A Breakup Letter to 2014

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Dear 2014,

The first thing I want to say to you is goodbye and good riddance.

I’m sorry. That was harsh. I don’t mean that. I just need a fresh start.

We’ve had some good times, after all:  I went to Spain for three months, and learned what it meant to be a short-term missionary; I started my first ‘grown-up’ job; I participated in National Novel Writing Month; I met amazing people and spent some well-needed time with the people I love most in the world.

You were wonderful in so many ways, 2014, but you broke my heart.

I spent a majority of this year feeling lost. Everything I touched fell apart. I couldn’t find a job, or show someone that I loved them, or strengthen my faith in God, or help my friends when they needed me. I couldn’t do anything right, and nothing was getting better.

I am optimistic by nature, and carrying that weight was especially painful. I didn’t feel like myself for a very long time. I felt very alone in dealing with death, relationships, and growing up, even though I surrounded myself with the loveliest people in the world. The sad truth is that Loneliness doesn’t care if you are with the loveliest people in the world. Loneliness just makes a heart hard to heal.

And so, I did what any reasonable adult would do: I watched a lot of Netflix and wrote a lot of poetry. A lot of ugly, honest, therapeutic poetry (which is, surprisingly, some the best poetry to write when you also have a huge bar of chocolate). I took a lot of naps in between sitcoms and forced myself to take walks and sit in coffee shops. Eventually, I had to be brave and admit to myself that no matter how much I insisted that I was fine— I was fine, I was fine, everything’s fine—I really wasn’t.

And you know what?

Sometimes, it’s okay to not be fine. Faking happiness is exhausting. We do that enough every single day: at work, at the grocery store, when we are in class or attending meetings. I want to be honest when I feel all busted up inside, because I’m tired. I have a right to be. You weren’t the easiest of years to deal with. It’s gotten hard for me to see the times everything felt new and exciting, and that isn’t fair. I deserve so much more than the days I feel like nothing.

A new year is on its way, and I’m not entirely sure what I am looking forward to and what I am dreading once that ball drops and the clock strikes midnight. Change terrifies me, but things can’t stay like this. I can’t keep hating myself, and I can’t keep keep wondering what next catastrophe this year will bring, and I can’t say I loved every minute of this year because I didn’t.

Tonight, change feels comforting, because I desperately need to believe in “once upon a time” and “happily ever after” again. I’m starting to remember that there are new places to see, books to read, and languages to learn. There are new people to meet and adventures to be had.

I’m writing this letter because I’m ready to leave this year behind. I’m saying goodbye because I’m trying to move forward. More importantly, I’m trying to be good to myself.

You broke my heart, 2014, but I like to believe that broken things can be mended.

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A Few of My Favorite Things

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Many thanks to Gala Darling, who inspired a great deal of this post with “Things I Love Thursday”–I know it’s not Thursday, but I’ve been thinking about this post for a few days now, and I think it’s time to get goin’ and make this a weekly endeavor. 

Well, it’s been one full week since I’ve turned 22, and to be honest, I don’t feel that much older. Unlike your twenty-first birthday, there aren’t really many milestones to celebrate when you’re 22 (and by milestones, I definitely mean being legal to purchase alcohol in the US. Singing that Taylor Swift song as if it is about you is not a milestone.). 

Still, there’s something about being 22 that makes you realize that you’re a part of the Real World that grown-ups always talked about when you were younger. For the first time in my life, I don’t really have a solid plan. I’m not anticipating the beginning of a new school year; I’m still searching for a job, and I have no idea where I will end up or what I will end up doing; and, as much as I would love to, I’m not bracing myself for an overseas trip the way I did last winter. 

It’s all been up in the air for quite some time now, and I’m just trying to hang on and put my faith in God and what He has in store (which I know is a lot better than what I could ever imagine). 

It’s hard sometimes, but this past week has been especially good for my soul. I once heard that gratitude leads to happiness–not the other way around. Here’s what I’ve been in love with this week: 

  • Scoring a job interview on campus 
  • Attending concerts with my family and friends. Two of them: 311, with The Wailers and the Urge; and, the day after my birthday. Say Anything (!!!!) with The Front Bottoms, the So-So Glos, and You Blew It! (Thanks to those who treated me with tickets for my birthday. You guys are the best). 
  • Catching up with good friends
  • Beautiful, beautiful Missouri summer weather (I’m not even being sarcastic. It’s been gorgeous lately!). 
  • Having sleepovers with my cousin and watching Netflix for hours 
  • Being on staff over at The Teacup Trail! Twitter is fun. 
  • Writing a lot and reminding myself why I love it so much in the first place 
  • Job applications–there’s something very satisfying about sending them in, even if filling them out is a little exhausting. 
  • Reading Cress and comparing it to the original Rapunzel and the Disney version (Thorne and Cress are exactly like Eugene and Rapunzel and no one will convince me otherwise). 
  • Staying up late and listening to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds on repeat 
  • Listening to the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack on repeat
  • Listening to music, period. 
  • Reading Thank God for Evolution by Michael Dowd 
  • Cupcakes that my mom baked in honor of my birthday 
  • Watching Friends (okay, I’m always grateful for that). 
  • Anticipating Seinfeld-themed emojis with my dad, and wishing him a very happy birthday (July birthdays are the best kinds of birthdays.)! 
  • Getting postcards and Skyping with my best friend all the way from Germany
  • Generally feeling hopeful about everything that is to come 

It’s only been a week, but 22 feeling pretty great so far. Here’s to one legendary year. 

Summer Reading

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In my opinion, summertime is the best kind of reading time.

Actually, this is not just my opinion. This is pure science. I’ve conducted highly respected studies while lying on the beach with a book in my hand.

You can’t argue with that kind of science, can you?

Alright, maybe you can–after all, wintertime reading is pretty fantastic, too. It’s hard to beat reading in bed with a blanket and a cup of tea (or hot chocolate or coffee. Studies suggest that all have equally successful results).

Fine. Any time for reading is the best kind of reading time. I can’t pick a favorite. Still, summer holds a special place in my heart. Generally, it’s the time of year where I travel the most and grand adventures feel like there just around the corner; when, as a kid, the free time is endless, and you don’t care if you get a sunburn or billions of mosquito bites, because it’s summer, gosh darnit.

And, as always, books are a big part of those adventures. When I look back, there are always books attached to my memories, however vaguely. I remember rushing to the nearest store the morning Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released, and reading it at the airport a few hours later. I remember walking into a bookshop during my family’s trip to Colorado and discovering Meg Cabot’s Mediator series, and devouring the first three books in a few days. Last year, I read my friend’s copy of A Storm of Swords, and was emotionally traumatized on the plane ride home. I got a wicked sunburn when I spent one afternoon reading the first Percy Jackson book, because hello, how do you stop reading that?!

Summer is also (in my highly scientific opinion) the best time to read YA novels, hence my earlier Princess Diaries fest. I’ve been reading books like crazy, and it’s a nice change from what I could normally manage during the school year–and I’ve already added some new favorites to my list:

  • My most recent read is To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. After reading the first couple of chapters, I was a little skeptical; my high expectations simply were not being met (sometimes I’m a really impatient reader). It wasn’t long before I felt truly connected with the story and its characters. Despite the title, this book is not so much a romance as it is a story about sisterhood, change, and being brave. What else could you want in a book, really?
  • I was already in love with Fangirl, but Eleanor and Park might have made Rainbow Rowell one of my new favorite authors. Maybe it was the comic book references or the song lyrics, but there was something about their love story that would not let me go. This book can be pretty harsh on a shipper fangirl heart, but that’s not really a surprise. Good books and all the feels. It’s all in a day’s work.
  • Since I read Cinder last January, the Lunar Chronicles is not an exclusively summer series for me–but I did read Scarlet about a month ago, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. Before finally snagging my own copy, I knew that Cinder was a re-telling of Cinderella, but I had no idea it was a whole series, and I had no idea that these tales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel) were set in the future. Oh, and Cinderella? In this tale, she’s a cyborg. In the second novel, Scarlet teams up with a street fighter named Wolf to find her missing grandmother. Think ABC’s Once Upon a Time with androids. If you’re not at least a little bit intrigued, I’m not sure what to tell you. I’m really hoping to get a copy of Cress and finish the series ASAP!

These aren’t the beloved books of my childhood, but I think these books are especially precious to me. After all, I’m at the point in my life where my years will no longer be divided into Summers and Semesters. I’ve graduated college, and pretty soon, I won’t have three months of freedom every year. Just a certain number vacation days and insurance plans and whatever grown-ups get when they get a job.

But summer will always be summer, and there will always be sunshine and brand-new books to read.

What are your favorite books for summer reading? Have you read any books that always remind you of summer adventures? Let me know in the comments! 

Why The Princess Diaries Rules

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I read the first Princess Diaries book when I was eight or nine years old, shortly after seeing the movie for what must have been the billionth time.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I even fully understood the finer points of the plot. Since I had seen the movie, I knew that Mia had gone her whole life without knowing that she was a princess, and she would one day rule Genovia (I also didn’t know if Genovia was real or not.). But as any Meg Cabot fan will tell you, there are a lot of differences between the book and the movie. For instance, Mia’s father is alive, but unmarried, which leads to a lot of discussion about having children out of wedlock and illegitimacy. Mia’s best friend, Lilly Moscovitz, uses words that I still need to look up in the dictionary. All of the pop culture references and political jargon went completely over my head.

Still, that book stuck with me, and I read the entire series all throughout middle school and beyond, until the final book, Forever Princess, was released in 2009. A few weeks ago, Meg Cabot announced she is writing a brand-new Princess Diaries book, and working on a spin-off series for younger readers.

I only freaked out a little bit. I promise.

To prepare myself for the awesomeness that is to come, I decided to re-read the entire series.

There have been many books that have meant the world to me–the Harry Potter series, of course, and Where the Red Fern Grows and anything that remotely resembles a fairy tale–but I relate to Mia in a way that is pretty hard to find these days.  Not only are we both tree-hugging vegetarians who suck at math, but she is unapologetically the least ‘princessy’ princess in the world. Despite taking daily princess lessons from her grandmother and knowing she will one day rule an entire country, she’s still Mia. She’s still a girl who is just trying to get through high school, and she still worries about boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

As a teen, Mia made me feel a little less crazy. Finally–finally–here was heroine who understood. And she understood everything: feeling like the boy you have a crush on will never notice you; looking in the mirror and wishing you’d transform overnight; the significance of instant messaging.

Mia was a heroine who made me laugh, but also inspired me.

Because no matter what Mia endures throughout her high school years, she never apologizes for who she is. Throughout the series, she expresses her love for Beauty and the Beast and Lifetime movies. She makes pop culture references in her English papers, and tells her teacher that her writing is of no lesser value because of it. For her senior project, she writes a romance novel; when asked why, she says, “Because it’s fun. And I like it.” For her, that’s reason enough.

I love this, because this is often what I say when I defend books I enjoy. There are times when a book is just fun. That’s okay. Life hasn’t been particularly easy for me lately, and after reading a lot of books that are a little heavier in terms of subject matter, I could use a good laugh or two.

I know that The Princess Diaries is not the type of book to win the Pulitzer Prize. As an English major, maybe I should be more–I don’t know–selective? After all, I love literature. I want great books to take over the universe.

Maybe it’s because I’m re-reading these books with a sense of nostalgia, or because I do see so much of myself in Mia…but I think these books are great. They led me to the YA genre. They saved me from countless hours of boredom. They taught me about love, friendship, and growing up.

Most importantly, they taught me that my feelings–however dramatic and silly they seem now–mattered. I feel like in every book, Mia says, “It’ll be okay.”

And I know that even though I’m not a princess, I’ll get my happily ever after.