This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

So apparently my body cannot handle anything outside of my semi-normal routine.
Tap dominoes
I bloat and everything gets thrown off even if I’m gone three days and eat well.
What do you want from me
I expect to bloat a little because I do eat a little more than usual, but especially in cases like this where I was super active, I would hope that I counteracted the extra calories.
I tried
But no. I’m 4 lbs up with bloat, and it will probably take me another 3 weeks to get back to normal. As someone who likes to travel, this will get old very quickly.
Why can't you just be normal
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Win Some, Lose Some

I finally got back on track to consistently losing weight (it only took me three weeks), I’ve lost officially 12.2 lbs (but really it’s more like 8.2 lbs), and I’ve gone to the gym 3x a week for the last three weeks. I feel better, my clothes fit better, I’m more flexible, I have more muscle tone, and I can see little differences in myself.
I eat success for breakfast
It turns out that a bad thing to do in such a situation is to go camping and do outdoorsy things with people more physically fit than you.
 Chris rips a log in half
Because this was my trip in a nutshell:
1) I was exhausted after swimming (mostly treading water) for 45 minutes.
Help me, help me I'm dying
2) Watching my friends get back into a kayak in open water with only moderate effort (while it took me 10 tries with two people acting as counterweights).
Derpy magikarp
3) Watching my friends bound up giant rock steps like they’re nothing.
Speed climbing
4) Enviously seeing my friend’s toned, slim body do whatever she wanted it to do.
Skinny bitches
5) Once again feeling helpless as the most fragile, fattest one of the bunch.
Baymax poke belly
Although there were some little good things I have to keep in mind:
1) My legs are stronger than they used to be. I could handle the MANY trips up and down MANY stairs/rocks with ease (albeit more slowly than my friends).
Spongebob leg
2) I was less self conscious of my body in leggings and my swimsuit.
I got this
3) The last time I went swimming, I was exhausted after 15-20 minutes.
Drowning
4) I did most everything they did, and I have the bruises and aches to prove it.
Eric collapse

It’s…Working?

Six weeks in, and I’m doing it.

It's working

In the first 4 weeks, I lost almost 6 lbs, and even though that’s not a huge amount, I lost weight every week (even if it was only half a pound) and I hit my lowest weight of the year.

Tonight we are victorious
Then I fumbled. Two weeks ago, I went away on a four-day conference where we ate out nearly every night, there was alcohol, and I suffered from that travel bodily upset that everyone gets but no one wants to talk about.
Constipated fake smile

Even though I didn’t make any terrible decisions, I certainly didn’t adhere to my usual schedule of planned meals.

Introduce a little anarchy
I gained back nearly everything I had lost. Fortunately, most of it fell off over the next week, but I’m still several pounds up from were I was a few weeks ago.
Disappointed

I’m frustrated, but not too bothered by it. Here’s why:

Sheldon explaining

What I’m doing now is easy.

Honestly, I'm going to last forever

Not easy the way everyone would love weight loss to be easy, mind you.

If you fart you can lose weight

But easy compared to the hell I’ve been through before.

Easy as childbirth

Before, every hour of every day was an argument with myself – making compromises on what I ate, coaxing myself into going to the gym, commanding myself to be different.

I'm kicking my ass, do ya mind

I read other people’s weight loss stories and they would casually talk about how they did one thing for a number of months before adding or switching to something else. That always blew my mind. They talked about months as if it was nothing, meanwhile a week was an eternity for me. A single day felt like a year.

Let's do the time warp again
Another day in hell

Now I get it.

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It’s not supposed to be that hard. It shouldn’t feel like hammering a round peg into a square hole.

We gotta find a way to make this fit into this

Make it work

It’s supposed to be a learning process – and I don’t mean learning how to be a different person. For instance, I have an untamable sweet tooth, I hate planning, and I hate being locked down by schedules and menus. I need to do things my way, and for the first time, I’m doing it my way and still seeing success.

Like Frankie said, I did it my way
I keep a supply of individually wrapped candies on hand at anytime, and I change it up as my mood changes. I have an eating routine that keeps me from overdoing it, and I keep a selection of foods I like on hand for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so that I can choose what I want as spontaneously as I want. I usually have an idea of what I’ll eat a day ahead, but no more than that. And, I cheat everyday.
You cheated
Pirate

I don’t eat perfectly by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t eat these perfect superfood concoctions I prepared days in advance. I’m not there yet. I still eat out of the frozen foods section…a lot. Because that’s what I can handle and what I want to eat. When I’m feeling healthier, I eat healthier.

Salad, fuck salad

When I just need some fast food or a doughnut, I eat it.

God I want a donut

But I’m smart about it.

Smort smart

I plan it in advance – usually not by a lot, a day or a few hours, or sometimes even sitting in the parking lot before I go in. I decide exactly what I want and how much of it. I assess everything’s point value and whether or not it’s worth it. It’s amazing how unappetizing something will become after you see that one meal can amount to an entire days worth of points.

It's half the calories, so you can eat twice as much
And more often than not now, I find that fast food is rarely worth it. And I miss it only as long as it takes me to remember how many points are in that. Because then I think of all the other things I could eat instead, and I don’t crave it as much. Sometimes it’s worth it to me, though, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about eating those fries. I know what they are, and I’ll skim some off the rest of the week to pay for it.
Treat yo self
The best part is that you may notice I haven’t mentioned exercise. That’s because I’m not doing it.
Don't put me down for cardio
I found that I was setting standards that were too high and were overwhelming me. I wanted to go to the gym 5 days a week, and even if I didn’t do much at the gym, getting to the gym was the hardest part. I’d agonize over every day I’d fail to go, and the spiral would begin.
Dragging cat
Even if I did make it to the gym every day, I’d swell, which would make me feel bigger than I was. I’d also trick myself into thinking I could eat more because I worked more.
I'm a growing girl
So now, I have no interest in that. I want to work on making the right choices for the right reasons. They say that weight loss is 90% what you eat, so that’s what I’m going to focus on. I’m going to take this one task at a time and only when I can handle it.
This looks really weird and healthy
That being said, I have started going back to the gym little by little. It started by going with a couple friends on Sunday mornings when the gym was quiet and we all had the time to do it. Then I learned that one of those friends (who inspires me and pushes me the most) goes to the gym most early mornings before work. I love going to the gym in the mornings, but I lack any motivation to get up and do it by myself, so I’m now going on Tuesday and Thursday mornings as well.
Mr Potato Head lifts
It gives me time to rest in between gym days, so that I feel like I’m doing something without dying.
Dead pinoccio
At the moment, I don’t have any plans to do anything more than that. I’d like to build up to more days either at the gym or doing something else active. I haven’t decided what that is yet, and I don’t want to burn out. Slow and steady wins the race. Hopefully.
Turtle I can't

And Now For Something Completely Different

So I’m back.

Kill me
Last I wrote,  it was New Year’s 2016. Now it’s summer 2017, and I’m in South Carolina. Here’s the whirlwind catch-up so I don’t feel so bad about jumping into the present:

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away
After Christmas, I started an even less motivating second semester that ended in me falling into the most boring and fattening lull ever. I went to Paris, which I surprisingly enjoyed. I wrote a dissertation that was boring, disorganized, and sloppy, resulting in a laughably ironic failure of a Master’s degree. I then went to Berlin (again), Prague (coolest place), Budapest (biggest surprise), Athens (where my wallet was stolen), and Corfu (friendliest people) in lighting succession. I returned to Glasgow for less than 12 hours before boarding a flight to the US. I was home for about a month before my parents and I went on a two-week tour of Scotland for my would-be graduation (read “two weeks of being stuck in confined spaces with my parents while they ignore all the helpful tips and tricks I spend a year accumulating”).

Thousands of tears later
And now here I am.

Hermione bored
Definitely not using my degree.

Belle shrug
Doing almost exactly what I went to school to avoid.

Wait...
NOT in Scotland (aka Paradise).

Take me back
I wanna go home
Living with my parents. Again.

Hermione cry
With no definitive end.

Pam sad
“But it’s not all bad,” I tell myself as I smile the fakest smile.

Inside my heart is breaking, my smile still stays on
And it really isn’t. My day job is good. My “real” job – the one that was supposed to be my breakout solo album – is not so good. But, in connection to that job, I have potential opportunities that could take me exactly where I want to go.

Dream with me here folks
I also have the most wonderful and inspirational friends who are off being, well, wonderful and inspirational. One friend just got published for her art, and another friend’s name can be found in the credits of an upcoming Pixar film.

Santa, I know him
Most importantly, I have my memories of Scotland.

You'll be here in my heart
I know what it feels like to be free and have the world as my oyster. That sense of hope and confidence is invaluable, and I’ve found I can’t live without it.

Can't live if living is without you
But it’s hard to cling to in this floundering situation I’ve found myself in. I live at home with people who are very difficult for me to live with. I don’t really know what I’m doing or where I want to go. I feel directionless and uninspired. Although I know my lofty dream of dreams, I don’t know how to get there. Basically, I feel like I’m waiting for something to happen.

Spongebob waiting
But I can’t wait.

I hate waiting
I have to do something now to keep this hope alive inside of me.

Stayin alive
The alternative is too much to think about.

I can't afford to think like that
So there’s one thing I can do. While I wait for my personal and professional lives to get their shit together, I can accomplish the one other far flung dream I’ve always wanted but never thought was really possible for me: I can lose weight.

I'll be looking smexy
The story of my weight and relationship with my body is long, so I’ll keep it short. As a kid, I thought I was fat when I really wasn’t fat. Even when I didn’t think I was fat, I said I was fat because that’s what girls do. To say anything positive about our bodies is considered vain and unattractive. But that’s a different rant for a different day.

You call yourself Fat Amy
I actually became overweight through high school when I had my own job and my own money to buy my own munchies with. This built throughout college with stress, no money for good food, and terrible eating schedule. By the time I graduated, I had hit a milestone I swore I’d never hit.

Please no more
I swore to myself I’d never weigh more than 200 lbs. I couldn’t even fathom that much weight for me, so when I saw it on a scale, enough was enough. This was also while I was planning my adventure to Scotland and wanted to take my body into my own hands the way I’d taken my life into my hands.

Hey phrasing
I started losing weight and had moderate success at it, but it was hard to continue in Scotland. I yo-yoed for most of the year until last summer when I just started eating and eating and EATING.

I want to eat everything
I ballooned more than 30 lbs in three months.

Violet the blueberry
By the time I came home, I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes.
Fat guy in a little coat
I was 230 lbs. 30 lbs more than the weight I promised I would never exceed.

You liar
At the beginning of the year I made a pact with myself to lose 100 lbs and reach my goal weight by the end of the year.

This is my year, I can feel it
That didn’t happen.

Yeah, you failed
I tried, but met with so little success that I became discouraged.

But you can't, I know I tried
Table throw
So here I am, six months into the year that was supposed to be “my year”, and I weigh about 240 lbs.

This is some bullshit
I’m still as desperate as I was last fall, and I’m always trying new things.

I'm never out of options
Do it. Fierce. Power.
I finally gave in and subscribed to Weight Watchers. I have a list of new workouts to try and places to go for them. I’m trying to gather friends to do activities with, but for the most part I’m alone, which makes it hard to stay motivated. I have no one to talk to about this.

I can do this
I can't do this
That’s when I read someone’s story where they used a vlog to keep themselves honest and accountable. Now, there’s no way in hell I’d ever to a vlog, especially for something like this, but I thought to myself, “Hey, self, you have a blog that feels public even though no one ever reads it. Why don’t you use that?” It has the illusion of being accountable without being so…exposing.

You will all see the truth
So I’ll try that. And I’ll keep trying things until I feel healthy and capable and confident again. I won’t give up.
Rick roll

A Year in Review

In a GIF:

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2015 has been a wild ride and a half.

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I started the year burned-out, cynical, bitter, and generally miserable with life.

I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I'm living

I knew I would have to do something drastic in order to change the highway to hell I was on. Otherwise, it was only a matter of time before I shut down mentally, emotionally, socially, and in just about every other conceivable way.

Tick tick boom time bomb

So I ditched everything to start living a life I actually wanted to live.

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First, I went to Disney World with one of my best friends. It was my first real vacation in as long as I could remember, and it reminded me what it’s like to have fun. I’d completely forgotten.

tangled

Then, I moved back home to live with my parents while I saved for graduate school.

I immediately regret this decision

It had its ups and downs, sure, but most importantly, it got me to September, when I left the world as I knew it behind to study history in Scotland.

bye

It wasn’t all fun and games. I’d never really traveled – certainly not alone – or understood what I was getting into in graduate school. I was wholly unprepared for the adventure ahead of me.

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But none of my fears ever eclipsed my excitement to be outside of the painfully predictable, boring world I’d wrapped myself up in.

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And by the end of my first semester, I got the hang of things and emerged virtually unscathed.

Oh, I survived

I even got to visit two new countries!
Breathe that sweet, sexy European air

All in all, I conclude 2015 happy

i87HVCG

And surprised with myself.

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I’m tempted to be sad to leave 2015

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But I’m too excited to see what happens next.

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I’m learning how to be fearless.

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I’m learning not to give a shit.

SsZ8pbG

Most importantly, I’m learning to love myself.

I like myself, I wouldn't want to be anyone else

So I wish you a very happy New Year from Scotland.

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Goodbye to 2015

faed3acce91dbdaee887f4d135f360dd

And a warm hello to 2016.

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Haben Sie Gehört Die Deutschebahn?

Iceland was great, but I still wanted to go somewhere for Christmas. All my friends went home for winter break. All my flatmates were away for one reason or another too, and I really didn’t want to wake up Christmas morning in a virtual ghost town.

home-alone-kevin-opening-door-o

I wanted to feel active and take advantage of the fact that I could do something nontraditional, but I still wanted to participate in Christmas festivities, so I decided to go to Nuremberg, Germany. It had history, beauty, a small-town feel, and a large Christmas market. It was one of the most Christmasy places I could find.

santa

I left less than a week after returning for Iceland, making me feel like some kind of super jetsetter.

alisveris

Of course, the only problem with this schedule is that I couldn’t account for the fact that I returned to Scotland with a busted ankle. There was no way I was cancelling and losing all that money, though, so I R.I.C.E.d that bitch like no tomorrow and pumped myself full of as much ibuprofen as I could. By the time I left for Germany, I could walk well enough to get me from point A to point B, and that’s all I needed.

mulans-dad-limping-o

Of course, it would have been helpful to have a good ankle to kick the PDA couples with.

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I don’t know what it was, but everywhere I went getting to and from Nuremberg, I encountered couples that were very much attached to each other. Hand-holding, cuddling, and kissing is all fine and dandy, but the couples I’m talking about were doing gross tongue things and nonstop make out sessions.

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To make it even more awkward, each of these interactions seemed mostly one-sided. And all of them were within two feet of me – across from me on the subway, in front of me in line, next to me on the train, etc.

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What is it about me that makes people so horny? And why doesn’t it work in my favor?

I'm hopeless and awkward and desperate for love

Anyway, the trip itself didn’t get complicated until I arrived in Berlin. To save costs, I decided to take a train from Berlin to Nuremberg, but because of the way those two trips lined up, I had two hours to get from one unfamiliar location to another with a sprained ankle and a terrible sense of direction.

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Fortunately, I got where I needed to go

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And successfully navigated the intimidating-as-hell Berlin Haubtbahnhof

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In order to make my train to Nuremberg

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With only one hiccup.

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About halfway to Nuremberg, the train stopped and a bunch of people got off. This happened at every other stop, so I didn’t think anything of it until the woman who had been sitting in front of me asked, “Aren’t you getting off too?” (in German, of course). She seemed very concerned when I shook my head, and then she proceeded to explain something to me in rapid German that I didn’t understand but got the message: the train was no longer going to Nuremberg. I looked around and saw that all other passengers were gone and the train number on the screen had changed.

84732-Skye-CAN-YOU-DO-THAT-gif-Agent-4bkC

I panicked. I was sure that I hadn’t missed my stop, but I was also sure that I didn’t have a connection. My train was direct, so what was I missing?

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I decided to shadow the woman who had warned me. She walked over to another platform that had a sign for a train to Nuremberg. I figured I would stow away if I had to.

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It wasn’t necessary, as it turned out, because the new train arrived and had the same number as the one I’d just gotten off of. Sure enough, it took me to Nuremberg and I was home free.

shawsafe_redemption

I still don’t know what happened with the first train. I couldn’t understand anything the voice over the intercom said (in German or English), and my return trip took me directly from Nuremberg to Berlin without issue.

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The next day, I took on the crowds of the Christmas market

We need a new plague

The food

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And the language.

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I’m terrible with languages.

blooblah

I don’t have an excuse. I took three years of French and four years of German. I learned a tiny amount of Russian and Japanese as a kid, and I can’t really carry on a conversation in any of those languages. And that’s not acceptable to me. I hate it. Especially considering how many years I’ve worked with international tourists.

ngbGcx

But I tried anyway. I was determined to speak as little English as possible…except that the people I encountered weren’t as encouraging.

Just-stop

They all knew more English than I knew German, so even if I addressed them in German, they responded in English. It was a little humiliating.

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I don’t even know why I put so much effort into words in the first place. I got through so many years in tourism because neither the customer nor I focused much on the languages we spoke. We used gestures and numbers, and it was easy.

Don't underestimate the power of body language

Oh well. Next time I’ll be ready.

BePrepared

I also won’t go during Christmas. Not only was everything closed, but I was slightly unprepared for the emotional hit of spending Christmas alone.

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I didn’t want to go home for Christmas for a lot of reasons. Mostly, I didn’t want to waste any time I could be spending traveling or simply being away from the norm. But, honestly, I also didn’t want the family drama that I just got away from. I wanted one holiday season where I could do what I wanted to do.

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And I was 100% okay with this plan until Christmas Eve as I walked around town and saw everyone with their families – no one else wandering around alone – and everyone online posting their “Merry Christmas from our family” pictures. Suddenly, I felt a small stab of…well, homesickness isn’t the right word for it. Being with family is just what you do on Christmas.

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This isn’t to say I didn’t have the Christmas spirit. Quite the contrary. Since the beginning of November I’d been singing Christmas songs and even got a little tree for my desk. I was the merriest of all my friends.

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But I started getting a little cranky as I walked around alone in a city I knew some of my friends and family back home would love.

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not easy

I started remembering all the good things about Christmastime at home and all the ideals that Christmas is supposed to live up to. I wanted the Hallmark Channel perfect family holiday.

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That is, until my parents called from the big family dinner on Christmas Day, and I remembered why I wanted to spend the holidays alone.

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My grandmother fretted over the fact that I was on the phone with them at nearly 1 am my time. My brother was disappointed that he couldn’t ruin Star Wars for me with spoilers since I saw the movie before I left. And my aunt’s father-in-law monopolized the time trying to school me on Nuremberg based on the little time he spent stationed there in the 1950s.

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Yeah…you know what? I’m good now. Thanks for curing my moment of sentimentality.

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I’ll go back to my time alone.

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I’ll see you in a year.

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Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Valhalla Still Awaits Me

I decided to stay on the eastern side of the Atlantic for winter break. Assuming I may never have the opportunity to travel as freely as I can now, why would I give up even a day of it? It’s only one holiday season. I’ll see plenty of my family in the Christmases to come, and truth be told, I’m still full up on my heavy dose of family over the summer.

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Despite all my parents’ insistence and then demanding that I return to the States for winter break, they were completely supportive of me when I reiterated my decision to stay on this side of the pond after arriving in the UK. In fact, they were offended that I thought they would be unsupportive of my decision.

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Then all I had to do was decide where to go.

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I mentioned my conundrum to one of my friends, and she mentioned that she and a bunch of our mutual friends were going to Iceland for a few days on their way home for the holidays.

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Iceland was already among my top choices, so I joined their party and to Iceland we went!

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Not that we saw anything for the first 20 hours.

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See, since Iceland is so far north, in the winter, they only get about 4 hours of sunlight, and we arrived just as the sun set, so we didn’t see much of anything until roughly 11 am the next day.

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So when I returned to Scotland several days later to a rare sunny day, the light was like a kiss from heaven.

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But why couldn’t we see ANYTHING in Iceland? Weren’t there lights? Well, yes, of course. But Iceland doesn’t have a big enough population for those lights to make much of a difference against the pitch blackness.

wirXNSF

None of us were prepared for how desolate Iceland is. I, for one, expected it to be like the highlands of Scotland where the population is small but still enough that the towns and villages are of good size and you still feel like you’re apart of some sort of civilization. Not Iceland. We went around the Golden Circle, and in between each site there was absolutely nothing. We saw one small village. The rest was flat, occasionally rocky, frozen nothing as far as the eye could see.

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It was the first time I’ve ever been afraid of a vehicle breaking down. I’ve driven through some rural, dangerous areas, and I’ve never been afraid of my car breaking down. In freezing temperatures, miles from anywhere, and with so little sunlight, we would have been sitting ducks.

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Yup. Just like Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back.

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It was so alien and unlike I (or any of us) had ever seen that we frequently looked at each other, bewildered, asking, “Where ARE we?”

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It extended to the food as well. Icelandic cuisine wasn’t exactly what we had on our taste buds – whale, puffin, shark, etc. – so we had a lot of lamb.

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Of course, none of the foreignness was bad. We saw some amazing sights. Waterfalls, geysers, and the continental rift.

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We went to the Blue Lagoon to take advantage of the fire part of the land of fire and ice.

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It was very nice.

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We saw northern lights. Sort of. We saw what looked like a weird white cloud. It was a bad night for Aurora, but I was happy to see anything.

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And, we saw penises.

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Yup. Penises. As soon as we arrived, we looked through maps to plan out what all we wanted to see in Reykjavik, and we found The Icelandic Phallological Museum.

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It automatically became our must-see. We looked forward to it all week – singing “deck the halls with lots of balls, pha-la-la-la-logical museum.”

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The only problem was that while we were there, a large group of children (like, 5th graders) came in an explored the museum too. It was a tad uncomfortable.

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One of the best parts of Iceland, however, was not something that many of my friends appreciated as much as I did. See, I haven’t seen more than a couple of inches of snow at a time in nearly a decade. Since I moved to the coast, it’s been even more scarce. (We got flurries last year and people lost their minds.) My friends live in New England, so they couldn’t care less about the snow. Meanwhile, I squealed constantly over the snow.

LHa36vC

PhzbRvE

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But then the snow turned on me.

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I’d been so good about walking on the ice. Though I haven’t lived in a cold climate in many years, I grew up in the ice and snow, so I’m well-versed in the penguin walk and all that goodness. But for one second I didn’t look out for the hidden devil: black ice.

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I fell flat on my ass.

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Apparently it was a spectacular fall (good enough that a couple took photos of me lying on the ground rather than helping me up – shout-out to those bitches!).

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It better have been good, too, since I badly sprained my ankle at some point on the way down. I just laid there on the pavement while everyone within a block radius with a soul came up to make sure I was okay (not taking pictures).

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That was the evening we went to see the northern lights, though, so I couldn’t stay on the pavement forever.

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I managed to hobble to the bus that took us out of the city, and thankfully, a couple of my friends were tired and disinterested in the lights, so they kept me and my swollen ankle company in the back of the bus where we watched the lights through the window and sang Disney songs. We experienced all the important parts of the trip – we were part of their world – just from the comfort and relative warmth of the bus.

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Fortunately, that was also our last night in Iceland, so the next morning, I limped my way back to Glasgow, where I collapsed with a million ice packs never to move again.

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Back to School Again

I spent my first two weeks in Scotland going through the tedious process of registering myself as a student and temporary UK citizen. I did a little traveling, but mostly I waited in lines and stood in crowds of college students.

How do you do fellow kids

Then finally…

It is time

First day of school, wake up

I packed up my brand new backpack with all my brand new school supplies.

Love backpack

You really would have thought it was my first day of kindergarten, not the beginning of my Master’s program.

Can't wait to learn

I tried really hard to get a grip on myself. I am, after all, a sophisticated, intelligent postgraduate student visiting from another country.

You must demonstrate a sense of dignity

Though I don’t have the best track record of being well-spoken or mature.

Help me not to make a fool of me

All the same, I walked into class.

Excited minions

Only to walk out of the room two hours later needing a pub.

Taking a swing straight from the bottle

See, my first class isn’t so much a class as much as it is a dissertation-writing guide, so the first day’s class comprised of a long, intimidating-as-hell list of responsibilities and expectations for a perfect dissertation.

Crawley rolling out contract

Alright. No biggie.

Mom, can you pick me up, I'm scared

I can handle this.

I just got in way over my head

I didn’t travel 3000 miles to be intimidated by my first class.

It's make your mamas proud time

I love my mama

I pumped myself up and went to my second class.

Let's get down to business

The rest of my classes were much better.

Phew

They contained fun, friendly professors and 5-12 students all sitting around a table in studies with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Kumbaya

I saw it as my opportunity to strike.

I'm not trapped with you, you're trapped with me

It’s time to work my Amy charm

Bird reacts to crazy bird

And meet all sorts of new people!

Friend

Unfortunately for me, we all had to introduce ourselves by our research interests and why we chose the University of Glasgow. I’ve had to repeat this for each professor (including guest professors), and every answer I’ve given has been different because I haven’t the foggiest idea.

Hands up, I don't know

I have a million interests for dissertation, and I picked Glasgow Uni because it was old, looked cool, was highly ranked, is Scottish, and is a top research institute. Basically, it serves my self-interest and vanity.

Me, legally blonde

My problems with focusing on a topic were quickly eclipsed by a bigger problem as classes settled into a routine. The classes’ format was entirely different than what I was used to (and not for the better).

Tell me you're not serious

The method that I am used to and like a lot is lecture style, where a professor teaches us something. I then take the new information, add my own interpretation to it, and run with it. My new classes are “taught” seminar style, and I seriously did not understand what that truly meant. More discussion, sure. But in seminars, professors don’t teach us anything. They sit and listen to what we, the students, teach the class.

Are you out of your goddamn mind

Because, yes, the students are now the teachers. Each week, designated students present a topic for discussion to the rest of the class.

Does professor have one F or two

There’s a lot of pressure to make a logical, unique point that doesn’t overlap with whatever your co-presenters are talking about and that also provides enough fodder for worthwhile discussion in class.

I feel like I should say something smart

All while having little to no experience in the topic at hand. I have to formulate an original thought on a set of reading without ever having learned about it in class or knowing what I’m supposed to take away from it. And apparently, I suck at it. Give me a starting point, an idea to work with, and I’m golden. Off and running. But you really want to know what I think about something? I’ve got nothing.

I know nothing apparently

(Probably because no one’s ever asked for my honest opinion before, which I’d never realized before this.)

Doesn't anyone care what I think

So I find myself pulling my hair out in trying to figure out what the professors and the class want from me.

You're the one with the map, Dora, don't ask me!

I just want to run up to the professor and force them to teach me something. I need to learn concrete information! Teach me what you know!

Tell me

I’m slowly getting used to it. I’ll either learn valuable lessons on analysis and critical thinking or have a nervous break.

Eye twitch

It’s about this point that I’m starting to think I should have quit while I was ahead. But hey, that’s…

School.

I Hopped Off the Plane at GLA With a Dream and a Cardigan. It’s a Party in the UK, Yeah.

So I arrived in Glasgow. The fantasy made real.

Cinderella enter the ball

Scotland is as beautiful as a fairy tale. It really looks like this.

Beautiful Scotland 2

Double rainbow forming on the western outskirts of Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

The sun shines golden, the greens are greener, even the clouds are a beautiful blue gray, and the wildflowers that grow everywhere are the most brilliant purples, pinks, blues, reds, and whites.

It is magical

Granted, by the time I collected my luggage and found my way to the school shuttle bus, it was too dark for anyone to see the scenery or my spectacular entrance.

Beautiful entrance

Doesn’t matter.

We came to fuck bitches

I boarded the bus bound for my accommodation.

Yeeeaaahhh

Where it took me two hours to get my keys and find my flat.

Itty bitty living space

Which happens to have a view of the highlands and the train. The train makes me especially happy because 1) the last two places I’ve lived were next to train tracks and the sound of trains passing in the night has become a sort of lullaby for me, and 2) the train sounds exactly like the one out of Spirited Away.

Chihiro and No Face on train

It makes me want to watch the movie every time the train goes by, which is often.

Soot gathering candy

Anyway, I naturally didn’t have room in my suitcase for bedding, so I spent my first night wearing half the clothes I brought with me to keep warm and using my jacket as a pillow. Lots of fun.

My tail's froze, my nose is froze...

The first order of business in the morning was to get a real bed. I walked three miles along confusing roads in order to find a store that sold bedding. Streets here are not marked half the time, change names a bazillion times, disappear/reappear, and are not even close to following a grid system.

Definitely lost

What the hell is that

All the same, I found what I needed and everything went well until I was walking back and discovered the shoes I was wearing were not as broken-in as I thought they were. Blisters everywhere. It was bad. For the next week, it felt like I was walking on broken feet. I was still in Scotland, though, so I guess the good balanced out the bad.

Alright, we'll call it a draw

There was no way it was going to keep me from exploring my new reality.

And now for something completely different

Complete with accents!

That's a lovely accent you have, New Jersey

Surprisingly, I only met a couple people I couldn’t understand.

I understand nothing

All in all, I was over the moon.

This is the best

I wanted to see and do everything, absorb absolutely every molecule of the country.

I want it all, I want it now

I wanna know about the strangers like me

Even though almost nothing was familiar.

I have no idea what's going on but I'm excited

When I got to campus, I expected at least a few of the other international students to feel the same way I did.

Does anyone else feel like a rainbow

Instead, I was thrown among groups of spoiled, ungrateful undergrads here for study abroad. They were either completely oblivious of the fantastic opportunity they had before them or they were more concerned with looking cool.

Teenagers, they're really stupid

It was very disappointing.

Nerdy get on my level

Stay here as long as you can, cherish it

It also made me feel uncomfortably old.

Do we look older or does everyone in college look like babies

Feeling old

Especially as I went through orientation things I hadn’t done in five years – paperwork, social activities, tours, etc.

Student ID photo

Touring flamingoes

They were minor annoyances in the shadow of the school itself, though. You see, I go to Hogwarts.

Hogwarts is my home

No, seriously. Hogwarts.

UofG 1

UofG 2

UofG 3

UofG 4

And since the University of Glasgow accepted me where my top school didn’t, I like to think that I was chosen.

But I am the chosen one

There are even magic staircases.

Hogwarts staircases

You’re on the ground level, go inside, go up two flights of stairs, and you’re suddenly outside again on the ground level.

Wicked

I love magic

I was a bubble of nerdy energy the first time I rounded the corner and saw the school sitting on that hilltop in all its glory.

You go, Dumble-dork

Adding the fact that I’d never seen a building of such size or age before, it was beyond comprehension.

Blown away, in awe

It was honestly unbelievable. I sat there staring at the quadrangles for hours, and my eyes still couldn’t adjust to it. Even my eyeballs said, “No way. We got something wrong. Let’s do that again.”

Can't believe eyes

In general, across the city and every second of the day, it’s so hard to believe I’m here. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up one morning in the US in my old room in my parents’ house with my old job.

Wake up and cry

Nah, I'm still asleep

Is all this one magnificent dream?

Perhaps, but for now let him sleep

For in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own

For however long it lasts, I want to enjoy it. Squeeze every experience I can out of my time here.

I love waking up not knowing what's going to happen

The problem with that, however, is that I don’t know how to live.

I like sweatpants and staying home

When I look at Glasgow, determined not to be bored and to push my boundaries, I draw a blank. What do I do? Where do I start? How exactly does one have fun?

No idea

Especially when I factor in the fact that I’m alone.

Oh that's right, I'm alone

Even after classes start, I’ll have four days a week of open schedule.

I've got 2 hrs planned and then darkness and dragons

That’s an awful lot of time for me to spend alone doing things. Being alone NOT doing things like watching shows on Netflix is my specialty.

Rocking the pjs

I wonder what non-pathetic people are doing tonight

Leaving the house is another story.

Outside bad, the sun's scary

It’s much easier for me to be the brave one when I’m with other people, so I guess I could always ask someone to go with me to that museum or pub.

Does anyone want to be my friend

But who am I kidding? I’m about as good at talking to strangers as I am at going out by myself.

I do not have the talen of communicating easily with strangers

However, that could work in my benefit. Without people to talk to, I have no one to ask if all that I’m seeing is a dream or not.

Is this real life

So let the dream continue!

Kuzko I'm so happy

It’s 3750 Miles to Glasgow, It’s Dark, and I’m Wearing Sunglasses. Hit It.

I’ll spare you all the gory details of the last few days before I left the country. In short, I didn’t allow myself enough time to mentally prepare myself for my journey – I only had a day and a half to pack – my brother broke his collarbone, and I had three doctor’s appointments the week I left (one of which was on the day I left).

Chaos

All this basically left me with a few hours to pack as much as I could cram into my allotted luggage allowances.

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Merlin magically packing

Even after cutting out all the unnecessaries, I was still seriously pushing the size requirements. I looked ridiculous next to the simple and tidy business travelers.

Oh, it'll fit

Anyway, as the hours ticked toward D-Day, I started getting nervous.

Nervous chewing

Very nervous.

wO8sYlV

I had a one-way ticket in my hand, and I was going somewhere where everything from the people I saw everyday to the groceries I bought was going to be different. I was ripping life as I knew it off like a bandaid.

Well, this is going to hurt like a motherfucker

I was also putting all my hopes and dreams on the line.

What if it's not everything I dreamed of

And what if it is, what do I do then

But despite the paralyzing fear I experienced, I couldn’t shake the remaining sliver of optimism and excitement.

I'm going on an adventure

I'm excited to sniff people's hair

That’s when a weird, previously unheard from patriotism attacked.

George Washington in a car

American Astronaut

Wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honor, patriotism

God bless America

I found t-shirts that I was sorely tempted to buy.

Raise your hand if you've ever been victimized by King George III

Or better yet, with Scotland’s independence movement:

If you've got monarchy problems...a king ain't one

Too cool for British rule

Fortunately, I was hyperventilating too much to consider it for very long.

I'm so excited, I may vomit

Because I was on my way to the airport.

And here we go

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I don't mean to be emotional, whole life led to this moment

Not that it helped my nerves. I was practically crying on the plane as we waited to take off. My comfort zone was sitting back at home because there wasn’t room for it in my carry-on. I was not ready for this.

Not ready Dumbledore

It only got worse when combined with normal airplane fears. I’m not actually afraid of flying, but the thought that the plane could crash and burn still lurks in the back of my mind.

Identifying your mangled corpse

31-Bridesmaids-quotes

There's something on the wing

There's a colonial woman on the wing

So yeah, sitting on the runway, I was losing my ever loving mind.

Screaming on airplane

But that’s a good thing, right? It meant I was doing something completely different to hopefully change the direction of my life.

The brave don't live forever, but the cautious don't live at all

My fear meant I was doing it right.

It's happening isnt' it

Life is happening

So the plane took off.

Leeroy Jenkins

And I waved goodbye to my home, family, and friends down below.

You're going to miss me by my hair, miss me when I'm gone

After that, all was well.

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I can show you the world

I honestly expected the worst from the other passengers. A Chatty Cathy, a screaming child, someone kicking the back of my seat, etc.

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Instead, it was rather peaceful all the way to London Heathrow.

Peaceful plane

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We landed in London early the next morning. It was cloudy and drizzling. Very British. Not at all like the scorching hot, humid, sunny American south.

London

I appreciated the challenge of navigating the gigantic airport, UK border control, and everything else alone. I hadn’t had new territory to conquer in several years, so it was nice to stretch my legs a bit.

We are the champions of the world

But after I found my way to the right terminal, I realized I was carrying too much stuff to be able to explore, so I picked a spot and sat in it. For eight hours. Suddenly, the ten hour layover that looked so appealing for giving me plenty of time now just looked boring.

This is boring, I'm bored now

Of course, it didn’t help that it was still 3:00 in the morning for me.

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Also, as fascinated as I was by London (from the air) and as much as I still want to explore London and all of England, we didn’t “click.” Charleston and I clicked. It was home immediately, but I didn’t get that from England. It was just England.

Bored Hermione clapping

Like, “This is cool. Can I go to Scotland now?”

Alice yawn

It made me feel better about not choosing any of the English schools I got into, but it also worried me. What if I felt the same way about Scotland?

Emma Stone bored

As the plane descended through the clouds over Scotland, though, all my fears were put to rest. It was love at first sight.

Wow

It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Scotland scenery 1

Scotland scenery 2

Granted, after twenty-four hours on the go, hauling a hundred pounds of luggage, and walking up and down a horrible sidewalk trying to find my flat, I didn’t really have a mind to enjoy it all at once. But hey! I arrived!

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