Tag Archives: twentysomething

Getting In the Game

Happy New Year, friends!

What did you do to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Did you go to one of those big expensive parties? Did you get dressed up and smooch someone at midnight? Or did you fall asleep before the ball dropped? We hosted our own party around here, full of food and drink and a really great playlist crafted by yours truly.

A particularly bright and blue morning in Milwaukee.

A particularly bright and blue morning in Milwaukee.

It’s 2015! Doesn’t that just sound weird? I wrote a few emails before the New Year and I included dates for this month, and the number just looks funny to me. If you asked me about my favorite or lucky numbers, I like 4, 8, and multiples thereof. Like, if I’m going to have a handful of M&M’s, I like to have an even number of candies. Odd numbers are not my thing. On a superstitious and superficial level, I was pumped for 2014, simply because it ended in 4.

But on a much deeper level- beyond pointless superstitions- 2014 was a really, really good year. I graduated from college. I wrote a thesis and won honors for it. I ran a half-marathon. I got a job! I moved to not one, but two cities. Highlights from those adventures include driving a pick-up truck for four beautiful weeks, as well as getting an apartment after just half a day of showings. New friends just recently entered the picture towards the end of the year, and my old friends continued to amaze me with their patience, love, and wisdom. And my family in general just rocked 2014. We killed it and ended on a crazy high note.

Celebrating! With bubbly and party nails.

Celebrating! With bubbly and party nails.

So as you can probably understand, I was a little sad to say goodbye to 2014. New Year’s Eve was bittersweet. 2014 was a blast. I didn’t want it to end!

But then, I started thinking about what is really the difference between years, or rather, what is so different between December 31st and January 1st? It’s all about a mindset. It’s all about viewing the year as a blank slate and giving yourself a fresh start. On January 1st, I finally took some steps towards fiscal responsibility. I opened up a 401(k), made my first student loan payment, and drafted a budget. This was something I really needed to be doing in, say, June, but something about the new year pushed me to get it done.

Besides that mindset, though, if you think about it, there isn’t a ton of difference between the last week of December 2014 and the first week of January 2015. I’m most excited about keeping up the momentum from the end of the year and letting that roll right into 2015. Big things have happened and big things will keep happening! The new year is just a great opportunity to take advantage of all that good energy and movement forward.

We always have a fire on New Year's Eve. I like to think of it as symbolic and festive.

We always have a fire on New Year’s Eve. I like to think of it as symbolic and festive. Mostly though it’s fun and for warmth.

Let’s talk resolutions, shall we?

In previous years, I’ve sat down and made a giant list of resolutions falling under a few different categories. Generally, this results in very little progress or change made. Think about it: what is effective or focused about 100 resolutions that you’re supposed to start all at once on January 1st?

This year, I just decided to start on a few things that, if done successfully, could motivate me to do more in the future. I decided I’d rather accomplish a small number of resolutions and do them well, than attack too many and end up not making an effort.

First up was managing my finances. The 401(k) is set up. Once it’s done, it’s done. I’m not going back and undoing what I did! The next was starting my student loan payments. Granted, that’s not something that’s an option, but it was a good move to pay ahead of time, rather than wait until the due date. Last was drafting a budget. This will be the biggest ongoing effort, because it requires entering my expenses into a spreadsheet- and thus, knowing exactly what I’m spending and where. While I haven’t been throwing my money away, I want to be more mindful of where everything is going, and where I can make adjustments.

Next up is always fitness. Last year I ran a half-marathon, which was a major athletic accomplishment for me. Since then, I’ve more or less stopped running. This year, I want to pick it back up, so I’m going to find a 10K to run in the first six months of the year. I also need to find a way to work on strength training, but without a specific goal, I know it will be difficult to stick to it. Any tips are welcome!

Another is wasting less food. This falls under both health and fitness. I need to find ways to cook what I have until it’s gone, without getting bored of what I’m eating. I will remind you of the time I ate nothing but burrito bowls and garlic shrimp in Amarillo for several weeks. Yeah. I’m not doing that again. Wasting food makes me feel guilty and annoyed- not just for the money lost, but also for throwing something away that I’m fortunate to have, and others are not.

My other major resolution is to get involved in the community. I just moved to a big city, and the time is right to learn more about it and meet more people. My university has a large and active alumni base in this area- I think that’s a good way to start. I’m also trying to settle on a parish, one that I’ll feel comfortable participating in however I can. All of that will get me out of my apartment, into the city, and building relationships.

A few more will be coming once I start these others- maybe I’ll try not to look at my phone the second my alarm goes off in the morning, and unplug from it well before bedtime at night. Maybe I’ll recommit to learning Portuguese. Maybe I’ll start meditating once a day. Maybe I’ll try to read more news.

But let’s start small and mindfully, okay? Everything in its own time- not all at once.

Happy New Year, friends! May 2015 be your best year yet.

With love,

Gaby

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Goodbye, Texas. Hello, Chicago!

This has been a long time coming.

When I got hired and learned that I’d be heading to Amarillo for my first project, I knew that moving to Texas- even temporarily- would be a big shift. It’s not easy to get back and forth between Amarillo and Milwaukee. It’s at least two expensive flights, with limited departure and arrival times to choose from. It was clear that, except for a few well-selected trips, I’d be settling into Texas for a little while.

My first glimpse of the Panhandle.

My first glimpse of the Panhandle.

I’ve already written about how it was different adjusting to life after college. There weren’t many people my age around. I mostly just saw the people I worked with. I lived in a hotel room- which had a kitchen, but eventually I got lazy and stopped working on how to cook interesting things for one person. When I finished work for the week, I tried to disconnect and just veg out.

So, maybe life wasn’t as interesting or exciting as I thought it was going to be. But I still learned a few things along the way- about Texans, about traveling, and about being by myself.

I drove this beautiful white Ford F-150 for four glorious weeks. I still miss it.

I drove this beautiful white Ford F-150 for four glorious weeks. I still miss it.

About Texans:

Texans are incredibly friendly and hospitable. I would argue that at least in the Panhandle, they rank with Upper Midwesterners in politeness, smiles, and courtesy. Strangers say hello to each other, which is always my benchmark for openness and hospitality. I had lots of offers from coworkers at the client and volunteers who invited me to eat with them, go to Mass with them, spend time at their homes, and so on. They do a lot to make you feel welcome!

Texans also have a powerful sense of identity and independence. There’s a reason they say Don’t Mess with Texas, and I can totally see how this state was once its own country. Amarillo is real Texas. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio are big, American metropolises. Austin is a funky liberal hippie enclave. Amarillo is cattle ranches, and farms, and oil fields. These Texans love a good steak…or a chicken-fried steak…or a Tex-Mex plate of enchiladas with beans and rice. Forget the traffic and the hustle and bustle of the other cities. This is the heart of Big Sky Texas, the Yellow Rose of Texas. And they don’t want anybody changing that.

This is what I mean by Big Sky.

This is what I mean by Big Sky.

About traveling and living on the road:

When you don’t have the luxury of an apartment to make your own space, do whatever else you can to make your living arrangements your own. In a hotel room, maybe that means buying a cheap vase and filling it with flowers every week. Maybe you bring or buy one of your own blankets. There’s nothing wrong with getting some kind of air freshener to make the room smell less like a hotel and more like a real home. Candles would be ideal…but I’m pretty sure that would set off the smoke alarms, so I never tried it.

These flowers lasted the longest of any I bought.

These flowers lasted the longest of any I bought.

This looks like a crisp fall day, but it was actually 85 when I took this.

This looks like a crisp fall day, but it was actually 85 when I took this.

Get into a routine, and make sure that routine includes ways to work your body and your mind outside of your job. I started exercising almost every day, either in the fitness room, or by walking in a nearby park or the neighboring bike path. I also recently began studying Portuguese with Duolingo. Find ways to unwind that don’t just involve sitting in the room watching TV.

But there's nothing wrong with a donut and a good book, either.

But there’s nothing wrong with a donut and a good book, either.

About being by yourself:

All of that said, maybe you’ve spent so much time around people that all you really want to do is watch TV and read and veg out. I get that. I did plenty of that. The most important thing is to do what you need to do to be happy. If that means you’re going to travel every other weekend, and you can afford it, go do it! If that means you go see a new movie each week, or try a new restaurant, there you go! If that means you just need to be by yourself, or you need to be around a whole bunch of people to recharge, then there’s your ticket.

You have to learn how to listen to yourself and be content with making your own decisions just for you, not based on what other people think you should be doing. Your experiences are entirely your own. Ultimately, only you can decide what you want to get out of your travels and your time in a place that is not your home. Do you want to make it your home? Is it just where you are during the week, but you jet out on the weekend? Or is it something in between, a way station of sorts?

This was a great way for me to start this job. I worked on a team, so I was never really completely alone. But, I wasn’t close to home, so there were some things that I just had to learn by myself. I had to learn just how to be by myself, for long periods of time. There is a lot of value in that. Especially in a world where we have put such a premium on constant connectedness, it’s becoming more and more rare that we have to be by ourselves and fill our time on our own. In that sense, I was very glad for this experience.

Wild sky on one of my last nights in Texas.

Wild sky on one of my last nights in Texas.

That said, I’m in Chicago and already loving it. If Texas taught me anything besides the lessons above, it’s that I am a city girl through and through. I felt instantly reenergized just by walking down the street and being surrounded by all the people and buildings and lights. This is my kind of environment- everything within reach, within walking distance, within a train ride.

On top of that, I’m much closer to home- heck, I could commute here for a short time if I had to. I’m also close to various friends living in and around the Windy City. Almost everything I felt like I was missing before, I think I’m getting it back again.

I have an apartment. I have a gas stove and a granite island and ample cabinet space for all kinds of baking goodies. I have an incredible balcony which is going to provide endless sparkly pictures. And I’m surrounded by a giant city, a city of fantastically diverse neighborhoods.

Let’s keep exploring, shall we?

With love,

Gaby

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Ready for Fall, and College vs. Employment: A Pro and Con List

Has anyone else started to freak out that it’s already the middle of September and the season of all pumpkin everything and leggings and boots is upon us? I mean, the stores are already filled with fall and Halloween decor. And you know what that means.

The second that Halloween is over, they’ll start playing Christmas music. So it’s practically the holidays already. I mean, it sure seemed like it at Kohl’s yesterday.

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

I LOVE this time of the year. I love it when the weather gets cooler and I can bundle up a little more. It means I get to wear jeans and sweaters, which means I don’t have to shave as often (ladies, don’t deny it! That’s a HUGE perk of this season!). I can drink hot tea or coffee in the middle of the day and not sweat. I’m already really excited to start adding fall/winter colors to my wardrobe. I’m thinking I’m going to build a palette of dark grey, camel, aubergine/eggplant, and burgundy/wine. Maybe some forest green and cream if I can find the right pieces.

The (maybe) two men reading this post just totally checked out. Moving on.

As excited I am for the change in seasons, however, this fall is also a really big life moment. It’s the first fall in 18 or 19 years that I haven’t gone to school. This has brought up a lot of conversations between me and my friends about what we miss and don’t miss about college- even for the friends who are in grad school.

This week, I made a pros and cons list for College vs. Employment. School vs. “Real Life.” Pre-Adulthood vs. Trying to be an Adult-hood.

Let’s get started, shall we?

COLLEGE/KAWLEDGE

Pro: being able to spell “college” like that and people might maybe think it’s funny or witty. This does not happen after college.

Con: Being surrounded by people who spell words like that all the time in an effort to be funny. We need more creative wordplay.

Pro: dining halls and meal plans. Access to nearly unlimited amounts of food, two or three times a day. Then, on top of that, you have a magical ID card which allows you to purchase more food outside of meal times- and, more importantly, gives you access to significant quantities of Starbucks.

Con: eventually, the food gets boring. Also, the ID card is not actually magic and all of that Starbucks makes the magic run out more quickly than you thought.

Pro: Dorms! All of your friends, all people your age, all of the time. In many cases, you never want for company.

Con: Sometimes, it’s nice for it to be quiet and solitary. Also, totally done with the whole sharing a bathroom thing. I’ve taken more than my fair share of other people’s hair out of the shower drain.

Pro: Sleeping in late, or, as late as possible, because you don’t really need to dress up for your 8 AM class.

Con: You’re sleeping in so late because you didn’t go to sleep until 2 AM, for no reason other than homework.

Pro: Free workout areas and cheap fitness classes.

Pro: It’s still acceptable for your parents to take care of your finances.

Con: Even if you’re working, you’re probably not earning very much money. And much of that goes to cover your regular spending- partying, shopping, and so on.

Con: HOMEWORK. Because it was just a blast coming home from evening activities after 10 o’ clock, having to start reading 40 pages of political theory, due at 11 AM the next morning.

Con: Ruuuuuuules. Parietals? Alcohol? But we’re all 18 or older. Which makes us legally adults. Which means we totally don’t need those rules to keep us from making poor decisions…right?

Pro: Football weekends! Two solid days of school spirit and zero expectation of getting any work done.

Con: It’d be nice to be able to go into the bookstore after 12 PM on a Friday without having to weave through packs of alumni. I just need some folders…not a $50 sweatshirt.

Pro: you get to do a million things and have a bunch of different identities. You can be an actress and a researcher and an educator. You don’t have to choose!

Who else misses this? *sob*

Who else misses this? *sob*

EMPLOYMENT

Pro: FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE. Nothing feels better than buying something for yourself and knowing that you yourself earned it.

Con: Life is expensive. I mean, have you actually looked at what a box of cereal costs?? What happened to my free Cracklin’ Oat Bran?! Oh, and you actually do have to pay that credit card bill. That’s NOT a magical ID card. (See above, though. Paying it off feels GOOD.)

Pro: NO RULES! You can drink whatever you want every single night and have friends (or more than friends) (or even strangers) of the opposite sex over past 2 AM- heck, as late as you want!

Con: If you took that pro to the extreme, you may make some poor decisions and they will have consequences. Just saying. You do you…but maybe think about it first?

Pro: NO HOMEWORK!!! Well, this isn’t true for everybody. Some people do have to bring work home with them. Including commuting, I work until 8:30 or 9 PM most nights Monday through Thursday, but when I get home, I don’t check my email, I don’t open up Excel, and I veg out. It’s the greatest thing to know that you’re done for the day.

This was a long day, but it was worth it to get it all done!

This was a long day, but it was worth it to get it all done!

Con: What happened to all of my friends? Where are all the people my age? I can’t order and eat an entire pizza by myself…and I don’t have any place to just leave it out where I know it will get eaten.

Con: No more monthlong vacations.

Pro: PAID vacation.

Con: You might not be walking everywhere all the time (to class, running errands, etc.) so you’re getting less exercise. Also, gym memberships are expensive.

Con: If you got a job (that you like) straight out of college, a) congratulations! This is an awesome club to be in, right?, and b) you’re probably still really young in most people’s eyes. I’m finding that the years between 21 and 27 are a total vacuum. It’s before the time that people start talking to you about your biological clock and getting married, which is a plus. But it’s also before the time that people will trust that your age equals some level of experience. I get a lot of comments that I look 18. Glad to know that I’m not aging prematurely…but it requires a lot of work to gain professional credibility.

Con: Dressing the right way as a young professional woman. Too frumpy, dowdy, and matronly, and people think you don’t care about your appearance. Appearances do matter, friends. However, if you dress too young, skimpily, or fashionably, you may not be taken seriously. There’s a very fine line. For me, it means a lot of plain blouses and finding the correct length pencil skirt.

Pro: Proving that you can do something with your education that earns actual money and does not require more school (for the time being, anyway). All of those classes and papers and discussions and exams really and truly resulted in skills that I use every day, and I’m getting a salary and benefits for it!

Pro: You’re not alone in this. Everybody is just figuring it out as they go along. That goes for grads who are working, grads who went back to school, grads who are looking for work, and grads who are doing service. Unless your whole group of friends has magically stayed together in the same area, doing the same things, everyone has to learn how to make new friends as an adult and how to maintain the relationships we worked so hard to cultivate in college.

This sky looks like hope. And freedom.

This sky looks like hope. And freedom.

Now, all of the choices are yours. Not your parents’, not your professors’ or advisors’, not your college’s. They’re yours.

And that’s probably the biggest pro of them all.

With love,

Gaby

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There Are BuzzFeed Lists About This

Somewhere between Dallas and Amarillo.

Somewhere between Dallas and Amarillo.

Right? Hasn’t BuzzFeed already put together a bunch of lists of 27 Things You Learn While Living Alone, or 31 Things That Happen When You Move to a New Place, or something like that? I’m not going to repost any of them here- I’m sure they’ll pop up in my Facebook feed eventually- but I’m pretty sure they might approximate my life right now.

I’m relocated to Amarillo until November. I have never been to Texas before, let alone the Panhandle. This is the first time I’ve paid my own bills, pumped my own gas (I never drove often enough, okay?), and had a job that was not somehow connected with my education. If I want to take a weekend trip someplace, that’s my decision. I’m the one paying for it. If I want to spend the entire day on the couch watching TLC, I can do it. No one is telling me to go do my laundry or wash the dishes or eat (or not eat) or run errands. It is up to me.

Nothing is keeping me from spending hours in Target, browsing the amazingness there. Like this display of journals!

Nothing is keeping me from spending hours in Target, browsing the amazingness there. Like this display of journals!

You don’t transition into the freedom and the responsibility. I don’t know if there’s a way to ease into it. How would that work? Your parents come and live with you for a little while, until you’re in a routine at work? You pay part of your bills, and they pay the other part, until gradually you have enough to cover it all on your own? At some point, though, you have to strike out by yourself. At some point, it needs to be you.

I’m liking the independence so far. I am proud of being able to pay off my credit card balance in full, and I’m going to keep that up for as long as possible (ideally, forever and ever). I’m happy that I got a workout in before I went into the office, four out of five days last week. There are other things I need to do, though. For instance, my benefits kick in next month- meaning there will be less money coming in from my paycheck. I need to budget for that, as well as for my upcoming student loan payments, and for savings. You know, the money that you put aside for big expenses later on, or (God forbid) for emergencies.

Living on your own is not just about finances, of course. What do you do in a new place, with no friends or family around? Technically, you can just stay in your hotel room or your apartment all the time. I mean, there’s enough on TV and Netflix and the Internet in general to keep you occupied for your entire life.

That sounds like a really easy way to drive me absolutely crazy. And also burn my eyes out- I already spend all day on the computer at work, so why rely on that at home?

So, I’ve gone shopping. I live five minutes from the mall, Target, and Barnes and Noble. That worked at the beginning of my stay, when I really needed a bunch of things, but now it’s just to wander around and get to know the area. I went to the farmers’ market on Saturday, which is a great way to chat with locals. I arrived a little late- I think I’ll really have to get there closer to its 7 AM opening- but the few people I talked with were very friendly. They also informed me that the occasional strong smell of cattle comes from the stockyards, where they auction and sell cattle. Sometimes, the wind picks it up and blows it all over town. Good to know.

I’ve also taken up more reading. I especially hope to take advantage of this once I have longer work days, and I need time to unwind. For now, it’s an excellent way to occupy myself. I love the Barnes and Noble- there’s a Starbucks cafe in there, and it’s a lovely place to get a sandwich and a coffee and read on Sunday afternoons.

Here's what I picked up my first week: TIME, Hyperbole and a Half, Half Broke Horses, No One Belongs Here More than You (short stories), and my uncle's lifestyle book, Strength + Simplicity. Plus the Notre Dame prayer book.

Here’s what I picked up my first week: TIME, Hyperbole and a Half, Half Broke Horses, No One Belongs Here More than You (short stories), and my uncle’s lifestyle book, Strength + Simplicity. Plus the Notre Dame prayer book.

That reading list up there helped me get through my first “rough” night. A big thunderstorm moved through town last week. It wasn’t technically severe, but there was strong winds, pouring rain, and constant thunder and lightning. One lightning strike somehow hit the hotel and threw off the alarm system. Suddenly my smoke alarm was chirping, the fire horn was going off intermittently, and the alarm lights in the hallway were flashing. And of course that was the night that I was settled into bed early, ready to get a good night’s sleep before an early morning workout. I don’t like thunderstorms, and I hate the sound of alarms. I got both in the same night, at the same time.

That’s another living-on-your-own life skill: self-soothing. Which is actually something we learn when we are babies, but it something we call upon and hone the whole rest of our lives. You can’t sit and whine and cry every time you encounter a stressful or uncomfortable situation. You also can’t totally internalize your stress and anxiety and bottle it up. Not healthy. So what do you do to manage it? That night, I read and I watched the Tonight Show. The next morning, I ate Nutella on toast. Self = soothed. It was a thunderstorm. It was an alarm. Life goes on. I’m a grown up.

Yup. That’s been my first two weeks here. If any of you hear that I’ve made friends with the Target or Barnes and Noble staff, that’s a sign that I need to find something else to do.

What do you love to do, all by yourself? How do you cure boredom? How do you like to get to know a new place?

With love,

Gaby

 

 

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These Ten Years

(In my last post, I mentioned that I’d be blogging biweekly. Although I just posted a week ago, I decided I’d get a jumpstart and write this week too.)

(Should you start a post with parentheses?)

So the other day, I took this quiz on BuzzFeed which, through a series of questions about my social life and lifestyle, determined that my actual age is 35. (For anybody who doesn’t know…that number isn’t even close to the real one.) And you know what? It made a lot of sense. I’ve always felt older than I actually am. 35 sounds like a nice, solid age to me: your career has been established, you’re probably married and have kids if that’s what you want, and maybe life is a little more certain than in it is in your twenties.

Our power went out while I was at home. Of course it came back just as I was learning to like it.

Our power went out while I was at home. Of course it came back just as I was learning to like it.

Then I went out to a club with my friends, to celebrate the start of the semester, and oof. While I love to dance and dress up and enjoy a big party as much as anyone else…drinking excessively and being pressed against strange bodies is just not my thing. Never has been. As I was battling the crush of people claiming their coats at the end of the night, I heard a fellow senior say, “I’m too old for this (crap).” And I was inclined to agree.

For a second I thought, well that’s lame. I’m in my twenties! I’m a college senior! I should be enjoying this. Right? Isn’t that what twentysomethings do??

So then that got me thinking, as I often have lately, about this thing that we call our “twenties,” or being a “twentysomething.” It used to be that you finished up whatever schooling you were lucky enough to achieve, usually right around the age of 20, give or take a few years. Then you got your job, you got married, you started having kids, and ta-da! Life progressed. People went more or less from adolescence straight into adulthood, and nobody (as far as I know) made a big deal of it.

In typical Gaby fashion, I had to bake just one more thing before I went back to school. These are from the Joy the Baker cookbook and they were delicious.

Practicing my domestic skills. These are from the Joy the Baker cookbook and they were delicious.

Now it’s become a kind of cultural phenomenon to be in your twenties. Just look at websites like BuzzFeed and Thought Catalog. We roll our eyes at teenagers, up until the age of 21, thinking that we know so much more than them. Because you know, you accumulate so much wisdom once you cross over into a new decade, and even more so once you can legally purchase and consume alcohol. (Sarcasm, friends.) But then pop culture- in my eyes anyways- has started to tell us that it’s normal and typical to kind of flounder about cluelessly, fluctuating between being a kid and being a grown-up, until suddenly somebody flips a magic switch when we turn 30 or get married and have a baby, whichever comes first.

So what gives? What happened? Since when did we get an extra ten years to figure things out? Was it because of college? And then the bigger and bigger need for a master’s degree? Was it when people started getting married later? When the job market started changing and the US became a services-based rather than manufacturing economy?

I started training for a half-marathon this week. My body is surprisingly happy...for now.

I started training for a half-marathon this week. My body is surprisingly happy…for now.

On the one hand, I’m not complaining about the fact that I don’t need to have everything ready to go, right this second. I mean, there’s a few things I need to get together in the next four months. But it’s nice that I don’t need to be worrying about homemaking and childbearing at this point, or be staring down the possibility of being an old maid. It’s nice to have some time.

On the other hand, I don’t like being in limbo. I haven’t started watching it yet, but from what I gather, I don’t think I’d like to be any of the characters in HBO’s GIRLS. The freedom and the sense of possibility are pretty cool, but there are also moments where I’d just like to jump from one step to the next and bypass the in between. I’ve written several times before about how transition and I are not the best of friends. In that sense, it’d be nice if someone did flip a switch one day and bam- you’re an adult! Or if one day you wake up and look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Yes. I am grown up.”

This is a grown-up thing I LOVE- coffee in a real mug and brand new planners with lots of space for to-do lists!

This is a grown-up thing I LOVE- coffee in a real mug and brand new planners with lots of space for to-do lists!

That’s just not what growing up is like, though. I think it’s more like Katniss coming up the tunnel in the Hunger Games- more like Catching Fire, actually, where she’s freaking out and suddenly she surfaces and has ten seconds and then she’s racing through the water and trying to reach the supplies without getting killed. Yeah. It’s like that, but without the killing.

Maybe I’m buying into the twentysomething thing just by blogging about it. Or maybe I should stop writing about it, and learn to enjoy it. Because, you know, once you turn 30, you have responsibilities and life is suddenly a lot less fun.

If it weren't for my beautiful campus, we'd all lose our minds in the gray.

If it weren’t for my beautiful campus, we’d all lose our minds in the gray.

With love,

Gaby

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Last Dance

Please tell me that when you read that title this song pops into your head: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOpUfTi1keI. (Please also tell me that if that song does come to mind, you’re also under the age of 45. No? I figured. All right.)

Anyways. I hope that wherever you are, the weather is nice, or has improved relative to the polar vortex which dramatically gripped the United States this week and caused people (including us) to pack grocery stores and stock up on supplies as if the cold was going to last a week, not two days, and subsequently make them hungrier than normal. If you’re in Santiago, espero que no te haya afectado tanto este humo raro que cubrió la ciudad los últimos días. Usually I don’t whine too much about the winter until the volatile Midwestern spring is in sight, but I wouldn’t mind a beach vacation soon.

Washing dishes for ten minutes caused the windows to fog up like this.

Washing dishes for ten minutes caused the windows to fog up like this.

PANIC. Everybody panic!

PANIC! Everybody panic!

Big plus about the cold: it shut down school around here for two whole days, giving my brothers an even longer break, which meant that I got to spend more time with them! Look at all the awesome things that happened while I was here and not in Chile.

Winter sunrises are pretty spectacular, though.

Winter sunrises are pretty spectacular, though.

I am now at the end of my last winter break as a undergraduate. As I’ve said before, and which I will now say for the last time, declining the grant and staying stateside was 110% the right decision. I have no regrets about it. I do not feel like a life-changing opportunity was missed, and I think I’ve reaped far more benefits out of sleeping and enjoying my family than I would have gotten out of running around hot, smoky Santiago for a week. Lesson learned: trust your gut. If something is telling you not to do something, even though there’s a really good argument for doing it, just don’t. Let it go and know that there’s a good, perfectly valid reason you want to take the other road.

It just hit me the other day that this is indeed my last semester as a college student. Obviously I knew it was coming. But I hadn’t gotten that “this is IT” feeling yet. And then I did, once I filled out my application for graduation and confirmed how I want my name written on my diploma.

The key to making the most of this semester is to remember that this is just the last dance, not the end of the world. I want to end college on a high note, and get out while I’m still loving it and having fun. Yeah, college has been the best four years of my life- SO FAR. I hope to God that I am not peaking now! My summer theater camps use to end each year with the reminder, from Churchill, that it was not the beginning of the end. It was just the end of the beginning.

That is all this is. Graduation is a big, momentous occasion- not just to celebrate how fantastic the past four years have been, but also to look forward to what’s coming next. Although the job search has been challenging, it’s also exciting. Look at all of the possibilities! Look at all of the things I can do, once I get a foot in the door!

While I already know that I’ll be blown away by the speed of this final semester, and at the end of every week I’ll probably beg more and more for time to slow down, I’m just going to keep reminding myself that what’s coming next (especially when- not if, when- I get a job) just keeps getting better. I have gotten to where I am today by thinking positively and working hard. Working hard is key- because nothing will happen for you if you don’t try to make it happen.

So that’s what this semester is about: making it happen. “It”- the job, the thesis, the awesome celebrations, the best friendships, everything else- will happen. But it’s up to nobody else but me.

Okay. Good talk, guys. In other news, I baked bread!

Proofed. Not proven. Proofed. Right?

Proofed. Not proven. Proofed. Right?

This smelled AMAZING.

This smelled AMAZING.

Yeasted breads can be a little scary, yes. And this loaf was not perfect, as you will see in a moment. It didn’t rise completely during proofing, which is always fun. Then I couldn’t get the seam of the dough to stay closed, and the filling then bubbled up and oozed and burned all over the oven floor. Dad to the rescue once again! Nothing a little barbecue spatula and a fan couldn’t fix. Thanks, Dad!

Disclaimer: I’m not a food photographer and I shoot with my iPhone.

It looks really cute and pudgy now...

It looks really cute and pudgy now…

...and then it turned into this.

…and then it turned into this.

Ah, that familiar smell of charred cinnamon and sugar. Too common in our kitchen. I’m sorry, family.

I know. Delicious, right?

I know. Delicious, right?

But that wasn’t anything cutting off the wonky ends couldn’t fix! It was just about perfect on the inside. I’ll work on aesthetics eventually. For now, I’m happy baking things that taste good- even if they’re a small disaster on the outside.

Look at that swirl!

Look at that swirl!

You're darn right it makes good toast! Heavy, rich, sweet toast. And the layers pull apart like a dream.

You’re darn right it makes good toast! Heavy, rich, sweet toast. And the layers pull apart like a dream.

I found the recipe right here. Don’t worry if you don’t have a stand mixer. I did the whole thing by hand. You just mix and knead it for about as long as the stand mixer does. Easy peasy!

One last thing: as a blog resolution for the new year, I’m going to try and start writing every other week. Blogging is excellent writing and storytelling practice, and I’d like to recommit to it this year. I’m already accumulating ideas and will keep brainstorming and outlining a little bit at a time so that twice a month, I’m ready to write and will have something new and not pointless to share with you. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

With love,

Gaby

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