Kristen McCarthy, Harvard Graduate

I’ve already talked about how I suffer from “what if” syndrome (as in, what if I had gone to X university? Lived in X place? How would my life be different?). I think this kicks into overload when I’m wandering around those “prestigious” universities like Harvard. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?).

I cannot recall a SINGLE moment in my childhood in which I had a desire to attend Harvard, but now I wonder – what if I had applied? What if I had GONE? I would probably be a doctor by now. Yes, at 24.

My pal Lauren and I engaged in this discussion when we were wandering around Cambridge today after a delicious diner lunch. (Side note: the bathroom in this diner was THROUGH the kitchen, down a flight of rickety stairs to the basement that guest starred in every person’s nightmare and was featured in a few horror movies.) The whole concept of applying to the Ivies just wasn’t even part of our lives, and we wondered if that’s due to the fact that we didn’t grow up in New England and just weren’t part of that whole private school, golf course, school uniform life.

Even though I never actually attended Harvard, I am proud to announce that I have now gotten lost there so many times (i.e. two) that I know my way around! Today I was just bounding around the streets, instinctively turning at the right corners, knowing where I can go to get water. I think that means I can call myself a graduate of Harvard.

Most importantly, I got the chance to sit outside and enjoy the area – from chess-playing men to views of the river.

(However, I’ve also learned why I am NOT a graduate of Harvard – because it took me three tries to spell “chess” correctly. “Okay, no, c-h-e-s-e doesn’t look correct, c-h-e-e-s-e is cheese…”)

It’s okay. ANNIE STILL LOVES ME! Cat picture!

Laura Maas, Tour Guide

As someone who, admittedly, does not transition well (who me?!), I have spent a considerable amount of time and energy trying to build a support system in the place where I maybe-maybe-not want to move – Boston. I delight in finding out another friend is thinking of moving there, despite the fact that a) I, myself, do not live there, and b) IF I get a job, I probably STILL won’t be living there for at least a year.

This is pretty much how the conversation went when I met up with the inimitable Laura Maas (of the delightful Maasachusetts blog) a few months ago in DC. Maas and I are old-as-dirt GW friends (house staff together back in the day… oh how far we have come!).

Just two youngin’s, with so much ahead of them!

When she took a road trip around the country and I managed to score a lunch with her, she told me her dilemma: she was considering which grad school offer to accept – one in South Carolina and one in Boston. Naturally I spent the entire lunch convincing her Boston was the place to be, ENTIRELY so she could be added to my collection of friends – despite the fact that I had no job in the city at that moment. I like to think I was the deciding factor in her choosing to move here.

AND – the best part! I did end up getting a job at a Boston university! Granted, I’m only in the city for a month before going abroad to work for said university, but we actually are currently employed by the SAME institution and living on campus together!! Basically it’s like we are back at GW.

This is all just a really long way of saying that Maas and I did the Freedom Trail together. She was our Tour Guide with the Mostest (…), mostly because of her delightful way of inserting what I am calling “Maasisms” to almost every site. And now, a tour of the Freedom Trail, with Laura Maas.

Every good Trail of Freedom is kicked off with the Declaration of Independence (even though I saw this more towards the end…) (Also, could the people in the background look ANY MORE like tourists??)

Aaaand, we start, with the trusty book!

First Maasism: as I take this picture, she starts to read about Mary Dyer, the “Quacker.” It took me a few seconds before I turned around and realized – “Wait. Do you mean Quaker?” Oh Maas!

Next Maasism: “So with this building, what Berkley was to the 1960s, this was to the Colonial era.” Me: “That is SUCH a good Maasism!” Maas: “Oh, that’s not a Maasism. That’s a bookism. See page 98.”
“See this building with the golden dome in front of us? It’s definitely gotta be important. It’s got a golden dome!” Unfortunately, it turned out to just be the Transportation and Tunnel headquarters.
The one building we actually paid to go in to: the Paul Revere house. Boyfriend not only had SIXTEEN kids (wowza) but also a house filled with excellent fake food, although the fake meat looked a bit dodgy.
We ended outside the Washington Memorial Garden, as happy (and sweaty) as two Colonials who had just walked a zillion miles could be.
In conclusion: Laura Maas is incredible. Publishers, please pay her to write a book.
No cute cats to end the post but I do have ducks!

If She Weighs the Same As a Duck… SHE’S A WITCH!

One of the best parts about being in Boston is that I get to bring out my hidden (or not-quite-so-hidden) nerd side and geek out about history. Having spent a large chunk of my life proudly living in America’s First Region (it’s real – look it up), pretending I live in colonial times just comes naturally.

(Fun story, albeit post-colonial times: I participated as a re-enactor in the area’s Civil War Days festival and wore an AWESOME period costume and bonnet that I later repurposed to be my Halloween costume as Laura Ingalls Wilder. Some people just walk in the light, you know?).

I was lucky enough to snag a ride with my dear friend Lauren and her fam, heading 30 minutes up the cost to Salem for the day. I’ve been vigilantly prepared to mock New England’s so-called history (oh, so you were established in 1620? You’re only thirteen years too late, NERDS. And way to settle in a freezing area of the country!), so this was a great trip for me, obviously.

The Old Town Hall. The basement is a liiitttle smelly.
(But doesn’t it look like a great place to have a wedding? Look it up. New life plan.)

None of the Hey family is buried here, as they were in Haworth

My top observations for the day:

1) It is simultaneously hilarious and slightly awkward to tag along on another family’s vacation. I think I fell a little bit in love with L’s mom when she welcomed me with “Okay, so from 12-1 we have a walking tour, then lunch from 1-2:30, then a play at 2:30…” MARRY ME. I told her this and she responded, “How do you feel about overhead lights?” NEGATIVELY! We bonded over our mutual preference for floor lighting.

2) My top points of reference for Salem are Hocus Pocus and The Crucible, both of which kept rollicking through my head at inappropriate moments. And obviously I am at this moment re-watching The Crucible.

Bridget Bishop being brought to trial. I voted for her innocence, partly
because I’ve watched a lot of SVU and partly because I know how the story ends.

Indeed it is. Although I have no idea what they sell.
Oooh, I know what they sell!

3) As beautiful a town as Salem is, rewatching The Crucible and learning more about the witch trials is making me feel icky for society. I need to go visit somewhere where only good things happen. Maybe Las Vegas.

4) Finally, I ALMOST! forgot to include a picture of a cat at the end. Doesn’t everyone just love that little tradition?!?! BUT when I was delving into my archives to find one, I was reminded of something I saw a few weeks ago – the monkey rodeo! It’s real. It happened. I saw it. Since I was too astonished to take any truly excellent pictures, I found one for you fine folks to enjoy.

PIcture via

The Journey Is Only Beginning

I’ve spent the last two weeks working insane hours, pouring intricate information and policies into my head, and navigating survival in a college dorm without the essentials (i.e.: MICROWAVE/cooking utensils. Hello, cereal, dining hall, and restaurants. As a side note, I would estimate I spend 63% of my time plotting and/or stealing cereal from the dining hall – I sneak in a GIANT ziploc bag, fill up three bowls with dry cereal, and casually stroll over to a table cleverly out of sight of staff. Yes, snotty girls at the table next to me judging my food choices, I AM planning to eat all this. DUUUMP!).

In between the madness that is training, there has been the quadruple madness that is orientation. I have cleverly disguised this in my past, but I’m not particularly fond of orientation, either as a participant or a staff member. But even I grudgingly admit that it is valuable – but only once I am on the other side of the 15-hour days that working orientation entails (and that’s as a pro staff – I mostly just have to wear a suit, sound professional, seem trustworthy so parents feel comfortable sending their children abroad with me, and I don’t have to do the evening activities).

But my predictions were true – this was my lovely self for pretty much the last two weeks. (TECHNICALLY, last night I celebrated by watching A League of Their Own. I had a craving.)

Last night in the debriefing someone mentioned how they were sad: “Man, I can’t believe it’s all over!” Then they started and realized – wait a minute – it’s only just beginning!

As long-term planney as I am (technical term – I have a Master’s degree, after all), I somehow repeatedly manage to forget the fact that, you know, I haven’t even started my job yet. I’ve had these parents come up to me and tell me that it makes them feel soo much better knowing I will be there with their child and all I think is “THIS GUY?! REALLY?!” A month from today, I will be LIVING in London, preparing to welcome little freshies into my American arms. Before that happens, I have to actually gain a grasp of what I will be doing, sightsee the hell out of Boston (something I have failed UTTERLY to do thusfar), have my “final moments” with all of my friends, and go BACK home (and finally eat what I’ve been craving – orange pork chops with rice – I had no idea how difficult it would be to live without kitchen stuff – WHAT DID I EAT FRESHMAN YEAR?!).

Literally the only thing I remember eating.
So I will spend the next few weeks getting my wits about me and trying to do as much as I possibly can – which started today with casually getting lost. I was never aaactualllly lost, since I knew the general direction I needed to go, but I intentionally selected my route based on which streets were prettiest. Very official. But it did allow me to stumble across hidden gems like this community garden:

After that? Besides eating a few Oreos, I have no idea. I know I get on a plane to Norfolk August 7. I know I get on a plane to London August 14. But the steps I have to take before those things occur? Complete and utter mystery.

Told you I would end with a cat.

"You work for a university? So do you, like, teach?"

The problem of working in higher education can be boiled down to two points: the “what if” syndrome and the dangerous combination “I’m so old/how dare you think I’m a student” syndrome.

The “what if” syndrome attacks me almost every time I’m on a new college campus, and has an alarming tendency to start me down a path of doubting almost everything I’ve done in my life. I’m walking around this campus, which is obviously more beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen, with well-rounded photogenic students attractively lounging around on the quad under the sun (because it’s ALWAYS a beautiful day). Suddenly I’m struck with doubt: “OHMYGIDDYGOD. GW is terrible. Only devil children go there, and it smells like a urinal. I’m surprised people are still allowed to walk on it and it hasn’t been declared a SUPERFUND sight yet.”

This is, of course, ridiculous. GW has no need to pass out HAZMAT suits at orientation. Sometimes you get a whiff of urine, but once upon a time I was wandering down the brick paths, gazing at the lines of tulips along the sidewalk. I have also been that incredibly attractive and well-rounded student posing on the quad like there’s a photographer shouting instructions.

I actually delved into my MYSPACE to find a picture I took on my first campus visit… and it’s literally of nothing important on campus at all. I think I was overly impressed by the flags and the tulips.

Nevertheless, I always have to wonder “what if?” when I see people relatively my age living a different life. What if I had decided to go to X college? Would I have still studied International Affairs? Would I have even heard of International Education? Maybe I would be some sorority girl dance team captain who purchases clothes on a regular basis and not continue to wear the same (plain) tshirt from high school.

You see how dangerous this is. And this is my life! I actually caught myself thinking today (as I was strolling down a beautiful gardened and shaded path on campus), “I wish I could just, like, live fifteen lives and do everything I want.” Well… yeah. I think everyone wants that, ya idiot.

The second syndrome is the combo “I’m so old/how dare you think I’m a student” outrage. I am in the delicate stage in my life where I am beautifully ageless (or so I like to think). While this is a bonus for my modeling side career, it doesn’t work so well when a parent wants to feel their child is in capable hands. (Yes… their 18 year old children. I know.) So I stress over how to do my hair so that parents think I’m trustworthy, what shoes to wear to promote my “stylish yet mature” aura, and if stenciling in wrinkles would be overkill.

However, I also have a tendency to prematurely age myself. In all honesty, I’m not THAT much older than the undergrads and I like to think I’m relatively hip (or at least as hip as I ever was in my hippest youth). I think I age myself because I yearn for the day that I can go to bed at 9pm with no shame or judgement. But every time I see widdle freshies walking around campus with a pair of khaki-wearing and map-toting parent, I feel a twinge of, “That was me! but now I’m ADULT! If I were living in the 1500s I would have 32 children by now!”

In conclusion: today, I spent an INORDINATE amount of time talking about my cats (old maid Kristen) but ALSO talking about my mother (little baby Kristen). I think this point brings it home. AAAND scene.

THE BELLY! (maybe I’ll just end every post with a cat picture).