Full Circle

A year ago, my mom and I came to the University of Maryland to meet my advisor and check out the campus. I had been accepted to graduate school, but I had no idea what this place was like. I knew that I could make my decision just by seeing everything…when I visited Duquesne, I just knew I was supposed to be there. And the same thing happened when I came here.

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We came down for the weekend right before Easter. We were on Spring Break and it was perfect timing! I had a meeting scheduled with my advisor and I had to figure out where I was going to live. Of course, we also made time for some fun adventures, like going to D.C…
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…after all, it is only 8 miles away. I have such good memories from this little weekend trip. In typical tourist fashion, we drove to D.C. and just expected to find parking. We ate dinner at Good Stuff Eatery and luckily, we found a place to put our car. We were not so lucky at the National Mall…I mean, it is The National Mall. 😉

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This picture was taken in motion…check out the tour bus to the left. The area that we parked in was reserved specifically for tour busses. My mom does drive a huge SUV but I don’t think that would fool a police man. Ha! So we quickly (illegally) parked and ran to take pictures. #touristproblems

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We went to Palm Sunday service at UMD’s Memorial Chapel…

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We explored the Inner Harbor in Baltimore…

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And of course we went shopping :).

I lived in the city when I went to school at Duquesne…I moved out of my house and did the whole college thing. But I didn’t really “go away”. I definitely gained a new love for Pittsburgh while I was in school because I met friends from so many different places around town and loved living near all the entertainment that a city brings. But I figured if I was going to be in school for a few more years, why not change it up? Why not go somewhere new? I had no idea how I was going to feel leaving everyone behind, but after the first visit to Maryland, I felt excited. I figured out all of the little details on our trip and now it was time to just be excited…so much so that we spent the 4th of July here because I just HAD to show the rest of my family where I was going.

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All of a sudden, it was August, and it was time to move in.

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I would be living with a random roommate, but lucky for me, she was also starting grad school. And she turned out to be super nice. 🙂

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It was a really big deal for me to leave home for the “first” time. And it was an even bigger deal to not know a single soul in my new city…but surprisingly, that didn’t scare me.

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First day of school 🙂

There are also a lot of things about moving somewhere by yourself that you don’t think about before you go…and no one tells you about before you go…that you just kind of figure out along the way. Example: I have a lot of friends, but they aren’t here. I can text them and call them, but I didn’t have someone to immediately invite over for dinner on Friday night. I didn’t have a partner in crime to go shopping with. My family wasn’t around to go to church with me. I am super happy that I ended up living with someone for my first year away because I don’t think I realized how much time I would spend alone. I actually am the kind of person who enjoys alone time, but it is definitely a challenge to make yourself do things by yourself that you wouldn’t usually do. It stopped feeling like a challenge and started feeling refreshing. I wasn’t about to sit in my apartment all day every day…I wanted to go do things, so I went and did them. When there were events happening that I wanted to go to, I went and made friends once I got there. Deciding to move and physically moving all of your things is one thing…deciding to make your move the best thing of your life, well that takes something special.

I did a lot of running…

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…and I did a lot of organizing. The weekend that I got here, I intentionally didn’t unpack all of my things so that I would have something to do once my family left. 😉

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I went to football games with my roommate and welcome week activities with other grad students.

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I baked…

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…and I FaceTimed with my dogs. Ha!

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And slowly but surely, I started to make friends. I met friends at church, I met friends in my running group, I met friends in class and at work.

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Friends to be had everywhere…but I had to make the choice to go find them. There were MANY weekends in my first semester of school where I drove home to Pittsburgh. It was something that I wanted to do, but I also needed to do at that time. I still wanted to feel connected. There were also times when I decided to stay put for the weekend…and then I would see pictures of my friends out and about and feel so left out. That made no sense to me because I love where I live, where I go to school, and what my life is like now. No one tells you what the transition feels like…I didn’t want to live a double live driving back and forth all the time, so I had to learn that my friends will still be my friends even if we aren’t together all the time.

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No one tells you that you might find it completely normal to go to the movies, go out to dinner, or go explore a new part of town…all by yourself. And just when you start to think you’re a weirdo, your family or friends come to visit and you get to brag about your new home.

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I found “my people” slowly but surely…now if I want to go to brunch or try a new fitness class or just hang out…I know who to call. But I’m also totally comfortable doing things I want to do all by myself. No one told me I would learn to get to know myself even more. 😉

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I have learned SO. MUCH. about myself in the last year. I feel more confident, more independent, and dare to say it…happier. I DEFINITELY was not unhappy at this time last year. I was student teaching, loving life, getting ready to graduate and go on vacation with friends. But I feel older. And wiser. And more thoughtful. I am more talkative…I didn’t really have a choice in that one ;). I am more connected in my faith and I think the move made me be more connected to the people in my life, both here and in Pittsburgh. When I think about what I was doing at this time last year, I realize I could have NEVER even pictured what my life would look like right now. And I am so happy to say that I love who I am becoming. That thought that we can plan and plan and plan…and still not know what to expect…is so exciting because WHERE does that mean I will be next April at this time? And where does that mean you will be? How much have we all changed in just one year? What will we be doing? How will we feel? What will our lives be like?

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I have no idea. But I can’t wait to see.

Road Trip Essentials

Finally going home for Spring Break! 🙂

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The drive from Pittsburgh to D.C. or vice versa is ridiculously easy and because it’s ridiculously easy, it’s also ridiculously boring. Or maybe I just think that because I’ve done it 107 times;) That is a slight exaggeration, but I spent a lot of weekends this fall in my car and so I’ve been staying put for longer periods of time these days. The trip is only about four hours, but the mountains of Maryland and Pennsylvania can only be so interesting before you start to lose it! Luckily, about two hours into the trip, I am able to stop in Breezewood, PA where I usually get coffee or food, fill up my gas tank, play with my phone, and then get back to driving. Traffic going home is never bad but traffic coming back is horrendous. As it usually is in this area. Once you are about 30 minutes away from my apartment you hit the bumper-to-bumper loveliness. At all hours of the day. Believe me, I have tried to arrive at many different times.

Since I drive by myself, I have to try to keep myself entertained and alert. When you’re traveling with friends, driving is obviously much more fun! At any rate, here are my road trip rituals for the drive to and from school.

1. Beverages.

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You might think I am crazy for listing drinks first…but listen, I drink a ton of water, and running out of water while I’m on the road is no fun. Most of my water bottles are 32 ounces (because I’m a freak like that) and I try to drink one water bottle during each half of the trip. This way, I know that I’m hydrated, and it makes me stop and take a break half way through the trip because I have to go to the bathroom. Reasons why I have three water bottles instead of one that I refill: the water fountain at the place that I stop tastes disgusting. I actually bought a water bottle there once because I couldn’t stand the taste of the water fountain. #watersnob Also…caffeine is necessary for all road trips, especially solo road trips. 😉

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Two completely different coffee cups…Starbucks or Dunkin??? What team are you???

2. Comfy clothes.

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I usually leave early in the morning (around 7 AM) so I can get to wherever I’m going in a decent amount of time and still have most of the day to get things done or make plans with family and friends. I’m a morning workout person, but if I’m getting up to drive, I just get dressed in my workout clothes. Then I am comfy while I drive and I am ready to workout whenever I get to my destination. 🙂

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I also do not recommend white comfy clothes. I only made this mistake once, but as you can see, it was fatal. Hahaha
I made chocolate Shakeology before I left Maryland and before I started drinking it a few hours later, I just shook the cup again to get the drink moving. When I popped the lid open, it showed me who was boss.

3. Easy breakfast/snacks

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You can’t go wrong with overnight oats when you know you are going to be running out the door! Here, the almond butter jar was basically empty, so I added almond milk, oats, and cinnamon and let it sit in the fridge overnight. When I woke up, I grabbed the whole container and a banana and had a perfect breakfast ready to take with me!

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Shakeology is also perfect for breakfast. Easy to make and it tastes good! On a regular day, I like to drink it a little thicker so it’s like ice cream;) But on the road, it’s often my breakfast! As far as snacks go, I need something that I will eat and it will be gone. No grapes or popcorn or carrot sticks or anything that there is a bunch of because I will in fact eat it all mindlessly while I drive. Granted, most people don’t have entire bags of grapes or carrot sticks on their passenger seat, but when leftover groceries travel with me, I have learned to put them far away from where I can reach them. #somuchselfcontrol

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You know my love of peanut butter and jelly knows no bounds. I love Lara Bars because they are made with a handful of ingredients (REAL FOOD!) so this flavor is a nice healthy replacement for my PB&J obsession. 🙂

4. A full gas tank.

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This should probably be a little higher up on my list but I loathe the gas station. If someone else (like my Dad or brothers) is in the car with me when I get to the gas station, you can bet your fine self I am not getting out of the car. #diva I can make it all the way home on one tank of gas, but one time I decided to leave without a full tank (hey, it was 1/2 full…) and then I didn’t get gas halfway through my trip. Stupid, stupid, stupid. My gas light came on right as I passed a sign announcing the next rest stop was closed due to construction. This was the same night my Shakeology exploded. Great times! Needless to say, I am a freak about filling up my gas tank now. I even get gas halfway just in case. Two times at the gas station in the same day. Go me.

5. New-to-me entertainment.

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If I’m in the middle of listening to a podcast, I make sure to download the latest episode before I leave (using wifi instead of data and all that responsible cell phone stuff). 😉 I also LOVE to add new music to my library or add old playlists to my library just to mix it up. I listen to my music LOUD for the beginning and the end of my trip…it’s my “yay, I’m leaving!” or “yay, I’m almost there!” celebration. But somewhere in the middle, the music starts to annoy me and I find myself hitting next after the first ten seconds of every song. That’s when my podcasts save my life. I’m toying around with the idea of listening to books on tape, but then I think of my 52 book challenge for the year and feel like audio books are cheating! I’m still deciding. For my drive today, I added some T-Pain, John Newman, and Nicki Minaj music to my playlists. Some songs are new, some songs are just new to me, and some are throwbacks.

If you’re on Spring Break this week, happy relaxing Tuesday!
And if you’re stuck in the real world, happy Tuesday to you, too…now, go get a cup of coffee.

– Team Starbucks or Team Dunkin?

– Do you listen to audio books?

– What are your must-haves on the road?