2015: a retrospective and a dedication

Happy New Year, internet friends!! I hope you had a lovely celebration last night with your loved ones. 

I am at home in Raleigh finally! It is my first time being home since August and it has been such a relaxing treat. It's the first break from school since I can remember (probably elementary school?) where I've had NO WORK TO DO. Admittedly I feel pretty unproductive. I have been reading a lot and have been working at my retail job and am babysitting as always, but my mind feels neglected I think! I'm not really a "knows how to relax" type. I've been scheduling a lot of meet ups with friends and I'm about to write some posts for the coming weeks!

2015 was such a massive year of change and joy in my life. I thought I would do a gratuitous post to reflect on this year and the year to come. I'm also writing about some people who changed my life this year and shaped me into who I am! If you care at all about any of these things, read on!

3 FAVORITE 2015 MOMENTS

3 - graduating high school (June 6th, 2015)

I'm done!!!! I graduated! The end of senior year was just a happy blur in general. This closed a major chapter of my life and it felt amazing. I was surrounded by family and friends at the ceremony and at my graduation party after, which made it all the more joyful. I'm incredibly grateful for my high school education at FA. It nurtured my love of education and it is exciting to be able to take that to the college level at FIT!

GRAD

 

2 - sharing NYC with the people I love

This semester I was lucky enough to have so many fun visitors from home come up to the city. My friend Jane came up with her ECU friends and stayed with me for a night, Gabby came up to see her super cool actor boyfriend Alex and we hung out and went to a Upright Citizens Brigade show (highly recommended), Jordan visited twice (once with Mike!) and it was all of my NYC-in-love dreams come true, my dad came up for a weekend and we walked around the MET, my mom and Mrs. T (my second mom) came up to see Jimmy Fallon for a weekend, Lauren came up with her boyfriend on vacation, and lastly, my parents and brothers all came up for Thanksgiving!! My love for New York and these people is endless, so it was nice having them all in the same place. 

1 - october 11th, 2015 (the best day of my life, or, the one where I won the Hamilton lottery and met Bill and Melinda Gates)

The most surreal day. I worked 8:15-3 that day and I was so exhausted. After work I could've slept for hours, but my friend Laura and I decided to try to win Hamilton tickets. For anyone that doesn't know, Hamilton is the most popular and in-demand ticket on Broadway right now. Every night they do a lottery and thousands of people show up, hoping to win two $10 front row seat tickets. Two nights a week they do Ham4Ham, a free performance by some of the cast members before the lottery to pump up the crowd. We went on a Ham4Ham night and were lucky enough to see Jonathan Groff (who plays King George) sing! I was happy enough about that as it was. We went to the far back of the crowd. My name was the first one called and it was the most surreal moment of my life. I slid past probably a thousand of people and ran up to get my tickets. Laura and I were ecstatic! I couldn't stop shaking. The show was incredible and to top it off, Bill and Melinda Gates were there that night. It doesn't even feel real that I had the opportunity to thank them and shake their hands. I remember walking home from Times Square with Laura and her friend Christian and thinking about how weird it was that I just shook the hand of the richest man on Earth, and subsequently walked home past dozens of homeless people. Only in New York. At the stage door I was also lucky enough to meet all of the cast members (minus Jonathan who didn't come out that night, sad), including Lin-Manuel Miranda! What an amazing person.

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Bonus: swimming with sea turtles in St. John, USVI. Absolutely one of my favorite moments ever. 

3 THINGS I'M MOST PROUD OF LEARNING

3 - InDesign

I had to take a Digital Layout class this semester and learn a program that advertising executives use called InDesign. At the beginning of the semester I remember being completely frustrated. My work wasn't good and I didn't understand anything. Now I can create a newsletter from scratch in about 30 minutes. I got a B+ in the class, but I was so proud of what I had learned.

2 - the subway system

It's a huge misconception that the subway system in NYC is hard to learn. My friend Zoe described it as "I thought people just said that it was easy to learn to be nice and that I would be the only person who still took cabs everywhere. But no, it actually is easy to learn." I felt the exact same way upon moving. To my surprise, NYC public transportation is a godsend. I know what trains to take to some of my favorite spots by heart, but for the times I don't, I use the app CityMapper and it has never failed me. I'm sure one day I will know all of the lines by heart.

Subway basics: 

1 - uptown vs. downtown: how to know if you want to take an uptown or downtown bound train: if the street name of your destination is greater than the one you're at, you're going uptown. If the street name you're going to is less than the number of street you're on OR it has an actual name, take a downtown train. 

examples: If I'm trying to get to 88th St. from 23rd St, I would take an uptown train because 88 > 23.

If I'm trying to get to 4th St from 23rd St, I would take a downtown train.

Make sure you check this first, but most of the streets with names are downtown in Soho, the Financial District, etc. If I'm trying to get to Jane St. or Water St. from 23rd St, I would take a downtown bound train.

2 - know if the train is running express or local

some trains run express, meaning that they skip all non-major stops. other trains run local, meaning that they stop at all stops on their line. know which one you want.

3 - the WORST PART, service changes.

the worst part about the subways and the part that I have yet to master: subway service changes. Sometimes you'll get down below the ground into the station, only to realize that the 1 train isn't running at night on weekends (or something like that). WHAT?! Usually these notices have directions on them, but it can be confusing trying to troubleshoot and find a new way to get somewhere. I still haven't mastered this and have no advice. Maybe 2016 will grant me some guidance and good subway karma.

1 - mastering grocery shopping and meal planning

I chose an apartment style dorm for college, meaning that I had to learn to cook basics for myself, plan meals, and grocery shop. I'm learning with cooking still, I am okay at it, but I make frequent mistakes. My roommates know a lot more than me so they are often willing to help which I am grateful for! I just cooked for my family for the first time a few days ago and they loved it. Meal planning and grocery shopping I have totally mastered, though. I have a meal planning journal (you can get one at MayDesigns.com) and every week I write out what I want to eat for every meal, as well as consolidate a list of everything I must buy. Then I trek over to Trader Joe's on 6th Avenue with my reusable shopping bags and list (about a 10 minute walk). It is beyond crowded almost always, especially on Sundays, but the deals are well-worth it. Trader Joe's can do no wrong. They even donate their nearly-expired foods to organizations that help distribute it to those who need it. I love them! I will not stop shopping there even though there is a Whole Foods only a couple of blocks from me that is tempting (and wallet-destroying).

3 SONGS FOR 2015

(not necessarily released in 2015, I just fell in love with them then/re-discovered them)

3 - from eden / hozier

I went to see Hozier this summer and it was such an amazing night. It poured rain after the opener finished so we had to evacuate to the Convention Center. On our way back to the venue once it was reopened, Morgan and I ran into a customer from the store we work at and she gave us her VIP tickets. A Red Hat employee overheard and gave us 2 more VIP wristbands so our whole group could enter together. The memories of that night were so fond, dancing around with Morgan in the VIP section with our free soda. My favorite song of his remains From Eden. 

2 - doses & mimosas / cherub

This song could not describe my life any less, but it brings back memories of driving around Raleigh with my best friends Megan, Morgan, and Juliana this summer and screaming this at the top of our lungs. Nothing could elevate an Insomnia Cookies or McDonalds run like this song could. Sometimes it comes on shuffle when I'm on the subway and it makes me miss them terribly.

1 - days / the drums

I don't know what it is about this song, but it makes me feel completely at peace. It is easy to doubt yourself and question where you'll end up in life, but this song never fails to make me feel like I'm doing something right. It reminds me of late nights in Manhattan walking the streets with friends.

LOOKING AHEAD

I know a lot of people don't believe in New Year's Resolutions. I get it, every day is an opportunity to start over and a lot of people make them as a formality and don't end up following through. Everyone should set goals whatever way works best for them. I take resolutions each year seriously. Five years ago I resolved to spend a year eating a vegetarian diet and here I am, still doing it. Here are my 3 resolutions for the New Year, feel free to tag a long:

2016 in 3s

3 - do 100 squats every day

In New York, your legs are your greatest tool. I've lost weight simply from walking, walking, walking. If your legs are not strong, you lose money from spending unneeded cash on Uber rides, which adds up quickly. This, along with my daily walks to work/out to eat/to museums/etc will help to keep my legs in tip top shape so I can spend more money on...

2 - save save save

2016 is a big year in savings for me. I'm trying to save as much money in college as I can for nice things that I want/need because afterward I will have to deal with the monster that is student debt. This year, I have 3 major things to save up for:

1 - a Lollapalooza ticket

Jordan and I are planning a trip to Chicago this summer for Lollapalooza. It's the 25th anniversary of the festival, which is being benchmarked by not only a 3, BUT 4 DAY FESTIVAL this year. Jordan and I were both born in the suburbs of Chicago, about a half hour drive from each other. Now our families' homes are 15 minutes apart in North Carolina. This world feels so tiny sometimes. Neither of us have been back in awhile and we both are looking forward to the festival at the end of July.

2 - a new MacBook

I've had my MacBook Air since the end of 8th grade and it is finally starting to have some issues. The 120gb storage is completely full, and even after delete the majority of my content, the disk utility appears to be defective because it shows that little to no space was made. It makes it nearly impossible for me to blog/write papers/do anything since I can't store my photos on my computer and the internet normally crashes because of a lack of space. I have been going to the computer lab at school to blog lately because it's such a mess to deal with. This will be the most expensive thing I have to invest in this year, but I know it will last for a long time.

3 - apartment things!

Going to school in New York is a little different from everywhere else in the sense that after freshman year, essentially everyone moves off campus into their own place with a few roommates. This means I will have to invest in basics like a mattress, bedframe, maybe one or two pieces of furniture (it's NY, I don't think much will fit), kitchen and bathroom essentials, cleaning supplies, etc. Moving this summer will bring some stress I'm sure, but I am so excited to have a permanent home that I can make my own. And it's really, really fun to look at different apartments online at NakedApartments.com. I love how each neighborhood in the city has its own personality, too. I'm excited to see what this summer holds, and I'll be sure to upload photos of my new place once it's all settled in the fall!

gratuitous things I might get around to eventually: a leather jacket and new watch

3 - less scrolling, more creating. 

 I'm so guilty of it. I'll be sitting somewhere waiting for something to happen, maybe waiting for class to start or waiting to pick my brother up (as I am now), and I will kill the time by mindlessly scrolling down Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Instead I could be filling that time with reading, writing something for this blog, embroidery, research, and more. This passive consumption of media has become the norm for most people my age and for me as well and I'm trying to change that for myself. 

On that same note, my blog just turned 1! Thank you so much to all of you sweet people who took the time to read my work this year and for all of your kind messages. This year my blog was very much on my terms. I wrote when I felt like it and let myself be free of obligations. This was what I wanted for my first year, a year to have flexibility and experiment.  

I'm torn about my goals for this blog in 2016. It is important to me that I have something significant to say when I blog, which I feel like could be hindered by a blogging schedule that forces me to create content consistently, whether it be thought-provoking or not. I'm thinking a solid goal would be to blog once every two weeks. I want my blog to reflect my life. It's important that I have time to write the content and shoot it, but also to live it myself and have experiences I can share with you guys. 

I will for sure be setting aside one hour every week to write for this blog. Another goal is to have this blog reach more people, so I will also be better about marketing it and having contests. 

 Bonus: Q&A Book

 I received this for Christmas (I believe you can purchase it at Anthropologie). It has a question for you to complete each day for five years! I'm excited to look back on how my life changes throughout college and my first year of post-college life. 

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For you: a book 

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Make this your first book of 2016! It is a compilation of Marina Keegan's work. Marina was a Yale graduate English major who had just landed a job at the New Yorker when she died a week after her graduation.  

This book defies the word tragic. Marina's writing was so beautiful and different; it feels criminal that her words were cut short.  

The Opposite of Loneliness is a piece of work you can't miss. It motivated me to work and love and cherish all that I can while I'm still here. I'm so touched and grateful for it. It will bring you into a new year with a positive, driven mindset, just like Marina had. 

With that said, I'd like to dedicate 2015 to a few people who mean the world to me. 

a dedication

morgan, megan, juliana

Megan and I met years ago in a performance singing and dance class, but when I met Morgan and Juliana last December at our work's busiest event of the year, I had no idea what an amazing bond the four of us would form. I think we all saved each other. None of us really remember when SBC happened, it was a seamless integration from workplace proximity associates to best friends who stay up until 3 chatting and going for drives for McDonald's ice cream. My summer was benchmarked by our adventures, running carefree in our swimsuits, spending all night watching Lana music videos in one of our rooms, nights downtown grabbing dessert; our friendship is my sunshine. We complement each other perfectly. I will never be tired of hearing what's going on in your lives. In a culture where girls are taught to tear each other down, we are overflowing with unconditional sisterly love and compliments. It confuses everyone around us. I can't wait to see what 2016 brings us and I'm so proud of all of you, always and forever.

 at my graduation party, june 2015

at my graduation party, june 2015

ama

ama is the coolest cool girl you'll ever meet. Everyone I know comments on it. "That girl Ama you hang out with? She seems so cool." But you're so much more than that. You are an incredible artist and friend. You are my favorite person to strut through the city streets with at any hour for cheesecake. You have taught me so much about myself. I have hardly any photos with you because we spend hours just talking about grand ideas and things. I love that about us. We grab my camera and go to events without a second thought. I don't know if I'll ever forget that time at work when we made eye contact while I was upstairs and you were downstairs and you lipsynced an Akon song to me. I hope we never get tired of obsessing over small, sophisticated city dogs and our elaborate dreams. 

 at Serendipity 3, august 2015

at Serendipity 3, august 2015

Kornegay

I don't even know where to begin. You're the Ron to my Leslie and that's really all I have to say about that. I admire you so much as a person and a friend. You went through hell and back this year and still were there to teach me and listen to all of my utter nonsense. My fondest memories of senior year were spent in your classroom, sipping coffee during Flex time and chatting about our favorite Wes Anderson movies, the Parks and Rec finale, and endless musical artists we both love. The Staunton trip is also a great memory. You taught me how to love Shakespeare more than any drama class ever has. We both fight fiercely to maintain optimistic existences, and you always brought me up when I was down. It is so sucky not seeing you every day anymore. I've heard through the grapevine that you are doing a great job as vice principal, just like I knew you would. I'm so jealous of all of the students who get to take your class and I hope they cherish it. I don't think I ever cried harder than on the last day. 

 after our Shakespeare scene study performances, May 2015

after our Shakespeare scene study performances, May 2015

Jordan

Oh, Jordan. I think the only people who know the extent of our story now is us. I like it that way. In January we called it quits and I decided that we were done for good. We both had some growing up to do on our own. Come seven months later, we grabbed dessert at my favorite spot downtown and were laughing even harder than we used to. We grew up. I fell in love again and wrote you a letter that changed everything. Now we are doing this long distance thing that is usually great/occasionally unbearable. But it is all worth it because I get to talk to you at the end of each day! Right now you're on a cruise so you won't read this for a couple more days, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you for keeping me positive, never letting me go to bed sad, flying 600 miles to visit me, and for just listening. I can't wait to see what we do this year.

 central park conservatory, oct 2015

central park conservatory, oct 2015


mom

Mom, your support has been the biggest constant in my life since day 1. It's been hard being away from you for college, but I'm so grateful for the opportunity to live out my dreams and your support of it. Thank you for listening to me no matter what time of day and challenging me to be better. I couldn't ask for a better mom. You are the bravest and strongest woman I know.

 at the senior honors ceremony in May

at the senior honors ceremony in May

happy 2016, everyone. Much love to all of you in this new year. May your hearts be open to new adventures, new experiences, new loves, new friends, and new memories.

If you feel like keeping up with my 2016, feel free to subscribe! You'll get an email each time I post.

love

em