snOHw JOY!

I like the snow. It's pretty & quiet & looks lovely on the top of the Rotunda & the grass of the lawn. Basically, I love everything about it....except that I had to shovel today. Stephen (my Saab) needed his space back in the driveway after spending the snow storm living on the street. So, with no brother or dad around to give the responsibility to, I had to do it myself.

I realize that this makes me sound like a spoiled brat, but I don't think I have shoveled more than about twice in my whole life. Seems like I haven't been missing a whole lot - it really wasn't too much fun for me. Plus, the whole time I was out there, my neighbor's (we affectionately call her Mrs. Cat Lady - apparently I am the only one from our house who she likes. My housemates think it is because she sees a younger version of herself in me. Awesome) two cats sat in the window glaring at me. Seriously, they would not stop staring. They were probably having some hilarious conversation about how stupid I looked or how I wasn't lifting with my knees or something. Either way, it kind of creeped me out.

So, other than my shoveling adventure, playing & enjoying the beauty of the snow made for a fun weekend. Snow days mean sleeping in & snuggling in sweatpants to read/write/drink hot chocolate & not do much else....pretty great stuff. I hope your weekend was equally as cozy & delightful :)
P.S. Kendall Hancock took some fabulous pictures of the winter wonderland that C-ville was transformed into. They are posted below...enjoy!



a few things I adore in no particular order of importance

1) surprises
2) racquetball
3) cruise-control
4) covers (like Jamie Cullum's version of Please Don't Stop the Music)
5) following a horizon of mountains on the drive back into Cville
6) Shenjoes
7) early morning bagel with plum jam
8) naps
9) finding out the Word of the Day from every morning
10) Fridays

be spontaneous

I am really bad at being spontaneous, and I hate that. I love people who can just do whatever at the drop of a dime, who are up for anything or going anywhere or taking part of any activity without second guessing it - life seems more fun that way. After discussing this with my friend Eric, we came up with a plan to have a greater degree of adventure in our lives: we created Days of Spontaneity. Each month, we are going to dedicate one day to not having a plan, whatever that looks like. Our first Day of Spontaneity happened a few days ago and it was a blast. It consisted of a bunch of random adventures around cville, starting with Eric surprising me (spontaneously!) by crawling through my window, which was a pretty fun/scary way to start the journey.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with things like visiting a pet store, playing Love Story on the piano in a furniture store where we tried to auction on something but got scared, going to K-mart instead of Wal-mart (CRAZY, I know), singing "Don't Stop Believing" at the bottom floor of Alderman Stacks, etc. We tried to document the day, but it was hard because we only had a dying camera and my phone, which I still haven't fully figured out. Even though it was just a chill day, everything we did was on impulse and there was such freedom in that. It was a good lesson in being.....well, spontaneous.

My favorite thing that happened was when we were in Dover Saddlery (applying for a job as a joke. This was another random idea we had and just went for it. The manager asked us if we were horse people. We replied "kinda" and then she told us that Eddie Bauer was hiring). Anyway, a homeless man named Tom came in and told us he was Deaf. I asked him if he could sign and we had a conversation in ASL - it was incredible. I have never had a spontaneous sign conversation before, and it was so cool to have that finally happen.

Some other random things we did are pictured below. If anything, it made me think about the joy of letting go and being open to the unexpected. Here's to hoping you are out having your own adventure:

a dramatic reenactment of Eric's window break in.
Eric decided to spontaneously parallel park!
Buying flannel pants for no reason
We made an employee's day by asking her to take our pic in K-mart
The place we found a snazzy piano to play on.
We found an Iron Claw somewhere.
Spontaneously parking on Thomson! It should have a "p".
We serenaded first years with Glee songs.
we made it down the creepy green stairs all the way to the pits of Alderman, where we gave the one girl studying there quite a show with our singing.
One of the coolest things we did was get a balloon at the party store, fill it with helium and release it from the steps of the Rotunda. We attached a note to it encouraging the person who (maybe?) will find it to be super spontaneous like us :)

Happy Sundae

(snagged from here while flickr-stalking)

I hope your today is beautiful-refreshing-joyful-&-sugary-sweet.

One Time

we're the coolest. and so is Justin Bieber.

the three words you should never say to a cashier

I think (or at least would like to think) that I'm a fairly affectionate person. I like for the people in my life to know that I care about them, and so I tell them. I grew up in a family where we'd never leave the house, go to bed, or hang up the phone without saying "I love you". Those are three words I use pretty regularly because there are so many people in my life that I deeply, truly love. I never thought it was a phrase you could use too much, until yesterday.

I was in the bookstore, quickly picking up some things that I forgot to buy earlier that day. As I was checking out, I got a phone call from a friend. I answered and asked if I could call them back later because I was about to finish paying for my books, and gave my standard farewell of "OK bye! Love you!" Immediately after hanging up, the cashier, a smiling middle-aged woman, handed me my bag and told me to have a good day. My response was "OK bye! Love you!"

It took me about one second to realize that what had slipped out of my mouth was not something you should say to a person whose only role in your life is handing you your receipt. I looked at her and just started laughing and apologizing. It truly is hilarious to me that I manage to orchestrate so many strange, embarrassing situations for myself.

The whole thing had me thinking about those three words. Our society is so goofy about them. I've seen countless romantic comedies/TV shows where the main couple has been together for a really long time - they live together, sleep together, share their lives, act like they are married - but they are terrified of actually saying that they love each other. Typically, one of the main characters will say it and then the other character will be like "whoa whoa whoa! I don't know if I love you, exactly." And then there is some dramatic scene where it's raining and they are left to question their very existence and some sad orchestra music plays. Maybe I'm naive, but is it really that hard? Is it really such a terrifying thing to tell someone?

Then there is a whole other side of it. I've already confessed in a previous post that (against my will, I swear!) I started watching the Bachelor. It cracks me up that these women meet the bachelor and then in their interviews like 20 seconds later are like "Oh my gosh, he is definitely the one. I can't wait until we are married!!" They seem ready to say "I love you" before they've even gotten to know who this guy really is.

So maybe there is a balance to walk in terms of expressing affection. I guess if people over-used the term "I love you", those words wouldn't really matter very much. But then again, holding back from saying it seems pretty tragic, too.

I think of yesterday when I was flustered after my awkward interaction with the cashier. When I was trying to apologize, she just threw her head back laughing and said "Honey, that's something you can never hear too much!" And maybe that's true. Nothing feels better than being told that you are loved. So I don't think I'll try to hold back from using those three words after all. And maybe you shouldn't either. Just say it - someone can't wait to hear it.

The Waltz We Were Born For

just something I enjoyed reading today. This is by Walt McDonald. Happy friday, friends!

I never knew them all, just hummed
and thrummed my fingers with the radio,
driving five hundred miles to Austin.
Her arms held all the songs I needed.
Our boots kept time with fiddles
and the charming sobs of blondes,

the whine of steel guitars
sliding us down in deer-hide chairs
when jukebox music was over.
Sad music's on my mind tonight
in a jet high over Dallas, earphones
on channel five. A lonely singer,

dead, comes back to beg me,
swearing in my ears she's mine,
rhymes set to music that make
her lies seem true. She's gone
and others like her, leaving their songs
to haunt us. Letting down through clouds

I know who I'll find waiting at the gate,
the same woman faithful to my arms
as she was those nights in Austin
when the world seemed like a jukebox,
our boots able to dance forever,
our pockets full of coins.

the ABCs of my first full day in Cville

Apple on the go (my breakfast)

Bachelor (I was forced into watching it last night...I'm hooked)

Catching the bus (and then remembering that I hate buses)

Dumplings on the corner? My life is complete.

Emswizzle has become my new nickname for absolutely no reason

Flannel Fridays are happening this semester.

Garden hang-out in the sunshine

Hologram, Hermione Granger, Hit-man, Helen Keller & other things we brainstormed to dress up as for Rolling with a Purpose brought to you by the letter "H" on Friday.


J is the letter that I just painted to hang in "The Joint" next year

Kendall sent me a funny youtube that made me start my morning by watching other funny youtubes.

Lightsaber (I found one in our neighbor's yard. I love college)

Mischievous pranking of Brittney's & Hannah's room

Not stopping for an unnecessary cup of coffee as I passed Para this morning. My will-power is improving.

Organizing my class schedule is bleh.

Peanut Butter & carrots become the official house snack

Quilts are so yesterday. My snuggie has officially been introduced to the house.

Rain-check for a spontaneous adventure with Eric Cmar!

Speed-walking around grounds in the beautiful c-ville weather

Taylor Swift, Rihanna & Akon made up my playlist on the drive from Warrenton

Unpacking. I'd rather have a root canal.

Video of us as babies for a reunion party tonight. I was bald & boring.

Why have I not been able to stop singing that "Body Language" song by Jesse McCartney? really, Emily?

X-treme hike with Tay&Kir

Yesterday - the song I am learning on the piano.

Zombies - Pride&Prejudice version. It's my final book of leisure reading to finish.

a day for lists: dream jobs

You know that question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The answer to that has changed for me a bunch of times. Right now, the answer is: ughhhh. But in years past, I always had some bizarre thing I thought would be the perfect job. Here are my top ten things that, at some point in my life, I thought I'd love being:

1) veterinarian (This was my ideal career when I was about seven...until I realized that vets don't just cuddle with puppies & kittens all day.)

2) host of Entertainment Tonight (Middle school. Although why I thought that I could stand up on TV in front of millions of people when I couldn't even stand on stage for "Sound of Music" try-outs without freaking is beyond me)

3) Astronaut (after Space Camp in 8th grade. It'd be pretty sweet if it didn't involve all that science)

4) greeting-card writer (Actually, this still might be ideal. I'm pretty good at being corny)

5) that person who chooses what songs play during movie scenes (I think I would be pretty good at this one, too. I'm not sure how you get this job though. But picture this scene: a man is driving down a highway after saying goodbye to the love of his life who he can't be with because she is being deported to Switzerland for having an illegal Visa. It is raining. He is crying silently. Suddenly, he looks to his left and the woman he just said goodbye to has stolen a cab from the airport, sped up and is driving beside him, after finally deciding that she couldn't bear their separation. He pulls over. She pulls over. They slow-mo run into each other's arms. It's still raining. They kiss. A herd of cops come chasing down the road after them, but they don't pay them any attention. Police lights are blinking in the background. Throughout scene, Coldplay's "Fix You" is playing. Perfect? I think so)

6) interior decorator (I admit it, I went through a "Trading Spaces"-phase. But seeing as I tend to have trouble simply matching my socks, color-schemes and fabric patterns might not be something I excel in)

7) a dress-up reenactor at Williamsburg/some history-ish museum place (This has been a fairly secretive (until now) dream of mine for awhile. How awesome would it be to dress up in a hoop skirt and say things like "What in the Lord's good name is a cellular phone? You Yankees better hurry along now, I'm busy churning this butter. Please do visit Ye Old Museum Gift Shoppe." It'd be just like time-traveling, I'm sure)

8) Tina Fey (how cute are those glasses?)

9) the voice of "doors closing"/"doors opening" on the Metro (I'm not sure that this would be much in the way of a career, but I think I would do a good job as the recorded Metro voice. They had this big contest awhile back to choose who got to say it. I think the woman who won has a pretty boring voice. I would make it really perky and sweet. Or see if I could record several versions that they could switch around, like some funny ones such as me with a fake British accent or me fake-yelling at people or being like "Hey you. I see you. with your newspaper. just kidding. I'm just a voice." How fun would that be?)

10) Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry (Oh right- not a real place. my bad)


Yesterday, I went to a concert in the living room of a good friend. Two touring folk artists (Aaron Invisible and Isaac Gillespie) came and set up a microphone in front of the fireplace. It was just their voices, two instruments, and nothing else. There was a group of maybe 20 there to listen and I was struck in that intimate setting by how sincere it was, their music.

A few hours before that, I was sitting in a coffee shop finishing a book called The Help (It's worthy of the hype it's been getting lately. Check out this
book review my friend Lauren blogged awhile back) I was reading a passage that so sincerely described one of the character's fears that I was brought to tears. Her pain was made so genuine to me that I began to cry, right there in the coffee shop. The reality of the story was moving in such a raw, truthful way.

As I was getting into bed last night and thinking about the day, the importance of that word, sincerity, kept coming back to me. I realized that every single thing that has ever moved me, ever really affected me in a profound way, has been rooted in that word. I think this is probably universal. We may like things that aren't really 100% truthful - romantic comedies, most pop songs, reality TV shows - but we aren't typically changed by them forever. We know that they are hiding something. But when we run into real things - real pain, real hope, real beauty - we know it and are drawn to it. This happened to me at the concert, at the reading of the words of that book. When other people manage to be sincere, it is a miracle and a blessing and it matters. It's not too easy, either.

I think of two days ago when I was trying to write a poem and it took me nearly two hours before I even got a line out that I liked, that was honest. I think of how often I have to start over and start over and start over and it's as if I'm peeling back an onion, tearing away all the things that are fake and insincere until I get to the root of what I really want and need to say.

My own writing aside, I am perplexed by other's abilities to create things that are really, really genuine. Being an "English person" trying to figure out what that means and why that matters, I find myself inspired and encouraged by authors who have managed to create truly sincere work. Those are the books that sell and that are read over and over. Every teenage student reads To Kill A Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye not just because they are good stories, but because they are real. They dig out things that are hidden too often.

I think of a quotation that was on my English teacher's board once in high school, something George Orwell said. It was about a writer's possession of emotional sincerity being more important than the truth. I've always been perplexed by that. But the more I think about confronting sincerity, the more it makes sense. Fictitious characters,like the people I read about in The Help, can show us who we are and how we really feel. What a beautiful thing these characters and settings and stories so often become - like friends ringing your doorbell, asking to come in for a cup of coffee and the chance to chat about what the world is really like. The words of stories are powerful because of this: they give us a chance to step outside our bodies and then look ourselves right in the eyes.

How funny it seems, though, that being sincere is such a scary, difficult thing sometimes. Maybe that is what makes it so precious.

So I'm adding that onto my list of things to do this year: Strive for sincerity. Strive to write things that are honest, not hidden behind false emotions because it is easier that way. Strive to be genuine in relationships. Strive to surround myself by music and art and literature that leaves me with clear reflections instead of blurry, tainted images. Strive just to find out what this thing even is, this deep-down honesty that makes me cry in a coffee shop and mesmerizes me in a living room filled with music. Strive to capture it more often.

I am ashamed. But at least my arms are warm.

Today was my first day of life as a Snuggie-owner. I'm not going to lie - it's pretty heavenly. In fact, as I type this, my arms are toasty warm inside my new glorified leopard print blanket with sleeves.

My one disappointment is that life has not instantly become as wonderful as it seems in the Snuggie commercials. Talk about false advertisement. I thought I would put mine on and instantly hear the Snuggie jingle as I walked around. I have yet to see mom & dad dancing with their coffee in the kitchen while wearing Snuggies. Or seen an elderly couple wearing them in the movie theaters. Or passed a crowd doing the wave, all wearing Snuggies at a sporting event. What a bummer.

But seriously, anything with a commercial that makes me laugh as hard as the one posted below is worthy of purchase. There is too much hilarious-ness to comment on in one blog post. All I'll say: look at that old man without a Snuggie at 0:55. I was sold on getting one the instant I saw him.

when I'm no longer a punk teenager...

In almost exactly one month, I will be twenty-years-old. Gone will be my days of my angst-y teenage rebellion. Gone will be the days of screaming at my parents, locking myself in my room for hours so that I can paint my fingernails black and listen to the All-American Rejects and. . . er, other bands that are popular with the kids?

OK, so I never went through a big "teenage" phase. At least I don't think I did. I never broke a bunch of rules or colored my hair blue or anything like that. So now that those years of late adolescence are nearly over and I am starting my life as a twenty-something, it doesn't really feel very different. It kinda feels like I'm already an elderly woman living inside a young person's body (example: I just used the phrase "young person". And also, I enjoy Werther's Originals and the occasional nap. and cats. old people LOVE cats).

During my last adventure blog-stalking, I ran into this list of 20 things to do in your 20s. It was interesting, but a lot of it was all serious like "figure out what type of person you want to marry" and "research what retirement plan you want" and blah blah blah. And I read it and went "whatevs! I'm partying it up when I'm 20 and I'm gonna do what I want!" Just kidding. but I don't really plan on being that serious until I'm really old. Like 24.

I don't ever really make goal/resolution lists, but I decided that it could be kind of fun to create a list of things I want to do this year. So here is my in-no-order-of-importance-not-so-serious-things-I-hope-to-accomplish-this-year-as-a-20-year-old-but-are-really-not-related-to-my-age-because-being-20-means-that-nothing-really-changes-except-that-I-am-a-year-older-to-the-legal-drinking-age-when-the-real-fun-begins-justkiddingmom&dad-list:

1) explore the West coast
2) fill all of the notebooks I own before I buy any new ones
3) send more letters
4) learn to cook at least one delicious meal well
5) finish knitting that scarf I started about a year ago
6) go to the opera
7) travel to another country with a completely different culture than America (?)
8) get a radically different hair style just for kicks
9) go on more spontaneous adventures around charlottesville
10) study the old testament in-depth
11) read the entire LOTR series
12) drink less coffee. save the money and donate it to something more worthy than my caffeine addiction.
13) start a collection of something. (like buttons or postcards or tea cups....something like that)
14) go to good concerts
15) take more time to do arts&crafts
16) go on a sailboat
17) do that thing in A Walk to Remember that is corny but still cute where they straddle a state-line and are in two places at once
18) go to the piano-practice rooms twice a week at school
19) take a swing-dancing class
20) remember to write down my dreams when I wake up every morning.

words rule

Have you ever thought about words? Not words in the grand scheme of huge dictionaries or vocabularies of languages or novels or even sentences - just words themselves. They are strange, aren't they? Where do they even come from, the words we choose to say on a daily basis? Why do I choose one word over another? And since when did "Kanye" become a verb?

The Washington Post ran this hilarious & fascinating article about the American Dialect Society's decision for word of the year and word of the decade ("google" wins for the decade, "tweet" takes the cake for the year 2009). Seriously, click that link.

My mind can't even wrap around the intricacies of language. So much can be said for just a few letters. In the article, there is this great part where words are described as the smallest time capsules. So much is implied about our culture when I think of "tweet" and so much implied for our generation by "google". I'm not arguing that these implications are necessarily good, I'm just saying that they are obvious and manage to be so from only about six letters. Pretty incredible.

There seems to be tension around the evolution of language in modern society. Is it benefiting us, or is it morphing us into beings only capable of expressing emotion through pop culture references?

Some in the article argue that our language is going to hell. I think there are some things that scare me about the transformation of our lexicon, but in general, I would disagree that it is being ruined. I will admit that I say "def" too much and have done other such things to abuse the English language, I'm sure. However, the fact that language is changing is incredible to me. We have the power to mold and transform our tools of expression. We are coming up with new words, new mediums for art, new definitions of things as we think of them and challenge them. That's exciting to me. When I write, I am constantly making choices to use certain words and not to use others. And I am living in an age where these words are daily being refined and toiled with or discarded altogether. It's a challenge, but it makes life super interesting. It makes me love language all the more.

(the video below shows some of the debate the ADS had in choosing the words of the decade and year. pretty entertaining)

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

this is "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond" by e. e. cummings.

It doesn't matter how popular or overly-quoted this may be, or how much I've read it before...I find these words to be beautiful, every time. Happy almost-Saturday :)

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

be aggressive, be be aggressive!

I am one of the most uncompetitive people I know, at least when it comes to athletics. In high school, I would leave my field hockey or lacrosse games not even remembering the score. If someone ran into me or checked me, I would apologize and move out of their way. Even as a child, my favorite part about rec basketball was that I got to wear these pink sweatpants my mom got me. I'm pretty sure I just made up dances on the court while the game was going and then would giggle if anyone ever passed me the ball.

I used to think this lack of aggression and competitive spirit was a good thing. I thought I stood on high moral ground, advocating that sports were really "just a game" and it's more about having fun than winning or losing. But I've come to realize that this personality trait is not due to my virtues - it's due to the fact that I am extremely pathetic.

I'm not competitive because I suck. I've never been good at sports, never will be. And because of this fact, I don't like to set myself up for failure. I act like I don't care about the game so that when I fail at it, I can just be like "well, I wasn't trying anyway! I was just having fun!" The whole thing is completely a defense mechanism so that I don't have to deal with my extreme lack of athletic ability. The only game I am competitive with is Apples to Apples, and that is probably because I am awesome at it and the chances of me losing are slim to none. It's taken me years to figure out, but I've finally realized it: I have sports issues.

Here's the kicker: I signed up for Racquetball next semester. I wanted to take Badminton because I just envisioned how old people like to play it and it is a fairly calm but entertaining game. When I saw that it was full, I thought, "well, racquetball is open! and it's pretty much the same thing, right?" Turns out: no. Racquetball involves being in a teeny tiny room where you are one-on-one with another person and a little ball is flying through the air at incredibly high speeds and people die playing it all the time. OK, I just made up the dying part. But me plus an intense fast-paced game is either going to equal hilarity or death. Probably both. Plus, this is a game you play by yourself. I've only ever played team sports where you can cower in a corner and just cheer on other people as they do all the work. Those racquetball courts are small. It may be tough to find a hiding place.

Maybe the class will be a good experience. I could use a little edge to my personality, maybe get in touch with a more aggressive-inner part of myself. That is my optimistic spin on this situation. But if the blog posts stop suddenly, you'll know it's probably because I met my end due to a high-speed racquetball smashing my brains in. Or because my complete inability to be sporty has finally caught up with me, forcing me to die of utter embarrassment and shame.

my today as a mixtape

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

math, but with words

There are SO many cool blogs/websites out there. I can't get over it. A simple one that I'm particularly taken by today is this website called New Math by Craig Damrauer. It's a pretty neat concept. . . here are some of my favorites from his collection:

Whoa, you go Artie! (If you don't watch Glee, this post will make zero sense to you. And you are a fool)

It seems that I've been discussing Glee rather frequently the past few weeks, for whatever reason. After much debate, I have decided that even though Puck is smokin' hot and Finn is adorable & sweet, the character who really steals my heart is definitely Artie. Here's why:

1) He has really white teeth

2) I like his pop-y sounding voice

3) His glasses are the most adorable things ever

4) I like the way he says "Mr. Shoe"

5) His name in real life is Kevin McHale. And I like the name Kevin because it makes me think of Kevin from The Office and then that makes me laugh a lot.

6) HE IS IN A BOY BAND IN THE REAL WORLD. I was like "what the whaaaaat?!" when I found out. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I definitely prefer the high-socks, glasses wearing, nerdy Artie. But it's kinda funny to find out that in real life, he is a BA pop dancer, hair gel rockin', Justin Timberlake wanna-be. See the video below for proof:

it could be waiting in the rear-view

Today, as I was coming home from exploring the Smithsonians in D.C., I was struck by the afternoon sun. You know that light: the kind that seeps through the trees, blinking like camera flashes, and has a heavy golden feel. It shows up between 3:45-5pm and creates a perfect time of day. It is different somehow, beautiful in a haunting way, and it was following our car in the rear view mirror the whole drive home. Each us of stopped and said "hey, are you seeing this? Do you see the way the sun is weighing itself down? Do you see the way it's hitting the hills? Do you see how wonderful everything it touches becomes?" It was funny - we spent the whole day seeking out beautiful things, and yet, something profound and lovely just caught up with us, hunted us down even, when we were least expecting it.

Going to a museum is a trip of discovery. You go to seek something out and get something in return and you believe that your expectations will be met. You walk in aware of the soaking-it-up and the mind-expanding-with-creative-pieces-of-art and the new-things-you-are-learning-that-you-never-knew-before. So we had that and then we were in the car with the afternoon sun, and I realized that I think of life like I think of going to a museum. When I imagine learning something, I expect to gather up my knowledge of truths/beliefs/ideas as easily as going and picking up bread&milk at the grocery store. I think I ask and an answer is given. Ba da bing, ba da boom. But life doesn't work in such a simple equation. The best discoveries aren't simply a planned ride on the metro and a bag check away.

It's been funny, the start of college, the way I thought I could just walk in and say "OK, I want to learn how to be a good writer and a good reader and an appreciator of beautiful things. Let's go." and how I thought that the responses and answers to these questions would be handed to me in picture-perfect boxes. Hey, I asked for them, so won't the answers come right away? Can't I walk around the displays for awhile and then walk out saying "Wow, that was wonderful. I think I know all there is to know now"?

With the blessing of hindsight and time to reflect during this break, I've realized that it has just been in living that I've gained the most of what I think is true. Yes, the showing up to class and the pursuit of my own education is crucial. But most of the time, my teachers and required readings and assignments have just left me with more questions about myself that I want answers to. There have been no written out plaques that say "and now you've read all the crucial books that will make you a great writer someday." or "here is a fabulous poem that will inspire you. please don't use flash photography." The things that will make me into the person I will become are not being handed to me because I ask for them. They are being given to me as I walk down the street or run into a friend or get lost in a strange town. They are discoveries. They are not exhibits that I know how to find.

Discovery is hard though. The past two years at UVa, I've come to see how my ideas of things are so often like inside-out t-shirts. I walk around wearing them, letting them rub against my skin, and then I pass a mirror or meet up with a good friend and I realize or am told that there is a different way of seeing things. And then there is the process of removal and trying something new on and walking around in it and maybe eventually finding a fit. That whole ordeal of discovering YOU (what you believe, what you think, what you do, what you write, who you are) involves a degree of naked-vulnerability and it's embarrassing and scary. but it's worth it, I think. I hope.

"Discovery" is maybe a broad word, but I think it's kind of a crucial one we must define. In terms of discovery in our day-to-day lives, are we letting ourselves see only what we look for? Or are we open to being shaped by the things that chase us down and rise up from the dirt? Can we be OK with asking questions and not getting answers right away? Can we be OK with changing who we are when we run into things that force us to reexamine what we've always known? Do we believe- really, deep down believe - that the world has in store for us things that will show us who we ought to be? It is comforting for me to think of all the characters and settings and metaphors and eloquently-worded sentences that are piling up in the universe, waiting like treasure for me to stumble upon them. Maybe I won't know the things I want to know on my own time, but maybe discovery is like driving in the car and suddenly looking into the rear view at the afternoon sun. You are in the right place at the right time and you are living and you can finally squint and lift your eyes and say "My God. So that's what it means to be beautiful."

p.s. HAPPY 2010!

keep holding on, Avril

alright, I'll admit it. I like Avril Lavigne. If you forgive her lapse of judgment for "Sk8er Boi", she has some pretty great songs. OK...never mind. Her songs are awful. But I still love her and I don't know why. Maybe it's the punk-rock middle schooler lurking somewhere inside my soul who makes me turn up my stereo full blast when I'm driving in my car and one of her tunes comes on, or forces me to grab that hair brush and jump on my bed to belt out "Keep Holding On" every now and again. And if you try to say that you don't do that too, you are a big stinkin' liar.
The past few days, I've been trying to increase my guitar-playing repertoire to include more than just Backstreet Boy's songs. So of course, I've been looking to Avril for some guidance. Nothing is better than chillin' in my room and screaming out "why'd you have to go and make things so complicated? YEAH YEAH!" or "It's a damn cold night! Trying to figure out this life!" (I do hope my parents know that I'm alright when they hear me singing up here...) Pretty soon I'll be adopting a Canadian accent and wearing studded belts and straight-ironing my bangs over my face. Mock me all you want, but in the wise words of Ms. Lavine: I'd rather be anything but ordinary, please.

(ps. watch the video below for a glimpse into my future life once I become the next punk-princess superstar. and once I learn more than three guitar chords.)