Wednesday, October 31, 2018

NaNoWriMo: One Month, 50,000 Words

Happy Halloween! I can't believe we've already reached the end of October, can you? Tomorrow is the first day of November which means the first day of NaNoWriMo! I recently learned about this writing challenge from my friend Miriam Verheyden, and I can't wait to get started. 30 days, 50,000 words. Sounds simple, right?
For those of you that don't know, I'm a little bit passionate about writing. I started writing short stories in elementary school for creative writing assignments, wrote a few very rough drafts for novels by junior high, had my first novel fully drafted in college, and have written a few stories I'd love to publish since. While there are a few things 'in the works', its still a dream of mine to have a book published. One day! So you can understand how excited I am to be starting something new: to be a part of NaNoWriMo! 

The National Novel Writing Month is a non-profit with a great mission: "National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page." (source) Their entire platform is dedicated to helping writers connect, build, and encourage each other and grow their writing skills. Ever since reading Miriam's post on it, I've started seeing others posting about joining on blogs, LinkedIn, etc. too. So this is me, doing my part to spread the word. If you're interested in finally writing something that's been whirling around in your head or just want to test yourself and commit to writing for a month, I would highly recommend you check it out.
I've been brainstorming the past few days about what I'll be writing. The book I'm currently trying to publish is about the trip I took to Germany and Greece a few years ago that absolutely changed my life. However, several trips I've taken have changed my life so maybe I'll decide to fully elaborate on and share one of those. Or maybe it'll be a fictional story. Or maybe it'll be about something completely different that won't even pop into my head until Thursday morning (11/1) when the pressure is on. I have so many ideas, you guys! Regardless of what I finally decide, I've already got my evening cleared, my couch looking cozy, and my favorite tea and wine stocked. It's going to be a lovely start to NaNoWriMo.

I can't say how much this will affect blogging. I'd love to post more often as it is, but when you sit at a desk staring at a computer screen for 8 hours each day, the last thing you want to do is come home and do more of the same. And if I'm going to be writing 1,667 words every day (I did math: 50,000/30), I'm not sure how much time I'll have for blogging. But I've put my nose to the grind before and when it comes to writing, I truly don't mind. Once I get started on an idea, its difficult to stop! I wrote my most recent novel in just over three weeks, burning the midnight oil as I tend to be more creative at night. Hitting the 50,000 word goal is not a concern at all!

NaNoWriMo makes it so easy to stay on track and maintain a sense of accountability. You can win participation badges, meet other writers, share a synopsis of your novel, and even participate in events like webinars and "write-ins". I'm not sponsored by the company in any way (all thoughts/ideas in this post are my own), but I do think its a great initiative to help people finally get writing. I've been in the position before of truly wanting to write, having a great story bottled up inside, and not knowing where to start. It took an entire evening just sitting at my laptop, letting words flow, to learn that the easiest way to get started is to just start writing. Starting tomorrow, I plan to do just that. And I will have an entire community to support me and share ideas with as I go!
If you're interested in joining, its not too late. And it's completely free to join. As they are a nonprofit, they do accept donations to help keep the platform running. You can pay for some of the fancier features, but there is no cost to sign up for a basic profile. Check it all out here: https://nanowrimo.org.

Let me know if you're joining in, I'd love to connect! Happy writing!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Mental Health Day.

I have been back in the office for nearly two months now, and I have to say, it's going better than expected. I've loved getting back into a routine, spending so much time with my managers and coworkers in person, wearing clothes that had been sitting in my closet for over a year (and of course treating myself to a few new things, too), and just assimilating back into normal society. Morning meetings, office activities, the occasional lunch out...its exactly the change I needed and was hoping for. Of course there are things like traffic and sitting in a cube most of the day that come with working in a corporate position, but overall I'd say I'm pretty happy. I no longer have days when the only people I see are at the gym (if I go), no longer stay in my pajamas until noon, and have so much more energy than I did when I stayed home all day. Life is good.

That being said, yesterday was a Mental Health Day. Now I want to stress that I am not on the verge of a breakdown or feeling completely overwhelmed in any way (or anything that typically comes to mind when someone hears "Mental Health"). I just needed a day outside of this new norm to mentally collect myself and be with my family. Since I moved out of the UP, I've loved seeing them more often. However, the time we have is usually brief (a dinner, an evening outing) or in addition to so many other family members that you can hardly have a full conversation. Most of my family members work during the week, so it really only works to see them on the weekends (which has been cut short by the Yoga Teacher Training I'm currently going through). I don't have any regrets about the training or about working 8-5 every day, but it does make it more difficult to coordinate schedules with everyone. I had originally taken yesterday off of work because I had a dentist appointment, and when it got cancelled I decided to keep the day open. I needed it.

Because I'm programmed to wake up at 6:00am regardless of whether I'm working or not, I started the day with a short-form Ashtanga class at my yoga studio (ahh-ma-zing). Then I swung through Trader Joe's for groceries, stopped into Meijer for a few things TJ's didn't have, and headed home. It certainly felt weird to drive on the main roads without traffic, and then to come home at 10:00am (on a Thursday) just felt completely off. I watched a few Youtube videos, did my home practice of Yoga with Adriene (I'm going through her 'Revolution' series if you follow her), and admittedly did do some work from home. I spent some time writing, made lunch (zucchini, jack fruit, tofu), and headed out. My parents live roughly 45 minutes from my apartment, and I was going to stop at their house to drop off my car before walking over to my sister's (who lives in the same neighborhood) to babysit my niece. Then the plan was to walk back to my parents', help my dad finish fixing my car, and head home. 
Two years ago, I was on my way to work one day when I was caught in an accident. I say "caught" because I was one of six cars involved, sideswiped and pinned to the curb by the car who caused it. Other cars were totaled, and I was lucky enough to come away with only dented passenger-side doors. Granted, they were quite badly dented to the point where it would've been $4000+ to repair, but not so badly that I couldn't drive my car. And so, as any recent college grad would do, I left them the way they were. So for the past two years, I have been driving around in Little Blue looking like this:
Earlier this summer, I got a very excited phone call from my brother (who loves to fix up old cars). He had been to the junk yard one day and found new doors for my car: exactly the same make, model, color, interior, etc. as Little Blue. Before I had time to respond, he sent me a picture of his purchase. My parents went to visit him in August (he lives in Missouri), and returned with my doors. They've been sitting in my parents' driveway for the past month or two, and finally they were going to be attached. It was an exciting day for everyone.
I got "home" around 2:30, when my dad said we could start putting the doors on. I didn't have to be to my sister's until 3:30, so I figured we could get a good start. He'd taken a half day at work to help me (bless him), and hadn't returned from his bike ride by the time I got there. So I hung out with Coco - the cutie below - while drinking coffee and playing the piano. This house will always feel like home.
Big backyard, big garden, and half a deck (we had a pool when I was growing up)
At 3:30, he still wasn't back so I ran to my sister's house to watch my niece. She teaches piano lessons so I was just helping out by entertaining the two-year-old cutie during a lesson. We watched Minnie Mouse, played with magnetic dolls, and I even got to see her prance around in her Minnie shoes that Nana got her for her birthday. It was a very fun afternoon, and it was good to chat with my sister for awhile after the lesson. It's not often that she and I get to have 1:1 time, so I was thankful she didn't have back-to-back lessons. We just sat on the floor talking, entertaining my niece, and catching up. It was a much needed visit.

I was back to my parents' by 5:00, by which time my dad had taken the doors of my car apart and sprawled the guts all over the driveway. I was actually surprised how un-complicated the inner workings of a door are (until of course we realized the speaker on one of the new doors had been poorly replaced, and an episode of wire cutting and twisting ensued to get the one from the old doors installed). It was chilly out, but holding a heavy(ish) door steady while my dad unbolted it or bolted it back onto the car was a decent enough workout to keep me warm. We figured everything out, worked until it got dark, and I even learned about some of his early 20's escapades. There's really nothing like "working on a car" and listening to your dad tell stories from his childhood while having a few beers. It was an a wonderful evening. We eventually got everything twisted, popped, and bolted back into place, and my car was finally fixed. I didn't even notice until I left that the new doors had tinted windows (the rest of my car does not), but those are fixable too. And Little Blue is finally dent-free!
 Love this guy :)
Taking care of yourself does not require some kind of mental/physical/emotional crash to be justified. I've heard far too many stories (and lived through some myself) of people pushing themselves so hard they simply break. I actually spoke with one of my friends recently who works afternoons and she completely broke down on the phone. Work wasn't stressful, it was just taking so much time away from her family time, from taking care of herself, and making time for things she actually enjoys. Her exact words were, "I feel like I'm on a treadmill and I can't turn it off." It hit home with me, knowing that I've been there in the past, never giving myself the time I needed because I thought working hard always came first. Working hard is important, of course, but I think its equally important to take care of yourself. Maybe for some its just a latte on the way to work one day or taking a walk during lunch. It could be meeting up with an old friend, going to a yoga class or working out, or even taking a trip over a long weekend. For me, it was spending a day catching up on things, writing, and spending much-needed time with my family. I felt so restored at the end of the day; ready to tackle my Friday and head into what will be a very busy weekend. 

Please don't take Mental Health lightly. I don't think I can stress that enough. I know some people don't have the liberty to take an entire day for themselves, whether it be lack of PTO or chasing after kids or any other commitments, but try to at least give yourself a few hours if you can. It could even be half an hour. If you find yourself needing this time, it does not mean you're weak in any way. On the contrary, it takes a mentally strong person to admit they need that time, and then actually act on it. Burnout is real: whether its feeling sluggish and uninspired, feeling distanced from family, or completely hitting rock bottom. Take the time you need to be your best self and be kind to your body, your heart, and your mind. Talk to a friend or family member. Write it out. Whatever you might need, just give yourself the time you need without feeling guilty. You deserve it, and It truly makes a world of difference!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Travel Bug: My Post-Grad Trip (Part 2, Austria)

Sitting on the train heading from Kristina's little town in Bavaria to Munich was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. Not only was it the first time I'd taken a train by myself, but it was also the first time I'd ever had to navigate a train station without any help. I had roughly 15 minutes from the time I arrived in Munich until the time my train for Salzburg would be leaving, and after my and Kristina's escapade missing our train in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I felt sure I was going to fail. The train pulled in, I hopped off, and was instantly swept up into the crowd. The train station was enormous, and for an American who had never needed to navigate a Hauptbahnhof before, it was mildly overwhelming. 
I found someone near what I thought was my platform and asked in my very best German if he could help me. He responded without blinking an eye (also in German) and I was surprised to understand everything he said (so thankful for those three years of German in high school!). My train was the next platform over, and I was boarding in no time. It was a bit difficult to find a seat (apparently you can 'reserve' seats, which I had failed to do), but a young woman scooted over and let me sit with her for the duration. I sat down and got comfortable. Just a few hours until I'm in Austria!

After a nap, the train came to a stop and I was soon navigating the Salzburg Bahnhof to find Theresa. We had agreed to meet out front, and I made my way quickly through the station. There she was, standing by the doors, and we both smiled as we saw each other. I was overcome with the same rush of familiarity I'd had when I first saw Kristina at the airport: we were old friends, not separated by thousands of miles, and were going to have a great time together. We hugged, we started chatting, she helped me buy a bus ticket, and we headed out. 

That first evening in Salzburg was a blur. Theresa and I took the bus from the Bahnhof to her apartment, where we sat for awhile catching up (as old friends do), drinking tea, and discussing our plans for the week. It was already fairly late in the day, so we decided to do a quick walking tour of Salzburg and re-visit places of interest the next day. There was snow and slush on the ground as we powered through the streets, but my head was buzzing with excitement and my heart was warm. Salzburg was beautiful.
She pointed out certain castles and other historical buildings here and there, went into detail of their history, and even pointed out Mozart's Geburtshaus - that is, the place where Mozart was born. I was amazed with the amount of store fronts that were just dripping in Mozart-themed goods: chocolates, dolls, music boxes, ornaments, and even painted eggs. I knew he had come from Salzburg but I definitely was not aware of their pride in him!
Because it was already nearly two weeks after Christmas, the Christkindlmarkt was already packed up and finished for the year. However, as Theresa and I walked around there were still a few small stands selling the large cookies, Christmas knick-knacks, and homemade goods. We also found a Starbucks, so naturally I bought my 'Salzburg' You Are Here mug and was thrilled to have found it so easily. Then we continued walking, and came across a stall selling Gluhwein. As we were both chilled to the bone it sounded (and smelled) like a great idea.
I slept like a rock that night. It took awhile to register that I was actually in Austria and it wasn't just a dream. Yes, I had just graduated college. Yes, I had just spent an entire week in Germany with Kristina. Yes, I was actually in Theresa's apartment, and the next few days would be spent exploring Austria. It was such an amazing feeling, especially after working so much and so hard during the semester to get there. There's a quote, "Dreams don't work if you don't." and I couldn't have agreed more as I fell asleep that night.

The next day, we had a change of plans as we decided to visit Theresa's parents instead of exploring Salzburg. There was a huge Skispring event going on in Bischofshofen, and she wanted to take me to see what it was all about. We'd spend a few days there before coming back to Salzburg, and could explore the city then. I was excited to see yet another city!

A train took us south into the little mountain town of Goldegg, where we'd spend the next two or three days. We drank tea with her parents, I got to try homemade Gemüseschnitzel (basically battered and fried vegetables), I learned a great deal about Krampus, and we marveled at how cute Jon Bon Jovi was, and still is (she had a calendar of him in her bedroom). The night before the Skispring event, we met some of Theresa's friends to go to a giant celebration that was happening in Bischofshofen. It was a sort of 'amp up' to get everyone excited for the next day, when the Ski jumpers from every country would be sailing down the mountain. I found the sport extremely entertaining: basically people used the shape of their body and the skis to sail like flying squirrels down the slope, and where they landed determined their score. At the event the next day, they didn't even look human when we saw them in person. It was just incredible!
Admittedly, we didn't stay very long at the event because it was freezing (people were standing on cardboard boxes to keep their feet warm!), but I was so glad we got to experience it. We came home exhausted, frozen, and slightly buzzed, but it was well worth it.

We had finally thawed by the next morning, but it was time to bundle up and head out again. Theresa wanted to take me to a ski lodge in the Alps that she had visited several times throughout her childhood. From what she described, it sounded beautiful. And I was willing to go check it out, given we dressed a bit warmer than the day before. Fortunately, Austrians keep plenty of warm 'snow clothes' on hand, so we were soon bundled up and ready to enjoy our day in the mountains.
 Much, much better and ready for the Alps!
 We found a little restaurant at the top of the ski lift
 This was a trip full of carbs & coffee
The view was absolutely incredible. I was taken back to New Year's Eve when I was on top of the mountain with Kristina, feeling like I was on cloud 9 and on top of the world. There was nothing remotely close to that view in my home state of Michigan, and it just gave me a new appreciation for how big the world is and how small we truly are. The mountains seemed to go down forever, and off in every direction as far as the eye could see. I had no desire to go down on skis of course, but soaking it all in from the top was breathtaking.
The rest of the day was spent preparing to head back to Salzburg. I was so thankful we'd had a change of plans and came to Goldegg: it was a much more culturally intense (and far less touristy) way to experience Austria. I also felt like I got to know Theresa better, meeting her family, her friends, and her boyfriend, which might not have happened had we stayed in Salzburg. And of course the Skispring party and event in Bischofshofen were pretty fun, too.

Over the next few days, we thoroughly enjoyed our time together in Salzburg. We walked over the "love lock bridge" (similar to the one in Paris), went to a Kid's Museum (because you're never too old!), and on the last evening, we met a good friend of hers to go wine tasting. Matthias, Theresa, and I walked to three or four wine bars, trying whites and reds and all kinds of bread, olives, and charcuterie. It was such a lovely evening, and the best way I could have thought to end my trip to Austria.
 This was just one part of an entire room of trains!
The next morning, Theresa drove me to the airport in Munich. The week in Austria had gone by far too quickly, and we were both tearing up when it came time to say good-bye. It had been such a wonderful, enjoyable, and yes - freezing - week, but I was so glad it had worked out to see her. Coming back to the United States, I had no idea when I might see her again. I had no idea when I might see Kristina again. Or Matthias. Or anyone else that I had met during my time in Europe. But I still consider them to be close friends, no matter how far apart we are or how much time passes between visits.

Having friends around the world isn't easy. But I think they can be some of the closest friends you'll ever make. When you meet someone in another country, your friendship becomes more than just the standard "we have xyz in common, and we live somewhat close and can hang out often." Its a finding of common ground of course, plus a cultural exchange. And then there's a commitment that transcends thousands of miles. Of course letters and social media make it somewhat easier, but there's still a bond that's hard to explain, and is hard to find anywhere else.

I'm so thankful I had the chance to take this post-grad trip. All of the hours at Target, at my computer finishing my internship, working on homework between customers or assignments...it all paid off in the end. This trip added a new appreciation for travel, and the friendships that can be made along the way. I had only spent time in the office with Kristina and Theresa in Dublin, and here we were a year later exploring their hometowns and feeling like old friends. And once again, I had a feeling I'd be back. I just knew it. And I couldn't wait for whenever and wherever that might be.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Travel Bug: My Post-Grad Trip (Part 1, Bavaria)

I graduated from Minnesota State University in December of 2015. That final semester was by far the busiest and most stressful of my entire college career, but everything was well-worth the post-grad trip it allowed me to take. As I mentioned in my Ireland post, I made great friends with Kristina and Theresa, two other interns at my office in Dublin. That had been the summer of 2014, and we managed to keep in touch since returning home. So the following summer, when I started another internship in Portland, Oregon, I decided to start saving heavily for a trip back to Europe. I wanted to go back and see my friends, and nothing was going to change my mind. I saved as much as I could during my internship, and was thrilled when my manager asked me to continue working for her remotely from my dorm in Minnesota. I set up my laptop and logged in daily to help the sales and marketing team I'd been on during the summer. I worked for her nearly 20 hours/wk, in addition to a full load of classes and my part-time job at Target. (I say part-time, but I worked 30-40 hours/wk, taking early shifts before work or doubles on the weekend). I didn't mind the packed schedule: it was only a few months, and I'd get to see Kristina and Theresa again. The day I finally purchased my flight was the most exciting day of the semester, possibly even more exciting than walking across the stage on graduation. I was officially going back to Europe!

I would visit Kristina first in Bavaria (Germany). We would spend a week together after Christmas, ringing in the New Year together, and then I would take a train to see Theresa in Austria. I would spend a week there as well, explore Salzburg and Bischofshofen before finally flying home. When the time finally came to receive my diploma, I could barely concentrate on the fact that I was done with college. Europe was only 10 days away!

I spent Christmas with my family, moving back to my parents' house until I could find a job and an apartment, and took off for Germany on December 27. It was such an exhilarating feeling, and when my mom dropped me off at the airport I could hardly process what was actually happening. I had been planning, saving, preparing for this trip for months and here it was. I checked in, went through security, and found my gate. And before I knew it, I was on the plane and on my way back to Germany. When I finally got to the airport, Kristina was waiting for me and I nearly tackled her, we hugged so much. Was this real? Was I actually back in Europe? 
Every conversation Kristina and I had since our summer in Dublin had felt like old friends just talking. So meeting her at the airport, where we stopped at a little cafe for coffee before heading to her town, felt so incredibly natural. It was as if I was going to visit a friend I'd known for ages. We quickly transitioned from "Oh my gosh, it's so good to see you, how was your trip? How are you?" to typical girl chat like, "So how is the man in your life?" It was so nice to be together again, and we knew it was going to be a very fun week.

Over the next several days, Kristina and I grew closer than ever. I met her sister and parents, who quickly made me feel like I was another daughter. We talked (them in broken English, me in broken German, and somehow it worked), enjoyed delicious bread and pretzels from the bakery her mother worked at, and had the most amazing coffee in little German coffee mugs. Kristina and I stayed up late that first evening, drinking tea and watching Nicholas Sparks movies while catching up on everything going on in each others' lives. (We share a common appreciation for his stories and of course the actors in his movies...) Kristina had put together a little guest room for me, and when I went to bed that first night I found a little pair of warm, Bavarian wool socks waiting on my bed. It was the end of December, after all, and I truly appreciated their thickness and warmth.
The next few days were a blur. Kristina and I went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Munich to do some shopping and to see the city, walking around the busy city centers with the smells of roasted nuts and bakery goods wafting through the air. In G-P we found little shops selling homemade wares, clothing stores, and a little cafe for lunch. Then in Munich there was a giant ice skating rink in one area, and street vendors selling Christmas goods in another. On the way home, we had to switch trains and missed our connection, so we bought wine at the convenience store there and spent nearly two hours waiting, drinking, and talking until the next train came. It was not an ideal situation at the time, but without a doubt is a memory we both look back on fondly and laugh about. Two girls stranded in a train station with nothing but time and wine... 
We shopped at Aldi. We met some of Kristina's friends. We accidentally spiralized cucumber instead of zucchini for dinner one night (it was much lighter and incredibly watery, but still delicious). She introduced me to interesting aspects of German culture that I wasn't taught in school, such as their recycling system (3 bins in most German kitchens), using a Thermomix, and shared her photos from Carnival. On one shopping trip, I bought my favorite tea (Apfeltee, from TeeKanne for anyone wondering....) and we bought cheap wine for a relaxing evening in. One afternoon, we saw a band playing outside, going door to door not for money but for alcohol (it was hilarious). A few of her girl friends came over and we drank an entire bottle of Bailey's-like alcohol while getting ready for a night out. The four of us went out to a club where we met a larger group of her friends, and a truly magnificent night unfolded. We drank far too much Weinschorle (wine mixed with sparkling lemon water or soda) and some sweet jam-like shots while dancing to Backstreet Boys and N*Sync. I was surprised at how much 'American Music' they listened to! There was so much dancing, so much laughing, and there may have even been poles involved at some point. We were there for what felt like hours, having a blast with her group of friends (I got to know several of them), and finally got a ride home when the lights started to come on. Once we were home, we sat at her kitchen table and split a jar of sauerkraut (it was the only thing we could find at the time that sounded remotely tasty). To this day, we'll break out the sauerkraut on a drinksy night, and may or may not have done so at our B&B on a trip to Mackinac Island together. It's weird but it's fantastic.
The next day she took me on a walking tour of her town, a very small village nestled in the mountains of Bavaria. The weather wasn't wonderful, but we bundled up and headed out. She pointed out her mother's bakery, the post office, and a few of her friends' houses. We saw dogs, horses, and even chickens. It was so enjoyable to walk around in the fresh air after our night of Weinschorle and dancing. I am definitely a fan of Bavaria.
When New Years Eve finally arrived, we met her group of friends at the train station and we all huddled together in the freezing cold to wait. By this point, I felt like I knew many of them quite well, and the stories Kristina told me about each of them helped provide some background as well. One loved soccer, one loved American football (I tried to talk sports, but couldn't get very far as my knowledge is limited...), a few were childhood friends, and one was of particular interest. We piled into the train together and were soon on our way to Innsbruck. The plan was to go out for dinner, buy alcohol to take with us up the mountain, and ring in the new year in the mountains near Tirol. Once we arrived, we quickly found an Italian restaurant before heading to the lift that would take us to the mountains. Everything was passing in such a blur, and while we were freezing already before the night had even begun, we were having an amazing time. Laughing, running through the streets, laughing at the language barrier between us. Or maybe they were laughing at me because I was trying to overcome the language barrier with only 3 years of German under my belt. Regardless, I was having a blast.
Once we were on top of the mountain, time disappeared. There was a tent with loud music, flashing lights, Gluhwein, Punsch, and beer. There were a few chairs outside and a restaurant nearby where people wearing fancy clothes were also enjoying the evening. And then, at the base of the mountain, was the beautiful city of Innsbruck lit up beautifully. We were so high up, the fireworks were beneath us, and we could see them exploding as we enjoyed warm mugs of Gluhwein, huddled together as we waited for midnight. It was the most magical evening of my entire life to that point, and despite my feet and face being completely numb, I was on cloud 9.
The rest of my time with Kristina flew by. The following day was rather slow as we were both nursing headaches and sore muscles from all of the dancing and shivering the night before. We had a leisurely day, including a brunch of Brötchen (bread rolls) with Himbeermarmelade (raspberry jam), Frischkäse (cream cheese), and Zimt (cinnamon). We stopped at the post office. We watched more Nicholas Sparks movies and just soaked up every minute we had together. When the time finally came for me to continue on to Austria, we cried. It was such a sad moment at the train station, hugging good-bye without really knowing when the next time was we could see each other. She felt like a sister, living an ocean away and leaving her was tough. We didn't know when we'd see each other again, but we knew it would happen one day. 
She helped me buy a ticket, and when the train arrived we hugged one last time. I was off to Munich, where I had a connecting train to Salzburg, and she was off, back to her world in Bavaria. Everything that had led up to that first week in Germany was worth it: the early hours at Target, the picked-up shifts, the late nights fine-tuning PowerPoints for my internship, the 'saying no' to going out with friends to save money. I had just had the best week of my life, and there was only more to come. The German countryside flew by outside my window, and it was only a matter of time before I'd be arriving in Austria.

Adjusting in a Covid World

If you would’ve asked me at the start of the year what I thought 2020 would look like, I can guarantee my answer would have been much, much ...