Birthday Memories, aka not about books

2009: The big one – 21. I’m fresh off the plane from the United States and spending the semester studying abroad in London. Even though I’ve only been in London for 11 days, I cleverly brought one of my best friends to study abroad at the same school, so between the two of us we are able to wrangle up a few new friends to help me ring in the year.

While I’ve been able to drink legally in this country already, the bartender couldn’t be more thrilled to help me celebrate my official U.S. legal-ness and promptly hands me a tequila shot. Not much more of the night can be said.

1924276_595562775314_8371_n.jpg

2011: I’m traveling for three weeks in Turkey on a short-term study abroad trip. Once again, I find myself celebrating my birthday with a group of people who really just started to get to know me in the last ten days and shouldn’t feel particularly obligated to make me the birthday princess. Luckily, I spent the last week intensely advertising my upcoming birthday and look forward to what they might have in store.

And that day was, well… kind of normal. Our educational activities that day in Konya were blah. We couldn’t even do anything fun that evening as we have an overnight train ride back to Istanbul.

I’m a little bummed as I sit in the train station, secretly wishing the day had been a bit more glamorous. As the train pulls in, the program director asks me to help with with his stuff and we fall to the back of the group. As I finally get on the train, I’m unable to find my friends and walk down the aisle calling out, “Guys?” Suddenly, the door of the train compartment next to me swings open and my twelve new friends start singing happy birthday as they hold a cake modified into a birthday cake (eventually covered with Nutella frosting) and candles purchased at the nearby gas station.

My birthday ends with a grumpy Turkish man yelling at my friends to stop singing, and all of us (including the program director and his TA) playing
games crammed into a train car.

165342_801983197134_923246_n.jpg

2012: I’m back in Turkey on that same short-term study abroad program, this time as the TA. On my birthday we sent the kiddos off to a one-night homestay, and the program director and I celebrated being free by going out to a nice dinner. As I return to my hotel room, I’m surprised to see a beautiful birthday cake with sparklers and “HAPPY BIRTHDAY KRISTEN MCCARTHY” written across the top.

374953_10100223800528794_104160785_n.jpg

 

2014: I’m six months new to Boston and have just started to date someone new a week ago. Naturally, what every guy wants to hear on the first date is, “Oh yeah, my birthday is next week!” He did wonderfully under the pressure, taking me out to a lovely dinner and treating me to crepes and flowers. And joke’s on him, because we’re still dating.

2016: The night before my birthday, I’m in New York City for a business trip and wrangle up a few close friends from different parts of my life to come together in celebration of me. The next morning, alone in my hotel room, I wake up to a voice memo with one of my best friends creepily saying, “Happy birthday,” because I had mentioned to her I was bummed that I wouldn’t wake up next to someone saying that first thing. She rules.

IMG_2572.jpeg

2017: One of my best friends graciously decides to get married two days after my birthday, which works very well in my favor as that means all of my favorite people in the world – bridesmaids in her wedding – are also in town to celebrate my birthday. We have a low-key day of Top Golf, cocktails, and massage appointments (for me) but I keep the party going on the wedding night when the bride surprises me by having the bandleader officially announce me as “The birthday girl!”

****

One of the things I love most about my birthday is getting the chance to reflect on the year past, as well as the years past. What I’ve learned most from this reflection exercise is that I am lucky enough to have had some amazing travel opportunities and incredible people in my life dedicated to making my day special – things I want to keep in mind as I go through the last year of my 20s.

 

How I’m Marching On

On January 20, 2017, I semi-watched the 45th President get inaugurated with a pit of fear in my stomach.

On January 21, 2017, I joined 150,000+ humans in Boston Common as we gathered and drew strength from each other. We listened to the inspirational messages from our government representatives fighting for our basic human rights, and leaders of groups and movements from across Massachusetts.

2017-01-21_13-18-10_000

I didn’t participate in the march itself (just the rally) due to time constraints, but I did do my own personal 1 mile march from my subway stop to my home reflecting on the day and on the days following. Over and over, we’ve been hearing that this march isn’t enough. It’s a wonderful show of unity, as over 3 million people in every continent (including Antarctica!) came together to demonstrate for basic human rights and dignity. But just as important is staying informed (and keeping intersectionality front and center), staying loud, and staying involved. Here’s how I’m going to do that.

Staying Informed

I’m trying to get out of my liberal echo chamber by challenging myself to read books and articles that explore the nuances of all of America – not just the America I live in.

I’m also trying to grow my own intersectional feminism through informed research and exploration. Two podcasts that are helping me do that, and understand the fight women have had for generations and the fights we are still conducting, are Stuff Mom Never Told You and Call Your Girlfriend.

Staying Loud

I’ve saved the numbers of my government representatives in my phone and plan to be on a first name basis with their staff. I’m thankful that my representatives reflect my viewpoints that A) Cabinet officials should have a basic understanding of the job they are seeking; B) women’s rights are human rights; C) science is real; and D) universal health care is crucial to save people’s lives. But I still want to stay loud by thanking them for representing the rights of everyone, not just those who give them the most money, and also to ask what I could be doing to support them.

Staying Involved

The day after the election, I set up a reoccurring donation to Planned Parenthood, an organization that has saved millions of women’s lives and continues to be a top defender for human health and human rights – and personally has been an excellent educational resource for me.

In addition to donating my money, I’m going to be donating my time. I’ve been discouraged trying to find the best place that fits my abilities – with an unpredictable travel schedule, it’s tough for me to find somewhere that is okay with a non-weekly commitment, especially since many places prefer you to volunteer during the workday. But, on my personal march I reflected on the issues that are of crucial importance in my life and decided women’s rights fit that for me.

And so, I’m learning more about the Boston Doula Project, which provides compassionate support to women experiencing abortion and pregnancy loss. I’ve also signed up to volunteer at a women’s shelter that allows for unpredictable volunteer sign-up, and I’m going to work with my employer to see if they will allow me to take off 1 or 2 half-days per month for this commitment.

2017-01-21_12-53-15_373

I marched on Saturday for a lot of reasons, and my feet continue to carry me now towards positive change and peaceful resistance to a kleptocracy.

What’s next?

My 2017 Bookish Resolutions

This is my first year setting resolutions specifically linked to reading. I’ve always been a voracious reader but in the past year I’ve gotten more deeply involved in the book community than ever – following blogs and podcasts, joining a local bookstore bookclub, and keeping a finger on the best new releases from multiple genres. And so, what better way to start 2017 (which will probably be a terrible year for a lot of other reasons) than by setting intentional and varied book goals?

Read fewer books than I did in 2016

Last year I read the most books I ever have – well over 100, peaking at about 135 books. At a rate of about 2.5 books a week, that makes sense to me. If it’s a normal work day, I usually get about 3 hours of reading in between my commute and my lunch – and you can get a lot of pages read in 3 hours, never mind what I add on when I get home.

But, I found that reading so many books meant I read a lot of fluff books. I detest when people decry Young Adult literature or use the demeaning phrase “chick lit,” so I’m not referring to my propensity to read books in those genres. In fact, most of my favorite, most meaningful, and oftentimes very serious books come from those categories. But, there were still many books that were instantly forgettable, and I regret that I can’t remember anything about the book when someone asks me about it later.

So, this year I’m trying to read fewer books. I’ll accomplish this by picking meatier books (more below) and reading a little bit more slowly and more deeply.

Read one classic novel written by a female every three months

charlotte_big      074554cccc08f1ac69bb1a214d085169     93

I did all your usual high school reading list books (To Kill a Mockingbird, etc), but there are so many classic – and, by all accounts, excellent – books that somehow have either gone unread by me or I only know it via the zeitgeist. So, I’ve pledged to read a classic oversight every quarter, and to stick to books written by women because I’ve had just about enough of white men (more below).

So far I’ve pegged Jane Eyre, Mrs. Dalloway, and The Age of Innocence for this project, but am always looking for more ideas!

Read more nonfiction

27161156 51swgkgiwkl-_sx331_bo1204203200_  159864

As part of my resolution to read more deeply, I’m adding in more nonfiction to my repertoire – particularly nonfiction about contemporary America. I fully admit to living in a mainly liberal bubble, both online and in real life (hi, living in Boston and working in higher education). So, I want to understand more about how the hell we got to where we are today.

As I write, I’m finishing up Strangers in Their Own Land -a sociologist’s attempt to understand “The Great Paradox” in Louisiana based around the question: “why do the people who would seem to benefit most from ‘liberal’ government intervention abhor the very idea?”  I’m also excited to read EvictedHillbilly Elegyand All The Single Ladies. 

I also really enjoy recent-history nonfiction and have put In The Garden of Beasts and First Women on my TBR.

Be more discerning and wide-ranging

51yczui5ojl-_sx329_bo1204203200_     5673317a160000b300eb92ac     americanah

In general, I’m going to be pickier about what I put on my TBR and much more careful in putting a book on hold at the library. In the past, I’d put a book on hold at the library the second I read about it and would usually get about 5-10 books come in all at the same time – which would put the pressure on me to read incredibly quickly. So, I’m going to be a little pickier about what I read, write it down instead of put it on hold, and then check out books in an organized fashion (Do I sound cool or what?). Two books I’m especially excited to read soon are A Gentleman in Moscow and My Name is Lucy Barton.  

I’m also going to be intentional about picking more diverse books set in locations besides the United States and Europe, and written by diverse authors. In my TBR pile next to my bed as we speak is Americanah – I can’t wait to report back on that.

 

So, there you have it! I’m interested in seeing how many books I end up reading this year, but mostly I’m excited to see how I end up liking them. And don’t you worry – I’ll still be reading way too much YA and female-centric literature.

End of Year Book Survey

There’s nothing I love more than keeping up with book bloggers who have inspired me so – and so of course I want to jump on the bookblog train and participate in part of Jamie’s (The Perpetual Page-Turner) End of Year Book Survey!

N.B.: This includes all books read in 2016 – they do not have to be published in 2016. 

 

Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 135 (may get one or two more before we ring in 2017!)
Number of Re-Reads: 10
Genre You Read The Most From: Young Adult and Contemporary

 

Best Books

1. Best Book You Read in 2016

AH! This is a tough one to answer. I culled 7 favorite books in this post but I really don’t know if I had a FAVORITE, favorite. Some Kind of Happiness meant the most to me when I read it and still is very meaningful in my life, and one I love recommending. But I think my favorite book for the fun and the reread factor is A Court of Mist and Fury. Pumped for the third book in that series coming out in May 2017!

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

I think Eligiblethe modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It was one of my very few one-star reviews this year. It was just. so. bad. Considering how well-reviewed it was, I was surprised by how much I hated it: sloppy, uninteresting, chock-full of too many “hot modern topics” and it just had none of the charm of Austen (or any of the other excellent modern retellings of P&P).

3. Most Surprising (in a good way or bad way) Book You Read in 2016?

Lolz, the President’s Daughter series by Ellen White Emerson. They were a series originally written in the 80sish but modernized (ish) to today (so they have random mentions about characters using the capital-i Internet, etc). It’s exactly as it sounds like – a teenager’s mother becomes president and her life is turned upside down! I have a weird obsession with pieces of fiction about kids in the White House, and I really enjoyed zipping through this series. The last one, Long May She Reign, was particularly good, emotional, and full of depth.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (and they did) in 2016?

A Man Called Ove continues to be my #1 recommendation.

5. Best Series You Started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

Series Started: Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken
Sequel: Court of Misy and Fury, by Sarah Maas.
Series Ender: Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo (does a duology count as a series?)

6. Favorite New Author You Discovered in 2016?

I had been a little lax on Leigh Bardugo (I think I read one of her Grisha books, but I’m not sure). Considering how much I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, I may need to go back and revisit…

7. Best Book from a Genre You Don’t Typically Read/was Out of Your Comfort Zone?

Two very sad but ultimately hopeful memoirs, both recommended by my roommate (who used to work for a book publisher and is GREAT at hooking me up): When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi) and Let’s Take The Long Way Home (Gail Caldwell).

8. Most Action-packed/Thrilling/Unputdownable Book of the Year?

Guardian and Proxy by Alex London.

9. Book You Read in 2016 That You are Most Likely to Re-Read Next Year?

I’m a broken record, but definitely Court of Mist and Fury (just purchased on a Kindle deal yesterday)

10. Favorite Cover of a Book You Read in 2016?

Geminabut less about the cover and more about the insides 🙂

11. Most Memorable Character of 2016?

Definitely Finley from Some Kind of Happiness.

12. Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2016?

I just finished it, but I found the above-mentioned memoir When Breath Becomes Air beautifully and lyrically written. The author wrote it after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer; he was a neurosurgeon with a degree in English Literature to boot, and was able to capably pull in thoughts about what it means to be alive from a scientific and a philosophical standpoint. Bring the tissues.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/Life-Changing Book of 2016?

I can’t shut up about Lean In (a little late in reading it, I know).

14. Book You Can’t Believe You Waited UNTIL 2016 to Finally Read?

Anything by Sarah Vowell. I didn’t LOVE her books, but considering the world we live in now, her researched take on history, politics, and humor is much needed.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From a Book You Read in 2016?

“If you are afraid, sad, tired, or lonely; if you feel lost or strange; if you crave stories and adventure, and the magic possibility of a forest path – this book is for you.”

-Some Kind of Happiness

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read in 2016?

Shortest: Paris for One, Jojo Moyes

Longest: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
17. Book That Shocked You the MostThe Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time – does that count as shock?

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

I didn’t read a ton of shippy stuff this year, but I did love the relationship between Syd and Knox in Proxy (Alex London).

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship of the Year

Everyone in Britt-Marie Was Here.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 from an Author You’ve Read Previously

Leave Me by Gayle Forman. She’s an automatic read for me.

21. Best Book You Read in 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY on a Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. Everyone in the world says this is an amazing book; when I tried to read it last year I found I couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. I decided to get into this again in 2016 because so many people loved it. And… I just don’t. I certainly didn’t hate it, but I’m not hooked and not putting the next books on the top of my list.

22. Newest Fictional Crush from a Book You Read in 2016?

Hmm. This is an easy gimme, but Ezra (the Darcy stand in) in First & Then (Emma Mills) is very swoon-worthy.

23. Best 2016 Debut You Read?

Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, by Lindy West. Lots to think about here!

24. Best World-building/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

I’ll keep saying it, but the Illuminae/Gemina series just really grabs me.

The Sun Is Also A Star (Nicola Yoon). It’s not a happy ending in the traditional sense (although I think it’s happy) but it’s just so enjoyable to read.

26. Book That Made You Cry or Nearly Cry in 2016?

Ugh, so many. I’m a crier. Most of the Harry Potters, definitely Sisterhood Everlasting (the last book in the Traveling Pants series), the memoirs I mentioned above, Some Kind of Happiness.

27. Hidden Gem of The Year?

I wish more people would read Some Kind of Happiness. How many times do I have to say it, people?!

28. Book that Crushed Your Soul?

Sisterhood Everlasting kills me every time. One time I started to reread before a plane ride, then remembered it makes me ugly cry and realized instead I needed to read it all in one night, lest I embarrass myself in the air the following morning.

29. Most Unique Book You Read in 2016?

Ugh, broken record, but Gemina. READ IT.

30. Book that Made You the Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

I think Lean In because it made me SO angry that there’s still so much fighting women have to do for equality.

 

And there we have it! I have a lot of repeats in my recommendations above, but you try to sift through 100+ books and remember everything about them *blushes*

I’m so proud that I was able to smash my reading challenge of 100 books this year! I think for next year, I need to cool it on the library books/new book request as soon as they come out, and focus on my personal library. I have such a backlist of both virtual TBRs on my Goodreads (which I want to organize this week!) and my actual bookshelf that I want to start to go through those.

Another 2017 book resolution is to read at least 4 classics (I think I can handle one a quarter!). There are just SO many I haven’t read, or read way back in high school, that I would like to revisit them.

We’ll see what 2017 brings!

 

Unbought and Unbossed

As  I’ve grown wise in my advanced age, I’ve been thinking a lot more about how amazing women are and how feminism is more important than ever, especially as it becomes grossly apparently that people hate women. (See: how women are treated in public, in private, in the workplace, in government, by government, and basically everywhere.)

In the spirit of that, I’ve been diving into one of my new favorite podcasts, Stuff Mom Never Told You. In the well research twice-weekly podcast by How Stuff Works (which also produces one of my favorite other podcasts, Stuff You Missed In History Class), the hosts Cristen and Caroline “get down to the business of being women from every imaginable angle.

In the few short weeks I’ve been listening to it, they’ve examined the history of retail work and how women and particularly women of color have factored in it; the “bury your gays” TV trope in which LGBT characters are routinely killed off on television shows; and the history of “weather girls” and social workers, to name just a few careers dominated by women. (The main takeaway I’ve gotten from the career-focused episodes is that women comprise the majority of the worker bees and men a disproportionate number of leadership roles, even still today. BUT EVERYTHING’S TOTALLY FAIR AND AMERICA IS THE LAND OF THE FREE OKAY).

Far and away the most interesting episode I listened to recently was on Shirley Chilsom, a genuine kick-ass lady and one I wish I had known about from infancy. In the spirit of Shirley, here are the most inspiring things about her.

Shirley Chilsom

There’s SO much to dive into, and honestly you should look to more researched literature on her to get a good understanding (the podcast episode is a good place to start) but here are some of my favorite Shirley facts:

  • She was the first African American woman elected to Congress
  • Girlfriend was one of the truest politicians who worked for the people, and for ALL people. She was intersectional way before it was popular, folks. Just a few of my favorite facts:
    • She was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus
    • She advocated for improved access to education, was instrumental in the formation of WIC, fought for the rights of immigrants, and sponsored a bill to expand childcare for women
    • She freaking RAN for PRESIDENT in 1972 and while she knew she wouldn’t get the Democratic nomination (because remember, America not only hates women, they also hate black people. Freedom!), she hoped to get enough delegates to leverage the eventual nominee – George McGovern – to create an ACTUAL representative government with a female Cabinet member, and a Native American as Secretary of the Interior.
    • Her campaign slogan? “Unbought and Unbossed.” May that be ALL of our slogans.

And, of course, some genuinely inspiring, or genuinely horrifying that things are still the same 40 years later, Shirley quotes to lead us into the Christmas season.

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.'”

 

“In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing – anti-humanism.”

 

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

 

“That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, black and a woman proves, I think, that our society is not yet either just or free.”

 

I have a vagina and I’m mad

Originally I had titled this post something like “strong female characters are the worst,” because I truly hate when people praise a piece of media like a book or movie because of the “strong female lead.” Have you ever in your life heard the phrase “strong male lead?” No, because it is assumed when you say “male character” that said character will be strong, capable, probably handsome, and generally will save the day. (You only have different than the stock male lead when you specifically qualify it such as by saying “nerdy male character”) (and, of course, this in and of itself is problematic, because it is presuming that there is no overlap between nerdy and strong).

And yet. It seems to me, and to a lot of people on the internet that share my opinion, the stock female character is a simpering damsel in distress. If you say “female lead” more likely than not she will be a second to the (strong) male lead. You must specify that actually, your character is different from others because she is strong.

And that is bullshit. Thank you, Star Wars, for finally getting a female lead in your movies who is more than a princess, but everyone stop saying she’s “strong.” She just IS.

Anyway, other people have said this better than me, and I’m so enraged today I’d rather segue this into something else: people hate women. This is just a thing. Don’t be shocked. The evidence is there, and persistent, and pervasive, and tiring. (And I’m saying this from a relative place of privilege as a cis, straight, white, middle-class individual). Nowhere is this more evident than the 2016 United States presidential election wherein a misogynistic, jingoistic, racist, xenophobic, demagogic known sexual predator won over one of the most qualified presidential candidates in recent history who happens to have a vagina.

Don’t give me any bullshit about why you voted for the demagogue (“I’M not a racist! I just like people who are!”). I’m sure that is perfectly true for a wide swath of the population – at least, I have to hope so, because otherwise this country truly is going to hell – but the cold, hard, fact is that women are treated with suspicion when anyone has a hint at their strength. A female lead is supposed to be nurturing; a strong female lead is someone who doesn’t know her place.

I just finished Lean In and learned about the Heidi/Howard study and I can’t stop thinking about it. Harvard Business School did a case study in which two groups of students were given a description of a successful entrepreneur. One group was told the entrepreneur’s name was Heidi; the other group was told Howard. The students rated Howard more positively, saying he seemed to be a more “appealing” colleague, where Heidi was seen as selfish and not someone who you would want to work with. This was literally the same (fictional) person – the only difference was in gender.

I have so much more than I could say about this, but I’m trying to stop dwelling on why people hate women (or, in general, those who are a different color/religion/culture/gender identity/sexuality than “what a normal American is”) and focus instead on the future. I’m setting up recurring donations to women’s rights organizations and actively seeking volunteer opportunities with the National Organization for Women, NARAL, and immigrant/refugee support centers. I can’t do a lot, but I can do this.

Also, screw you if you say a book is good because it has a “strong female lead” but here are some awesome pieces of art that have/are written by just normal, strong, flawed, funny females. This is by no means an exhaustive list – just what I pulled from books I’ve read in the last year or so – so please comment with anything else  I should add to my TBR pile:

  • Lean in, Sheryl Sandberg
  • Shrill, Lindy West
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore girls
  • Parks and Rec
  • Some Kind of Happiness, Claire Legrand
  • Leave Me, Gayle Forman
  • Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay
  • Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell
  • The Thursday Next series, Jasper Fforde

A Look Back, and a New Start

So, it’s been a while, huh? I’m sure you’ve spent the last two months since I posted rending your garments and tearing out your hair, so I apologize for my absence. Call it a combination of life stuff, work stuff, and writer’s block – but now that we are entering into a new year (2014 already? Didn’t 2013 just happen?) I figured it was time to jump back in to narcissistically expressing my thoughts for the world to read.

I’ve had a weird last few months – nay, a weird last year. Was it really only a few months ago that I was living with my parents? That I was sunning myself on a beach in Thailand? Now I am piecing together a life in Boston, something that is more challenging than one would think.

As is my wont, as I sit on the edge of 2013 I can’t help but look back. And considering it is one of my most documented years, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Let’s jump in, gang.

JANUARY 

Image

Washington, DC; Virginia; Bangkok, Thailand

FEBRUARY

Image

Koh Lanta, Thailand; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Vientiane, Laos

MARCH

Image

Beijing, China; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Kep, Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Chau Doc, Vietnam; Saigon, Vietnam 

APRIL/MAY/JUNE

Image

Virginia; New Orleans, Louisiana; Emerald Isle, NC

  • I returned to my parents’ home and went quiet for a while as I started job-searching, questioning myself, wondering what I am doing with my life… you know, the usual. It was a pretty fun time for those around me. In reviewing my Facebook timeline it looks like the most exciting thing I did was find my diary from when I was 14. Talk about embarrassing! I also went to the Outer Banks for the bachelorette party of one of my favorite people – everyone loves a rainy beach weekend!
  • In actual exciting news: I traveled to NOLA for the law school graduation of one of my favorite people, with a bunch of my other favorite people coming in from around the country to celebrate! Let’s just say it was an appropriately New Orleans-y weekend.
  • By June, K10 Unemployed became K10 Employed, as I finally convinced someone to hire me, much to the relief of my parents and friends who were sick of my belly-aching.

JULY

Image

 Charlottesville, Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts

  • After celebrating the wedding of one of my best friends in gorgeous Charlottesville, VA (where both she and the groom went to university), I headed directly off to Boston. Like, I literally said goodbye to my parents on Friday, hitched a ride with two big suitcases to the wedding, flew to Boston on Sunday, and started my new job on Monday.
  • I started my new job with a roar, as I jumped in to their busiest period of the year and worked the first seven straight days I was in Beantown.
  • It wasn’t all work: I was lucky enough to land in the wonderful apartment of two of my favorite people as I apartment-hunted.

AUGUST

Image

Los Angeles, CA; Boston, MA

  • I kicked off August with a quick trip to LA; while I was namely there to sit in LAX for twelve hours (the less glamorous side of working in international education – seeing off the group flights to faraway countries), I took some time with my coworker to hit up Santa Monica and indulge in some delicious Mexican food.
  • Once I was back, I spent most of August exploring my new home of Boston, from test-driving Italian restaurants all over the city to forming hasty opinions. Mostly, I spent the month in a sublet daydreaming how I would decorate my new apartment in September – the first (semi) permanent place I would live in in over a year.

SEPTEMBER

Image

Boston, MA; Virginia

  • More Boston explorations as I discovered my locations of choice
  • I capped it off with a trip back to my parents’ home to move more of my possessions and, most importantly, finally be reunited with my kitchen supplies. For those keeping track, I’m still not completely moved out of my parents’. I’ve elected to take the ‘suitcase’ approach which means that every time I go to visit, I come back with two suitcases bulging with my belongings. It’s strangely effective.

OCTOBER

Image

Boston, MA

NOVEMBER

Boston, MA; Athens, Greece; Thessaloniki, Greece; Virginia

Thessaloniki

  • After six months in the same country, it was high time I broke out my passport again – and this time it was for baby’s first international business trip (unless you count the time I lived abroad for a job). While I spent most of my time in Greece in meetings, I managed to revisit the Acropolis after an absence of eight years, learn how to say ‘cheers’ in Greek, and eat more feta cheese than is advisable.
  • I ended the month with a good old fashioned American Thanksgiving back in Virginia – and yes, brought up more of my belongings.

DECEMBER

Image

Boston, MA; Virginia

  • By far, my favorite part of moving to Boston has been the fact that my dear friend Katie lived down just the street from me. So imagine my delight when Amanda, aka one of the greatest and most kick-ass friends you could ever meet, finally joined us in The Hub and landed an apartment right across the street! I spent most of December happily ensconced in their (metaphorical) bosoms as we helped Amanda move in, made the obligatory trips to Ikea, and drank a LOT of white wine. I mean, a lot.
  • I finished up 2013 with – you guess it – another trip to Virginia for Christmas! I’ve definitely spent more time in my home state this year than I have in the past seven years of my life. That’ll be it for a couple of months as I’m not slated to return until March – just in time to start enjoying the beautiful weather, with sailing trips and beach bumming in my future.

And so for 2014? I want to take the time for activity. Not just physical activity, but actively doing things instead of passively sitting by. Whether that is indulging in my hobbies (and I do want to keep writing this blog in my life), continuing to grow my friendships, or exploring my home instead of sitting around, this will not be a year for sitting and watching the world go by.

As you read this (if you finished it, that is!) I’m headed back to Boston to celebrate the start of another year with my dear friends. 2013 was the year of K10 Travels, but I do resolve that 2014 will continue to be the year of K10 Explores.