“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

Don’t Judge a Woman by Her Assless Chaps*

I wrote this post at six a.m. on August 19.

A debate surrounds the famous linguistic study that Eskimos have far more names for snow than non-tundra-surrounded cultures, but true or not, it’s hard to deny that an onlooker can tell a lot about a culture by the words it uses for what they love—and, of course, for what they hate.

I have a friend in Vegas, about whom, if you didn’t know her, you’d make assumptions regarding her life style and behavior. She has a lot of tattoos and several piercings, and a good word to describe her clothing is sparse. (Though, to be fair, given how I personally like to dress plus how fucking hot it is in Vegas, I’m given to dressing sparsely too.) My friend is a stripper, but she also has an art degree and paints murals for corporations and draws dogs and cats (including my long-gone kitty, Ollie) in her spare time as she works on building her career as a painter and an illustrator. She is, in two words, a complex human.

But anyway, per her recent Facebook status, she was on a plane back to Vegas when she got into a fight with a mother who was “talking smack” to her daughter about my friend’s dress and purple lipstick. I’m not sure what exactly was said, but my hunch is that it was something to the effect of:

Now, little Dandelion Eliza, that is what you don’t wear if you want to be a lady.

I don’t really know what parents are naming their children these days, but I thought Dandelion Eliza had a nice ring to it, especially for the day when that child goes to EDC wearing only dandelion pasties on her nipples.

This is baby me, back when I looked like a male version of Little Orphan Annie and didn’t know what stilettos were.

The words that exist to call women nasty nouns (slut, hussy, etc.) are about equal in number—if you’re in the thesaurus section of the bookstore—to the nasty nouns for men (Casanova, womanizer, etc.). The difference, to me at least, is in the connotations of (aka our gut reactions to) these words. And aside from whoremaster and lecher to describe “slutty” men, the male nasty-nouns-that-aren’t are . . . actually sort of pleasant-sounding. Casanova? Romeo? Gallant? Amorist?

A lot better than bimbo, chippy, wench, and tramp, and, of course, the ever-popular fancy woman. That one, as I suspected, first came into use just shy of the Victorian era, when everyone was trying to be superproper when they spoke about their whores—and also because they were too stifled creatively to come up with slore.

This is me now—on my best behavior.
Hi, Mom!

Words aside, when I read my friend’s status update, I felt . . . wronged. I’ve often sat on planes, wearing a short dress and heels, heavy black cat-eyed liner around my lashes, and had some woman pointed me out to her daughter as the kind of woman she shouldn’t grow up to be, simply based on how I was dressed, I would be furious. I’d want to say that if she doesn’t want her daughter to be an educated, well-traveled business owner with tons of friends, a great boyfriend, and a kick-ass relationship with her parents, she’s the meanest mother I’ve ever met.

Men might sometimes slobber over us, figuratively and literally, and shout out such compliments as “Nice tits!” but other women, not men, are women’s biggest enemies.

I wrote a blog last summer about why women shouldn’t be afraid to be sexy, or to want sex, and why women name-calling other women has to stop. Here I am again, not because I’m out of ideas but because I’m impassioned, talking about the same subject, albeit from a different angle.

Believe it or not, although I am in an open relationship, and my boyfriend and I don’t plan to get married, we both want children. At (almost) thirty-two—ack!—I have many friends who are either pregnant or who already have a child or children, and so lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ll approach certain topics when I have my own kiddos, including the topic of this blog.

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My “office” a few weeks ago, plus the sun hitting at a nice angle (Runyon Canyon).

If it were true that our professions and attitudes always rubbed off on our children, Jessica Simpson and Katy Perry (both daughters of ministers) would be nuns, so I’m neither deathly afraid of nor pushing for my unborn children, the children of pickup artists, among other talents (remember: complex humans), becoming Casanovas and harlots.

I also can’t imagine ever, ever pointing out someone like my friend and telling my daughter that the tattooed lady on the plane is the wrong kind of woman to be. But I’m not a mother, and one thing I never like to do is pretend to know how I’ll act in a situation in which I’ve not yet been.

Vegas, as usual, just being fucking weird.

Vegas, as usual, just being totally fucking weird.

But what I hope, then, is this: I hope when I have children, be they boys or girls or someone in between, my guy and I are good role models for how to act as plain old people in general, regardless of gender. I hope we stress confidence, strength of character, bravery, independence, drive, and open-mindedness, and encourage both passion and compassion, empathy, creativity, adventurousness, and innovation.

I’m also okay with encouraging purple lipstick.

But . . . shit. That sounds like a lot of work! Good thing I have an excellent work ethic—even if you wouldn’t think so by my outfits.

*And no, my friend was not wearing assless chaps on a plane. But how fun, right?

“in order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.”*

this post was written on sunday night, september 21. it’s now monday, september 22, and i’m sitting in a coffee shop across the street from chicago’s union station.

cloud gate, aka "the bean," chicago

cloud gate, aka “the bean,” in millennium park, chicago

tonight i walked the few blocks from the hotel i’m staying in with my boyfriend to a diner in a section of chicago called south loop. i’d assumed it’s called by this name because there’s a light rail sort of contraption that hugs the area, but upon doing the wikipedia thing, i found out that the origin of south loop is unknown. but, when i hear the name, i think of a neatly tied ribbon, which is downright pleasant, and it actually is pretty nice, complete with a trader joe’s and elevator-building apartments. it’s also not nearly as filled with homeless people as the other sections of the city we’ve been roaming for the past four days. chicago has so far made new york look, in comparison, positively free of the mentally ill and drug-addicted folks society has abandoned to the streets. ’merica.

at least, on this chicago trip, no one tried to choke me on the street outside of a bar. i don’t remember what i’d said to that girl to piss her off, but, boy, was she mad!

so i rolled up to the diner solo, as my boyfriend was at the time in a large hotel conference room showing and analyzing footage of his interactions with girls as a learning tool for other guys. at this point, i’ve eaten alone so many times, it never strikes me as strange, but when i stood at the please-wait-to-be-seated sign (fuck you, hyphens. why can’t i use small caps in wordpress?), the host (because he was a dude and not a hostess, though host makes it sound as if i were about to attend dinner theater) peeked around me. considering i’m not even 5’2”, the options for who might be hiding behind me were few.

“just you?” is what he said, to which i answered a neutral, unmodulated “yup.”

and then he puckered his lips and crinkled his brows in thought, nodded, grabbed one menu, and led me to a counter seat so my ass wouldn’t take up too much real estate in a booth or at a table. he wasn’t so much judgmental as observant, and i wasn’t offended—only surprised, i suppose.

it seems as if all i hear or read about anymore, especially when it comes to being a woman, is independence. having our own careers, traveling alone, raising a child alone, starting our own businesses from scratch, etc., etc. but every time i look at facebook (which, i’m happy to admit, has been pretty infrequent nowadays), someone has posted yet another fucking article or top five list on how to be happy, and there’s always something on there about being comfortable alone, learning to be alone, spending time by yourself. i wholly give my credence to these prescriptions and similar, but independence seems to be en vogue, something people say more than they practice.

i feel the same way about glorifying the benefits of kale. kale is great for you. kale is delicious, whether sautéed, in a salad, in chip or smoothie form—however you want. eat it with your bare hands out of the bag like i do.

amtrak train (nyc > chi)

this is the snapchat photo i sent to my friend in nj while i was working on the lake shore limited amtrak train to chicago.

i actually whipped out a ziplock of it on the train to chicago and ate it like popcorn (yes, everyone, i took a train not a plane to chicago, so please ask me again why i would do this and tell me why it sounds crazy), and the guy next to me gave me the same look as the host’s in the chicago diner. i guess maybe he’s more sophisticated and makes his pesto with kale (which is a thing i didn’t know you could do until i googled it a minute ago), so i understand his reservations about my low-class kale eating.

but everyone needs just to eat kale if they want to and shut the fuck up about it.

 

the eleven city diner, south loop, chicago

the diner in south loop

anyway, it’s still odd for a woman—maybe anyone, to be honest—to have a meal alone. you can grocery shop alone. you can mail letters and go to bookstores alone. you can pick up dry cleaning and get your nails done and hair cut and buy wine and go running, but eating a meal in a restaurant alone is another matter, especially if there doesn’t seem to be any tangible reason for doing so. i didn’t walk into the diner with a huge backpack to show that i was just passing through. i wasn’t wearing sunglasses indoors, earbuds jammed in my head to show i was either having an emotional breakdown and didn’t want to be seen crying but felt the need to have dinner in public, or i was massively hung over and looked like a hollowed-out avocado. i wasn’t carrying a laptop nor did i have a bluetooth in my ear to indicate that i had important business to attend to on a sunday night.

which i totally did. i had to talk to my friend in california on gchat and eat a huge omelet with spinach.

(they didn’t have any kale.)

almost two years ago to the day, i’d been sitting in a dusk-lit square in madrid, staring at a spanish menu and trying to figure out which item(s) could easily be made vegetarian, when i glanced over and saw a women eating alone. she had a book, a meal, and a glass of red wine, and she looked to be in her late forties or early fifties. madrid was the seventh, and last, country of my trip across europe, so by that point, i’d had at least one breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, coffee, dessert, elevensies, second breakfast, and alcohol session by myself, and the first time i’d consumed something alone—when i’d self-consciously sat in a café in rome and had espresso—seemed to have occurred eons, not weeks, ago.

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the restaurant in madrid where i ate my first madrid meal. the woman on the right may or may not have been the poor lady i was hard-core judging.

still, i found myself wondering about the woman, and why she was dining by herself. did she need to get away from her man/woman, did she even have a significant other, was she divorced or widowed, was she a spinster with one hundred gatos, did she have no friends . . .

i guess i could have hypothesized that she was eating alone because her pickup artist boyfriend was teaching the intricacies of game and dating, but the idea didn’t cross my mind for some reason.

then i thought, really? you’re eating alone and you can only wish you had one hundred cats!

in all seriousness, the thing is, that lady looked content. eighty-six that. more than content, actually: happy! happy in the i couldn’t give a fuck way, which, to me, is the height of happiness. i realized my curiosity was laden with judgment, and i thought instead about other things, like ordering patatas bravas and queso fresco and a tortilla española (no wonder i gained five pounds in europe), and what i would do for the last two days of my trip. i was getting closer to independence in that madrid tapas bar than i’d ever been before, and i see it now as the preparation i needed to do what i do now, which is to freelance alone and eat alone and not speak to another soul for sometimes an entire working day. today i’m closer still—though not close enough to ignore when a diner host “observes” my solo status—but i’m nearer to happy, for certain.

someday, may the supermarket shelves be bountiful with kale, stocked end-to-end with kale chips and kale pestos and kale salsas and kale cheerios, and i can gchat and eat omelets and take an hour to drink one cup of coffee sans spinster hypotheses and en paz.

 

*albert camus

“i have to see a thing a thousand times before i see it once.”*

i was telling someone the other day that somehow i’m always surprised to find mistakes, sometimes egregious mistakes, in a book i’ve been working on when i read it a second time. if i could go through a book a third—or even a fourth—time, this would be ideal, but given that it takes already thirty hours (if not longer) to copyedit a three-hundred-page book, this isn’t realistic. it’s especially difficult to spot errors on the first read if the book is enjoyable because i can get caught up in the story. lucky, and unlucky, for me, i am usually assigned good reading.

but when you read something a second time, and those errors seem to spring up as if out of nowhere, you start to 1. hate yourself—

how did i miss that?—

and 2. hate the book—

well, if you had paid any attention to yourself, any attention at all, i wouldn’t have had to find that error in the first place. you stupid, stupid book.

you’re thinking (and my mom actually said, “aw!” at the above as i read this post to her), the book didn’t do anything! it was the—

now you know why i can’t say that word. though i hope to be one myself, i notice the same kinds of errors in my writing, even after i’ve read it ten times. i can be a stupid, stupid book often.

as i was wondering why the hell i didn’t add a period to the end of a punctuation-less sentence—i had clearly fallen asleep for a second—i remembered that i’d brought a specific book to north carolina, my current location, to reread.

in my personal life, i never reread books (with the exceptions of shiloh and the outsiders, both of which i’ve read so many times, the binding has disintegrated). but this book is one i read two years ago, soon after i’d broken up with my ex-boyfriend. like any starry-eyed girl, i saw myself in the main character, who is essentially given two paths: stick with her stable life, the one with the stable intellectual man and comfy flat in england, or choose the less distinguished man, a traveling drunk, a player of both women and snooker, though a professional of only the latter.

while i’ve loved many, many books, this author’s writing is one for which i would do a series of inhumane things to emulate. any writer who uses a word on nearly every page that i either have to look up or work hard to define in context is both my hero and sworn enemy. i’ve been chided by friends when i’ve used a lesser-known, more obscure word in favor of its go-to synonym, even though i do this simply because i like language, and i like playing with it, and one word is always a better choice than another. it just is.

and maybe in some cases the best, and simultaneously easy, way is to pick the dumbass substitute and not its distinguished cousin. because sometimes it’s far better to say fuck and not dress it up. sometimes fuck is what you need and only fuck will get your point across.

so far, the book (the post-birthday world by lionel shriver) is just as well crafted as i remembered, and a few parts, which i’d obviously forgotten, have pulled at the strings again, though i can’t imagine they’re pulling in the same way they did the first time. it’s funny that i am rereading this in the outer banks, a place i haven’t been to since i was nineteen, and which had been, up until that point, where my parents and i went nearly every summer. days that used to be packed with hours of sun-filled beach, aquarium visits, and lots of family togetherness have been replaced with an hour of beach time, freelance work, and general lounging/writing/reading, my dad going off to play tennis or do a jigsaw puzzle with my uncle, and my mom and aunt going to thrift stores.

(the contention of the freelance work, by the way, has not gone unscathed, and seemingly no one can imagine why i’d be doing work on what is supposed to be a vacation. the facts are: i up and quit my job less than a year ago and can’t afford not to work, and i genuinely like working, and when i’m not, i tend to get jittery and crazy, and only more work or a workout will calm me.)

i started thinking—upon my second reading of the sci-fi young adult novel i’m copyediting, revisiting birthday, and failing to re-create the summers of my childhood—just how important it is to reread, or reevaluate or reassess, everything. no one thinks twice about reassessing his or her property value, but, and i’m included in this mix, few people reread relationships of any kind, be they romantic, platonic, business, or familial.

ah, the errors you find on a second read.

it’s always sort of assumed, if you’re in a relationship with someone (any of the four above makes up a relationship), you’re together and that’s it, and it’s only when you have a fight or a falling out that you sit there, a screwed-up pursed-lip look on your face, and wonder where things went wrong. how two people could go from tight-knit to nothing in an hour or a few weeks or years of impassive drifting.

why didn’t i see the signs? is usually the question we pain ourselves with. of course, it’s difficult to step back from a relationship in the middle (or maybe it’s closer to the end than you think) and prod it. the danger is that we will find something wrong.

it’s like when old people don’t want to go to the doctor because they’re afraid the doctor will “find something.” fucking old people! go to the doctor!

anyway.

rereading the same manuscript in a three-week time period, i’ve spotted errors and inconsistencies. and not only those, i’ve spotted chunks i didn’t appreciate the first go-round, lovely phrases or great dialogue i glazed over. and, as i’m rereading birthday, the visceral reactions are plenty, but i doubt that i two years ago received the same emotions and gained the same lessons i am now. the writing may be the same, but i am not.

sometimes, in life as in books, you can get caught up, so caught up in the story that this whirlwind of emotion and passion takes precedence over the events and details themselves and what they truly are, and what they mean, positive or negative. but as humans, once something sets in our minds, it’s hard to imagine it another way. the job that no longer fulfills us. the marriage that isn’t working. the friendship that had begun to fail from nearly the get-go. it was all so good at first—when did it take a wrong turn?

and then sometimes you realize you’ve managed to grow something beautiful in what started as a pile of shit.

when you’ve had a chance to be away from someone or something, you have time to reflect on him, her, or it. i, for one, can’t reflect if i’m not alone. i liken it to being lost yet continuing to stand in the middle of a crowded intersection, rather than pulling yourself into whatever starbucks is closest and reassessing the situation. once you do, you might reread it as positive. or maybe negative. or maybe you simply conclude that you need to keep an eye on it. that you need not forget to reassess.

the greatest danger is to take anything at face value, and purport that value for years—even with things we can’t change. i’m sure, were someone to find a glaring mistake in the post-birthday world, that the publisher would fix it. largely, though, the work will stay unchanged; it is only the reader, therefore, who changes, and thus, the reader’s assessments, emotions, and conclusions associated with the work. the same principle should be applied to relationships . . . to anything, really. we can never expect a thing to remain constant, especially when we are constantly growing.

to grow together is wonderful, and possible (i hope); but to grow apart is not unlikely. and we can avoid the pitfall of surprise at a failed anything if we continuously look at what’s in front of us for what it truly is at that time, and not at any other.

two years ago i rooted for the snooker player. the womanizer. the bad boy. today, despite knowing the ending, and however foolish it makes me, i find myself still hoping for the same.

 

*thomas wolfe in you can’t go home again

“nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone have a good fucking life.”*

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the lobby at the wynn around 5:30 a.m. because it’s pretty and i’m tired.

this post was written on november 27 on three hours of sleep.

so yesterday i six-degrees-of-kevin-baconed myself via google out of curiosity and to see just what kind of public virtual trail i leave. while a lot of people are afraid of the internet—a fair amount friends and family members weren’t on board with donating to my marathon charity via the web, for example—i’ve given up trying to control it, and instead i’ve embraced it. when facebook first unleashed timeline and nearly everyone i knew groaned about having all content from 2004 and beyond visible to six hundred of their closest friends, i honestly didn’t mind so much. as someone who kept a handwritten diary for thirteen years and the adult version of a diary (the blog or, back in the day, my supercool xanga online journal) for nine, i saw facebook’s timeline as another way to look back on my life and its events, my interactions, and of course, my slightly idiotic musings about mundane occurrences. or grammar. i have no illusions about the fact that i can be an obnoxious over-poster, something i used to feel guilty about in this increasingly me, me, me world, or i guess the i, i, i world of iphone, ipod, ipad, and imac. but i’ve realized that, more than anyone or anything, me is what i know best. so i might as well cover the topic thoroughly.

the web i’ve woven is complex but not too difficult to pull apart with a bit of elbow grease. when facebook changed its default posting audience to public (the company loves doing that sort of thing and not telling you about it) and i didn’t realize it, i posted a blog about why i quit my job to not just my friends, but to everyone. the next day the head of my (former) department told me she liked my blog. we aren’t friends on facebook, and when i asked how she found my post, she said a coworker sent the link to her. i wasn’t friends with him, either. to be honest, the situation alarmed me at the start. then i discovered the status update with the blog post link had been set to public. and then i checked my wordpress stats to see that in two days more than five hundred people had looked at that particular post. my best day previously was a pathetic sixty views. . . . i’ve been keeping all my posts public since.

this increase in transparency comes with a price, i suppose, because if you can find my facebook account, you can most certainly find my blog. the blog links even the most lightweight stalker to my linkedin, instagram, twitter, foursquare, and pinterest pages, all of which contain both my given and surnames. google me and you’ll see that i write for my local community newspaper, raised money for and ran the nyc marathon, and am a member of the new jersey state golf association’s caddie alumni committee (that one is certainly a head-scratcher if you don’t know me).

when i began blogging, my site wasn’t private, but by no means did i publicize it. it wasn’t until july 2012 that i abandoned that blog, and it was almost exactly a year ago that i began linking the new one to facebook and twitter. there was only one reason for that: i wanted, and still want, to write and publish a book—about what else? my favorite topic: me. i know that many of my friends see this as narcissistic and self-promoting, and i’ve often heard, even from people i know well: “you have a blog, huh? you and everyone else.” but i don’t sit here and think, how can i make myself sound good or look good? i’m thinking more along the lines of can i be okay with admitting and detailing a deep personal problem or flaw or emotional issue? and not just launching it into the abyss of the internet or into the in-boxes of my parents and best friends but to my extended family, friends of my parents, former teachers and coworkers, clients, and the like? do my middle-school spanish teacher (hola, señora) and seventy-two-year-old aunt really need to know about my dating life and drunken mishaps?

maybe not. but the beauty of good writing is that it knows no boundaries. anyone from co-eds to grandmas read 50 shades of grey, after all. two of my biggest triumphs, in terms of crossing boundaries, have been 1). when a girl i went to high school with followed me on twitter after having unfriended me, refriended me, and unfriended me a second time on facebook (she’s clearly not a fan), and 2). when a guy who once called me a lying cunt told me my posts were brutally honest and therapeutic for him. when even your enemies can’t help but be interested (or, okay, maybe just nosy) about your life? excuse the hash tag but . . . #winning.

i have written 32,000 words of my book, which, according to the huffington post and amazon, is about halfway to the total word count of brave new world, the median (i haven’t used that word since high school math) of book lengths. the closer i get to writing a pitch and a query letter, researching agents, and approaching my buddies in book publishing, the more holy shit it all becomes. i think about authors like chelsea handler or tucker max and the contents of their books and wonder about their thought processes. did chelsea tell her family to do themselves a solid and not read her book? did tucker max say, hey, mom, unless you like explosive anal sex and graphic details of sushi-and-alcohol-filled vomit, don’t go past the dedication? okay, i’m not that scandalous, but i’m going to include, and have already penned, moments of humiliation as well as incidents that don’t, in any way, paint me in a positive light. in fact, they might even blur the line between hero and villain. thus, the blog: my method to slowly warm myself up to the idea that the world could someday see the raw, unabashed version of me.

the reason i’ve been thinking about this is because recently someone i don’t know somehow stumbled upon my blog and therefore my linkedin page and, i’m guessing, the rest of the social media sites on which i prostitute myself. after getting to know me on the web, this person said that he/she feels sorry for me. (don’t ask how i know any of this; it’s so unbelievably convoluted and ridiculous that i don’t want to get into it). this began my research into my online presence: looking at the public version of my facebook page, googling myself, and seeing just how much i refer one site to the next on each platform, how i weave an intricate series of online stiches. i wanted to see what everyone else sees, if they care to look. and the fear i’ve been having recently, about what it will be like to put an uncensored version of my life in print, about what it is already like and will continue to be like to have a boyfriend with a very public presence and a following that is consistently growing, was overwhelming.

but then, when i took in my online persona (which is, shockingly, akin to my real self, scout’s honor), i realized what a well-rounded little nugget i am. i have a great relationship with my parents, i have a ton of friends, i’m a good writer, i’ve worked for two of the biggest publishers in the world, i started my own business, i’ve traveled alone and often, i’ve run a marathon, and i’m kind of cute in a childlike, garden gnome type of way (not my words). and now, instead of sitting behind a desk, about to call it quits, i’m in las vegas, typing this blog, knowing that i can go for a run in the middle of the day, do my work at three a.m., or hop on a plane, a train, or a bus to meet my boyfriend or my friends in various cities around the country pretty much when i want, depending on the proximity of a mail center (those kiddie books have to get back to new york city somehow).

last night i was in a club in the bellagio, feeling slightly out of state (that’s the pickup artist term for not feeling in the zone or in a place of ease, playfulness, and diversion), and i took a minute to shut my eyes and really concentrate on where i was and what i was doing. the bass thumped in my eardrums, my boyfriend’s arm snaked around my waist, and i thought, i’m lucky. and i’m having more fun than i’ve ever had in my entire life.

sorry for me? hm.

and then i saw this quote from *chuck palahniuk and decided that it needed to be my headline. scroll up, and enjoy.

“a child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.”*

this was written on november 2, and posted from the achilles tent, one hour before i started the 2013 ing nyc marathon on november 3.

i joked before i left for vegas on october 22 that what would happen there could end up in my blog. i was only half kidding about that at the time, but now i find myself wanting to write about the trip, though without baring the gritty details (you can ask me about those personally; and i might tell you).

but the trip, as a whole, allowed me a glimpse into what my life could be like all the time. it was a test for me to see if i could hack it as a club-going wingwoman by night and a glasses-wearing freelance copy editor for children’s books by day. somehow, i rocked both. either i have multiple personality disorder and my late-night alter ego katerina takes over once i hit up the club—i think she just made a brief appearance there—or i’m simply socially excellent and able to easily adapt to any situation. or maybe it’s a combination of both, plus the fact that the person i went to see in vegas, my boyfriend, makes me feel unreasonably (in a good way) capable of accomplishing anything i’ve envisioned. he also makes me feel comfortable with being completely myself, even those parts i never wanted to show or admit to. i was doing pretty well in this department when we met, but it never hurts to have someone in your corner; someone to go to bat for you; more sports clichés, etc., etc. right now he’s in tokyo, and virtually unreachable, and i’m set to start mile one of twenty-six tomorrow morning at 10:30. it’ll be 11:30 p.m. in japan. i told him weeks ago, however, that despite the lack of his physical presence, or even a technological one, just thinking about him gives me the energy and strength to run ten marathons.

okay, okay. sorry. i don’t usually romanticize like this (all right, maybe not so much, anyway), but right now i’m alone, sitting in the empty apartment of my friend in jersey city, my stomach absolutely jam-packed with what i’d estimate to be about a gallon of water and five pounds of food from carbo-loading, and feeling, to be honest, kind of down. when i think back to where i was a week ago, having woken up only two hours ago (it’s four p.m. in vegas), where i was going that night (marquee in the cosmopolitan), and who i was with (see above), it’s not that my life in new jersey is drab or unsatisfactory by comparison. it’s just not . . . me enough.

i watched a plane taking off from newark airport this afternoon while i was on the path. i stared up at the sky-bound vessel’s underbelly, then its tail, and finally what had become just a speck of its body, and i thought, take me with you. this from a girl who used to need practically a sedative to be on an airplane. i’d never realized, not until about two years ago, how much i hate not moving. it’s like that itch a person gets when he or she is inside on a beautiful day, the sunlight yanking on an arm like a persistent friend. come on! i feel that tug all the time now, an insatiable desire to be constantly doing, improving, to consistently be surprised, shocked, and awed. luckily, there is still a lot of world to see, still a seemingly infinite amount of people to meet and learn from, and, of course, more books than i could read in three lifetimes. but it makes me wonder: how in the shit did i ever endlessly loaf on a couch, watching tv and playing words with friends for hours and hours?

someone said to me recently, “you know, you don’t have to be so driven all the time.” ugh. wrong.

so yesterday i googled peter pan syndrome, not thinking it’s actually quite a serious thing (but if it’s on wikipedia, it has to be, right?). though it’s not formally in the dsm, some psychologists do refer to it, characterizing it as “an older man whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level. . . . [who] leads a provisional life, due to the fear of being caught in a situation from which it might not be possible to escape. . . [who] covets independence and freedom, chafes at boundaries and limits, and tends to find any restriction intolerable.” there are books dedicated to peter pans, and other references on how to school women on avoiding and breaking their addictions to pp’s. well, too late for me with that one, but i thought then, what if i’m the female version? (is there a female version?) and what happens when you put the two of us together?

puella aeterna is a child-woman in jungian psychology, and the characteristics aren’t exactly positive. they aren’t much different from those of the male counterpart, but they include such descriptions as wanting “to be taken care of” and “led through life by the hand,” inciting the notion that there is a danger for a lady of being robbed “of every opportunity to fulfill her intellectual, creative, and professional capacity.” this must not apply to modern female peter pans from new jersey.

i hypothesize that a male and female both “suffering” (or, hello, thriving) from peter pan syndrome would make for an interesting pair. while i didn’t set foot on an airplane until i was twenty-two, i have a feeling any kid of mine will be one of the following: a). born on a plane, b). chilling on a plane as an infant, or c). conceived on a plane. the last one was just to make sure you’re paying attention. but i can see that kid, trailing behind me and toting his or her own backpack on some hike up a mountain somewhere faraway, or knowing his or her way around new york city, yammering on in more than one language, both a book of poetry and a popular mechanics magazine on his or her person. and if i have a kid who doesn’t like to move as much as i do? i’ll just have to develop extra-strong back muscles in order to carry him or her. the little one can jump off when he or she gets too big.

all these crazy thoughts are stemming from one thing that happened on my trip. for the entire week, i was thinking about—stewing over was more like it—the blog post i wrote when i was in costa rica, the one in which i gave myself a cutoff, a self-imposed ultimatum for happiness in which i’d high-tail it out of wherever i was if i wasn’t content. the post was written out of a supreme sadness, the kind stemming from feeling alone in a strange land, having just turned thirty and quit my job and wondering what the hell i was thinking. the kind in which i felt as though i needed to make a promise to myself never to let it happen again. realistically, however, i nor anyone else can make good on that promise, no matter the ultimatum, cutoff, or what have you.

so when i sat in the diner of a casino on my last day in vegas, i said something to the effect of, “i’m just not sure what i’ll do if one day i realize i can’t completely handle all this.”

the response was, not verbatim: “you say that you want to be with me forever, yet you are wondering if you’ll have to leave if you can’t completely handle everything?”

i didn’t have to think. i just answered. i said that i remembered, months ago, making a pros and cons list about the situation, only to have the items in each column cancel one another out. when it came down to it, there were two choices: you, or no you. and the choice, then, was easy. what had i meant in terms of what i’d do? i meant how will i deal with my emotions, my jealousy, however infrequent. what tools will i use to fight the tiny spots of cold dampness to realize how bright the rest of the day is. the question isn’t about being or not being with you, loving or not loving you. and it never will be.

that’s when i realized, as the words flowed out as comfortably as if i were simply saying hello to someone, that i not only love this person, but i love him unconditionally. and, well, shit. to take that one last barricade down? that’s scary. it’s also . . . perfect, however imperfect it might seem.

when i was leaving for the vegas trip, when my plane had been cleared for takeoff out of jfk, i decided to do something i’d never done before. despite having gotten very used to flying, i’ve continued to cling to the habit of shutting my eyes and not daring to look out the window until we’ve reached a comfortable cruising altitude after ascending. but last tuesday i made up my mind that i wanted to see the ground rush away from me, watch the world go from life-size to fun-size. what had used to feel like an agonizing five minutes, my eyelids scrunched shut, my palms sweating, suddenly felt like mere seconds. i watched happily—and, fine, maybe i cried a bit too—as the plane looped around the atlantic ocean, and the mid-morning sun sprinkled itself on the waves. i was still somewhat scared, but i was so glad that i hadn’t let myself miss out. so glad that, for once, like a kid, i had my eyes wide open.

*paul coelho

“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