Chicago, Just Because

29 days before I landed in Chicago for the first time, I decided I would go to Chicago for the first time. Which is obviously not exactly like me. Me, the planner of all things.

And not to give y'all the wrong idea, I'm not rolling in cash. I got my flights all with frequent flyer miles, and it cost me $21 in taxes and insurance. That's it. 

So what was the plan? Pretty much, to go into without a plan.

I needed a break from being, well, here. I needed to be with friends. I needed to try something new. And dangit, I really needed some good pizza.

Lucky for me, I had two friends I have known for ages (living together!) in Chicago, it was somewhere I had never been, and yeah, there is a lot of pizza out there.


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We Ate:

Madison Tavern : About 1 hour after I landed, and after thawing out in a Starbucks (grabbing yet another "medicine ball tea," big fan,) I made my way up West Madison to grab lunch with Danielle.

And, if you have ever woken up at 3:00 AM, flown all the way to Chicago, and only had a banana and Goldfish, you might know how hungry I was. So I inhaled my Cuban sandwich, and we hit the very tip of the iceberg when it came to all the catching up we had to do.


Big Star : After grabbing the bus (!!!) home and finally also hugging Kendra, we headed out to dinner. Big Star was billed as "Tacos, Whiskey & Honky Tonk," I was in.

But you know what sealed the deal? When we found a seat at the bar, and started to order our margaritas, and the waitress simply said, "How 'bout a pitcher?" Baby, how 'bout it. 

So a pitcher of margaritas, loads of chips (and killer guac!) and plenty of tacos later, I sold my heart to Chicago, officially.

Kanela Breakfast Club : Knowing that you're getting the local's "best of the best," is hands down the best part about going to new places with people that already live there. And that's what we got when we went to breakfast Saturday morning (but also, with every stop we made.)


Y'all the menu was unreal, (two of us got the Loraine Scramble, and honestly, I have never loved eggs more.) And they were playing Disney movies behind the bar. But not just regular ol' Disney movies, they were playing them on VHS TAPES. 

Not kidding.

Mahalo : A dinner place with the most Rylee-aestetic ever? Sign me up. 

We had a drink in a pineapple, bomb fried rice, potstickers, wings, and a very shameless photoshoot on their swings that are inside the restaurant. Yeah.


It was just enough food to tide us over before our late night adventure at Bub City.

Did you think I was going to find my way to a country bar and eat atomic cheese while listening to a cover band? You did? Good freakin' call. 

By the way, they have group moscow mules at Bub City, and if you've got $55 it is all yours (and 7 of your closest friends.)

Fairgrounds: On Sunday morning we bundled up for brunch at the coolest coffee place in Wicker Park.

They had cold brew, on. tap.

We grabbed paninis, coffees, and breakfast sammies, and thawed out again while watching the line of pour-over coffees. 

Pequods: And to top it all off, we ended with Chicago deep-dish. (Well, we started with some bomb cheesy garlic bread, because you know how I roll.)

I have nothing to say other than I housed two pieces and had never been happier. 

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We Went:

So, I went to the Chicago History Museum by myself on Monday before flying out. You might remember that Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


What a day to be at the museum. Of course, it was wildly busy. But they also had a lot of special exhibits up featuring MLK and perspectives on race and race relations in America.

We also went and got our nails done. As someone who is totally gun-shy of getting her nails done in Burlington, this was a total treat.

And! I also - obviously? - went to The Bean! And y'all saw that I nabbed a photo when no one was around. But yes, the tourists showed up too.


Overall, do I recommend a quick trip to Chicago?

Yes, duh.

But overall, this was more about me being about to do something new, being able to get away, being able to take a breather from being alone and sad in bed.

And it was perfect. It was friendship, and food, and finding my way around the city.


Not Totally Bravely Running Into 2018

Obviously, a lot happened this year.


If I'm being really honest, this post was going in a totally different direction until last night. When I had a really embarrassing meltdown about being completely alone at the start of a new year. Last year, I spent four days soaking up every bit of happiness, brunches, coffees, movies, snuggs, and friends. This year, I have been completely alone for the last three days.

And if you want to argue that I could have gone out on my own and found something to do downtown by myself: leave. Now. Seriously. That's insulting, and it goes against every inkling that I have ever shared about who I am, how I deal with my anxiety, and seriously - do you know anyone that hasn't gotten any sort of invite for NYE and still said, "Oh, I'll just make my own plans in an area where everyone else has someone?" No. 


Okay. 

That is my reality right now: considerable and pervasive loneliness. Which, doesn't bode very well for my outlook on the new year. 

And yes,  I know some of that is based on the chemistry in my brain. Okay, fine. 

But some of that? It's actually just me, being alone, and hurting. 

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Now. On to the dreams and the goals, and the shit for which I have been busting my butt in the last few months. 

I've documented a good chunk of it publicly obviously, and privately, for whatever that is worth. I used to say that I'm not someone who consistently journals. Which, sure, that is ridiculous now since that is literally what I've done, just you know, on the internet.

Ideally, I suppose this is when I look back at all that - look at what I did in 2016 and 2017, look at what I wanted, and evaluate where I landed.

In 2016, I gave until it physically hurt. I gave my time, my money, my heart, my sanity - every inch of what I had, I gave.



In 2017, I planned for vision with grace. I wanted to continuously keep the courage to pursue my big visions - for myself, my relationships, my work, my service work, and for something that matters. 

Grace was going to be, and ended up being, the key. I knew I needed grace to power through my tendency to get tired, to fuel me when it hurts like it does now, and to give me the power to turn away from the all the things that were going to bring me away from my vision.

So, how'd it end?

...with a bang, and a fizzle.


Look, you know mostly how it ended. Let's not rehash it too much - but instead, let's talk 2018.

I gave you the simpler goals, and yes, and they are completely valid. But I have some bigger ones that I have been working on in the last few months particularly. I think having something more grandiose to work on - something that drives you a bit further than your goal to drink more water, and workout every day - is important.

While these aren't things that I'll be able to measureday-to-day, they are things that I really believe will drive a bigger impact for me in 2018. And, frankly, things that even since September have allowed for some much needed change in my life.

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I think it is pretty obvious that owning my own story has been incredibly important for me.

Did I have to share how heartbroken I was? No. Obviously.


But that's part of my story. That is part of who I am now. And if it wasn't something I was willing to be honest and open about - it was something that was going to control me. 

Instead, I owned where I was in this narrative, and how to appreciate who I am in this process. 

The reality is that if you're denying where you are in your life, with your successes, with your failures, or with your heartbreaks - you are always going to be working to make up the truth. If you are going to deny the bleak spots in hopes of covering them, you don't get to revel in the joy that is on the other side of them.

And, that easily lead me into the notion of remaining authentic

This, admittedly, was driven in part by encountering a truck load of inauthenticity in 2017.


But I can't stress enough how these two things have shifted the relationships in my life. 

When I decided to crack open my heart - mean, y'all, crack open - on the internet, I gained so freaking much. The people that reached out, that supported me, that comforted me, that shared their stories with me - it was actually unreal. 

I didn't have to do that, I know. That was the authentic approach for me. That was the only way I was going to maintain who I was with...well, you. 

There are a thousand things to be said about sharing the highlights, and saturating the internet with only good things, and more over, deliberately curating your pain. Because of course it is nice when people reach out, support you, comfort you, and cheer for you. But when that comes from a place of inauthenticity...what's the point? 

So, while I don't think I ever came at it from that direction, I decided to approach what I put online from a place of complete authenticity. I decided that was the only way to make sure that I was cultivating a story completely of my own. It wasn't always pretty, or uplighting, or positive, or frankly, supported. 

Plenty of people looked at how I was sharing who I am, what I am going through, and the place I'm at in my life, and said, "yeah, no thanks." 


And plenty of people looked at that and said, I got you. 

That doesn't mean the choice to share that I've been crying, or that I've had an anxiety attack in the middle of downtown Burlington, or some other seriously personal shit, was always easy. Of course it wasn't. But the reality is that it is part of my story, and this story isn't always me bravely running through this season of life.

Luckily, this story, and that authenticity, yielded deeper (and new!) friendships in places I never expected. It gave me the opportunity to speak to my pain in a way that allowed other people to open up. It gave me a whole new platform to talk about something that actually matters.

And it gave me a whole new way to keep being honest with myself about my own mental health. 

That's the big one. '


It's really easy to deny where you are in your life. 

It's really easy to pretend you are happy, to pretend your life is satisfying, to pretend that you are achieving your goals, and to pretend like your head doesn't fight you at each of those turns. 

What isn't always easy is knowing that not everyone is going to feel comfortable with you being completely honest about your mental health. Hell, even getting people to listen to you once you say mental health isn't all that easy. 

But being honest about it, about where you are with it, it is a game changer. 

You lose some comfort, but you gain a hell of a lot more.

And I figured out that if I could do all three - if I could own my story, while being authentic, and being honest about my own mental health - I could shift the last few months of my 2017 into something that mattered.

Yeah, whatever, heartbreak matters too. But that was the launching pad, not the foundation.


So.

That is where I am. And that is where I'm going too. 

I don't know how easy this is going to be to maintain. 

I know some days it hurts, just to be in the thick of it, say nothing about sharing it. Last night was no exception. I sobbed hours before the new year. Because I was so alone, and so sick of it. Is that glamorous? Hell no. No one "likes" that. 

But that's my story, that is where I am coming from. 

12 Goals Small Enough to Achieve in 2018

Alright! Goals!

Are we ready for this? Probably not!

The fall flew by for me, which probably has a lot to do with being wildly depressed, sleeping a lot - or not sleeping at all - and spending a lot of time wishing the time away. And one day I woke up, it was winter, and the new year was right around the corner.


So, here we are.

Looking 2018 in the face and asking what it's got. Which, if you think about how 2017 whooped our collective asses, is a little dangerous. But whatever, let's do it anyway.

And while we are at it, let's look at goals. The reality is - as much as you might want to say, well you don't need a day on a calendar to set goals, or even the jerk schtick of well new year resolutions never last... - the reality is good goals are literally a key to success.

Goals guide your actions.


And good goals help steer you to use the stuff you already have in your toolbox. You know, your goal of being a better runner is going to be aided by your stubbornness (a gift given to you, really.) Your goal of reading more books is going to be stewarded by your introverted nature (still a gift, promise.)

So, I'm into goals. I'm here for goals. Goals, that you set with honest intention, with a plan for follow-through, and an understanding of what you are working with - that's the sweet spot.

Finally! Y'all voted, and you wanted quick hit goals, and that is what you're gonna get! At least until I finish the post about the big three goals that I've been chipping away at in the last three months since, well who the hell am I kidding, you know. Also, I'm sorry, truly, for all the exclamation points.

1. Grow my hair out

2. Lose something like 7 pounds. I don't feel the deepest desire to give poundage - because let's be real a. you don't care, and b. I shouldn't - but let's go with more than 5. 'Cause y'all I got a year. 



3. Keep practicing yoga

4. Run two half marathons

5. Take sleep more seriously. Hold your judgement please. I know myself enough to know that while a solid eight hours is worth it, taking my days off to stay in bed until 9, 10, 11 o'clock is actually detrimental to me. So, sleep like ya need to.

6. Go to at least one new state and one new city

7. Get a dog

8. Stop procrastinating laundry. Just, suck it up.

9. Read 12 books. Yes, I'm including Audible books.

10. Sing Tell Me You Love Me more often, (and any other song I love belting,) because it makes me happy and I want to.

11. Drink 100 ounces of water a day

12. Climb some more mountains



And that's it!

Those are the easy ones, the ones that I've set out for 2018 because they are worth doing. And because I want to. Are they going to change the world? Maybe not.

Well, probably not.

But they matter to me, and they're gonna help make it another year worth talking about...in a year.

25 New Things I Did in 2017

Last year, I did 20 new things (at least,) and wrote about it here. This year, I definitely did more than 20 new things. So, in an effort to outdo literally only myself, here are 25 new things.

1. Climbed Stowe Pinnacle, Camel's Hump, and Mount Sunapee

2. Ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon



3. Changed careers

4. Fell really hard in love

5. Gave up my title as Miss Vermont

6. Ran (part of) the Vermont City Marathon

7. Crossed two more states off the list: Delaware and Washington



8. Biked on the Colchester Causeway

9. Traveled internationally without my family

10. Drove on the left side of the road

11. Got a tattoo

12. Started practicing yoga

13. Got a new roommate

14. Received salt and pepper shakers with my face on them. That was cool.

15. Wore falsies to Moes. Got free queso.

16. Went to a trampoline park, and a roller skating rink

17. Finally had a valentine on Valentine's day.

18. Made pancakes in almost every shape I could manage at IHOP for National Pancake Day



19. Decided once and for all that I don't owe proof of my mental illness to anyone. Decided I didn't need to seem sick or explain myself or even be courageous.

20. Developed a huge dependency on hummus

21. Got a stress fracture in my left foot on mile 7 of the Disney Princess Half

22. Started drinking RedBull more regularly than I should.

23. Had three brushes with cancer. That was weird.

24. Found out that I care way more about sandwiches than basically any food ever. Definitely committing to that one.

25. Vermont got a Target. I didn't do that. But I did tweet about it a lot.



The Tattoo

I was probably 17 when I started thinking about what I wanted for my first tattoo.

I had floral ideas, and handwritten ideas, and nostalgic-memorial-type ideas. I'll be honest, I even toyed with the idea of getting a lyric of one of my favorite songs. Which is way embarrassing when you know the song.


Well, my 18th birthday came and went, and I didn't get a tattoo. Actually, I got my tragus pierced instead, about two weeks before I graduated high school.

Now flashing way forward, as my year as a titleholder ended I started to get people asking about the somewhat typical moves that new formers make. A bold new haircut. A new crazy-cool job. A tattoo. (Also on that list is not unusually: an engagement ring. Thankfully I don't know anyone rude enough to ask me about that one.)

But, nothing was really speaking to me. I wasn't feeling pulled to make a dramatic change.

Then, I was very suddenly and decidedly single, wildly depressed, and spending a lot of time ogling tattoos on the internet. 

Enter: "it's time for a tattoo."

And, if anyone is now feeling as though I got a tattoo for only one of the above reasons...buh bye.

I got a tattoo because I wanted one. Because I wanted to put something on my body that meant something really wonderful to me. I wanted one because I knew it would be beautiful. And I wanted one because 2017 gave me a freakin run for my money.

So, I puffed myself up, shushed my fears, and sent the inquiry.


About a month later, I was laying down with my leggings around my knees, taking in one big deep breath before becoming someone who added something permanent to her body.

And here's what happened...

Y'all had a lot of questions.

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Did it hurt?

Uh, no, not really. There were some points where it was more uncomfortable (think a long flu shot) for 3+ seconds. But by and large, no, it was not painful. It is on a pretty fatty part of my thigh. lol as if there are less fatty parts of my thigh. So, it really felt like a vibration that sometimes shot a quick pinch into my thigh.


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What does it mean?

First of all, maybe don't ask that one with a condescending tone that also says, geez why would you do that? 

It means a lot of things. It means something for me to have gotten it in 2017. It has a lot of symbolism in the realm of strength and longevity. It also (obviously?) represents Vermont in lot of ways.

Yes, that's the most basic of explanation. But also, the meaning really only has to be important to me.

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Where did I go and who did it?

I went to Fortune Teller and Laura tattooed me - yes, I highly recommend her.

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Am I ready for my second one?

Nope. I have heard that there is some tattoo-bug that'll bite me soon, but for now: nope.

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Do I regret it?

Not at all.

I am so happy with it. I am so pleased with how it looks, and where it is, and all parts of it. The tattoo and the healing process were so easy. And despite the fact that I was pretty sure that I was going to get cut out of the will when I told my parents, they even took it.....well.


Yoga, It Might Actually Help

Did we think - even three months ago - that I was going to roll into this next season of my life as a budding little yogi?

No, duh.

But! Here we are.

Suddenly I'm going to yoga two to three days a week, learning how to touch my toes, and what a downward dog really looks like. Plot twist I am really really loving it.

Arguably, that alone is a bit of a surprise.


And as much I would like to think I go into all things with an open mind and open heart - that is just not always the case. This though, this was different. Once I plucked up the courage, it was just as simple as, I am going to yoga. I wasn't setting up expectations for myself, or what I would find there. I was simply going to go.

What I found was that my heart really needed yoga.

How many of you just rolled your eyes and said, "oh here we go?" Hear me out.

From what I can tell so far, yoga is about moving through a practice that encourages your body to feel it's own strength, and utilize it's own energy to cultivate or release something within you.

The show of physical strength is obvious through the majority of any practice. Though I'm not breaking out a Firefly anytime soon, it's the simplicity in things as "basic" as a plank, that remind you it is all about what your body can do.

That is transposed against the notion of deciding what you want to embrace, or focus on, during your practice.

Or, in my case, more often than not it is about what I want to let go of during my practice. Whatever I choose to set aside, to say shut up to, or to leave outside the studio - that is entirely up to me. And it is that choice, that focus, that brings in the element of softness.



Though it probably wasn't until I had been going for about a month that this dichotomy showed up for me, once it did, it was as if it had been in my peripherals for weeks.

Strength and softness.

While it is not always obvious, I've been trying to be pretty strong over the last five months or so. This fall, and even the start of this winter have been hard. Unbelievably hard. It's been a lot of I'm fine and I'm just exhausted. 

And yes, let's include heartbreak here, but I don't want to give it all the credit.

Anyway.

I've been trying to be pretty strong.

But the reality is, that strength, it takes constant effort. And even when I feel like I'm throwing my whole body into the notion of strong, and okay, and making it work - it often doesn't feel like I am that strong.

So, the softness.

The notion of their duality in one hour of my life, two or three times a week, it helps. It's not gonna fix me in two months of yoga. But when I give myself that whole hour - to choose strength and softness - I leave feeling just a bit better.


My practice is nothing close to perfect. I still have runner's calves. I still can't touch my toes without bending my knees. My balance...is improving.

But I feel like I've maybe put myself (or...like maybe just a big toe, but not my whole self quite yet,) into a new community, and sister, whoa did I need it.

I needed blanket acceptance for what I was going to bring to this party. I needed understanding that not everything I do is going to work. I needed the notion that we can be practicing our strength and finding that we have to embrace softness at the same time.

Whoa, did I need it.

And, shout out to all of you folks that have reached out about this yoga endeavor. Because some of you have just said, yay! and I feel the same. And some of you have said, yikes! and I feel that too.


Let me add this: if you think you might wanna join, give me a shout. Because I promise, I will look weird in class too. I am nervous too. I am awkward in new places too. But, it's totally worth it.

Namaste, y'all.

Let Me Update Ya

I have a few reasons why it has been quiet over here.

But they all really boil down to this: it's been a hard few months, and I don't have a new way to say that.

So, I'm going to hit you with a few random updates and hope that we (I) can get back on track here.

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Returning from Ireland: 

Well, for one, jet lag was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Actually, neither was driving on the right side of the road again.

Oddly though, within about two or three days, it felt like a weird memory of a trip that didn't totally happen to me. I think a good part of that is depression-brain. But it feels...like a dream. Not in the magical fuzzy sense. But in the sense that right now my brain works in flashes, and I get pieces of it back and think, Oh, right. That was me. 

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The Godforsaken Glasses:

I got these a few months ago - and for a few months I've been talking about them enough that it is now just plain annoying.

They are blue-light computer glasses. And basically they protect your eyes if you happen to spend many many many hours a day staring at a screen. (That's most of us, right?)

My thought process was well, I wake up and look at my phone at home, go to work and look at my computer, to come home and look at my phone again. And though I love boasting that I have 20/20, I'd really like that to stay true.

So I bought them.

Now, I don't use them as often as a should. Because, quiet frankly, I've never had glasses, and it is just not a habit I have. However. I love the style, they are totally comfortable, and they've been great for days that I know I'm going to just focus on my inbox for approximately 1600 hours and need to ward off a headache.

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Running:

It has been a long time since I've had a running related injury.

Almost a year actually (lol, princess half.)

And this set back has been, well, hard. I've relied so heavily on cardio and the chance to just run in peace for the last few months. In the last three weeks or so, not being able to run has been consequently brutal.

I'm doing all the good things - rolling it out, stretching - you know. But I really think as hard as this spell has been, it has been much harder given that I can't go for a long run.

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Up Next:

The Depression
The Tattoo
The Yoga