Monthly Archives: June 2013

Chutzpah

You know those moments in life when something you’ve worked so hard for actually happens? When something you’ve thought endlessly about, something you’ve anticipated with a complex combination of excitement and apprehension, something you’ve hoped for and worked for and actually dreamed about comes true? Tomorrow is that day. Tomorrow, 8 years after graduating from college, I finally begin grad school.

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Driving through horse country. Amenia, NY.

This entire blog has become an accidental journal (although I really hate referring to it that way) of a girl with a lot of wanderlust traveling through her twenties and around the world to find herself, or at least what she wants to do with herself. I always had a strong sense of who I am, but for many years, I found myself frustratingly positioned in-between so many careers. I felt tugged by many different curiosities, and pressured by an outside force to define myself by only one of them. On the first day of TwT (“Travels with Tavel Has Finally Arrived” – July 7, 2009), I began writing with a broken heart and a whole lot of chutzpah to drop the confused-twenty-something act (which was, well, far from an act), dig deep, and really make my career dreams come true — whatever they were. At the time, my dream was as simple as starting this blog. I soul-searched and wandered through foreign countries, spurred on by an insatiable sense of adventure, yet I was always anchored by a counter-desire to find those things that would eventually stabilize me — a career, a job, love… (Whoops! Did I accidentally become a total cliche!?)

At first, the wanderlust won. But through my travels, like the archaeology minor I was before all the pre-med “stuff” began, I slowly and carefully chiseled away at the wanderlust to find out what was really happening underneath. I began to realize that, while it was a completely real part of who I am (and still is), it was also a distraction from something else I really wanted in my life, but felt too overwhelmed by to pursue. After dream jobs that didn’t feel quite right and inspiring international volunteer experiences, that twenty-something veil of confusion (or really, inner-conflict over what to do) was slowly lifted. Eventually, it just became too obvious to ignore: I wanted to be in healthcare, and I wanted to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy, no matter how much hard work and money it might require.

Bird, beach, Mexico.

Bird, beach, Mexico.

If you’ve been paying any attention to TwT, you’ve heard it all before. This is that moment. Tomorrow, after two years of nonstop science classes just to get to this point, I start grad school. I might be older than most of my classmates, I might have had to work harder to get here, but tomorrow it’s an even playing field. Tomorrow, my new classmates and I start something together that I feel like I’ve been working towards all alone, for almost a decade.

Everyone learns their own lessons their own way. I couldn’t be more excited and more grateful for what I have learned during this eight-year post-college adventure to this place right now. As the curtain begins to shut on my twenties (not until September though — not there yet!!) I hope that this blog has succeeded in capturing the incredible journey that being twenty-something can be. As long as you’re willing to take chances, work hard, and not worry about your future for a little bit (a little responsible irresponsibility can get you surprisingly far sometimes!), it can be one of the most revealing decades of your life — if not the most revealing. It wasn’t always pretty, that’s for sure [let us not forget Juan the Amoeba (“Living the Dream (in the Fetal Position)“), a dislocated knee, travel disasters, and my initially humbling return to academia (“Hill Climb“)] but it was freeakin’ worth it. That’s all that matters now.

Driving through horse country. Amenia, NY.

Driving through horse country. Amenia, NY.

And yet, despite delaying and intensifying this already long process of beginning grad school, I am forever grateful that I know what it feels like to ride a horse up a volcano in Ecuador (and, well, it’s less comfortable in the gluteal-region than you might think — Read: “Pain in the Cotopaxi“), or how the heart skips a beat when a sea lion swims up next to you in the Galapagos Islands… I know how scary it is to have someone in another country try and slash your bag open with a razor blade (“Quito Slashed“) or to move to another country without knowing another soul (“And So It Begins…“). Now, to add to the list, I know exactly how it feels to work for something like you’ve never had to work before, and then to arrive at the beginning of that new story…

As I begin grad school, and surely prepare to be humbled all over again, I am taking with me almost a decade of valuable experiences. There is a lot further to go, but at least — after all my trips abroad — I made it here.

It’s a crazy thing when you finally arrive at your destination, but if I’ve learned anything from all my traveling, it’s that arriving is never the end of the road. It’s just another start to yet another sure to be wild adventure in life. So, here I go.

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Honeysuckle Breezes, and Other Little Things

Ahhh. It’s good to be home.

I know NYC isn’t perfect. It’s often loud, rude, abrasive, dirty, frustrating… But it’s also beautiful. Every now and then, if you pay attention, you can smell honeysuckles in a breeze in Brooklyn. And when you least expect it, a stranger on the subway might actually do something kind. Today, as I rode the subway from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side with a perfect latte in my hands, I realized how content I was to just be on that train, around all those strangers, with a completely blank day ahead. Sometimes, despite so many big things in this city (noises, crowds, buildings, garbage piles), it is the littlest things that must be recognized so that you’re grateful to be here.

I think it’s so important to notice and appreciate life’s simple pleasures (whatever they might be for you). Maybe it’s because this is the last week and a half of calm before a three-year grad school storm descends upon me, but before things get too crazy, I am going to go ahead and acknowledge those little things that make me happy right now. That’s the only way to make them become the big things.

Taken while on my bike, riding north along the Hudson River.

Taken while on my bike, riding north along the Hudson River.

1. Bike rides along the Hudson River. I don’t care how long you’ve lived in New York City — if you haven’t gone for a bike ride, a stroll, a run, or some other ride (scooter? rollerblade?) up and down the West Side, you are not really living in New York City (if yaknowwaddi mean). This is one of the most serene parts of the city and, having grown up here, I appreciate it even more because I know what it used to be like. Trust me: Between the High Line, the new piers, the cleaner Hudson River and the generous bike lanes, this is one of the City’s best improvements. Biking along the water on a hot summer day is one of my happiest NYC places. You’d be surprised how zen it can be.

2. Caribbean food (and drinks) outside. Let’s be honest: Caribbean food is good all year round. But nothing is better than eating some jerk chicken (with someone you like!) outside on an 80-degree night, or sipping sangria at happy hour under a palapa on Amsterdam Avenue after a hard day’s work. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: despite Spanish/Turkish/Argentine/Polish/Lithuanian blood, I am pretty sure I have a Caribbean soul. Between the food, the music, the lifestyle and the weather, there is not a single day that I don’t crave being on a Caribbean island. Any experience that allows me to at least pretend that I am is as sweet to me as sweet plantains in my tummy.

3. Juice. Ok, so maybe this is an expensive treat, but fresh juice after walking around or working out on a summer day makes my mind, body AND soul happy. Kale, apple, cucumber, mint, coconut, beet, carrot, orange, ginger, spinach, lemon, grapefruit, berries, bananas…. Any combination of reds, greens, oranges, and yellows works for me. When I am sipping a fresh juice in the spring/summertime, nothing feels better. This is a great (and yes, expensive) trend. Juice it up out there, people. Your body will thank you later.

4. Honeysuckle breezes in Brooklyn. It happened last night. I was walking down Hoyt Street in Boerum Hill when a perfumed breeze swept me away from everything else I could see. I knew instantly that it was honeysuckle, having spent my childhood summers surrounded by honeysuckle bushes at an old beach house my family used to rent. The smell was so familiar, and yet so unexpected just off of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. I couldn’t help but feel a sudden overwhelming sense of happiness — a swirl of memories combined with an excitement for the “right now.” Within moments, I arrived at my destination and the breeze was forgotten, but here is my attempt to recapture it.

5. It’s only June. That’s right. We have the whole month, plus July, August, and even September to enjoy all these little summery things!!! That’s a lot of fresh berries, cold drinks, and open-toe shoe-time! I can’t even tell you how happy summer makes me (or maybe I just spent a blog post trying to…). Forgive me for wanting to savor the moment. It won’t be long before I am spending all my long-awaited summer days locked in a frigid cadaver lab, following through on a dream I once had of becoming a physical therapist…

Wherever you are, think about the little things that make you smile right now. I have some very happy people in my life right now, and some that are going through challenging times. Whichever one of these people you are, I guarantee that a honeysuckle breeze can come at any moment, you just have to be willing to notice it.

Feel free to share one or two of your happy “things” as a comment. In the meantime, this song also makes me happy. Yeah, it’s Beyonce, and WHAT? Hit it, girl:

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