 in Toulouse sightseeing, eating delicious French food, and watching the first season of Prison Break in our hotel room. Suzi, Claire, and I ran the Paris Half-Marathon on a beautiful March day. A bunch of Americans went to Hungary and Croatia for Spring break. We explored Budapest, got lost finding “the most beautiful beach in the world,” ate steaming pots of risotto, and even passed into Serbia for 5 minutes in the bus. I loved teaching elementary school students, but I was ready to go home at the end of the year, where there was a job waiting at Kilbourne Middle School for me in the fall. I went to Connecticut to visit George and help him move into the boarding school where he was going to teach French, then he came to visit me and help me move into 222 W. Second Ave, the magical address where my sister and I would live for the next 4 years! I found it by riding my mom’s bike up and down every street in the Short North (Columbus’ “cool” AKA gay neighborhood) and writing down the phone numbers of landlords who had put signs in front of their apartments. While I was writing down another landlord’s number, our landlord called to me from the porch: “Are you looking for an apartment?” He was still working on the half-duplex, and it looked terrible, but Katie and I had a good feeling about the place, so we signed the lease. When we moved in, it was beautiful. I turned 25 on the Friday of the first week of school at Kilbourne, and thought everything was going awesome!
2 weeks after my birthday, I was crying underneath my desk after school. Everything was no longer going awesome. For the first time in my life (except maybe for elementary school gym class) I was terribly, horribly, epically failing at something – and it was what I had wanted to do my entire life. Everyone’s first year of teaching is hard, but mine was terrible. I had one class of 25 8th graders (21 boys, 18 with ADHD) who had all failed 7th grade Spanish (mostly for good reasons: learning disabilities, mental illness, homelessness, their fathers becoming women) and decided they couldn’t and wouldn’t learn Spanish this year, either. I was in way over my head, and they ate me alive during 7th period everyday. The rest of my classes were pretty good, but overshadowed by the always inventive antics in 7th period: one day they all turned their desks upside down; several students habitually drew pictures on their quizzes instead of answering the questions; one student tried to go through my file cabinet to Narnia. Funny now, but then, not so much. Through the help of an incredible principal, mentor, and colleagues, I made it through the year, and learned a lot! When I wasn’t at school dreading the 46 minutes of 7th period, I started re-kindling old friendships and forming new ones after 7 years away from Columbus. I met up with my college friends every couple months in Cleveland, Dayton, or Columbus; they all stayed at my house for New Years Eve. Erin, my roommate from college, moved to Columbus to work for the NHL team, and became my partner-in-crime. I started leading the freshmen class at church and got to know the other leaders better. I hung out with my sister’s med school and high school friends, and, since they’re awesome, made them my friends, too. At Katie and my combo OSU game/Halloween party, I dressed up as Smurfette for the first of 3 Halloweens in a row. After any family gatherings, most of my 15 cousins would get together for “cousinfest,” which the “adults” sometimes crashed, too. George and I would visit each other monthly; I spent spring break lesson planning in his apartment at the boarding school.
Having survived the school year, George and I went to the Dominican Republic to volunteer at a community center summer camp. We led kids in activities in the mornings and spent the afternoons either manning the library or lounging on the beach. We ate rice, beans, and fried chicken everyday at local food stands. At the end of the summer, George moved to another boarding school and I got a fresh start on my second year of teaching.
The second year of teaching, professionally, was a million times easier. Personally, things got a bit more complicated. At the end of September, almost exactly 2 years after we had first met, George broke up with me because of some serious personal conflicts. We had a teary post-breakup reunion at my step-brother’s nuptials, which were otherwise the most amazing wedding ever since he married an Indian woman whose family were all dancing machines. Then, I threw myself into volunteering for the Obama campaign, and by November 4th was spending so much time at the office that I was asked to be the director of all the election-day activities in the Short North. At 9 PM on election day, after 16 hours of preparation and canvassing, I went downtown to await the news with the campaign staffers. I burst into tears when the win was official. I spent the next 4 months dating Patrick, the campaign volunteer coordinator, who all the girls in the office had a crush on because he was so darn nice to even the most trying of people. He was wonderful and adored me and I probably should have married him, but I was still heartbroken over George. My sister’s boyfriend Nate moved in with us, and Erin moved into a house a block away, making me feel like I lived in a sitcom. I started taking classes at OSU to get my masters degree. I joined the Marathon-in-Training (MIT) running group in January, and promptly developed an enormous crush on my running coach. Matt was leading the half-marathon group, and I would often tell people that I was going running with him in the morning, neglecting to mention the other 300 people who would also be there. I gave it 85% odds that we were going to get married. I ran the half-marathon at 1:55:54, then Katie, Nate and I devised a “seduction barbeque” to get Matt over to our house and get him to ask me out. It worked – and my friends Ryan and Scotty also got together that night, and just got married! Matt kissed me on the front porch and I felt the stars aligning and the universe conspiring to bring us together. We started dating, but were interrupted by my summer in Peru. I volunteered teaching extra-curricular English classes to bright students who couldn’t afford them themselves. I taught in the morning and spent the afternoons in coffee shops reading the Twilight series in Spanish and missing Matt. I also ran my first marathon, something everyone should do in their 26th year, on the Fourth of July. When I got back, the magic between Matt and I had inexplicably disappeared and I began to think that maybe the 15% odds would win after all.
This was the year commitments began to pile up – in addition to teaching full time, I also coached middle school cross-country, took 6-7 hours of graduate courses at night, and trained with MIT. On a beautiful October day, I did the Columbus Marathon in 4:12:07, still a PR. Matt and I faltered on until New Years, and when we kissed at Midnight, I knew it had to be over. I made the resolution that 2010 would be the year to find love, and made a blog to document my search. (That one is private, but it’s good reading – I’ll give you the link if you ask nicely!) I joined eHarmony and spent 2 months dating another Matt who also didn’t work out, then went on 26 first dates over the course of the year. Katie and Nate were also not so lucky in love – they broke up in May, the day before they were about to close on a house, and the week before we were all going to move there together. Luckily, Katie and I could stay at 222, but Nate, obviously, had to move out. This was sad for me since it meant my two best friends could no longer be in the same room.
I spent an incredible summer in Europe. I ran a marathon in Belgium, and met a guy DURING the race; I finished in 4:47, and we spent the next 4:47 drinking delicious Belgian beer together. Then I spent a week in Taizé, an ecumenical Christian community. Their services are planned around songs that help you to sing yourself into prayer, and where there would be a sermon in a normal service, there are 10 minutes of silence so you can listen to what God has to say to you. It was the most amazing week of my life, including the 2 days I spent totally in silence at the end. Then, I met up with my friend Meghan (from the Peace Corps) in Paris, and we spent a week being tourists before going to visit Suzi, who had by now gotten married to a French guy – and was 7 months pregnant (that wasn’t part of the plan when we bought airline tickets in January). We ate cheese, drank wine (well, not Suzi), and visited beautiful Dijon and Burgundy. The night before we left, Meghan and I celebrated Bastille Day at the Fireman’s Ball. I got back just in time to co-host an impromptu cook-out/slip-n-slide party with my sister in the empty lot next to 222 W. 2nd Ave. The cross-country season, my 4th year of teaching, and the OSU football season all started smoothly.
Two weeks before my birthday, I went to visit my mom’s astrologist, and she informed me that at 28, the planets were re-aligned, and you had a fresh start. Despite the dating blog, this fresh start did not bring luck in love. I kept getting free dinner on first and second dates, and even met one guy BECAUSE of the blog (he thought I was cute, peeked over my shoulder in a coffee shop, and sent a comment asking me out), but ultimately, the dating blog ended up being more of a project to keep me and my friends amused. By the end of the year, I had already started my application to the English Language Fellow program, and I knew that I would move abroad after finishing my M.A. in June. Even though I was loving teaching at Kilbourne and I had a great group of friends, I was getting the urge to move on. Saying good-bye to my students at KMS was the hardest thing about moving away; it was amazing how much I had improved as a teacher over 4 years and how meaningful my relationships with my students had become. At the end of that school year, I graduated from OSU, my kids at church graduated from high school, Katie moved to Denver to be with her new boyfriend, and Erin moved to Detroit to get married. I left 222, sold most of my belongings in an epic garage sale, and moved what little remained back to my Mom’s house for the summer.
I left for Indonesia 3 weeks before turning 29. I celebrated my birthday in the middle of training in Bandung, with 15 other English Language Fellows (ELFs) and 40 Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs). Then I went to Salatiga, where I taught college students at STAIN (The State Islamic Institute of) Salatiga. I bought a pink motorcycle and used it to drive to the fruit stand and spa. I went running as the sun rose most mornings, having been awoken by the dawn call to prayer. About once a month I went to Yogya, the student town south of me, to indulge in western food and visit my friend Katie who, curiously, also is from Columbus, Ohio (though we met there!). I did lots of things to improve my resume, like giving workshops and presentations on language acquisition, plagiarism, American culture, and character building. I went to Bali in November with my friend Meghan. For the OSU-Michigan game, I watched it with some ETAs in a McDonalds in the middle of the night because it was the only place with wi-fi. For the holidays, I went to Australia to visit Laura, my best friend from high school; we drove down the Gold Coast, then rang in the New Year watching the Syndey fireworks at a secret little spot on the Sydney Harbour that we probably could never find again. My mom came to visit in January, and was received like a head of state at STAIN Salatiga. I got my scuba diving certification with a different Megan in the Gili Islands. I spent February traveling around East Java, Borneo, and Sulawesi visiting friends and giving presentations. March and April passed with teaching classes, giving presentations, and a flurry of weekend trips. In May, I did my first Sprint Triathlon with Jackie and her triathlon Buddies group from Jakarta. In June, I flew from Indonesia to Corfu, Greece, where I met Libby for an amazing week on the Ionian Sea, then I went to visit Suzi in Dijon, and then I spent two weeks at Taizé, the second completely in silence. I got home on July 2 and went immediately to the Press Grill from the airport. The “summer of fun” was a whirlwind of meeting friends and family for lunch, dinner, coffee, runs, trivia, etc. I lived with my grandmother and watched Jeopardy and Millionaire with her. I went to visit my dad in Lansing, one aunt in Tennessee, and another aunt in West Viriginia. I spent a week with my sister and a weekend at Kelley’s Island with my college friends. I left for Indonesia again on August 20, where I joined an incredible group of 19 other fellows who are already becoming very good friends.
Who knows what will come in the next year, or the next ten years. If where I am going is as good as where I have been, it will be nothing less than an incredible adventure!