Life in the Fast Lane

WHAT A WILD WEEK.

I am currently sitting at the airport in Minneapolis, waiting for my flight home. My anxiety is high because of the meetings I have tomorrow–yeah, I have meetings! Can’t really tell ya anymore about that, but I’m pretty stoked about it. But after five days in the car, seeing both the most boring and most beautiful sights across the western half of the United States, I’m ready for anything.

Let me walk you through–or should I say drive you through–my week…

Monday

Amy, my favorite adventuring buddy, moved out of her apartment in SLO (forever!!) and drove down to Burbank to meet me. We went to Universal Studios for a very successful half day of movie magic excursions. Really all we wanted to see was Harry Potter World and the studio tour, but we walked around a lot and did a few other things. Overall, it was fun, and a great start to our road trip.

Tuesday

At a reasonable morning hour, Amy and I set out for Utah. It was going to be a fairly long drive, but I was ready for it. It was crazy that the only traffic we hit was in Las Vegas, when usually, I feel like I’m always in traffic in LA. But this drive was no LA, just lots and lots of land.

We didn’t stop in Vegas because of the traffic (and a dust storm we saw on the other side of the freeway), so we powered through to a bit outside the city, where we stopped for lunch. With one more stop a bit closer to our destination for food and gas, we finally made it our first stop: Zion National Park!

I’d never been to Utah before, so I was excited to check another state off my list. Plus, I got to see some amazing views while I was there. We didn’t do much that first evening except check out the gift shop and get dinner, but I could already tell what a beautiful morning we were going to have the next day. The view from our room alone was pretty great.

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Even though it was a million and ten degrees and not much cooler at night, it was a nice evening. We drank a bit of wine and watched the stars. You could see so many out there! Which wasn’t surprising, but still awesome. There were so many deer out on the lawn too. There was also the bit of adrenaline that comes with starting a new adventure in my bones.

Wednesday

We had an early start so we could hike a bit and then get on the road at a reasonable hour. The Emerald Pools hike was recommended to us by Amy’s mom, by the guidebook, and by my friend Lauren who also happened to be in Zion at the same time as us, so we decided that was our best bet.

Luckily, it was more of a walk to the lower and middle pools, which was great. It was going to be a hundred degree day, so a minimal effort trail was perfect. We also got splashed a bit from the waterfall, and that made all the difference.

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The upper pool was pretty close, but it was a bit more uphill. We had time, though, so we thought, “Why not?” Well, let me tell you, it was not what I was expecting. It was rocky with a decently steep incline. And it was hot. Unlike the leisurely walk we had just done, this was like hiking Bishop Peak in SLO–essentially large rocky stairs. But it was only .3 miles according to the sign, we told ourselves. I am panting just thinking about how long it actually seemed. I thought we would never make it, but alas, there it was! It was pretty crowded, though, so we hung back in the shade, where we could sit on the rocks and just relax for a bit.

The view on the way there and back though? Now that was awesome. It looked like a painting. I couldn’t believe that a river formed those red rock mountains. So vast and beautiful. Just…wow. I definitely want to go back and check out more trails–but I will go more prepared next time. And maybe not during the summer.

We were on the road by one and off to the next place: Grand Junction, CO. We made it in time to have a late dinner at a cute diner, where we got free pie! And there was a pool and hot tub, which was the most needed thing after our hike. What. A. Day.

Thursday

This day was mostly a driving day. Our destination was Cheyenne, WY, which, as cute as it was, was just…not a destination. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

We left pretty early, and soon we were in the Rocky Mountains, something I’ve definitely always wanted to see up close. Let me tell you, it was pretty wild! They were gorgeous, and I couldn’t believe how green they were. Anything green outside of the months of March through early May seems fake to me, a Southern California native. But wow.

We stopped in Vail, CO, and I could tell immediately when getting out of the car how dehydrated I was. I didn’t drink too much water so that we wouldn’t have to stop too many times, but it really hit me when we got to a town where the elevation was over 8,000 feet. I was winded going up one flight of stairs in the parking lot! But the village was so cute and I loved seeing it. All the shops were so Northern European, and it reminded me a bit of Solvang (tiny village near SLO). We hit a few gift shops and sat by the river, but ultimately it was just a pit stop on the way. Worth it, though.

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Eventually, we made it to Cheyenne, which is the largest city in Wyoming. I use the term “city” lightly because it was really more of a town. It had a cute downtown and a depot by the train station, but nearly everything was closed by 6–a bummer considering we got there at 6:30. But still, Amy and I managed to have a really good time, thanks to our slightly obnoxious, dry humor. In good heart, we did make fun of it a little, but truly it was a cute place. Not a destination (unless you went for Frontier Days, a huge rodeo/state faire-esque event), but it was for sure a very cute stop. Top of the list of places I didn’t think I would like at all but actually really enjoyed. I just have to go a but earlier in the day, ya know? So I can catch all the antique stores before they close.

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Friday

And it was off to South Dakota! We left pretty early for the drive to the Black Hills, and by early afternoon, we were looking at the stone faces of four of our great presidents. I’ve always wanted to see Mount Rushmore–especially because the National Treasure movies are some of my biggest guilty pleasures.

We arrived under slightly-overcast skies and had no problems finding a front of the crowd spot at the viewpoint. Dang, it was pretty cool. We walked around what was open of the President’s Trail, which got us right up to the bottom of the mountain. I could see right up Washington’s nose! I love history, so it was pretty awesome to see such a big piece of it–and to make many National Treasure jokes, of course.

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We ate a nice lunch on site and hit the gift shop. Then we drove the few miles into Keystone to check into our hotel and figure out our next move. We stopped at a row of stores to check out the goofy tourist gear they had there, and that was pretty fun. We also went mini golfing, which I love! It was a pretty small course, and we were doing a good-ish job……..and then it rained. At first, it was okay, we could manage, but after about ten minutes, it became a downpour, and neither of us had hoods or umbrellas. We didn’t finish the course, but we could through three-quarters of it, which I would say was a success enough.

The hot tub called to us then, so we indulged. Since it was indoor, the room was incredibly humid, and we certainly didn’t last very long. The heat calmed our cramped muscles but didn’t do much for our dehydrated bodies and increasing hunger. So we headed out for dinner and found a cute, trendy-looking former-diner called the Front Porch. Unlike the Cal Poly coffee place of the same name, this place did not give out free coffee. It did, however, have cheap glasses of wine and heaping plates of pasta. Amy and I should have split it, since we got the exact same thing, but we didn’t realize just how much we’d be getting. As soon as the waitress set our plates down, Amy said, “Oh yeah, I forgot we’re in the Midwest now.” Since we had a fridge and a microwave in our room, we saved what we couldn’t eat, but per the usual, it was thrown away in the end.

The best part about our fun outing was the double rainbow that came out toward the end of the meal. One of the waitresses ran outside and ran back in to announce it–there were only a couple other parties in the restaurant at the time, so we all just walked out to the little boardwalk to see it. It was the brightest I’ve ever encountered! Usually, they’re faded and the colors blur together, but this one was clear and beautiful. I was in awe. It was the perfect end to a pretty good day.

Saturday

This was the day we woke up and left the earliest. It was the longest and last day of driving. We had two semi-planned stops along the way, but we knew they would be short ones, and any other stops would be for food only. It was time for the home stretch.

We made a stop at the famous Wall Drug store in South Dakota, which they start advertising before you even reach the state line. It was a huge store with a cafe, a restaurant, and about four or five different gift shops. It was very western themed. A bathroom break, a quick soda purchase, and a lap through the store was really all we did. The daunting drive ahead made us not want to be anywhere long. Also, the store was…a lot. If you ever find yourself driving through South Dakota, though, and you need a pit stop? This one is pretty good.

Our second non-food stop was at the “World’s Only Corn Palace,” also in South Dakota. It’s a big building made of corn–sort of. The outside is lined with corn kernels and husks and whatnot. The inside is a museum/arena kind of place. They do concerts there. We only went inside to use the bathroom again–I did a lot of that. But it was a nice stop to stretch our legs a bit.

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After one more gas/bathroom break, we were finally in Minneapolis! And when we parked at Amy’s house, I was ready to never get in a car again. We ordered pizza and watched National Treasure because that was the mood for the evening. Calm and easy with no impending long drives in sight.

Sunday

HARRY STYLES.

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That’s all I have to say about that.

Wait, wait, Kacey Musgraves was fabulous, too. I love her.

Monday

Just a trip to one of the 10,000 (or closer to 15,000 as Amy has told me) and a walk around the Mall of America. Nothing too exciting, but the lake sure was pretty.

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Having a low key day was the perfect ending to a long trip. I had such an amazing time. I got to visit a whopping five states I’d never been to before, experience a couple of fantastic landmarks, and see one of my favorite musicians at the end of it. It may not have been a crazy post-grad trip to Europe like quite a few people I know, but it was perfect for me.

Onto the next thing!

Ash

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Sundaze – 2/11/2018

What to write this week…hmm…

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I meant to write this post so much earlier this week. I feel like I had a million brilliant ideas for you, but somehow on this Friday morning, I have next to nothing. But what else is new? I’m sitting here on my naked bed, waiting for my laundry to be finished–it was a God-awful lot, let me tell you–so I can remake it with my sheets all nice and fresh. I have a textbook next to me, still open to the page I started on ten minutes ago because I decided I needed to blog. My planner is on the other side of me, with so many things crossed off! I write EVERYTHING down, one, so I don’t forget to do even the littlest of tasks, and two, because I feel far more accomplished when I cross things off my To Do List. And I have finally started to get in gear with my online class, ya know, after doing minimal work next to the piles of reading and writing I’ve been doing for my in-person classes.

I’ve been having a hard week–I know, shocker. I’ve cried a lot, mostly over little things. I’ve been struggling with my life as a writer over the last few weeks and after overhearing so many random people on campus talking about their future careers, I’ve been ever-so down in the sumps about my own. But I talked your ear off about that earlier. It’s just been hard.

But I do have a few wins recently that have somewhat counteracted the complete lame-ness of my life.

I ran a whole mile last weekend. And I did it again twice this week. That really doesn’t seem like a feat for any normal person, but for me it was crazy! I was at the gym with Tori and we decided to treadmill instead of elliptical. I typically turn the incline up to ten and power walk. It’s really a good workout. But Tori, who, like myself, is not a runner, wanted to see if she could run for a few minutes. Harmless, right? It’d been a really long time since I’d tried to run, so I went for it too. Somehow, by God’s will, I made it an entire mile without dying–and I could have probably gone more! But my knee started to hurt, so I chose not to. The other times I’ve been to the gym this week (almost every day!) I have picked a treadmill–mostly because it was insanely crowded and all the ellipticals were full–and I’ve run two more miles (on separate occasions).

Yesterday when I did so, my knee really was hurting, so I’m not going to be doing that again for a while. But just knowing that I could do it is a whole new world. I’m not going to start being a runner, by any means, but it just goes to show how far I’ve come. One of my resolutions this year was to be more on top of my health (as it usually is), and I’ve been doing so well with it. I’m really proud of myself and how not out of breath I am when I climb the stairs to my apartment.

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I have more or less fixed mychapter for my Senior Project Story. I was incredibly defeated by the feedback I had gotten in our workshop. I love feedback, I do, but something about this time really got to me, and it was really hard to bounce back from it. I worked really hard on the first scene, which was where all the criticism was, and worked the rest of the chapter around those revisions. I feel so much better about it! As much as I hated to change the original version so much, I knew deep down it needed to happen to make the story work better.

Revising, editing, and talking to my Writer Friends about my story has increased my morale quite a bit, and I feel so much better about myself. It’s really nice to hear that my writing is good from my friends, my mom’s friends, my family, or Matthew, but they have to say those things about it. I love it, though, I won’t say I don’t, it is just a bit more justified coming from other people who are studying and learning the dynamics of novel writing like I am. I mean, I’m still terrified I don’t know what I’m doing–in writing and otherwise–but I, at least, feel better about the one thing I’m so passionate about.

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It’s that time of the year again, folks: Girl Scout Cookie Season. As good as I am being about my health this year, there is absolutely no way on earth I would ever miss buying at least one box of both Samoas and Tagalongs every year, without fail. Hey, I still have a major sweet tooth, after all. Blame my mother and her constant baking for that one. As someone who had one of the highest sales year after year, I can’t not support this pre-entrepreneurship of the best kind.

Last year, a little girl and her mother came knocking on the door of the Super Bowl party we were at, and I dropped everything to buy two boxes. The moms are really getting with the times in a college town, and many of them are taking Venmo!! It’s a college kid’s dream. This year, I was waiting for that perfect moment to buy again–like a predator prowling for prey, actually–and that moment happened on Super Bowl Sunday this year too! My roommates and I had gone to get bottomless mimosas and brunch (I learned last time to really pace myself so I wouldn’t be napping until 6 pm) and right as we stepped out of our Uber in front of out apartment, there they were: a mom, two daughters, a wagon full of cookies, and a glittering sign (literally) that said “Venmo Me.” Needless to say we stopped them right there and stocked up. It was amazing. A miracle. A life-saver.

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I won’t continue to rattle on because I think a thousand words about cookies, writing, and running are far more than necessary for those topics. Mostly, I guess, I am just feeling a bit more optimistic. After a few weeks of dragging my feet through the mud, crying about nothing, and reading the same story over and over again in different points of view (yeah, I’m looking at you Robert Browning), I just needed a few wins. A few pluses.

Sundays are for renewal. Sundaze are for appreciating that. And while yes, I am writing this on a Friday, I am very much looking forward to that renewal. I certainly need it.

I suppose that’s all I’ll bore you with for now. Peace and blessin’s.

Ash

The Last Time

Senior year of college…it’s a pretty scary place to be. Exciting, sure. But still scary. Four years ago when I started my senior year of high school, I was beyond anxious to get through it and get out of there. I couldn’t wait to start life over in college. Now, I’m dreading June. I’ve had the time of my life in college, and moving on from this place and really putting myself out in the world is frightening.

I’m trying to think of a movie or TV show that prepared me for this moment and I’m coming up short. They all skip this part!

Maybe that’s a good thing. That way I can figure this out without any unrealistic expectations sprung on my by Zac Efron or Jennifer Lawrence, ya know?

So far, I’ve unsuccessfully crashed a class, successfully crashed two (one of which was bowling–I know, I know, but it’s fun and I need that), went through the grueling process of recruitment for the last time, and felt more like an old person because of my hips and back than ever before. But it’s been an experience.

My recruitment experiences have gone: freshman rushee, sophomore recruiter, junior traveler, and senior RC. I’m glad I got to experience it in so many different ways.

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Going through recruitment as a freshman was exhausting and exciting and a bit stressful. But I had a completely open mind, having known absolutely nothing about Greek life other than what I’d seen in film and TV, and ended up in an organization that I love with incredible people. Sophomore year was even more exhausting because I had to do the whole process again while walking up hills in sky-high heels. Okay, okay, they were wedges, but it was still tough! Long days with little sleep and minimal food. And girl-flirting. SO. MUCH. GIRL-FLIRTING. But it was still a fun experience and I got to bond a lot with my pledge class. I’m so much closer to them than I thought possible. My third year, I escaped the heat and sore feet by jet-setting to London. You all know how I don’t regret that one bit. It’s been a whole year since I first stepped in that wonderful city!! And since I’ve met four people that completely changed my life. Did I miss recruitment? Not a bit. Did I miss the bonding time? Definitely. Was it worth it? You know the answer to that.

This year I decided to be a recruitment counselor, which meant I got a group of rushees and coached them through this experience. It was cool to see the other houses recruitments, since it’d been so long since I’d last seen any of them, and to get to talk to my girls about their own thoughts. I didn’t get to see them too much throughout the day, since I was stationed at a specific house, but I loved getting to chat with them at the end of the night. To check in with them and see how they were feeling about everything. So many of them had such different views about it than I did, but I so much enjoyed getting to chat with them about that. They’re all such wonderful young women and I can’t wait to see how they grow in their new homes (and out of them, for the ones who withdrew from the process).

I also got to be a part of a group of RCs–blue is our color! At first, there was awkwardness, as there typically is in a new group, but after seeing each other every day during meetings, we started to grow closer. The second day of recruitment, when we were all stationed at a certain house for almost the whole day, we really sealed the bond as friends: we made a snapchat group! They are honestly such amazing and strong women and I love them all, as well. I was so stressed out and emotional all weekend (I cried quite a bit) and they were right there to comfort me and make sure I was okay. Spending so much time together gave them a special place in my heart. It’s been two days, but I miss them so much already!

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I wouldn’t take back anything that I’ve done over the last four years, recruitment or otherwise. So many people say that Greek life isn’t for them, or that they aren’t “sorority girls.” It’s completely understandable, but also, have you met me??? I’m definitely not a typical sorority girl. But I love my house.

I joined Greek life because I thought it would give me that bond of friendship, a purpose I cared about, and opportunities to make great memories. It’s given me all of those things and more. I’ve met my best friends and bridesmaids! (Okay now, I’m sounding like a srat star…)

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It’s so much more than people give it credit for. After my God-awful high school experience–my life experience with depression and an eating disorder and anxiety…It’s given me such a loving and accepting environment to live my life in. I’m a stronger and more empowered person because of these people. They make me less afraid of post-college life. Ya know, when I won’t be watching The Office and eating truffle-salted popcorn with people I refer to as my Frat Rats. Or my Spookies.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be doing that with them for the rest of my life. (Just less often…)

It might be too early to tell at this point, but senior year isn’t going so badly. Yes, I’m already a bit behind on my readings, I’m stressing out about sharing my writing with other people who want to be writers, and worrying about how my skills in poetry are still terrible. But like I said, I have bowling to diffuse that! And regular calls to Matthew to calm me down, of course. He’s so wonderful!!

This is my last hurrah at Cal Poly, a school that has changed my life forever, and I’m determined to make the absolute best of it. I just still can’t believe the person I’ve grown up into over the last few years. This ride has been insane.

-Ash

The Middle

Summer days mean a sweltering sun and lazy days, and even though I work most days of the week, I would say I’ve definitely been a model for this classic image. Catch me at the beach reading a little Stephen King or on my couch drafting my way through my novels. It’s a rough life, ya know?

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In reality, I have to start at least thinking about my future. My snap answer to “What are you doing after graduation?” is “Oh, I’m moving to New York!” Yes, that’s still my dream and no, I’m not giving up on it, but now that I am starting my senior year of college in less than two months, it’s daunting. I know that is still my dream–and I will make it happen–but I have to start looking for jobs and places to live and publishers. I’ve been hanging onto my book for so long that I’m terrified to put it in anyone else’s hands. Forty more pages and it might be time to send it into the world…

What a terrifying feeling.

It’s late on Tuesday night–or should I say a Wednesday morning–and I’m on the couch with Kristin, watching That 70s Show and talking about her latest Tinder date, our family issues, and boy things. We bought some nicer-than-Barefoot pinot grigio and are distracted by boy band videos on Facebook.

It’s kind of wonderful and it’s been distracting me from the major anxiety I’ve been feeling the last few weeks.

It’s not major, hyperventilating, crying in public, unable to control any kind of emotion anxiety. It’s more like under the rug, creeps in during a slow Led Zeppelin song, driving up PCH alone kind of anxiety. With so many wonderful things happening in my life, it’s difficult to believe that I could be feeling anything but happiness right about now. But I know very well that no moment is guaranteed bliss when you’ve been fighting a demonic mental illness since you were ten years old. And lately I’ve been trudging through an uphill battle.

I had relatively low levels of anxiety when I started grade school, but it really kicked into high gear when I was in fifth grade. I didn’t know my intense nervousness was more than that yet. It began affecting my immune system and taking over when I was a freshman in high school. Still didn’t have a name or reason for it. I didn’t know what that sickening, sinking feeling was until junior year.

It’s been hard for me to let go of that terrible, fluttery feeling in my stomach. Every day that I worked at Victoria’s Secret the last year, I felt nauseous. I walk into the store and smell the slightly-comforting scent of Bombshell and prepare myself for the inevitable stress of impatient customers who passive-aggressively snap at me when something goes wrong. Something out of my control. Retail is so important, but it is also a major stress. I quit that job for the anxiety it gave me–which is no one’s fault but my own. But now I’m a glorified Uber driver. I drive a couple of high school girls to and from summer school and tennis practice. I enjoy it, I do, and it causes me so much less stress than any retail job could.

But somehow anxiety gets to me anyway.

I can’t talk to people as easily about little things that might get to me, about a kind-of-unsafe driver who switched lanes recklessly on my way home, about how I can’t see a car that may look like a cop car without convincing myself I’ve done something wrong, about how I’ll drive through an intersection and panic because I can’t remember if the light was green (even though it was). Driving has always given me so much anxiety, but I act like it’s the normal, everyday activity it is for most people.

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I am Ross every time I’m in the driver’s seat.

I’m almost twenty-two, and I have the same sinking worries that I had when I was ten: do these people I care about actually like me? Do they think I’m worthy of their friendship? Are they going to stand by me when I can’t stand myself? Despite the evidence that they will continue to be my best friends and support me through my rough days, I still can’t help but grind my teeth in fear. Fear I’m not warranted to have.

I read a Teen Vogue article about anxiety today that completely represented how this illness has ruled my life for a decade–and how it has continued to impact me since I have completely embraced recovery from Depression. The article was mostly just a compilation of quotes from people with anxiety about the things they are afraid to tell their friends. Even though I do talk to my friends about my anxiety sometimes, these quotes hit the nail on the head on everything I can’t say to them.

“I already feel like a huge burden, I don’t want to add to it. And I honestly 90 percent of the time I can’t explain why I’m anxious. So I’d rather not say anything and just get through it on my own.”

This was one that really stuck out to me. Most of the time I can’t tell you why I’m anxious or depressed because I simply don’t know. It’s just a feeling that creeps up on me. I can’t stop it. There’s nothing anyone can really do to help, either, so I just don’t mention it. Instead of reaching out for any help (because to be honest, that doesn’t do anything for me) I shut myself away from everyone for a while. I have to let myself fall into it to get out of it.

When I was in Burbank in May and my dad was driving me to the train station to come back to SLO, he brought up the ever-difficult topic of anxiety. I know my parents read my blog sometimes–so does my grandma–but it doesn’t make it any easier to talk to them about any of this. It’s my way of putting everything out on the table, but we never talk about any of it when we see each other. Except this one time.

My dad told me that he used to struggle with anxiety. I guess I wasn’t surprised, but I just didn’t think about it. I’ve always felt so distant from my parents that it just felt like they would never understand what it’s like in my dark little world. But my dad did. He said my grandmother struggled as well–I never got to meet her, but I’m so much like my dad and his family that I guess it makes perfect sense. He said that if I ever have bad anxiety to talk to him and my mom about it. It’s probably the nicest sentiment, to actually talk to the people that can help me, but it’s far easier said than done. And like I said, it’s so much easier to get through an episode on my own.

Maybe one day, Dad.

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I’m trying to find a point here. Maybe it’s that I need therapy–which is something I mentioned to Kristin during our wine-induced venting session. I’ve made a lot of progress on my own, but it’s still hard. I mentioned to my boyfriend (yeah, you read that right) that I’m so much less responsive, talkative, and emotional when I text him when I wake up because sometimes I still can’t feel anything in the morning. I wake up and I feel numb to the world. It takes a little while for actual feelings (of any kind) to kick in. That’s why it takes me so long to get out of bed every day. That’s the Depression in me, but it all stems from my anxiety. Sometimes it’s still hard to be a real person, even with the people I care about the most. Every day I try to be better at it for those people and for myself.

I hate that all of this still gets to me, but at least I can feel now. At least I know that there is more than the numbness. And when I feel (or not feel) like everything is hopeless, I remember that it’s not. I’m better than that.

See? All I need to do it write it all out to find that silver lining. I’ll see you when I’m out of this little funk.

Thanks for listening.

Ash

Day Tripper – Tube Round 2 & Exploring the City

Hello, hello!

So I decided to take on the task of adventuring into the city on my own again. I had some doubts and a lot of anxiety, of course, but I had a ticket to a sightseeing bus tour and I was going to take it–no matter how much my anxiety tried to talk me out of it.

I woke up at 6:30 am (I know, I am shocked at myself, too!) and got ready. The first tour bus was leaving at 8:20 and I was going to try and make it on that one. I left my flat at about 7:30 and headed for the tube station. I had my screenshots of Google Maps, and I was ready. Calm, cool, and collected. Well, it only took me a block to realize that there are streets on Google Maps that don’t exist in the real world, so it took some mental rerouting and deep breaths to find my way. And when I saw that red sign above the entrance, I was so happy I could cry. It’s the little victories.

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Before I knew it, I was out on the streets of central London! Just wandering. I came out of the tube station all turned around, so I just kind of walked until I saw signs that pointed me in the direction of Buckingham Palace, which was where I wanted to go. At this point I was too late for the first bus. I knew they run every ten minutes or so, so I was okay with strolling. The front of the Palace was deserted–not surprising once I remembered it was barely 8:30 on a Wednesday. Everyone was off to or at work.

After a few snaps of the Queen’s official London residence, I found a map in Green Park that pointed me towards the first bus stop on the tour. I was excited to be in the city and see all the sights, but this park was also pretty fantastic, so a leisurely stroll was in order. I had time.

Onto the tour! I am trying to think of things I did not see on this tour, but even just the Red Line loop that I did was a lot. From Elizabeth Tower to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge (London likes Towers, apparently) to Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We drove down Oxford Street and Regent Street, and let me tell you, I was ready to hop off right then and shop my bank account into the dust. But I have three months to do that–I can’t get too crazy yet. And I did eat lunch at the (very first) Hard Rock Cafe, which was very cool. My musical heart was happy, but it was a little pricey (I knew that going in, though).

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I didn’t hop off the bus at all or take the river tour (which were options available to me). I just wanted to sightsee. I didn’t need to go and see the attractions quite yet. Plus, I was alone, so no one could take my picture. I have about a billion photos now, but I am in zero of them. My selfie game isn’t too strong, so I couldn’t really do that either. (Insert some laughs here). But the pictures I got were great! And I drowned my Snapchat in them–with fun commentary, per the usual.

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All I can say is that I love this city. It is weird to think that just a few days ago, I was feeling so frustrated with it–and myself. I was worried that I had gotten myself into something I could not handle, once again pushing myself too far. I thought I had failed, but I just figured out what not to do when googling directions. I have to trust my instincts and stay calm.

The city was amazing, and I cannot wait to go back. It’s so close that I can go anytime. But I think for the next few days I am going to take advantage of my own little neighborhood and explore some more. I live a hop, skip, and a jump away from a cute little park (with a mini zoo–not kidding). And like I said in my last post: everything is brick and I love it. Love.

I still don’t really feel like any of this is real. I’m in London? I adventured in the city by myself and my anxiety didn’t swallow me? I ate lunch at a restaurant by myself? I took the tube confidently? I feel like I might be living someone else’s life. I would not trade it for anything, though. What my first day here taught me is that I have a lot to learn and have a lot of growing to do, and this city is going to be very good for me. This day being the polar opposite of the one just a few days ago means that there is a lot of work to be done. Not all my days are going to be like this one, and I am not expecting them to be. Tomorrow I plan on staying in bed late and then going for another walk in the park. That will be just fine with me.

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I just still can’t believe I did all that, rode home and walked over to High Street to buy outlet converters (since mine broke–THREE DAYS it lasted) and an extra blanket, and still got home to my flat before 8 am California time. Crazy.

Treating myself to some Netflix and Stephen King now. Thanks for keeping up with me!

xoxo, Ash