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Would you rather live a year in complete darkness or a year with only sunshine? Could anything grow in the dark? How long could we survive?

My friend messages me from the other side of the world and asks for my address. There’s a letter for me there. It flew from America to Asia, and now it’s coming back again. Who is it from? Who do I even know in that state? There’s only one person I’ve written a letter to that lives there. Could it be? The sun shines in me.

Letters are like memories. Even though they’re written down, recorded, we forget them. I have no idea what I wrote in that letter. I don’t remember how long it was. I don’t remember what my handwriting looked like on the outside of the envelope.

Possibility. It’s a seed of unknown origin. Limitless. It could grow forever, into anything. Memories that haven’t been made yet. Words that have been written down but not read.

Balance is important. Half day, half night. Darkness is quiet, terrifying, calm. The sun is blinding but it lets us live, grows us, moves our skin. Balance. Humility and pride. Sadness and joy. Sorrow. Love.

My friend doodles tiny colorful monsters on paper. He paints them, creates them, shares them. Sells them for the big evil dollar. Nails them to trees. Talks about sunshine. Paints happiness on his feet. Looks like joy. The definition of.

I don’t know anyone purposefully living in darkness. But there are a lot of people who don’t have rainbows on their shoes. I’m getting older waiting for this letter to come. Another week or two. When I’m waiting, sitting under the mailbox, I watch my friends go by. They walk  past me. Some don’t turn their heads. Some are too far away to see anymore. I wonder why my parents don’t have friends. I wonder why people stop loving each other. It’s not that hard. It’s worse to be alone. It’s harder in the darkness. It’s better to try to keep growing as a person.

I wonder where that slip of paper is. Anticipation. Focus. Mathematics and a brain-powered global positioning system. When? Who? What answers will it have? Did I ask questions? Will anything change? Will there be blinding sunlight in it? Sunglasses shaped like flowers? A thoughtless reply?

I’m thinking about that particular smear of pencil lead on the palm of my writing hand. How I can never paint anything very well at all because I don’t pick up my hand enough. That particular triangle shape of accidental art. But I think I wrote the letter in pen.

Wheels spinning on ground. Planes flying in air, high above us, that we still claim as our own. Not outer space. Travel. Thoughts. Responses. Emotions. Relationships. The final delivery, someone lightly stepping on the brake to insert the letter into my mailbox, months after it was first deposited into one and sent my way. Sent to where I was. Sending to where I am.

It will probably be light out when it arrives. Sun. Shine. Wind. The smell of winter. Cold. Ice on the ground. The feel of it. The corners of such a small, flat thing. Who knows?

1. Ok, here it is, 2015. Usually I’m bummed on NYE, in some kind of sentimental sad way. I don’t know, it just happens! Every year, like SAD. BUT this year, I felt so excited! Happy, even. Wow. You guys. This is either going to be awesome, or really terrible and tragic. Let’s go find out.

2. I have finally entered the “post-college” phase of my life. I mean, it only took a year and a half of actual post-college. I have been so busy (aka gainfully employed and interesting) before now, I had no time to think about (aka sleep in too late) my life now! You know? (Don’t worry mom, I’m working on finding a “real” job!)

3. At some point you have to stop trying to be brave and brash and instead do what is beautiful. What makes you happy instead of terrified. What makes you feel fulfilled instead of simply adventurous. What is “good” instead of “interesting”. Throw pillows and rugs instead of throw-stuff-in-a-suitcase. It’s ok if it feels right, right? More on this later…

4. Sometimes the worst thing for you can be too much of yourself.

5. SHUT UP. STOP TWITTERING ABOUT HOW HEARTBROKEN YOU ARE. IN SOME STRANGE VAGUE WAY. (and yet, at the same time: LISTEN TO ALL OF MY WHINY PROBLEMS!)

6. Selfies are over. Stop. Stop. Or I will be force to break your selfie stick over my knee. Watch me!

7. (Contd from 3, sort of…) When I was younger, (maybe 4 years ago or so) I loved to talk to one of my best friends about how people are so lame, how people get married, and all they want is that house, those annoying kids, and stuff. We loved to think that we were so much better, that we wanted more for our lives than that. We wanted to travel, to meet nice/cool people, to do important things. We never, ever wanted to settle down, to own a house, to be tied to some square chunk of land. Fast forward to now… we’ve done a bunch of cool stuff, we’ve met lots of nice people, we’ve started and are still trying to do important things. And we have more perspective, thanks to all that we’ve done, on the stuff that other people choose to do. Yeah, ok, sure, kids are cute. Yeah, marriage seems, well, it seems to work for you, we guess. Oh no, we still don’t think buying that house is a good life choice… anyway, what I’m saying is, is that we’ve changed our minds. Even if it is just a little. And we hate to think what our past selves would say about it, so we barely admit it to our current selves.

8. What do you mean, you saw me on OKcupid? No way. I saw you! (BTW your profile pic is really terrible. I mean, it probably is. It might be. Not that I’ve seen it. What are we talking about?)

9. What country this year? Vietnam or South Africa? Do I have to choose?

10. It’s all going to be ok! Especially when you think about global warming and how terrible it is, and how no one even gives a shit that the polar bears are dying, not really. Look, all of your other problems have now practically vanished!

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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. Many things are bearable until they don’t have to be.

2. blue eyes.

3. I LOVE you! I think you’re SO interesting! Let’s be friends! No, wait! Come back!

4. I just finished (finally) The Wind in the Willows which I read because it was a free e-book on this app on my ipod and I would read a few chapters every time I took the subway… Anyway, it’s a sort of simple story about these animals in this world where they somehow communicate with each other and humans… and it’s a children’s story according to Wikipedia. But it’s really good. You should read it. Simple words don’t mean simple ideas.

5. You can do a lot of cool things or you can spend all your time thinking about all the cool things you want to do.

6. Maybe you are the thing that offends you the most.

7. You’ll regret it if you don’t try. You’ll regret it if you try and it doesn’t work. And so then you’ll try again! Who knows?! Maybe next time it’ll happen…

8. I thought roller-coasters were terrifying until I let my younger brother drive me somewhere.

9. What are you people listening to these days?! As in, what are you listening to?, and, WHAT are you listening to?! I can’t even talk about it. It’s too painful.

10. It’s good practice to open your mind and accept things that don’t affect you personally, because they just might in the future.

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“I’m so happy to be home,” she says.

“It’s so different. It’s just like it was when I left. It’s so different from where I was. I just can’t explain it. And no one is asking me to.”

“It’s like PTSD,” she says.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or maybe it’s the opposite of that. But it’s sorta the same. Like I just experienced something terrible. And I come home, back here, and this place is not terrible at all. It’s so normal. It’s identical to life before I left, like nothing here has changed. Because it hasn’t.”

“And anyway, I felt it right away, when I got here. This anti-PTSD thing.”

“Oh, and I’m allowed to talk about PTSD, because I met soldiers over there when I was gone. I learned some stuff about their lives. Anyway so it’s not like I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

“So, I stepped out of the airport, after 24 hours of traveling, and, bam, here I was. And maybe that doesn’t sound very impressive. And people don’t seem very impressed. And that’s the thing.”

“I can’t explain what I’ve been through or much of the things I’ve seen. It’s a different world. You have to experience it yourself before you can understand me. So, PTSD, right? You’re living in this world, like me, but at the same time, I’ve lived in another one, and that world’s not completely gone from me. It’s like jet-lag, but culture-lag; experience-lag. It wasn’t really wonderful or beautiful. And you’re not asking, either. And to talk about it just feels like complaining. I can’t describe it right. And you’re not listening to what I’m not saying.”

“This world doesn’t seem real,” she says.

“I can understand what those soldiers must go through. This is a dream land. It’s like nothing happened, like those terrible things never happened. But they did. And it’s so confusing. And you can’t talk about it. See? I’m talking in circles. But I have to say something.”

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I woke up suddenly. My head jerked upright from its place against the window of the airplane. The woman sitting beside me noticed and immediately pointed to small package of peanuts tucked into the pocket of the seat in front of me. “I saved these for you,” she said in a Dutch accent. “And this,” as she handed me a napkin.

“Thank you,” I said. This all made me feel bad since I had been trying to avoid talking to her from the beginning of the flight.

“Where are you from?” she asked me.

“America.”

“Ah, are you going home?”

“No, I’m going to Munich.”

We were landing in Amsterdam. And she was the one going home. Not me.

A week later I was back where I had left from, and the time that had passed between the two points of time, the leaving and the returning, didn’t seem to matter much in the bigger picture. But it really did. Everything was different.

Because the world is bigger, I wrote.

The world is a very big place. From Asia to Europe it takes 12 or 14 or 16 hours of flying, depending on where you find yourself going to and coming from.

There is this beautiful fountain in the middle of Salzburg, Austria. There are horse heads in it that spit water into the sky, and the water falls down into the fountain, splashing the carved webbed feet of the strange water creatures that are almost horses, but really something else entirely, something that only exists in that pond. In that place. A tiny fountain world. I left a coin there, tossed it in, wishing something I can’t remember now, just wishing something.

Fountains make wishing seem easy, but you don’t really need them. They don’t really help. You have to go there, wherever it is you’re going. You have to go there on your own. But maybe a fountain is what you are looking for. A fountain that holds the worlds’ only water horses. A fountain that my 20 euro cent coin is living in.

I am looking for some other fountain, some other place. Maybe I am looking for a building, a beautiful building that I want to go on looking at. Or maybe I am looking for a park, a park where a tree grows that’s been growing there longer than I’ve been alive. Or maybe I’m looking for a person. A water horse, golden sunset, great green park of a person. Or perhaps they are many people. A park full. Yes, that’s it: a city and a park and people. What a small world I am looking for. Maybe I’ve already flown over it. Maybe I’ve already sat next to it.

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He started traveling when he was 23, 5 years ago. Now he’s lived in 6 different countries, speaks 4 different languages, has a lot of great photographs and memories. And, much of the time, he is happy. But he does not have happiness. He says all he really has is his guitar. People that move around on their own, he says, they need something other than people to hold on to. He has his guitar, he says. His traveling companion.

His hair is long, kept in brown dreadlocks. He’s from Germany, but he sings in English and whatever language of whatever country he finds himself in. He is content, happy, to sit on benches across the globe, strumming and singing with the people, the crowds, that quickly surround him when he plays. He brings joy to them. Him and his guitar.

I wonder if he is happy after he packs away his one possession, after the crowds of people leave. I wonder how he is strong enough, if he is strong enough, to have been going so long on his own.  I wonder if he lied, if he’s actually terrified and lonely, or if he does take something else along with him on his travels — bits and pieces of people: the old man’s laughter, the girl smiling as she recorded him singing with her cell phone, the busy people who missed train after train as they stood in their subway station, singing. I wonder if it is enough for him, to have a part but not a whole.

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1. How many times is too many times? How much is too much? How vague is too vague?

2. You know your life’s exciting when you find yourself researching how to keep your houseplants watered so they don’t die when you leave them for an extended period of time. My babies!

3. Maybe you’re not bored but boring.

4. So, the World Cup is pretty cool, eh? #American

5. I wonder if I’m annoying my apartment neighbor by playing Sondre Lerche’s Bad Law over and over and over…. oh well.

6. I get it, you have opinions. About everything. And you’re very outspoken. And you hate that other people have opinions. Because they’re always wrong. Or offensive. Or politically incorrect. Maybe you should just get off the internet, because sharing all of these articles and making virtual support groups for offended people is not going to solve anything. Or maybe you’re just bored otherwise?

7. He has brown eyes. Of course he does.

8. People on Instagram totally take some of those photos with like real cameras, right? It’s ok, you can tell me!

9. If you can go outside and look up and see blue sky, and if you can go to the grocery store and buy strawberries at any month of the year, you’re fortunate. Please feel fortunate, for me. The gray-sky, berry-less lady. Thanks.

10. Wake up in the middle of the night and smile to yourself and go back to sleep.