And then the curtains closed…

*Warning… this might get sappy 

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Dearest readers,

This is the 300th post of this blog.

Wow. I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed relaying the misadventures and joys of my life to the internet. I found that embarrassing moments were easier to deal with when I formed them into light-hearted blog posts. Failures made more sense when I wrote them up as  lessons-learned.

Five years ago, when I wrote my necessary introduction, I never could have imagined the road this blog would take.

 

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Actual photo from my first post. I was a wee 9th grader at the time.

 

It started as a personal blog of an undersocialized homeschooler looking for friends to commiserate with.

It grew into a place to share book reviews and gush over classic literature whilst I worked through the classics challenge.

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When I graduated high school, this became my soap box  to advocate for gap years. What I didn’t realize until later was that gap year gushing was really just my way of building a narrative to make sense of a lifestyle I often second-guessed.

Most recently, this has become the blog of a study abroad enthusiast. When I moved to Wales a year and a half ago, I truly believed that everyone should try to study abroad at least once. I wanted to create a space of the internet that would be fun and helpful for potential study abroad students.

Why Study abroad in the UK?

For five years this blog has followed my passions and provided an outlet for many a rant and rave.

Now here I am. I’m waiting to restart my education. I’m working as a barista and homeschooling my siblings. I don’t know what I believe in anymore. I don’t know what I should be advocating.

All I know is that I don’t know much.

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Suddenly, I realize that, for the first time in five years, this blog doesn’t make sense for me.

I don’t have book reviews, gap year chronicles, or study abroad information to build my narrative around. I just have me, another millennial kid who hasn’t figured it out yet.

Me, just me, isn’t something I really want to blog about.

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I love writing and I love all my readers, still my life is not an open book. The picture of myself that I present to the internet is so simplified, sanitized, and recoloured, it hardly feels truthful anymore. And even if I could learn to be a bit more open with people, I’m not sure the internet is the best place to do that.

So until I can figure out what this blog is really for, I cannot find the inspiration and heart needed to keep on writing.

It is hard to admit. I’ve become pretty attached to my lil corner of the internet. Still, I think the best thing to do right now is to excuse myself from blogging and take an extended leave.

All that said, I’ve met some incredible people during my time blogging. This is BY NO MEANS the end of our friendship. I will continue to read and participate in the blogging communities that have become so dear to me over the years.

For all those who have joined me on this journey, thank you.

Sincerely,

Susanna

I got a Job!

Folks, it happened!

After two long weeks of paperwork and interviews, I found myself juggling three job offers at once!

My options were as follows:

-Customer service associate in the paint section of Lowes Home Improvement

-Receptionist at an adorable historic inn

-Barista for a cute family owned coffee shop walking distance from my house

I chose…

*drumroll*

 

 

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Barista!

(did you like my subtle use of foreshadowing?) 

I had my first day of training today and loved everything about it. I met a bunch of the regulars. I can’t wait to get to know them better and learn their stories.

My boss is super duper friendly and relaxed, family oriented, and focused on providing a wonderful experience for each customer. I love that!

For me, the selling point was the hours. I’ll work every weekday afternoon til closing, which means that I can rack up a good amount of hours but still be free each morning to homeschool my siblings!

So basically, it is the dream job. I am super duper thankful. I’d probably burst if I wasn’t so tired.

I know this job is going to be great, but I can’t lie… it was exhausting today. There are so many machines to learn how to use, so many different types of drinks to learn how to make, and so many customers with special privileges to learn how to serve (perks of a local shop!). d17f8cf10bd3baeb0da629031b7edd87

So it was a bit of an information overload, but I’ll sort it out eventually. Once I get into the swing of things, I’m thinking this job will not only be convenient, it will be fun. I love meeting new people and this will give me a perfect opportunity to do just that.

However, there IS a steep learning curve. And my boss wants to leave me alone in the shop on Tuesday, which means that I only have two more training shifts before I need to be fully confident that I can do *everything*.

Thank you, Lord for this job. 

Please strengthen me to get through the first week!

If anyone has advice on surviving at a new job… particularly barista-ing (baristeringbarsting?), I’m all ears.

The Adventure of A Job Search

Guys guys guys… It is fun being a grown-up huh? For the past few months, I’ve been adjusting to life back in the USA. I spend most of my time homeschooling my younger siblings whilst tying up loose ends and planning my next move (basically lots of paperwork).

Now it is time to start working.

Education degrees don’t pay for themselves. I have a few months til school starts. I am hoping to get a solid job beforehand so that I can save up and develop a work routine I can maintain once school starts.

 

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via Randy Glasbergen 

 

Getting a job is an exciting, albeit at times frustrating, adventure.

I’m currently waiting to hear back from my dream of dream jobs… working for a tiny locally owned inn at the center of a historic main street.

Can you imagine? A small group of coworkers I can get close to! Meeting corporate visitors from all over the world as well as high schoolers touring the local college! Working in an adorable building! Always busy with a variety of different tasks!

Not to mention, I’ve always dreamed of becoming a hotel clerk.

(Granted, there aren’t too many careers I haven’t dreamed about. Foot doctor, tax assistant, math professor… that’s all I’ve got).

 

When I was younger, my favorite bit of vacation was the hotel room. As soon as we’d check in, I’d run to the desk and unplug the phone from the wall. Then I’d beg my sisters to sit down at the chair at the other end of the desk and offer me ridiculous situations to sort through:

“I’ve got seven children and 10 dogs, do you have a room to accommodate us all?” 

“Excuuuuse me ma’am, but I’ve found a turtle in the closet of my room! How ruuude!” 

I would nod at their demands and complaints then push all the buttons on my unhooked phone until the problem was solved.

So now here I am. Finding a job to save up for my new ultimate dream of becoming a middle school teacher. Along the way, I may have the opportunity to be a hotel clerk, another one of my dreams.

Dreams on top of dreams guys! Ain’t that nice!

I find out if I will get the job at the end of this week.

Wish me luck!

Crazy Teacher Ahead… Proceed With Caution

So, if you’ve been following the blog you know that I am currently obsessed with the idea of becoming a middle school teacher.

So far, all is going well. Yesterday I had interviews for a few different jobs. I am hoping to start work soon so that I can save to restart my schooling in September. I am homeschooling my younger siblings and building up my teacher notebook (there are so many great books for teachers to read y’all, I had to rehaul my reading list!). And I am looking for volunteer opportunities to get inside a middle school classroom ASAP (spy out the territory, ya know?).

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In the midst of all that, I must admit I’ve revisited my childhood dream of becoming the next Ms. Frizzle. Do you guys remember Ms. Frizzle? The crazy redhead from the PBS TV program/book series The Magic School Bus. She took her students on field trips inside a digestive system and into outer space.

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She was one of my original childhood role models. It was Ms. Frizzle and Carmen Sandiego… but let’s just go ahead and breeze over that second once, shall we?

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Carmen Sandiego, a spy who got bored with work and turned into a super villain. She organized a crime ring to steal precious monuments, not for the money but to tease/test her former spy associates.

The idea that I could actually become a wacky and overly enthusiastic teacher is thrilling. In fact, long time ago I posted some photos of my new socks with this caption:

Someone told me that becoming a teacher is my destiny, like it or not. So I started my Miss Frizzle wardrobe:

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One of my favorite things about the Magic School Bus books was that Ms. Frizzle would wear a costume at the end of the book, cluing readers into what the kids would be studying next time. For example, if the next book was to be about dinosaurs, she would wear a dress covered in dinos (#notsubtle). 

Now that a career in teaching is in my sights, I’ve been stepping up my teacher wardrobe game on Pinterest. Course, I don’t have the rocking confidence needed to pull off this look:

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Perhaps I could modernize the concept! Here are a few ideas:

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Quirky jewelry with an educational touch:

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I may just have to get my ears pierced:

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Nails with clues to what we are learning about next:

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So there you have it, a few rambles inside the mind of a whacky teacher-in-training.

A Peek Into My Book Of Role Models

Okay guys, this is going to be random. I’ve determined to post twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays. I want to find a new groove with this blog. However, I still haven’t gotten the chance to do a thorough brainstorm session and rehaul content strategy etc… (in other words, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT!).

So forgive me as I indulge in one of my favorite past times,

Sharing role model inspiration. 

Nobody is perfect, I know. I also know that the people that we meet have often endured senseless pain, overcome overwhelming obstacles, and made huge sacrifices that most of us won’t ever know about.

I believe there is a little bit of role model in every person I meet, and I enjoy seeking that out. I may or may not have an entire journal full of life inspiration I’ve taken away from the incredible people who (often unknowingly) make my life special.

I’m a firm believer in having role models. Today I give you a peek into my favorite role model of the minute:

Theodore Roosevelt

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Theodore believed in what he called ‘a strenuous life’. He was constantly seeking a challenge to tackle, a project that would benefit society in some way. He wasn’t a natural leader. In fact, he wasn’t even naturally energetic or healthy.

As an asthmatic teenager his father pulled him to the side and said,

“Theodore you have the mind but you have not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. I am giving you the tools, but it is up to you to make your body.”

Around the same time, Teddie read a poem that shocked him. He realized that just having great role models and learning about great men from history was not enough. To truly honor his heroes, he had to take action.

From that point on, Teddie was, for better or worse, a man of endless action. When he was sworn into the presidency, he placed his hand on James 1:21-23:

And become doers of the word and not hearers only, who delude themselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, this one is like a man considering in a mirror the face he was born with;

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Roosevelt pushed himself to the max, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The asthmatic kid with horrible eyesight would become one of the most diversely accomplished men to walk this planet. Seriously folks, youngest U.S. President, corruption tackler, trust buster, war hero, bear hunter, reorganizer of the US navy, cowboy, business man, best-selling author, historian, noble peace prize winner, conservationist, natural historian, philanthropist… what didn’t he do?

Majestic El Capitan at sunrise.

The thing I love most about Theodor Roosevelt was his strong moral compass. Throughout the hardships, political turmoil and personal tragedy, his morals never wavered. He knew what he thought was right and he fought for it, no matter the cost.

From the beginning to the end of his political career, Theodore Roosevelt never cared for making popular decisions. In fact, he began fighting corruption as a low-level local politician (unheard of in a political climate characterised by city bosses and favoritism).

He was even hired by the New York City Police Department to deal with impossible culture  of corruption and bribery. Just as always, he delivered.

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As president he fought for the moral high ground against political bureaucracies, big businesses (busted numerous trusts), and in the worker’s unions that he championed.  Often he made decisions that could have meant political suicide and physical danger. He didn’t care what was popular, he cared for what was right.

If you like reading, I highly highly recommend Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership by Jon Knokey. 

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It focuses on Theodore Roosevelt’s life before the presidency, attempting to follow his growth from sickly nobody to commanding leader.

I enjoyed every page.

Guys, I love quotes, I love biographies, and I love me some role models. I could do a weekly series highlighting my favorite role models from history, pop culture, and my own life. But would you, dear reader, be interested in that?

Please comment and let me know!

 

Falling Into Place.

This morning my little brother and I learned about lenses. After reading the textbook description of light reflection and refraction yaddyayaya, we built our own makeshift projector out of a shoebox, a magnifying glass, and an iPhone and proceeded to watch part of a detective show in the laundry room (the only room safe from natural light).

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I love my life.

Since I definitely, for certain sure, not-kidding-this-time decided that I want to become a middle school teacher, the jigsaw pieces of life have been falling into place.

I had an incredibly encouraging meeting with an admissions officer at my university who told me that I would be almost certainly accepted into the program starting in September and that it is possible that quite a few of my British credits could successfully transfer to an American degree.

I discovered a treasure store of teacher resources and opportunities that excited me so much I couldn’t sleep last night (optimism is my favorite source of insomnia).

It’s good to get the wheels greased. It’s good to start moving again.

I’ve noticed that having a goal greatly increases my productivity. Not only have I continued the daily grind of cooking for the family and homeschooling my siblings, I’ve been able to get back into a normal exercise schedule, listen to loads of lectures and gone out socializing a tad more. I’ve applied for three scholarships, two universities, a few jobs and even wrote a short story and a couple of essays just for fun.

(You can take a girl out of a nerd school, but you can’t take the nerd school out of a girl)

It is good to have a goal to keep you moving!

I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt so completely at peace and genuinely excited about the direction of my life. In many ways, big and small, I can see the Lord’s hand guiding me closer to him, in the most patient and understanding way possible.

For all the mistakes and failures, hardships and joys, lucky strikes and distress, for the bumpy road wrought with twists and turns that has led me to where I am right now, I am thankful. 

 

My Thoughts on La La Land

A couple weeks ago my best friend took me to see her favorite new movie, La La Land. I had heard that it was pretty great. In fact, my friend took me out for coffee beforehand to give me the whole schpeel on the colours, costumes, cinematography, live singing, one-take scenes, authentic Ryan Gosling piano playing and Emma Stone singing, and all other bits and bobs, just to make sure I appreciated it as much as I ought.

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Naturally, I was expecting it to be pretty good. However, I wasn’t expecting it to be one of those punch-you-right-between-the-eyes kinda films.

Here are a few candid thoughts from my journal the night I watched it:

“How cynical have I become? I used to be a dreamer. I would have been able to relate to the characters in the story, the hopelessly passionate dreamers of our world. But I am disillusioned.

*censored personal rantage*

…I do sympathise with dreamers, but I also resent them. Things just don’t go the way we plan as kids. Everyone must learn to compromise.”

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On the one hand, it is sad to watch a movie and realize that while a couple of years ago I could have put myself in the shoes of the characters to dance about, I have somehow become too cynical and unromantic now.

On the other hand, I am not at all tempted to change my ways. I am pretty much satisfied with being practical. This is how things have to be (for now at least).

 

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By far my favorite scene/song in the film.

 

Another thing the movie made me think about (and this is a bit more of a spoiler, so read ahead with caution) is all the could-have-been’s in life. It is a scary reality that every day we make choices that affect our entire lives. When we pursue one dream, we often (be it knowingly or unknowingly) leave another in the dust.

Okay, so enough personal mumbo-jumbo.

Can we talk about the music? Can we talk about how lil sis and I are going to spend the next few months digesting and regurgitating the entire soundtrack? Because it is epic.

I love musicals and am thankful that La La Land brought a traditional musical to the big screen. For that reason, I can forgive the film for leaving me a wet soggy broken mess unable to stop crying through the entirety of the credits.

Have you seen La La Land yet? What did you think?

I Changed My Life Plan Again.

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via The Odyssey Online 

Last night before bed I found both of my parents grabbing a snack in the kitchen. I cleared my throat.

“There is something I need to tell you guys…”

I paused, a little nervous.

“I replanned my life over the weekend…what else is new?”

My parents chuckled. They are fully aware of my peculiar penchant for rehauling life goals on a regular basis.

“It has been about two weeks since the last time I replanned my life, so I was way overdue…”.

I hope all of you, dear readers, can be as patient as my parents. I do change my life direction too often, but I’m in the stage of life where I believe it is important to be extremely intentional with what I pursue.

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via The Dream Catch

I want a project that I can give myself to pursue vigorously. Guys, I am addicted to living off of caffeine and a packed schedule. Busyness keeps me happy, but only if I am pursuing something that matters to me.

I don’t want to just run hard. I want to run hard in the right direction.

Over the weekend I was in Knoxville, Tennessee for a church mini-conference. My sisters and I had a lot of driving time to chitchat. They were concerned about my motivations for pursuing real estate.

And they were right. Some things I’ve been through have made me overly desperate to become financially independent as soon as possible. But money doesn’t drive a happy life.

So I decided to take another look at my state of affairs, goals, dreams, and potential direction. This time without the pressing need to make a quick buck.

Two realizations and one remembrance later, I’ve got a whole new life planned:

First, I realized that I am not done being a student. While in Wales, I was thriving academically. I had relationships with my professors built on mutual respect. I had a group of peers I could geek out with. I loved it all so much. Of course, I could always go back to college later or get a degree online, but I don’t think that would fulfill my desire to fully live-out the student experience as a young, unattached woman free to explore the world with my peers.

Second, I also realized that attending university at the local college or community college is financially feasible if I work hard. Between in-state tuition, a couple of jobs, and scholarships, I could work out a way to continue my education debt-free (something that is extremely important to me).

And then I remembered what I really want to do.

I want to become a middle school teacher. 

Now before you start to think that I am really crazy and completely indecisive, let me ensure you that this didn’t just come out of the blue. Teaching has always been a goal of mine. I had originally planned my life to look like this:

  1. University in Wales
  2. Work as a Foreign Service Officer and travel the world
  3. Settle down to become a teacher
  4. Retire and become a real estate agent

In this way, I planned on fitting four of my main career goals into one lifetime. Dropping out of college kinda whacked up my plan, so I turned it upside down. I figured I could become a real estate agent immediately and use that business to fund my education.

Now it seems to make more sense to finish my education now, while I am young and ready to be on campus. Neither real estate nor FSO work requires a special degree, so once I have my teacher qualifications I could still switch gears and spend some time working abroad.

For now, I am ready to throw myself at becoming the best middle school teacher I can possibly be.

I know, I know, I’ve said this before. This time it is for real, if you can believe me. I really think I found a direction I can live with for a long time.

Wish me luck ❤

Oh My Goodness! There Is Such a Thing as Reading Too Much!

 

 

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Sometimes my sister and I have life-changing conversations at the kitchen table whilst our lunch digests. A couple days ago we had one such conversation.

Mariah and I were discussing the benefits of reading. I love stories, in almost any form. I  believe that the stories I read, watched and heard as a child played a huge role in the development of my own personal code of ethics and moral compass.

The stories we ingest become a part of who we are. 

So read, read, read, right? Reading offers seemingly limitless benefits, I mean studies have shown that reading reduces stress, increases brain connectivity and function, improves empathy, and much more.

Yet as my sister and I were talking, I began to grapple with a problem I’ve been stewing over in the back of my head for a while now.

Is it possible to overeat good stories?

There have been periods in my life wherein I feel stuck in a fictional world, vicariously living through the characters I meet in books. My motivation for pursuing life goals falls, as I become content to escape to an alternate reality.

I don’t want stories to provide a life-long cubby to hide in. I want stories to inspire me to do things in real life.

What happens if children or adults become content to give up the real world to live inside the fiction that they read? Is it possible that reading too much could diminish creative output?

“Reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.”

-Albert Einstein 

The goal of reading is not to escape the real world, it is to gain knowledge which is eventually processed and results in action and a fulfilled life. If you only ever consume, without reflecting and producing, reading loses value:

 

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We must at times take breaks from consuming knowledge to internalise what we’ve learned, sythnesize through reflection, and ultimately produce something completely original.

 

With that in mind, I began to reflect on my own reading habits. I noticed that during low periods of productivity (due to personal tragedy or other circumstances) my time spent reading  rises. However, when I am super busy pursuing life goals (like when I was living abroad) I spend far less time reading.

I used to feel guilty for not reading enough while I was living abroad. Now, however, I believe it is all part of the natural cycle of creative input versus output. If I had spent my days abroad locked up in my room reading books, I would have missed out on chances to develop relationships and pursue projects. However, all the time I spent locked in my room reading during my gap year at home helped to inform and inspire me to pursue studying abroad and helped me to make the most of my experience.

 

 

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Perhaps the ebbs and flows in my time spent reading are the result of a natural cycle of productivity. Reading more in hard times inspires me to push through and informs creativity later on. However, I don’t need to feel guilty for taking breaks from vigorous reading during busier periods of life. 

(Mind you, even in the high-productivity/low-reading times I try not to give up on reading completely. I usually spend a minimum of 15-30 minutes a day reading long-form articles, like The Economist, New Yorker, Washington Post etc… and 20 minutes to an hour of reading a random library book. )

I’m pretty sure that most people experience peaks and valleys in their life. Nobody is 100% productive all the time. When you are feeling low or have a slower period of life, immerse yourself in books. This ingestion of knowledge will fuel your periods of higher activity when you don’t have the time to read quite as much.

So there you have it, some evolving thoughts I’ve had on reading and productivity. What do you think? Do people who read too much experience problems with socialization and/or creativity? Am I totally off-base here? Do your reading habits go through cycles or remain fairly constant?

How Do You Fall Asleep?

You know that moment when you realize that something you’ve done your entire life isn’t as “normal” as you thought?

For example, this morning my sisters and I were discussing various sleep woes. One sister mentioned that she had a bad habit of staying on her phone til she was dead-tired. Another sister said that she plans her next day as she falls into dreamland.

Wait, you guys don’t tell yourselves stories? I thought everyone did that! 

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Since I was about 6 years old, I always had a story to work out in my head as I lay my head on the pillow. As soon as the light turns out, no matter where I am, be it in an airplane, couch, or my own cozy bed, I begin to plot some imagined scene. I usually fall asleep before the scene ends.

Because I fall asleep quickly, I often spend months reimagining the same scene each night, with only slight variations. If I finish a story or get bored of it, I start something new.

The stories I fall sleep to don’t often make it into my daytime writing. I like to keep them in my head because that way they remain an alternate world I can fall into every night. Everything in that universe is completely within my control.

I think it started when my older brother told me he could control his dreams. I had a lot of nightmares as a kid, so I was pretty keen to learn my brother’s trick. I started planning the dreams I wanted to have before I fell asleep, hoping it would change my actual dreams. It didn’t, but the habit stuck.

So basically, you tell yourself bedtime stories? 

Yeah, pretty much.

It isn’t as productive as planning the next day’s activities, but it is a relaxing way to decompress. It saves me from cringing at the mistakes of my day or dreading the tasks of the morrow.

Now I am curious, how do you fall asleep? What do you think about in the moments before The Sandman takes you?