Going Places

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“Dear my closest friend 
I’m writing because 
I miss you so much 
At night I always cry 
The stillness still reminds me 
Of when we first fell in love 
And I miss that so much” -Flyleaf

Do you remember Christmas? I mean really remember. Stop. Think about it. When we were children and counted down the days till we twitched (like…really, way too much sugar for my little girl self) with anticipation at even the mention of the holiday, let alone the actual day. It was big, it was grand, and it was our day, whether or not we were naughty or nice (cause let’s face it…none of us were nice all year) I still remember one time, a moment that will remain in my memory for a lifetime to come, it sticks and is clear as the day it was made. The best kinds of memories. It’s funny, however, the distinct parts we remember, and the ones that drift away. You see we were out, somewhere that has faded in my mind, on Christmas Eve. Everyone was with us, the whole family.
As we drove home I might have whined. ..a little bit about the obvious lack of presents under our ginormous tree (we have a habit of waiting to buy our tree till the very last minute then getting one that is so large it holds about a third of our ornaments….which are not that extravagant anyway, so I guess we make up for it with size) and how it was not fair we didn’t have any and blah blah blah…I cannot believe I was so annoying, I’m never like that anymore..ever (I’m being sarcastic, just so you know) And so of course my parents probably wanted to strangle me and I’m sure my other siblings weren’t peachy either, I forget how many there were at the time, and all in all it was just….ich. So, finally, we arrive at the cobblestone walk of our old blue house (which is really, obviously gray but my siblings and I stubbornly called it, and still do, “the blue house”) and trudge up the steps…to find that the door is just slightly open. Now, my family forgets our shoes half the time let alone remembers to lock the front door, so we sort of just fell through without taking much notice. Until the living room. Ahhh! The tree is lit up and there is a stack, no, a mound of presents perked and ready to be ripped open. And these are not just little, measly ones, no! Some were bigger than me, which I immediately ran to and started jumping up and down saying “please, please, please, paaaaaleaaaase!” with the sweet, doe – eyed look of a girl who knows she was bad just moments ago and realizes that now she must be extra good to get what she wants. Eventually I did get to open them, along with my darling brothers (?) and sister, and it was a wonderful time, for all of us. So wonderous, in fact, that we all woke up before six a.m. ….So lovely, we children are.

To this day we still do not know, or at least none of us kids, how the presents got there. But I thank the elves, the sweet ones with excellent timing, who knew my parents needed relief from our demands and quite draining, innocent oblivion of what was happening, as it was a hard time for us.

Maybe you’re wondering what I’m trying to say, telling you this story…and I’ll be perfectly honest with you….I didn’t have a straight and narrow point to bring across. But I wanted to share my walk down memory lane, my dancing thoughts with you, all the same.
I started this post sitting on a train, my heart in my mouth and my nerves causing my limbs to tremble, and now (having been caught up in the wonderful hospitality of my German family and having a fabulous time I’ve neglected to post, but I hope you realize that the best things I write come from what I live. So I might as well keep living, even if it interferes with my writing) I sit on a big couch with candles lit not far away, half the family sits around me, strewn haphazardly across their own seats, the murmuring of quiet voices soothing to my ear. The TV is on and I catch perhaps one out of ten words that are spoken, but it is relaxing all the same. My heart is full.

Now you see, the writing of this began in an entirely different mindset, and I am partially thrilled, terrified, and sad to say that is so. No matter what, let’s realize, whether change is good or bad…it’s scary. And I’m pretty sure that if I think about exactly how much has changed, really think about it, in the past seven days I’d be entirely overwhelmed. So I’m going to write instead.

Now, so my story doesn’t seem totally random (Pascal, the boy who makes me laugh, says I am very random, but he likes it…but then again he could be lying) let’s think for moment. Do you have one of those memories, or several? Most likely. I don’t know about you but I never want to lose them. No matter where I go. And, you see, that’s just it. We are always going somewhere, whether it’s to the mall or towards our future, and we never stop going, no matter how stubbornly we try to insist on staying right where we are, the poor Universe, having to fight us all the way. But thank goodness something is fighting for us because without that constant push, we would remain exactly as we are. How horrifying. So breathe, look around, live, and laugh. You have time, you have your life, everything is possible. And no I’m not trying to be a motivational coach who’s way too positive and has you wanting to punch them in two minutes, I’m dead serious, so take another breath, and take a step. Just one. One little step, and everything changes. For better or worse it’s yours to decide. And I know (you might be shaking your head right now, telling me I don’t, but I do. Swear. ) “it’s not as easy as all that Gigi” and no, it’s not, but all I’m saying is to inch forward, maybe stop fighting with change and just let go, it doesn’t mean leap into something or change everything it just means…well you’ve stopped fighting it. That’s one step closer to going somewhere.

Oops!…ok so I might have possibly been so beautifully lost in living and laughing and loving for two and a half glorious weeks…that I forgot to write at all. So here I am again, the setting has changed, everything is different. And, once again, I’m pretty scared. But I’m excited too. In three weeks I have been expanded, I have grown, I have dived in and out of experiences with vigor and passion and I have really lived. How many other sixteen year old girls can say the same? I hope billions. Because it’s so important to experience this, a sense of growing while growing up and coming into oneself, of finding the things that leave you with the sense that anything is possible and realizing we are never stuck in any one mindset or dream. Because everything is teeming with possibility. As long as you want it. And I mean really want it. So stick out those bellies and take a big, big breath. Clear your head and shift your thinking. The beginning is as easy as that…..and then it gets harder. But it’s ok, because none of us are alone. I hope you’ll come with me and help me out too, because one minute I’m on top of the world and the next I feel like I’m losing myself in a giant muddy pit of crappy thinking and and self pity. So take my hand, you’re helping me as much as anyone by listening to my thoughts and sharing my experiences. Thank you.

A couple paragraphs ago (and a couple weeks ago) I wrote that I didn’t really know exactly where this post was going. Ahh the beauty of time and change, because now I do.

On Thursday the 26th I crossed the atlantic ocean for the second time in my life, stepped off a plane, and into the beginnings of my future. And I was crying. What. A. Girl. I was overwhelmed by so many emotions I seriously felt like I was going to shutdown. Nine and a half hours is way too long to be left alone with ones thoughts. But it’s also perfect, cause there is absolutely no running away. And that’s all I wanted to do, drown myself in movies and media and never sit and just think. And I did that for a couple hours…and then I stopped, I closed my eyes, and I took and breath. …And I cried again remembering the beautiful journey I had. Whether it was sipping coffee in Paris or screaming on the sidelines of a fußeball tournament in Germany (like….scary, I went a little crazy and lost my voice. Pfff and I used to say I didn’t care about soccer…) I feel bad for the happy couple that was sitting next to me (the woman was constantly giggling and looking at her husband with literally starry eyes and the man was watching monsters university on his ipad….it was adorable) as a few times they looked over at me as if to say “we’re so happy, we wish you were too”. They’ll never know and I’ll probably never see them again, but in that moment they did cheer me up. For about ten minutes.
So…that was about the longest nine and a half hours of my life, but I’m thankful all the same. I didn’t find inner peace or some deep words of wisdom, but I found what I needed. As I stepped off the plane a felt a huge sense of purpose and excitement….and (guess what?!) possibility. I love Europe and I hope it loves me back, I think it does, and someday I’m going to be there, living in Prague, strolling in Scotland, dancing in Spain. And of course laughing in my first sweethearts Germany and Paris. I’m going to grow and shift and dazzle and find Glamor in everything. As I’m going to do now, at home, in the snow, on the beach, surrounded by a family that is crazy and awesome and loving all tangled into one giant (literally) bundle. Oh how I missed the screaming and the kicking, the kisses and “I love yous”, and the many hearts beating with such big feelings and dreams.
This is home. Not a place, but an experience, a feeling. You see my sadness doesn’t come simply from the wonderful people I’ve left behind but from the continent itself, the lifestyle, the beauty. I realize now that every time I went somewhere in Germany I always thought of leaving to “go home”, and it truly felt like home, arriving to Isabel, the mom, who insisted on buying me socks the minute she realized I had not brought enough, or Luis, the little boy who reminded me so much of my own brother, who teased and played with me till I felt so comfortable I was perfectly able to be me. Which I really hope didn’t totally overwhelm everybody….I can be pretty exuberant when I’m so completely happy.

And so I’m taking it with me, I’m taking the language (for after only two weeks I wanted to squeal with delight every time I realized I understood what someone was saying!) the joy, the music (I get access to a fabulous DJ from Germany now) and the excitement for every other time to come.

So you’re probably sitting in some place that’s become kind of uncomfortable after reading for so long….thinking that, after all, I didn’t find a point to write about. Oops again. But you see, I did. There’s like…a lot of things I said in the last paragraphs and they probably don’t all blend together perfectly, written in the course of several weeks, but I hope that after all of it you understand. Because I do. Finally. I’m so excited to go home to little town New Buffalo, to dance with the passion I’ve gained, to see everyone and tell the world how big I am. How ready. For everything. I have been sad, and I am grieving leaving the sparkling lights of Paris and the beautiful vineyards of Germany, but the point is that instead of letting that bring me down, of sinking into the missing and the loss, I’m going to let it add to my knowledge and experience as I plunge forward into the future I am so excited to live.

Going places.
Where are you going?
Do you know?
I hope not, because sometimes that’s the best part, not knowing. Whether it’s not knowing what sweet soul blessed your family with gifts so many years ago, or not knowing (sometimes in a way that is so scary it hurts) what will be in your future…All you need to know is you are wonderful, beautiful, and you are going places and each day it’s your choice to have those places be bigger and better. It’s all up to you. And I mean…life and chance too…but I promise, you have a voice. So use it.

Let’s go. Let’s dance. Let’s live.

No goodbyes for me as this New Year approaches, only hello to what’s next and see you next time.

My New Years resolution is to live. What’s yours?

Oh La La Ma chérie

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We came across this famous site on our one free day before I left this grand city, for though the other days were perfect in their own way, we were all ready for a day dictated only by the whim of our wishes. It is Sunday and we are far from the only people taking off to escape into the older streets of Paris, where one must keep a wary eye, for the danger of getting lost in shadows of another time is close and tantalizing.
Despite I and my dad thoroughly enjoying the so “not tourist’s” atmosphere of our stay here we are excited to see the tall, magnificent architecture of Notre Dame, where my mind quickly thinks of the Disney movie that always left me with a hopeless urge to cry. But hopelessness has no place here, for all is strength and awe as we crane our necks to see every delicate detail, which I believe could never be perfectly possible, as the building is full of small, subtle secrets curves and creations. Oh how I wish I could have sat for hours just to look.

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I take in a breath, the sun is shining so bright, so hot (well…for December, and for a girl from the frigid tundra of Michigan) I walk down the street in tall suede boots and am surrounded by people who make my heart feel oh so full. That’s my dad there, the scarf he has no idea how to wear tossed over his shoulder. He strides a few feet ahead, immersed in conversation with one of his business partners and good friend who is also our host, along with her husband who always seems ready to take us to the next great site, or to show us the next hidden treasure. And just ahead of me is their daughter, who reminds me that there our other teenagers who are bigger than just the world they inhabit, that I am not alone in the love of dance, words, and conversation, and ohhhlala does she have a good sense of fashion as well. Whatever may be the stereotype of the French…well perhaps it was founded somewhere, but from the moment I walked through the door these kind people have made me feel at home, and full of the excitement of new experiences, and new ways to grow. Whether they were teasing, laughing, explaining, or learning something new alongside me and my dad. This is a place, a group of people, I always wish to hold in my heart and visit again, and again, and again. Whether the visit is a dream, hard to hold,  or the rock solid strength of future memories with ever the possibility to be made.

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And now the river flows beneath us, my bag swings in my hand, grazing just slightly across the ground, my eyes and mind distracted by the blinding light surrounding and filling us. The sweet comfort of laughter tickling my ears, and the breath of an accordion kidnapping me and taking me back to far away times. Where young people dance in the street without a care, where women’s mysteries are undiscovered, and a man’s strength known, yet not constantly shown….. Ahh but then I see the motorbikes and cars zipping past, hear the buzz of cellphones chattering like angry birds (Ha, get it?) and my eyes are open. Here I am, in the 21st century.

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Our hosts scoff, fondly, when they see this and I’m pretty sure I saw Fred actually wrinkle his nose. “Only for tourists.” They laugh and we watch as a couple ‘padlocks’ their love together and turns for a kiss that while, yes, so cheesy…. kind of sort of still melted my my own heart. So I crouch down by thousands of strangers hearts, wondering if they are still whole or if  some have been broken or lost between the years, and… I think I wouldn’t mind being a silly tourist and turning the key in the lock of my heart, attaching it to my own special someone. A fragile hope of locking away the doubts and the distance, atop the bridge where I first experienced what love could look like in the city of blinding light. But love is not to be locked whether or not it is forever. So I’ll take a deep breath and do what I can…I will hope, I will dream, and I will be foolish,  as all those in love are.

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As she said “Funny faces are always better.”
There is time for everything here, whether it be with sophistication and poise or the wildness, accompanied so often by youth, and excitement we hope to never forget how to feel. After all,  no matter what, I love sometimes best those times where I feel like I’m six years old again, with not a care in the world.

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It was the kind of taste that leaves you wondering…how can someone not believe in a higher power? It glides onto the tongue with a lavish kiss, rich with flavor yet still cold as ice should be. We strolled, laughing with chattering teeth, the consequences of indulging our taste buds in place of our bodies heat. But I promise you, it was worth it. As was every dessert digested in those few days. And I can say, with out even the hint of lying, that I have no regrets of my time in Paris, except for…. when will I ever have time to see every bit of this city in my one lifetime?

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“Oh, you look so beautiful in the city of blinding light.”-U2

And I felt so. Really. We say thank you when people compliment us, some of us laugh and pretend confidence oozes from our being…but then there our those moments, so genuine, when you don’t need someone to tell you, you don’t need to see it. Because you feel it.
And I did.
That day, staring up through the great construction that is the Eiffel Tower….I paused to think, not about whether my hair was perfect or if my mascara was clumping, but about how beautiful I felt inside. And I don’t think I have ever felt that exact way before. When lights twinkle in the eyes of the people around you, and you know you stand at a place so much bigger than yourself…that is when it’s easy to pause and soak it all in, to reflect such grandeur, such light, be it for minutes or decades.

Thank you Paris, thank you for expanding me, for letting me grow, for showing me the world that is so big. I forget sometimes, walled in my own caging mind every so often. And you have blessed me with a reminder I won’t soon forget, if ever. I’m ready now. I don’t know for what, but whatever comes I’m ready. I will open my mind, I will laugh, I will love. And I will be back soon to see you, City of blinding Light.

A glimpse of Glamor

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We drove by L’Arc de Triomphe on our way to see a portion of the sites of Paris. Amid the sound of honking horns and having our car yanked this way and that to avoid disaster (which seemed to be hurtling toward us every few seconds) suddenly, back dropped by blue, arose this magnificent site. It is one thing to see in the movies, oh lala so French, but it is entirely different to see for oneself.

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Tea at a beautiful hotel as we speak business and begin planning out our day tomorrow.

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Aside from the glorious Louis Vuitton in the background I was glad to capture the scooter whizzing past. Perhaps it is because I live in the country, where I rarely see anyone on the road, let alone inches from my window, but the French, on their small but viciously fast scooters, have no qualms scraping past the tip of our car or speeding in between two lanes. It is daring and bold…and I love it.

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After walking down the Champs-Élysées lit up for the holiday season with lights everywhere the eye could look, we arrived at the Obélisque de Louxor (Napoleans obelisk brought to Paris from egypt) and stood to gaze at the Eiffel tower, when all of a sudden a billion lights began flashing rapidly, like faeries set on devouring such beautiful architecture (luckily it wasn’t so) At that moment it was only me and my dad, we both admitted feeling a bit sad not having one of our French guides, for with them we felt so immersed, so part of Paris. Alone we felt…well we felt like American tourists. Not a feeling I enjoyed. And yet, thank goodness, quite soon one of our business partners arrived in a tiny car and we fell in, to speed away into very heavy, very terrifying traffic. Previously that afternoon we had been under the impression that we were simply going to a regular restaurant for dinner, of course nothing is boring or normal here in my eyes, but as we were driving we discovered exactly how special it was to be. We were on our way to a private apartment where a friend of a friend, a magnificent chef, was to cook an entire meal specifically for our team. She does this only two or three times a month, always at different locations, and each time, I am guessing, it only gets better and better. From the tiny cobbled street – where my heels echoed delightfully – with large doors and high walls that reminded me somewhat of Rome (or what I have seen in the movies) to the candlelit stairwell winding it’s way up and up, till we arrived in an entirely Parisian apartment, where ladies in tights and black heels spoke rapid French and leapt up to greet us, with a classic ‘kiss kiss’. We lounged alongside, or tried, tasting sweet appetizers and sipping champagne. And then it was time for dinner.
Oh lala I shall never eat anywhere else! The elegance of soft, sweet light and the smell drifting from the kitchen was enough. And yet there was food as well! Conversation, the sound of deep red wine pouring into a delicate glass, inspiration and beauty everywhere. Trés magnifique.
And then, wait….you won’t believe me….dessert! Ach, I cannot even remember the names, only that each bite melted on my tongue and we all looked at each other and just shook our heads at the bliss we felt.
Slowly we meandered our way back to the parlor, the night sky deep and mysterious outside behind a set of glass double doors, in a stupor of delight we sipped coffee and talked of motivation and strategy, as well as partnership and leadership. It was a wonderful time of coming together, of growing to know each other a little bit more.
And so now here I sit, in a bed calling my name ever closer, at 2:25 in the morning, unable to stop till I am finished with fear that if I do the words will be lost. But sleep is sweet and I cannot resist, so I will rest and I hope to see you soon. Tomorrow I awake, another day, a new adventure.

Jusque-là,

Au revoir!

“To be Free”

What is the meaning? What word or thought comes to mind?

Do you consider yourself “free”?

I’m sitting in an airplane, the stars are out, and I can’t help but feel that my life is about to begin.

Come with me.

If you had told me a year ago that I would be here, writing in the sky on my way across the ocean…well…I would have laughed, loudly. And not the laugh that rings like a tiny bell, soft and sweet to the ear, but the laugh that boarders on the cusp of a meltdown. A big one. A nasty, girly, scary, wide-eyed-monster-with-frizzyhair-meltdown. I know right? Crazy. But let me tell you a little secret. Sometimes….The best opportunities in the world…are simply terrifying.

So what do we do? The “muggle” answer (yes, muggle from our beloved Harry Potter) is to remain…steady…
Now wait. Stop.
Listen to that word, say it. Does it roll of your tongue? Or does it stick there, hard to be rid of. Of course we cannot judge our poor words for their distinct ring as they are spoken, or lack thereof, for they are not their own makers. But that does not mean we cannot be.

That is the start of the meaning of freedom to me. What shall it be to you?

Now back to our word. Are you steady? I am not. In fact I hope to never be. I told you I was crazy, didn’t I? Now let me explain why. To be steady, in my definition, is to cease reaching for something greater. And that I will never do. Let me not confuse you though. Steadiness has its place and I do not discount it, however as long as it pairs hand in hand with living….really living, and never settling for less than you or I deserve. And we do deserve. Promise me you won’t forget that.
We deserve laughter and love, abundance and wealth, and most importantly, we deserve to believe this.

As I sit here and type there is an ever present sense of joy and excitement (and sheer exhaustion, I’m not like Cinderella, I do in fact get cranky and tired and my hair could never stay in a little blue ribbon…ever) building inside me as our destination edges closer, hour by hour, second by second. The kind attendant just leaned to take my meal, her question of whether I was finished or not first posed in English and then quickly followed by French, and all I can do is smile.
There’s a man a few feet away, he stands, slouching gracefully to lean in and converse rapidly with a colleague, his shoes shine as if recently buffed, his gray hair showing not age but sophistication, the bright yellow scarf, left to dangle lazily around his neck, adding a touch of youth and humor, leaving me to wonder who this man is. The deep lines around his mouth form words I cannot understand and yet I still feel them, the roll and vibration, the sheer awe of being already immersed in an entirely different culture. It is beautiful.
And now here we are hours later. The pressure in my ears is growing greater and the sky is no longer a mass of nothingness but tinged with pink and icy blue, I find myself wishing desperately I had a window seat to peer out of. Ah well, I am craning my neck and looking awkwardly past strangers, but it is worth it. Good morning Paris, it’s nice to meet you. I’ve been waiting all my life.

So you see, this speaks of freedom, believing, to me, to my heart. There is nothing here that brings to mind the word steady, safe, or comfortable (literally, as there is a lot of turbulence). And yes it is frightening. I, personally, am terrified. But it is the kind of fear that builds stronger inside as one dances closer to change, opportunity, life. With this feeling we should know, or guess, that this is the kind of risk to take. The one that expands our being, challenges us. Whether it be eating your eggs scrambled instead of over easy or leaping out of a plane, an amateur skydiver. Choose your expansion, you do not have to lose yourself or control in the process. But make a choice, every day to expand. And see what happens.

Now perhaps this is the perception of naivety, coming from a young girl on a virgin flight to Europe, with ideas of wonder and Glamor…or just maybe it is reality, and to be perceived as beautifully by everyone. If you give yourself the chance.
Will you?

Think about it. What speaks to your soul, what words ring with freedom to your ears? Maybe you know, or you are satisfied where you are. But perhaps, just teasing at the edge of your mind, barely there but with room to grow, you yearn for more. More life, words, experiences. Or could it be the words are not yet there? For there are so many, dazzling, glamorous, different. So I propose to you that we take this journey together, to find these words, this freedom. Mine starts here, in Paris, and what better place? For Glamor, luxury, expansion, and the essence of experience. For years I have dreamed of this place, this country. And by speaking and believing I find myself in a place so full of passion and eloquence I find it hard to breathe.

Again I say…Come with me. And choose your way, will it be steady as stone or wild on wings? Whichever, let it be full, and find Glamor in every choice you make.

Merci,
Au revoir!