Dear Anxiety which Shouldn’t Have a Passport

Dear Kelly,

IMG_1100Sorry this letter is so late! As you know, I had a bit of a difficult re-entry into American life. There was sleep deprivation involved, so I’ve decided to go ahead and blame that. I had originally planned for this to be my New Year/Birthday reflection letter, but I have an emotions hangover so I’m not going to reflect on things I want, how I’ve changed or anything like that.

IT’S TOO MUCH I TELL YOU.

We Danvers have a bit of a struggle with living in the moment, as you mentioned. We’re not very good at it. We plan ahead a lot, we think too much, we have an answer for everything. To live in the moment, to appreciate the grass we’re on.

Exhibit A: I had a bit of anxiety after you left Australia. What on earth did I do to deserve a month long vacation?! Nothing. Literally nothing. I’m the worst.

And obviously the spiral keeps going. This only got worse because I’m usually very good at putting aside my weird anxieties so that I can enjoy adventures. It took me a couple of days this time. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy myself. I had an AWESOME time running around with the parents. Even when Dad was driving us through the rainforest on a road that was the width of one car, while I was having a minor allergic reaction to an unidentified…something…that was not a cashew, as far as I know. But yeah, even then, it was awesome.

IMG_0886Still, I had a bit of trouble staying in the moment. I wrestled myself there eventually, and it was totally worth it. But if it’s that hard when you’re on a free vacation in Australia with two of the coolest people in the world, then you know there’s a bit of a problem.

I think in this case the anxiety is mostly about what I’m doing next – where do I want to go, where is that going to take me? Where do I want to live? All of these decisions that could take me somewhere I’m not sure about because I don’t know where it is. Also all of the job descriptions that I’m looking at sound impenetrable and impossible and capitalism sucks.

What was it you were saying about living in the moment?

Has the deflection worked? You didn’t really want to know about my reflections on myself in this, the 27th year of my life and the year 2016, right? I didn’t think so.

Catch ya later kiddo. Love you!
Sara

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Dear Every Other City in the World

Dear Sara,

So you know that saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side?” Of course you do, you went to primary school. Anyways this saying plagues my life.

I like the point you made about places needing context in your last letter. I think that’s absolutely true. It’s like associating names, places, faces, with the people or the things you did there. Alexandria, VA will always be home for me. Of course I’ll have many different “homes”…but there’s no other city that I am going to have that kind of connection with.

New York is similar. I didn’t exactly go through puberty in New York, but I have grown up here and more than likely will continue to grow here. It’s the city that gave me opportunities and challenged me in ways that I have never been challenged before.

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And when I studied abroad, I spent a full year traveling to different cities and towns, exploring what each place had to offer, how it was different from all the other places I’ve been, but still kind of the same. People are people all over the world so there are bound to be similarities. Finding these differences and similarities is what makes travel so much fun.

But in many ways I feel like I always end up romanticizing different cities when I’ve lived in the same one for however long. I start to think about how such-and-such place is probably less expensive, and has so many great restaurants, and has less people in it so I don’t feel like I’m swimming through a giant sea anemone. There’s a new and exciting culture to said city that I haven’t explored. There’s new people I haven’t yet met. Not everyone can live in New York City, and let’s be real, most people in the world don’t and maybe/probably don’t want to. Something is keeping them in their respective cities and I want to know what it is.

Of course New York has everything you could ever want to do and see and eat and not so much smell but you get the idea. And I mean it literally has everything. But I have always been a curious child. I want to see every city and country road, to try every new food and drink, to climb every trail and to swim in every ocean. We’ve talked about this problem of mine before. And going to Australia has only cemented my love for travel and how much I love to keep moving, to keep trying. This is something I want to hold on to, because of how inspired I become when I’m about to go on an adventure.

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But this can also be detrimental to my mental state. As I’ve been told by many friends, it is important to stay present where you are. Dreaming about where you’re going to be in five years is all fine and good. But there are things happening right in front of us. And it’s important to recognize that you are here, on this grass, and it’s time to do whatever it is you need to do to continue moving forward and on to the next place, the next meal, the next adventure.

I hope I can get there. And if you want, you’ve welcome to join.

Love, Kelly

P.S. So I totally trust your opinion on period pieces, speaking of which, you should watch Mercy Street, a Civil War drama set in ALEXANDRIA, VA with TED from HIMYM. I know MIND BLOWN. Anyways, I mostly want to know if it’s a good interpretation or if it’s stupid and if it is stupid, is it stupid in a good way. Also James Norton’s face is pretty amazing so……

Dear Context

Dear Kelly,

To start by answering your question, I’m not really sure what I notice first when I’m in a new place. That said, I think one of the things that most defines whether or not I like a place is its openness. If I were a better person, perhaps, I’d mean that in a liberal, forward thinking sense, but I don’t. When I say openness, I mean my ability to situate myself in a place, and how much the place allows for that. How a space allows for context.

Funniest_Memes_new-york-because-we-want-you-to-know-where_2113For example: while there are many aspects of my life in Boston that I love, the city itself isn’t one of them. I never quite feel like I can get a sense of where I am. Brighton, where I live, is on the edge of the city, almost in the next suburb over. And I feel every inch of my distance from the downtown area, with its morose gray buildings and strange winding streets. The Freedom trail marks an angular red line through the city taking you from the Boston Common to Paul Revere’s house and beyond, without ever really giving you a sense of their connectivity. And though from a distance there’s something of a skyline, when you’re in the middle of it, you can’t see around the corner. I never feel like Boston wants me to know where I am, to know how I fit.

This is in part, I think, a cartographical problem. Boston sprung up organically, and it makes no sense. The shortest distance to any place is not, in fact, a straight line, but the one that curves back through the neighborhoods. New York and DC, with their grids and the naming patterns of their streets, are easier to understand. But Venice is close and tight, and I’ve spent all my time there lost and wandering aimlessly, and I love it – dark corners and sinking buildings, decaying grandeur and dilapidated boats and all. I think this is because no matter where you are, if you follow the canal, you’ll find your way to the sea.

IMG_0881Brisbane is a bit of a mystery in this sense. I feel like its pretty open, easy to situate yourself in. But I bet this is mostly because I’ve spent all my time along the river, or with the parents. It’s easy to find context with the people you love, who love you. Music is always better when you recommend it to me. Perhaps Brisbane will always feel more open and easy to understand because I didn’t have to figure it out on my own. But the parents’ balcony, the irresistible demands of the river, the abrupt hills also give you the opportunity to look out over the city from a hundred different places, and I like that too.

Okay, so when I said, “to start by answering your question,” I clearly meant to end that way too. I could probably make a connection from your discussion of adaptability to building your own context, but instead I think I’m just going to leave it here.

Anyway, I hope your week got a little less crazy. I wish you were here too. My love for you knows no bounds!


Sara

P.S. Did you want me to watch the War and Peace series because I’ve read it or because you trust my opinion on period pieces? Because if it’s the former, let me just say it took me a year to read that book and I don’t remember much. But I’d definitely still watch it. I do love a good period piece!

Dear Wants and Needs

Dear Sara,

I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said, about how Australia is much more like home than we thought it would be. I think I would have to agree. When I was studying abroad in England (University if Sussex in Brighton, for those playing along at home) I had this constant feeling that eventually, all this “stuff” would become normal.

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Majestic land bridge that decides who’s worthy

Of course it never does. Unless you’ve been there for half your life, everything you do, from where you work to what you eat to all the sounds you hear is going against nature. Grocery stores have different names and prices, public transportation is very strange. At least all the dogs are still super fluffy and cute.

And I think it’s those little things that help everyone stay sane when they’re out of their element. And it’s also why I think sharing information and sharing culture is so important! Think about how we would have fared in Australia if we hadn’t watch Miss Fishers so many times to prepare?? Probably about the same, but you get the point.

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These vines eat trees for breakfast. Creepy. 

It makes what Dad said about Australia not being on a fault line and having prehistoric trees so awesome. And honestly, the differences in the landscape are one of the things I try to see and differentiate whenever I’m trying somewhere new. I think that’s because I am constantly finding whats the same about two different places. And seeing the differences in how the earth moves and shapes itself helps to remind me that YOU ARE IN AN ENTIRELY NEW PLACE! THERE ARE NEW THINGS TO SEE. WHY AREN’T YOU SEEING??

This is why I got so testy that one day when the family was taking their sweet time getting out of the house to go to that awesome hippy village Maleny. THERE WERE THINGS TO SEE AND DO AND WE WERE NOT SEEING AND DOING.

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I mean you wouldn’t want to leave this view either

This can of course be linked to new job and new opportunities as well. I keep hoping that my job will become NORMAL and I won’t feel like I am messing up everyday. But getting used to places and people takes time. Effort is involved in everything we do, which is frankly the worst if you ask me. I along with everyone else I am sure, want things to be a little bit easier. But then it would be boring and I would complain about that. ALL THE THINGS. I WANT ALL THE THINGS.

Alas.

Anyways, question: When you first arrive in a foreign country what are the things that stick out to you the most? What do you find yourself consciously or unconsciously looking for? I remember there was this one time I was walking around DC and I had this moment where I pretended to be someone who had never seen the US and had never walked around it before. The streets of Barcelona and DC are eerily similar; giant, opposing, unnecessary, and a god-send all at once. It’s kind of cool when you start thinking about what others notice; like trying to find a pattern for hours and then someone just walks by and picks it out like it’s nothing. I hate those people.

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They probably look something like this

ALSO TANGENT: Can you watch the War & Peace mini series with Paul Dano, Lily James, and James Norton? Because I gotta know if it’s worth it. Just think about it.

Well dear sister, it’s been super real. I wish with my whole heart I could be chilling with y’all.

KELLY

Dear Australia

Dear Kelly,

  1. COME BACK. Seriously. It’s a little weird how much I miss you considering I don’t actually see you that consistently. But right now I miss you a lot and you need to COME BACK.
  1. The beach says hi. So do the parents.
  1. Since you did the rambly reflection bit, I’ll do a little bit of the talking about our trip bit. It may seem strange to everyone else, since I’m writing this letter to you, and you were just here. But we didn’t do that much debriefing about Australia in person so I can talk to you about it here without it being a contrived exercise.

IMG_0893Okay, it’s a little bit of a contrived exercise, but who cares.

I’m not sure what you expected from Australia before we got here. I’m honestly not entirely sure what I expected either, but if I had to put it into words, I think I expected it to be a lot like a warmer version of the UK, given that they drive on the wrong side of the road, recognize the queen, follow the traditions of morning and afternoon tea, and so on.

But it’s a lot more like home than I realized. Perhaps I should have expected this. Both the US and Australia are former British colonies with troubling, violent histories with their native populations. We are both heavily more heavily populated on the coasts. They have a Senate and a House of Representatives, and so do we. There are American brands in the grocery stores, and familiar cars on the streets. They have a weird fixation with KFC.

These are over simplified comparisons, but I’ve been thinking about them a lot. Especially in the context of questions both nations have faced, such as gun control – which Australia clearly got right, and we still get horrifically wrong.

The most striking differences for me, however, have been the more personal ones. The immediacy of the river, and the wide, uninterrupted spread of the sky. The shape of the hills and rocks in the distance, the way the sun hits the balcony in the morning and hides behind the bend in the river in the evening. The missing loop of Food Network shows in the background. Lorikeets, ibises, bush turkeys instead of starlings and squirrels. Dad and I went to the beach on Wednesday where the water was over my head within five feet of the shore, and there was a swift current you could ride like a lazy river. There may be beaches like that back home, but I certainly wouldn’t know where to find them.

IMG_0958I’m sure there are people in Brisbane who live as far from the river as we did back in Alexandria. For them it’s probably not the city’s central feature, but for me it colors everything.

Anyway, these are my mostly half formed musings. I hope you’ll note that I haven’t used the word interesting yet, though I feel like we may have a similar predicament on our hands. I’m so glad you’re feeling more comfortable. I’ll do my best to help you keep it that way! I owe myself and the world some reflections as well, but since I’m turning 27 in less than two weeks, I’ll save it for then. Having a birthday so close to the New Year is the perfect excuse for procrastination.

In the mean time, stay warm! Eat tasty things! Think loving thoughts about Jack Robinson!

Love you lots,
Sara

P.S. AWKWARD FIG TREE

Dear 2016

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Dear Sara,

I am writing to you from my humble abode in Hoboken, NJ. As we discussed in the car on the way to Maleny, a little hippie town in Queensland, AUS we are writing letters to each other for the month of January. After *cough* 2 months *cough* of little *cough* no *cough* updates on this blog, we collectively decided it was time to kick our ass in gear and get this shit done as the youngins are saying these days.

Don’t worry mom, I punched myself for the use of that swear word.*

ANYWAYS, life here in New York is freakin cold, much colder than I anticipated. This makes me sad as you are still in the beautiful, beachy, Australia. It occurs to me that people reading this post probably want me to talk about our trip instead of rambling to you. WELL TOO BAD.

I joke. I’ll post some pictures soon. In short, it was amazing and I really, really didn’t want to leave.

Part of the reason I didn’t want to leave, dear sister, was because I was leaving you and the parents. You guys are my favorite people! MORE SAPPY THINGS. The other part was REAL LIFE. REAL LIFE is scary. It’s hard. It’s expensive. Honestly REAL LIFE doesn’t have a lot going for it, I don’t know why it’s so popular. But apparently it’s necessary, so I’ll play along with this game for a while until I figure out a way to not.  I greeted Monday morning at 7:00AM with the usual string of expletives that would result in numerous punches from the family, while I willed myself to face the cold, cold, coldness. And though I am being super dramatic about it, it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be.

I think I love New Years more than any other time of the year because it’s really is time when you can think about new beginnings. Everyone is with you. Want to join a gym? DO IT! Want to stop spending so much money on things you don’t need? WE’RE HERE FOR YOU! Want to detox your body by quitting alcohol? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? I digress, but you know what I mean.

And honestly, I’ve never felt better about starting new things than I have right now, at the beginning of 2016. Not gonna lie, your goal setting packet that your one of your favorite bloggers, Nicole Antoinette, made is helping me focus on what I want out of this year. But I’ve also never felt more in control of my own happiness.

I think this comes from the independence I’ve gained over the past year. But I also think it’s because I’ve gotten so much better at being nicer to myself. You know me – my worst fear is disappointing people, which results in the expectations I place on myself to be sky high, much higher than is really conceivably possible. I want ALL THE THINGS and if I don’t get ALL THE THINGS than I have FAILED and am NOT WORTHY. Have that rattle around in your brain for god knows how long and it’s starts to become your identity.

But I don’t want that to be my identity. I don’t want to be disappointed in myself anymore. I want to feel good about what I am doing and know that, as long as I am happy and those around me are too, than it’s going to be okay. Do I still have goals and ambitions? Totally. Will I be okay if something completely different happens in my life? Totally. As long as I am happy and I am making a difference, I’m gonna be okay.

It took me a long time to get here, THIS COMFORTABLE PLACE, but I suppose that’s what growing up is about. I have to say, I hope this sunny disposition stays for the rest of this year. It’s your job to make that happen. No excuses.

Give my love to the parents. And to the beach.

LOVE, KELLY

PS. CITYCATS CAN GO FAST.

*When I first arrived in Australia, my mother pointed out that I had a pretty dirty mouth and since I was probably going to kiss her a few times during those two weeks, the family implemented a rule that I would get punched every time I swore. And double punched when I said I didn’t give a f***. LOVE YOU FAMILY.