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Brownells by the Beach Wedding

This wedding stands out amongst the rest, because it was also a vacation. Two days before the wedding, my friends and I arrived in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I felt even cooler and more privileged to be staying in the same beach house as the bride and groom. Even better, they brought their baby daughter and their dog. Both of them were probably my favorite guests there.  

Before the Wedding

The wedding was designed, created and envisioned all by the bride. (The groom may have helped, but the bride was definitely the mastermind). It was impressive the amount of work she put in to create an event that celebrated herself. While asking for direction on where to place things, in a very serious tone, the bride looked at me and said, “And when you get the choice, to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” There was no melody in her voice when she said this. I didn’t even realize she was quoting a song until about halfway through the lyric. This made it that much funnier.

Before the ceremony, I was instructed by the Maid of Honor to inform the Officiant they would be ready soon. My best attempt at casually interrupting a wedding ceremony, with the Officiant, groomsmen and groom already at the alter felt incredibly awkward. It’s important to note that for the most part, nobody at this wedding had any idea who I was, and the ones that did, hadn’t seen me in at least ten years. Everyone kind of glared at me like I was some kind of idiot, while I smiled back in an apologetic and flighty way. I was tempted to make the declaration, “I’m just following directions!” Then I remembered, I don’t care and sat down in an available seat.

Beach Wedding

As the bride walked down the aisle, I couldn’t help but notice the groom’s cool smile. He didn’t just look happy. He looked at peace.  

Beach Wedding

The Wedding Reception

At the reception, one of the groomsmen’s speeches felt more like a monologue that even turned into a soliloquy. Painfully long, but sweet because it was obvious he cared. He had so much to say that he simply couldn’t narrow it down into five minutes or less. Without knowing this information, I decided to record his speech for him and the bride. I ended up stopping three times, only to start a new video, to ultimately give up before it was even over. He’s lucky I like him. I’m not sure the other guests were as amused as I was.   

Later, I took the bride’s previous advice and hit the dance floor. Some of us dancers re-enacted multiple scenes from Grease, one in particular was the infamous scene where I was Danny Zuko and the bride was Cha Cha Digregorio. After dancing, the bride jumped in the pool with her dress still on and if I ever thought I saw a mermaid, it was in that moment. Her dress flowed around her, with her hair slicked back, and her makeup somehow unsmeared. She was beaming the entire night.  

Beach Wedding

I also hopped in the pool, but I was in a bathing suit. I’ve never done a wardrobe change at a wedding before and I have to say, I think all weddings should allow such a luxury.

Beach Wedding

The Day After

The following day, the bride (and groom) also organized and created a day of fun, full of outdoor games and a bounce house. At first I was reluctant to participate in Capture the Flag. Besides the fact that I had somehow never played before and was unfamiliar with the rules, my ability to understand them was hindered due to my suffering of a minor hangover with a large mimosa in my hand.

Yet as the game went on, I suddenly found myself sprinting toward an opponent and leaping over a fence like a track star. Luckily, that opponent cut their foot and had to take a break, because then I was on the verge of throwing up. We both called truce and let the boys run around for a while afterward. Once I got my heart rate regulated, I ended up being the one who assisted the capturing of the flag. What started as a day I was skeptic of, ended up being refreshingly fun.  

Beach Wedding

Happy Anniversary to the Brownells!

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I almost got stuck in Mexico

My alarm goes off at 6:45 Sunday Morning in Mexico, to get the airport shuttle from the resort at 7:15, to catch a flight at 10:25. Tired and anxious to get home, I hand my customs slip to the boarding agent, and look for my assigned seat. The plane accelerates rapidly, preparing my heart to lift when the wheels do. Except the plane brakes. Then my memory brings back the feeling of landing, as we coast down the airway. Immediately, all passengers look around at one another, searching for answers and validation. Over the intercom the pilot explains maintenance is going to come to check something out. A large portion of passengers get up and walk around, as if he announced there is now cerveza gratis (free beer) in the overhead bins. 

Stories of sitting on the airway in an airplane, unmoving, have always been my worst nightmare. Now I was living in it, getting bumped by a family passing a baby around, closing my eyes, and praying to God. My eyes open and watch other people on their phones, updating their loved ones. I stare at my phone like it’s supposed to magically connect to Wi-Fi or receive service in a foreign country. I want to talk to someone. But I can’t. 

The pilot’s voice becomes music to my ears. Everyone takes their seats as maintenance confirms they fixed the issue. The plane accelerates rapidly once more. And then it brakes. And then, I’m pretty sure, I actually say the word, “fuck,” out loud. The issue is worse than they thought and we have to deplane. I weave in and out of more passengers standing in the aisle for no reason and head toward the airplane bathroom. I’m fairly certain I got sick from some kind of water in Mexico and I’ll just leave it at that. 

The Fiasco Begins

Eventually, I make it back through the swarm of humans, grab my belongings, and descend down a staircase out the plane door, into an open field of pavement, displaying large airplanes, and two empty buses waiting to take us to Customs. It is as if we landed in Mexico, and weren’t just trying to leave. The crowd of people feels apocalyptic. All of us stand around lost, tired, and thirsty.

Suddenly, I hear a voice shouting random names. Some in perfect English, others in perfect Spanish. The voice is listing off the plane’s passengers, as if he is a teacher taking attendance, handing back permission slips for a field trip. One by one, people collect their winning ticket and race down the black ropes. A new line forms as I wait to be called. As people leave, the crowd decreases in size and I realize the voice doesn’t belong to an airport employee, but a fellow passenger. Suddenly he looks at a slip and says, “Oh that’s me… Hasta Luego!” He pretends to go and says, “Nah…” and laughs, before reading the remaining slips in his hands. This kind, random passenger, stayed behind to help the rest of the aircraft, and even paused with the best comedic timing to joke about doing so. 

The third time my heart drops in an hour

He stands in front of me with empty hands and announces the slips are done. I stand there with my hand gripped to my carry-on, holding back tears. My name hasn’t been called. Only a moment passes but feels like an entire lifetime before a random employee appears with another stack in his hand. The passenger turned announcer says, “I have more!” Finally, my name is called. Except the line is somehow longer and my stomach is churning.

An employee instructs me to follow someone, and then another employee turns around and tells me the line I’m in, is only for handicapped. There’s a joke there, but I don’t have the energy to find it. The long line turns into a large moving clump. A woman working at Customs shouts at all of us how she needs one line, as if it’s even possible. A woman from the plane shouts back she needs two workers. I can’t argue with her there.

Finally, I make it through the checkpoint, only to go through another security system, to find I am exactly where I was when I landed, just four days ago. I’m in a lobby with a bunch of shuttles to hotels, and rental cars, but no representatives or information on our next, new flight. Desperate for guidance, I check the airlines app on my phone. It informs me my flight doesn’t leave until tomorrow morning now. My heart sinks again. Suddenly, I hear a man arguing with an airport employee. “No, I need a flight out of here today!” The employee nods apologetically as the angry man’s family quietly follows behind him. It is now some time after noon, and I’m alone with nowhere to go. 

Now what?

I find a bathroom and decide to weigh my options while I’m in there, but can’t hold my tears back any longer. In the stall, sobbing, I find that my Wi-Fi connection is poor. I can’t even check for other flights with different airlines, much less, contact any of my loved ones who can help me. I’m fairly certain I can’t go back to the resort I was staying at. It’s an all-inclusive with strict rules and a lot of required documentation. Furthermore, I don’t even know who is still there that I could stay with. All my friends have left, just like I was supposed to. However, I can’t stay in an airport in Mexico for 24 hours either. I order myself to stop crying and figure this shit out.

None of the alternative flights are better. They are all outrageous prices, none of which I can afford, and they still all end with me getting home tomorrow, one way or another. I check multiple airlines, for multiple airports in Florida. Nothing. I try to contact American Airlines on my phone, but a Spanish recording comes on and hangs up on me. I’m assuming she said I was out of area, or something of that nature. I give up and call my mother.

In between my sobs, I tell her my flight info, and ask her to call American to see if there’s anything they can do. I’m still in the lobby full of rental cars and shuttle drivers. I don’t even know where American Airlines is. I call two friends who may know the numbers of other people at the resort. In between my sobs, I ask if they can contact them, and see if there’s any way I can go back if necessary. But I don’t want to go back. I’m already thinking it’s not feasible or smart.

New flight, who this?

My mom calls back and explains I have a new flight to Miami that leaves at 3:45 PM. It is now after 2. I march through the shuttle drivers and see a sign that says free shuttle to terminals. I ask a guy how to get to terminal 3. “Departures?” he asks. Clearly, he is confused why someone who looks like they’ve just arrived would want to go to departures. “First door on the left,” he says. Facing an empty street I quickly realize terminal 3 is behind me. I don’t need a shuttle.

I sprint to the staircase, pick up my carry-on, and race up the stairs, no time for the escalator. As soon as I’m about to re-enter the line at TSA, I realize, I don’t have my new boarding pass. The app hasn’t received my update so I jog back down the stairs and sprint to an available kiosk. It doesn’t work. I go to another one and stand behind the slowest couple in the world. Once they leave, the kiosk’s buttons suddenly don’t want to be pushed. Without my permission, tears fall down my face, as my finger rapidly pushes the same button from every angle I can think of. Finally it works. Then it informs me my record locator number is incorrect. I enter it again, just to be sure. Now the screen informs me I need assistance.

Finding Assistance

My eyes frantically search for anyone who looks like they are heading over to assist me. I see no one. I wipe the tears from my face, but they continue to fall. My hands want to reach for a customer service agent, too far away, but my feet stay planted. The line for customer service is another long one, so I decide to take my chances in front of my broken kiosk.

Suddenly, a man in a red jacket appears. He is also confused, and walks away with my passport. I stand there, realizing if this man doesn’t come back, I’m definitely fucked. Another man in a different jacket appears, asking if I’ve been helped. Unsure, I state a guy came over and I gave him my passport. The man asks if he worked here and I say, “He had a red jacket on.” He assures me the man will be back. That man vanishes too and I realize he was an angel I needed in that moment. The man in the red jacket is now back with my new boarding pass and my passport. He tells me to hurry, and I almost ask him if I can skip the line at TSA. But I don’t. I thank him and run away. It is now 3:08.

Groundhog’s Day

On a Sunday afternoon, it is now the busiest time to travel anywhere, and my indecisive Libra ass looks for the shortest line. I run to the one furthest from me, all the way to the left. It’s moving and now my indecisive Libra ass looks for the shortest line to put our bags in bins. This time I make the wrong choice. My line is the slowest, but it’s too late now. I’m in it, and afraid to move. I remember my toiletry bag got flagged just seven hours earlier, so I take it out of my carry-on and place it in a separate bin. I wait for my bags on the other side. The toiletry bag and now my backpack don’t make it through. My hand shoots in the air as the TSA agent, formally explains who she is and how she will search my bag. Anything she pulls out I tell her to throw away. I’m ready to leave all my belongings with her at this point. But she doesn’t take anything. She hands me my things and I don’t even adjust my bearings. I thank her and run away. It is now 3:23.

I quickly weave in and out of tourists shopping for alcohol and souvenirs and employees trying to upsell them. I repeat my gate number over and over. In my head, or out loud, I’m not even sure. While running, I think to myself, this is why I keep my cardio up, and laugh on the inside. I finally see my gate. Everyone is boarding. I don’t even know what boarding group they’re on, but I get in line anyway.

Leaving my Nightmare

Once, my boarding pass is scanned, I place my toiletry bag in my carry-on, and adjust the straps to my backpack. My stomach clenches for the millionth time today. It is unclear if it’s the same sickness or hunger now. I haven’t eaten or drank anything in over 12 hours. Walking down the aisle, I find that my seat is one that reclines and has a pillow and blanket. I smile on the inside. My phone is now at 1% and my Wi-Fi connection isn’t strong enough to tell some loved ones I’m making it out of there; as long as this plane actually takes off. The plane quickly accelerates but my heart doesn’t lift, until the wheels do. Then I look through the clouds and realize how tired I am. My phone dies, but I don’t even care. I’m going home.

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Six values Chicago gave me

2018 was a great year. I lived in Chicago for the first half of it, completing a little over a one-year contract for work. Living in a new city, I felt as though I was constantly exploring and learning new things. While the first half of my stay in Chicago, in 2017, was the most I had ever used FaceTime, also full of friends and family visiting, I became fearful that wouldn’t be the case in the winter. Fortunately, it wasn’t.

The following is my best attempt at summarizing everything into six separate chunks.

1. Explore

At the beginning of the year, I saw Buddy Guy himself perform at Buddy Guy’s Legends. I had never heard of him before, but quickly learned he is a legendary Blues guitarist and singer. He has worked with some of the great’s, including Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and John Mayer. I was witnessing a true musical craftsman that night.

Out of all of the tourist attractions, the aquarium is by far, my favorite. I have a great love and appreciation for ocean life, but if for some reason you don’t, well then, I’m not talking to you.

Arguably, the best view of the city is at London House. It overlooks the Chicago River and almost makes you feel equal to other tall buildings surrounding you. I went multiple times, wanting to share the view with other visitors. Cindy’s Rooftop and the Signature Room are close seconds. In my opinion, those views are of the city, as if you are a far away observer, while the view from London House reminds you that you are smack dab in the middle of downtown Chicago.

2. Mind

Winter is tough. At a young age of growing up in Michigan, my mental health wasn’t affected by the effects of winter. Well, it may have been. I just have no recollection of it. Perhaps, I blocked it from my memory.

Finding ways to escape and calm your mind I believe to be important for everyone, especially in the winter. Which is how and why I read a lot in my spare time and rediscovered my love for yoga. This was the first time in my life I became on a first-name basis with a yoga instructor. It’s difficult to put into words how valuable that was for me, without even realizing it, until it was over.

3. Money

I paid off a significant amount of student loans and credit card debt. Those major things alone would have been enough, but I also treated myself to purchasing Beats headphones, something I had desired for months. It is one of the few, tangible items that genuinely add value to my life. Most importantly, I finally got a passport. This year, I’m going to put at least one stamp on it.

4. Work

I finished a complete draft of my book; a goal I had for nearly a decade. Then I queried countless agents, pitching the idea to them as best as I could. Most declined, some I never heard back from, few wanted to read it, and only one gave me constructive criticism. While I have yet to be a published author, I have one goal to be proud of. I wrote a book. Whether everyone in the world read it or not, is irrelevant.

I went through an interview process for a TV show. I never heard back. Not if they went with another girl, the show didn’t get picked up, production was delayed, nothing. If I’ve learned anything from trying to be a part of the art and entertainment industry it’s that nothing is ever certain and to just let everything roll off your back. I’m just happy to be given opportunities.

I killed my improv Level D performance at Second City. Having a lot of support in the audience for that show helped. Having awesome classmates on that stage with me helped even more. Afterward, I saw two Second City shows, a luxury I wish I would’ve taken more advantage of as a student.

5. Play

I was a part of some legendary events, like celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago and being on a float of the Pride Parade. I couldn’t help but feel like I was a part of history experiencing those two things.

Boystown quickly became one of my favorite neighborhoods to go out in. It’s not hard to fall in love with cheap drinks, good music, and people who dance.

I also crashed the bachelor party of my prom date in 2005. At the strip club, I couldn’t help but think, if only we knew then what we would experience together now.

The night before I moved away from Chicago, I threw a dope house party. Something I had always wanted to do was even better because my apartment technically wasn’t mine. Yet it was full of friends I always had, ones I made, and even girls I worked with who happened to be in town. And then we had the simple luxury of walking down the street to bars we frequented. The location was stellar.

6. Family

I experienced the architecture tour with my parents and also went to Wrigley Field with my dad, a place that had been on his bucket list his entire life.

While it’s hard to narrow down all the valuable things Chicago gave me, I realized that career opportunity had given me so many more opportunities. Besides tangible items and things of monetary value, I see things differently. I have grown into a different woman. One that still has work to do, but is adjusting accordingly.

It’s nice to look back, but it’s essential to look forward.

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New York City

This time, last year I was in New York City. It was the first trip I took for myself in I don’t know how long. Maybe ever. Although I had been to the city, at least three times before, it was always brief. There’s so much to see and do there, it’s impossible to get it done in a short amount of time. The following is what I was able to accomplish in a long weekend.

Food I ate in New York City

As someone who is a huge fan of desserts, it has been a goal of mine to indulge in a beignet for years. I’ve always heard how delicious they were, so much so that my friends named one of their dogs after them. When my friend discovered this beautiful, little French restaurant called, Augustine, I knew my dream would come true. This was the perfect place to enjoy my first beignet as it was more delicious than I could’ve ever hoped for.

Later that weekend, I had an amazing Easter Sunday dinner with three very dear friends. We met at a nice restaurant, Dell’anima and laughed endlessly throughout our meal. Our waiter got a kick out of our desire to share a four-course meal, as we ordered one entree from each section of the menu. I can’t remember if we ordered one or two bottles of wine, but I know our mouths were wine stained by the time we got our bill.

Things I Did in New York City

I visited the Oculus building for the first time. Before going inside, my friend and I paid our respects at the 9/11 memorial. Something else I had never seen before and was overwhelmed by the number of names inscribed on the stones. While the Oculus building is mostly shops and restaurants, the design of the building is magnificent.

The Rockefeller Center is another infamous spot. Ice skating can be a bit expensive, so I had fun simply exploring the building and enjoying the view.

Also, I saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Although, I almost didn’t. Someone mentioned something about a boat and as I waited for one in a large building, I got that funny, familiar feeling that I was lost and doing something wrong. Thinking I was going to the Statue of Liberty, I almost ended up on the Staten Island ferry. Fortunately, I had the courage to ask the custodial staff of the building to make sure. They were very helpful while looking at me in amusement. After walking in the rain in the right direction, I boarded an overpriced water taxi, but hey, I saw her.

I treated myself to a Broadway production and saw The Book of Mormon. It was hard to choose which show to see, but I was more than happy with my decision. The show was original, hilarious, well-written, and full of a talented cast. There were so many shows to choose from, but I believe picking that one was the best decision I could’ve made. If you love musicals or the writers of South Park, this is the show to see.

I also saw the Grand Central Terminal and the Roosevelt Hotel. Both of which are exquisitely designed buildings. If you’re a big movie fan like I am, the Grand Central Terminal is a set location for multiple films. Some specific examples that come to mind are Friends with Benefits and the recent film, Second Act. 

Friends & Family

My parents met in New York and lived in a few apartments there together. Although I didn’t get to go inside to their specific apartment, I did see the building, the lobby, and the hallway leading up to their front door. I Facetimed my mom so she could see the building and walk me through a part of her past.

I got to see my Godfather, for the first time in almost four years. He met me at a bar in Times Square after a long day at work. Those few hours we got to spend chatting and catching up went by too quickly but was meaningful and memorable.

That entire weekend, I had the best amount of quality time with such a great friend of mine. Besides indulging in restaurants and dancing at 1Oak, we explored Brooklyn together, for the second time in 3 years. We chilled on the Williamsburg bridge, a reminiscent memory I was fond of with her, the first time I went. It’s interesting that the best view of New York City is outside of it.

New York City Locals

I walked a few blocks with a homeless man. I remember standing on a corner, debating going out of my way to avoid him. But then I was reminded how lately I felt I shouldn’t judge books by their covers, so I stayed put.

He looked at me, alone, and asked, “Are you sure you want to go to this way? It’s kind of dangerous.” Which was probably the last thing I needed to hear. The light changed to “Walk,” and the look on my face must’ve made him regret that statement because he recovered with, “Come on, it’ll be fine. I’ll walk with ya.”

I must admit, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear him say this either. He walked ahead of me at first for a while, talking over his shoulder about the neighborhood, what streets were ok and which ones weren’t. When he asked where I was going, I was hesitant to tell him which hotel I was staying at and acted as if I couldn’t quite remember, speaking vaguely of the street corner instead.

Then he began telling me some of his life story and how he ended up to be where he was. I wish I remembered more of the content of our conversation, his name, or what street corner he said was his post. What I do remember is him stopping in front of my hotel to simply say, “Thank you for not judging me and being afraid. It was nice talking to you.” As if he knew that was my inner conflict the entire time.

I realize he may be the exception, not the rule to such encounters, but it is one I’ll never forget.

Gotta love New York City.

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Baby Erin is 21

I can’t believe Baby Erin is 21. As a toddler, Erin would say the rudest things out loud with the most innocent intentions. She didn’t know she was being rude. She just wanted to know why that lady looked like a witch and the only answer she trusted was our mother’s. It’s funny, but my poor mother. Erin didn’t even have the decency to ask once they were out of earshot of the witch lady. But that’s Erin. She’ll tell you straight to your face what she thinks.

At 21 years young, Erin has evolved from a bossy toddler to a lazy tween who hated brushing her hair and loved wearing the same outfit, to somehow becoming a tall, thin goddess who has perfected a hair and make-up routine.

Best sistahs and Best friends

Growing up, we were always sisters, but I would say we became friends when I moved back from college and she was in middle school. It was at that time when Erin morphed from this silly tween into this trendy, young woman who could do hair and make-up better than I could. While I could’ve watched YouTube videos as she did, it was much more fun and easier to be taught by my cool, younger sister.

The generation gap between Erin and I only exists in moments. For instance, the first time I played the rap song, “Still Fly,” by Big Tymers. While I knew every word, Erin had never heard it before. Another instance is one of the times I picked up Erin from high school. I rolled down my window and quoted Mean Girls, “Get in loser we’re going shopping.” Immediately, Erin lit up, excited that we were actually headed to the mall. I still feel like a jerk for not taking her anyway. Later, I was a chaperone on her field trip. I didn’t do much of anything, to which I was grateful for, because I felt very weird about being a chaperone for high schoolers, but very cool hanging out with my sister at school. It was the only time we went to the same school at the same time.

Watching Erin grow up has been an experience I appreciate more now than ever. I feel so fortunate and happy to have such a cool sister that I am so close with. One who keeps me young.

How I look up to Baby Erin

Occasionally, Erin exercised the word, “no,” when my parents asked her to do something she had no interest in doing. I have always sat back in amusement and wonderment, how this young thing grasped a concept I never even knew I had an option of using. My parents may not appreciate this as much as I do, and it may also be because of birth order, but still, Erin has always had a strong sense of self and a better knowledge of what was actually going to add value to her life, as opposed to what wasn’t.

Being older than Baby Erin

I like to think Erin has learned from my mistakes, or at least has been able to seek guidance that I didn’t necessarily have the luxury of. As the oldest, I was kind of the guinea pig, experiencing college life, heartbreak, losing friendships, and lovely credit card debt. I feel I have watched some older siblings want their younger siblings to figure things out that same hard way. Perhaps out of jealousy, whether it be because of the different dynamic that exists within their household, or simply jealous of their youth.

However, I hope I am never envious in any way of Erin’s youth. I am grateful to have Erin. She keeps me young and hip. I must admit, when people comment we look alike, I more so gush over the fact that I can resemble a hot, young, 20-something, versus that I look like my younger sister.

Favorites of Baby Erin

A few random memories that make me laugh out loud of Erin are the following. When Erin got a pink razor cell phone, she screamed at the top of her lungs with her friend, while simultaneously jumping up and down. She was 9. When Tara and I looked in the hotel mirror, to see another reflection of Erin in a mirror, on top of the hotel room counter, making her underwear look like a thong. She was 3. That one made me laugh as I typed this that I had to pause from the keyboard.

In eighth grade, for a class project, I filmed a short sketch and cast Erin as my mom. Again, she was only 3 but nailed the role perfectly. She actually took direction very well in all skits I cast her in. That’s one of the best compliments an actress can receive honestly.

We worked together at Twistee Treat for a short period of time. It was her first job and very important to me for her to feel comfortable in a workplace environment. Training her felt easy. Not just because she’s smart, but because I could be real with her. Instead of simply instructing her to make a milkshake, I told her the secret trick to work the machine in a way that you wouldn’t end up wearing it.

Exploring Chicago together was fun, as it was our first vacation with just each other. And to this day, witnessing Erin on whatever the dentist gave her when they took out her wisdom teeth, is hands down, the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in real life, in my life.

Michigan Wedding

I am about to leave an entire decade behind that Erin is just beginning to navigate through. Watching Erin grow up has been one of my greatest joys in life thus far. Happy 21st Birthday, to you Erin. I love you so much. You’ll always be my Baby.

Comment below to wish Erin a Happy Birthday too!

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Goodbye to Chicago, the people

Last month I said Goodbye to Chicago, the city, in terms of neighborhoods, places, and things. This time, more importantly, I am saying Goodbye to Chicago, the people. They were the ones that truly brought life to that city.

Goodbye Old Friends

If you’ve had the privilege of seeing me dance at a bar as if I’m in a music video, you will find that I’m not so special once you also see my friends, Justine, and CJ doing the exact same thing. Nobody else needs to be there. Nobody else needs to be watching. Nobody else even needs to be dancing. Those two are my dancing partners. Leaving everything we had on the dance floor, sweat, glory and all, is one of the many ways I will remember Chicago. Now in all future occasions of life, I will search for them on a dance floor.

Goodbye Chicago the People

As wild and good kind of crazy, as my friends Mike and Rachel may be, seeing their storm actually calmed me. There was never a dull moment at their apartment. Even now, as I am I not there, I know something is going on. Laundry may be stacked up to the ceiling. Pens from Amazon may be scattered all over, as well as dollar bills and spare change.

Now with their newborn son, I can only imagine their new chaos. Yet, I always admired their ability to entertain each other and find humor in life circumstances. More importantly, I was genuinely comforted to be in the presence of true love. It gives me hope for myself. They set a goal for what I’m looking for. They showed me it exists.

Goodbye the Brumfields

Rachel also continues to get smarter, which I’m sure she loves seeing I think this. Her logical perspective helps bring me back down from an emotional turmoil I can find myself worked up in. I am forever grateful to have a friend since first grade who continues to make me laugh and keep me so grounded, in my life.

Goodbye to that Chapter

Leaving those people wasn’t necessarily hard, because they have been in my life, nearly all my life. I know I will see them again. I have said goodbye to them, more times than I can count. Saying goodbye to the people in Chicago, specifically goodbye to that chapter of our lives can feel overwhelming if I let it. I didn’t cry and I haven’t yet. If I ever do, I’m sure it will sneak up on me. Those cries are the worst. Next thing you know, you’re crying in the Target parking lot, while a song from 2004 plays on your radio.

Goodbye Chicago the People

Goodbye to my main chick

Mikeala was a co-worker I knew for years, who became a great support system and my go-to girl for anything and everything while I was there. Our nights were filled with discussions of our goals for the future, analyzing past relationships over a bottle of Rosé, ordering another Espresso Martini, (even though we really shouldn’t), and dancing until we sweated out the calories of our full course dinner. I will forever miss our days and nights at Soho House. We would be there for hours, without any idea where the time had gone. Never underestimate the importance of single girlfriends. She was my rock in a hard place and I miss her dearly.

Goodbye to Chicago Soho House

Goodbye to Chicago, my Improv Class

My Improv class reminded me of how alike all humans are. In a place of vulnerability, it’s impossible to not relate to one another. Listening leads to understanding. Laughter helps too. Receiving compliments from my classmates made me feel good and want to lift others up. I miss that random bunch and will carry the experience of Second City with me far longer than I anticipated. One teacher in particular really pushed us to be the best we could be and was helpful in directing us. That class was a good way to close my Second City experience.

Recently, my entire class FaceTimed me after a sold-out performance, they organized themselves. Immediately, I realized how much I missed them. More than I thought I would. They were at The Vig, a restaurant bar we frequented after class and performances. So much so, that we became friends with the security guard, Ron. They were asking me questions like, “Are you coming to visit?” and “When are you moving back?” and it oddly made me panic. Like, Crap, should I? Am I not done living that life? Am I truly saying goodbye to Chicago, the people? I suppose I need to go back and visit to know for sure.

Chicago Second City Class
Some members of my class at The Vig

Goodbye to Chicago, my roommate

While living alone was nice in my first apartment, with winter coming I was happy to come home to a roommate. Hibernating indoors makes it easy to not see or interact with humans for at least two days. Alicia and I were co-workers, who had never met before, but I immediately found it comforting to have someone who felt everything I felt.

I laugh every time I think of us searching for the remote through blankets, lying in our “forts,” our feet in the chairs in front of us, while we lied on the couch. Binge-watching television in the winter feels less pathetic when someone is next to you doing it too. Same goes for drinking pop with pizza and breadsticks from Happy Camper, at least once a month.

I’m grateful Alicia got me out of the house to do things I normally wouldn’t have. Although she is far more intelligent than I am, able to appreciate museums and artwork, I’m just glad I can say I went to the Art Institute, the Chicago Culture Center, the Field Museum, and the planetarium. Even more than that, I went to sporting events, without a boy or alcohol involved. She was the best co-worker I could’ve asked for. Always working hard and pointing out things to me in a way that either made me feel validated, or bewildered that I hadn’t realized it myself.

Chicago Blackhawks Game

Goodbye to my new friends

All of CJ’s friends positively affected my life. In a city where I often felt lonely and clueless about how to cope with winter, I walked into a room full of strangers who lit up at my presence. They made me feel so welcome, always offering compliments as if I was the coolest bitch in the world. Some of the most fun I have ever had in life was with them. I am forever indebted to CJ who spoke well on my behalf, including me in anything and everything he was doing.

With the friends I had, I realized weather conditions didn’t matter. If anything, it made getting together and having fun that much more important. There is such a great sense of community in that city. I was blessed to be a part of it all, year round.

I do miss Chicago. I thought I didn’t, but realize I said that to make leaving easier. I suppose I miss the people there, more than the city itself, although it was beautiful. Aesthetically, I loved living there, the atmosphere; it’s entire ambiance. It was my, “kind of town,” but I don’t know if it was my home. I could definitely go back to visit, as often as life allows. Then again, I never thought I would live there until I did. Time will only tell what’s in store for me next.

Goodbye to Chicago, the people, sounds so final. I will see them all later.

MegazineGoodbyeChicagoThePeopleBoystown

Let me know what your favorite part of reading this was! If you’re one of the people I talked about, tell me your favorite memory!

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Without a phone for 24 hours Challenge

For two days before this experiment, I thought I was “relaxing,” because I hardly saw or spoke to anyone. In reality, I was just counting in-person interactions. I wasn’t factoring the amount of times I connected with people through my phone. That realization genuinely scared me. As if I was becoming brainwashed by technology or brainwashed into thinking I was one way, when I am in fact, the opposite. 

Even though I can complain about being away from home on work trips, invited to weddings, showers, birthdays, anniversaries, parties, or obligations of some kind, I go because they matter to me. I simply recognize that it can be a sacrifice. I am giving people my time and sometimes my money. I could probably argue I’ve gone broke for the people I love. Somehow I didn’t know that to be true until recently. 

I was lovingly made fun of when I announced I wasn’t going to be on my phone at all for an entire day. As if it were some courageous, noble act. The purpose of the announcement was for my friends and mother to avoid a panic attack when I didn’t answer my phone. While they might’ve been fine without it, I genuinely felt guilt in not letting them know. I can’t figure out what that says about me, but it’s the truth. 

The purpose of the experiment was solely to see what I actually did with my time and how I felt. I wanted to see how important human interaction was or wasn’t to me. I go on and on about how I want to be alone, then sit and stare at a bright screen for attention. It’s absurd. Technology makes my anxiety worse. Staring at bright screens does nothing good for the mind or soul. I need to unplug and genuinely relax. And as a writer, it’s unfortunate that I can only work well in solitude and isolation; yet resist the hell out of it. I truly am, my own worst enemy. 

The morning of this experiment I instantly checked my bank account and email. I lied in bed, not thinking those actions counted. As long as I didn’t go on social media, text, or answer any phone calls, that was fine. Later, I took my dog for a walk, using an app that tracked my distance, while simultaneously listening to music. Afterward, I continued to look at my phone, to check the time. Why I even needed to know the time baffled me. I had nothing to do that day. Time didn’t matter. Yet, I was making mental notes of what I wanted to do with my phone, once I was able to use it again tomorrow. That word slapped me in the face. “Tomorrow.” What about right now? What’s going on in the present? Am I actually living, if I am constantly looking to the future? That was when I put my phone in a bag, in the corner of the room. Then, I opened my journal and wrote this. Which was essentially, the whole point of this experiment. I wanted to see if being present and in my mind would make me write something profound. I don’t think my writing, specifically this piece, lives up to the definition of that word. But yes, basically I wanted to write, and I wanted to write well. That was then. This is now. 

I want to remind you of this. What are you doing right now? What’s going on in the present? Be there now. 

Do you think you could give up your phone for a day? Tell me why or why not. I dare you.

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The Writing Process

The process of writing a book

The writing process is a funny thing. When I say funny, I don’t mean laughable, I mean odd. In my case, I looked at my book draft recently. I told myself I would edit it, which basically means, read it, make a ton of notes on what to change, have no idea how to do so, and tear what I do have to shreds. For lack of a better word, I hate it. Something I was so in love with is now looking back at me like some pile of garbage. There’s no depth to it and I don’t even know how I let that happen. Or how I didn’t realize it until a literary agent basically pointed it out to me. It is wildly frustrating.

I don’t want to lack depth. All I am is depth. I almost think there’s too much depth to me. In certain situations, I can take things too seriously. In fact, the only reason I believe I’m funny is because I’m seriously disturbed about so many things. I almost fear the possibility of not being funny anymore, becoming too serious instead.

Furthermore, I’m paralyzed by the concept that the book I’m writing could go one of two ways. It could be one of the best books I ever write or the one thing that makes me give up and never do anything. My book release is this very real, much-anticipated concept amongst the people who know me. And the idea of letting them down, almost taking too long to have a finished product, is devastating.

Writing draft after draft

It’s crazy to think I have finally finished a story. To only realize, it’s not even halfway done and I essentially, have to start all over again. From damn near scratch. It’s impossible to focus on the good in my story, with that realization in the back of my brain. The only comfort I feel is knowing that most, if not all Writers, say the real work begins after the first draft is complete. As I’m writing my third draft, I’m also reminding myself that most, if not all success isn’t from lack of talent. It’s from lack of trying. I just can’t give up.

As I experience this writing process, I remind myself of another factor. So much energy of mine has been put into my book and this career, that it feels nearly impossible for it to not work out. It has to be true. I’m sure I really have no idea about the exact struggle I will endure for that dream to become a reality, but I know as long as I keep at it, I will succeed.

The process of writing articles

Recently, I applied to be a writer for the ThoughtCatalogan online magazine that shares honest, truthful, writing about life and what people are going through, across the world. As I was applying, I hit a point where I realized this normally is the part where I give up. The application to be a Writer wanted to know what I “specialized” in. Here is an example below:

The Writing Process Application

I have no idea. I like a few of those things, but I don’t know if that necessarily makes me a “specialist” in any. Doesn’t that seem rather extreme? I’m just some twenty-something that is chasing a dream that may not even be the right one. I don’t even know if I am a Writer. How could one possibly know?

This is normally when and why I don’t finish anything. I hit a point that makes me question myself. I remember I don’t know what I’m doing.

Instead of giving up, I chose “self-discovery” and my application was recently approved. The next step is having the audacity to actually submit something I wrote.

Writing anything and everything

My book rewrite has started. I decided it was much easier to completely start over, then work around what I already had. As of right now, I have 57 pages, half of which I feel confident in. My last draft was 244 pages. But you can’t just run a marathon. You have to run a little bit every day. The writing process continues.

If you want to know more about my book and my writing, tell me in the comments! Even if you don’t, tell me anyway.

The Writing Process Detective

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Women Crush Wednesday: Fit Body Bre

Bre enters the restaurant we decided to meet at with a wide smile on her face and her thick, blonde hair flowing over her shoulders. Upon seeing me she laughs, commenting on the cold Florida weather. It is only 60 degrees outside, but we both are wearing coats we rarely use. She orders the almond butter toast with bananas, and a latte with almond milk and a pump of caramel before we find an available table. She shares her story on what inspired her to become a fitness and wellness coach, as Fit Body Bre.

High School Bre

In high school, Bre was one of the first friends I made. I played sports to socialize, whereas Bre played them to compete. She played volleyball, basketball, and lacrosse. She could’ve run track, but had no interest. Instead, we were on the golf team, goofing off, laughing at our swings, and gushing over our attractive coach. Senior year, she scored both touchdowns for powderpuff football, thus being the only reason we won. So often, I watched Bre sprint from opponents, with her perfect, blonde ponytail swaying rapidly behind her. And each time it never ceased to amaze me. She was someone I was proud to be friends with. Being close to her made me feel cool. Like, hey I might not be the best one on the team, but my friend is. Her Barbie-like appearance contrasted her scrappiness and still does to this day.

Recently, Bre changed her last name, but her maiden name is Fila. I’m a believer in the power of words. (It’s no wonder I’m a Writer). So, it is no coincidence that she has the last name of one of the major athletic companies in the world. She lives up to that brand. She always has.

Looking back on high school, Bre believes she could have gotten a college scholarship to play lacrosse. Except for senior year, the coach we always had left, and the resources to make that happen disappeared with her.

College Bre

Not letting that get her down, Bre continued to play lacrosse on an intramural league. Senior year she heard about tryouts for a lingerie football team. Once she made the cut, it gave her validation and inspiration to move forward athletically. “So many people doubted that I would actually make the team,” she explained. I was shocked to hear her say this until she quickly pointed out that her friends in college, didn’t know her growing up. They didn’t see her for the unstoppable star athlete she truly was. For, Bre didn’t just play sports. She dominated. At that time, “I had to prove myself that I was an athlete,” she said. “People’s doubt is what motivates me.”

It was then that she traded in sports for CrossFit and weight training. With experience as an athlete came the knowledge of scientific factors to enhance fitness goals. Now she helps clients understand HIIT, plyometrics, how to count your macros, the importance of planning and prepping, and so much more.

Auto Show Bre

The thought of becoming a fitness and wellness coach and ultimately, Fit Body Bre, first occurred to her at the beginning of her auto show career. Bre had always been reluctant to open up and was only the center of attention when it came to sports. Now, she was onstage narrating for the Dodge Viper, all over the U.S, alongside other beautiful women. It took her by surprise when these women asked for tips on how to stay fit on the road. These were women she admired, yet they were seeking her guidance while showering her with compliments.

“I was a good balance between healthy living and living it up sometimes.” As someone who also did auto shows, (thanks to Bre’s referral), I also have no idea how she did this. After standing in heels all day, I was exhausted. The only fathomable cure for me was consuming alcohol, indulging in the best local food, and laughing with coworkers. All of which, Bre also did, yet she somehow managed to develop a healthy routine that worked exceptionally well. She was damn good at it too. I can still vividly remember her travel size NutriBullet. That thing went with her everywhere.

I find this part of her story to be most beautiful. In an industry where it would’ve been so easy to compete with one another, we chose to build each other up. Those women helped Bre see herself for the woman that she is. One that is strong, smart, and beautiful.

Bikini Prep Bre

Last year, Bre took on the challenge of her first fitness competition, the Official Florida NPC Bikini Competition. She placed first in her weight group, and is now nationally qualified, allowing her to compete in an even bigger show and potentially become Pro. She is undecided whether or not she wants to return to that stage. Now, her focus lies with her clients and their needs. Still, when Bre does something, she really does it, and she does it well.

This reminds me of a recent time when I joined her at a CycleBar class. If you’re unfamiliar, there are numbered bikes in the room, which are hooked up to a screen at the front, to show the bike rankings. Halfway through the class of about 25 people, my bike number showed up in 11th place. Bre was in 1st. Determined to push myself like Bre always does, I pedaled my hardest until the screen appeared again at the end of the class. I finished in 6th. Bre was still in 1st.

Fit Body Bre

Now, Bre has created multiple fitness challenges for consumers to participate in. A mutual friend of ours from high school, who lives in a different state took on a challenge. She was successful in losing weight and gaining muscle tone. She lost a total of 19 pounds but more importantly, she created a new lifestyle that reminds her to love herself every day.

In the future, the followers of Fit Body Bre can expect more fitness challenges. Young, business professionals working a full-time job, bride-to-be’s, wives, moms, essentially anyone with a busy schedule, can benefit from her coaching.“I want to show them and educate them how to incorporate a healthy lifestyle.” This means balancing workouts, nutrition, indulging in your favorite foods, and going to happy hour, all while striving to reach your fitness goals.

If you’re in the Tampa area, you’re in even better luck. In the future, she plans to bring the gym to you. She can come to your house, with gym supplies and do a one-on-one training session for 30 minutes to an hour. Friends are also welcome. More than that, she can grocery shop, meal prep, and deliver food for you every Sunday.

Bre is just like you. She often questions herself, sometimes struggles to feel support, but works hard to balance personal life and career goals. There have been periods of her life when she wasn’t as fit as she is now, as well as more fit than she is now. As someone who has known her for nearly fifteen years, trust me when I say, she has always been Fit Body Bre. She just never owned that identity until now.

You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram or join her email list. Be sure to check out her website at www.fitbodybre.com.

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Goodbye Chicago, the city

I procrastinated writing and editing this. Don’t ask me why. My best guess is I was telling myself, “it wasn’t ready,” and I would get to it eventually. I needed personal time and wanted to enjoy my time off. Realistically, I think I didn’t want to come to terms with the fact that my time in Chicago was over. I’ve only been gone for a few months now, but it often feels like a lifetime ago. Sometimes I can’t believe I was just there and soon, I know, I will be shocked at how long it’s actually been. I didn’t anticipate leaving Chicago and being back in the Sunshine State to be bittersweet.

After living in Chicago for a little over a year, I have to say I take pride in the fact that I have a clear visual and general knowledge of many neighborhoods within the city. I can wholeheartedly say, I know that town and I will miss it.

MegBarrett_GoodbyeChicagoCity
Cindy’s Rooftop

Besides living in Chicago, living in the neighborhood, Logan Square, feels like a century ago. I moved in, in April 2017 and out of it by November. It’s barely been a full year since I left that part of Chicago and sometimes that place feels like a distant memory. What I can recall is this.

Living there felt tough sometimes, because it’s on the west side, a good distance from everyone and everything. For someone new to a city, and a big city at that, I’m rather proud of myself with how much I stepped out of my comfort zone to adapt to my new environment. The first time I rode the bus felt confusing and terrifying. The first time I rode the train, I went in the wrong direction. Also, confusing and terrifying. Toward the end of my stay, I rarely got lost and only felt confused or terrified over different aspects of life. I grew to love Logan Square, based on its culture and colors. Without a doubt that neighborhood has character.

I made friends with a yellow Labrador named, Olive, who lived down the street from me. Her owners never knew about our relationship, so our visits were brief and secretive. This sounds creepier than I want it to, but it’s the truth. I actually befriended tons of pets, none of which were mine. Having a liquor store across the street was dangerous, but amazingly sold some of the best avocados. I loved having easy access to the library across the street as well. For a while, there was a local produce grocery store that I occasionally shopped at when necessary, due to spending over $50 on essentially hummus, carrots, yogurt, and strawberries.  I guess you could say I became a well-read, well-nutritioned, drunk. If that gets me closer to channeling Ernest Hemingway, I’ll take it.

There is also a Hispanic culture there, mostly Puerto Rican, which I found comfort in, missing the vibes of Orlando and Miami. Overhearing the Spanish language felt like home. I enjoyed running and working out at two local parks, and made the best of my circumstances, riding a bike to and from work every day on the 606, also known as The Bloomingdale Trail. Riding home with the sun setting will go down in history as one of my favorite views. I wish I had a photo, but every time I tried, it never did it any justice.

My apartment was pretty up to date with nice counter tops, an Apple TV, a fancy AC unit, a good washer and dryer, and hardwood floors. My favorite part was I lived alone and slept anywhere I wanted. The neighbors were pretty cool and not very loud. The more I write this the more I genuinely miss it, whereas before, I couldn’t wait to get into a new place.

All different views of Humboldt Park

Thus, moving into the neighborhood, Old Town was a nice change, especially being above a good family owned restaurant, Nookies. I became on a first name basis with one of the employees there, Speardon. Personally, the biggest perk was being a quick walk to Second City. Alright, being a quick walk to Second City and the bars. I also splurged on a gym membership to Equinox, because it was across the street, and ultimately left me with no excuse to not go. I got my money’s worth going 3-4 times a week, sitting in the sauna and the steam room after every workout. I could probably count on my fingers and toes the amount of times I showered at my apartment, rather than the gym. Which was preferable, because the water temperature at that apartment was less than ideal. It’s funny how when I lived in Logan Square I admired older Chicago apartments, because they felt, “authentic.” Yet, when I found myself in one with loud floorboards, a creaky dryer, and a horrible Wi-Fi connection, I was no longer impressed.

The grass is always greener, friends. Remember that. There’s good and bad with everything. I think the character of a neighborhood can make up for its location and vice versa. Still, I can genuinely say I was happy with both apartments, for multiple, different reasons. I was beyond grateful to be in both.

Rather than riding a bike, I was able to walk to and from work from my new apartment. A twenty minute, mile walk, that was well worth it every time, due to being indoors for at least seven hours a day, every day. This became a daily thing for me starting in March. I once made the mistake of walking to work in January or February when it was eight degrees outside. I was fooled by the fact that the sun was shining. I ran to work, out of actual pain and pure fear that my legs were going to get frostbite. I wore cropped leggings, a rookie mistake. I learned a hard lesson that day. After that, if the temperature was below freezing, I took the bus. That walk and those twenty minutes of personal time and solidarity, is something else I already miss. I never realized how important it was for my mental health to be outside, year-round, until I lived in Chicago. I took it for granted in Florida.

As soon as it began to warm up, it was amazing to be reminded how many people actually lived in the city.  May was the most I had seen humans in months. Before there would be nobody outside except for the homeless and myself. Suddenly, it was Memorial Day weekend and I found myself on crowded sidewalks. Want to now how many times I was in the way? All of them. I was in the way every time.

As I’m reflecting on all this, I’m now wondering if because I knew Chicago would one day come to an end, I knew to appreciate every second of it. Usually, you don’t even know you’re living some of the best times of your life, until they’re over. This time I knew. It’s odd feeling nostalgic for a place, people, and a time while still living in it. When I think back on my time in Chicago, it will always come back to the people. The friends that visited, the friends I already had, and the friends I made. I truly can’t say enough about the people. Everything else was just a bonus.

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago? Or what was your favorite thing about reading this? Let me know if I left anything out!