As a modern Washington Irving,

A small part of me feels she understood how Rip Van Winkle felt when he awoke covered in dead leaves, wondering how long he’d been asleep. His body was stiff but otherwise seemed to be his own, albeit older and lacking the boundless energy supplied only by youth. He stretched–slowly–and made his way down the mountain from whence he came, back through the trees. He, like the rest of us,  was wholly unaware of what the future had in store, trailing only a distant memory and his long white beard.

Instead of leaves, I woke up from my metaphorical stupor surrounded by packed boxes and dirty clothes from a move I could barely remember. Was this my home? How long had I lived here? Nestled near my things were other unfamiliar items that I definitely did not own. A bicycle. A desktop computer.  Men’s underwear. In this new apartment, it slowly dawned on me. Someone else did live here too. My boyfriend.

I tried to remember the last time I’d seen my best girlfriends for a glass of wine or went to a yoga class. Where had I been all these Saturday and Sunday nights? I tried to count the days that I had come to think of myself as “missing”.  I had fallen asleep, dreaming only of algebra equations and grammatically correct sentences for over three months.  I immediately texted my friends and rushed into the bathroom to check my face. No beard. My phone started to buzz. My friends were alive and still remembered me.

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For me, the GMAT was a mentally exhausting, all consuming type of test requiring almost all my mental capacity and periodic personal pep talks. I have a newfound appreciation for anyone who decides to go the route of business school, tackling this immense hurdle way before acceptance letters arrive and classes begin. The only positive thing I can say about the GMAT is that is a wonderful excuse if you get asked to dog sit for a week or attend that birthday party so far out in Queens, it might as well be Long Island. The GMAT became my only excuse to abandon every part of my life except for work, food and occasionally sleep.

I missed writing. Day after day, I would rush home from work and open my books to practice yet another rate problem (Rate x Time = Work) or quiz myself on tackling percentages (If Sally bought a shirt for $50 at 35% off after a 60% price increase….). In those months of math, I desperately missed words. I missed putting them down on a page with my funny, half-cursive scrawl. I missed typing on my laptop long past my bedtime reminder had alerted me to brush teeth and turn out lights. I missed blogging even if this attempted travel blog had evolved into a dusty, unkept autobiography.

I want to go to the place of Rip Van Winkle, somewhere high in the Catskill Mountains. I want to scream, I AM BACK, to all the chickadees, woodpeckers, chipmunks and deer. And I want to thank you, dear reader, for making it this far down the page and taking time out of your day to include me and my words. Thank you Boyfriend Billy for single handedly unpacking all our belongings while I struggled at our tiny dining room table, trying to make sense of geometry and square roots. Thank you (thank you) friends for believing in me SO much more than I ever had the gall or belief to dream. And thank you parents for wanting me to do well only because it would make me happy, since that has always been your only wish.

We are capable of so much more than we may even know.

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On Sherlock Holmes

I will write about Europe. I promise. The trip was, in fact, quite amazing. My only complaint is that the whole affair was entirely too affable. There was no significant obstacles to overcome or challenges to be met with creativity and force. Vienna was beautiful. Venice was elegant and delicious. Torino and the surrounding area of Asti provided breathtaking views for an unforgettable wedding. Everyone was happy. Weather was lovely except for one Monday afternoon when the sky poured rain; a couple of wet socks never hurt anyone. I have yet to test Boyfriend Billy’s true traveling abilities because everything went so darn swimmingly.

So on to my newest obsession: Sherlock Holmes. My love affair with the man, the myth, and the legend began with the BBC television show “Sherlock” of which many of you are aware. If you haven’t seen any of the episodes, I recommend you stop reading this blog immediately and watch it. Each episode is long, about 1.5 hours, more like a small movie than a regular television show. The stories follow Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson through the most amazing adventures, all based off existing stories written by the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Series 4 will be out in January 2017 and Benedict Cumberbach has admitted that this will be the last season.I have deduced that my most recent obsession is for more than Cumberbach’s piercing blue eyes and steely resolve (and magic skills). I’m drawn to Sherlock’s genius sleuthing skills and impassioned compulsion to seek the truth for no more but the sheer thrill of the unanswered question. I love the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Both characters contains essential elements that the other lacks. Together they make up a most perfect pair who I would willingly follow on countless more adventures through the dark and mysterious streets on London. Were all of us as lucky to find such a true friend…

IMG_5031.jpgAbout a week ago, I wandered into The Strand on my lunch break. There is something I find calming about walking up and down shelves of books. I never know when a new title or wellworn classic  will unlock new ideas inside my dusty head. As fate would have it, I stumbled across The Greatest Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, on sale no less. I knew I had to have it. It’s been my trusty and heavy travel companion ever since. It feels fitting that I found the book at The Strand, a bookstore that shares its name with the monthly magazine that first published the adventures Sherlock Holmes back in 1891.

“As the weeks went by, my interest in him and my curiosity as to his aims in life gradually deepened and increased. His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piecing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.” A Study in Scarlet, page 8.

Now that’s my kind of man.

I can’t help but imagine a world where all mysteries could be solved by sheer observation; all the answers we seek are around us, if only we had the time and the knowledge to look. I believe that, at times, we all act as amateur Sherlock Holmes, attempting to play the role in our own lives. We attempt to piece together the past in order to understand and interpret the events in our present and future. Indeed, some puzzles are easier to solve than others and often we lack the necessary evidence to complete the picture. At these moments, we long for a crystal ball or a looking glass to make the most complex darkness appear as clear as day.

I know I, as well as Dr. John Watson, can learn a thing or two from the great master himself. 

“You don’t seem to give much thought to the matter in hand,” I said at last, interrupting Holmes’s musical disquisition.

“No data yet,” he answered. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgement.”

Have a great week everyone.

To those who fear:

I make dinner. There is a zucchini in the refrigerator from Monday’s farmers market and some rice in the cabinet. I cut the green vegetable into thick half-moons and listen to them sizzle in the oil, sliding over each other in the pan. The rice is boiling. Sporadic bubbles appear and are instantly gone beneath churning currents. I cover the rice and season the zucchini. It’s a warm and sticky Sunday evening, hours before another week. Tomorrow is another day.

There is little in the daily news that inspires hope. Recent personal events make me question the ifs and the whys in life; these two words have burrowed deep within my stomach. I feel the words beginning to rot, yet answers never come. Great trepidation for the future of which I have no control. 

What is this fear that seems to surround me? 

Zika. Terrorism. Death. The future. Family. Security. Money. Cancer. The “other”. Hillary. Muslims. Trump. Western thought. Death. Sickness. Guns. No guns. Climate change. The wrong choice. Betrayal. Loss of sanity. Loneliness. Inadequacy. Loss of love. No love at all. 

The zucchini is done. Using my wooden spoon, I gently flip each slice and check both sides have browned. The rice needs water. I use the electric kettle and add more steaming liquid before replacing the lid. My lunch for the week is nearing completion.

I wish we the inhabitants of the world could hold one another and ask forgiveness for all the things we’ve ever done or said and have yet to do and say. The longer I live in this world, the more I realize how the Many suffer.The Many have been abandoned by their parents, rejected by society or left to function with less than a whole self. The Many go to sleep wrapped in fury at those who have made them feel, in some way, less than. Less than loved. Less than smart. Less than respected. Less than human. 

The zucchini, rice and chickpeas are finished. I split the ingredients into two plastic containers: lunch for Monday and Tuesday. Snap goes the red lid. A mundane task completed for another day. Snap. A sound so complete. Snap. A moment without meaning. 

Snap and death, a thick black period at the end of a thought, a final punctuation on all that has come before. We lament the future that never will be. Now, we cry, when there is so much left unwritten? But the pen has come and accentuated the dot in permanent black ink. We watch it dry on the page and still we tear at the paper trying to erase what is already done. We think we need the story to continue. We weren’t prepared, didn’t have time to close to the book and place it on the shelf. We don’t know how we will go on.

Tonight before bed, I will imagine a bright star in the night sky, high above the street lamps and traffic lights. On this star, I will wish for the next president of the United States to have compassion, grit and superb listening skills. I will wish for all family members who have witnessed profound tragedy and grief to experience temporary freedom and peace. I will wish for a moment of clarity among the Many who feel life is cheap and tainted and unclean. I wish for you, dear reader, and all your precious beautiful moments that lay ahead. They will come again.

Tomorrow is another day.  

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Confusion in Numbers

I spent the last ten days on the Greek island of Santorini, exactly six more days that I had originally planned. My trip was partly delayed due to the black sand beaches and the perfect weather. The connecting ferry to Turkey only ran three times a week and Thursday became Sunday, which became Tuesday all too fast. But my trip was also delayed because of the incredible group of travelers I met during my stay. This group of people seemed to be as captivated by the island as we were with one another and we spent every waking moment enjoying this little slice of paradise together.P1050189

The group, composed of Canadians, Australians, Germans, Philippinas, Haitians, Spanish, Greeks, Colombians, Indians and Americans, all shared a love of travel. And in this love, we also shared a mutual desire for some change from our lives back home. Three women (including myself) quit their jobs to travel alone. One woman spent a month in a meditation retreat and an Australian girl longed to return to Santorini instead of attending university in the fall. Chanae, the person I met in Athens and followed to the island, hadn’t been back to Australia in almost two years and had no clear date for returning home. I felt as if we were all searching for something–an answer perhaps–without clearly defining the questions at hand.  

Some travelers want to see the world. For them, the questions are simple: “How can I travel forever?” or “How can I increase my maximum vacation time?” But for others, I think the search is much less defined. Will I find someone to love me? What should I do with the rest of my life? These questions will not be found within stamped passport pages or months overseas. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. P1050161

One evening, I found myself wandering the streets of Oia before meeting up with the group for the famous sunset. The day had been full of sightseeing and my skin was tight under a layer of sea salt and sweat from my morning swim and afternoon hike. I was dehydrated and my legs threatened to give out as I trudged up a rocky path to get a better view of the coast. 

P1050437Down the hill and to the right, I spotted a car. It had been unoccupied for quite some time based on the model and the thick layer of rust underneath the faded blue paint. No wheels remained and someone has piled large rocks onto the driver’s seat and under the hood. On the back left end of the car in scratched white lettering, the words What is life? had been written. P1050438I sat in the fading light of the Santorini sun for a long time staring out to sea and contemplating the words of the car. I thought about this new group of friends: our morning yoga during the sunrise on Perissa Beach and the nights spent comparing cultures over wine and ouzo shots. I thought about my imminent move to New York City and my undefined relationships with people back home. I thought about the pressure I put on my European exploration to conquer some great internal unknown I had yet to identify.

P1050267Despite my desire to travel alone, I secretly craved a community of people who loved exploring the world as much as I did. I wanted to find others who would rather shoulder a backpack and book a flight than map out their next logical career path. And in every hostel in every country, I found those such people. They, like the car, didn’t have the answers to life’s big questions either. And that was something…

For I’d rather spend time contemplating the meaning of life with equally confused people than trying to figure it out all alone. P1050150

 

The Question Every Traveler, Millennial, and Retiree Is Asking

I spent last weekend on the Jersey Shore with three wonderful people, a final trip before my European excursion. Each day was filled with good food, naps on the beach and pure relaxation. On Saturday evening, I left my clothes on the sand and waded into the ocean alone. I ventured deep into the blackness until the warm salty water covered my arms and neck. Up above, starlight shone through holes cut in the construction paper sky and covered the world in a soft glow. I looked east—I’ll be crossing you soon, dear Atlantic Ocean— and out over the incoming tide. Here, in this liquid wonderland, the future felt limitless.

Many of my peers are struggling to make sense of their seemingly limitless future, a time  I affectionately call the Two Year Itch.  It’s been two years since college graduation and the collective plunge into the outside world. The newlywed phase of increased freedom and responsibility has been replaced with a less positive feeling. These young talented minds, taught to speak in tweets and think like CEOs, are currently  treading water wondering why the perfect job, career path or soul mate hasn’t floated by. Many are quitting/changing their jobs, moving to new cities or pursuing medical, law or graduate school. Some are married, more are in relationships and most are divided as to whether “being single” is the best or worst part of their young adult lives. I watch my friends and former classmates lift their heads above the water and gaze back toward shore, internally questioning their initial sense of direction and motivation. Under the dark blue sky, we ask ourselves the same question.

Where should I go from here?Map

This is not a question unique to the Millennial generation in 2014. This is a question for all of us: for every passionate activist, retired employee, single parent and widowed spouse. This question spurs doubt in our choices and fear of the unknown. We question our decisions or refuse to make them at all. Cracking the binding of a blank passport, we have no plane ticket, no itinerary and no planned destination. Time is of the essence and we have everywhere and nowhere to go.

Let’s take one step back and focus on the why. Why are we going? Where do we hope the going is going to get us? Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union, defines the “what” as meaningful independence:

“the ability to pursue your passions and your dreams, secure in the knowledge that

you’re connected to people, groups, and institutions that have your back.”

To me, this goal rings true. I must identify my passions and dreams so I may pursue them. I must surround myself with the people who can make these ideas happen in a supportive environment. The ocean is vast and the stars are bright.

Katelyn’s Five (of many) Goals and Dreams:

  • Backpack through Europe.
  • Live in New York City.
  • Carve writing into my daily routine.
  • Visit Hawaii. 
  • Work at a company with motivated and inspirational people.

Now make your list. Are the jobs, people and activities in your life working toward meaningful independence? If not, it might be time to make a change. Until then, just keep swimming.

A Life Guide to Packing Light

A Life Guide to Packing Light

Pack light.

Have a plan—and keep it flexible.

Carry only the essentials.

 

Do not accept unmarked baggage from others.

Do not have others carry your baggage for you.

Know when to leave those belongings behind.

 

If items become too plentiful, give them away.

Accept gifts in return.

 

Heavy hearts and containers of regret

exceeding 3.4 oz

must be checked.

 

Bubble wrap your best relationships.

Handle with care.

 

Do not fear the unknown.

 

Tread lightly and if you must carry a big stick,

make it a walking stick.

Leave it at the trailhead for the next pair of dusty boots.

 

You will be neither the first nor the last.

 

And please, send postcards.

Mount defiance NY (Lake Champlain)
Mount defiance NY (Lake Champlain)