21 and over

I’m getting old. I am quickly approaching the last big hoorah for most young Americans. If I were home, I would be planning my big blowout. Instead, I am lucky enough to find myself in the ever-enchanting city of Paris, where 21 is just another number with no special entitlements.

It is funny to step back and realize what seems so important at home is totally different in the eyes of someone else. The 21st birthday has always appeared to me as a huge milestone in life, not just in a legal sense, but also as an imaginary line between youth and true adulthood. Interestingly, this change also comes at an important time in my political life. This year’s election will mark my first official vote for US president. I have a lot of new choices available and new decisions to make, which all come with new responsibilities and consequences.

Looking back, at the age of 20 I have jumped out of a plane, auditioned for Disney, conquered the Tough Mudder, graduated college, become a licensed nurse, spent my summer traveling North America, learned to shoot a gun, and moved to a different country. I have to say, it has been a successful year, as well as influential.

Thursday certainly will not be a traditional (American) 21-year-old celebration, but hey, I’m pretty far from traditional.

I look forward to an enjoyable night with my 9-year-old friends. I also look forward to growing up (but not getting old!). As I reflect on the last 21 years of my life, I want to thank my friends and family, from the bottom of my heart, for everything they have done. Especially mom and dad.

Now I’m wondering, what craziness can I expect from the next year of my life?


International Waters

How do you go about packing for huge changes in your life? It all boils down to what is essential. This is when you find out what you really need to survive. It’s exhilarating. I’m tempted to throw out everything I didn’t pack (but its just a thought).

Waking up Wednesday morning, just like any other day I don’t want to get out of bed. I hang on to my last moments of sleep as I know I’m about to go without it for some time. Then I realize what today is and how many things I need to do. No big event in my life ever seems real till the day it happens. I don my comfy, all-black travel outfit and I am out the door.

After a hectic drive through Manhattan, we begin to approach JFK. That is when butterflies in my stomach suddenly appeared. The realization slowly creeps over me, I am leaving. Again. The little voice in the back of my mind reminds me, I’ve done this before, no big deal.

I drag my luggage through the airport, check in, and manage my way through security. I finally find my gate, where I sit down on an empty row of chairs. I give myself a moment to catch my breath before whipping out the cell phone to begin my goodbye calls. My stomach is growling. I’ve burned through my donut breakfast, which I scarfed down while driving.

Boarding proceeds and I find myself sitting on the plane. Time to turn it off. Time to turn off the phone which has previously spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, ready and waiting in my front left pocket. Now I have to turn it off, without knowing when I’ll be using it again. Time for take off. Just like every other flight. The familiar speech about finding the nearest exit, no smoking, and how to buckle a seatbelt makes me feel calm. And we are off!

I was starving in the airport but on the plane my appetite is gone. The butterflies in my stomach have returned. I have a free plate of food and I’m too excited to eat. They serve dinner and breakfast. I watch 2 movies, read my book, and nervously fidget, unable to sleep.

We land. I wander through the Parisian airport, following the crowd, like a herd of lost sheep. The customs agent stamps my passport. I love to hear that sound! I collect my bag and proceed to the train station. I follow my uncle’s instructions: buy a ticket, take the RER train into Paris. Every one around looks as lost as I do. Dragging my suitcase up and down escalators and the occasional staircase makes me sweat, or maybe it’s my nerves? Finally I manage a seat on the train.

Quickly the train changes from empty to packed. People are not happy to see a suitcase taking up valuable floor space but I am helplessly trapped in a thick crowd. Luckily I stay near the doorway to make my quick escape. In the city, I walk through the park to my uncle’s apartment.

I look so out of place wandering through nature, surrounded by runners. I lug my two suitcases behind me. While I might fall over a million times, trip every 5 feet, I laugh and look around. What does it matter? I’m in Paris!

I am greeted my uncle outside his apartment. “Oh you packed light?” HA! My aching body would beg to differ.

I shower. Glorious shower. Fresh and clean, I change into a pair of light blue jeans and wrinkled white shirt. Looking at myself in the mirror I see a much brighter image than my all black traveling outfit. It helps with the bags under my eyes. My hands are red and blistered from lugging around my beast of a suitcase.

I sip some tea before we set off on my introductory walk. I get some breakfast from the French bakery. I am in awe of the buildings and streets and everything around just oozing Parisian style. The city smells different, looks different, sounds different. Fresh bread wafts through the air. It really is all I expected and more. Walking back I am exhausted. I am sore all over. Now comes the realization I have been awake for over 24 hours.

Drifting to sleep, I day dream about the upcoming months. Starting a new life in a new country. Again. It could be wonderful or it could be terrifying. I have just jumped into unknown waters, but I’ve done this swim before.

Goodbye Syracuse

May 2012 I said goodbye to yet another city. This makes my…. 9th move? As I graduated from St. Joseph’s College of Nursing, I also graduated from my dorm room home. Family arrived, we celebrated, and I drove away from Syracuse, NY for possibly the last time. Moving has become a compulsive habit.  I like change.

The week surrounding graduation was an emotional time (for my mom more than me). Syracuse was my home for two years. I worked, I went to school, and socialized in the cold central New York city. Now it’s time again to pack it all up and move on. Some may call me a gypsy. I call myself an adventurer.

We packed up the truck. Two years worth of my life packed away into boxes, piled into the back of a pickup truck. (On the drive home the entire bed of the truck was soaked with pouring rain. Many boxes were ruined.) Now my life lies in a storage shed, ready for the next move. Hopefully, the next move will be for my first apartment!

So thank you Syracuse! Thank you for the good food (Dino’s, Mom’s Diner, Empire and more!). Thank you for the miserably cold weather which kept me indoors (and as a result, kept me studying). Thank you to the many new friends who supported me. Thank you to the people of Syracuse for filling my life with way too much orange. Cheers!