You Have Everything You Need

This past week, I’ve been thinking about how difficult I currently find it to dive into something without knowing what will happen. I feel like I have a million ideas that are stopped before they even have a chance to progress. And it’s entirely me that’s stopping them.

I also have persistent fears that I’m not going to be “successful” at whatever I’m trying to do. I fear that nobody will give me a chance to show who I am and how I contribute to the world. I fear that I’ll try and set foot (or my ideas) into the world and people won’t respond in a positive way.

I am a lucky one – I have no evidence for these fears, no rational argument for why I should be afraid. I even have compelling evidence that I shouldn’t fear leaping into the world with reckless abandon. Yet I do.

I was standing on the corner of two streets that I walk literally three times a week on my way to school and back. I was listening to music, and the song “Midnight City” by M83 came on. It’s not really a remarkable song, but it pulled me so hard I stopped walking – suddenly, I felt like I was back in Paris.

I noticed the color of the trees. I stood up straighter. I filled up with a magical feeling of strength and opportunity. I used to listen to that song all the time as I was strutting the streets of Paris, in a pair of black boots I wore completely through, heading to unknown new destinations and recently familiar ones. It filled me then, and now, with a sense of possibility and adventure. A sense that the world is my oyster.

Even more than that, I had the sense that I was safe in the world. It wasn’t that nothing could go wrong (many things did in Paris, and they do now), but it was a feeling that I could handle whatever went. Whatever happened.

Somehow, in the past few years, that feeling disappeared. What replaced it? Anxiety, fear, uncertainty, doubt. An obsessive focus on the future and past but not on the present. I think I had those before, too. But I also had the other stuff.

Here’s what I wrote, June 1st 2013, as I was about to head back from my first adventure abroad, tired but feeling: successful, nostalgic, sad, optimistic, strong, free, hopeful.

“What I was most worried about bringing back was Paris Anne. I thought about whether or not Paris Anne could exist in a different environment, especially one that another Anne was so comfortable in. It’s absurd to think that spending 5 months in a foreign country would not change the way I look at what once was the only thing I really knew in the world- America. Redmond. Whitman. And I want to look at these things differently. I know I’ve changed, and I want to stay changed; the confidence, the new and improved language skills, the way I think about my social relationships…all of these feel different in Paris Anne, and I think I have grown more certain of who I am through my encounters with uncertainty.

But, in the midst of worrying about whether or not I would feel frustrated about no longer being in Paris, I realized that the self I’ve formed here is actually the only thing I will be able to bring back with me. I can’t bring back the city, the French ubiquity, the freedom, and I can’t bring back the same experiences. But my more evolved processes of thinking and learning and living will always be with me, and I can use them anywhere I want to. My new goal is to approach life at home like I approached life in Paris: return with the attitude that the best experiences of my life can happen anywhere, at anytime, with anyone.

So, my conclusion (in clichĂ© form): even if you take the Anne out of Paris, you won’t be taking Paris out of the Anne.”

I think that moment on the street reminded me of something important, just at the right moment.

That thing was:

I can keep learning, I can keep growing, I can keep making sense of my experiences, but I also, always, already have everything that I need.

Certainty, predictability, more degrees, more education, experience that comes with age – all are helpful. All are comforting.

But in an uncomfortable time, I find that what I need most is what I already had. What I need most is a reminder that the world is a huge, beautiful, safe and exciting place. Opportunities are everywhere. Not being certain is what enables learning, discovery, and growth. And above all, I can’t wait for my version of “success” to happen to me – I have to try things even if I don’t feel ready, prepared, or certain, at all.

Because we never know what will happen when we dive into the world wholeheartedly and embrace the adventure.


You Have Everything You Need

(Zi)on the Road to the Grand Canyon

Please excuse the punny title. Dylan doesn’t quite approve, but he doesn’t really have to…I like it ;).

I am finally writing again about ADVENTURES! As I said in Summer Dreams, I have the summer off. It’s finally here: no more getting up at 5:30 to work out before working all day, breakfast and lunch and dinner prepped and ready the night before. No more stressful days with children and exhausted evenings of Netflix.

I make it sound pretty terrible – it’s really not. I do like my job. But, it was definitely wearing me out! It’s definitely a struggle sometimes to remain in balance. It will be much worse next year, with grad school and work and my nutrition program (yep!), but my hope is that the bustle will energize me.

Summer adventures are in full swing, and it’s only Day 3 of summer. Dylan and I drove for 13 hours yesterday to Salt Lake City. My main goal in SLC was to stalk Melissa Hartwig, inventor of Whole30 (no sightings yet). The secondary goal is to hike, hang out in coffee shops, and settle into two weeks of desert sun and outdoor escapades.

First impressions: it’s WARM! We left the cold and rain behind and found the sun. It’s awesome (but I am wearing so so so much sunscreen on my pale white PNW skin – Ghost Anne with Hat).

Dylan and I are making an effort to cook and eat whole foods as much as we do at home. I love having his support, and I think he loves the lifestyle as much as I do (win). In fact, it has stopped being “the whole30” and has started being my life. It’s honestly not worth deviating from when your breakfast is a kale and sausage omelette with some vanilla almond milk yogurt. And matcha tea with honey.

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Our first day, today, has been amazing. We slept in, then went for a hike on SLC’s “living room” trail. It was about three miles, uphill up and downhill down. It was tiring and hot, but short enough that we just got great exercise. Plus, the views:

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It’s called “Living Room” because there are chairs built out of rocks in the hillside. We reclined for a bit and had some snacks.

Now we’re out and about, having coffee and working. Dylan is not as lucky as me – no teacher perk summer vacation for him. Too bad 🙂

Next up: Day 2 in SLC and off to Zion!

(Zi)on the Road to the Grand Canyon

Walking and Wondering

I’m reading a book right now (actually three books, but this one is the coolest), and it’s about the history of walking. At least, that’s what it purports to be, but I know differently; really, it is about contemplation. As is walking.

“When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for you when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.” – Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust

My favorite way to discover places and to discover things is by foot. The above quote is the most perfect articulation of why this is my truth: while I walk, I move. I move through the world physically, of course. I also move through my mental world. Like writing, it is my medium for wondering.

Many times, I have wondered about myself. As I explore a city, I wander the nooks and crannies of my psyche, analyzing and processing and curiously probing the dark and far off corners. Or maybe there is something in particular that rushes to the forefront of my mind and demands to be heard. Often I wonder about other people, gripped by my fascination about perspectives outside my own. As I walk through these thoughts, I walk through the world.

Sometimes I am pulled back into it, and instead I notice the squirrel crunching through the fallen yellow leaves. Sometimes there’s someone else on the road, and I feel compelled to shoot the fellow walker a friendly smile.

Often I am tracing paths on a mental map. When I explored new places, I got lost and found myself again, over and over, until I never really felt lost. After reading this part of the book, I realized that I will never again feel lost in those places that I’ve walked.


I’ve worn a rut in my mind, and I will always recognize it. When I walk in Walla Walla again, I’ll get flashes of past walks, of the girl that walked those paths. If I somehow journey back to Paris, or even tiny Somain, the invisible crop will be waiting for me. I am inextricably linked to those cobblestones and the landmarks that line them, and they run like a map through my mind.

This is what makes me lusty, for the wander and for the familiar at once. I know that both are fruitful: one will lead me toward new corners of myself, one will lead me back to old ones. The one is risky and exciting, alluring and adventurous. The other is comforting and enlightening, reflective and revealing of forgotten truths.

I love them both and all. I walk through old and new with the same fulfillment, the same curiosity, and the same feet.

Walking and Wondering

Going Places

I use my favorite travel photos as my desktop backgrounds. I’ve told my computer to rotate through a folder of photos, all my best ones, changing every time it wakes from sleep. I love this way of remembering where I’ve been. Every time I open my laptop, a new place pops up and I’m flooded with memories of standing right there, looking at that, capturing the moment.

I wish I could capture the feeling. Sometimes it washes over me in a wave of nostalgic tears, and I sense so acutely that part of me is missing.

What part, you ask? There’s a lot of writing out there talking about how traveling changes your life, that it’s life-changing, that it impacts everything you think and believe in, thereby changing your life through all the life-changing experiences. Sense a pattern?

I kind of believe that, but I think it changes lives not in the generic just take off and land somewhere and you’re insta-changed sense, but in the sense of it really makes you think about yourself, where you came from, and where you’re going. And it makes you think about the now.

Maybe it’s a photo. Maybe it’s a song, or a smell. Sometimes I get any kind of sensory stimulus and it’s suddenly specific and transporting me back. I’m back on the streets of Valenciennes, strutting over the cobblestones with my school bag bouncing on my hip, in my no-nonsense black boots, watching out for ubiquitous dog crap (no matter how lucky it is to step in it). Other times I’m sitting in the Jardin de Luxembourg, under the Paris sunshine with my best friends, market cheese, and a bottle of wine per person. I’m alone in the deserted streets of Somain, walking to school before the sunrise. I’m in the metro, bathed in eau de mĂ©tro – a mix of beer and pee, maybe some mold or garbage, occasionally punctuated by the wafting warm smell of a fresh batch of croissants from the metro cafĂ©s. I’m on a train heading somewhere I’ve never been, journaling about last weekend’s parties, my experiences with French people, my struggles with the language and with homesickness.

I was solo, all over the world. I made new friends and saw lots of things, and it was the first time I’d ever felt the true weight of my decisions. Each direction I took determined the likelihood of finding my way through a foreign land. Each social occasion determined whether or not I’d have genuine companions in my expatriation. Mulling over, making, and accepting my decisions was the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I learned my own agency: I can do whatever I want, I make my own life, and I accept the consequences of what I make. At the end of the day, the only thing that mattered was feeling comfortable in my boots and confident enough to explore again tomorrow.

Being back home is like, suddenly there are more people to take into account, and way more past and future things to think about. Old friends, S.O.’s, family members, a serious 8-4 job, the next job, the life direction. There are a lot more expectations about where I’ll devote my attention, a lot more things distracting me from what I’m doing now.

Those brief moments of nostalgia are breaths of fresh air in the muggy swamp of my routine.

Then again, so is the view of Mt. Rainier at sunrise on clear days, as I drive over Lake Washington. So are margarita nights with Mom, Indian food with Dad, sushi dates with my boyfriend and house parties with friends. So is the occasional trip out of town to see more of the great Pacific Northwest, and so are the funny stories from my days spent with kindergarteners.

Being on my own in a foreign place, concentrating on the now, the great things, the adventures of every day – it taught me how to bring that mentality everywhere. When I get those waves of nostalgia, it reminds me of the gifts of the present, of where I am. And even though I’m not alone, I’m not struggling with language, or traveling, or whatever else…I’ve still got the gifts of those experiences: many tools for feeling comfortable in my boots, and confident enough to explore again tomorrow.



Going Places

Making Way for Ducklings

I disembark the Megabus in Boston right on time, with the whole day to myself. I stow my luggage and wander into the city, picking a road and ending up near the arched entrance to Chinatown. Skirting this neighborhood, because I’d be led in the wrong direction, I make my way to the center of the city — the Boston Common. Naturally, my Seattle nose, urged on by a Seattle brain, sniffs out the best coffee, and I curl up on a sunken brown couch in the Boston Common Coffee Company for my introvert blogging recharge time. The cashier asks me if I went to Emerson University, acting like he knows who I am. Instant local.

After a sufficient amount of caffeine and plugged-in time, I set out on the Freedom Trail, armed with a 4$ app and a 3$ map to find my way from dead hero to church to dead hero. I meet the ghosts of Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, John Hancock…all the soldiers and founding fathers, and the two or three famous women…IMG_5344

IMG_5345I also run into my new favorite store. When I was little, I fell asleep to the book on tape editions of Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings at least thrice a week. Little did I remember, Robert McCloskey was from Boston and has a store named after his work.



I pass through Quincy Market, which distracts me long enough that I never make it to the next stop on the Trail (Paul Revere’s House). A street show, featuring very loud speakers blaring “Gangnam Style” and a group of break dancers, greets me at the entrance. I stop to watch, surrounded by kids on a field trip who are supposed to be more interested in the historical square in which they stand — where the Boston Tea Party-goers got all riled up. History, predictably, loses to K-Pop. When they leave with their chaperones, I also leave, heading deeper into the market. Urban Outfitters, souvenir stands with jewelry and Boston boxers and fancy twisted paper lamps…food stalls sending delicious smells wafting through the air…I soak it all in.

I realize my proximity to the harbor and head there, called by the sea air, which I can already feel. I find a bench right next to the water’s edge, and sit and stare out at the Atlantic — all the sailboats, moored and bobbing at the dock. I watch the comings and goings of the water taxi, transporting people laden with baggage to nearby islands? other spots on the coast? The seagulls cry overhead and I can smell salt and fish. An old man with a satchel tries to sell me a newspaper that helps the homeless. I start dreaming of clam chowder, real New England clam chowder, but I can’t bring myself to leave the harbor. It’s like Seattle’s harbor but less industrial, and it’s bathed in sunlight and chilled by the crisp, autumnal Boston air.


Finally my hunger for a regionally appropriate lunch drags me off the bench. I head back toward Quincy market, where I’d seen rows and rows of food stalls earlier that day. Sure enough, there it is — The Chowda Company. I buy some chowda from a man with a Bostonian accent and sit outside to eat it, next to the outdoor games area. I rip and dump my oyster crackers, scooping one up for a delicious creamy-crunchy-soupy bite.


At first, I watch a family play ping pong. Then I become so absorbed in my chowda that I only look up when I hear….French!? 

Sure enough, there are three French people — about my age — who have started a game of ping pong. I eavesdrop, wishing slightly that I could go home with them after their East Coast vacation is over. But only slightly, as my own East Coast vacation has shown me how much I love traveling in the U.S., and how many places here I still haven’t seen…

I spend over an hour at Quincy Market, watching. An awkward young couple plays chess. Some Irish boys in green sweatshirts run by (those accents, though…). I hear more European tourists speak German, British, French, Russian, as they pass me.

Finally, it’s time to meet my friends/hosts. I walk back to the city center and discover my other favorite place, and the setting of Make Way for Ducklings: the Boston Public Garden.


I hope it’s obvious from my writing how much I loved Boston. [I’m trying a thing where I show and don’t tell, in an effort to improve my writing/try new things.]

Seeing study abroad friends, aka surfing on their couch, was fantastic. Sometimes it takes a visit to remember that faraway friends are still friends. Hospitality strikes again. I hope to return the favor by showing off Seattle!

In the words of Augustana, “I think I’ll go [back] to Boston…”


There I am, relaxing in Hahvahd Yahd.

Making Way for Ducklings


This list, of French words that English doesn’t have, crossed my path today. Among them is dĂ©paysement: “the sense of being a fish out of water.” If you break down the word, de- is a negative prefix, pays is the French word for country, and the suffix –ment is a little bit like “-fication.” AKA, the real best translation is:


Last September, I decountrified myself, leaving the U.S., and re-countrified myself, settling down in France.

The first few weeks were a whirlwind of paperwork, house hunting, people meeting, and settling in. I had to re-learn how to exist in this new country– without attracting too much attention for being different, but also without “losing myself.”

Slowly, I adjusted to French life. I bised my friends. I ate meals slowly, in three courses. I shopped only at normal hours of the day (things close around 8 PM), and only for a few meals at a time. I walked everywhere, or used the train and bus systems. I didn’t smile at people I didn’t know. I dressed up, bought black heeled boots, and developed a city strut. I (kind of) learned how to deal with the bureaucracy, saving copies of my water bills to send in with everything I applied for. I learned to love strong cheeses and pair them with good wines.

I never became French, but I did blend in a little better, in the end. I achieved the balance: I was a version of myself that I liked, and that fit into the world around me. I could walk down the street without earning stares for being “the American.” I was able to learn from people’s new perspectives on me and my country, and to open my mind to the ways of other people, in other countries. It was a successful recountrification experiment.

And then I decountrified myself again, and came right back, Stateside. DĂ©paysement is the French synonym for “culture shock,” which I expected to encounter on my trip to France. But, coming back, there is another sort of dĂ©paysement,  when you take a slightly different version of Anne and place her back in her old environment.

Suddenly, I drive again. I wear shorts. I greet everyone in English, make small talk with strangers, shop at all hours of the day or night, and I’m surrounded by family and old friends. There are mountains and lakes and people in sweatpants and coffee shops everywhere. All of this was totally normal… before my “normal” changed. And now I’m having to figure out another more complicated and emotionally charged recountrification process.

I do feel like a fish out of water. It’s hard to explain why, because it doesn’t make sense. The USA is where I grew up, its rules and norms should be obvious to me. And they are, but I sort of have to relearn them. I have to figure out where I fit in again, IF I fit in again, and who my new friends are going to be. It’s a little like starting over, which I also did when I first arrived in France, but it’s starting over in a place I didn’t expect to have to start over.

It’s because I’ve done it before that I feel like I can do it again. Despite all of this hard stuff I’m encountering, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and culturally…I feel like I’m encountering it as someone who is good at feeling uncomfortable.

When I first got back, I dealt by traveling all over the place to reconnect with people. The reason for that is obvious to me — traveling was my culture, my normal, so I sought it out again. Now I’m back in one place for a while, and the realities of my new normal hit me. I don’t start work until the end of August, so I’m left drifting around, re-familiarizing myself with where I grew up and how it’s changed. And how I’ve changed.

I never really figure out how I’ve changed until I’m back in a place I was in before, as a new version of me. I keep comparing the me of now to the me of last summer, last time I was here. I think I’m fundamentally the same, but I behave differently. I’m living more in accordance with my values. I missed having a place to work out, dance classes, hiking trails, and beautiful waterfronts when I was gone — so now, every day, I seek those out. I missed my family and friends, so now I focus more energy on them. I felt really financially unstable in France, so I’m taking this opportunity to examine my financial habits and try to live more independently. I missed peanut butter, so I eat it every morning…

Going away was one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done. So much of the fear and anxiety that used to rule me has become manageable. Whenever I’m afraid of all the changes — meeting new people, starting a new job, moving, etc. — I say to myself: Anne, you did all of this and more…in a different country, in a different language. That’s sometimes all I need to get me through a tricky spot.

My way of embracing being home and dealing with reverse culture shock and missing France at the same time is to remember and re-remember all of the gifts it gave me. All of the friends I made, all of the new experiences, all of the personal strength– all were made possible by going away, and all are still present at home, in the ways they shaped the “me” of the moment.

And of course, I also say to myself that I’ll keep going back. There, and back again. Probably forever!



You know you’re in America when…

…you aren’t on a budget airline (complimentary beverages?? hot hand towels before every free meal??).

…on said fancy airline, the safety video is full of Youtube characters. Seriously, this played before each flight:

…when you leave the plane, someone says, “bye now, have a great day!”

…and, in the “welcome to New York” intercom message on the plane, an attendant says, “Thank you for choosing Delta Airlines, we eagerly await the next opportunity we get to serve you!”

…you go to Hudson to get some snacks and are overwhelmed by the 5 walls of options. Everything is in 10 flavors. They even came out with a new variety of M&M! (Crispy!? Delicious.)

…the new variety of M&M is only available in “sharing size.” (Honestly though, who even shares!? Not me…)

…in the security and customs lines, you strike up conversations with Midwestern strangers (about the weather, and bottled water).

…everyone is smiling.

…there’s a big jar of Adam’s crunchy peanut butter and some fresh bagels at home waiting for you.

…there’s also a family, and a cat. Welcome home to me!

You know you’re in America when…