Left, Right, Left, King Avenue

photoWhen S and I were planning our end of summer road trip, we took two things into consideration: 1) we wanted to go somewhere we’ve never been before, and 2) It had to be affordable (no trip to Ireland, sadly!) In that, we decided on touring the southeast, which we’ve never done before, going from Florida through Georgia to Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and, last, Charleston, SC. In planning the trip, we needed a place to spend the first night between Orlando and Nashville, so I picked Pine Mountain, GA.

When I was in college, my two favorite summers involved working as a camp counselor in Pine Mountain, at Callaway Gardens. I went with the circus (of which I was part of…) so during the day we took the kids swimming and playing and golfing and water skiing, and at night, we performed. We were average people by day, magical aerialists by night. To the kids, we were their teachers, their heroes.

Callaway is a large resort , and we lived just off site at a house with 16 tiny rooms (girls on one side, boys on the other). My first day I was nervous, shy, being around all of these people – some friends, some people I wished were friends due to their seniority – but by the end we were family. I’d wake up Saturday mornings and before getting ready of the day, meet my friend in the living room for video games.

S and I arrived in Pine Mountain yesterday, and, city wise, everything was the same, despite the eight year time lapse. There’s still the combination gas station/Subway/KFC at the one major intersection (it’s a small, small town). There’s still the no-name pizza place next door. There’s still the legendary BBQ places we used to go to during lunch (which I, naturally, took S to). We drove by the old house and he finally put a picture to the place i’ve told him so much about.

Callaway itself has grown, thrived. New attractions were added, but the same old charm remained the same. There’s still the man-made lake shining in the middle, the acres of woods you can hike through, and the circus tent, standing proud – all green and white striped. S thought it was beautiful.

BUt while S saw it as shiny and new, I saw the cracks underneath. I remember the time we found a diaper in the lake, the time we took the kids to play capture the flag and two got stung within the woods, and all of the blood and sweat spilled inside the tent.

It’s weird going back. Back when I lived there, I was 19 and 20; I, too, was shiny and new and excited to get away. I had my life ahead of me, and a summer full of memories to make. Sure, there were downsides (it was hot, practices ran long, I was constantly sore), but I loved every moment of it (what other college student was paid to perform?) I remember eating breakfast and having the kids run up to say hi, or introduce me to their parents as “this is Lauren, she did rolla last night, and she flipped me in the lake, and it was awesome.”

I made friends that lasted a lifetime (indeed, one was my maid of honor). I created a home in a city I’d previously never heard of before. I felt part of something

Callaway holds a million memories for me, and it’s weird going back, but in a sense, wonderful. I love picking up and, in a way, telling it how i’ve changed, feeling the change in every step. In introducing it to S. Sure, it’s different, sure I’m different, but it’s all the same, really. I’m still the same girl, looking for summer full of memories.

This morning we’re going back to see the gardens before continuing our journey. I’m glad I shared this place wish S, and i’m happy to have visited it again. It’s like walking back in time, into a memory I know so well I can play over and over again. And even though the memories changed over the years, and perhaps dismissed the negative moments, I’m happy holding on to these thoughts, these bits of light over the lake.

This morning when I woke up I kept my eyes shut, waiting to hear the familiar sound of “ready, player two.”

Song Memories

I love when older songs come on the radio and transport me to another time in my life. When I was younger, different. I love how it’s always a surprise – though you can bet on a current hit being played 7,000 times an hour, you can never guess which song from a different year will break through, making the day of radio-lovers everywhere. (That is, unless the song is horrid.)

The other day, “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down came on. It’s not a great song. It’s not a song I still play  on my iPod (actually, there weren’t iPods when that song was released), and it’s not a song I’m like “YES IT’S ON!” when it is, in fact, on. But it came on. And I was 17 again.

Three of my friends and I were going to see 3 Doors Down live at Hard Rock Cafe, here in Orlando. We were excited. Three of us were a band at the time, too, an all-girl band that had two (yes, two) whole gigs. We were not good.

We decided to do something crazy before the event, so we bought Manic Panic hair dye and and put red streaks in our hair. My hair was so dark you could barely tell, but still. I felt cool. I felt punk rock.

Before the show, we went back to our school because we were all called back for a play our drama department was putting on. (The drama department we, incidentally, ran, as we were all officers. I was president. See how punk rock I was?) We acted out a few scenes, each for different characters. The newbies were there, and I felt so amazingly awesome. Because here I was, coming in with the other old-timers, with this amazing kind-of dyed hair. And all these newbies were trying to be us, and it felt weird and neat all in one. So we did our auditions, each for different roles, and left with an excited cheer for the show.

Truth is, I don’t remember the show much. But what I do remember is feeling there, in the middle of the show, with my friends. With my hair. With this feeling that anything was possible. We were going to be famous musicians, actors. We were going to run the world.

I don’t talk to the girls all the time anymore, though we’re all still connected. Only one of us got the role in the show, and she, incidentally, is the only one still acting. The rest of us went on to become PR specialists and BBC journalists and, for me, librarian writers.

So when the song came on, I didn’t think of the gig. But I thought of the excitement we all shared, the power and freedom and friendship. The moment when we thought we were so cool we could accomplish anything.

And I smiled.

Friends in High Places

I have annoyingly successful friends. I’m not saying that to brag (Okay, I am – I’m so proud of all of them), I’m saying it because it’s true. They are annoyingly successful in fields where people told them they might not be able to make it.

I was in drama in high school, and hung out with some theatre kids in college, and many of those people decided to try and Make it. Go big time – Broadway, LA. A lot of people said they wouldn’t make it. They all went anyway.

It’s true – some didn’t make it, but they turned around, came home and found amazingly successful careers elsewhere. Some tried hard, and are still trying to this day. And some found crazy success in TV shows, movies, and, yeah, even Broadway.

The thing that I love about all of them is that they tried. No matter what, no matter how many people told them it might not be possible, they still went for it. They gave it their all.

(That’s not to say i’m not proud of friends who didn’t pursue crazy careers like that – I’m SO proud of everyone. Even you boring lawyers, ahem S.)

Simply, I love people who follow their passion. I love those who hear the warnings and go for it anyway. Because they want to. Because they need to.

I didn’t set out to write TNWSY with a book deal in mind. I did it because I wanted to. S can attest to the fact that i’m an annoyingly driven person at times, but that’s only because I don’t want to miss anything.

So if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do – somewhere you’ve always wanted to see – just do it. Hoist the anchors! Set sail! And just….go.

Three North

A friend of mine from college recently finished his first manuscript. I’m really excited about this because, although I’ve met many amazing people online who are in the same stage as me, it’s nice having a real-life friend there. Plus, having known him for around 11 years, I’m extremely proud and excited for him. It’s much more personal.

So as I wait for his manuscript to arrive, I’ve decided to re-read The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the 8th (or so?) time.

I just finished part one, with Charlie meeting Patrick and Sam and instantly diving into this new world of music, and light, and infinities. And it reminds me very much of my first year of college.

I moved up to Tallahassee knowing a few other people on campus, including my roommate. We were in high school drama together, and managed to room together, too. But she had a boyfriend, and spent most of her time with him. And my other friend there had his girlfriend, and was spending most of his time with her. And I was happy for them, but I was still there, in my dorm, trying to figure things out on my own.

It was one of those dorms that was a block off campus and had two wings (the north and south side) and a cafeteria in the middle. I lived on the third floor of the south side. While getting lunch, I met a girl and we instantly bonded over being new and excited and wanting to do so much. So after a few lunches together, we went to a movie at our on-campus theatre, and then she introduced me to some of her friends, people from her floor and the floor below. They were a ragtag group of people so similar to me. They were filmmakers and writers and ninjas and dreamers. And when I sat with them at lunch or dinner, they didn’t ignore me, or question why I was there – they integrated me into the conversation as if I’d always been a part of their group. As if I lived on their floor, too.

On Halloween, they took me to a party, and they day after they took me out for my birthday. And after that, I never looked back. I practically lived on their floor (three north), oftentimes crashing on one of their floors just because we all didn’t want to part when night drew near. Even though I lived just on the other side of the building. We were in our own little world that felt safe and secure and completely belonging to us. We had jokes and games. We felt part of something when seeing one another on campus. We, yes, felt infinite.

So I know how Charlie feels once he’s integrated into Patrick and Sam’s group. I know because I’ve been there, too. And one of the guys I met in my group? He’s the one sending me the manuscript.

Wanderlust

From the outside, my friend Shannon and I are remarkably similar. We’re both short, with her just 1.5 inches taller than me. We both have long, unruly brown hair that naturally curls and waves. We both have terrible eye-sight and wear plastic, brown glasses. We were both in the circus, and were roommates, and have a strange tendency to say the same words at times. We make similar faces. We love Disney movies.

But the similarities end there because, despite being best friends, we’re polar opposites. I crave stability, knowing where I am and what I’m doing. I have a job, a husband. We’re looking into buying a house soon. We have an apartment full of stuff and while all that might sound boring, it’s also reassuring and comfortable. I love living like this, I love knowing I’m okay. Shannon, on the other hand, is a wanderer. She can fit her entire life into her car. She’s moved to different states just for fun, and in a week she’s moving out of the country. Her job is tentative, but she doesn’t care. To her, it’s an experience, a chance to travel, a chance to live.

And yet, somehow our friendship works perfectly.

I realized that the other day as we were walking down our street (she is, at this moment, my neighbor). As we talked, my mind floated above us and instead of seeing us as who we are, I saw us as characters in a book. Her the girl who follows wanderlust and me the one who stays planted. It was neat seeing us like that, imagining what craziness we’d get up to as these characters. How, in theory, we should probably drive each other crazy, but how in actuality, we’re the perfect match.

Because in a way, we bring out something in one another. For her, I show her that stability is okay. She’s admitted to wanting to settle down one day. I make sure she’s okay; remind her to keep us updated during her travels in case of, well, emergencies. I bring out the logic in her.

And me? She made me go to a state park on my one day off. Usually I reserve that day for writing or bills or errands, but she took me to the springs and for the full afternoon we laid by the water, ate snacks, and took in the day. And it was fantastic. It’s not like I’d never been to the park before, I had many a time, but lately I’d been so wrapped up in feeling old and professional that I forgot what it was like to drop everything and live.

So I did. And I didn’t think of everything I had to do at home. I wrote notes in my journal for the book I’m working on because, as it turned out, this serenity made words come easier to me. And later, when we met up with a few friends, I didn’t care that I was wearing shorts from college that had paint stains on them. I didn’t care that my nose was the color of Rudolph’s and my freckles were at full visibility (that said, I quite like my freckles). I didn’t care that the spring water made my hair into a mass of curls and tangles. I just smiled and laughed and felt pretty.

Because I was living.

I know I can’t be like that all of the time – it’s not me – but I also know that I can add her influence just a bit. I know when she’s away, she’ll make sure things are in order because I gave that to her. And I know when she’s away I’ll spend more time doing rather than thinking because the sand is still on my sandals and I have no desire to wipe it off.

It’s that thing…

I love me some Stefon. He’s by far my favorite sketch on SNL right now. The things he says are beyond ridiculous, and Hader’s laughing makes it even better. (It’s beside the point that I totally ❤ Hader.) Anyway, with S’s birthday coming up, we decided to Stefon the Facebook invite up. What do you think?

SAMIR IS OLD

If you’re looking for a great way to spend a Friday evening look no further.

Orlando’s hottest party is “Samir is Old.”

It’s. Got. EVERYTHING.

Sting rays, collared shirts, Ukrainian people, a mortar without a pestle, And who’s that in the corner? Is that former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee? No, it’s a trashcan wearing a dress!

Come and celebrate with us and perhaps you’ll get to drink an Irish cement mixer.

You know, it’s that thing when when you mix a cocktail in the beak of a pelican and then immediately eat a raw potato and emigrate to the United States.

So come on over; we hope to see you there!

2012

Shannon, me, Katie

Here are two of my friends and I celebrating New Years Eve. Three things are abundantly clear from this photo:

  1. I have amazing friends.
  2. We’re very sad you’re not partying with us.
  3. I have rather large eyes.

Among other resolutions I’ve made this year (learn to knit, do some sort of physical activity besides riding my bicycle to work, do everything in my power to get my book published, start second book), I’d like to write more in this blog. I like this blog. It’s a good blog.

What are some of your resolutions for the new year?