Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Too Many Romance Movies

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately.

The movies and the media are filled with portraits of fairy tales, these make-shift, perfect love stories – of perfect relationships that always work out perfectly in the end. 

And teenage girls, we eat this shit up. 

It’s like all we see is that perfect relationship with that perfect guy, and we want it. We need it. We dream about it. We crave it. 

But… in the end, no relationship is perfect.   

Most of us grow up being told that there is someone out there for everyone. And, of course, we believe it. Even if we’re not told it, we believe it. It’s because we all want to have someone to be there for us no matter what. We all want to be happy. We all want our own fairy tales to tell.
We feed on visions of perfect relationships only to eventually realize that all of those movies are complete bull shit. There are going to be problems. People are going to get hurt. Promises will be broken. And trust will be lost. 

The strongest relationships are the ones where people are willing to put their differences aside and realize that they care about the other person too much to let them go. 

I mean, isn’t that the problem these days? Nobody wants to work it out anymore. Once a problem arises, they end it. They get divorced. They give up. Instead of trying to work out their problems and fix their relationship, it’s just easier to let go. As divorce rates rise higher and higher, marriage becomes a fluke. Suddenly, here we are living in a society where getting divorced seems as normal as cutting out paper snowflakes during the holidays. It’s pretty sickening if you ask me. 

In just two days, I’ll be on a plane to London. Sadly, I’m leaving behind my wonderful boyfriend, Bo. If he loves me as much as he says he does (and I know he does), he’ll be right here waiting for me when I get back. We’ve been through a lot together – plenty of fights, plenty of heartaches, but none of that matters when you really get down to it. The fact of the matter is that we both love each other and we both care about each other. I don’t see why we can’t make our relationship work out even if I am going to be gone for five months. Maybe this is the ultimate test. (I do love a challenge!) If we can survive this, we can survive anything.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Going Through Stages

Sometimes it feels like I am completely alone in this world, but I’m about to feel even more alone as I will be on my way to London in just four days. Somehow I’m starting to feel okay with everything. Maybe I’ve just had enough time now to prepare myself mentally for this amazing journey I am about to embark on or… maybe not. I guess the real test will be when I’m standing in line at the airport, waving good-bye to my family and friends. The other possibility is that the realization hasn’t even hit me yet, but I feel oddly calm about leaving right now. Maybe I’ve gone through a process, you know, like the grieving process? The first stage is Denial followed by Anger, Depression, and lastly - Hope. Only in my case the stages were marked (1) Over-Excitement, (2) Untamed Uncertainty, (3) Depression, Stress, & Anxiety, and (4) Acceptance. If I have gone through some sort of process, I’ve definitely reached the last stage. Only now, I’ll go through another process – the process of culture shock! 

How strange it is that I will be the foreigner in a country that is completely foreign to me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Can't Stop Partying

These days I don't get to see my family as much as I used to, so when I arrived at my parent's house on Saturday night, my brother, Ben, and I stayed up the whole night talking. We reminisced about our High School days for a long time, recalling both awesome and terrible memories from our youth. Then we picked up the old guitars and strummed a few tunes. All of the old songs brought back even more memories.

My brother and I used to jump in my car and drive to any random social gathering we could find, but the best part of it all was getting to spend some one on one time with him. Even though we lived together in the same house, we both had our own friends and our own extra curriculars to attend to. We didn't have a lot in common, but we both loved rock 'n roll and we both loved to party. The only time we really spent together were those car rides - singing "Can't Stop Partying" by Weezer at the top of our lungs - and confiding in the trust that we both had for each other. During those times, we told each other everything. We talked about our problems, complained about school, and shared our dreams. We swore we were going to make something out of ourselves.

My brother is graduating this spring, and next fall he'll be off to college. Although I'm moving to London for five months, I know the distance will never separate us. I can't believe how fast the time is going by. One second we're living on top of the world, and the next second reality comes crashing down on us and we start to realize that we have to grow up sometime or another. I'm just thankful that I have people to hold onto as I try to navigate this fantastic, ever-changing world. The bond that we share is truly a special thing, and I really believe that is one thing that will never change.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Creation

It’s winter in Wisconsin! I hate the cold weather, but the snow is always beautiful. This year we’re having a Christmas Eve party at my Mom’s house. We moved into that house when I was about five years old – right before I started Pre-School, and this is the first time we’ve ever thrown a Christmas Eve party. So this weekend I’m going to go over and help my Mom decorate the tree and the house and bake all kinds of goodies. I think it’s going to be really fun. 

Meanwhile, back in Menomonie – my college town – I decided to decorate my own “Christmas Tree”. My boyfriend and I decided not to get a tree this year, so instead I decorated a pile of books! Check it out:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finals Week

For a few days I had myself convinced that I didn’t really want to study abroad anymore. I think it was a combination of being stressed out because of finals and the prospect of seeing my family and realizing just how much I’m going to miss them when I’m gone. I went to visit my Mom to talk it over with her, and I started crying about everything that I wasn’t happy with in my life. The best piece of advice she gave me was that if I don’t do it, I’ll regret it. She told me that she wished she had taken more opportunities in her life. My brother was right there along with my mom. He told me to do it because I might not get another chance. He told me not to worry about possibly missing his graduation ceremony. He even joked about coming to visit me in London instead of attending his own ceremony. I told him that he better book his ticket right away! 

So, even after visiting with my family for a day, I still wasn’t completely decided on whether or not to go to London. It’s been running through my mind all day, and frankly, these thoughts are getting in the way of me studying for my accounting final this evening. I guess I’m still not completely sure this was the brightest idea I ever had, but my best friend recently told me that I need to “put some more spontaneity back into my life”.  I’m thinking that I should just suck it up, ace these last few finals I have, spend some quality time with my family and friends, and then take a leap of faith! I fear the unknown, but at the same time I’m exhilarated by it. I’ll be back in no time at all. I really do need to change something, and if escaping from my daily routine is that change, then so be it! The time is flying by, so London, I hope you’re ready for me!  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Money Matters

Well, guys. Today is my last day of fall semester classes. Finals start next week, and I’ll finally have a little break after December 21st. Then it’s Christmas. I’m hoping to spend some time with my family before I leave.

I got an e-mail a few days ago from Westminster. I got accepted into one of their residence halls! There goes another $400 down payment. I hate to start worrying about money, but it’s kind of important seeing that I’m going to be gone for so long. I can go a few days without eating, but I can’t go five months! *Laughs* By the looks of my budget sheet, I’ll spend around $14,000 on this trip alone. On top of that, I’ve been denied financial aid for the class I signed up for during WinTerm (Winter Term). I can’t even take out a loan because I’ve reached my max in loans for the year. I’m not eligible for any more aid until my home university’s spring semester starts in February. Oh, the joys of going to college. 

I always knew I wanted to go to college. I went straight out of high school. I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. I thought that as soon as I had that degree in my hand, my goal would be accomplished. College, however, is a lot more expensive than I ever imagined. Now I’ve decided to study abroad, and that’s going to cost me even more money. Sometimes I think that I should just not go. I should save my money, and look for an internship so I can graduate on time. I should stay so I’ll be here when my best friend has her baby in February. I should stay so I can see my brother graduate in May. 

Lately, I’ve just been trying to decide if this trip to London is really worth $14,000. It’s only money, right? I can always make more.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Still My Time

I just had a very nice conversation with a friend I met on a family cruise (go figure) to the Bahamas back in January of 2011. He asked me if I was in London already, and I told him that my departure date is January 4th. (That’s in the event that the world doesn’t end on December 21 this year.) I wanted to know if he’d ever been to London because it seemed to me that he’d been to a lot of places. In fact the whole conversation started because I “liked” a picture of him on Facebook that was taken in Scotland! This friend of mine told me that no, he hadn’t been to London before, but that on a scale of 1-10 his jealousy was a 9. I laughed! I just assumed that he’d been there already.  

After some conventional reminiscing about our past endeavors, this friend asked me what I would be studying while in London.  I told him “Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing & Sales”. Then he asked me another question. He wanted to know what I planned to do with my degree. I gave him an honest answer. I told him that I wasn’t really sure, that I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet. I mentioned the idea of starting my own business, but then he wanted to know what kind of business. So I told him about an idea that my brother and I had of going into a partnership and starting some type of game development company. I then went on to say that the idea was still up in the air, and that I’d probably just end up working for some asshole like everyone else. 

 My friend surprised me by saying “So you have a predetermined notion that you’re going to be working for an asshole?” After he said that, it made me realize that I do have that predetermined notion. Everyone I know complains about their jobs. I just assumed that working for an asshole was typically part of life. I’ve already had my share of rotten bosses and I’m not looking forward to more of them – not to mention coworkers. Something about this realization triggered unhappy thoughts. I remember the day that I graduated high school I felt like the whole world was at my feet. I felt like doors were finally opening. I could be anything I wanted to be, or do anything I wanted to do with my life! I remember feeling like it was my time. 

In all the hustle and bustle of a being a full time student with exams and job interviews jamming my schedule, I have somehow forgotten that this is still my time. It used to be all about proving myself to other people, but now I’ve had a change in attitude. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. This time around I’m doing it for me. 

As the conversation progressed, my friend said something else to me. He told me a story. He said “When I was 12 years old I met this guy who must have been at least 90. He told me something I still haven’t forgotten. He said ‘Son, do what makes you happy, and allow others to be happy. Don’t do something because somebody told you to do it, unless that person is you.’ That guy fell off a train drunk, but his words are no less true.” 

There is definitely some meaning behind those words. If you’re happy, then that’s all that matters. The people around you will begin to feel the same way. I told my friend that the trouble is finding that one thing that makes you happy, and I also told him that I’ve got some more living to do. He replied “I think everyone does.”   

That being said, I got a little excited about London today. I think it's the fact that it was completely my choice (aside from the university accepting me) and also the fact that I listened to my heart instead of my head. Sometimes it's okay to do that. All in all, traveling makes me happy so I'm doing it! I may never fully decide what I really want to do with my life, but for now I'm content. And that's what really matters. 


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Inexpensive Side of London

Being a college student, I'll be living on a strict budget during my time in London. That being said, I've researched some fun things to do in London that are also inexpensive.

1. Changing of the Guard
The Queen's Guard in London changes in the Forecourt inside the gates of Buckingham Palace at 11.30 AM every day in the summer and every other day in the winter. If you get there early enough, you can get a view of it from just outside the front gates.

2. Play in the rain or... not.
Contemporary Art Group Random International created a digital installation that gives visitors the chance to experience what it would be like if they could control the rain. In "Rain Room", the sound of water and moisture in the air gives visitors the impression of being in the middle of a lucid downpour - without getting wet.

3. Street Performers
In the West Piazza of the Covent Garden Market, street performers entertain visitors every afternoon. All of the performers are licensed, and they have to pass an audition to be able to perform there. 

4. Take the Bus
£2 (With an Oyster Card)
There is no shortage of open-topped sightseeing buses in London, but why pay over £20 for a ticket when you can see the same sights for just £2? The route starts at the bus station of Liverpool Street station in the north eastern corner of the City of London and terminates at Fulham Broadway traveling via the West End and some of London's most famous landmarks including St. Paul's Cathedral, Fleet Street, the Strand, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, King's Road, and the Houses of Parliament.

  5. Prince Charles Cinema
A tight budget doesn't mean that you can't enjoy a night out in London's famous West End. At the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square you can see great films from just £6.50 on evenings and weekends.

6. Trafalgar Square
This iconic square has many sights to see including Nelson's Column and the National Gallery. It is both a tourist attraction and the main focus for political demonstrations. Every December, Norway donates a marvelous Christmas tree, to thank Britain for liberation from the Nazis.

7.  Live Music
If live music’s your bag and you’ve got no money in your purse, don’t despair just yet, because London’s got more free gigs than you could ever expect to attend.

8. Indulge in a "Proper" Cup of Coffee
£1.89 (This varies from shop to shop.)
Amid the West End's sea of cappuccino merchants there are some very special coffee shop gems.

9. Find a Good Read
Explore one of the many book shops in London. The London Review Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, P&G Wells, Much Ado Books, and The Book Hive are just a few of them.

10. Museums & Galleries
London has over 300 museums and all of their major ones are free. The following is a list of free museums, but it's not complete. There are many other free museums in London.

British Library
British Museum
National Gallery
Natural History Museum
National Portrait Gallery
Science Museum
Tate Modern
The Tate Britain
Victoria and Albert Museum

Saturday, December 8, 2012

London Facts and Figures

I was surfing the web today trying to find out some additional information on the University of Westminster, but my mind wandered and instead I found some really cool statistics and facts about the city of London:

London covers 620 square miles and is home to over 8 million inhabitants and 300 spoken languages. There are 5 international airports, and over 15 million visitors annually. There is a total of over 250 museums, 6,000 restaurants, 32,000 musical performances annually, and over 100 theaters. In addition, there are a total of 775 rooms in Buckingham Palace and 800 passengers per revolution on the London eye. 80,000 umbrellas are lost on the underground each year. 

  • Windsor Castle of London is the largest and oldest castle of the world that is still in use. According to rumors, the ghosts of King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, Mad King George, and Charles I still haunt the Windsor Castle.
  • The London Underground, built in 1863, and popularly called ‘Tube’, is the first metro of the world.
  • The Canary Wharf Tower is the tallest building in London.
  • London is one of the three command centers for the world economy, and has the sixth largest city economy in the world after Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Paris.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the “Big Ben” in London is not the name of the clock or the tower. The name actually belongs to a thirteen ton bell inside the clock. The actual tower is known as the St. Stephen’s Tower.
  • London is formed by two ancient cities – the City of London and City of Westminster, both cities forming the region of Greater London.

I found this video with some additional fun facts about London on the MSNBC website if you want to check it out: