Messin’ About On Boats: A Spontaneous Vacation

bahamas stirrup cay

I love surprises.  I love being spontaneous.  I love getting away.

Even when it’s to the neighborhood French bistro at 9:30 PM on a Sunday — that’s 2 hours where I forget it all, drink wine and stuff myself with truffled fries.  Or to the movie theatre on a Monday night followed by deep-dish pizza – that’s 3 hours where I pretend I’m having a staycation in the beginning of the week.

Point is.  I love being spontaneous and getting away.

So when that boy I’ve been hanging out with a lot told me five days before Thanksgiving that he’d booked a cruise to the Caribbean for this past weekend, I nodded and said:

I’ll go get my in-case-of-Caribbean-cruise-rolly-bag.

It’s already packed.

I was psyched.  All 3 aspects rolled into one.  What an incredible short, yet Awesome adventure.

I was beaming, but also kind of nervous.

Because I didn’t know what to expect.

Let me rephrase that.  I knew exactly what to expect.  I knew about the mountains of delicious food available to all passengers 24/7.  I knew about the on-board shows.  I knew about the endless photographs, Jacuzzis on the top deck, piña coladas, cheesy dance parties and the fact that they’ll deliver a pizza to your room at any time of day FREE.  I even knew about the safety drill (where you get to practice lining up like you did in elementary school).

But I didn’t know what to expect.

It’s been 6 years since my last cruise.

That one that my mom purchased for me – a last gift before she passed away – for my graduation from college.  I haven’t been on a cruise since then.

Similar ship.  Similar islands.  Similar environment.  Same desire to vacate.  Different time in my life.

What would it be like?

bahamas

atlantis

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The food was still there.  So were the hot tubs.  The stars still sparkled unlike anything I am able to see in the city.  The ocean’s turquoise colors still amazed me.  As did its blunt expansiveness.

We had fun.  We ate too much.  We drank one too many mimosas.  We tried Bahamian beer.  We went down the kiddie slide at the Atlantis resort.  We won some money in roulette.  We lost it all.  We ordered champagne and pizza at 3 in the morning.  We ordered the left side of the all-inclusive menu at dinner.

It was different, but it was the same.  Appropriately tweaked for this time in my life.

And it was spontaneous.

Which made it that much better.

Good weekend.

Awesome.

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The Art of Growing Up/Life Lessons Waiting on Your Hard Drive

college 80s party friendship

80’s Party – 2007

Last night I dug up that rusty old laptop from college.

I dusted it off and waited for the old processer to bring my MacBook to life.

The same MacBook that I wrote such riveting literary works on like: “Living in Oblivion” and “My Figure Skating Team: An Environmental Investigation.” (Yes.  I went to a liberal arts school.)

I was hoping to find some pictures from college.

As I started to go through the files, I noticed a folder I could barely wait 2 seconds to open:

“College E-mails”

Little Me saved hundreds of e-mails from college for my viewing pleasure.  She categorized them into folders marked “friends”; “boys”; “special e-mails”; “e-mails from mom”; ETC. (Goddamnit she was organized).

Naturally, all other plans for yesterday evening were postponed.  Dates were rescheduled.  Exercise regiments were put on hold.  Wrist-hurting pity parties were suspended.

4 hours were devoted to reading of college e-mails.

All the good stuff was in there.  Endless beer pong plans, inside jokes, important rendezvous’ (when WILL we eat lunch???), notes from boys, e-mails from ex-boyfriends, embarrassing e-mails written to boys, thorough recaps of classroom mishaps and enough T.M.I. to make me blush/warrant a reality show.

Around hour 3 of bursting out loud with laughter I began thinking about little me.

I thought about growing up, life’s unexpected changes – good and bad, love, friendship, family.

She didn’t know it, but little me had some things pretty figured out.

The following are some lessons little me and her friends left behind:

Love Wholly and Completely

It doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, a friend or a great professor, make sure everyone in your life knows how much you love them.

Telling them 5 times a day is totally acceptable.

Date: 13 Mar 2007 03:14:22 -0400
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject: and also
To: Little Me

I love you!

Date: 27 Jun 2006 06:56:47 EDT
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject: MORNING
To: Little Me

Good morning, poopy!*

Have a great day!!!

Call/text about tonight.

I LOVE you.

Date: 09 May 2006 16:25:28 EDT
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject: Re: one more thing
To: Little Me

— You wrote:

I LOVE YOU MY LITTLE PUMPKIN OF LOVE.

— end of quote —

I LOVE YOU CINNAMON PIE HEAD.

We woke up on many mornings to e-mails that simply said I love you.  What an Awesome reminder.  (Seriously… who needs a boyfriend).  We are still a tight-knit group, but not only am I not waking up at 6AM if I don’t have to… but I sure as hell am not getting up at 6AM to send all my friends love texts.  And truth be told… we are still a pretty mushy group.  SO.  It might be time to start a 7:45AM love text chain.

Tell your friends EVERYTHING

Date: 24 Apr 2007 19:51:55 -0400
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject:
To: Little Me, Whitney Larken, Hanna Mason, Nicole Sperry, Harper Emerson

i just farted in the library.

Enough said.

It’s All About the Little Things

And when I say little things I mean the basics.  Judging by the amount of food e-mails that were saved, being well-fed was the ticket to absolute bliss.  We played beer pong.  We studied.  And we ate.  And that was enough.

Date: 02 Mar 2006 00:32:10 EST
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject:
To: Little Me

if it werent for breakfast, id have no motivation to wake up

well, except maybe lunch

From: Hanna Mason
Subject: mmm
To: Little Me

i feel very lucky because there were girl scout cookies left all alone in the [library cafeteria], so i had one and it was good

Support Your Friends

Seems simple.  But then you get into the real world and everyone is caught up with their own lives.  Life starts to move faster and efforts to keep up with the Jones’ trickle in.  I find the ability to support those around you to be a pretty amazing characteristic that I’m grateful to say exemplifies so many in my life.  This was a great reminder.

Judging by the mountain of e-mails, I’m not even sure I would’ve graduated college without their support.

Date: 31 May 2006 01:11:17 EDT
From: Little Me
Subject: Love you
To: Hanna Mason

I believe in you

Date: 13 Oct 2006 04:21:14 -0400
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject:
To: Little Me

GOOD LCUK TOMOTRROW!

Love Uninhibited

Love.  Where to even begin.  You grow up and you realize that love can be Awesome but it can also suck.  What I wish though, is that I can erase those experiences that brought me to this worldly and wise view and live in the moment, stop planning 10 years from now, enjoy the company of others for what it is and patiently see where life takes me.

Reading the following advice I wrote for a friend inspires me to let go a little.

Date: 23 Apr 2007 23:46:48 -0400
From: Sarah Parker
Subject: Re: yo
To: Little Me

— You wrote:

Sarah.  ok this is out of love.  you see, what freaks him out (and me, haha) is that you’re already talking about whether you’d be “up for dating” when you haven’t even hung out enough to figure out if you even want to date each other.  Geeeeez just forget about the talks and just hang out and have a good time and it’ll happen NATURALLY.  i promise.  if not with him with someone and you’ll live happily ever after.

— end of quote —

haha
i love your little nuggets of wisdom!

Date: 23 Apr 2007 19:44:31 -0400
From: Little Me
Subject: Re: come home loser
To: Sarah Parker

And SECOND OF ALL…. stop thinking about the future.  Seriously think about TODAY TODAY TODAY and this week.  When 2 months from now comes then you can figure it out but dont keep yourself from something because you think it MIGHT be hard later.  thats silly.  chill out, have a good time and then see what happens.

Six years ago I was sure that everyone’s love life ended like a chick flick (I prefer 10 Things I hate About You… or Clueless… or You’ve Got Mail.  Yes definitely You’ve Got Mail).  Six years ago I was sure of this because I had yet to feel true heartbreak.  Six years ago I was anxious about what working in the “real world” really meant.  Six years ago I was stunned that there was no longer a neatly carved yellow brick road for me to follow.

Today I am fiercely independent and proud of what I have accomplished.  Today I’m a bit more cautious with my heart.  I still eat like I just finished my last final exam.  My friends still make my world go round.

I’m wondering what the next 6 years will bring.

Either way, I’m saving my e-mails.

Awesome.

Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 18:01:41 -0400
From: Leigh Bloom <Leigh.Bloom@university.edu>
Subject: It’s My Day
To: Little Me, Jordana Brooks, Julia Hunter, Emily Hunter, Jackie Bank, Maggie White, Hanna Mason, Harper Emerson

Leigh Bloom finished college at 230 pm

HOW THE FUCK DID THIS HAPPEN 

i dont know

im so happy

and wanted 2 thank you all for being such a large influence in my life throughout all of college….

quite an accomplishment we all stayed so close in 4 years of me being at a different school

i love u all

college party dress up friendship

*Note: My college nickname was poopy.  I wish I could tell you how it started but I can’t remember… I know a bathroom incident was not involved.

Note 2: Names have been changed to protect my friends (i.e. save my ass).

Note 3: My College had its own communication system that replaced cell phone use.  It translated to regular e-mail, but on campus was used instead of texting and calling, which is why notes are short… and ridiculous… and had to be saved to a folder before the account was discontinued.

For the Love of Role-Modeling

skating coach

This past week, a younger co-worker asked to shadow me at work;

I was offered the opportunity to coach a group of figure skaters ages 6-8;

I was assigned a prospective candidate to interview for my college.

My plate was pretty full and little sleep was had (nothing new)…

But I threw myself into each experience.

And in the process remembered how much I adore mentoring, coaching and passing on wisdom (used loosely here).

Each separate event had me deep in preparation.  I outlined appropriate questions to ask an ambitious high schooler, considered work tasks most interesting and even went on the United States Skating Association website to look up basic skills I may have forgotten (I admit it).

The result was worth the effort.

Offering work advice left me feeling humbled.

Speaking to a high school student determined to surpass insurmountable life obstacles was inspiring.

And helping to mold a new generation of athletic character in the form of 6 and 7 year olds…

Was just plain Awesome.

Hurricanes, New Friends and Cross Country Migrations

T-0 came and went.

On the fateful day that I prepared to say goodbye to New York City and head West, hurricane Sandy arrived and forced upon my life tuna fish sandwiches, PB&J, cheez-its and beer pong by candle light.

My roommate (moving also!) and I found ourselves in an empty apartment on the 27th floor with no power, one mattress, one flashlight, 3 small candles and entirely too much alcohol for two people leaving the state (evidence of a good 5 years).

There was one thing left to do.

Explore the building (dorm?), meet new friends (fellow gen-y-ers) and try to conserve precious iphone battery for instagram (call dad).

beer pong

5 games of pong, 2 parties, 3 new friends from our Alma-mater (what are the chances?!) and 2 days later we were ready to hit the road to finally move to Chicago (there were about 7 collective goodbye parties between the 2 of us after all…).

It was time to go.

I slept in my jeans.  She didn’t sleep.  We were ready to spring to action like firefighters.  Having moved all of our stuff into the dimly lit hallway the night before (generator = key), we were up at 5am prepared to use the one manually operated elevator to move a mountain of clothes, kitchen utensils and chick-books into a rented minivan before building management found out our escape plan (turns out moving apartments is not advisable or permitted in the dark)

moving

2 hours later, with the help of 4 doormen, we were able to fill ever crevice of that van.  And we were off…

The drive was about 15 hours long and took us through 5 states.  The drive would have taken 13 hours had we not made a pit stop for food every hour on the hour, including a completely out of the way scenic tour of a town called Milton, Pennsylvania (think town from Hocus Pocus) where we had an incredible breakfast omelet in the cutest café and acted like tourists.

omelet

The rest of the trip went smoothly.  The highlights:

  • Hours of singing on part of friend…
  • Trying to make friend’s cat “go” in the car (this activity could have gone on for hours)
  • Watching little trick-or-treaters in small town
  • Playing the “how do you feel about this state” game (not advisable)
  • Playing the “would you rather” game
  • Using the EZ Pass lane and then getting out of car to read the 482-digit serial number to attendant (great pastime)

15 hours later… we arrived in Chicago.

It was worth it.  For this.

chicago skyline view

(View from my new apartment!!)

Awesome.

Packing: A Cleansing Exercise

packing

T-12 days until the big move (to Chicago).

I was finally forced to get to the dreaded packing portion of the life-changing exercise.

Where to begin!

After surveying the contents of my room, I found clothes I haven’t worn since 1998 (homage to my high school fashion glory), cell phone chargers for every model made since 1999 (hmm might need to revive that Saved By The Bell phone…) and jewelry I picked up during college travels that once was “silver” but is now a gorgeous pewter at best.

After giving it some thought, I decided not to give friends and family reason to nominate me for Hoarders and thus spent time going through everything.  I opened up pre-packed boxes, took everything out from under the bed and dug deep into bins that traveled (as is) from high school to college to NYC.

Favorite finds:

  • The ever popular “spank me it’s my birthday” t-shirt (size kids small) – KEEPER
  • Hair ribbon I wore in my last figure skating college nationals
  • Complete sequined one-piece suite (worn on Halloween 5 years ago)
  • 15 tube-tops (naturally)
  • Cards my roommates and I wrote to each other in college.  Absurdity at its best.

Ultimate favorite: card my college (and current) roommate gave me on my 23rd bday:

birthday card

birthday card

I can’t remember how the nicknames “poopy” and “crappy” came about, but I do know that 8 years later, I still yell “crappy!!” in public places when trying to find her.  Neither one of us can remember what the “little something” is that was provided for the start of my day.  I’m assuming a Keystone Light. Or beer pong paddle (?).  Either way: solid gold.

I donated bags of clothing, shoes and blankets.  I gave away skirts, tennis shoes and workout outfits.  I spent hours reading every note, postcard and diary.

The result is: a great deal less to move.  Some proper reminiscing.  A feeling of lightness.

Turns out cleansing and “spring cleaning” (in October) is Awesome.

Highly recommend it.

Freshman Orientation…Again.

college, university

On Day 36 I found myself with microphone in hand, aiming to “impart wisdom” on the next class of freshmen students at my alma mater (when did I get this old??).

The journey to this particular podium started a few weeks ago.  I received an invitation to speak at this year’s orientation and immediately felt elated, honored and nervous (think Lindsey Lohan’s first day in Mean Girls meets jumping on the bed).

First things first: I had to make the drive up. No trip to school is complete without at least a short drive through the hills of New Hampshire.  I reveled at the natural beauty.  I talked to myself for hours.  I belted out favorite high school/college classics (Go on leave me breathless…).  I had a goofy smile plastered on my face the entire time.

Driving onto campus, the significance of orientation sunk in.  These students were about to embark on the same journey I took some years ago.

Today I not only tried to inspire but also to motivate.  I spoke about post-college opportunities, the breadth of available experiences in and out of the classroom and the importance of following your own path and studying the things you find interesting.  Most importantly, I tried to assuage fears for the students of the class of 2016 during this exciting yet anxious time.

After I was done speaking, many hands went up in the air, each person with a different question.  I felt like the program was a success.

One young man asked how it felt to be “on the other side.”

Loaded question.

I thought:  proud of myself.  Grateful for the opportunity to pass my experiences on.  Jealous of the class of 2016 (maybe I can re-enroll??).  Pondering whether I could head to the frats afterwards (celebratory keystone?).  And wanting to give back even more.

The mix of emotions I felt was overwhelming.  Today I wasn’t on campus for a reunion, a class event or a big alumni weekend.  It was business as usual on Day 2 of freshman orientation.

Finding myself in the midst of the orientation schedule was a great honor and the opportunity to give back and help inspire a whole new class left me humbled, reminiscent and giddy.

Absolutely Awesome.

On Top of the World

Day 12 of AWESOME in New Hampshire…  today a couple of my best friends and I decided to engage in an activity that we somehow missed during our four years on campus: climbing to the very top of our iconic library’s tower.

The library at my college is the symbol of our campus and sits right in the middle at the sight of our “sacred center” (my only takeaway from Freshman year’s religion 1 class).  The top of the tower is a beacon at school.  It shines green to let us know when important people are on campus (so we “behave”), the bell chimes our Alma Mater at the same time every day and sits above the central location to study (socialize) on campus.

We climbed too many flights of stairs and uncomfortably steep ladders to make it to the top.  It was worth it.  The view was breathtaking.  You could see in all directions – miles of mountains, forest and the structures that make up our school.  It all looked too perfect from that high above to house the debauchery that was occurring down below.  I felt lucky to have spent four years inside such a beautiful bubble.