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Note to self

Let’s talk conflict avoidance.

It’s safe to assume that no one chases conflict, unless you’re a narcissist. Yet, some of us respond to conflict better than others. My personal method of dealing with strife is to, well, not deal. Which, turns out, is not ideal.

Big surprise: Avoiding a problem won’t make it go away. If I don’t talk about something that’s bothering me, that frustration builds into a much bigger issue. As a fun bonus, it’s usually then misdirected at a third-party who has no idea why I’m acting so hostile!

So, this is no doubt a lesson I’m still learning, but hard conversations are worth having. It might feel uncomfortable in the short-term, but conflict is normal. Figuring out how to navigate interpersonal tension is fun! This is a half-joke, but also, there is a certain amount of pleasure in learning how to approach conflict in a healthy, productive way.

TL;DR, don’t avoid your issues. Future you will be grateful.


Psst. The Popgirl newsletter is still going strong. You can find it here.

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on being right

I started up a monthly roundup newsletter in August. Right now I’m still working out what format makes sense for me, but this is a free look at September’s issue. If you like it, drop a comment and I’ll add you to the list!

~~~

“I love being right,” is a phrase I often like to use when I make a wild guess or broad statement mid-conversation that turns out to be true. Although it is deeply satisfying to know the right answer and say the right thing, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be right 100% of the time. For one thing, that’s an impossible bar for any mortal to clear.

Plus, there’s nothing more human or humbling than the simple act of being wrong. Owning up to your ignorance can be just as empowering as “being right.”

This month, I started teaching at a new school. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn to love being wrong as I navigate my new environment. My challenge to you this month is not to actively ‘be wrong,” but simply to appreciate the inaccuracies and uncertainties in life, and try to see what you can gain from them.

~~~

good sh*t

📽️ The AppleTV+ series Little Voice is a bite-sized example of the collaborative magic that happens when Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson come together (they also worked on “Waitress”). I’m linking my favorite on-screen performancefrom Brittany O’Grady for your enjoyment, but if you have AppleTV+, I definitely recommend this musical dramedy.  
🎵 Aside from the Little Voice soundtrack and Sara Bareilles’ renditions of the same songs, I’ve also been really intolofi hip hop mixes on YouTube, because sometimes you just want to chill out.
📚 Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. The historical fiction story illustrates the 20th-century Korean experience with Japan, following generations of a Korean family who eventually migrates to Japan. For my fellow fantasy lovers, I also have nothing but praise for The Starless Sea. Erin Morgenstern’s writing style is an invitation to escape into a romantic adventure that’s sweeter than honey. 

*i.e. anything and everything I’m loving at the moment

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10 Questions About Korea, One Year Later

Yesterday marks exactly one year since I first landed in Korea.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the Same Interview, One Year Apart interview with Billie Eilish, but that’s what originally inspired me to write this blog last year when I moved to SK – purely so I could have a personal record of how I felt then vs. how I felt a year after the fact.

Let’s jump in!

1. Why South Korea? 

I feel like my original answer was something light and fun like “why not South Korea?” Well, standing on the other side of my year here and having committed to another year in the Land of the Morning Calm, I can answer with perhaps more clarity. I love Korea.  I don’t consider it a utopia, however⁠—the country is far from perfect, with narrow “traditional” ideals, rampant classism, damaging beauty standards, and so on. Still, I am immensely grateful I have the opportunity to live in this country and experience life as an ex-pat in Korea.

@ the view from Jinju Lotte Mall Sky Park, July 2020

South Korea is not only full of beautiful natural landscapes to explore, it is also home to some of the kindest and most generous humans on this planet. Of course, I have battled the stressors that come with being a foreigner, but no one in Korea has ever made me feel anything less than welcome. 

2. What are you most excited and/or nervous about? 

Like I mentioned above, I’ve signed on for another year in Korea. Starting in late August, I’ll be teaching in Busan. Though it is the second-largest city in Korea, every time I’ve visited Busan I have been surprised by the seemingly relaxed atmosphere. Seoul can feel incredibly rushed and busy at times. (This is coming from the person who lived just outside of Atlanta for about five years and pretty much only ventured there for concerts, so take this opinion as you want.)

@ Haeundae Beach in Busan, December 2019

Either way, I’ve always felt so energized and refreshed from my outings there. I’m aware that living somewhere is different from just visiting, but looking forward to the changes that will come with moving to a bigger city. Plus, I’ll be closer to the beach!

3. What’s the one thing you packed that you couldn’t have lived without? 

In 2019, I started to truly invest in a hair routine that worked for my curls, so I’d say my Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk conditioner and microfiber hair wrap. Just curly girl things.

4. What about the one thing you definitely didn’t need?  

The first aid kit I purchased specifically to bring with me to Korea, including the 5,000 band-aids inside. I’m not *that* clumsy.  

5. What was the best food you tried? The weirdest?  Any food from home you can’t wait to eat? 

As far as sweets go, there are a ton of desserts I’ve tried and loved in the course of this year. One of the first things I ever had was a melon-flavored convenience store ice cream, it’s still one of my favorites though I’ve since realized that it’s more popular with ajummas. Another favorite of mine is ssiat hotteok, a popular street food. As for savory, some of my top fave dishes are jjimdak (braised chicken stew) and Korean fried chicken with fries and fried tteok.

When I first landed I was determined to be adventurous with food, but I’m still a recovering picky eater. So while it’s not entirely weird, for me, trying Korean fish cakes was pretty outside my comfort zone! In terms of what Americans might find “weird,” one of my favorite traditional snacks is a sticky rice cake with red bean paste.

Right now, the food from back home that I miss most is good Mexican food. Favorite daughter answer: my mom’s cooking, like her brisket and twice-baked potatoes, for example.

6. What is the most touristy thing you did? 

I think it’s safe to say that wearing hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) while touring Gyeongbokgung Palace is the most touristy thing I did. Renting hanbok for the day is a common occurrence in Korea and, done respectfully, it is a special way to appreciate the richness of Korean cultural heritage.

7. What was the hardest adjustment? 

Adjusting my expectations. I had a picture in my head of what things would be like for me and of course, it wasn’t like that at all. Plus, it was a major adjustment to go from living with a roommate to having to figure out living alone in a foreign country.

8. What’s the first thing you’re excited to do when you go back?

See my family! With COVID-19, it’s hard to say when my first trip back home will take place, but I’m looking forward to that reunion whenever it can safely happen!

9. What’s one piece of advice you would give?

Step outside your bubble. You can always find a new perspective and get out of your comfort zone, whether you teach abroad or not. Speaking from experience, it is so much easier to stick with whatever is comfortable. But “easy” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” You can’t know what’s out there for you until you take those first uncertain steps away from your safety net. Question everything and don’t be afraid to fail. Okay, that’s more than one piece of advice, but you get the idea.

10. Use five words to describe your current state of mind.  

Grateful, self-assured, hopeful, contemplative, and contented.

That’s it for now! As always, thanks for reading 🙂

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6 Solo Activities for Distancing in Daily Life in Korea

Earlier this month (May 2020 for those keeping score), Korea shifted from a social distancing system to distancing in daily life. With the slowdown of new infections (even amid a recent outbreak in Seoul) in mind, the goal is to remain vigilant as businesses reopen.

That said, I’ve been practicing many ‘daily life distancing’ habits as a byproduct of living on my own here in Korea for the past eight months. Without knowing when things will return to “normal,” I thought it would be useful to share the different solo activities* you can enjoy in Korea that aren’t strictly related to traveling.

I think this is a great point of reference for any newbie ex-pats in Korea or even those dreaming of visiting the country on a budget one day. Let’s jump in!

6 Types of Solo Activities to Try While in Korea:

1. Korean Karaoke / Noraebang

The Cost: ₩6,000 can get you around an hour – or more, when you “earn” free songs! – for your solo jam session.

The Activity: What’s not to love about a private singing room? Noraebang (노래방) is a blast with friends, but going alone is also a fun time. The experience reminds me of what it’s like to sing in the car, and I’ve heard it referred to as a form of stress relief. If you aren’t a big fan of singing on your own, I think this is a low-pressure way to have fun with it without worrying about what others might think. I personally enjoy Disney and Showtunes for karaoke, but it’s not always a crowd-pleaser. I like going on solo coin karaoke trips just to sing all the musical numbers I want.

Distancing Deets: Noraebang hasn’t been an approved activity for the past few months, but they’ve recently opened back up in certain regions. As with most businesses, you can find sanitizing options readily available. You can use protective covers for the mics, too. Most establishments also have sign up sheets, where they will notify you directly if an infected patient visited.

2. Cafe Hopping

The Cost: ₩4~6,000 for an iced latte or Americano; flavored lattes are usually ₩6,000+ if you’re at a standard shop; themed cafes will understandably charge more.

The Activity: You know the joke about finding a Starbucks on every corner in Major U.S. cities? Well in Korea, it seems there’s a cute cafe on almost every corner no matter what city you’re in. When I visit a cafe, I like to chill and enjoy the atmosphere for a few hours. My friends in Korea aren’t big coffee drinkers, so I end up taking myself on cafe dates at least once a week. I think hopping around a cafe or two is the perfect solo activity; you can journal, eat cake, maybe even play Pokemon GO! all while sipping on your drink of choice. I live in a smaller city and I still haven’t been able to try all the cafes on my block. So if you wanted to make a day of it, I think you could easily spend a few hours enjoying one spot and head to another to try out the fruity ade.

Distancing Deets: Aside from the standard sanitizer options, most cafes also encourage patrons to sit at least six feet apart from other customers, and it’s good practice to keep your distance from others even while in public!

3. The Movies

The Cost: ₩10,000~ish for a general ticket; snacks are incredibly affordable in comparison to American movie theater snacks.

The Activity: Going to the movies alone is a universal activity that anyone can try out, but in my opinion the Korean theater experience is one-of-a-kind. Megabox, CGV, and Lotte Cinema are popular movie theaters around Korea offering comforts you can usually only find in the most bourgeois theaters (read: Movie Tavern) in the States. You can fully recline your seat and even take off your shoes if you like! There are usually 1-3 English movies with Korean subtitles to select from and the snack options are highly addictive (ode to caramel popcorn). I saw Birds of Prey (2020) alone and got fully immersed in the story. I consider this activity the best type of post-dinner dessert you can enjoy– caramel popcorn included, of course.

Distancing Deets: As far as I know, when you purchase a single ticket, it blocks off the two seats surrounding you. So you can maintain a safe distance from others while watching the silver screen! It’s worth noting that most new movies aren’t being released at the moment, so theaters are playing old reels instead. Popular choices seem to be Harry Potter and MCU movies, but I’ve also seen a few indie movies getting play, too.

4. Scenic Walk / Bike Ride

The Cost: Walking is free 😉 plus, if you have an ARC you can rent a city bike for free!

The Activity: There’s no harm in imagining yourself Lizzy Bennet and taking a solitary pastoral stroll. Depending on where you are in Korea, some spaces – such as local attractions – might still be closed due to COVID-19. However, as long as you practice common sense, there’s no reason you can’t trek to a nearby park or green space to explore the nature around you. As I stated earlier, you can rent city bikes for free with an ARC and appreciate your surroundings in a new way. Korea is an unmistakably beautiful country, and there are tons of pocket parks and natural landscapes to experience.

Distancing Deets: You know the drill, when you’re in a public place, try to maintain a healthy distance from others that may be around! Even with distancing in daily life, wearing a mask is still encouraged at this time. If you want to avoid others altogether, try to mix up the timing for your stroll/bike ride. Early morning hours like sunrise and unconventional lunch times like 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. are a good bet.

5. Rooftop Picnic

The Cost: ₩15,000+ if you order delivery, of course you can always make your own meal for a more affordable alternative!

The Activity: If you live in an apartment in Korea, chances are you have rooftop access. Treat yourself to a change of scenery and have a picnic on the roof! If you time it right, you can watch the sunset as you dine on your meal of choice. I’ve had pizza/snacks/dessert on my roof on a few separate occasions and it is always sublime. Pop in some headphones and jam to your favorite playlist, or if you have good enough wifi, you could even watch TV while you eat! It’s okay if you don’t have outdoor furniture – you can make it a true picnic and sit on the floor – Daiso sells cheap picnic mats if you want extra cushion. To create an even cozier atmosphere, you might grab some twinkle lights or a throw blanket. (This may or may not be inspired by a rooftop movie night on Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020.)

Distancing Deets: Since this involves your home, it’s pretty easy to limit your public interactions. If you do opt for delivery, the drivers wear masks and often hand over your order from an arm’s length distance. As a reminder, your building’s rooftop is a shared space, so your neighbors have every right to the space, too.

6. Snail Mail

The Cost: ₩1~3,000 for postage, though usually, a letter home won’t even amount to ₩1,000. Keep in mind the cost relates to letter weight.

The Activity: Like movie-going, letter writing is by no means a Korea-specific activity. However, you can always pick up cute Korean stationery or souvenirs to share with your loved ones back home to make the pastime extra special. Whether you’re abroad or not, getting mail is usually a treat, unless it’s a bill – and surprise mail is even better! Think of some people in your life you’re grateful for, and write up a short thank you note. Even if it’s just a few lines, written words of gratitude can be very meaningful.

Distancing Deets: Of all the pursuits I’ve listed, this is by far the most solo activity. However, because it’s international mail, you will have to make a trip to the post office. If this is your first mail experience, check out the English website for Korea Post for guidance.

There you have it, six cheap or free activities you can enjoy whether you’re living in Korea or just passing through!

*Please note that we are living in a global pandemic. Information changes daily, and what might be a completely safe activity now may not be safe tomorrow. Either way, I hope these solo suggestions inspire you to try something new in a healthy, cautious manner. No matter what comes our way, we can be compassionate and considerate together, so let’s do our best!

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Glad to be here

I’ve been teaching in Korea for nearly seven months now. Considering my last update was in November, it’s fair to say an update is well overdue.

I was discussing my feelings towards Korea with a friend recently, how I feel so welcome and at home despite being an obvious outsider. Coming from the South, a stereotypically ‘hospitable’ place, it was something of a culture shock for me to experience the constant, genuine hospitality that Korea has to offer. My friend remarked that what I’m feeling might have to do with Korean culture and the values of generosity and sharing that are woven into it. My situation may be unique, but I don’t think it is.

Living and working here has been a wildly enriching experience for me. I’m learning how to be a better teacher every day. I’m learning more about myself, too. I feel lucky to be here, in spite and also thanks to COVID-19. Let me explain.

The first detected coronavirus case in the States was detected on the same day as the first case in Korea. Since America’s national emergency declaration in mid-March, I’ve had friends and family back home sending more messages than usual. I appreciate the concern, but it feels misplaced.

In late February, my school shut down for a week because two cases were identified in our region. There were plenty of question marks during this time, but I never worried about:

  • Whether or not necessities like food or toilet paper would be available for purchase. The only panic-buying I witnessed was a brief period of masks being sold out, and a system was soon devised where people can only purchase masks on assigned days to avoid future shortages.
  • What would happen if I thought I might be sick and possibly a danger to others. I knew I had reliable coverage through my job. I also knew that drive-through screenings were free and I could access testing easily if I felt I needed it.
  • Whether or not the outbreak was being addressed seriously. Aside from seeing my school weigh the decision of closing its doors, I understood the government was enacting unified effort to curb the outbreak and keep people safe. Everywhere I did manage to go during the height of infection in Korea (there was no quarantine mandate in my area), there was an energy of cautious calm. Hand sanitizer was installed in every public bus and still remains. It’s also a staple at pretty much every cash point in restaurants and stores.

This isn’t to say I felt no concern whatsoever. I had a lot of questions, and when the outbreak jumped from less than a hundred known cases to 200+ in less than 24 hours, I was definitely worried. However, knowing the above made it easy to conclude that panic would not benefit me in this situation.

As I stated before, I feel very fortunate to be in Korea in general, but especially during this time. It is an unsettling and scary time to be alive, yet I feel like I’m living in one of the safest places on the planet. Frankly speaking, I am terrified for everyday Americans (including loved ones) who need and have every right to basic care, but cannot access to it due to limited supplies and a flawed healthcare system. I could write more on this, but Benjamin Davis’ ‘I’d Rather Be Here’: An Expat Perspective From South Korea sums up my opinion perfectly.

It doesn’t feel entirely right to pivot from such a serious topic to my latest escapades. So instead of segueing with “Global pandemic aside, here’s everything I’ve been doing,” I’m going to end this post here.

If you’d like to know about what I’ve been up to while in Korea, keep your eyes peeled. I’ll be posting another update soon. Thanks for reading. Stay safe and if you can, stay home!

x

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Popgirl — #18

As we’re already well into March, it’s no surprise that I had a hard time with this Popgirl issue. Even with Leap Day, the month felt incredibly short, so I didn’t think I had a lot to say about February. To trick myself into writing, I forwent the format and ended up saying a bit more than expected. Enjoy:

In February, South Korea reported over 200 cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours Watching coronavirus spread in South Korea: the good news is that there is no panic. In response, my school shut down for a week. Many teachers I know are still not working, and case numbers continue to rise as daily testing is conducted. Racist, xenophobic responses are also on the rise, particularly in my home country. Negative news stories about China and deflated business as a result are cyclical occurrences for Harry Chan, owner of an 85-year-old restaurant in Seattle’s Chinatown; Oneika Raymond asks us to consider whether there would be as much concern or hoopla if the origin of the virus were North American or European.

Having extra time off in February allowed me to watch a lot of movies. Women love women-led content: here’s looking at you, Birds of Prey (2020), Hustlers (2019), and Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019). I even saw Little Women (2019) in theaters and loved it so much I wrote a blog about it. I also experienced the Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (2020) and Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé (2019) documentaries. Each film is worth watching in my opinion, but Birds of Prey stands out as a joyful proposition for why more female-driven superhero movies should exist.

My thoughts exactly. Also, please stream ‘Garden Song’.

As for other entertainment, I fell back into the K-drama world with Crash Landing on You (2019). The show depicts North Koreans as complex people who are ultimately relatable and even lovable, even if they are culturally different. I cried my way through the final episodes of The Good Place (S4) and felt my adrenaline spike with every cliffhanger on The Stranger (S1). February kicked off with a binge of Netflix’s Next in Fashion (S1). While I was delighted to have a Project Runway-esque show to consume, I felt some important industry conversations were brushed aside in favor of goofy bits. That said, the fourth episode provided some opportunity to examine what streetwear really means beyond looking ‘cool’.

Speaking of fashUN, here’s one of my favorite looks I put together in February:

Also on IG, Michael Buckley linked me to Rhett & Link’s episode of A Conversation With. Listening to the discussion on ‘coming out’ as agnostic was unexpectedly great. Link Neal talked about his first time hugging an openly gay man as a Southern Baptist Christian: “What I wanted to do was hug him back and actually mean it, but the belief that I was ingrained with didn’t allow me to sincerely hug the guy.” I’m grateful to this duo for sharing the stories of their spiritual deconstruction in such a responsible, measured way.

2020 Reading Challenge update: I read two books in February. Not quite as impressive as the 14 I managed the month before, and even worse, I wouldn’t recommend either book. If you have any “must-read” suggestions to help end this reading drought, drop them in the comments!

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Little Women

I’ll never forget an English professor quoting Ecclesiastes regarding the subject of unoriginal ideas in content: “there is nothing new under the sun.” Now and then, I think of this biblical quote taken out of context, especially when considering my own writing. Humans might have the gift of being uniquely ourselves, but we’re hard-pressed to make unprecedented art.

Whenever classic stories are rebooted for a modern audience, this news often generates a few eye rolls from the jaded, overindulged consumers of entertainment. After all, is a Friends reunion really necessary? How many Spider-Man movies do we really need?

Which is to say, I recently watched Little Women (2019), Greta Gerwig’s 21st-century answer to the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott. So presents the age-old question, did we as a collective society, need a new Little Women? Perhaps not, but we got one anyway.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Eccl 1:9, NIV

I, for one, am grateful. The film has some misses, but all around I believe it’s an exceptional take on this story. Aside from the obvious – a jumbled timeline – the modern twists in Little Women (2019) are nuanced. Despite subtlety, the movie’s changes are unmistakably influenced by the era we live in today.

Jessica Bennett writes ‘these characters are ambitious, angry, and they have agency‘ in a (spoiler-heavy) review for The New York Times. Though the March sisters are not new figures, we’re afforded the chance to see them in a different light this time around.

It’s a treat to see this story told from a fresh perspective. We get all the heart of Louisa May Alcott’s original work updated with a respectful nod to the author herself. So what if there isn’t anything “new” under the sun of the tale that is Little Women? What’s been done will be done again. And I can’t wait to see how the next recycled version ends up.

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On the sidewalk

My parents still live in the house I grew up in. I’ve found this is not the norm. Most people grieve the loss of their childhood homes in early adulthood (if they’re sentimental like me).

Even in my teen years, I never thought of living in my childhood home as a rarity. It was just life. Another fact of life: My paternal grandparents lived three houses down. In the same house my dad grew up in.

I’ve got nostalgic pavements
I’ve got familiar faces
I’ve got a mixed-up memory
And I’ve got favorite places

Kate Nash, ‘Mouthwash’

In many ways, it was a charmed existence. I could lazily stroll down the street to visit with my grandparents and maybe even sneak in an episode of Lizzie McGuire if I timed it right. My world stretched from the cherry laurel tree in our front yard all the way to the old motorboat in my grandparents’ backyard. We rode circles in the driveway and back to our house on bikes that were too big. We built forts out of twigs and scoured photo albums, making up stories about all the black and white photos.

And every time I got ready to leave, my grandpa would say the same refrain. “Stay on the sidewalk,” he’d call from his chair, a throne that doubled as a recliner. It was a sweet reminder to be safe despite the short distance between our homes. When I think about my Papa, that memory sticks the most and has stayed with me well into adulthood.

One lesson I learned from my grandpa is to stay on the sidewalk.

It’s a lesson worth remembering. Not just to be careful and stay safe, but also to stick to the path that’s in front of you. Perseverance is a useful quality to have in your tool belt, especially when life gets tough. As an adult, I see “stay on the sidewalk” as an encouragement to be steady and true. To not just give up when it gets hard, but push forward despite the difficult things.

I’m not denying that some situations require a change in direction. It’s okay to take a u-turn or even forge an entirely new path for yourself. I think that with endurance and resolve at your disposal, you can make the decision to turn left or keep going with much more confidence.

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Popgirl — #17

Gotta admit, I’m dragging myself across the January finish line.

This month the days seemed to creep on and at times the world felt more chaotic than usual.

Even so, I found moments of enjoyment, from discovering a newfound appreciation for iced cafe lattes to experiencing a Broadway show (The Phantom of the Opera) in Korea. Two things: The Phantom is a total creep despite his tenor, and yes, ‘Down Once More / Track Down This Murderer’ is a top-tier musical fight (read: counterpoint duet).

Buttered

Refreshing and sweet, like a Shirley Temple.

Reading
Started strong for my 2020 Reading Challenge: I wrapped up the Shades of Magic trilogy and was completely enthralled with the storytelling. No idea why I waited years after reading the first book to dive into the others, Victoria Schwab is so good! Revisited To Kill a Mockingbird and still proudly claim it as my all-time favorite book. Checked out some Mainer historical fiction – A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline – and was very pleased with the novel. Another trilogy I picked back up and enjoyed, Chaos Walking. If you’re into sci-fi dystopia, this one’s for you. The tangled and heartening sophomore novel from Mary H.K. Choi, Permanent Record, followed up with her delightfully candid Elle Canada interview. Insights from Jenna Wortham about how social media has irrevocably changed the way we live over the last ten years and getting a handle on that change. A dense yet fascinating read on how sustainable fashion is based around bad facts.

Watching
The Good Place final season, which is weird and fun as always. I haven’t watched the series finale yet because I’m not sure I’m emotionally prepared for it to be over. I did finish Atypical (S3), which was surprisingly delightful. Three seasons in, it’s more clear than ever that Brigette Lundy-Paine and Keir Gilchrist are the shining stars of this production, portraying siblings Casey and Sam with depth and heart. I also fell into The Circle (S1) on Netflix, which I found as addictive, yet not as frustrating, as Big Brother.

Listening
Old favorites like radio playlists inspired by ‘Life is Rosy’ by Jess Penner and ‘Portions for Foxes’ by Rilo Kiley, plus a collection of all the Fun. albums were on repeat. As far as new earworms, a heartbreaking yet beautiful Kina Grannis cover of ‘Somebody Loved’ by The Weepies, and two very different jams: ‘EARLY TO THE PARTY’ from ASL and ‘Adeline’ by Fever Dolls. Listen here. Also gave the Grammy-winning ‘Saint Honesty’ a few listens because Sara Bareilles is my queen, and fully cried watching this performance.

Writing
Lobbying for hobbies, in which I wax poetic about a generation that allegedly “lost hobbies”. Time capsule, a self-indulgent snapshot of where I was ten years ago.

Stale

Please, close my hat fringe window so I don’t have to acknowledge this anymore.

Reading
The Royals series from Rachel Hawkins – it’s just fine? I wanted it to live up to Red, White & Royal Blue standards but I’m sad to say both Prince Charming and Her Royal Highness fell short for me. Open to suggestions for other modern royalty books to fit my particular brand of royal obsession.

Watching
You know when everyone says something isn’t good but you want it to be, so you try to limit your expectations and have an open mind? Yeah, that’s what I attempted to do walking into Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. Unfortunately, even with low expectations, I was still disappointed. I love Star Wars, I really do – and I even have been known to enjoy JJ Abrams’ contribution to the world of sci-fi entertainment. But this movie gets a big ol’ eye roll from me. It was a production of nothing, and such a dissatisfying conclusion. You (S1-2*) on Netflix. In truth, I did enjoy the WTF-ery of each episode at first, but it starts to wear thin. I don’t get the appeal of static characters and storylines that don’t evolve. *Full disclosure: I haven’t completed the second season, but with two episodes left, I doubt my opinions will be swayed.

Pop of the Month

Because life’s a happy song when there’s someone by your side to sing along.

Musical Theater

Like I said at the opening, I got to see the world tour production of The Phantom of the Opera this month. It was a magical event.

When I watch Broadway shows, or any stage show for that matter, it always makes me so proud. I can’t help but feel joy for the people on and off stage, who are living out their dreams by making art that people like me can enjoy. I always feel better after listening to or seeing a musical. So this one goes to the grand old institution of campy acting, catchy showtunes, and all that jazz.

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Time capsule

Ten years ago, I was just starting as a full-time college freshman at my local community college. The college was three minutes from my house and its campus consisted of one building*.

Though it was comically small, I was thrilled to be in attendance. It was my first time consistently going to classes, as desks and droning lectures aren’t a typical mainstay of homeschooling.

Attending a community college that only offered two-year programs might have been the dipping-your-toes-in-the-shallow-end equivalent of experiencing college, but it was right for me. I saved a significant amount of money while earning an Associates degree and knocking out my core classes. But, that’s how I ended my time at GMC.

At the start of 2010, I was delighted by almost everything my tiny alma mater had to offer: The English professor with the deep voice of a long-term smoker, assigning me to write about which The Breakfast Club character I most identified with, and why – I chose Brian, because of course I did. The computer lab where I earned extra credit just by speaking with a tutor. The seemingly endless list of elective courses I could take, like Art History, Bowling, or Criminology.

I took all of those electives and a handful of others, too. I was still figuring out what I wanted to do and figured a few random classes couldn’t hurt in that journey. Spoiler alert: I now have my degree, and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

Still, in January 2010, with a world of possibility at my fingertips, I chose to start college eight months earlier than most of my peers. As I began my college experience and wondered at what I should do, I doubt I considered a future where I was teaching, much less living in another country. Plenty of things happened between then and now to lead me here, of course, but it’s nice to look back. Maybe the optimism and curiosity that motivated me to take unnecessary electives is the very same force motivating me today.

*Please note a second building as was also built during my brief tenure there. It made a big difference.