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You think about him on the drive home between the spurts of howling along with Father John Misty; “chateau lobby,” you croon together. You need to get out more, that’s probably all it is. Seven minute conversations seem so much more important and meaningful than they are when you haven’t had a conversation of any amount of minutes in months. Are your headlights actually on? You’re not really sure, driving your mom’s expensive car with both hands clutching the steering wheel like it’s a driver’s training session. You can see well enough anyway, and you can’t risk removing a hand to fiddle with the strange knobs sticking out from behind the wheel.

“You took off early to go cheat your way through film school!”

Misty’s singing the same song over and over because you just bought it on iTunes and are still in that particular phase of new-song-listening. By the 30th time you’ve pretty much got the lyrics down.

It doesn’t feel like anything, particularly. His blue eyes or green or whatever are far north now and you’re not trying to chase them down. But it is sad in a way, like the grocery bag boy, forgotten about a few hours later after a brief rush of love. There is a person there. You can be apathetic all you want, but it’s still true.

I’m sitting on the upstairs staircase looking out the window and I’m crying. I’m watching leaves blow past, tumbling, and I can see them, picture them in every moment they’ve ever blown across that patch of land. I’m thinking about the decades of years, the piles of blowing leaves. I’m listening to my dad and my uncle, who are downstairs talking about Christmases of the 1960s. They’re talking about my grandparents, and the piles of presents under the beautiful pine trees. I’m watching the leaves blow and listening.

 “Wasn’t that something? Creeping downstairs, hoping that Santa’d come, wondering if we’d been good enough for presents that year? And there would be presents every year, Mom would make sure of that. Do you remember the piles of presents, stacked up around the tree? Man!”

You sit down on the stairs because you feel like you have to and you watch the leaves blow out the window even though you’ve never done that before and you cry and you don’t know why. It’s everything. The past and the present and the repetition and the memories. The old black and white television shows that your dad watches and he says, “When I was young, T.V. was good and music was music!” And he pats you on the shoulder and it makes you feel sad.

And your great-aunt, your grandpa’s sister, she shows you the wedding photo of your great-grandfather, at the funeral of her sister. You are surrounded by family and you talk about death and memories and everyone cries together and she hugs you tighter than she ever has. You listen to distant relatives all talk about this person that they’ve loved all their lives. And they are a stranger to you, all of them. You listen like it’s another story from some other place, some other family.

All of this is swirling like old leaves in your head. The same problems repeating in your life like another Christmas on the calendar. You wonder what it would be like if your grandma was alive, if you had known her. You wonder if you would be brave, if she would’ve helped you to be. You wonder what all of your past Christmases would’ve been like, if you would know the names of those second cousins, if you would still be sitting, crying on the staircase.

The leaves keep blowing and it doesn’t matter. People have died, leaves have crumbled and grown and fallen again and again. Children have awoken on Christmas morning with the feeling of magic, have grown up and become Santa Claus, have felt scared and weak, have cried at funerals and lost loved ones or once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Grand memories have faded from old minds like dying once-fresh-cut pine trees. People have watched squirrels climb trees and leaves blow across their lawns. Year after year.

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1. Don’t let them go just because you’re too tired/lazy/unmotivated to hold on. If they’re worth it, try. But, at the same time, they have to try, too.

2. I recommend recording the people you love talking. Anyone. Your friends, your family, your cat, yourself! These things are wonderful possessions to have. They’re like memories, only they don’t fade, and you get to take a little piece of those people/cats with you wherever you go for however long you’re going.

3. My friend has never been on an airplane. He’s never been in the sky. He’s never seen the clouds from above, never experienced that sensation that happens when the plane turns at a crazy angle and is no longer parallel to the Earth and you look out the window to discover (for the first time, or again) that there is no such thing as “level”.

4. What happened to Twitter? Is it dying? Did everyone leave? Hello?

5. Don’t forget about what’s truly important to you.

6. Watch ‘Soul Mates’ from ABC2 in Australia. It’s amazing. Plus it has my favorite guy, this guy.

7. Fuck you Whatsapp! No, I will not pay 99 cents for a year!! Peace out! Who do you think you are? Don’t you know about Kakao Talk??

8. Stop thinking about how great they are. If you’re worth anything, you’re great, too. Or can be. Don’t spiral down into mediocrity (if you don’t want to!)

9. Maybe it’s just time to move (on).

10. You can talk about having adventures, year after year: oh, the places I’ll go! But if you have the ability to go, and all you do is talk about it… not so adventurous, eh?

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A year ago today I was on the other side of the world, standing in one of the most beautiful cities on Earth: Prague.

It was my first time out of the U.S, and I had flown across the ocean on my own to start an adventure. That’s what I called it. That’s what I was looking for. An adventure. Looking back, thinking about everything I did a year ago, I am amazed. I was so brave. Maybe braver than I am now.

I have spent 7 of the last 12 months traveling and living abroad. A little over a year ago, I hadn’t been anywhere, and now: I’ve eaten street meat on Prague’s cobblestones, wandered around Warsaw, spent a week meeting my relatives in cities and tiny villages all over Ukraine, climbed waterfalls and ridden bare-elephant-back in Bangkok, hunkered down in Seoul, explored Bavaria with my German cousins and my mom, gotten trapped in Toronto in a snowstorm, and eaten raspberry gelato on the riverbanks of Mozart’s hometown, Salzburg, Austria.

Now, I’m tired. I’m home, and my bed is awfully comfortable, let me tell you. My bones are weary. I feel ancient, like I have lived too many lives. I don’t want to go anymore. I want to stay.

But me, I’m for adventures. That’s what I want — at least, I think it still is, for now. Why am I hesitant to keep moving? Isn’t that what we always have to do? Life doesn’t stop. There are so many places to see, so much to do, so many people to meet.

I’m thinking about how people say you shouldn’t work doing what you love, because you might grow to hate it — or something like that. I don’t know if I agree — maybe it’s more like, you shouldn’t let what you love become work. And I’m thinking and worrying that that’s what traveling has become for me. Tiresome. It’s not a vacation anymore, not when it’s a year later and you’re still going. It becomes a different beast, yet still a beautiful one. The challenges change, become more difficult, more stressful, compounding over and over.

There is something beautiful and easy about living in your homeland. The people speak your language (on many levels), you’re used to the food, the culture, the transportation systems, the medical systems, the money, banking. You know where to go, what to do, who to do it with. You have friends, people who you’ve grown up with, whether or not you met them in your childhood. You have history there. It belongs to you. It’s simple. It’s easy; there are no visa requirements, no proof of residency, no need to carry your passport with you wherever you go. No translation apps on standby. No stares because you are different.

It’s too easy. Ask anyone who’s returned from abroad after being away for a significant amount of time. It’s so easy! Everything’s in your own language. You can understand everything people say to you, everything people say to other people, stuff you don’t even want to understand — but you do anyway! You can’t help but listen! There’s so much sound! Sound, noise, a language that finally means something to your brain!

Too easy.

Too familiar.

Isn’t it? Wasn’t it? Or have I lost it, that wonderment at things I don’t understand? I’m no longer in love; un-infatuated with newness. It’s been hard. It’s been unpleasant. It’s been a long time. The honeymoon is over! Where are the divorce papers?! Quick, somebody! Someplace? Save me.

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1. Don’t stand still. Or do? You need a break from life sometimes, a nap, a vacation, a year off. Is that so terrible? Do we have to slave away, rush around with no path, with no finish line ahead? Sometimes it seems like society (and/or our mothers) demands this non-stop action from us, meaningful or not. Society doesn’t care. But I do! Stop. Breathe. Plan it out. I love you! Just don’t take too long.

2. 18-ish-year-old guy and his grandmother at the grocery store:

G-ma: “What do you want?”

Guy: “Let’s get pineapple. It tastes good. I drink the juice. It’s good for you.”

Um, ew. Don’t tell granny about that!

3. Don’t lose yourself in worthlessness.

4. Pluck it up.

5. Fuck marbles/shot glasses/tiny fancy spoons/posters/baseball, pokemon, whatever cards! Collect lovely people instead. (As in, meet them and get to know them and love them. Not in a creepy murder-y way. Felt I should add that.)

6. “I can’t go to that store again today because I wore these same pants yesterday!” – my life.

7. They are not real anymore.

8. We are growing up! I mean, everyone always said it was happening, but it’s really happening! My friends are getting married, and trying to have babies — actual babies — and building houses — like, on their own, like they’re real adults. Remember when that all terrified/disgusted us?? What happened?

9. So much can change in a year. You change so much in a year. But, is it for the better?! Or for the worse?! Ahhh!

10. Make something new.

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He’s got his life planned out. He’s got a plan. At least a little one. Me I just like looking at vague blurry pictures on Tumblr. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not mad about that, it’s just a fact. A terrifying one. He speaks well and is still going to school and I’ve been out for a year and a half now and I don’t talk nearly as smart as he does. I need to work on my vocabulary, I tell myself. I need better words.

I tell my young friend that it seems to always be like this. We talk about graduating from high school. She’s younger than my little brother by a year and a half but I like him and I still like her. I tell her all my wisdom, all that I’ve stored up and learned. Life’s like this, I say. You don’t know what you’re doing. You never do. That’s how it is. Wise stuff like that.

I look at this picture of birds flying all scattered about. It’s like that, I think. That’s exactly what it’s like.

I read terrible poems by young Bukowski and shake my head at them. I look at pictures of my grandma’s grandma and shake my head at them. No one knew what they were doing. Maybe they figured it out eventually, maybe they didn’t. Maybe there’s nothing to figure out. We’re a pack of birds or a flock of them, and here we are, all together and winging and scrambling anywhere and everywhere. Making plans and worrying and crying and reading bad poetry and trying to learn something before we take off for the real world or winter vacation or before our parents die and leave us alone here, inheritors of this.

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