“By going the way of your wishes, from one to another, from first to last. It will take you to what you really and truly want.”*

This post was written on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, a day after Loy Krathong. I’m currently in Luang Prabang, Laos.

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When I opened up Facebook on my phone at three a.m. today, a message from the FB team was waiting for me on my news feed. Turns out, since the social media service knows where I am at all times, it Spidey-sensed I was in Thailand, and wished me a happy Loy Krathong.

When you’re drunk and tired and your contact lenses are glued to your eyes, and Facebook wishes you a happy holiday you don’t know, you stare at your phone like a dog stares at humans when they try to speak long complicated sentences to it.

Derp?

So I Googled “Loy Krathong.” On the night of the full moon of the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar, Tai cultures (Thai, Laotian, and people from various parts of Myanmar), launch krathong on a river, canal, or pond, and make a wish. Krathong can be anything but is usually a little boatlike basket made of banana leaves and containing incense, a candle, and sometimes a coin. Some folks translate loy krathong to “to float a basket.”

A large part of me wished I’d spent the night launching little banana-leaf baskets onto a river instead of drinking vodka out of a plastic pail more suitable for sand-castle–building children. A smaller part of me now wishes I’d made a Kaitlin-size krathong and floated myself somewhere, just to see where I would go.

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The first time I went to Southeast Asia, I cobbled together vacation days, sick days, and personal days at my nine-to-five in order to take an eighteen-day trip first to Cambodia and then to Thailand. Before I got to each of the six cities I’d crammed into less than three weeks of traveling, I read up on what I should see and how to see what I wanted to see, and when I got there, I was hungry and I was listening. My mouth and ears and heart were open, and my expectations were low. I stayed in hostels. I walked everywhere, maybe even places I shouldn’t have. I talked to people, tourists, locals as best I could. And all I hoped for was that I would figure out a little something about myself and my life, and if I didn’t, I at least went on a kick-ass trip, one I worked hard to take, and one for which I was grateful.

Of course, if you know me, you know I figured out more than just a “little something.”

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So far this trip has been different.

I took a minibus to Ko Pha Ngan’s half moon party my first night on the island, but after that, the farthest I’ve been from my hotel (not a hostel) has been about three-tenths of a mile. I haven’t met anyone I’ve spoken to again following our first meeting. I’ve been working, copyediting, yes, as work doesn’t stop just because I’m in Thailand, but when I have had time, and when I considered venturing out, scared wasn’t the word I’d use to describe how I felt. Reluctant, maybe, or apathetic. Uninspired, for certain. So far I have used paradise as the backdrop for my work, my daily routine, and have all but ignored it, its people, and what it values. Hope. And making wishes.

I’ve always liked the concept of making wishes. The word making implies effort, creation, and I think that wishes are more often silent pleas for the strength to achieve a wish, instead of the wish itself on a platter. I worked on a poetry book recently in which the author said that dreams don’t come true but are made true, and wishes, I think, are fashioned much in the same way as dreams.

Embarking on this trip, I saw it as an opportunity to get a lot of work done, finish my book, and really start creating my business, which is, if I haven’t said, dating advice and coaching for women. I expected—no, more like demanded—that Southeast Asia drop a pat of inspiration and motivation on me (as it had the last time), while I shuffled around the grounds of my hotel, didn’t make a single friend, and vowed that tomorrow, yes, tomorrow, I’d stop making my first question in restaurants, “What is the Wi-Fi?” and then reading on glamour.com about what Reese Witherspoon’s real name is. My mouth and ears and heart have been closed, and I’ve sat like a fat cat, trying to get an entire continent to write my book for me. And I have been, up until now, ungrateful for its unceasing beauty, lack of frivolity, and smiles.

Tomorrow I take a ferry to Ko Samui, where I’ll get on a flight to Bangkok, and then Luang Prabang, Laos, a city known for markets, coffee (ahhh), and quiet, the bars closing early. No full moon parties. No half moon parties. No neon T-shirts with Kanye West sunglasses on them and quotes like Sex with me = free breakfast. I haven’t yet said to myself, Things will be different in Laos, as they will be different only if I make them so.

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On December 2, Todd and I will fly, I from Laos and he from Thailand, to Siem Reap, Cambodia, the country I went into loving and hugging, from which I asked nothing, only to receive everything I didn’t know I needed. And there, I’ll float, my arms open, no expectations, pushing a banana-leaf boat with my wish to the fore, poised to ride the current of an inspiration entirely of my own making.

*From The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende

Photos: View of Laos from the plane; full moon party on Ko Pha Ngan; the Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 2013; the moon at six a.m. over the Ko Pha Ngan port

“And Meanwhile Time Goes About Its Immemorial Work of Making Everyone Look and Feel Like Shit.”*

Graffiti in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I had another blog before I had this one, and when I think about its personality, I decide it had split-personality disorder: young, inexperienced, I-want-to-be-a-published-author-but-my-life-is-too-boring Kaitlin—and angry, heart-breaking, lunatic, drunk, running-at-five-a.m. Kaitlin. Both, scary enough, make up Kaitlin.

Tonight I read a bunch of old posts, because sometimes for me to wrap my ahead around me now, I have to look at me way back when.

The first me (2009–2011) wanted to quit her job and become a “Starbucks person” (is that what I am now? What the fuck?) and go live in California (Nevada’ll do). She of June 2011 wanted to get another tattoo (check), pierce her nose (check), dye her hair darker (check), and still party until three a.m. (check—or five a.m., as is the case nowadays). I’d mixed skydiving, traveling alone in a foreign country, and visiting San Diego in there, and with an impending move of a friend to SD in August, I’m sure I’ll knock out that third one by the fall.

These items seemed faraway, mere coins tossed into a fountain. I hoped to check them off, but maybe (probably) I thought I never would. Twenty-eight was so old to start, I thought, and now, at almost thirty-two, I’m worried I’m too old to embark on various other ventures I have in mind.

They are, of course, a lot more ambitious and difficult than getting my fucking nose pierced. Kaitlin of 2011 was such a little bitch.

The sun rises over Vegas yet again.

For the past five days I’ve felt a bit out of sorts. People usually follow this phrase with “And I’m not sure why,” but oh, I know why. And I think anyone who says, “And I’m not sure why” sure as hell knows too. You don’t get out of sorts by crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s with hearts.

This past weekend at a Wet Republic pool party I blacked out from drinking for the first time since lunatic drunk Kaitlin was making the rounds circa 2012, and I hurt (and have seemingly alienated) a friend who I haven’t spoken to since Monday. These two events, you might imagine, coincided. I desperately want to text this person a million I’m sorry messages, and the idea has even occurred to me to go over to his apartment and give him a hug and not let go until he forgives me. Kaitlin of 2012, without a doubt, would have done both.

She was crazy. And terribly impatient.

I finished copyediting a children’s book a few days ago, one in which the main character travels back to Ancient Egypt. While there, he must solve a riddle (his life depends on it): “What makes you sad when you’re happy and happy when you’re sad?” He’s a clever kid, and he figures out the answer is: time.

One day back in the summer of 2012, after several months of awesome decisions on my end, a friend called me at work and essentially told me to get my act together. I was being a shitty friend, and I was selfish and rude and irresponsible. I cried in my office, and I remember thinking I didn’t know how I’d redeem myself. I tried to keep her on the phone. If she hung up, I wondered, would she ever speak to me again? I think I might have even considered calling her back once we’d hung up, but I thought better of it.

I sent this text message to someone a few weeks ago. Time clearly hasn’t taught me to stop acting like a twelve-year-old boy.

My feeling isn’t so much that time heals, as the saying loosely goes, but it does alter and it does teach. I’m still very much friends with the girl who torched my ego on the phone back in 2012, but I’m pretty sure that even though she doesn’t think I’m rude or irresponsible anymore, she does think I’m selfish. And that’s fine. Because in the meantime, in addition to helping to mend our friendship, I also accomplished heaps of other things on a bucket list that, until today, I’d forgotten I’d even made.

I feel less out of sorts now than I did on Monday. I hope soon I’ll feel . . . more in sorts—and have my friend back. But, at some point, inevitably, I’m sure I’ll feel whacked out of balance again, and write a post about how 2015 Kaitlin was pedantic and annoying and didn’t write enough in her blog but also grossly, grossly underestimated what ventures—even those both ambitious and difficult—she could take on.

*Martin Amis

“when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”*

i wrote this post on october 10 while in la fortuna, costa rica. i am now in the san josé airport, waiting to board my flight back to the states.

i am currently perched on a stool in the internet room of my hostel in la fortuna, costa rica, trying to gain some clarity through writing. i haven’t penned much of anything while traveling, save a few paragraphs on my iphone notepad that summarize only days one and two of my trip. i’m now on day ten and in my second-to-last destination. three books lie in my satchel, and i’ve started all but finished none. my two travel companions, my friend leisa, who i met just more than a year ago in amsterdam, and billy, a twenty-year-old british guy who leisa befriended in the orosi valley and who has joined us from tamarindo to monteverde to now la fortuna, have each read two and are making this former book publishing professional look like a chump. but i realized today though that maybe i needed to take a break from literature, something that has utterly consumed my life for the past seven years. that i could stand to breathe and relax and think about anything but books—at least maybe those written by others.

when i woke up this morning, leisa and billy were still asleep and i decided to screw around on my phone, which usually leads to me stumbling upon things i don’t want to see. when you date someone who has a very nontraditional career combined with a very active presence on all forms of social media, it’s not hard to 1). be curious and follow said social media sites, and 2). be upset or offended by the things on them, even if they are things of which you’re already aware. i started the day feeling as though i had been punched in the ribs, unable to breathe normally and steady my heartbeat. normally, in this kind of situation, i would throw on my mizunos and go for a run, but the idea of leaving the cozy three-person tent i was sharing with billy and leisa in order to run and make a spectacle of myself as a gringa down the one main street in this little costa rican town did not appeal to me. so instead i folded my limbs into the fetal position and waited for my tent buddies to wake up.

leisa has joked throughout this trip that i always seem to make big life decisions when i travel. it isn’t hard to see why. even when you have traveling companions, there are those moments when you have alone time, such as on a small boat sputtering across a lake, a volcano within sight and clouds so low you are nearly able to touch them, the engine and wind loud enough to make conversation difficult. all you can do then is admire the rolling green mountains and wonder where all your worries fit into such a large, beautiful world. this self-reflection, coupled with often harrowing and annoying conditions (like eleven hours of traveling by bus—well, four buses, to be exact—across bumpy, wet back country) and meeting a ton of like-minded people who aren’t letting the man get them down, tends to be inspiring.

on the third night of my trip, which also happened to be my thirtieth birthday, leisa and i each threw back two margaritas on the beach in tamarindo and i sent an e-mail to the people at mount hood, asking to be notified when registration will be open for their fifty-mile race in oregon next july. and, no, i haven’t run the new york city marathon yet and, yes, i’ve already started to consider training for an ultramarathon. on november 4 and when the mount hood folks shoot me that automated e-mail, we will see how serious i am about punishing my body in that capacity. but for now it is on my to-do list and has already been on my “before i croak” list for quite some time.

i wonder, though, if on this trip that this is the decision i was supposed to arrive at, or if this time, i’m not meant to be making big life decisions at all. i have already quit my job and moved home with my parents, begun writing a novel and started my own freelance business, trained to run a marathon, been dating and fallen for a professional dating coach who lives across the country in america’s adult playground, and made up my mind to travel and write and write about traveling, so i don’t really know what else i should add to my pile, if anything. it all seems like more than enough at the moment, thank you.

right now i should be happy and feel grateful that not only am i in a very cool place, i am with one of my best friends. and, when i return home, i don’t have to head back to a nine-to-five lifestyle (this is both scary and exhilarating). but, as leisa, billy, and i discussed last night during dinner, there are low points when you travel, just as much as there are high ones. today, instead of doing a four-hour hike up the volcano that the hostel receptionist described as “hell,” we slept late, went for breakfast and coffee, and then did pretty much nothing but lie on lounge chairs next to the pool (yes, a hostel with a pool—this is an anomaly), and talk bullshit. we may also have listened to taylor swift’s “trouble” once. i was starting to feel bad about being incredibly lazy until leisa said that in just two days we will be wishing we had time to do nothing. i had to agree.

i took a break from writing this post a few hours ago to lie down on my thin tent mattress and stare at the peaked canvas ceiling of our current dwelling for a while. leisa came in and asked if i was okay, and at the time, i wasn’t. i felt crippled, as if i couldn’t move, and i just wanted to sleep so i didn’t have to be awake and keep my thoughts on shuffle and loop. and that familiar itch, the itch to run, run away from everything and everyone, was there. for a solid few minutes i considered looking at my flight cancelation options and heading south to panamá, perú, and beyond, delaying going home or anywhere else, skipping the marathon, and throwing my phone into a volcano. of course then i remembered my two (yes, two now) upcoming trips to vegas this month and next, the marathon and the miles i’ve run and my charity and all who have generously contributed to it, the freelance jobs i have due at the end of next week, the e-mails i have been neglecting and need to answer, my family and friends . . . and the responsibilities pulled me back to reality. but i thought then, mostly with leisa’s help, really, that mount hood, at the end of next july, may be the kind of cutoff i need in my mind about where my life, my career, and my relationship are going.

“if you’re not happy with your life by then,” she said, “then you can just go. then you get on a bus. work in hostels, teach english. just go.”

my mind flashed then to facebook. to the images of weddings and children i see constantly, and i felt badly, thinking that i may not ever have those things so therefore my parents may never have grandchildren, that they will continue to watch the offspring of their friends go through these milestones while i wander. i didn’t feel badly for myself though; i felt, for the first time, acceptance. acceptance that my life may be different and solitary, even more so than it already is. i’ve thought many times that my direction may turn this way, but i always hoped, deep down, that maybe i was wrong. now, if this is my life path, so be it. i am here, ready and willing to embrace whichever way i end up going.

late july is eight months from now. a lot can happen. but if i get into mount hood and i somehow manage to run the whole damn thing, i foresee those miles sharpening the kinetic thoughts in my head, clearing paths for me. if i go home (wherever that may be at the time) and i’m not happy, i just go. get on a bus, head south (or east or west), and go.

people generally give ultimatums to others, hoping to sway them to one side. today i give one to myself for a very different reason, and i make the decision to make a decision, to be firm and to slap myself on the knuckles, to choose happiness, one way or another.

*paulo coelho, the alchemist

“if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”*

this post was written on august 27, one week before i quit my job. i now have three days left.

last week i hovered near my manager’s door while she rifled through her in-box; she didn’t know i was there, and when i thought i might start laughing, i yelled, “boo!” to scare her. it was a stupid, silly moment, but one i realized i would stop having after the end of next month. i walked away feeling pretty melancholy.

because the thing is, i love my job. i have an amazing boss, who complements me not just as an employee but as a person, as a friend. and i love my books—it’s sad for me to imagine that, when i leave, someone else will be working on them. i’m not going to a rival publisher or moving to a different industry or switching career paths. i’m quitting to become a full-time freelance copy editor and proofreader, among other things. but, mostly, i’m doing this to make the time for something that needs to take top priority instead of a backseat, like it has been, and that’s my writing. i have wanted to become an author of a published book—and let’s hope book eventually gets an s at the end of it—before i’d even learned how to write. i’d make picture books on whatever paper i could find, be it that awful gray printer paper my dad always had lying around or post-its at my grandmother’s house.

soon i will be my own boss, live wherever i want, and travel and work wherever and whenever i want. while i’ve known that i was going to do this for some time—since march, on my trip to asia—now that the reality is almost in my lap, i can’t believe i’m going to leave my company and all these people who i love. and i’m not using love in an offhanded, throwaway manner. i truly mean this word with regard to them, and not just because my coworkers know (and care) that both offhanded and throwaway are each one word and are not hyphenated, but because they’re so amazing and special that they are the only things making me second-guess my decision.

the problem, though, is that one can’t stay somewhere because of the people. well, i guess, technically, a person can, but for me, i can’t, not when other forces are tugging at me, forces that’ll help me grow—even if i fail miserably, which is certainly plausible in my case. i had a lot of time to think when i was in cambodia and thailand . . . while on twelve-hour bus rides, eating solo meals, wandering marketplaces and running my hands along hand-carved bells, buddhas, and woven rugs . . . all uninterrupted by text messages, e-mails, and social media. it was on this trip that i came to this decision, and i don’t know if i would have made it otherwise. or, at least, i wouldn’t have made it this soon. so whenever anyone has told me i’m crazy for traveling alone, for venturing to faraway, not-so-desirable places, i’ve thought to myself that the time someone can spend on a trip like that, time spent seriously asking herself what she wants, what she needs, and what she can do to get both, is invaluable. maybe i hadn’t needed to go almost completely around the world—perhaps chicago would have done the trick—but it was a lot more fun, and eye-opening, to go somewhere well out of my comfort zone. and maybe i wouldn’t have realized that i could do what i’m about to do in a week.

not that quitting my job is overly brave, but it is a risk, and not one that i think many people would take. at least, that’s what most of my friends and family have said to me: oh, i couldn’t do that. give up a paycheck every two weeks? give up company-supplied health insurance, vision and dental care, 401k, life insurance, and disability? forego job security and leave one of the most successful, most well-known publishing houses in the entire world? say good-bye to living on your own and being surrounded by your friends and social life (to those who didn’t understand why i moved home to my parents’, maybe it’s more clear now)? leave new york city, the best city on earth? leave the coworkers and the boss you adore?

okay, why am i doing this again?

for a long time, i tried to see myself as a person who would stick with one job, and ultimately one company, for life. i’d celebrate anniversary after anniversary with that company, i thought. i told myself that i wanted to always know what and when i’d be getting paid so that i could save and someday buy a house and a car, and contribute to the happy, not-yet-in-existence family i’d neatly created and pictured in my head. the problem was, though, that i constantly felt uncomfortable with myself in ways i couldn’t understand. i was, seemingly inexplicably, unsatisfied with who i was and what i was doing with my life. when i asked, why? i looked at my surroundings: nice long-term boyfriend, nice apartment in hoboken, nice job in the city with a children’s book publisher. i thought, why do i feel so unhappy when i have all these good things? (and they were good, really good), but instead of doing self-exploration, instead of figuring out what it really was that i needed to feel whole, i kept doing the same thing over and over, hoping that i would eventually feel better (insanity, as they say). what i didn’t realize is that things can be good, fantastic, even, but if they’re not the right things for you, none of them matter.

i’m quite different now, outwardly, than i was a year and a half ago. i’m not a different person, though. i just hadn’t realized that my true self was buried. of course, when you start to act out of character, even if it’s truly “in” character, people notice and enjoy sharing their opinions. they say, “i don’t even know you anymore!” (dramatization.) they say you’re doing what you’re doing now because you’ve lost your mind and you’re having a crisis and you’re rebelling or some other such nonsense. when i decided to get my nose pierced at twenty-eight and slap a tattoo on my wrist at twenty-nine, i had friends accuse me of acting out for the sake of acting out, and hadn’t my eighteenth birthday come and gone quite some time ago? why hadn’t i done those things then, “when you’re supposed to” (whatever the fuck that means)? i’m content that i did those two things recently; it meant that i really wanted them, and not that i wanted to piss off my parents or “look cool.” but people like hating and they like to see finding yourself (because i was, in fact, lost) as some emo, hipster bullshit or an attempt at being deep. what i’m doing affects (not effects) very few people other than yours truly, and anyone pissed off about what i was or am doing or where i’m going is threatened or maybe not so happy themselves. or perhaps they just like hating stuff.

when we’re young, we often have difficulty perceiving others’ feelings or thoughts. a child will sometimes bite his or her parent, not realizing that he or she is inflicting pain. my mom solved that one quickly when i was three: she bit me back. and i never nipped her nose again. i see those who’ve said to me, with regard to my upcoming career move, “i couldn’t do that,” or “how can you do that?” as people who haven’t made it past this stage. they can imagine only what feelings they’d experience in a particular situation. but if kindergarten taught us nothing else, it’s that we are all unique, like snowflakes, and what works for one may not necessarily work for another.

quitting my job and freelancing full-time and writing a novel and traveling and writing some more . . . all these things may not pan out. but to quote rounders, a fantastic movie if for some reason you’ve never seen it:

you can‘t lose what you don’t put in the middle. but you can‘t win much either.

if we are going with poker analogies, i guess i’m about to go all in. place my highest bet, put all the chips in the middle, and hope the cards fall in my favor. someone i love told me last sunday that in life, you can choose the right thing or you can choose the easy thing. but it’s always better, he said, to choose the right thing. so here’s to looking at those two roads diverged in wood and taking the third road, the one that no one else could see.

*lao tzu

“stay young, go dancing.”*

dear diary,

it’s eight o’clock on the saturday night of labor day weekend, and i’m sitting on my bed, ice on my ankles and my laptop on my—well, where it should be—listening to the sounds of the fair haven fireman’s fair that are wafting through my open window. i can hear the announcer pushing people to buy 50/50 tickets, and there’s the occasional fire truck siren overriding the happy screams from preteens on the zipper (or maybe they’ve replaced that ride with another; it has been eighteen years since i was a preteen). i can also just make out the peak of the ferris wheel above the trees in my backyard. it’s the last night of the fair, and even though i’m not going back to school in a week, this night still brings the feeling of end-ish-ness (a new word i just made up—if the oxford english dictionary can recognize squee and srsly as words, then my hyphenated atrocity doesn’t seem so bad to me). it’s the unofficial end of the summer, which will make anyone a bit gloomy, but it’s sad especially if you’re riding solo and writing a blog while your parents aren’t even here to hang out with you because they’re at a barbecue. i always suspected they were cooler than i am.

but, to be perfectly honest, i ran twenty miles in high humidity and eight-five-degree heat earlier today. i probably shouldn’t be doing a damn thing. i am also so tired that it feels as though it’s eleven, not 8:30 p.m., and i’m sort of disappointed that i can’t go to bed yet.

so i was thinking the other day about friends, and i thought more about them today during my run. i’m not trying to brag, but i have a lot of friends. this isn’t necessarily because i’m very likeable (srsly), but because i’m pretty adept at not letting most people out of my clutches. i’ve been known to suck at responding to e-mails, but my track record for keeping in touch is pretty flawless. part of the reason i moved home is because my level of yolo (another despicable 2013 oed addition) was causing me to go broke and neglect other parts of my life. it also made me a bit pudgy since you can’t really go for a run the morning after a night of craziness. well, you can. but then you’ll wipe out during a two-mile fun run. that happened to this girl i know.

anyway, someone told me once, in response to my hectic schedule, that i was going to spread myself too thin. this has always made me think of this quote from the fellowship of the ring. tolkein wrote:

i feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

the same person above also told me, when i asked him to come with me to meet some new people i’d been hanging out with, that he didn’t want any more friends. that he had all the ones he needed.

i thought then, and still think now, well, if that isn’t the stupidest shit i’ve ever heard.

over the past three weeks, i apartment- and cat-sat for a woman i met less than three years ago and who is on my mental list of people i can call or text anytime for nonjudgmental advice and talks; i had dinner with a girl i’ve traveled with twice and who i consider my best friend even though i’ve known her for only two years; and i did my twenty-mile run today with a guy i met last march, who also happens to be my financial adviser and travel sensei. there are countless others i’ve interacted with just in the last forty-eight hours who i didn’t meet in my hometown or college or even in the four years after college. i think to myself now, who would i be without them, had i written them off, my friend pool already nearing capacity?

i’m not sure how it came up, but my running-buddy-who-gives-me-travel-advice-and-will-someday-make-me-rich reminded me that he is going to turn forty in less than a year. he doesn’t look, or act, like an almost forty-year-old, and i thought about how despite the fact that he’s entering his fourth decade, he’s neither married nor a parent (though he still plans to be both) and has accomplished a bucket list that would make most people absurdly envious, more than envious really, maybe jealy, which will no doubt be another gem in the dictionary soon. we talked about how most people tend to fear, and not embrace, forty, and we supposed it is because many people look back at those forty years and wonder where they went and why are there so, so many things i didn’t do? while i believe that you’re never too old to do anything, it might be hard not to look at forty and think, well, with my bad back, i probably shouldn’t go bungee jumping now. but if you live life without regret up until that point, and beyond, of course, saying “yes and” as they do in improv, you instead might give forty the old “so what?” much like my friend is. he has inspired me to tell thirty (i see you, thirty-three days away, don’t think i don’t) to go hang out with forty and fifty and fuck off.

i don’t know if this post is about the value of friends or not allowing yourself to feel old or living life to the fullest or what. i guess it can be about all three, though i usually am a bit more cohesive with my posts. but sometimes one has to write and only write, without feeling the need to come to a single profound conclusion.

one more thing, however, and that’s a quote from jack kirk, who lived be one hundred and ran until he was ninety-six, and who, if he were still alive, would be celebrating birthday number 107 the same day i’ll be celebrating my thirtieth. i’m pretty sure that would be the best, weirdest birthday party of all time. he said:

you don’t stop running because you get old; you get old because you stop running.

i know, enough about running, but this quote doesn’t have to be about running. when we were children, we ran without even thinking about it, and we enjoyed it, because running meant recess and tag and getting dirty and chasing boys (or girls) and all that. it meant youth, even though we didn’t realize it at the time. it meant going up to someone you just met, tagging that person “it,” and becoming his or her friend without thinking you already had enough of those pesky friend things. it meant doing things now, not later, because as a kid you had no concept of tomorrows or consequences or what ifs. you don’t lose your youth because you get old; you get old because you let yourself lose your youth.

imma try not to get old. srsly.

squee!

kaitlin

*death cab for cutie, “stay young, go dancing”

“first you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”*

Alcohol-and-health_2there’s an early episode of friends in which monica dates a guy who she and the gang refer to as fun bobby. fun bobby is the shit. he’s always up for debauchery and he’s just brimming with jokes and entertaining stories. but once everyone discovers the secret of fun bobby’s fun (booze—good old bob is an alkie!), monica convinces him to stop sucking down the liquor. long story short, fun bobby minus booze equals just bobby, the antithesis of divertissement, and monica drops him.

i have a legitimate fear of being just kaitlin.

up until about a month ago, i lived in hoboken, new jersey, which, at one point, held the guinness record for the most bars in a square mile. maybe it still does. i refuse to look. regardless, if you like taking shots on a tuesday night at seven p.m., hoboken’s your spot. last year, around this time, that was me. once, and admitting this makes me cringe, my dodgeball team and i barely made it to our game because we’d happy hour’d a bit too hard. there are six balls in play on a court during a typical dodgeball game, yet i saw twelve. last year my friends and i ran a two-mile fun run on one of the hottest days on record in july, and after a night of drinking, i wiped out and tore up my leg (to the extent that emt’s had to aid me) because i tripped on the sidewalk. yeah, the walk was uneven, but i was also hung over and beyond dehydrated from friday night’s festivities. sober footing would have led to surer steps, for certain. when my friends and i look back at this nonsense (and these are just two examples), we reminisce as if these episodes are beyond hilarious, and while they are kind of funny, they’re funny partly because i happen to get myself into these situations quite a bit. so it becomes one of those “that’s kaitlin!” moments where we can think of me as more of a cartoon character than a real person. the other reason is because we were all in it together—we boozers like company because it validates our choices and decisions, however poor, and it’s easier to laugh at it all than say, “maybe that was . . . uh, dumb?”

drinking is a culture, a pastime, an event, an identity. famous authors, musicians, poets, actors, and the like are known for their affection for liquor (some even have a signature drink—johnny cash liked anything with bourbon [by the way, when i googled johnny’s favorite drink to confirm it was bourbon, the question “did johnny cash drink?” was a suggested search. did someone really have to look that up? really?]) and have been quoted praising the stuff (think ogden nash’s “candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” quip).

part of the reason i moved home (i haven’t really addressed this yet, but i will another time), is because i could not keep up financially or physically in hoboken. daily bar tabs of twenty, thirty bucks add up fast and when you’re paying a fortune for rent and making nah so mahch mahney in the publishing industry, plastic and denial become your best friends, and keeping up with everyone else becomes paramount. i found myself constantly feeling fuzzy-brained and generally dissatisfied with myself and my life—which is not shocking, as alcohol is a depressant—and i couldn’t and didn’t want to run after a night out, and eating something healthful like veggies was unheard of. pizza, some egg-filled cheesy brunch (where’d i’d usually have some breakfasty cocktail), and stuffing my face with cereal or peanut butter late at night made up my diet. i haven’t been drinking much lately (i am trying to train for a marathon, after all), but i drank what now, for me, is a lot, this past saturday night. i had a great time (from what i remember), but i felt like a worthless slug on sunday. i didn’t want to run or read or freelance or write or do anything productive. i wanted to listen to coldplay and eat honey bunches of oats with chocolate almond milk and sit on my ass. that one night of drinking led to a shitty sunday and a shitty start to my week, and i’ve kind of had enough. but . . .

and this is going to sound terrible—do i lose part of my identity without alcohol? sober just kaitlin will shake what her mama gave her a bit when she’s out, but drunk fun kaitlin will get low (i actually told my friends on saturday that i’d consider it a good night only if my quads hurt on sunday from doing such a thing). sylvia plath wrote this in the bell jar about my liquor of choice (dare i say vodka with club soda is my signature drink?), and i feel like interjecting it here:

“i began to think vodka was my drink at last. it didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.”

so i wonder: will i be just as much fun without booze? will i feel as confident? will my friends do that thing i’ve done, unwittingly, and ask, “you’re not drinking? how come?” as if avoiding liquor means you must be coming down with something contagious (like being lame).

my pop pop (yep, the same one who flew his plane under bridges and ate stuff off the ground and smoked) used to always say the phrase “your body is a temple.” until recently, i had treated mine like one of new jersey’s finest landfills. and if you’re wondering (as i was) what it takes to cut the size of a landfill, read this. so while pop didn’t always do as he said and just did what he pleased, his heart was in the right place. we get one body, and we should treat it with this in mind.

i have my work cut out for me. but if i want my skin to glow and my hair not to feel like straw and i want to be able to bust out at least twenty miles a week and generally, to feel more whole, happier, and like a functioning member of the human race, i have to nix the booze or at least cut back a lot, even more than i already have. i think i can make an exception for wine, to deal with my extended family at various functions. anyway, i just hope fun kaitlin sticks around. or that just kaitlin doesn’t suck. if only for the stories.

*f. scott fitzgerald

“all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”*

disclaimer: this is long. i’d read it in segments. warned ya. oh, and i wrote this yesterday.

greetings and happy new year from tens of thousands of feet in the air—i am on a plane from houston to la guardia. at 6:28 this morning, i shot out of bed in my hotel room, realizing that i had not set an alarm and my previously nearly fool-proof internal clock had done me wrong for only the second time in my life (the last was in 2002 before my eight a.m. statistics final): my flight had left five minutes before i woke up.

i had started this post last night with the intention of saying that this year i am not going to make a resolution, because for the last however many years i have rarely kept any of the ones i have made. i’ve given up on ceasing to bite my nails and cuticles, a highly unattractive habit that i picked up at age nine and haven’t kicked since. they (“who,” right? i always think that when i use that phrase) say that you can form a habit in two weeks. chewing on my fingers has been twenty years in the making and i have far many other more detrimental issues to tackle first, although when one of your male coworkers remarks that “your nails look like hell” and “you need a manicure,” you should probably think about painting them with cyanide or large doses of potassium to keep yourself from gnawing. better yet, i think i should get one of those electrified collars with which pet owners torture their dogs, the idea being that i’d get a little shock every time i put my fingers near my mouth. eating would become quite an adventure.

anyway, when i had started this post last night, my friend and i were in austin, texas, sitting on our hotel beds, wearing hyatt robes, drinking vodka and club soda, and listening to late-90s and early 2000s rap and r&b (think dmx sprinkled with some 112, ludacris, and ja rule, the last at the insistence of my friend, so please don’t judge). to be honest, if we hadn’t gone out after that, i would have been perfectly content with our evening, which i suppose can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. oh, and the fireworks over the river were nice too.

if i absolutely needed to make a resolution, i guess i’d say i’d want to be a better, more responsible person overall, a better friend, a better daughter, a better colleague. a better human, in general. unfortunately, i think we can throw increasing my level of responsibility, along with keeping my nails pretty, overboard, being that mere hours into 2013 i missed a six a.m. flight on new year’s day that i probably shouldn’t have booked in the first place.

when my mom got pregnant with me, everyone said, jokingly of course, that they were worried she’d leave me on top of the car and drive away. i’m starting to wonder if, when or if i ever decide to venture into parenthood, my family and friends will say the same about me. despite all the haters, my mom ended up being the world’s finest mom, and this christmas i told her and my dad that no one can say that they have parents like mine, but i know that everyone would say that they wish they did. i mean that with every ounce of my being. i can only hope that people will be as wrong about me as they were about my mom.

a few weeks ago a friend and i were talking about his upcoming oral surgery to remove his wisdom teeth, something that i know he has been quite nervous about. he asked me about my experience, knowing that i didn’t go under general anesthesia, and i said that i had had a good one, if getting three of your teeth yanked out in under ten minutes while you’re awake can ever be described as such. when he asked me why i opted for a local anesthetic, i told him that i don’t like general anesthesia, and i have a goal of ultimately never having to go under. when he pressed further as to my reasoning, instead of just leaving it at a general distrust of being knocked unconscious, i said that i knew someone my age who had had complications with general anesthesia and, well . . . i pride myself on honesty, and i have a lot of trouble lying convincingly, but sometimes, i think, i don’t take others’ feelings into consideration enough, or, maybe, i do so after i’ve already opened my big mouth. case in point. i definitely didn’t help my friend feel any less nervous, but i’m pretty sure i made him more so. i feel horribly about it and would even if he were a stranger, but it’s a hell of a lot worse when it’s someone you really care about. (if you’re reading this, i’m sorry, for the umpteenth time.) be a better friend. ugh. trying.

i have never written or typed umpteenth before. what a truly odd word.

i’m pretty sure that every year for the past seven years or so, when i’ve made my annual new year’s facebook status update (obviously a real critical item on the checklist of life), i’ve included the lyrics below from my favorite guster song, “come downstairs and say hello”:

to tell you the truth, i’ve said it before.

tomorrow i start in a new direction.

one last time these words from me—

i’m never  sayin’ them again.

i look straight at what’s coming ahead,

and soon it’s gonna change in a new direction.

every night as i’m falling asleep,

these words repeated in my head. . . .

expecting to become better at things overnight is a tall order, and just like i think that you don’t instantly feel more in love on the day of your wedding (not that i’d know, but . . . ) or closer to god on the day of your confirmation or more grown-up when you graduate from any level of school, i don’t think you can improve yourself once the clock dings midnight. i don’t think you should expect to, either, or else you’re severely setting yourself up for failure. the classic example that everyone points to is the overcrowding of gyms on january 1 and the stark emptiness of them on january 2. today i plan on not running and most likely eating msg-infused thai food that i had delivered instead of walking to a restaurant for. (side note: i ended up eating an eggplant parm sandwich. not much better.)

i think that most people are generally too hard on themselves. i also think that most people are genuinely good, even as i internally yell at some of them for being so god-awful stupid sometimes. though i do like to think i’ve worked on my tolerance of other humans a bit. but as one of my old bosses might say if he were to see a tourist in times square taking a picture with a lopsided and demented sponge bob squarepants: “humans.”

so resolutions . . . i’m so over them (#shitgirlssay). making fake hashtags is here to stay, though, so if you don’t like them, well . . . i don’t really care. but let’s not say resolutions. let’s say goals. i like goals. goals are good. i will now attempt to give my resolutions a goal makeover.

  1. lose weight. every damn year i make this resolution. what about, instead, drink more water? sign up for another half marathon? run three times a week without getting hung up on distances? even a mile is something. i forget this far too often.
  2. be a better friend, daughter, colleague. “better” seems to imply that i’m not doing so hot in these three roles (i almost wrote rolls. fuck, i’m tired), and maybe that’s the case, but i’m going to say that i want to do something every day to let the people in my life who i care about know how much i value them. it can be anything from a text message to a gift to skywriting my love for them in the air. if you want to increase the odds of getting that last one, i wear a size-seven ring and my favorite color is purple. and i really like pizza. and falafel.
  3. stop biting my nails/cuticles. hm. eh. i’m allowed a vice.
  4. be less angry. be more positive. happiness takes work.
  5. write a novel and read all the classics i never read in high school and college. oh yeah, easy peasy. how about just “write  more”? read more? not all my blog posts have to be marathons like this one. and the scarlet letter isn’t going anywhere.
  6. write down your goals. this one can stay. but i’m going to add an amendment of learning to be realistic and not include more than . . . six. five? does this count as the sixth?

i have deposits upon deposits of guilt that have crystallized in my heart and are taking up valuable real estate inside me. there are many, many things i am not proud of and will probably never forgive myself for, but holding on to this negativity is eating away at the person i am and the person who i envision myself becoming. my goal is to leave most of this baggage in austin, some of it in houston, and the rest in effing la guardia. i think tackling items one through six will become much easier if i can do this.

taking the trip to austin with one of my best friends was like a tonic. late afternoon yesterday, after having spent a solid three hours lying in bed watching reruns of daytime talk shows with practically zero motivation to get up, she made me go downstairs, be around humans (!), and have a festive drink at the bar (pumpkin vodka is amazing, by the way). she told me that when we went back upstairs, under no circumstances was i allowed to go back under the comforter. so i guess i can accomplish goal number two right now. i dedicate this post and my willingness to accomplish my 2013 goals to her. i think that, because of her, i can meet them. last year, 2012, was a bizarre and awful, yet wonderful, 365 days, but without her, the good would have been far less common. i don’t believe in god and i only loosely believe in fate, but i do think you are meant to meet some people, for they will change your life in ways you never thought possible.

so thank you. and happy new year.

*j. r. r. tolkien