10 things I used to do all the time, but don’t do anymore

I’ve been sitting on this list for a while now. This transition period into being not-a-student-in-school has put me in a bit of a reminiscent mood. I went through some old photos from high school, read some old journal entries, and just doused myself in not-nostalgia. I’m not pining after some ethereal past era, but neither do I look back on it with disgust. The past just is.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things that I wish hadn’t changed that much.

  1. I used to listen to a lot more music than I do currently. I used to actively search for new artists, to look at the entire discography of popular artists, I used to make playlists and CDs (yes, CDs) of my favorite songs, and used to try and tell a story with those songs (that mostly revolved around crushes and unrequited affection). I used to just lie around listening to music and imagine stories and scenes with the songs as the background. Now, the only time I listen to music is when it’s playing in the background while I’m working.
  2. I used to read a lot of fan fiction. My favorite genres were fluff, apocalyptic AUs, and angst. So much angst. I focused primarily on Harry Potter fan fiction. I used to have pages and pages of bookmarks of my favorites. I used to venture into writing my own, but I’ve lost the drafts and I never posted them anywhere.
  3. I used to follow drum corps competitions really closely. My favorite DCI corps is Phantom Regiment (still is; they have the best stories for their shows, in my opinion), and my favorite indoor/winter guard is the South Shore Drill Team because their tricks and techniques are incredible.
  4. I used to sing. To myself, mostly. But I also took voice lessons for a few months when I got it in my head in the eighth grade that I wanted to audition for American Idol. (Yes, that was a thing that I wanted.) Now, I don’t sing that much.
  5. I used to write poetry all the time. Every day, several times a day. I used to not care about the quality, and I used to write purely for myself. Now, I’m going through a poetry drought, and I’m trying to force myself to write more poetry more often than I have lately.
  6. I used to draw all the time, and some pretty fantastical things. An overstuffed armchair on the shore of some glass lake with a brilliant, multicolored sunset, under the branches of a huge tree, big enough for a house. Elves collecting water at the banks of a large river. Dragons. Female warriors with a number of different weapons. I don’t draw as often as I used to, though I do find it very calming.
  7. I used to go for drives. Never with my parents’ car, but with my friends. We’d hang out in parks and parking lots with the windows open, taking silly selfies before they were selfies. It doesn’t make any sense for me to own a car, mostly because I can’t justify the environmental impact of the vehicle, and because I live in New York City, but I do sometimes miss open roads.
  8. I used to go to the library a lot. I used to have a library card with the Waukegan Public Library, but when my fines became so great that my parents might as well have bought all the books I borrowed, they stopped taking me, and started just buying me books instead. In high school, I started going to the public library just a few streets away from my high school. The habit stopped when, as a junior, I went to the upperclassmen campus that was farther away. I used to work in NYU’s main library, but then stopped when I took the maximum number of credits students are allowed to take in one semester. Then I started going to the library just for a place to study. Now, there’s a New York Public Library branch that’s close to my apartment, and I’ll hopefully rekindle the habit.
  9. I used to play video games a lot. Mostly things like Animal Crossing and Phoenix Wright, with occasional forays into StarCraft and Final Fantasy. I don’t play games as often as I used to, simply because I didn’t have the time during the school year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find some time to relax now that I’ve graduated, and I can actually play some Animal Crossing and unwind. Or something.
  10. I used to practice karate. I took classes through the park district in my hometown, and I took belt tests and participated in tournaments and everything. I even qualified for a national competition, though I couldn’t go because it was in Texas and I couldn’t afford it. I hope that I can return to it, now that I have more time to do things other than study and work.

The anticipation is killing me

This evening, I’ll be moving into my first New York City apartment. With the help of my wonderful friends, by the time bedtime rolls around tonight, I will be sleeping in my first non-dorm residence since I left home for college four years ago.

Today, I also received the on boarding paperwork for my first full-time job, and will be completing that during the next few days before my official first day in about a week and a half.

This summer has really been one of the best summers of my life so far. The stress of transition at the beginning (and end) of the summer is easily outweighed by how much I experienced, both the positive and the negative. I went through an intense job search, which ended with my getting a position that I really want and am really excited to start. I learned new things about housing in New York City, about job recruiters and temp work, and about myself. I wrote more these past few months than ever before, completed a Blog Every Day challenge, and spent time with friends, both old and new.

That being said, even though this has been an amazing summer, I’m ready to start this new chapter of my life. I’ve graduated from college, my parents received my diploma in the mail, and my living space for the next year, at least, is secured. I’m ready to move on, and move into a new space.

I’m generally a pretty patient person, but the anticipation is killing me.

18 First Days

August, 1997 — 5 years old, Kindergarten

I have vague memories of being shepherded around in lines and following the teacher’s orders because that’s what my parents told me to do. “Be good, okay, Arol?”

August, 1998 — 6 years old, 1st grade

My memory of the first day is the same as for Kindergarten, only there was a new teacher and a new set of classmates.

August, 1999 — 7 years old, 2nd grade

This was the year I started being singled out for gifted programs. In particular, ones for Art and Math.

August, 2000 — 8 years old, 3rd grade

My family moved house, and I changed districts. Making friends was still easy at this point.

August, 2001 — 9 years old, 4th grade

My separation into gifted programs was becoming more definite. Memorizing facts was still easy at this point.

August, 2002 — 10 years old, 5th grade

Half of my days are spent outside of the regular classroom, and I started feeling the disconnect.

August, 2003 — 11 years old, 6th grade

There was this concoction of excitement and nervousness when I got off the bus. Excitement because I was finally like my older siblings, carried around a big trapper binder with notebooks for every subject and brand new supplies. Nervous, because it was the first time I had to travel between classrooms without the aid of a teacher. I was comforted by the fact that one of my older brothers would be in one of my classrooms, though during a different period in the day. I looked for his name on the projects on display.

August, 2004 — 12 years old, 7th grade

The first year I was really in a school without any of my siblings in the same building. I still had all their same teachers.

August, 2005 — 13 years old, 8th grade

There was this anticipation of something being different about this year.

August, 2006 — 14 years old, 9th grade

I wasn’t late to any of my classes, so that was an accomplishment. Though everything was still intimidating because I didn’t know anyone in any of my classes. When one of my best friends transferred into my lunch, the days became instantly more bearable.

August, 2007 — 15 years old, 10th grade

This year, there was a slight drag in my feet as I got ready to go to school in the morning.

August, 2008 — 16 years old, 11th grade

I woke up at 6:00 to get ready and catch the bus to get to school by 7:15. This is the first year that I truly diverged from having my siblings’ former teachers.

August, 2009 — 17 years old, 12th grade

My mother dropped by the gas station every morning to pick up a coffee and a donut. I began writing in empty notebooks in the hour or so I had before classes started.

August, 2010 — 18 years old, First year of college

I had only two classes, if I recall correctly. I made it to both of them on time. At the end of the day, I didn’t do any of my homework.

August, 2011 — 19 years old, Second year of college

The few nights before the first day, my friends and I slept through Hurricane Irene and watched the various television shows I had binged on over the summer. After classes, we had a floor meeting, and got to meet the characters on the floor.

August, 2012 — 20 years old, Third year of college

If I remember my schedule correctly, I had two classes back to back in the same room, Computer Science, and then Web Design. I became a regular at a particular food cart on that day.

August, 2013 — 21 years old, Fourth year of college

I rented a locker at the library, determined to be one of those students that hung around and studied at all hours of their free time. I got my money’s worth of use out of it, but I didn’t study nearly as much as I should have. I needed coffee on the first day; I couldn’t sleep the night before and so walked the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of the night.

August, 2014 — 22 years old, First day of my first full-time job

This day hasn’t happened yet, and I have no idea what to expect. In some ways, I will be in my comfort zone; I will be working at a university’s press, and therefore in somewhat familiar territory.

But I have no idea what my days will look like. I’ve been in school for so long that I’m just now getting used to the idea that I won’t be in class come late August. It’s been a while since my daytime hours have been blocked in such a way, from 9:00 to 5:00. It’s been a while since they’ve been blocked that way without the time before and after being taken up by extracurricular activities and homework.

I vaguely know that I will be more or less moved into my first New York apartment (no more dorm life). I’ll take the subway (and hopefully have my first unlimited metro card by then). I’ll wake up early to cook an elaborate breakfast (and take a picture of it, as has been my tradition for the past few years). I will return in the evening and cook dinner (or maybe reward myself on a good first day and get some takeaway). And then I’ll have hours of free time before bed, where I’ll wake up and do something similar the next day.

But these days, though there will be a certain rhythm and routine to them, will never be boring. I’m determined to that they will never be boring.

My goal: make every day a new first.

A photo of the Brooklyn Bridge I took around this time last year.

A photo of the Brooklyn Bridge I took around this time last year.

This post was inspired by this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness.


Handmade words: The end of Blog Every Day in July

Today is July 31st, 2014, and I have (technically) completed a blog every day challenge.

(I technically didn’t post on the 19th, but I stayed up until the early hours of the 20th to post a quick blurb about staying up late, and then posted again on the 20th. In my defense, it was still the 19th on the West Coast when I posted, so really…)

Another month of my life has passed, one filled with new experiences, some repeats of old ones, and in just a few more weeks, I’ll be looking to start another new chapter of my life. I’ll finally be leaving university housing, starting up a new, full-time job, and I’ll be 22 and no longer a student in a classroom, but released to the wider world.

Throughout this month, I’ve written in a notebook as well, a personal notebook of stream-of-consciousness and drafts of fiction and poetry. My current notebook I started in mid-July, and I’ve filled 99 pages of it.

Lately, I’ve been trying to slow down when I write, take the time to make the letters neat and even, and in the process slow myself down as well, really savor the time that I’m writing. Because I know that although I will soon be working a job that I can leave in the office (and no longer be in a situation where I will constantly have to bring work home and take up my free time, like a student), I still may not have the time to write. Not at the hours that I’ve enjoyed so far this summer.

I love blogging. I love interacting with people through this site, and writing new posts that may make someone think about something new. But I love, I think even more, the feeling of seeing the words my hands have created, of holding in my hands the notebooks that I’ve filled. I love getting the ache in my hand, getting the ink splotches on my fingers, feeling the way the pages wrinkle after filling them with pen marks.

On the side of my page, I have my archive list of all the past year and a half I’ve had this blog. To me, that’s the equivalent of having in a row all of the notebooks I’ve filled in the past four, almost five, years of keeping a notebook. Though the archive on the side of this page shows that I have written so much through this blog, I can’t touch it. I can’t run my fingers over it. I can’t hear the flip of the pages or hold the months in my hand. Keeping notebooks and filling them with my writing, I can.

And that, I think, is what makes the difference.

I’m not sure where this blog will go after this Blog Every Day challenge. But I do know that I’ll keep writing.

The general public just may not see that I am all the time.

This year so far in notebooks.

This year so far in notebooks.

This post was inspired by today’s Daily Prompt: Handmade Tales.

Day 211

I can imagine, though, that July 30th will be a scorcher in the US. My day may start off with an early-morning run, before the heat really sets in. I’ll eat slowly throughout the day, eating some fruit in the morning, snacking on apple wedges and peanut butter throughout the late morning, and some sort of sandwich for lunch. After lunch, I’ll sip some sweet tea and water as I read and write, leisurely lounging outside in the sun, moving to the shade when it gets too hot. For dinner, I’ll cook something fresh, enough for two or three or however many I may encounter that evening. And I’ll spend the rest of the day in the company of my friends.

My prediction for what July 30, 2014 would be was way off. 

It’s unseasonably cool outside, with a slight breeze that takes the edge off the heat from the sun. I unfortunately didn’t go out for a run this morning, though I will probably take the time later this evening when I’m finished with some work I have to do. And, if I’m being honest. I haven’t eaten much today. I have some apples and oranges stocked in my room, but my breakfast consisted of a Starbucks drink and a chocolate croissant.

The rest of my day is pretty much planned out. I’m viewing an apartment this afternoon, working some more in the evening, and won’t get the chance to write at my leisure until late in the night when my responsibilities for the day are taken care of.

I don’t have a kitchen; I’m currently living in a freshman dorm without access to one. And all my friends are pretty busy this evening, though we do have plans to go out to celebratory drinks this weekend.

I had no idea what day 211 of 2014 would be like. And my day 21-self was right to not predict too much about this day.

I don’t want to have too set of a target to try and hit. I have a vague idea of where I want to be and what I want to be doing. But I’ve found in the past that whenever I try to have definite and solid plans for anything, things end up slipping a little and changing. I would rather be open to that change rather than try to stick to a particular path. Who knows where going off the map will take me?

Did I hit the vague idea of where I wanted to be? If I’m honest, I don’t entirely remember where my day 21-self wanted to be.

But I do know that I’m in a good place. There have been so many unexpected surprises between the definite milestones that I knew would happen. On day 40, I got an internship that taught me so much within that one semester about being a professional and working in a non-profit. On days 76-78, I volunteered at the Weeksville Heritage Center, and learned more about maintaining outdoor spaces. On day 100, I gave a (very short) speech for the first time in years. On various days throughout, I’ve gone out and explored New York City with my secondhand camera, and began my journey to fully realize my potential as a mobile phone photographer.

Maybe not every day of the 190 days since January 21st have been perfect. But every day brought something new that inspired me to keep going, and all of that has brought me here.

And that’s all I need, really.

I woke up early on day 206 and took some pictures of the city.

I woke up early on day 206 and took some pictures of the city.

This post was in response to today’s Daily Prompt: 190 Days Later.

Not much here

I spent the entire day thinking that today was the 28th of July. I was mistaken.

It is the 29th of July, and that, for some reason is a very strange feeling.

I wish I had something more to say right now, but it’s the end of the day, and I need to wind down and write some.

So, good night, Internet.

A picture of the moon I took a few weeks ago. Ah, NYC.

A picture of the moon I took a few weeks ago. Ah, NYC.

A great resource: Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

There are a lot of cookbooks out there, but none quite as fascinating nor as helpful as Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day. The book is filled with a variety of recipes that will fill your stomach without depleting your bank account, ranging from simple to complex, and hitting all of your nutritional requirements.

I’ve thumbed through my fair share of cookbooks, and browsed through a number of online recipes, but this one stands out to me for a few reasons:

  • Brown offers sound advice for working with a low budget. Living in New York City is not cheap, and with rent eating away at the majority of your paycheck, it’s hard to budget for healthy, plentiful food. But rather than just giving the recipes and leaving you to learn things the hard way, Brown walks you through building up to having a good stock of ingredients always on hand, and how to use them effectively. Throughout the book, she states the reality of buying food a budget: it takes some planning and work to make sure that all your needs are covered, but it’s doable.
  • Each recipe lists the price of the meal, based on the current price of the ingredients and how much is used in the recipe. To be honest, this information is a little misleading; just because you plan five $2.15 meals for dinner every night of the week, if you have to get a lot of different ingredients for each meal, it may end up being more than $10.75 at the grocery store. Prices change all the time, and some planning needs to go into making sure that you buy similar ingredients for your meals each week so that you can get the lowest cost, but it’s a good tool to help you realize that eating cheaply is still possible.
  • There is a fantastic variety to the recipes. From breakfast foods, to snacks, to categories like “Things on Toast,” there are a lot of recipes to choose from, making it so that one is never bored in the kitchen. And, everything looks so delicious!

My one criticism is that the recipes themselves don’t list the nutritional facts, though I know that’s harder to do when working with home cooked foods. Still, eating any combination of these meals every week is much healthier and cheaper than eating fast food or microwaveable frozen dinners.

The most difficult elements to all of this will be the planning and time management: planning the meals beforehand so that one can shop in the most efficient way, and making time to actually cook the meals, whether that’s every day or maybe taking one day of the week to cook a lot of food to stock up in the freezer.

Resources like this are extremely valuable to everyone who has to budget their money tightly. But there’s one more thing that makes this book even more amazing: it’s available as a free PDF that you can download, and she’s raised the funds to print copies of the book to distribute to non-profit organizations serving low-income families. More information can be found on her website.

For anyone in a tight money situation that needs help taking care of their nutritional needs, I highly recommend Good and Cheap. (And if you want still more resources, a quick search of “cheap recipes” will yield hundreds of results.)

Happy eating, everyone!

A picture of the vegan pancit I made for Thanksgiving dinner, 2013. The leftovers lasted for days.

A picture of the vegan pancit I made for Thanksgiving dinner, 2013. The leftovers lasted for days.


There is an anxiety among people my age where they have this realization of “Damn, I’m in my twenties,” quickly followed by “This is not how I anticipated my twenties to be like.” The stress about pursuing higher education, worrying about how they’re going to pay off the debt that they’ve amassed, and finding jobs that pay well enough so that they can get what they need (but forget about about what they want), are all things that are lowering the quality of life they expected at this time in their life.

And as much as I believe that older generations are wise and knowledgeable about how to generally be adults, it’s really just people my age who have experiences that other generations don’t. Wages for entry-level positions taken by college grads have frozen. The job market is extremely competitive because everyone is qualified, to the point where there are now different ways of narrowing down the applicant pool. (Number of years of experience is a big one. How am I supposed to have the experience to get a job if I can’t get a job to give me the experience?)

I have this feeling that people understand this, there’s just a very vocal group that try to pin Millennials as lazy and narcissistic.

An actual screencap of what happens when I start to search for "Why are millennials"...

An actual screencap of what happens when I start to search for “Why are millennials.” At least some people think that we’re important.

I try my best to not generalize about an entire generation, and try even harder still to interact with them like I would with anyone else I would meet. Still, sometimes, whenever I do interact with someone from an older generation, I can feel the age divide between us. They may understand my situation, of course, but there isn’t quite the same connection that can be made from commiserating about post-grad life in the short amount of downtime that exists at the end of a hectic day.

This post was inspired by today’s Daily Prompt: Age-Old Questions.


Yesterday, in a sudden fit of nostalgia, I scrolled through my study abroad blog and flipped through the journals I kept during that semester, and I found myself wanting to skip my current stage in life and find myself a small house with a sizeable garden and bees to keep in New Zealand. I changed my desktop background to a slideshow of seven of my favorite pictures from that Spring Break. I couldn’t get my head out of New Zealand.

And it was just… Sudden. I am so glad I took as many pictures as I did because I was lost for words while I was there. The pictures help jog my memory and transport me to The Chasm, to Lake Wakatipu, to Queenstown, to Milford Sound. Being so immediately surrounded by forests and mountains and hills and crystal clear lakes was everything I wanted and more.

It put me in a strange sort of mood that I’m still untangling myself from.


Queenstown, taken with an iPhone 4S from the Skyline Gondola.

Cheat Day

I woke up early this morning after knocking out early last night, and I had a strong craving for donuts.

So I got two donuts from Dunkin and that fulfilled that craving.

A balanced breakfast is a donut in each hand, right?

A balanced breakfast is a donut in each hand, right?

Please don’t follow my example in this regard. I normally try to eat fairly healthily, but some things I just can’t refuse. A craving for desserts for breakfast is one of them.