A Very Bostonian Weekend

All of a sudden, I got thrown head-first into Boston fun, y’all. I don’t even know what to do with my burgeoning social life! But never fear – I have been taking plenty of pictures and mental notes to share with you all. So RELAX already.

Most recently, I started to trade in my sweet tea for Dunkins with the celebration of the HEAD OF THE CHARLES. Besides having a dirty name, this is some annual event that brings a bunch of boats to Boston where they paddle around. See how athletic I am? You may go ahead and be impressed.

And so I celebrated in the best way I know how: artistically and fan-ically! Or whatever. What am I, a doctor?

First up: a trip to Paint Bar painting the Head of the Charles! If you’ve never been to one of these, please drop everything you are doing and go immediately. I’ll wait. They basically walk you through step-by-step how to paint a specific picture, and you drink. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!

Painting, wine, and Katie: three of my favorite things.

Painting, wine, and Katie: three of my favorite things.

We got there before our other friends and, in addition to prepping the stations and doing the paint-gathering thang, brought in a GIANT delicious pizza and Katie-made desserts for munching throughout our artistic process. We were the best darned prepared artists there.

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I had this not-so-secret-because-I-told-everyone belief that I was going to turn out to be really awesome at this. When I was seven, I was utterly convinced I would become an artist because I was really good at painting sunsets. I don’t know if that’s true, but I CAN say that my aunt still has a picture I drew of my dog in her house 15 years later, so you know.

Anyway, the end result was, shall we say, less than impressive, especially compared to some of the other ones. To be fair to me, Bob the Bartender was very generous with his pours because Katie and I got there early and got our harmless flirt on. Thanks, Bob!

Also pictured: Bob in the background on the left. I shall write of you favorably in my memoirs.

Also pictured: Bob in the background on the left. I shall write of you favorably in my memoirs.

Artistically talented or not, it was still a darn good time and I am ABSOLUTELY going back.

To pair with our painting of the Head of the Charles, on Sunday I headed over to the actual Charles for the actual Head (or something) to cheer on my alma mater with two of my favorite fellow Colonials: Katie and Josh! (Y’all, I swear I have more friends than them, I just REALLY like them so they are often blog-featured).

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Things I learned:

  • Once a GW student, always a GW student; as soon as I saw the free food, I was opening up my purse and sweeping in as much of it as possible. OMG THEY’RE FEEDING ME MUST TAKE IT ALLLLLL
  • You will never feel more Bostonian than walking across the Charles, cheering on the teams below you, sippin’ your Dunkins
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  • As a society, we may not know a lot about crew (or whatever sport was happening during this event) but we know enough to hate Canada. When I was hanging out on the sidelines it was a fairly tame crowd as the announcer said which teams were rowing by, but when he said, “And here’s our own Team USA coming up on Team Canada,” the entire crowd erupted in a chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
  • There is no good way to take a picture with those weird megaphone things.

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Nailed it.

Nailed it.

The Be Brave Book Club

I like to call myself an ambivert. While I inch closer to an introvert,  I find that a little limiting to my actual personality traits: I’m typically completely at ease in situations with a lot of people, I am a friendly, bubbly person who enjoys meeting new people and getting to know them, but after a while I get really exhausted and just want to curl up with a book and read (there goes my introversion showing again!). I’ve found being an introvert to be a double-edged sword in new situations (like traveling solo or moving to a new city): I am comfortable and happy being by myself, but sometimes I am too comfortable and I can easily fall into a rut of being alone that quickly folds into loneliness (my kryptonite is that I love being alone but I get nervous and sad if I am alone for too long. Don’t we all, though?).

One of my biggest struggles in the past has been pushing myself out of my comfort zone and endeavoring to meet new people. If I am already thrown into a situation where I have to interact with new friends (start of college, a new job, a party) I can do just dandily, but I shy away from having to make the effort myself. I failed miserably at making new friends while in London. I kept intending to find some friends outside of my immediate circle of coworkers, but with the business of work, my hectic travel schedule, and the knowledge that I would be leaving in December, I figured there was no point. There’s a similar vibe with traveling solo: I met plenty of people through activities, hostels, and guesthouses, but since everyone is on their way to somewhere else, these were mostly one-off situations (or, in the smaller cities, multiple run-ins, which was fun but still had an expiration date).

I wanted this to be different when I moved to Boston. This was my first time moving somewhere new where I would be living for the foreseeable future since I had left for college when I was 18. Even when I graduated college, I stayed in DC, as did most of my friends. No need to make new ones! But I made a leap of faith when I decided to move to a new city 500 miles away from DC and 700 miles away from my hometown, and this time, I was going to get out of my comfort zone.

I am incredibly lucky that I already have a strong support system in Boston, with several friends from different parts of my life who already live here. But now that I’m past my two month mark, I’ve started to acknowledge that I need to have friends here who I didn’t already have before. Enter: book club.

As you may have gathered by the fact that I tend to read about 7-10 books per month (and that’s a slow month), I really enjoy reading. Meetup.com is full of book clubs; what better way to meet new people than to have a set topic of conversation, I figured? I joined a bunch and waited for the stars to align with the perfect date, time, and group.

Despite my resolve, I was nervous as all get out when I was walking to meet the group. I actually texted my mother, “I’m about to go to a book club where I don’t know anyone. Mommy I’m scared but you should be proud of me!” I figured that if I hated it, I could just leave. And so I steeled my resolve and found – not so scary after all! I loved the ladies, loved talking about the book and other things, and will definitely return. Most importantly, I discovered an amazing new bar in Boston and I shall definitely return – probably with one of my ready-made friends, but who knows? Maybe I’ll go there with a new friend!

This reminds me of one of my favorite mantras from my favorite person Laura Maas: “Keep calm. Be brave.” I repeated it over and over when I was traveling in Asia and when I was working at a tough job in London. I can already see where this sometimes tough and stressful year has helped me grow: I might have been nervous when I walked into the new situations, but I still did it and look forward to the next time. I’m going to carry this thought around with me in my pocket as I continue to build my life here.

My Weekend at Home

I recently spent a weekend at what I secretly consider to be my “home” in Boston. Yes, I have my own home (both the one I physically live in now and the one my parents inhabit), but we all have those places that we consider to be our comfortable little oases that allow us to escape from real life for a bit. I absolutely consider my house in Virginia to be one of those oases, and I recently bumped up the house of my good friends here to be another.

This will probably surprise them since I haven’t told them how much I adore being at their house, but it is the perfect mix of physical comfort and emotional support for me (both the house and the people within it). When I first arrived to Boston, this was the house that I slept in for my initial three weeks. And it is a wonderful place to start: gorgeous, sun-drenched apartment with a balcony and all the comforts of home (including CABLE! A rarity for twenty-somethings). I loved coming back to the serenity of their home, talking with them about my day and sitting down in front of the TV to watch Jeopardy. It immediately felt comfortable, and comforting to someone in the turmoil of a transition. I am exceptionally fortunate to have two wonderful friends of mine living there.

Alas, it is apparently not really acceptable for someone not involved in the relationship to live with a married couple. Even though we make an exceptional team. And so I reluctantly moved to a sublet in August (and had a meltdown a few days later in the middle of Boston Common, partially due to leaving my paradise), and then to my leased apartment in September. But due to a fortuitous series of circumstances, I found myself back at my little slice of heaven with two of my favorite people for the weekend sandwiched in between my August and September place. It was a bit of a stayvacation: I enjoyed a delicious meal of beef bourguignon, indulged in an IKEA shopping trip with Katie, and treated my hosts to a wine and cheese party. (This was entirely done because I decided I wanted to be fancy and have a wine and cheese party a la the incomparable Mo at Mocadeaux, and they were the only friends I could think of who would indulge me. And have cheese knives. That I gave them for their wedding.)

Not to brag, but this is why you should come visit me.

Not to brag, but this is why you should come visit me.

And so on that Sunday I once again packed up my belongings to move to a new house, away from my “home.” Luckily, I’m less than ten minutes walking away from my oasis. You can bet I will be there often to enjoy the calm and the company of my favorites.

It almost looks like they are toasting their concocting an evil plan, does it not?

It almost looks like they are toasting their concocting an evil plan, does it not?

My Boston

It’s taken me two months of living and working here, but I have almost, almost settled into what I consider to be my Boston. I had a heckuva start: I landed at Logan on July 7th at 8:30pm and started work the very next day. I first lived with friends, and then a month-long sublet, before finally moving into my apartment, where I can put pictures on the walls and flowers on the bookshelf. In celebration, I would like to take you on a pictorial tour of what I consider to be my Boston – my favorite places and what my daily life entails.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE PLAZA

Every day, I am so grateful that my office building is next to the reflecting pool of this gorgeous tourist destination. Besides being a fantastic location in downtown (right next to the Prudential Center and a stone’s throw from Copley Square, Boston Public Garden, and Boston Common) it’s also a wonderful place to sit and relax. Every day that the sun is shining, you can find me outside at 1pm eating lunch and soaking in the rays.

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COPLEY SQUARE 

A five minute walk from my office and home to a wonderful farmer’s market Tuesdays and Fridays, this is a must-stop after work a few times a week. Exploring the local produce available, sitting on a bench, or even indulging in a little crusty-bread-and-goat-cheese picnic, it’s my recipe for Boston.

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BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY

Without a doubt, my favorite place in Boston. I’m easily here three-four times a week (largely because it is conveniently located on Copley Square!). The first time I walked in, I was a little surprised: I was definitely in a library (or so all the books told me), but it seemed kind of…. normal. Clearly constructed in the 1970s or a similar period of terrible construction tastes, it reminded me of my college library. I had heard rumors it was a gorgeous building, but I guess not?

Well, thankfully the next time I visited I entered through another side (the one facing the square) and realized, “OH. THIS is where the pretty is kept.” And so was born my favorite, favorite Boston reading spot – perfectly protected from the wind and the rain, serene and with thousands of titles just a few feet away.

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BOSTON PUBLIC GARDEN

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Garden, wouldn’t I? My normal farmer’s-market-visit to Copley Square will usually result in me wandering the few extra blocks of the Garden, sitting under a tree, and enjoying all that is around me. Also an excellent place to spy on wedding pictures.

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AND FINALLY… WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS.

I spent the last month mentally interior decorating this room and I am so happy that I can finally start putting everything into place. It’s still a work in progress, but my favorite part is genuinely the flowers on the nightstand in the mason jar.

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I guess the only question left is… when will you be visiting me?

One Year

One year ago to the day, I was living in London. I had arrived to find my apartment would be in a student residence hall flat, making me the lucky recipient of three single beds and residence hall issue starchy sheets (not that I am one to look a gift rent-free apartment in posh South Kensington in the mouth…).  I remember emailing my mother photos of my apartment to have her sternly reprimand me, “You need to put something on that blank wall behind your couch! Make it more homey.” She knows me as only a mother can; I am quite the homebody and I eagerly flip through the pages of each month’s Real Simple magazine, envisioning ways to embrace my inner interior design goddess self. In stores, I often find myself wandering dreamlessly down the kitchenware and storage solution aisles and contemplate the purchase of those teeny frying pans that contain the picture of a sunny-side up egg.

I have to wonder, why do I do these things? I could wax poetic about the ever-changing world and how we crave to create stability where possible. I may not be able to understand what my government does with my privacy, how my coworkers will take to me, or why it never rains when I prepare for the forecast by wearing my rainboots. But at least I can come home to a space uniquely mine, that I have created out of thin air, that is my source of constancy.

One year ago, I arrived in a place that would be mine for a short four months. Despite the length of time, I endeavored to create home where I could: I purchase cheap throw pillow, I put pictures up on the walls.

But four months disappear in a flash, and soon I was donating those throw pillows as I prepared for a life of travel in the spring. There is perhaps no less stable life than that of a traveler; I moved from guesthouse to hostel to hotel, sometimes staying for two weeks but sometimes staying for one night. Whenever possible, I unpacked my meager belongings into the dresser in my room, eager to find some semblance of home.

Now it is one year later from my little apartment with three beds in a basement in London. I have arrived in a place that will be my home – is my home? It’s difficult for me to tell if it is still to happen or if I am living it now. For someone so eager to find a place of comfort and solitude, I have still retained my vagabond ways. Even when moving from one temporary place to another before I arrive at my permanent (at least for a year) residence, I have added touches of me: picture frames on the nightstand, a comforter with a flower on it. I can at least claim this six square foot bed as my own, my place, my comfort. And then finally, finally, one year later, I will arrive in my home. I will buy a bouquet of bright flowers from the farmer’s market and place them in a mason jar on top of my bookshelf (all of these items are still imaginary, by the way). I will print out pictures from my travels and hang them on my walls – I’ve already perfectly pictured which ones will go where. I will fill my apartment with the smell of pies, and embrace being still for once. And perhaps then I will be presently present in my home.

Top Things I Have Learned About Boston

Image via pintrest

Image via pintrest

So I recently moved to Boston for the foreseeable future for a real-person life and a real-person job, after living in DC for six years and then spending most of May 2012-June 2013 abroad or living with my parents (gents, form a line). Although I’ve visited the city as a tourist a few times and lived here for a month in the summer of 2012, my time thus far has taught me several important things about the Hub. And because I am selfless, I shall share with you.

  • The Red Sox are literally always playing a game at Fenway as I am on my way home from work. The T line I take from work to my house includes the stop for Fenway, one after where I get on. And it doesn’t matter what time of day I get on the train, from 4pm to 8pm — the Sox are inevitably playing 20 minutes later. Meaning that the train is CRAMMED full of sweaty fans in Sox gear. Why does the baseball season last from essentially April 1 – March 15?
  • I may be smart enough to keep my (negative) opinion of Boston sports teams to myself – mostly – but I shan’t be quiet any longer about Dunkins coffee. Guys, it sucks. Admittedly, I don’t drink coffee coffee, but I tried their latte and it was terrible. The best chain latte I’ve ever had? Panera, actually. Get down wit yo bad self.
  • Pretty much everyone hates the T, but those people have apparently not commuted much in DC. Yes, the lack of transfer points is infuriating (most of the lines intersect in downtown Boston and then extend to Cambridge in the north and then out to Brookline/Allston/Brighton in the west, where I live, but to transfer to another line you have to ride alllllll the way back in to Boston and allllll the way back out). So that’s annoying, but in my experience the train has been pretty prompt and speedy. Try getting down to a DC metro platform and being greeted by, “The next train will arrive in 25 minutes.” THAT is the pits.
  • Boston pride is a thing, and it’s awesome. Besides the pride in the sports teams, which is cult-like, the slogan of “Boston Strong” is everywhere, and I love it. Walk up and down Bolyston (where the bombings occurred) and you will see sign after sign — even “Public Library Strong.” Walk past neighborhood bars, and you see that they have a special collection for X victim going. Even street graffiti professes the Boston pride.  Image

In order to do some Very Important research on this topic, I also watched a couple of Boston-centric movies, aka ones with Ben Affleck. And the top thing I’ve noticed in those movies (besides the accents and, you know, the robbing-of-banks-ness) is the incredible amount of Boston pride. It’s not quite like anything I’ve experienced before. I have plenty of pride for my hometown in Virginia and my adopted hometown of DC, but Boston is such a tough little nut that people will always defend. And while I may have slung some choice curse words towards the Patriots just yesterday (okay, I may already be an un-fan of the Pats, but because of their STUPID pre-season game, JEOPARDY WASN’T ON!!! Unacceptable), I’m still excited to make Boston into my home and to wrap myself up in some Beantown spirit. 

Image via Boston Magazine

Image via Boston Magazine

How to finally nest (ish)

For someone who loves stability, I have been remarkably without a home for the past year+. I’ve thankfully always had a roof over my head and a bed(ish) to sleep in, but since I moved out of my last actual abode in May 2012, I’ve slept in – count em – twenty nine different beds/homes. The largest chunks of my time involved spending July 2012 in Boston (where I got to experience wonderful university housing beds – it was so uncomfortable I honestly had to go buy a foam padding thing from BBB the next day cause I’m a princess), August-December 2012 in London (another time spent in university housing, except I funnily enough had three single beds to call my own. I like to be crazy!), and April-July 2013 in the parental dwelling (where I stubbornly refused to give up my first comfy bed in a year unless it was to a worthy elder).

Needless to say, I’m pretty excited to finally – FINALLY! – be able to unpack my bags for the final, foreseeable time, and unwrap my belongings that have been in storage since last May.

Alas and alack, we are not at that point yet. My first two months in Boston are consisting of me living with two very good friends of mine (it’s an awesome Three’s Company/Big Love kind of situation, except not actually) and then a month-long sublet with a rando who I literally agreed to live with because she laughed at my jokes and didn’t seem murdery. The person moving out (from whom I am subletting) has two cats and I was a inch away from saying, “…but can the cats stay?” I HAVE CAT NEEDS, PEOPLE.

How I inserted myself in with my friends/roomies/hosts, the married couple. I think they find me adorable

How I inserted myself in with my friends/roomies/hosts, the married couple. I think they find me adorable

Anyway. Come September 1, I have a home again! Where I actually live, and pay rent! And not sketchy back-alley rent but a rent attached to a lease! (At least, I think so. The property manager just scribbled out the name of my friend, since I’m taking over her lease, and handwrote mine in. I got panicked that the Boston Public Library wouldn’t accept that as a viable proof of residency and did some questionably-legal things to get that library card, but that’s a story for another day).

In the meantime, I have this whole nomadic thing down to a science. The basic rules:

  • When feeding off the teets of a friend’s generosity (yup), be sure to leave secret signs of yourself around the house. If you are staying with a married couple, even better! See above.
  • Never assume a plate is microwave-safe.
  • You haven’t really worn out your welcome until you’re accidentally blown the fuses in your nomadspot
  • There is no sadder thing than to excitedly unpack your backpack into a dresser of your week-long home, only to find that your three shirts don’t exactly need five drawers.
  • I like to believe I can sleep in most places, but I at least need a window. And wifi. And high standards of living. JUST KIDDING I really just need a window. Windowless rooms are the pits.
  • Laundry is for fancymen, and ain’t nobody got time for that. If it is not visibly dirty or have a five-foot-smell radius, it’s fine.
  • When you do have to get your laundry sent out since you don’t have a home and obviously don’t have a laundry machine, assume that something will get stolen/lost, and it will probably be the t-shirt present you got from your mom less than a month ago
  • Bedbugs aren’t that scary, you guys. Man up.
  • Most important one: you never realize how powerful your friendships are until you are in the wandering state of moving. I have relied on the kindness of several friends just to get me up to Boston, including and not limited to: a friend driving me to the airport, her wonderful parents taking my bags in their car since it wouldn’t fit in hers,  friends graciously hosting me immediately upon my arrival, a friend offering to lend me a sofa bed when I realized my August sublet option would only be an air mattress, and another friend sourcing a real bed for me to borrow and, without asking, volunteering to help me move it.

As much as I love traveling, I seriously can’t wait to stretch into a new joint and start nesting, y’all. Mainly because I picked up a blanket from the store that I proclaimed I loved more than my current hostess, and she threw it on the floor in anger. It’s a really good blanket.

(A week later, after she had accidentally had five limoncellos at dinner with her family, she came home and sheepishly told me the blanket was really good.)