Archive | random RSS feed for this section

Lost and Verdict-less

16 May

“Admit that adult life is scary because there is no clear path to success… Be grateful for the chance to be lost — it means you’re living your own life, because no one can make choices in the exact same way you can, whether they are right or wrong.”
– Penelope Trunk

I had a house guest last week. That house guest and I have had chemistry since we met in the dorms (and later, dated briefly) in college. Over the years, we’ve remained friends and largely ignored the lingering sexual tension, but I knew his weeklong visit to Atlanta would force me to decide once and for all whether we could ever turn that tension into something more.

As much as I love this boy as a friend, it took me less than 24 hours to realize friends is all we are ever going to be. Moreover, I was clobbered with the realization that I have built myself a stable little life — with my dog jumping on me to wake me up and only special occasions interrupting my Monday, Wednesday and Thursday night yoga sessions and my girly DVR settings (definitely talking Gossip Girl, all the Real Housewives and The Vampire Diaries — with no shame, thank you very much) — and I really like it. And I don’t like when it’s disturbed.

This realization comes on the heels of me beginning to understand just how petrified of commitment I am. I have always found pride in my independence, probably because I’ve always been so good at it. But I’m just starting to recognize how much comfort I find in it too. How much ease. How much stability. And ironically, the acknowledgement of this stability has me all kinds of torn up, because as much as I cherish my independence, I don’t want to fall victim to it. I don’t want to trap myself.

All of which amounts to me going over this little fear/independence dilemma of mine in my head for days weeks: Have I developed this level of comfort as a coping mechanism for fear of being perpetually alone? Or have I begun to genuinely let that fear go and thus, found stability within myself? Do I intentionally push well-intentioned boys away so I’m not vulnerable? Or am I just willing to have fun with the Right Nows while patiently waiting for Willing to Permanently Put up with Whitney’s Crazy? Am I walking in the right direction? Or running around, lost, in serpentines?

Then I read Penelope Trunk’s blog this week, from which the quote above is taken, and it reminded me that these contemplations are okay. It’s okay to wonder if I’m doing any of this right or if I’m just wandering in circles (Cue pundit: Not all who wander are lost, my dear.), if I’m completely off my rocker or just navigating the normal new-adult terrain.

I might be on the best path for me. I might be off the map. It doesn’t really matter. Because Ms. Trunk is right — being lost is far from the worst thing in the world. It’s actually kind of fun. Liberating. I mean, the lost-without-a-map road trips always yield the best stories, right? They tend to include the best music and friends, too. And really, I’ve been lost on a lot of interstates and highways (I really do have a love/hate relationship with I-10.), and I’ve never not made it home eventually.

Granted, I have no idea where “home” will be for me. But I think the scenery from here to there could be kind of great.

Twenty four hours after this was taken, Lauren and I were supposed to be home. Instead, we were still in New Orleans. Because, somehow, we had ended up lost on I-10 and halfway to Texas. I wouldn’t trade those eight extra hours — three days before I left for Europe, no less — with her for anything.

“It might be a quarter life crisis /
Or just a stirring in my soul /
Either way, I wonder sometimes about the outcome /
Of a still verdict-less life /
Am I living it right?”
– John Mayer, “Why Georgia”

Jumping and Flying

10 Feb

“I’ve worried about life, and if it’s right and right on time /
I guess if you don’t jump you’ll never know if you can fly.”
– Miranda Lambert, “New Strings”

Last week, Leanne asked if I had a bucket list. I call it a list of life goals, but the answer is yes. I have a pretty long one, and I think everyone should. I think ambition and fear of failure drive pretty much all progress in life, and compiling a concrete to-do list enables us to harness the power of both.

Leanne also asked me to share my list. Some are big things. Move and change your life things. Things I will have to plan meticulously. Some are small things. Wake up on a Friday and go things. Things I plan on doing when I don’t have anything else to do. But I think they’re all important.

In no particular order…

  • Run a half marathon. Run a half marathon in under 2:30. Run a half marathon in under 2:15. Next year, I hope 2:15 is crossed off, and I can substitute 2:00.

That’s the number from my first half in March 2010. The picture is my dad and me right before the Thanksgiving half last year.

  • Write a book. This one used to be at the top of the list, but I’m becoming increasingly detached to it . Would I like to have a book published? To see my name on a book jacket? For bookstore and website browsers to have to scroll past “Homans, W”? Of course. But so would 81 percent of the country. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this three word sentence should probably be shortened to one word: Write. That’s what I want to do. The “book” part? Eh, it just doesn’t seem as important as it once did. I write at work. I write here. I write in a journal. I write random creative pieces that I’m not sure will ever see light outside of my bedroom/office. Do I really need to have these collections pieced together with a bind for them to mean something? I’m not ready to eliminate it from the goal list yet, but I may eventually.
  • Get published in Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair, Women’s Health and/or Entertainment Weekly. As a Magazines major, being published in a national (and personal favorite) magazine has always been a “made it” accomplishment. When I was in school, the dream went something like this: move to NYC, work my way up, score a major piece in one of these mags, blow people away with a beautiful and moving long-form piece, land a book deal on the same topic and cash in on my highly sought-after memoir. Even as I move further away from magazine writing and contemplate dropping the book goal from this list, this one stays important.
  • Live in another country. I did it for three terrifying/exhilarating months (depending on the day and whether I was spending the night in my dorm or the “other” Roman train station) while I studied in Reading, England. I’d like to do it again somewhere else. The ultimate dream is Paris, though part of me knows that sounds like an awful cliche. Then again, Paris has a way of outshining the biggest cliches.

Me, Susie and Jenny in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Me on top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris showing my affection for the Eiffel Tower. (Winter/Spring 2008)

  • Know — intimately — the places I live. I’ve lived in “Atlanta” my whole life. At least, that’s what I’ve been saying for the last 23.75 years. (Or, y’know, whenever I started talking.) But the truth is, Atlanta has not felt like mine until the last several months. Murrayville/Gainesville are home. I lived in that little section of the world (an hour and a half north of Atlanta) for 18 years, and my parents still do. I will never live there again, but it will always spark love and nostalgia and comfort within me. Athens holds more happy memories for me than any other place on the planet. Probably like all UGA grads, I’ll go back in 60 years and annoy the hell out of current students as I walk around acting like the town was built for me. Even in those short three months, Reading felt like home. (It was probably that whole no-car, guess-we-get-to-walk-everywhere thing.) Atlanta proper, meanwhile, is just starting to get inside my soul. For a long time (and until recently), all I felt about Atlanta was an itch to leave it. But as I’ve settled into a real life here, I find I enjoy it more every day. People whine about the traffic and smog and how spread out it is, but I kind of love that you can live in and genuinely know Atlanta and not have any clue what the best restaurant in Inman Park is. Or where to find a cute cocktail dress in the Highlands. Or that Ri may be next to RiRa in Midtown, but one is a sushi restaurant and one is an Irish pub. At its core, Atlanta is a hoshposh of neighborhoods — awesome neighborhoods. I’m not much of New Year’s Resolution girl. In general, I think people who wait until Jan. 1 to start projects are the same people who wait for excuses to quit them. But this year, I have made it a goal to dig in deep with Atlanta and give it my undivided attention and affection.
  • Fly around the world. A girl I came to know and love in Reading (Jenny, pictured above) inadvertently did this on her way to and from England. (Vegas to Tokyo. Tokyo to Bangkok. Bangkok to London. London to Vegas.) How freaking cool would that be?
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail. I get excited about saying I ran 13 miles. Can you imagine saying you hiked 2,000? Holy s— balls, that sounds fun.
  • Take the red-eye from Vegas. Because obviously that means I will have missed my early afternoon flight. And God knows, that will be a good story.
  • Become a yoga instructor. If I had to narrow this list to just one, I think this would be it. Yoga is trendy and often a euphemism for sexy flexibility and/or cult-like meditation rituals, but beginning a yoga journey is one of the single greatest things I’ve ever done for myself. I toss this phrase around for a lot of things (Harry Potter, Firefly vodka, SEC football, Dolsat Bibimbap at the Stone Bowl House on Buford Highway), but yoga really will change your life. It has certainly changed mine. If you commit to it, it commits back. It changes your body, your mind and your relationship with God (or whatever higher power you choose or choose not to confide in). Yoga has numerous purposes and goals (many more than I even know), but my favorite teacher always says that yoga primarily teaches us how to deal with life: In yoga, you enter and hold physical postures that are, to use her terminology, “challenging.” The goal of these poses, unlike in most bodily exercises, is not to hold out or push yourself into pain as a search for success or satisfaction or even validation. In yoga, the goal is to relax — to push yourself to an “edge,” where you are uncomfortable but can breathe mindfully through it, where you can recognize pain as a catalyst to change and learn how to navigate — but not provoke — it. Thus, the victory of yoga is not how many calories you burn or how much weight you lose but what you learn about yourself and how you handle stress and pain and transferring those lessons and stamina from your mat to the rest of your life. The hope is that the next time you are in a “challenging” situation in an office or relationship or living room, you know — from yoga — you can breathe through it, navigate the rough waters and emerge a stronger, more centered individual. I would love nothing more than to pass along these navigation tips to others.
  • Become a Georgia season ticket holder, and donate enough to get premium tickets to the Florida game. Go Dawgs.

Lauren and me after beating Florida in 2007.

  • Write a script. This is my “move to Hollywood and become a rockstar.” Just like Leanne’s “move to Denver and become a photography apprentice.” If I had endless resources and limited responsibilities, I would move to L.A. (but only until I was established enough to leave L.A.), absorb everything possible about television writing and hash out a script. I have serious concerns about my character creation, and I honestly have no idea how one even goes about starting a script, but I imagine a writer’s room to be one of the most creative, collaborative, cool rooms in the world. I don’t think I’ll be moving to L.A. any time soon, but I do want to finish a script one day. Even if it’s read for the first time when my computer is cleaned out after I’m gone.
  • Drive down the West Coast.
  • Drive across the country. Some days I attach “by myself” to the end of this one. Some days I think a little company might be nice. My dad did it on his own when he was transferring law schools and moving from Seattle to Athens. He had a single Bruce Springsteen cassette. (Born to Run, if we’re getting specific.) I love The Boss as much as the next girl, but I will definitely need a full iPod.
  • Attend fashion week. Haven’t decided if I want to specify to NYC, Milan or both.
  • See all the major sports championships. Well, the ones I care about anyway: Super Bowl, Masters, Final Four, World Series and BCS (or whatever it will be in the future) National Championship.
  • Visit iconic celebrations/sports venues/games. Notre Dame. (I need a picture in front of Touchdown Jesus.) St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. The Rose Bowl. Fenway Park. Duke/UNC. Mardi Gras. The Moon Festival in Thailand.
  • Fall wholly in love with someone. And not screw it up.
  • Complete a mini triathlon. 1k swim. 30k bike. 8k run. The first Sunday in September. (Hopefully.)

“Remember the day, ’cause this is what dreams should always be…
Wake up, it’s time, little girl, wake up /
All the best of what we’ve done is yet to come.”
– Ryan Star, “Losing Your Memory”

Stay in This Moment

18 May

“What we call a beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” — T.S. Eliot

Tomorrow, I start the rest of life.

As of 9:30 tomorrow morning, I am a big girl, complete with a big girl job and big girl bills and big girl taxes.

I’m scared. And somehow missing college a little more since I’m starting my real world life while still living in my college apartment (though that changes at the end of the month).

T.S. Eliot said this was how it was supposed to feel — that endings and beginnings were supposed to swirl together so that you never could tell where the bitterness of something so good ending finally gives way to the sweetness of such a promising beginning. I know he’s probably right. I mean, he is T.S. Eliot. But I guess I always thought it’d be a little easier to let go. To move on. To grow up.

I think The Wonder Years explains it best:

“We think the stars are fixed in the sky, but they are not. I think sometimes we have to learn to give in to change, to the new things.”

“Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come. But that night I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn’t have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves…for growing up.”

So, ready or not…this is me…taking a deep breath…and jumping…into that swirl of the real world.

“Do you remember when we were just kids /
And cardboard boxes took us miles from what we would miss /
Schoolyard conversations taken to heart /
And laughter took the place of everything we knew we were not /
I want to break every clock /
The hands of time could never move again /
We could stay in this moment for the rest of our lives /
Is it over now?”

– Anberlin, “Inevitable”

I Love College

13 May

This weekend I graduated from college. I woke up super early, put on a pretty dress (red and black, of course), met my friends, donned my cap and gown and walked into one of the most sacred places in the world: the home of my beloved Georgia Bulldogs football team, Sanford Stadium.

My four years at the University of Georgia have been everything they were hyped up to be and, if possible, more. I was told it would be the time of my life, the source of lifelong nostalgia. It surely was and, I’m confident, will continue to be.

I met best friends, some during the first few weeks of freshman year and some in my last few months as a senior. I was lucky enough to indulge in life-altering experiences – a semester studying in England and weekend-skipping around Europe, two falls road-tripping across the South, New Years Eve and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and a couple summers in the ultimate college town to name a few. And I learned so much – about global warming and z-scores, Freud and feminist theory, the Cold War and Spanish verb conjugations, cell division and female Biblical writers, the history of the penny press and how to write leads, PhotoShop and the Dickinson wars; about friendship and loyalty and courage and love.

I realize how cliché all of that sounds, but perhaps that’s the most profound part of the end my college experience – I know now why there are so many clichés about this period of your life.

It’s like Paris. The pundits, historians and tourists tell you it’s gorgeous and quaint and accessible and Oh-My-God romantic. It is all of these things, especially the romantic part. The romance of Paris is, of course, a ridiculously overused cliché – until you see it for yourself, that is. And then, in one second – mine was when we stepped out to the viewing park in front of the Eiffel Tower – you get it. You instinctively understand that the talk of Paris romance may be clichéd…but the feeling of it could never be.

College is the same way. They told me it would be a whirlwind of bars, libraries, parties and all-nighters with people I would never, ever forget. As corny as it is to admit, it was exactly that. The best four years of my life, without a doubt.

Everyone keeps asking how it feels to be a graduate and if the reality of joining the real world has sunk in yet. I don’t know how I feel because it hasn’t sunk in. (In a bar on graduation night, I turned to my friend Thomas and said, “Oh my God, Thomas! The next time we go into that stadium we’ll be alumni!” “We’re alumni right now, Whitney,” he replied. I could only stare at him, wide-eyed, in response.) It feels like just another summer, like I’ll be back in August, dreading buying over-priced text books and pumped about another glorious season of SEC football with my Dawgs.

I won’t be back though, and that scares me. The scholastic life is the only one I’ve known for 17 of my almost 22 years, and I’m really good at it. And a very big part of me has no desire to leave it. But I start my big girl job on Monday and end my glorious 21st year next Wednesday, and I am excited, especially since I’ve spent the last four months petrified that I would be jobless, insurance-less, hopeless and living at home upon graduation. In a crappy economy when print journalism is fading fast, I found a progressive company that is allowing me to develop my skills and have a hand in the progression of journalism and internet marketing, and I am super, super excited about it. As stressful and bittersweet as it is, I’m also excited about moving to Atlanta and decorating a new apartment and going out in a *big* town that isn’t 65 percent girls. As much as I don’t want to leave this beautiful life I’ve led for so long, I think I’m in a good place at a good time, and I know I have everything I could need or want open to me.

But oh my, am I nostalgic about college already. I scanned my old journals today while taking a break from apartment hunting. I read details and drawn-out rambles about bar hopping and frat boy drama and friendship crises, and I know I will have moments of deep sadness that I am not still immersed in that legendary Athens scene. But I also think I’ll be okay with merely reminiscing about those moments instead of desperately wishing I could relive them. College – these years and stories and memories – will always be precious, but every day I become more comfortable with this particular journey reaching its end, and I think when I look back on it in years to come, it might feel something like this…

“Still I go down to that college town when the Bulldogs play at home /
I drink keg beer from a trash can till that whole damn thing is gone /
Then I’ll look at all those college girls, so innocent and young /
And just check ‘em out and say, ‘Damn. I wish I was 21.’”

-– Corey Smith, “Twenty One”