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Sometimes it seems all of life is a series of footsteps, a trail of footprints. A step onto an airplane. A step away; forward. A step in the same annual circle. A smile, a nod. A slowly darkening, wrinkling mirror.

What if one of the footprints you left on that beach years ago is still there? Somehow, somehow. Left alone by waves and wind and other sandy, stomping tourists. Anyway, it still exists there, somewhere, if only in your mind. Footprints like memories, memories like eternal footprints on places.

A face in the mirror. A different face, one that doesn’t belong to you; never did, though you lied to yourself, said it was yours. Happiness replaced by nothingness replaced by sadness. Memories like the trails of footprints left by kisses on your body. You still see them, still visible, they still exist there on your shoulder, on your cheek; you feel them, they live with you, walk with you.

A dull gray morning. Smog covers what surely once was something beautiful. The sun has risen somewhere but you can’t see it. Men drag their feet to work and you follow, the hand of some clock, the minute of some hour. You sit in your chair, gulping coffee, dreaming about the pajama pants left in a puddle at the foot of your bed. Hours later, you step back out into the world, back to those pants: more footsteps, more circles.

I am a calendar. I am a footbridge. I am the shoes I wore when I was four. I am your silly laugh. I am your nervous tic. I am that midnight tear-filled dinner. I am that bad joke. I am your harsh words. I am your silence. I am the warmth of the sun from that day on the beach years ago.

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I’m sitting (actually laying) in a hotel room somewhere in Chicago. I’m supposed to be somewhere over the ocean by now, halfway to halfway across the world, on a plane to South Korea. Now that’s happening tomorrow instead. So, here I sit. (Lay.)

When I first walked into my temporary home, the huge bed, wide desk, and sofa/ottoman thing excited me. Look at all these large comfy surfaces!, I thought (or something similar).

Then I made some coffee. Because why not. And then I drank said coffee. Because I was bored. And then I turned on all the lamps in my hotel room (there are like six different lamps, including two built into the headboard!). Because the coffee was no longer entertaining me. Then I sat (lay) down on the extra-large bed with the white feather-stuffed blanket. And then the room seemed too large, the lamps too bright, South Korea, and me, too far away from all the people I love.

Doing interesting things is hard. Traveling is hard. Moving to the other side of the planet seems difficult. (I’ll let you know how that goes later on.) If you admit to being weak, does that make you any stronger? Do we always need people? What does that even mean? Am I just being silly? Emotional? Over-dramatic? I never can tell.

Maybe I can blame the people I’ve been hanging out with. Those humans I call friends, who make me laugh so hard my head seems to whip around on its own, who make me cry talking about the wonder of life, who embarrass me by talking about… well… stuff.

A few years ago, I never felt this way, like I needed people in my life. I think I was much more self-sufficient. Or maybe I was just wrong. Or maybe I just hadn’t met the right human beings.

I am the elephant king, the one and only
I am the blood of the lamb, I am the holy
I am the teller of tales, I am a story
I am and the elephant king but I am lonely.

I am the prophet's confession on his deathbed
I am the soil of the earth, I am the purebred
I am the listener hearing all that's unsaid
I am the magazines hiding under your bed

And you can't take my kingdom away from me.

I am the elephant king, the one and only
I am the voice of the song, I am the lowly
I am the chosen protector of the dreary
I am the elephant king but I am lonely

So take my jewels and gems, take all that shines bright
Take all the signs of my power away from my sight
I will go to a land of constant daylight
I will talk to myself 'til I am alright

But take good care, I'll be back sooner than you think
'Cause you can't take my kingdom away from me.

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I went to Europe because I was searching for something. Europe wasn’t necessary; somewhere was. Europe happened to be my somewhere. I was just searching. I had been searching for a long time. I thought I might find it, whatever it was, once I got to wherever I was headed. I searched for a month in Europe, and then longer. I couldn’t seem to find it, whatever it was. I found other things, things I expected to find, like new places, with beautiful buildings and interesting history and wonderful people. I found unexpected things, too, like understanding, confusion, sadness, joy. But I never found what I was originally looking for. So I went home.

Home again, home for the holidays, back where I started. It seemed, at first, like nothing had changed, like I had never left. But I was different. I am different. I think, afterall, that I found something. I never knew what it was exactly that I thought I was looking for. But that doesn’t matter, because I managed to find it anyway. I found it. I know now that what I was looking for exists. That it’s out there. That I can go find it again.

What did I find? I call it “acceptance”. Acceptance of the journey. I’ll never know exactly where I’m headed. I think that’s for the best. At least for me. And it’s ok. It’s fine. It’s life. It’s beautiful. It’s a winding journey.

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1. Last week someone accused me of being “deep into the art scene”, and I wasn’t so sure that was accurate. This week I hammered a pencil onto a wall as part of an art project. So there’s that.

2. It’s the people you’re with, not the place you’re in. I heard some lady in a store say something similar a few days after I realized this to be true. You’re onto something, lady.

3. You don’t always have to go to school to learn. A lot of times, the world can be your classroom. At least that’s what I’m telling myself as a college graduate.

4. Tip of the day: don’t talk/laugh/grin to yourself when other people can see you. At any other time, go for it.

5. My favorite thing to do is travel, but oftentimes it leaves me sad, knowing more street names and parks and lovely people, knowing them and leaving them behind.

6. When does a song stop belonging to someone else? “Your song”, “his song”, “our song”. When does ownership end, with the memory?

7. After spending 8 hours on a megabus traveling across two states, an 8 or 12 hour flight to the other side of the globe seems less daunting. (Also megabus is freaking cheap/awesome BTW!)

8. Remember disposable cameras?

9. Sure you’re busy driving your car through heavy traffic trying not to crash into that guy who just pulled in front of you, and sure you’re busy trying to pass your accounting exam that seems super important to your life right now, and sure you’re creating a cure for cancer — just remember to look up at the stars at night.

10. Overrated or Underrated? Skype. Pickles. Blue eyes. You.

1. Everyone needs that one friend who has excellent taste in movies/music. If you don’t know that person yet, go find them! They won’t come to you, they have too many movies to watch!

2. Kindles/other electronic readers are so not as handy as people claim. “Now I can read without carrying a book around!” Yeah, right. If you say that, you definitely never carry a book around anyway.

3. Sometimes it just seems like it’s always too late.

4. Don’t give yourself away so easily. Stick up for who you are. After all, that’s all this place is is people and other people who follow them around.

5. That awkward moment when someone introduces themselves and then you immediately forget their name.

6. Why are all the cool/successful people 32 or 35?! Does it take that long to become cool/successful?!

7. Words of the week: clarity. grandiose. honky. tragedy. expectations. tetanus.

8. Let him/her go, but not completely. Just enough.

9. Let’s be honest here, food pics are great. Don’t be ashamed! How are selfies ok but not food pics? No way. Let’s start a revolution.

10. I still think you’re beautiful.

Today I was talking to my friend about graduating college – a thing he and I both are going to experience here pretty soon – May 5th, 2013, to be exact. He was telling me his post-graduation plans, and I was keeping quiet about my own. I don’t really know yet where I’m going go, what I’m going to do. I also told him that the more college classes I take, the less intelligent I feel.

I think there’s a lot of different ways you can take that statement. It can mean that I’ve realized how unintelligent I am, or how bad at college I am – But that’s not what I meant.

I meant that the more college classes I take – the more information I take into my brain, the more subjects I get exposed to, the more history I find out about, the more people I learn about that I previously didn’t know existed – the more unintelligent I feel. I’m graduating from college soon, but I don’t feel like I know very much at all.

As my graduation date approaches, I’m beginning to wish I would have double-majored. Or took a third minor. Or majored in Theatre, or Linguistics, or French, or Biology. I’m not done learning – I don’t think I ever will be. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I know enough – like I’m intelligent enough.

Sure, I could keep going to school for forever – for the rest of my life. Maybe I would do that, if it didn’t cost thousands of dollars per year. But people don’t go to college to learn, they go to get jobs.

So, in order to keep learning, without going to college – what do I do? How do keep experiencing things in my life  which will improve my understanding of the world? Or the universe? How can I feel like each day is improving the person that I am?

Do I just have to find a job that I like? That makes me happy? Do I just use my college education for what it’s meant for: getting a higher-than-minimum-wage-paying job?

Do I travel? Do I meet and talk to new people as often as possible? Do I read books and blogs and listen to podcasts and radio programs and watch cool movies?

What do I do?

Once they had me that scrap of slightly-thicker-than-normal paper with my name on it, what do I do?

I stood underneath the lip of the yellow and white striped tent, in shock and in awe of all that loomed around me. Auctioneers hollered out their fast-lipped spiel as old men flashed their buyer number cards, fingers, and nodded their heads to bid again and again on a huge assortment of items. Old cars, buggies, plows, shovels, rusty chains, farm equipment odds and ends, car parts, toys, baby strollers, furniture – all collectibles. The man who had amassed this collection had died, and now it was all up for sale.

“Auction! One hundred, one-fifty. We’ve got one hundred, now one-fifty. We done? Who’s buyin’? One-fifty, One-fifty. One hundred goin’ once. One hundred goin’ twice. You? No. One hundred. One hundred. Sold! One hundred dollars. Buyer number… 413!”

Two auctioneers worked at once, yelling into megaphones that were attached to speakers. People grouped around the action, not only to buy, but also to watch. As I stood in the clearing between the two masses of people, the noise was overwhelming. There was so much to see, so much to hear.

I was in Port Hope, Michigan. If you haven’t heard of it – it’s in the top of the thumb area of our mitten-shaped state. It’s a very beautiful place.

I hadn’t really wanted to go to the auction. Port Hope is about a three-hour drive from my city, and, on top of that, I don’t really like rusty old bits and pieces. I like to think of myself as a minimalist: Who needs all that stuff? I agreed to go, anyway. Why not? I like to view every opportunity that you don’t really want to take as an opportunity for adventure.

I am so glad I went. It turned out to be quite the experience.

Going to a estate auction is similar to going shopping at a thrift store – you don’t really know what sort of people you will find there, and you don’t really know what you’ll find there for sale. That’s what makes them both so exciting, right? Sure.

So, yes, the auction was huge. There was just so much stuff. And it was interesting stuff – not like those little angel figurines you find at your local Goodwill. Old Ford vans. Piles of what use to be cars from the ’30s. Shovels, rakes, other strange farming implements – all made of rust. Tents full of collectible children’s toys. Percussion instruments. Trailers, tractors, washing basins, mirrors, stools, chairs, baby buggies, horse carriages, hundreds of bicycles. So much stuff.

Oh, and there were Mennonites.

Now, maybe you’re more familiar with Mennonites than I am. That wouldn’t really be a difficult thing – I know basically nothing about them – or anyway, I knew nothing about them then. Like I said, you never know who you’ll run into at an auction. It was a very interesting sight to see: Old, farmer guys, young kids, people from the country, people from the city, cowboys and their little cow-children, and Mennonites, and me. The Mennonites stuck out because of the way they looked. It wasn’t just their homemade clothing (very cool – where can I get me a Mennonite-made shirt?), but their bodies, their hairstyles, their hands, even their language.

You could tell these people were hard workers. Their back and arm muscles were much bigger than the “modern” men’s that surrounded them. Their hands were big, and callused, from lifetimes of hard farm labor. One older man was missing his index finger. My mom guessed he lost it in a farming accident. Another had an (actual) wooden leg that made it difficult for him to walk. All the men sported beards, bowl-cut hair, and suspenders; all the women donned bonnets, aprons, and long dresses. I even spotted a little three-year-old Mennonite boy (so cute!), walking through the crowds with his father, wearing the same getup as the older men.

As for their language, yes, even that was different. I’ve no idea what it was – Wikipedia suggests some sort of German, or Dutch – but I will admit to scooting closer to two older gentlemen as they were conversing in an attempt to listen in. Little good it did me!

It was an amazing thing to watch: Mennonites and men and families and teenagers and city-slickers all bunched together, all mingled, all enjoying their auction visit together.

(I wish I had had my camera. Ugh! Don’t you hate when you don’t have your camera?!)

(Yes, ok, also, I eyed the Mennonite guys from afar. You would’ve too, ok!)

No shame.

Honestly, standing there in the dirt with those suspender-clad men, I felt sort of worthless. I don’t do hard labor to support myself. I spend a lot of time on the internet. I don’t make my own clothes (with pants with double-pockets!), I buy them from mass-producing companies. I don’t raise all of my own food – I buy it from huge chain grocery stores for way too much money!

Should I be like the Mennonites? Should we all be like the Mennonites?

Maybe a little.

Let’s consider it. We’d all look more attractive, anyway.

After that day, I was left wondering that. I was also left with the mental image of the modern people and the Mennonites together. It was like the old generation of Americans had stepped from the past into the estate auction. It was, to be descriptive, really neat.

Always do the things you don’t really want to do – you might have a good time, or learn something, or both!

Also, there was pie. Mennonite pie.

I slept in California last night! Right next to the Pacific ocean.

We’re in Huntington Beach, CA, at the moment – and it is wonderful here.

So, yesterday involved a lot of me driving in traffic for four hours on our long journey from Las Vegas to Anywhere-on-the-ocean, CA. That specific place ended up being Huntington Beach, CA, – after an hour of driving, lost, down the coast – and really, there could have been worse places to be lost, dazed, and confused. So we were in good shape.

While we were searching endlessly for a parking spot, I whipped out my phone and again used some magic technology to book us a motel in the city. Thank you, 3G! Now with a sure place to go, we whipped our rented Ford Taurus (Silver!) around and headed to the aptly named “Ocean View” Motel. (With in-room spas! Aka, showers.)

Yes, I slept next to the Pacific ocean last night. In California. Did I mention that yet?

After we parked the car and mangled the room key from the manager’s hand, we piled all of our belongings into our new for-the-night home. It wasn’t bad. There was even a mini-fridge! Now that’s high class living.

Then we were off again to find the (what had to have been) twenty-mile long beach that we had passed on our first run through Huntington Beach.

This is what we had come for! There were people, and dogs, and tents full of stuff to buy, and food, and more food, and oh – more food, and sandy beaches, and, of course, the ocean.

Nicole and I took carefully measured steps as we first approached the roaring waves of the Pacific. Then, once we were covered in smelly, salty ocean water up to our hips after the first wave hit us – well, we were hooked. Yes, we did run down the coastline. How did you know?

It was a really beautiful experience. As we walked toward some pier in the distance (which I’m sure has a name, but I didn’t see one), we stopped for a few minutes to watch the sun sink beneath the mountains. I watched the sunset. In California. Next to the Ocean. Oh, and then the dolphins started leaping out of the water.

Is this starting to sound like a movie or something? I couldn’t believe it.

Dolphins! Yes, I will freak out like a proper tourist from the Midwest and get excited over dolphins. Everyone else on the beach seemed to be properly freaking out, too, as there was quickly a herd of people surrounding the spot on the beach where the dolphins could be seen. Others were snapping photos, and I tried to get a couple, too, but some things simply cannot be captured by technology – sometimes you just have to watch, and remember, and that is the best way to live that moment.

At the pier (which must have been about a mile from the dolphin spot), we wandered down and took in the sights of what was then a dark Huntington Beach. The lights of the city from the pier were beautiful, and yes, I did take pictures of that moment.

It was really everything I expected from a pier over the ocean – lots of people, musicians playing on the benches with their hats out, more stuff to buy, a restaurant, and a pelican. He was sitting on this “fish sink” and having some (what must have been for him) delicious fishy-tasting water. Yum!

To end the night (after a 45 minute walk back to our car), we stopped at a nearby Jack in the box for dinner. Yes, we tried Western fast food. It was pretty good, too. At least to two girls who hadn’t eaten all day.

Ok, now we’re getting to my favorite part. (Not really, but really.) Back at “home”, we spread ourselves out on our beds with our fast food dinner, and watched some Cake Boss.

Now that is a good day.

Now, to L.A. and beyond!

(Oh, and if you’re reading this and you’re from the LA area, or you’ve been there — Where should I go? What should I see? Tell me everything!)