twenty-six by twenty-six

“Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. Walk away, try something new. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming.” – Shauna Niequist

I reference this quote from Shauna Niequist often. It perfectly embodies how I feel about being in my twenties—I’m constantly getting stuck and wanting to experience something new. I want to continue becoming.

In keeping up with the tradition of a yearly bucket list, I’ve decided to do twenty-six things before I turn twenty-six. I guess this birthday is kind of a milestone in that I’m a quarter of a century old (OLD!)… but just because I’m turning into a cranky, sore-backed old lady doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a little fun in the mean time (ok, to be fair, I’ve been a cranky old lady with a sore back for a while now—but still, I need fun to balance things out).

Here are the twenty-six things I’m hoping to accomplish by July 5, 2016:

  1. Improve my photography & calligraphy skills
  2. Go to SXSW
  3. Try pole dancing (extra challenging, as I have chicken arms)
  4. See Twenty One Pilots live
  5. Get a job in my own (or a new) industry
  6. Don’t be afraid to say “no”
  7. Get a tattoo
  8. Learn something new—bartending? coding? CAD? drums?
  9. Read 12 books (ideally, that’s one per month… *math*)
  10. Go on a date with someone new (condition: only when I feel ready/excited to do so)
  11. Visit the ocean
  12. Take a trip to Nashville
  13. Finish all of the shows I’ve been putting off finishing—including: Orphan Black, Community, The OC, Hart of Dixie, Gilmore Girls, Friends, etc.
  14. KEEP. WRITING.
  15. Get paid for my writing
  16. Visit a professional for my anxiety
  17. See three new bands/musicians live
  18. Commit to #BBG for at least 1 month
  19. Get comfortable with parallel parking
  20. Hang out with a friend I haven’t seen in a while
  21. Visit my Jersey family (bonus points if they visit me!)
  22. Exchange X-mas gifts with a far-away friend
  23. Commit to training for the Big Dawg Dare (in hopes it doesn’t kick my ass this summer)
  24. Go to Cider Summit Chicago in February
  25. Fall in love (with a person, place, band, hobby, etc.)
  26. TBD (it’s always fun to leave one space open for future un-thought-of endeavors)

“25 x 25”: THE FINAL POST

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Hellooooooo, 25! I’m already thinking big thoughts with you. It’s been about two weeks since my big quarter-of-a-century day and things have been great so far! Lots of positive vibes and fun nights spent with family and friends. But I need to wrap up my 25 x 25 list! To recap, this is a bucket list of 25 things I wanted to do before I turned 25. It was definitely a tough year on me, but there were so many good things too. Besides, I’d like to think that the tough times have made me stronger.

Here’s a final look at the list that accompanied me through life as a 24-year-old:

1 –  Get my Chicago tattoo and/or writing-related tattoo
No tats yet, as I’ve had some second-guessing. But I finally got my ears double-pierced. Tiny accomplishment! 

2 – Get into a yoga/running routine (and stick to it for at least 3 months)
I stuck to a running routine from September through November (then it got too cold and I’m not a treadmill kind of girl). From March through June, I stuck to a sort-of yoga routine. I found a class that left me feeling both strong and balanced and I’m excited to re-enroll after the chaos of summer subsides so I can get back into it!

3 – No longer be in debt
This is a huge accomplishment for me. I officially paid off my debt as of May. Now it’s time to master the art of “saving up.”

4 – Visit Lauren & Kaitlyn at SLU, IWU at least twice, see Jess once
I went to Lauren and Kaitlyn’s Theta Family Weekend and a Blackhawks game in STL (check). I visited IWU for Lauren’s 21st birthday and for Homecoming Weekend, where I participated in Brad’s proposal (huge check). I didn’t get to see Jess once. I GOT TO SEE HER TWICE AND I’M STILL OVERWHELMED AND EXCITED ABOUT THIS. Jess, Lukasz, and Kayla drove 14 hours to spend a long weekend in Chicago this past December. We spent New Years together and explored the city in negative temps. This past May, I used points to fly myself out to Jersey, where I got to hang out with Jess and the NJ crew for a long weekend (which included surprising Eric at his BBQ).

5 – Give vlogging a chance
Within the last year, this is something I’ve changed my mind about. It’s something I’m less interested in. Maybe I’ll give it a shot if/when the time feels right, but it’s not where I’m at right now.

6 – Keep up with my current 365 project
I kept up with taking photos, but did not keep up with posting. Oops. This is something to continue working on. It’s a project that has been near and dear to me for the last five years. I have no intention of abandoning it any time soon.

7 – Learn to be less critical of myself/compare myself less to other girls/friends/bloggers etc.
This is an ongoing thing, but I’ve definitely made progress. I have been actively making a point to stop myself from being so critical. I mean, I’ve always prided myself on doing my own thing and following my own path. Why would I not do my own thing when it comes to myself and my confidence? Yes, I have days where I wonder why I’m “not like her” and why “I don’t have my life together like she does.” But no progress comes from thinking that way.

8 – Make it to 5 concerts (at least three bands I haven’t seen before)
Easy! Out of the following, eleven bands I hadn’t seen before: Monumentour (Paramore & Fall Out Boy), Gavin DeGraw & Matt Nathanson & Andrew McMahon, KONGOS & Young Rising Sons, You Me At Six, Grizfolk & Bastille, The Night We Stole Xmas (Meg Myers, Vancy Joy, KONGOS, & Walk The Moon), Joe Renardo, The Wind and The Wave, and Bobby Long. It was a really good year for me and live music.

9 – Start writing poetry again
This is another thing that has not been syncing with me. My head has not been in the right space for it. New goal: start reading poetry again. Then start writing again. 

10 – Go out more often. Do things. (Kick the anxiety.)
Any time (okay, maybe more like 75% of the time) I’ve been invited out somewhere, I’ve gone. This is a long list, so bear with me: I finally made it to Summer House Santa Monica with Susan. I went to lots of concerts (some even by myself). I went out for tapas in the city with Amanda and Mary. I did my annual Sprinkles & Skyline night out with Gabby. I went to Brookfield Zoo with Mary and Sarah. I went up to Lake Geneva for a day with Lauren and Kaitlyn. I went to Mary’s going away party downtown. I went out for Lauren’s 21st in Bloomington. I went up to Milwaukee to do fall things with Adam. I met GRACE HELBIG HERSELF IN REAL LIFE. I went out on a whim with Gabby and John. I spent Halloween in Milwaukee (dressed as THE cool cats, Britt and Jeff, from Community). I went tailgating in Naperville with Amanda. I went out for Gabby’s birthday. I went out in Lincoln Park for Susan’s birthday. I did an overnighter in The Dells with the sibs. I had four jam packed days of Chicago adventures in Chicago with my NJ fam. I finally met Joe and saw him play a show. I saw and met The Wind And The Wave (bonus: joined their street team shortly after!), I made it downtown for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. I had a really fun time socializing and meeting new people at Brad’s St. Patrick’s party. I spontaneously visited STL to hang out with Theresa. I saw and met Bobby Long at SPACE again. I drove up to Wisconsin to visit Amanda. I saw the Blackhawks dressing room. I met my writing heroine, Sarah Dessen. I flew to New Jersey for 5 days and had the most amazing time ever with the best people ever. I did the Color Run (and a handful of other 5Ks). I’ve been planning a million wedding-related things too. The anxiety is still present, but I’m kicking it whenever I can.

11 – Drink more tea/water
Such a simple thing, but I did accomplish it! I’m finally drinking more water and making a point to do it on a daily basis. I can tell how much better I feel when I do.

12- Fall in love (with a person, place, or hobby)
I think I fell a little bit in love with my NJ fam while in South Jersey. I just kept sitting back and realizing what an incredible group of people they are. I feel like I belong when I’m around them. South Jersey is one of the first places I’ve traveled to in the States that still feels like home, despite how far away it is.

13 – Meet someone that impacts my life in a positive way
I officially met Lukasz in December, Joe in January, and Madia in May. I’ve known them all online before getting to meet them in person. But each one has impacted my life in a way.

14 – Take a drive to Nashville for a weekend
The weather hasn’t cooperated with these plans, but it’s not leaving the list until I make it there! 

15 – Get a full-time job
I started full-time at my job in April! Plus I started writing part-time for Literally, Darling. 

16 – Make a stranger laugh
I actually pulled this one off recently. I told the guy at my local pizza place that my mom made me bring her coupon even though I knew I didn’t need to. I got a laugh out of him. Check!

17 – Do/try something new. Anything. (i.e. wake boarding)
Admittedly, I don’t think I tried many new things in the last year. I did give wake boarding a few attempts at the end of last summer. It didn’t go well, but it was something I was terrified of. My chicken arms just weren’t feelin’ it. Oh! I started two new daily projects– on my birthday last year, I started answering my “Q&A A Day” book, the other is something I started on January 1st– it’s called “1 Page At A Time” by Adam JK. Every day, I fill out a page. So far, it’s been a fun way to document this year. 

18 – Run a 5k (with few stops… maybe under 40 minutes?)
Big Dawg Dare, Hot Chocolate 5K, Turkey Trot, Color Run. I didn’t finish any in under 40 minutes though. I’m not giving up on that goal yet!

19 – Learn to cook/bake more
I taught myself how to make soft pretzels (watch out, Auntie Anne’s), fudge brownies from scratch, and elephant ears. I’ve also mastered the art of making Grandpa’s pancakes. I think he’d be proud.

20 – Do something for myself
I took a trip to New Jersey for a weekend to surprise Eric and his BBQ after I jokingly told him I’d be there. It was a much needed, much enjoyed trip.

21 – Go to the planetarium, aquarium, and a Blackhawks game in Chicago
I went to Brookfield Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo, a Blackhawks game in Chicago and Saint Louis. I didn’t make it to the planetarium or aquarium, but I still would love to visit both. Maybe in the next year!

22 – Watch the sunset and the sunrise over the city
This is a big item on my list that I’m bummed about missing out on. I will absolutely make it happen in the next year. 

23 – Move out (esp. with Amanda)
Amanda pulled it off! She moved out to take her dream job. I’ve decided I’m going to take some time to save up so I can afford to move somewhere cool (ie Lincoln Park, Evanston, New Jersey, Australia… WHO KNOWS!)

24 – Learn something new
I’m cheating a little bit on this one: I’ve learned a lot about myself and my anxiety in the last year. I’ve learned even more about what I want in a relationship. Since working full time, I’ve learned a lot of new stuff in my position. So no, nothing like calligraphy (like last year), but I’m learning. I’m always learning. I never want to stop learning.

25 – Read 24 books
I only read 11 books. Not going to lie, Netflix has been hogging a bit of my free evenings (at least I finally finished Gossip Girl…) xoxo

Total: 16 out of 25

But wait, there’s more!

Twenty-four. I really love that number. And I think I really loved being that age. It was a good year, for the most part (as you can see above). I made a lot of great memories, went to so many incredible concerts, met Patty (from TW+TW) and Sarah Dessen, etc. I mean, you can’t really beat that.

Twenty-four made me realize I need to be my own priority. But I should note that a lot of my good moments were balanced out by plenty of down moments. More accurately, I had about six months that were very down. I fell into a slump that left me feeling extremely anxious and depressed. I can’t remember ever feeling the way I did in that span of time. I didn’t want to leave my bedroom. My family, despite their efforts to motivate me, became enemies. I didn’t want to take care of myself. I was letting them down. I was letting myself down.

At the same time, I remember constantly comparing my present-day self to my 23-year-old self. I was happier at 23, I made it to Australia at 23, I grew so much while I was 23. Why am I not happy at 24? It wasn’t healthy. I know that now and I knew it then. I don’t want to use those months as an excuse for why I didn’t accomplish as much of my list as I wanted to, but the reality is, I didn’t feel motivated. I felt mentally and physically strapped down. This list was not a priority. My goals were not important to me. The whole reason I write a yearly list is to push myself to accomplish more things while in my twenties. For six months, I was being pushed and I had no energy to push back.

I don’t know when I started to rise out of that slump, but I think it had a lot to do with starting yoga and beginning to work full-time. My energy was slowly shifted to more positive things. My parents were no longer on my case about getting a job. I was feeling motivated to make it to yoga. I was actively wanting to take care of myself. I made plans to travel to New Jersey to see Jess & her friends. It took a lot of little things to balance out the few heavy things weighing me down, but I did make it out.

This is not to say I don’t still struggle to this day. This is me acknowledging that 24 was hard and 25 will likely bring some dark days as well. But I think I’m less afraid now. At this point, I’m excited for what 25 will bring, whatever that may be. I’m ready to put myself first. I’m ready to celebrate my sister getting married. I’m ready to explore Chicago more than I ever have before. I’m ready to get into new hobbies and learn new things. I’m ready to grow as a writer. I’m beyond ready to see Twenty One Pilots live in a few weeks.

So, thank you, 24. You made me stronger, you made me less afraid. Hello, 25. It’s time to think bigger and brighter.

25 x 25 (The Bucket List)

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This is my bucket list of 25 things to do before I turn 25. I wrote this in the months leading up to my birthday (this past July), but only just managed to finalize the list. Some are repeats from my “23” list, some are general goals, but all are things that will make me feel a little more accomplished by next year. As I complete things, I’ll probably post little blurbs/Instagram pictures as evidence!

1 –  Get my Chicago tattoo and/or writing-related tattoo
2 – Get into a yoga/running routine (and stick to it for at least 3 months)
3 – No longer be in debt
4 – Visit Lauren & Kaitlyn at SLU, Jaclynn in Ohio, IWU at least twice, see Jess once
5 – Give vlogging a chance
6 – Keep up with my current 365 project
7 – Learn to be less critical of myself/compare myself less to other girls/friends/bloggers etc.
8 – Make it to 5 concerts (at least three bands I haven’t seen before)
9 – Start writing poetry again
10 – Go out more often. Do things. (Kick the anxiety.)
11 – Drink more tea/water
12- Fall in love (with a person, place, or hobby)
13 – Meet someone that impacts my life in a positive way
14 – Take a drive to Nashville for a weekend
15 – Get a full-time job
16 – Make a stranger laugh
17 – Do/try something new. Anything. (i.e. wake boarding)
18 – Run a 5k (with few stops… maybe under 40 minutes?)
19 – Learn to cook/bake more
20 – Do something for myself
21 – Go to the planetarium, aquarium, and a Blackhawks game in Chicago
22 – Watch the sunset and the sunrise over the city
23 – Move out (esp. with Amanda)
24 – Learn something new
25 – Read 24 books

“23”: THE FINAL POST

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That’s it! I’m officially 24 as of today *insert belated July 4th fireworks here* (well, technically I have until this evening, but let’s not get that technical for the sake of simplicity, which I’m becoming a fan of more and more these days). Here’s where my “23” bucket list stands on it’s last day:

1. Leave my job at IB

2. Get a new job (and love it) — I got a new job and I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love it. It’s not what I had in mind when I wrote this list, but it’s a new job nonetheless. And I’m using it as motivation to continue looking for the job that I’ll be proud to say I love.

3. Go back to Australia (to study, work, or take a vacation)I DID IT. I MADE IT BACK TO AUSTRALIA, TOOK A MONTH-LONG DREAM VACATION AND MANAGED TO CROSS OFF A LOT OF THIS LIST. I’M STILL IN DISBELIEF, BUT IT HAPPENED AND IT WAS AMAZING!

4. Meet and hang out with BlakeThis might be the one thing on my list I’m more excited about than the fact that I actually was in Australia. I’ve known Blake for a couple of years now and in that time, he’s become one of my best friends. We met on tumblr, so it’s been a dream of mine to meet my best-friend-across-the-world. We met and then eventually, we hung out— it was the best. Highlight of my week in Sydney, hands down.

5. Get my first tattoo — I’ve at least picked what I’d like my first one to be (officially)

6. Hang out with Jessica (in NYC, NJ, or Chicago) again, without the anxiety this time

7. Visit California (esp. San Clemente & Kristen Stewart’s handprints @ TCL)Ok, this one’s a stretch, but I did make it to Cali. Granted, it was just a layover at LAX. But I paid for the flights and I was there, so…. the “esp.” will just have to make it onto my next bucket list.

8. Get paid to write

9. Go on vacation with Amanda — Our New Years Eve trip turned into a bit of a vacation… it’s a stretch, but we did spend 5 days together + 7 hours driving!

10. Run a 5K (with a few stops at most)I did the Color Run in Chicago on June 8th and even though we technically walked the entire thing (with a few bursts of running at most), it was the most fun I’ve had at a 5K and that’s an accomplishment itself.

11. Do/try something new/spontaneous. Anything.I went scuba diving on a total whim and it was the most unreal, thrilling 45 minutes of my life.

12. Learn something newSo far: calligraphy and how to make guacamole. And guess what? I’ve had so much fun with both of these things that I was reminded of how great it feels to learn something new.

13. Meet someone famous (actor/musician/writer/athlete)I met Sophia Bush on November 6th!

14. Meet someone that impacts my life in a positive wayI’ve been waiting to cross this one off, because it’s a big one. But between the people I met in Australia, my dear friend Blake, and the guy I dated for a few months, my life has been impacted in a positive way.

15. Impact someone’s life in a positive wayI talked to Amanda about this one back in March(ish) when she asked what I had left on my list. This was one of them. It took her maybe half a second to say, “Are you crazy? Of course you’ve impacted someone’s life in a positive way!” And because of that, I’m crossing this one off.

16. Fall in love (with a person, place, or hobby)Get this: triple whammy. I fell in love with my dive instructor in the Great Barrier Reef while scuba diving with him. Ok, mostly joking about that. But I did manage to fall in love with a place on my trip: Sydney. This city is beautiful and it was ridiculously hard to say goodbye.

17. Finally finish my Invisalign treatment

18. Man up and get my wisdom teeth pulled

19. Go on a date (and maybe a second?!)

20. See the Blackhawks play in Nashville OR see the Western Sydney Wanderers play in MelbourneThis item is no longer possible, BUT I’m giving myself another exception here: I saw Hamish Blake IN REAL LIFE perform in a comedy show as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival, which, let’s be honest, was way more exciting for me than a soccer game would have been.

21. Do something for myselfI put all of my money into my trip to Australia and while it was a crazy thing to do financially, it was a gift to myself. I’ve been struggling to focus on where I want to head on my career path, so I took a month off to see what else is out there. My month abroad was SO different from the first time I traveled abroad alone. It was a new experience to explore on my own, create my own schedule, take a trip with strangers who became friends, and re-connect with old friends. It’s not about the money at all. It’s about the fact that I went on an actual adventure that has made me appreciate everything I have and everyone I know so much more than I did before. And now I feel more energized to figure out where I need to go from here.

22. Read a total of 23 books (I read 13.5, which is a big deal for me tbh)

23. Find a new favorite spot in ChicagoI waited til the end of my bucket list time frame to give myself a chance to explore. I thought back to the months I spent interning for The Everygirl and thought of how much I loved Lincoln Park (especially seeing the building where my Grandpa grew up, because the universe does crazy things like that), but my favorite spot was standing on a Brown Line el headed toward the city. It’s not a skyline view you can get unless you’re elevated and I think it’s safe to say that’s my new favorite spot in Chicago.

Total: 18 out of 23

Now before you go, let’s chat.

Looking back at 23, I realize what a great year it was for me: I landed a dream internship, where I got the opportunity to write about music for a huge audience. I pushed my writing boundaries and learned how to write interview questions. I met some really awesome interns who became friends. I saved up enough money to fly myself back to my favorite place in the entire world. I got to visit friends I hadn’t seen in three years and show my sister around where I lived in Melbourne. I got to meet one of my best friends across the world. I met a ton of amazing, inspiring people. I did something that actually still scares the crap out of me and loved every terrifying second of it. I became closer with certain friends. I kept up traditions and made new ones. I went on a date with a guy and ended up dating him for six months. I tried new things, learned new things, ate new things. Generally speaking, I genuinely believe I have grown up a lot over the last 365 days.

Writing this list of things to accomplish in a year not only motivated me to try harder, but also to try new. I like familiar. I tend to stick to things I know, people I know, and places I know. As I go about navigating 24, I plan to do 25 things that will push me to grow even more. Of course, I’ll stick to some familiar things, but I can’t wait to meet more people, date new people, discover new writers and musicians, find a job that makes me feel fulfilled at the end of the day, and hopefully get to know myself better. I always roll my eyes when people say “you need to love yourself before you let someone love you.” And I was always impatient about finding someone to fall in love with. But I’m starting to accept that the universe has a way of doing things that bump you into place, despite the bruises and confusion along the way. I’m learning to love who I am and not roll my eyes when someone compliments me, because guess what? I am pretty awesome.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve already begun writing my “25 by 25” list. It’s in the works, as it likely will continue to be for a couple of months. Even if I don’t finish everything on that list either, I’m excited to see where 24 will take me– or more likely, where I decide to take 24. Despite all of the positivity up there, I had a lot of doubtful, lost moments as a 23-year-old, but I’m actually ready for 24. I’m prepared to have moments of doubt and fear. What I’m finding to be the most important is that I didn’t rush it. Which is why I don’t plan to rush 25 either. After all, I have 25 things I need to accomplish before then!

“23”: Updated (15/23 complete) with only 18 days to go

1. Leave my job at IB

2. Get a new job (and love it)

3. Go back to Australia (to study, work, or take a vacation)I DID IT. I MADE IT BACK TO AUSTRALIA, TOOK A MONTH-LONG DREAM VACATION AND MANAGED TO CROSS OFF A LOT OF THIS LIST. I’M STILL IN DISBELIEF, BUT IT HAPPENED AND IT WAS AMAZING!

4. Meet and hang out with BlakeThis might be the one thing on my list I’m more excited about than the fact that I actually was in Australia. I’ve known Blake for a couple of years now and in that time, he’s become one of my best friends. We met on tumblr, so it’s been a dream of mine to meet my best-friend-across-the-world. We met and then eventually, we hung out— it was the best. Highlight of my week in Sydney, hands down.

5. Get my first tattoo — I’ve at least picked what I’d like my first one to be (officially)

6. Hang out with Jessica (in NYC, NJ, or Chicago) again, without the anxiety this time

7. Visit California (esp. San Clemente & Kristen Stewart’s handprints @ TCL)Ok, this one’s a stretch, but I did make it to Cali. Granted, it was just a layover at LAX. But I paid for the flights and I was there, so…. the “esp.” will just have to make it onto my next bucket list.

8. Get paid to write

9. Go on vacation with Amanda — Our New Years Eve trip turned into a bit of a vacation… it’s a stretch, but we did spend 5 days together + 7 hours driving!

10. Run a 5K (with a few stops at most)I did the Color Run in Chicago on June 8th and even though we technically walked the entire thing (with a few bursts of running at most), it was the most fun I’ve had at a 5K and that’s an accomplishment itself.

11. Do/try something new/spontaneous. Anything.I went scuba diving on a total whim and it was the most unreal, thrilling 45 minutes of my life.

12. Learn something new — So far: calligraphy and how to make guacamole. And guess what? I’ve had so much fun with both of these things that I was reminded of how great it feels to learn something new. Let’s see what else I can add here before next month.

13. Meet someone famous (actor/musician/writer/athlete)I met Sophia Bush on November 6th!

14. Meet someone that impacts my life in a positive wayI’ve been waiting to cross this one off, because it’s a big one. But between the people I met in Australia, my dear friend Blake, and the guy I dated for a few months, my life has been impacted in a positive way.

15. Impact someone’s life in a positive way

16. Fall in love (with a person, place, or hobby)Get this: triple whammy. I fell in love with my dive instructor in the Great Barrier Reef while scuba diving with him. Ok, mostly joking about that. But I did manage to fall in love with a place on my trip: Sydney. This city is beautiful and it was ridiculously hard to say goodbye.

17. Finally finish my Invisalign treatment

18. Man up and get my wisdom teeth pulled

19. Go on a date (and maybe a second?!)

20. See the Blackhawks play in Nashville OR see the Western Sydney Wanderers play in MelbourneThis item is no longer possible, BUT I’m giving myself another exception here: I saw Hamish Blake IN REAL LIFE perform in a comedy show, which let’s be honest, was way more exciting for me than a soccer game would have been.

21. Do something for myselfI put all of my money into my trip to Australia and while it was a crazy thing to do financially, it was a gift to myself. I’ve been struggling to focus on where I want to head on my career path, so I took a month off to see what else is out there. My month abroad was SO different from the first time I traveled abroad alone. It was a new experience to explore on my own, create my own schedule, take a trip with strangers who became friends, and re-connect with old friends. It’s not about the money at all. It’s about the fact that I went on an actual adventure that has made me appreciate everything I have and everyone I know so much more than I did before. And now I feel more energized to figure out where I need to go from here.

22. Read a total of 23 books

23. Find a new favorite spot in Chicago

Updates:
#10: The Color Run was an absolute blast and I’ve already come up with a team name for next year. Even though I really wanted to dedicate myself to running, it’s just not my thing. No matter how hard I try to train myself. We walked, we got colored, we had an awesome time. And it gave me an excuse to hang out with my best friends downtown on a Sunday morning. Win win.

#12: I’ve only dabbled in calligraphy thus far, but I’m not going to quit anytime soon. It’s surprisingly soothing! I turn on music, scribble out some lyrics, and see where things go. I’ve even tried watercolor calligraphy (not so smooth). Also learned how to make homemade guacamole and it was a hit with the family, so I think it’s just a sign that I should keep on learning in the kitchen while I’m at it!
Itty Bitty Reflection
Things are winding down and I’m realizing it definitely won’t be possible to complete everything, but looking back at what I have accomplished is exciting. And I feel like I didn’t let this year slip by like I have with previous years. Often times, I found myself rushing to turn another year older. I’ve embraced 23 and took the reins for a change.

In the spirit of bucket listing, I’ve already begun writing my “25 by 25” list (which I’ll hold off on posting until July). It’s in the works and even if I don’t finish everything on that list either, I’m actually looking forward to seeing what I’ll push myself to do. What improvements I’ll make. How I’ll grow as a person within a year. I’ve had my fair share of doubtful moments whilst 23, but seeing my next list come together already is already proving to myself that I’m motivated to move, change, grow, learn, etc.

On that note, the final “23” post will go up in about 18 days, when I’m officially 24 years old. How many more things can I scratch off before then? Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

Solo in Sydney

Looking back on my five days in Sydney,  I can’t believe I actually considered skipping the end of my trip because of one little panic attack. I am so, so happy I stuck it out, because I don’t think I would have fallen in love with this city otherwise. I was glad I checked off the bridge climb on my one day here with Lauren earlier in April, because it opened up a day for wandering and let’s be honest, it was so much fun getting to share that memory with her (at night and in the rain, no less). After three straight weeks of chaos/travel, I was ready to slow down and savor Sydney.

On my first day, I settled into my tiny airbnb apartment (which I should note: I grew to love), then wandered into the city to see if I could navigate around without a. getting lost and b. relying on a map. Proud to say I pulled it off! This was my third time in Sydney, so I was really hoping I’d learn it better. I walked all the way from Surry Hills through the CBD to Circular Quay. Now as touristy as this place gets, I love it. It’s quiet, beautiful, and full of people-watching opportunities. AND HELLO, THE ROYAL FAMILY WAS INSIDE WHILE I WAS THERE. Also made a stop at Angel Place to get a nice photo of the bird cages (and there were actually some birds singing because the weather was so perfect). On the walk home, I got gelato because why not?

Thursday was just a beautiful, simple, and fun (check me out, loving the solo travel life) as the day before. I took my time walking into the city (this time with my DSLR to get some quality photos), looking at the Opera House from across the harbour (bridge side), sitting at Circular Quay looking at the bridge, watching the sunset behind the bridge, and then getting a phone call from my best friend in Sydney– which was beyond cool, because I’m used to phone calls from across the world. The subject of our phone call? Hanging out together (OMG). Real life can be pretty freaking awesome sometimes. Got dolled up- even dared to wear some bright pink lipstick, then met up with Blake and his friends. We had dinner at The Clock Hotel, drinks at Tios and Low 302, and then wound up at the casino. By the end of the night, I was so. in. love. with. Sydney. (And Blake and his friends of course). There’s nothing quite like staying out until dawn and walking through Darling Harbour in absolute silence as the city wakes up.

Took a much-needed day off on Friday. Who knew walking around endlessly for three weeks could actually make your feet too painful to walk on? Saturday was low-key, but I couldn’t say goodbye to Sydney without one last night out with Blake + co and seeing the bridge lit up from the Opera Bar/the Opera House from my favorite rooftop bar in the city, The Glenmore. SWEET HOME THE GLENMORE. I have some fond memories from this place and after a year of Blake sending me photos every time he was there, it was about time we hung out there together. On our walk back to Surry Hills, I dragged Blake to Angel Place (by accident) and was blown away by how hauntingly gorgeous the bird cages looked lit up at 2am. Thanks for sharing your friends with me, Blake. Now get yourself over to Chicago so you can stop calling me “America” and I can start calling you “Straya.”

Bittersweet. My last day in Sydney was Easter Sunday and I didn’t have my family there to spend it with me, so I spend my day at Bondi Beach. Yes, it’s another touristy spot. But I don’t have beaches like this at home. I don’t get to sit in the sand watching the waves roll in from the Pacific Ocean. With a free day to explore a new spot by myself, I had lunch at Gabby’s Cafe (I picked it because I was seriously missing my Gabby back home), walked along the shore, read some John Green, had some fruity sorbet, watched the sunset paint the sky along the horizon, and headed back to Surry Hills to pack up. I’m going to miss my little apartment in Surry Hills and all the great food spots in the area (I’ve got a new soft spot for Mr. Crackles and Mad Mex). And you can bet I’ll be back.

“23”: Updated (13/23 complete–including a trip to Australia)

1. Leave my job at IB

2. Get a new job (and love it)

3. Go back to Australia (to study, work, or take a vacation)I DID IT. I MADE IT BACK TO AUSTRALIA, TOOK A MONTH-LONG DREAM VACATION AND MANAGED TO CROSS OFF A LOT OF THIS LIST. I’M STILL IN DISBELIEF, BUT IT HAPPENED AND IT WAS AMAZING!

4. Meet and hang out with BlakeThis might be the one thing on my list I’m more excited about than the fact that I actually was in Australia. I’ve known Blake for a couple of years now and in that time, he’s become one of my best friends. We met on tumblr, so it’s been a dream of mine to meet my best-friend-across-the-world. We met and then eventually, we hung out— it was the best. Highlight of my week in Sydney, hands down.

5. Get my first tattoo (if I’m feeling brave- second and third as well)

6. Hang out with Jessica (in NYC, NJ, or Chicago) again- without the anxiety this time

7. Visit California (esp. San Clemente & Kristen Stewart’s handprints @ TCL)Ok, this one’s a stretch, but I did make it to Cali. Granted, it was just a layover at LAX. But I paid for the flights and I was there, so…. the “esp.” will just have to make it onto my next bucket list.

8. Get paid to write

9. Go on vacation with Amanda — Our New Years Eve trip turned into a bit of a vacation… it’s a stretch, but we did spend 5 days together + 7 hours driving!

10. Run a 5K (with a few stops at most)

11. Do/try something new/spontaneous. Anything.I went scuba diving on a total whim and it was the most unreal, thrilling 45 minutes of my life.

12. Learn something new

13. Meet someone famous (actor/musician/writer/athlete)I met Sophia Bush on November 6th!

14. Meet someone that impacts my life in a positive wayI’ve been waiting to cross this one off, because it’s a big one. But between the people I met in Australia, my dear friend Blake, and the guy I dated for a few months, my life has been impacted in a positive way.

15. Impact someone’s life in a positive way

16. Fall in love (with a person, place, or hobby)Get this: triple whammy. I fell in love with my dive instructor in the Great Barrier Reef while scuba diving with him. Ok, mostly joking about that. But I did manage to fall in love with a place on my trip: Sydney. This city is beautiful and it was ridiculously hard to say goodbye.

17. Finally finish my Invisalign treatment — SLOWLY WORKING ON IT!

18. Man up and get my wisdom teeth pulled

19. Go on a date (and maybe a second?!)

20. See the Blackhawks play in Nashville OR see the Western Sydney Wanderers play in MelbourneThis item is no longer possible, BUT I’m giving myself another exception here: I saw Hamish Blake IN REAL LIFE perform in a comedy show, which let’s be honest, was way more exciting for me than a soccer game would have been.

21. Do something for myselfI put all of my money into my trip to Australia and while it was a crazy thing to do financially, it was a gift to myself. I’ve been struggling to focus on where I want to head on my career path, so I took a month off to see what else is out there. My month abroad was SO different from the first time I traveled abroad alone. It was a new experience to explore on my own, create my own schedule, take a trip with strangers who became friends, and re-connect with old friends. It’s not about the money at all. It’s about the fact that I went on an actual adventure that has made me appreciate everything I have and everyone I know so much more than I did before. And now I feel more energized to figure out where I need to go from here.

22. Read a total of 23 books — WORKING ON IT!

23. Find a new favorite spot in Chicago

Updates
So many things on my list are pending right now (and I’m not going to say which ones exactly, but there are approx. 11). Here’s a little breakdown:

  • #3: I can’t believe I made it back to Australia. Unreal.
  • #5: I didn’t have time to fit in a tattoo on my trip, but I don’t see why I can’t man-up and get it done here before I turn 24!
  • #11: I had a fear of scuba diving, so I only signed up to snorkel on my trip. I’d be lying if I said the dive instructor who talked to me about the “Discovery Dive” didn’t play a part in my decision, but I’m SO glad I did it. My dive was 45 minutes long and we went ~10 metres deep. And I pet a turtle, so.
  • #14: I met SO many people on my trip that I lost track of where they all are from. Hearing how so many of them are still in their teens and are exploring Australia by working/traveling was so inspiring. I wish I’d had the guts to do that at 18!
  • #16: The Great Barrier Reef. Seriously. Amazing.
  • #22: I’m really working hard on this one and it’s coming along slowly, but I’m determined to read 23 books

I have so much adrenaline, simply from writing this post. If you’ve never written a bucket list, do it. Even if you give yourself a time limit like I did– it really pushes you to make changes, take chances, and find adventures as you go. Now it’s time to focus on what I need to accomplish in the next two months.

 

Sweet Home Melbourne

I’ve considered Melbourne my second home since 2011, when I spent six weeks studying abroad and loving every second of it. As a homebody, that was a huge deal– to feel like I was home. This is how I spent the rest of my week in Melbourne:

After my first day re-exploring Melbourne on my own (and catching up with Mitch), I was feeling SO ready to continue my adventure. I spent the next day hanging out with Sophie– seeing Divergent (yes, loved it the second time) and then driving to Flemington to stay in a hotel with her and some of her friends. It was a very chill evening, which got me pumped up for my next day of CBD exploring. The next night, I met up with Mitch in the city for dinner and a comedy show. Melbourne’s Comedy Festival is a pretty big deal, so of course I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see a show especially since one of my absolute favorite Aussie comedians would be in it. Hamish Blake himself. The next day, I packed up my things and headed to an apartment near Carlton/Fitzroy that I rented through Airbnb, then met up with Lauren in the city. We got to explore and wander around together– this time on my turf. Bonus? Lunch at Elephant And Wheelbarrow with Mitch. It was a blast to have these two goofs together with me in my favorite city.

After lunching, Lauren and I wandered to Fitzroy (my old stomping ground and hipster heaven), where we walked and shopped and I shared some of my favorite memories from a few years ago. Of course, our day wasn’t over yet. We headed back to our apartment to freshen up for a night on the town. First up: Cookie for Toblerones (God bless the bartender who knew what it was when I ordered it– think chocolate milkshake for adults). From there, it was on to Rooftop bar for some cider and a view of the city at night (my all-time favorite bar in Melbourne, I might add). The next day was a jam-packed one with a lot of things to cross off our list. After breakfast at the Pancake Parlour (or as Lauren referred to it, “heaven”), we accidentally ended up in Cotton On and did a little shopping. We roamed the city looking for graffiti, then met up with Sophie for lunch.

After lunching and chatting, we walked the Royal Botanic Gardens and saw the perfect view of downtown Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance (which is where Sophie and I had to say our goodbyes for this trip). Our list was looking pretty complete, so we headed back for dinner and ended up finding a really great gem called Trunk. Hello, best gnocchi in Australia. In an effort to say goodnight to our sister adventures in Melbourne, we headed to Rooftop one more time for a final cider and view of the city. The next day, Lauren was on her way back to Gold Coast and I had a rough day on my own in the city. I was really hoping I’d make it through my entire trip free of panic attacks, but that wasn’t what the universe had in mind. Looking back on the day is kind of a blur, but things settled when I met up with Mitch for a home-cooked meal and movie night. I’m really lucky to have this kid in my life. Even after crying about my panic attack, Mitch was on his A-game to get me pumped for my week ahead in Sydney (which, at that point, I was considering skipping). After lots of red wine, risotto, and comedy, I was ready.

Stay tuned to read up on my week in Sydney!

Quickie Travel Update!

Hello hello!

I wanted to check in and fill in anyone who is actually curious about my Australia adventures thus far. I landed here 2.5 weeks ago and have since visited: Melbourne, Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Gold Coast, Sydney, Alice Springs, and Uluru. Yeah, just a few places. Since landing, I have: gotten a stellar sunburn, eaten too many Tim Tams, met one of my best friends from tumblr in real life, reunited with my sister (who has been studying here since January), reunited with my Melbourne friends, pushed myself to be a little more adventurous, and made a handful of friends from all over the globe. My bucket list is getting its ass kicked and I’m SO pumped about it.

I’ve only got about 9 days left and they’ll be spent between Melbourne and Sydney. Currently, I’m writing from Melbourne and I’m just about the happiest I’ve been in a long time. Never have I ever felt a connection with a city (aside from sweet home Chicago) the way I do with Melbourne. Second home without a second thought.

Yesterday, I had a free day to spend by myself in Melbourne’s CBD. As soon as I got off the train at Flinders St. Station and walked outside, I had a “catch my breath” moment in the most literal way– being back, seeing a familiar landscape, and knowing exactly where I was/where I wanted to head– beyond amazing feeling. Even more amazing feeling? Writing/reading in cafes all afternoon. Ok, I’ll leave you with that for now. It’s late and I have lots of adventures to cram in over the next week and a half.

TL;DR… Destination Australia: Part Two has been amazing and leaving this time around might be even more difficult than the first time. And the next visit will be a semi-permanent one.