Airports

Here I am, sitting in the Minneapolis airport by myself sipping coffee.

And you know what?

I love it.

I love all airports.

Please tell me someone else out there has this strange love affair.

It’s not that they are a glorious valhalla of the world’s cuisine.

Or that everyone is so friendly you can’t help but smile.

Or that they smell like flowers.

Nor is it the lovely security that is always easy, stress-free, fast, and never the place where you are praying it isn’t your feet you’re smelling.

click for source

Really, it’s the possiblity that makes me love airports.

I love that here is the open door to anywhere.

I could hop on a plane and jet off to Paris and be sipping this cafe-au-lait while people watching, with the Eiffel Tower out of the corner of my eye.

I could fly over to Belize for some reefs and ruins.

I could fly to Alaska to kayak among the glaciers and whales and polar bears.

I could fly to China to sleep on the Great Wall.

Airports are symbols of the most exciting times of my life: the first time I flew, when I went to Switzerland at 15 and officially got hooked on traveling.

The first time I flew alone, to the lake in California.

When I went to visit the Boyfriend in the Seattle–the first time I visited a boy and his family.

When the Boyfriend and I flew over the Cascades together–one of the most beautiful flights I’ve been on, and I was traveling with a boy for the first time.

When I went to Peru, terrified and alone, clutching my English-Spanish dictionary.

When I went to Southeast Asia with my cousin, with months of unplanned traveling and volunteering stretching seemingly endlessly ahead of us.

Despite the fact that I always get nervous going through security, I always end up eating junk food and getting sick, I love airports.

They represent the adventure of life, my dreams of seeing the world, and the forming of my independence. They have forced me out of my shell, warned me to keep my passport close at all times (and that leaving it in the bathroom of a Peruvian airport will only lead to bad things), helped me start seeing the great world, and showed me that where I come from deserves some love, too.

Being in an airport reminds me that life is the great world and that I’m just getting started.

Even if right now I’m just flying from Minneapolis to Denver.

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Chances


I heard an interview once, one of the few times I was (accidentally) listening to a sports interview with Kurt Warner, an NFL player. The interviewer asked him this:

“How did you go from bagging groceries and stocking shelves at a grocery store, to a Superbowl winning quarterback, and future Hall of Famer?”

And Kurt’s answer? This: “All I needed was for someone to give me an opportunity.”

That kind of sums up my life.

About three years ago, I hit rock bottom. The Boyfriend and I had called it quits, officially, and since all of my other friends had boyfriends at the time (The Bozeman Curse…nobody there ever seems to be single…unless you’re a guy) and the group of friends I’d usually hung out with had chosen sides in the “Divorce,” I had no social life. I lived basically alone in my apartment as my roommate was so busy, and I was not. I had no one to be accountable to buy myself.

I stopped going to class, stopped talking to most of my friends, and even though most of my professors honestly tried to give me another chance, I couldn’t find it in myself to care.

I gave up on school, failed out of most of my classes, and tried to move on from the Boyfriend by attaching myself to random boys I met at the few parties I attended.

That summer, I accepted a position as a Night Auditor in a tiny Montana town. I mean tiny–as in a gas station. And a bar. (Of course).

Instead of making new friends like I had imagined, (I was on an opposite schedule from everyone else) I slept in my little cabin all day and read all night at my job.

The thing is, I didn’t feel unhappy.

I went back to school the next fall, but it was disappointing, as I was supposed to spend that year in Turkey, studying abroad, but that plan had been stymied by my poor grades.

So that Spring, on impulse or some other feeling, I signed up for Spanish classes in Peru and used up my savings on that semester.

While it was an incredible, difficult experience, I came back to find that…nothing had changed. There, I learned the hardest lesson of all–you can’t escape your mistakes, no matter how far you go. Maybe if I had never come back, but that really wasn’t an option in my broke-and-desperately-homesick state.

I came back and eventually continued my studies. None of my professors had any faith left in me, and my University let me back in because that is the rule. I took a full load of classes against much advice, determined to finish that year after watching most of my friends graduate that previous May.

It was a long, hard year full of books and studying, all in a blur. But, I did it. I guess what I needed most at that time was for so few people to believe in me. I guess I needed that so I could prove myself–so I could prove all the nay-sayers wrong.

An interesting life philosophy, I know.

When I F.I.N.A.L.L.Y. graduated, all I wanted to do was travel more, and write. So I traveled to Southeast Asia and began applying to creative writing schools.

During the application process, I began to realize graduate school might be a far-fetched idea, with my grades. I recieved many an denial letter that immediately dismissed me due to my G.P.A.

Yet, this year, I applied again.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for punishment.

It did happen again–some programs immediately rejected me when they saw my G.P.A.

But all I needed–just like Mr. Warner in the quote above–was for one person to give me a chance, to give me an opportunity.

I guess this time, I really did need for a perfect stranger to believe in me.

That is one of the most important things I’ve learned this year: the value of chances.

Every single kid I work with might not have made it very far with the Colorado “I Have a Dream” Foundation. They still might not make it very far. But some will. Some will go so far they will be unrecognizable, except to people like me, who helped mentor them at at every step.

Sometimes, all we can do for these kids is give them one chance. And often, that’s all they need.

Sometimes it takes awhile to sink in, and sometimes it takes more than one chance.

But sometimes, all you need is one.

A Story From the Archives

It’s almost Thanksgiving!

In honor of this lovely holiday–where I can gorge on mashed potatoes, those weird canned cranberries that come out in the form of a tube, and pecan pie–and spend time with various friends and family members–I’m doing a post about being grateful.

I’m going back into my past a little bit, to tell you all an inspiring tale.

“The Graveyard Man.”

It was a pre-dawn morning in Southern California. I, en route to studying abroad in Cusco, Peru, had stopped to visit my favorite cousin at her (ridiculously fancy) school in San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene University. It was a fantastic week: I sort of fell in love with her California lifestyle. Hers, at least, was like the movies, or so it seemed to me. Between classes she surfed, watched the sunset, wandered down to the waterfront where she walked barefoot eating frozen yogurt. We took Chinese food to a little island, I gave myself a nose bleed with a surfboard, I bought ridiculous sunglasses that looked like a Dalmatian.

I know, I can TOTALLY pull these off.

You must understand this was at a strange point in my life. I had recently been put on academic probation, been dumped by several boys in a row, including the boy I thought was my OTL (one true love) and had, basically on a whim, taken my savings and signed up for a Spanish school in South America. About three weeks before I was due to start.

This trip was like a respite from my real life: I didn’t know where I would go after my time in Peru, if I wanted to go back to school, if I wanted to just be a surf bum in California. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stare at the ocean constantly, watch every sunset I could, go sail away and pretend I didn’t really need an education, after all. And really, why did I need to go to Peru? Who needs to learn Spanish?

See? You wouldn't want to stop looking, either.

After a week of adventure, it was time to go back to my aunt’s house for my final round of packing and goodbyes. It was almost time for my greatest adventure yet and I did. not. want. to. go. So, in reference to my crabby, my cousin decided to grab some blankets and go to the cemetery to watch a sunrise over some bay, dragging me along. I was grumpy–as I usually am in the morning–and my suggestion of two gallons of coffee had been ignored. I sat there, wrapped in a blanket, on a wall that was turning my butt cheeks to blocks of ice, when one of the happiest people I’ve ever met entered into the picture.

He was a graveyard worker. “Why was he so happy? He works in a graveyard” was all I could think. But he bounced around, drove his little golf cart like a maniac while laughing like a hyena, sang (in Spanish) while he worked, and even took a minute to enjoy the glorious sunrise.

It was totally worth waking up for that. I think he made more of an impression on me than the sunrise did, truthfully. I, obviously, did not forget him (or the sunrise either, but you know what I mean). I did make it to Peru, and I learned further that your life can be very simple, but you can still be happy.

Just livin' simply in Peru (and the Dalmatian sunglasses lived on...until they broke).

Maybe happiness really is what you make it. But, I know that a key to it, one I still struggle with, is that being grateful goes a long way. I’ve met a lot of people since this graveyard man–many who, in what seemed to me very undesirable circumstances, also seemed to be having the best time.

I’ll stop preaching now. But I hope, if you made it this far, you’ll take one thing from all this blabbing: to be grateful. 🙂

Hallo(WEENIE)

This Halloween, I learned that the older I get, the weenier I get (I’m not sure that’s a real word, but you understand).

I always figured that you got braver as you got older. But no, at the Haunted House we took the kids to, I shamedfacedly let one of the boys lead the way and shook a kid off my coat in my rush to escape the chainsaw.

Luckily it was fake, and I knew that, I just got caught up in it, that’s all.

That’s exactly what happened at the mini haunted house we went to during the trick-or-treating, and when E and I went to a theme park after all the other Halloween festivities.

But really, the official diagnosis is: I’m a wimp.

What happened to this girl?:

The girl who went alone to Peru, speaking about ten words of Spanish and merely knowing the address of her host family. Who had to (obviously) do the one-armed-lean pictures of herself for months, or use the set-the-timer-and-run method.

Now I throw children aside in my rush to escape the fake horrors.

Sigh.

Will I ever know that girl again? Will I ever be able to hop on a plane by myself? Move to a new city by myself, if I ever need to? (I.e. if I ever make a decision on what I want to keep studying).

I can barely go to the doctor by myself. I certainly can’t change a tire–despite several efforts by my dad. (Whenever my dad and car lessons combined, I immediately forgot everything he told me. As such, it took way too long for me to figure out how to check my oil–probably the easiest thing you can do in a car besides refill the gas tank).

One thing I can always do myself is make coffee and go shopping.

I guess you see where my priorities lie.

Happy November, and stay tuned in my independent lessons!