an end to missouri

When it’s time to go, you should go. I’ve spent the last few weeks packing my possessions up into boxes and bags, and on Monday I left my home in Missouri for the last time. I’m spending time with my family for the next two weeks before leaving for my next adventure. I expected to feel devastated at smashing my routine like this, but instead I feel calm.

The last two weeks that I spent at my old job were….not great. I flipped between having absolutely nothing to do and working with people who were a bit high-strung and needed everything done now. By the last day, I was ready to go. Cleaning out my desk and deleting my documents was really cathartic, although nothing was better than setting my out-of-office for good message.

My last Sunday at church was a bit sad since I really love the people there. As an usher, my good-byes were quite efficient because I had to stand at the door as everyone went in and out. However, everyone perked up once I revealed that I had a storage unit in the area, so I have to come back eventually. I was surprised by how much I meant to these people. I’m pretty quiet, and I always feel like I’m not doing enough at church. I’m going to miss this group of people as I search for a new congregation in Germany!

The moving process went quite smoothly because I knew I was leaving for ages, so I’d been getting rid of stuff and putting it in boxes for almost a full month. I was also lucky to have a friend with a van (and an adorable toddler who, it must be said, was not much help) who assisted me in hauling all my things to a storage unit over the weekend. I did have to abandon three of my plants at the last minute because they wouldn’t fit in my car, but all in all it was a good time!

Upon returning to my parents’ house, it appears there may have been a mild gas leak in my apartment even though I never smelled it while living there. All my stuff smelled so strongly of natural gas that didn’t even go away when I washed it. On the upside, my headache has gone away!

The difference between this move and every other one that I’ve ever made is that I can always go back and things will pretty much be the same. My last job was on a campaign, so I couldn’t go back to that. Before that I was in school in a city where practically none of my friends live anymore. I tend to only leave places when everything I love about them is over, but my Missouri home will always be there. And if everything will still be there, what’s the risk in leaving?

You should leave when you’re ready to go.

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Photo by Keagan Henman on Unsplash

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attention & silence

Whatever happened to my attention span? I’m tapping this out on my phone while on hold at work. I have to go through the menu three times before I know what button to press because I stopped paying attention halfway through to read an article about Brexit. I can’t watch tv without a few tabs open. Even going to sleep is a challenge. I close my eyes and am left alone with my thoughts. I can’t stand it, and I’ve lived a fairly pedestrian life. How do people with real problems sleep at night?

I put on a podcast as soon as I wake up in an effort to maximize my free time and become an optimized human being. Silence is the enemy. I get ready, then hop in the car where the new Taylor Swift album begins to play. I suffer thirty seconds of silence walking into work before the endless babble of salespeople attacks me. And that’s where it began – work.

I work a job that required silence and concentration in a building filled to the brim with brash salespeople. They spend their days yelling on the phone while I search for something, anything to drown them out. If I listen to the slick sales pitch, I feel sick. The endless pursuit of money is disgusting, and I’m ashamed to be a part of it. That led me to stick in my headphones two years ago and never take them out. Podcasts and music, with the occasional documentary from PBS thrown in, have been the soundtrack to my day for ages. After a while, you become accustomed to the noise. It becomes your normal, and silence becomes deeply disquieting.

I can’t write in my journal at night without stopping to check my phone. What am I checking for? Only my mom and sister text me. I tried putting my phone in the other room, but it didn’t work. You have to want it to work, at least a little bit, and the apathy I needed to get through the week had seeped into my real life. It’s not surprising. Forty-five hours a week in a place is bound to have some consequences.

At home, things are slowly improving. I can watch tv without distractions, although I can’t eat in silence yet. I read six books in a week after I signed out of YouTube and Instagram. I tried meditation, even though I can only manage for five minutes at a time. It’s okay. I can work up to better habits and improve myself enough so I can be alone with my thoughts. I’ll try it all – healthy food and exercise and meditation and keeping a journal.

Another day. Yelling and singing. Someone has once again mistaken our office for a football game. I turn up the volume, but it doesn’t matter. I know the noise is there. Is it anxiety? Is it something else that makes me want to run outside and hide in the quiet of my car?

Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe I’m just hungry. Maybe it will be different tomorrow.

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Photo by Tina Rataj-Berard on Unsplash

the con in YA

Who doesn’t love a fat stack of YA novels to accompany them through the final days of summer? I’ve been revisiting some old favorites, all of which hold up marvelously on rereading. YA novels dive into our deepest issues when they’re at their most dramatic; everything is new and fresh, and there’s less ennui than in adult fiction.

The problem with YA is that when a book hits it big, that genre blows up. I, personally, don’t want to read another YA dystopian or fantasy novel for another ten years. Love triangles make me roll my eyes and throw a book on my to-be-returned pile. (Has anyone ever actually been in a love triangle? YA would have me believe that the population of Earth is 2 guys:1 girl.)

My YA deep dive has really only lasted about a week so far. I’m moving soon, and returning to comforting books is a big help. I remember rereading all the Kiki Strike novels the last time I went to Germany, with the final one keeping me company on my first night in my apartment, when everything was new and creepy and exciting. This time it’s Rainbow Rowell and Ally Carter to the rescue.

Rainbow Rowell is my favorite author. Her books are amazing, and I absolutely had to reread Carry On since the sequel, Wayward Son is coming out this month. Carry On is a deconstruction of the Chosen One myth, and it features characters who are a bit like Harry Potter and Malfoy, but Baz is 100x more likeable than Malfoy. I love Baz. And Agatha. And even the numpties. But most of all, I love the writing.

The bulk of my YA reading binge has been the Heist Society series by Ally Carter. These books are about teen thief Kat and her crew of international criminals. They’re somehow very like and very different from Kiki Strike. The narrator isn’t always reliable, which makes the books fun to read as Kat hops from continent to continent. I also love the con names. (Anastasia? Wind in the Willows? Humpty Dumpty?)

The idea of the con reminds me of my favorite movie, The Brothers Bloom. In this film, the titular brothers try to con a rich heiress named Penelope out of a few million dollars. Of course, the younger brother doesn’t realize that the true purpose of the con is to set him free from a con man’s life by introducing him to Penelope. The cons in this movie aren’t as important as the idea of the con and the life of the con man.

There’s a lot of hope in a con, and a lot that can go wrong. (That being said, please don’t con me. I’m not rich.) The idea of the confidence man (or woman!) is fascinating because they’re not afraid of breaking the rules in plain sight in order to achieve their objective. Breaking the rules isn’t the same as getting caught; the great con stories don’t involve close shaves with the authorities, but close shaves with time and fate, which are the close shaves that most of us experience in our lives.

Going back to Simon Snow, you could even say that the Mage’s power grab was a con because he staged the attack that led to him being named headmaster of his school. Everyone believed they needed him to keep the evil things at bay when the most evil of them all was their leader. The difference is that the Mage wanted power, not money. His obsession with mastering fate was his undoing, while the con men and women above respected time and fate as worthy adversaries.

My end of summer reading has been really fun and really obsessive. I read a book a day for four days before I finished all three Heist Society books and gave it a bit of a rest. Since I’m studying English soon, I wanted to get some quality leisure reading in before I hit the books again in the academic sense. But why shouldn’t books like these be studied in schools? They’re interesting, easy to read, and contain themes as relevant to society as any 19th century treatise on marriage. They reveal our core obsessions, our class structure, and they preserve how we speak now. Of course, 19th century treatises on marriage are also interesting and funny and preserve how people spoke back then. Too many books, too little time. And time, as we know, can’t be conned.

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Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

a rant on anxiety

I’m not sure when I first felt anxious. I was always a nervous kid. I remember getting in trouble in Kindergarten and feeling incredibly bad. (My crime? Playing behind the building during recess. My mom said it was the teachers’ fault for not watching us closer.) I always had to be the good kid in school. Third grade, Wednesday spelling test. The teacher announced the list of kids who were super spellers. They had spelled all the words correctly and got to do bonus words on the Friday quiz. I wasn’t on the list for the first time. The whole class was shocked. I wanted to sink into the floor.

Looking back, it’s all too obvious. Calling my dad in fifth grade because I was so anxious over some imagined social faux pas that I felt sick to my stomach. I vividly recall saying “I’m sick, but I just can’t face them after lunch.” Dad got me a slush from the gas station and took me home because he understands. I hid under a table in the school entry until arrived because the rest of my class was in the cafeteria, which wasn’t on our campus.

Is anxiety a privileged white girl problem, imagined for attention? My experience says no, but at times my anxious brain tells me otherwise. I had everything. I have everything. Except peace of mind and a full night’s sleep because I can’t stop thinking about how I’m going to get my bags from the train station to the hotel on my first day in Germany.

Things got better after I started taking medication. I love my anti-anxiety meds more than any of my other possessions; if the house was on fire, this would be the thing I’d save. Anxiety has given way to anger. What was I doing for the 25 years before I got this magical substance? I wasted years not asking questions, not sucking the marrow out of life, not being the best friend I could be.

In 2016 I had a panic attack on Rittenhouse Square. I was supposed to be registering people to vote, but someone came running after me to harass me. On the train home, it happened again. I really hated voter registration. I ended up going to urgent care the next time it happened and the doctor gave me Xanax, which was a ridiculous first choice. But it worked. I was able to keep it together until November.

When I was in middle school, I always had my dad drop me off a block from school. It was still in full view of the school, but I deemed being dropped off up front too embarrassing. When I was in fourth grade, I made my mom turn off the radio before I’d get out of the car. I was petrified of drawing attention to myself.

In some ways, I know anxiety was good. It got me good grades and kept me insanely safe. (When you think everyone’s out to get you, you make really good choices.) But it gave me good grades at the expense of truly learning, and kept me safe at the expense of living a life.

I spent a year hiding in the teacher’s bathroom at a German high school I was working at because I was too scared to talk to anyone in the teachers’ lounge. I have no idea how this kept me safe.

I’ve saved up my money and I’m giving myself a gift: the opportunity to learn, uninhibited by my anxious brain. It’s going to be difficult to start over, and my next degree may not broaden my career horizons. After all this time, I just want to know who I am when anxiety isn’t standing in my way.

vacation & identity

In May, I went to Iceland with my sister. It’s a delightful country, filled with beautiful nature, a cute city, and free toilets.

Like all tourists, we had to choose whether we wanted to be vigilant about seeing the sights or to have a more relaxed vacation. We opted for the latter, and spent many enjoyable hours reading and drinking tea in our room. So no, we didn’t visit the Blue Lagoon or drive the Ring Road or walk on a glacier. We mostly bummed around Reykjavik and ate ice cream.

It was the perfect vacation, exactly what I needed after a several months of working without a break. The city was small enough to become familiar, yet different enough to keep you on your toes. The wind off the sea was cold and damp; I was freezing after a week of days in the upper 80s back home.

Iceland felt like Europe for beginners, as if someone had created a Disneyland that replicated Europe without all the hard edges. There wasn’t a complicated transit system to master and everyone spoke perfect English. Cashiers even smiled and said “thank you!” At the same time, I wondered how much tourism has altered Reykjavik’s soul. What is a city that is mostly tourists? Do they regroup each winter as the days grow short and tourists dwindle?

At the same time, parts of Icelandic culture still shone through. A restaurant was annoyed that we wanted an “early dinner” at 5:30, the tour guides jabbered about how their cat goes missing once a month, and the prime minister gave an Icelandic speech when we were watching a choir concert. Although Reykjavik is very tourist-centered at the moment, the only constant is change. One day, the world will leave Iceland alone again, and they can cater to themselves, not to others.

All photos taken by me on an old film camera, developed by The Lightroom, who do amazing work.

the practical pixie moves countries

I’m about to take the biggest risk of my life. I spend a lot of my free time, and some of my time that should be spent doing other things, crunching the numbers. Everyone thinks of spry pixies easily skipping the country, but they don’t see the work that goes into it if you want to make it last.

I keep flipping between anxiety and excitement. I’m going back to a country I love so much, but it’s going to be tight financially until I can find a part-time job. I keep on hoping that my scholarship application will be successful, but every day the message isn’t in my inbox.

There are so many things to organize. Car insurance, health insurance, storage, packing, quitting my job. A proper pixie wouldn’t have any of these things to start with, or she’d just leave her apartment as is. I, however, would like to still have a bed when I eventually return home, so I spend my weekend comparison shopping storage units.

I want everything I see in the clothing store. Clothes weren’t this cute six months ago, when I still had a long-term source of stable income. Instead, I make a mental note to check for them on depop once my new life is all set up. I have enough dresses and skirts for now.

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Photo from Unsplash

thoughts i had during church today

Good afternoon, all! It’s a sunny Sunday here, and I spent a few hours at church this morning. Sometimes I think everyone else is much better at faith than I am because I’m not very sure what the scripture readings or sermon were about. I got caught up in my own thoughts, which might be the real point of church: to allow us moments of reflection in a world where those moments of silence are increasingly difficult to find.

Anyhow, here’s what I was thinking about during the sermon this morning.

  • we really new need prayer books.
  • Fleabag is an amazing show
  • do i have leftovers for lunch?
  • i should write a blog post about this!
  • wow, this priest is METAL
  • i wonder what my bangs look like right now
  • ahhhh I’m MOVING to GERMANY
  • German church is fun
  • what will I get when I go to dm for the first time in 5 years?
  • i should eat less dairy
  • this service is eternal. like Jesus!

Then the sermon ended and the participatory part started again. Going to church is important to me, but it isn’t always particularly meaningful or fun. Some days you just want it to be over, and that’s okay. Today wasn’t a mindblowing spiritual experience, but the community was still there, which is one of the most important parts.

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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

emotion & strength

I feel powerful. I feel strong. I can do anything. The unapologetic brashness of the United States WNT over the past month has, once again, redefined what it means to be a woman in America for me. We can have big emotions, and they can drive us to be stronger than ever before. We can let criticism blow by us on our way to our goals. We can be the best and not apologize for it.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

When I was on vacation with my sister in May, she finally snapped and told me to stop apologizing for everything. I hadn’t realized that I was doing it. Part of it is my job, where my job description involves everything being my fault. Part of it is my disposition. I want to be liked! But after my sister pointed this out, I realized it made me sound like a weak pushover instead of the strong woman I want to be. So I tried to stop. It was hard.

One of the most powerful things about soccer is that it is acceptable for emotion to be a huge part of the game. Whoever scores reacts in a huge way. Winning or losing causes tears. Brandi Chastain whips off her shirt in victory. The whole team posts their celebration shenanigans to Instagram for the whole world to see. They didn’t let the negative emotion bring them down; on the contrary, they turned it into confidence and strength. Don’t big dreams deserve big emotion? After a lifetime of trying to say “it’s fine” when things aren’t, soccer’s raw emotion is one of the things that draws me to the game most.

Aren’t these the lessons we were taught as children of the ’90s? Girl power. Girls can do anything. These were just slogans in a world that fought back long and hard when we tried to step outside of the lines. But now – now women are actually going for it. We’re winning championships, running for office, and speaking up for ourselves. The United States WNT are just trailblazers for the rest of us. I love this team, and I love this sport. I believe that we will win.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

OKLAHOMA!

I first heard about hot Oklahoma! yesterday and it’s been on my mind ever since. The soundtrack is lush. It makes me want to sing and dance and cry and jump in the car and drive the seven hours to my parents’ house all at once. It sounds like my childhood and hot summer nights watching the live production at Discoveryland. When I was little, it was the coolest thing. A famous musical had been written about my state! Our state song spelled the state’s name! What other state could boast that?

As an adult, it is apparent that although everyone in the show looked like me, the cast bore little resemblance to the real Oklahoma around me. Like in my high school history class, the Native Americans were erased from the production. Other aspects hit closer to home than ever before.

As a kid, I assumed anyone who drank alcohol was evil. Oklahoma had very strict alcohol laws (I’m still shocked that they can sell wine at the grocery store there now.). There were signs prohibiting minors from getting too close to the bar seating at restaurants, and my small town boasted one liquor store and no bar for most of my childhood. Most people were, at least in public, not into alcohol because it was against their religion and difficult to obtain. So Jud being cast as a villain because he likes a drink is the most natural thing in the world – it resonates with my life in Oklahoma in the ’90s.

Laurey and Ado Annie’s friendship is another strength of the production. In high school, I was friends with a few girls who lived much more exciting lives than I did, but I haven’t spoken to them in ten years because our lives are so different now. One thing the show doesn’t capitalize on is the turning point that Laurey and Ado Annie are facing. If Ado Annie marries Will, she might remain friends for Laurey for years to come. Otherwise, the two are pretty much guaranteed to drift apart as their social and economic connections are torn apart.

I haven’t seen the new production, but it seems to zero in on the ominous subtext to the entire musical. A community that appears happy, but is willing to cover up a murder for convenience is one of the most American things every to occur on stage. An article in Vulture points out the parallels to the burying of the Greenwood riots in our state history; the lightness with which our rich Native American heritage was touched upon in that subject is another example of our white communities choosing to look the other way in the face of discomfort. In direct opposition to that we have the local news broadcasts, which always seem to feature a crime in North Tulsa (a predominately Black neighborhood), although crime in Tulsa is pretty evenly spread among the districts.

Oklahoma! might look like a happy musical about Laurey picking a man, but it’s about friendships on the brink, the state’s Puritanical roots, and the silence of history. There are a lot of musicals I don’t like, but Oklahoma! isn’t one of them. Every time I encounter it, I get a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way, even if it’s all an illusion.

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Photo by Nick Bolton on Unsplash

wie man gute Noten beim TestDaF bekommt

Viele Leute schreiben Blogposts, die etwas wie “Wie ich ohne Deutschkentnisse die C2 geschrieben habe!” und “Perfektes deutsch nach 2 Tage!” heissen. Bei mir ist das nicht der Fall. Ich habe seit 10 Jahren angefangen, deutsch zu lernen. Ich mache staendig Fehler, aber ich hab’s geschafft, ein gutes Ergebnis beim TestDaF zu bekommen.

Am Anfang war es einfach: ich habe deutsch an der Uni gelernt. Ein Sommersemester in Muenchen und vier Jahre Deutschkurse spater war mein deutsch……ganz okay. Nicht besonderes. Und mein Akzent war ausser Kontrolle. Dann hab ich ein Jahr in Deutschland verbracht. Mein deutsch war deutlich besser geworden. Aber dannach musste ich wieder zuhause, wo niemand deutsch kann.

Im Herbst 2014 war alles sehr schlimm geworden. Ich hatte seit Monate nicht mehr deutsch gesprochen oder gehoert. Dann hat etwas wunderbares passiert: ich habe die Grippe gehabt. Waehrend ich hilflos ins Bett sass, habe ich deutsch-spraechiges YouTube fuer mich entdeckt. Es war der Hammer. Endlich konnte ich taeglich echtes deutsch hoeren!

Seit dann hat sich die Auswahl auf Netflix verbessert. Es gibt ein paar Serien auf deutsch, die in den USA verfuegbar sind. Es gibt auch verschiedene Podcasts, und man kann immer die Tagesschau anschauen.

Ich habe auch sehr viel auf deutsch fuer meine Masterarbeit gelesen – ich habe die Spiegel immmmmmmer gelesen, und das hat mir auch geholfen. Letzes Jahr habe ich mich fuer das TestDaF entschieden, und ich habe angefangen meine alte Fachbuecher wieder zu lesen. Am Ende habe ich auch verschiedene Uebungsmaterialien benutzt, um die Pruefung gut zu schreiben.

Nach ein paar Wochen habe ich meine Ergebnisse bekommen. Ich habe die Noten bekommen, die ich bekommen wollte. Meiner Meinung noch ist es besser eine Sprache langfristig zu beherrschen als sehr schnell auswendig zu lernen und wieder vergessen. Mit Zeit und die Gelegenheit kann jeder eine Fremdsprache lernen.

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Photo by Gilly on Unsplash