Growing Pains #8 – Where Do I Fit?

When I think about my life, I think about moments in time. I call the significant moments pillars in time. Sophomore year was a life defining year, it was a pillar in time that would hold up the Parthenon that is my life. I wrestled with so many emotions – grief, fear, anxiety, success, loneliness, pain heartbreak, joy, excitement, anticipation, shame, calmness, emptiness. My life felt like a Greek Tragedy. I had three family members pass away in just under a year and a half. A cousin. An uncle. A grandfather. I am a first generation student so I was feeling the pressure to succeed. I still wrestled with being black and what that meant. The year was weighing on me. I needed support. I needed community.

I was fortunate enough to be part of two scholarship cohorts. I was automatically part of a community because of the two programs. I was a Leader Advancement Scholar (LAS) and a Multicultural Advancement and Cofer scholar (MAC). Each of these programs were different. They were made up of different people, targeted different communities, and focused on different experiences. In LAS, the cohort was comprised of mostly white students. In MAC, the cohort included various races and ethnicities, but I would say that it was primarily made up of black students.

With all that carried over from K-12 and life before college, I found myself spending more time with LAS than MAC. I lived in Troutman with MAC scholars, but you wouldn’t have known that. I spent nearly every day of the first year in Barnes with LAS kids, and I moved out of Troutman my second year. I sought out to build deeper connections with LAS students because I hadn’t been shown any mirrors. I didn’t see myself in the MAC scholars’ cohort. I saw myself in LAS.

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I was hypercritical of the MAC scholars program. I took every opportunity to shine light on any fault or annoyance that I found with the program. I’d complain with other scholars. The meetings ran long. The AV didn’t work. This event felt like a waste of time. In hindsight, those events were so important, especially as I clarified my values and began to understand what I wanted to do with my life. (I apologize to anyone who had to deal with that). I didn’t realize it in the moment, and by the end of sophomore year, I left the MAC scholars program and almost left Central.

All year long, I suppressed the pressures of life. I finished the year and spent most of the summer alone in Mt. Pleasant. I had time to learn about myself and “deal” with everything that was slowly crushing me. It was meditative and rejuvenating. I had time to think. Time to be still. Time to just figure things out. That was really when things started to change for me. With emptiness all around me, I had time to find the mirrors. I had time to see my reflection with clear eyes. All the stimulation was gone. All the distractions were silenced. I was finding my fit, and it was inside rather than out.

The Growing Pains series will continue each day until the full story is shared. It is an honest look at how socialization, poverty, changing circumstances, and perceptions influenced me to hate myself, my skill, and my community, but ultimately how authentic relationships, challenging questions, and a deep look inside helped me learn to love myself and love my people. You see I’m black and I love it, but that wasn’t always the case. Check tomorrow for the next chapter – Growing Pains #9: Space will be up and ready for your reading.

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Growing Pains #7: Bad Genes

Context: The moments shared here are in the past and I hold no ill-will or angst toward people I am writing about, but those moments have served as catalysts for reflection and change. They’ve since apologized and we’ve moved on.


I arrived on campus several days before the semester started. August 15, 2010 – I walked around campus looking up at the sky in awe on how many stars there were. The sky was speckled with little exploding balls of light. I remember feeling an overwhelming calmness with each step. I would find that feeling a few more times before graduation, but more of that will come later.

My first year was exciting – events, meaningful classes, new friendships, shared interests and late-night discussions. With no men’s gymnastics team, I decided to try my hand at cheerleading. Tumbling skills got me on the team because my ability to stunt was very low at the time (sorry Obetts and anyone else I had to practice with during tryouts). College was off to a great start. I still had tumbling as an outlet and I made new friends.

As the fall semester turned into the spring semester, I found myself planning a spring break trip with friends from the team. It was my first spring break trip without family. It was college. We were driving down to Panama City Beach. I didn’t know much about it, but I was going with friends. Six of us piled into my friend’s van and we drove down to Florida.

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Big Sean had blown up a little bit and Chiddy Bang was still popular at the time. Just look up Too-Fake by Big Sean and Chiddy Bang. It was basically our theme song for the entire trip. I remember straddling the border of Alabama and Florida for about two hours. Finally! We made it to PCB and Whenever by Kid Cudi was playing out the speakers. The line “you can sip chardonnay and imma have myself a brew. I’m a country ass n***a baby, you know how I roll” flew out the speakers and time stopped.

One of the women on the trip asked, with no inhibition or signs of skipping the word, “What’s a country ass n***a?” She was white and apparently confused. The rest of the car was mortified and I just became small and silent. My friends explained why she shouldn’t say the “n-word” and she proceeds to say, “well I just want to know what a country ass n***a is.” I chimed in and let her know that it was offensive and that we should move on. After all our trip was just beginning.

In that moment, the mirror appeared and showed me myself for the first time. I was a black man. Reality cracked my shell and slapped me in the face. My black face. There are many moments like this one throughout college – each one slowly chipping away at the facade I built up. Two people crossed the street to walk on the same side as a person in a ski mask. Having someone tell you that you shouldn’t date with the underlying, unstated reason having to do with ethnicity. Someone jokingly telling you that Popeyes is “Black people food” as you drive by it.

What did the mirror show me? It revealed that I didn’t really see myself in the people around me either. It showed me that I’d have to continue searching for my place in the world.

“Fight between my conscious and the skin that’s on my body.” – Lift Me Up, Vince Staples

The Growing Pains series will continue each day until the full story is shared. It is an honest look at how socialization, poverty, changing circumstances, and perceptions influenced me to hate myself, my skill, and my community, but ultimately how authentic relationships, challenging questions, and a deep look inside helped me learn to love myself and love my people. You see I’m black and I love it, but that wasn’t always the case. Check tomorrow for the next chapter – Growing Pains #8: Where do I fit? will be up and ready for your reading.

Growing Pains #1: Bad Genes

Context:

For the past five years, I’ve been reconciling all the hate for myself that compounded over my short lifetime of 24 years. At that point, I was 19 and just starting my journey. Leading up to the middle of Black History Month (February 2017), I found the freedom to tell the story you’re about to begin (There was a long Facebook post). Growing Pains is be a blog series that reflects my personal journey and the semi-universal feelings that came from it. Pain, disappointment, frustration, loneliness, confusion, honesty, compassion, hope, curiosity, love, and peace of mind. My hope is solely to uncover my wounds so that others may see how to heal their own. In sharing this, I aspire to be vulnerable, authentic, humorous, creative, and instructive. Please journey with me from Self-Hate to Self-Love that extends back into a community that has given and still gives me so much joy. I love myself and I love my blackness.

Bad Genes

Bad jeans – I mean bad genes. Sixteen and wishing for color contacts to have the ocean blue eyes like the porcelain skinned girl I had a crush on in the first grade. Five years old, white oxford shirt, smirk, pressed blue pants, Reebok sneakers, Detroit Lions backpack, Hercules folder. I was ready for the first day of first grade at St. Michael’s School, a private school in Southfield, MI. Didn’t even know I was Black. I was a kid trying to figure out which one of the eighth graders was going to push me on the swing set during recess. I was a kid trying to figure out how the Gingerbread Man got from room to room. My mind was bursting open as if the sun was exploding and my imagination was a deep and as wide as the ocean. Day after day there was a new adventure to be had and a new lesson to be learned.

Decades before Arthur memes, I was dressed in a yellow sweater vest and jeans with the fake round glasses on for Arthur Day. We were paleontologists wearing 13-pocket vests looking for fossils in the dirt on Paleontologist Day. We made wax candles on Valentine’s Day after receiving a valentine from every person in the class. On Saturdays, I sat in a rocking chair with a blanket over my legs next to my brother, who sat in a power ranger chair, to watch Saturday morning cartoons while eating a mini bagel with cream cheese and drinking apple juice. I was 85 in a six-year old’s body, assuming that 85 year-olds sit in rocking chairs. Life was good. Life was amazing in fact.

First grade came and went. It was an exciting year full of first crushes, field day, elementary school birthday parties, and the Scholastic Book Fair. Second grade rolled around and I found myself at a new school, Thomas Gist in Inkster, MI. I went from a private school that was predominantly white to a charter school that was predominantly black. My world shook and I didn’t know how to handle it. Making friends at that age was challenging enough, but to change school and communities made it even more difficult. My second-grade head was spinning. I was alone in a new place. I imagine I am introverted by nature, but the next few years reinforced that feeling. I didn’t spend much time in the second-grade class though, because what I had learned in first grade at St. Mike’s, they were just teaching in second grade at Thomas Gist. So, I was placed in Ms. Murphy’s third grade class about a month into the school year. Change after change.

This is where my 6-year-old brain started to rationalize what was going on in my life. I mean rationalize as a process, not as being rational about the situation. I had to make sense of the world around me. My best interpretation was “if this school is predominantly black and I’m a year ahead in every subject, then that must mean that white kids are smarter and because I was around them, I was smarter. I wasn’t very rational at 6-years-old, and I was upset because I missed my old friends and teachers. I wanted things to go back the way they were. I just wanted to go back to St. Mike’s.

First Grad Vince

The Growing Pains series will continue each day until the full story is shared. It is an honest look at how socialization, poverty, changing circumstances, and perceptions influenced me to hate myself, my skin, and my community, but ultimately how authentic relationships, challenging questions, and a deep look inside helped me learn to love myself and love my people. You see, I’m black and I love it, but that wasn’t always the case. Check tomorrow for the next chapter – Growing Pains #2: Where Do I Fit? will be up and ready for your reading.

 

But I’m Not That Creative…

Are you Creatives

To some, creativity has joined the junk drawer of buzzwords that currently houses inspiration, and innovation. In some cases, it fits the context in which it is used, but in many cases it seems to only translate into a filler word. *Skip to the bottom for tips and practices on increasing creativity.*

I’ve been wrestling with the question, what does it mean to be creative? After thinking about this for a few days, other questions followed: Am I creative? Can anyone be creative? How can I increase my creativity.

What does it mean to be creative?

To be creative is to have: “The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.” – Dictionary.com

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In practice, creativity is:  “The use of imagination and original ideas to create something new; inventiveness.” Oxford Dictionary

To me, these definitions serve as a frame of reference, a sort of launching point to discover what it means to be creative. Historically, creativity has been a badge of honor assigned to artists, musicians, writers, designers, and the like. Now, it has become a commodity for communities, businesses, classrooms, non-profit organizations, and largely on the internet. People are constantly creating (not hyperbole). People are literally creating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most importantly, in my opinion, people are using creativity to solve problems that our world faces.

My initial reflection led to surface level questions that were directed outward: Is that really creative? Am I being a hater (a check we all need sometimes)? Is that what creativity really is? After my doubtful, judgment-filled questions subsided, I looked inward. (We all have these moments… At least I hope we all do. ha ). My reflection birthed different, more interesting questions. How can I become more creative? How can I think creatively? What skills and passions do I possess that can be used to solve problems?

My curiosity led me to painting. I drew inspiration from Jesi Ekonen, who owns justfollowyourart, which is an Etsy Shop for “Hand Lettered Pretty & Witty Gifts & Decor.” Her products are amazing and she donates some of each purchase to a given charities. I painted small canvases with a variety of colors and patterns. I enjoyed the process, but it didn’t stick for me. So I tried something new.

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Next, I tried writing. In my last role, we were tasked with keeping a blog. I wrote about 50 blog posts, over two years, which is basically one every other week. Also, my 4-line poem career on Twitter was short lived. It was less than 7 Tweets. I enjoy writing, but not enough to do it consistently. My desire to write comes in waves. Then I found my niche, cooking. From start to finish the process of creating a meal was methodical, passion-filled, and deeply enjoyable. I focused on the process and other people. An idea on paper translated to the plate and enjoyed at the end by myself and others.

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Creativity is imagination, original thought, trial and error, pausing, practicing, and learning. The questions isn’t “am I creative?” The question should be “how can I become more creative than I am now?” Think of creativity as ranging from coloring outside the lines to painting Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. It can be enhanced through effective practice and consistency. It also doesn’t matter where your creativity is directed. Clarify your interests, refine your skills, and take risks. It’s how we use our creativity and connect with others that matters.

*Tip: Spend some time identifying one problem that exists in you life and 50 ways to solve it using your skills, passions, and interests. (Inspiration for 50 – Kid Cudi sampling Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover to make 50 Ways to Make A Record.) Try all of those

I needed to find where my interests, skills, and passions worked together to solve a problem or produce something useful/meaningful. Even in practicing the two that didn’t work best for me, I realized that the process of creating and the outcome have to be equally important. You have to enjoy what you create and you have to enjoy how you are creating it.

Various processes revealed that I enjoyed painting and writing, but not enough to practice them consistently. I also realized that the outcomes for both weren’t tremendously important to me. With cooking, I enjoyed the process and I also was invested in the outcome – Does the food taste good? Is it plated well? Are there various colors on the plate? Will the people I share this meal with enjoy the time we spend together eating it? Did we feel more connected as a result of dining together. Keeping these specific things in mind intensified my creativity in the kitchen.

I was able to build deeper and more meaningful connections with people I care about by using creativity – my imagination, skills, passions, and interests, . It wasn’t that we weren’t close friends to begin with, but I wanted to create a shared experience that resulted in us being more appreciative of each others’ presence.

Creative pursuits add value to my life in unexpected ways.

Now more than ever, I believe creativity is necessary to solve people problems. “People Problems” are problems, simple and complex, that effect people in various ways. We have to use our imagination, empathy, skills, and passions to make life better for others. It is no longer true that we reserve the title of creative solely for artists, musicians, and writers. WE ALL must use our imagination, passions, originality and creativity to make our world better. We must create a better world by listening to others, practicing our skills, collectively finding solutions, and making space for different types of people.

I’m excited to see how you bring creativity to life.

What does it mean to be creative:

  1. Using your skills, passions, and interests to solve problems that exists in unexpected/original ways
  2. Enjoying the process as much as the outcome
  3. Taking into account your head and heart when you generate original content
  4. Using your imagination to see the world around you differently

How to be more creative:

  1. Identify your skills, interests, and passions.
  2. Find processes that are enjoyable and outcomes that are important to you.
  3. Look for a problem that you can solve with your skills, interests, and passions.
  4. Enthusiasm is important! Enjoy what you do. (Taken from Tina Roth Eisenberg’s 99U Talk)
  5. Try. Try. Try Some More.

 

 

The Craft of Writing

Practice. Practice. Practice. Fail. Correct. Correct again. Rewrite. Revise. Practice. Practice. Practice.

“I was learning the craft of poetry, which really was an intensive version of what my mother had taught me all those years ago – the craft of writing as the art of thinking.” Ta-Nehisi Coates

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I’ve always loved writing as a form of communication. I have five journals for five different topics, but they share a common purpose –  they exist for me to get my thoughts onto a page in order to make sense of them. Over the years, I’ve learned to etch my thoughts into semi-eloquent phrases that may yield cohesive thoughts, but more often than not, I write, organize, rewrite, edit, post, notice mistakes (I hate this part), revise, update posts, and the begin again.

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After a discussion with a good friend, I decided to revisit Between the World and Me, authored by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The writing itself is captivating, but more important to me is the fact that the ideas expressed are deeply personal to me because they are reflective of my life experiences. I imagine that one day, I’ll be able to write in a way that effectively articulates my thoughts and emotions, but also reflects back what the world has given me, as well as what others have experienced.

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Writing as a way of thinking is time consuming in many ways, but for me it is time well-spent. Organizing thoughts and emotions related to personal experience relieves stress and aids me in finding clarity. In the developmental or academic context, writing helps me bridge the seemingly invisible gaps between the concepts of human dignity, leadership, human rights, communication, and cultural pluralism to name a few interests. Writing, in personal and developmental circumstances, produces clarity and new understanding.

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So, I challenge you to write your thoughts down. Allow them to flow in an unorganized fashion, draw, revisit, edit, rewrite, and then share them with someone close to you. Ultimately, I think writing as a practice has made me a better thinker, more inquisitive, and more appreciative of writers who can author books, create meaningful poems, or produce art that captivates the hearts and minds of others. Words may not always be enough, but they sure help. Write your heart out!

Amigos de todo el mundo – El abogado de Argentina (Friends Around the World – The Attorney from Argentina)

As you can see in the title both the Spanish and English language are represented. My friend Flor, who is a lawyer in Buenos Aires, and I met in Florence, Italy in 2015. Since then, she’s traveled many amazing places and balances work, life, and traveling. You’ll find that the following blog will be in both Spanish and English as a representation of our friendship. Enjoy!

Como se puede ver en el título tanto el español como el inglés están representados. Mi amiga Flor, que es abogada en Buenos Aires, y me reuní en Florencia, Italia en 2015. Desde entonces, ella ha viajado por muchos lugares increíbles y equilibra el trabajo, la vida y los viajes. Usted encontrará que el siguiente blog será escrito en español e inglés como una representación de nuestra amistad. Disfruta!

Esta es la histora de Flor. This is Flor’s Story!

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¿De donde eres? ¿Qué ciudad y país?

 Me llamo Flor  y soy de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 ¿Viaja con frecuencia?

 Me gradué de la universidad en diciembre del 2014. Hasta el momento que estuve muy enfocada en mis estudios y no tenía forma de solvente grandes viajes.Una vez ya graduado decidí ir a Europa un mes y medio a modo de “festejo”. Ese viaje resultó el Puntapié inicial para descubrir que viajar es una experiencia única que te conecta con un sin fin de emociones.En la actualidad trato de organización de viajes (cortos-largos) con la mayor frecuencia posible.

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Portobello Road Market – London, England

Que país ha sido favorito? ¿Qué te ha gustado?

 No puedo elegir uno solo. Mis dos favoritos son Inglaterra y Costa Rica.

Londres fue la primera ciudad europea que conocí y quedó fascinada con toda su estructura y perfección. Lo mejor de todo: Los parques.Mi preferido Holland Park y una hora del centro Houmpton Court.

 En Costa Rica existe una energía especial. Más allá de la belleza de sus playas creo que lo mejor es su gente. Utilizar la frase “PURA VIDA” como saludo. Son dos palabras que simbolizan su forma de vivir: alegría, armonía y paz.

Mi playa favorita: Santa Teresa. Sus atardeceres son de película.

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Santa Theresa – Costa Rica

 ¿Tiene algún otro viaje planeado para el próximo año?

 Si, México en abril del 2017.

¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de viajar?

 En una palabra: La libertad.

Si pudieras decirle a la gente algo que inspirar a viajar, ¿qué dirías?

¡La vida es una sola, you live one !!!

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Cliffs of Moher, Irlanda

English Translation:

Where are you from? What city and country?

 My name is Flor and I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 Do you travel frequently?

 I graduated from university in December of 2014. Until then I was very focused on my studies and had no way of planning great trips. Once I graduated I decided to go to Europe for a month and a half as a “celebration”. That trip was the starting point to discover that traveling is a unique experience that connects you with an endless number of emotions. Currently, I try to organize trips (short and long) as often as possible.

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Portobello Road Market – London, England

What country has been your favorite? What did you like?

I cannot choose one. My two favorites are England and Costa Rica.

London was the first European city I visited and I was fascinated with all its structure and perfection. Best of all: The Parks. My favorite was Holland Park and 1 hour from downtown Hampton Court.

In Costa Rica, there is a special energy. Beyond the beauty of its beaches, I think the best is its people. They use the phrase “PURA VIDA” as a greeting. These are two words that symbolize their way of living: joy, harmony and peace. My favorite beach: Santa Teresa. Their sunsets are like the movies.

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Santa Theresa – Costa Rica

Do you have any other trips planned for next year?

Yes, Mexico in April 2017.

What do you like most about traveling?

In a word: Freedom.

If you could tell people something to inspire them to travel, what would you say?

You live once!!!!

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Cliffs of Moher – Ireland

Travel Series Part 3 – Nostalgic. Grateful. And Ready to Go Again

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Imagine coming home after four months of exploration, being fully present, and navigating life in places so unfamiliar that all you could do was stumble around for a while until you found your way? Midge Carter found herself buying tickets for trains with no destination in mind. She hiked mountains, walked out to island after the tide rolled out, and sat at King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh at sunrise with 16 amazing friends. (Photos at the end).

Today’s blog is about Midge’s four-month journey around Europe. From hot chocolate in Ibiza to longing for Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter by the end of her trip, Midge shared with me interesting stories about not wanting to leave, but finally coming to a place where she is grateful for her experiences, but so deeply ready to leave again. (She’s not particular about much, but she is about peanut butter. – “Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter or NOTHING”). In France, she found herself wandering around markets before heading out for a solo-hike. “I don’t speak French so I just walked around pointing at things and ended up with a few oranges and a baguette. I hiked up this mountain by myself and I sat on the side of it looking out at the alps… just sitting there like this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.”When you’re traveling for months at a time, you experience these peaceful, still moments where it’s just you and the world.

You also find that much of your success is related to the kindness of others. Traveling is deeply revealing – it shows us deepest selves, our strength, our ability to be alone and be happy, and our need to connect wherever we go. “There was one day when two of us met up with two friends for a hike and when we got to the top it was so windy and no one else was around. It was JUST us. It was just the most… it was one of those moments that feels so tangible because it’s so solid when you’re in it and you want to remember it.” These moments aren’t easily forgotten. We hold tightly to the moments where we felt most alive. We remember who was with us, what the air felt like, and how important the people around us were in those moments.

As the trip came to a close the emotions changed. The desire to get off the plane and escape back to a new place grows and grows. “The hardest part was that I didn’t want to be home. Especially because I spent the rest of the summer in the same town I grew up in. It’s like going from doing something interesting every day and all of sudden you’re back in the grind. It’s not like every day there (Europe) was perfect, but it wasn’t every day here.” While listening to Midge share stories of travel and her journey home, I couldn’t help but go back to the moment of landing back in the States after my first trip abroad. That feeling of I could be anywhere in the world right now, why did I come back here sets in. You think of just buying the first ticket out to wherever and going away again. It doesn’t last forever, but it does feel like it will never go away.

After a while, you come to a point where you’ve settled back in. You find that the grind isn’t so bad and you look back on all the memories made with amazing people. “I think I stopped being angry when I felt like I was doing something with my life again… And I’m at a point where I’m nostalgic, and grateful, and ready to go again,” The desire to travel never really goes away after that first trip. It intensifies and staying in familiar places too long starts to feel suffocating, but that’s when you look through old photos, plan your next trip and get on your way.

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All photos were provided by Midge Carter. Midge is studying public relations, a lover of Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter, and a fellow Travel enthusiast.

Travel Series Part 2 – A Love Affair with England

The second post in the series is a little different. For the first time, The Big Picture has a Guest Author. Amanda Yats is studying public relations and is a fellow travel enthusiast. This summer she spent a few short weeks exploring England with a few friends. Follow Amanda on Twitter at @amanda_yats and on Instagram at @amandalynn_28. Enjoy!

If you are interested in being a Guest Author for The Big Picture send me a Direct Message (DM) on Instagram: @vince_thurman1 or via email at thurm1vg@gmail.com.

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Going Abroad- A Love Affair with England

Picture in your head the opening scene from Love Actually – set in London Heathrow airport. Family and friends warmly and lovingly greet one another as they reunite. Hugs and smiles are available in abundance, and Hugh Grant’s voice over is telling you that love actually is all around.

When I stepped out of the baggage claim area into the arrivals gates of London Heathrow, I wasn’t looking for a specific person or embrace, but I felt an immense love for a country and culture I was about to experience for the first time.

Even though my visit in England lasted for a short three weeks, I had fallen in love.

My first few days we rather rough; I had a sinus infection, which didn’t mix well with a six-hour flight. Regardless of my sore throat and congested sinuses, I couldn’t help by marvel at the rolling green hills spotted with sheep, endless Lion candy bars and the Walkers Quavers that we encountered as we drove south away from the bustle of London.

One of my first meals across the Pond was a traditional, full English breakfast. I remember thinking that I would never be satisfied with breakfast back in the States after experiencing such a filling meal.

Along with the delicious food, I admired the differences and similarities of the English culture compared to that of the United States. There were so many seemingly small moments that made me fall in love with life and the world over again during the trip.

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Here are just a handful:

  • Standing on the beach in Perranporth watching the sun set and kicking around a soccer ball with my professor and classmates
  • Looking over the breathtaking landscape of the English coast while standing where the alleged castle of King Arthur once belonged
  • Having my heart pound in my chest as I jumped onto my first tube in London’s Underground
  • Visiting the spot where the Mayflower departed in Plymouth and eating my first traditional fish and chips meal
  • Getting kicked off the famous lion statue in Trafalgar Square after trying to take far too many photos of the same double decker bus

These moments where just a few snapshot memories that initially come to mind when reflecting back on my trip abroad. I could (and often have) gone on and on to my friends and family about how my time spent experiencing other countries and cultures has positively influenced me.

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On one of our last nights in England, our professor told us something that I continue to find strikingly true, as well as applicable once someone goes abroad.

He said that once you go abroad, or begin to travel anywhere really, you can never truly come home again. While the place you once called home has stayed mostly the same during your time away, you’ve changed. So therefore the person you were when you left doesn’t come home; the person you are now will come back, but you will never be the same after your experiences.

I think the following quote from the late F. Scott Fitzgerald sums up the idea fairly accurately:

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.”

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Travel Series Part 1: Preparing to Go Alone – Harrison Watts

Travel Series Part 1 – Preparing to Go Alone – The First Solo Trip

Last week, I had the opportunity to correspond with Harrison Watts, a student at Central Michigan University, who is preparing for a four-month Study Abroad trip to Italy. He’ll be studying at the Florence University of the Arts, in Firenze (Florence), Italy. Solo Travel can spark many emotions ranging from anxiety to great and endless excitement. As your departure date gets closer, you’ll find that the butterflies in your stomach flap their wings a little harder and the exciting to go steadily increases.

Below you’ll find a few responses to an interview between myself and Harrison as he’s been preparing for his extended stay in Italy.

Vincent: Is this your first time traveling abroad alone? If so what are some of the emotions you’ve been feeling?

Harrison: Yes, I am very anxious to leave and experience this trip, but most of all ecstatic. I have never been abroad, so I have no doubt that this will be the trip of a lifetime.” 

Vincent: Why do you think you’re having those feelings?

Harrison: I have never experienced being far away from home for an extended period of time with weak communication and not knowing anyone. I am not a home-body, and I love traveling new places, so I cannot wait for this.

 Vincent: What tips have people given you?

Harrison: People have told me many place to go; Cinque Terre, Venice, Munich (Germany), Dublin (Ireland), Rome, amongst other places. They have given me insights on restaurants, hostels, airlines, food, and other excursions to do. Another tip I received is what to expect from the local community. They told me it was surprising how many people knew English and that they language barrier was only tough occasionally. This definitely relived a lot of worry.

Vincent: Is there a specific aspect of your trip that you are most excited for? 

Harrison: I am very excited for a few classes that I will be taking, as well as new experiences and friendships. I am taking a wine tasting class and I’m already planning weekend trips!

Vincent: If you had ONE piece of advice to give to someone who isn’t sure about going abroad what would it be?

Harrison: LOOK INTO IT.

Author’s Note: Solo Travel is exciting and enlivening! It is an opportunity for discovery, learning, and growth. If you’re afraid of solo travel, find a friend and take them along for the ride, but I’d say one solo trip changes everything!

To follow Harrison’s Journey, feel free to follow him on Instagram @har_watts.

For more Travel and Big Picture updates follow me on Instagram @vince_thurman1

The Big Picture – Update

Between now and the end of 2016, I’ll be sharing a collection of posts in series format. As I become more selective of blog content, I’ll be looking for stories, guest writers, and people to feature. If you’re interested feel free to DM me via Instagram, @vince_thurman1 or Comment on this post.

Over the next three days, I’ll be highlighting three areas of travel ranging from planning your trip to having to come home after a few months of being away.

This week’s series will highlight three friends interested in travel. First, I’ll be highlighting Harrison Watts, who is preparing to leave on a four-month study abroad trip to Florence, Italy, which also happens to be his first Solo-Trip. Next will be Amanda Yats, this week’s guest writer who will share about her Love Affair with England. Finally, Midge Carter will reflect on spending a summer abroad.

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