One Year Later…

One year ago today I moved to a new city without a job, on a gut feeling and craving change and new adventures. Fast forward to today, I can’t believe how fast time has flown. How has an entire year gone by already? So much has happened. (2013 recaps found here). Each year just seems to pass faster and faster.

There have been a lot of ‘one year anniversaries’ for me in the past few months but this is the last of the anniversaries for a while. I’ve made many life changes and created new milestones for myself. I’ve embraced change, dreams and the unknown. I’ve gone out and made things happen. I am ready for what is next.

Here I am with a ton of amazing experiences, memories and new friends and a great job, and I know this is where I am supposed to be. I have had ups and down, no doubt, and am now looking to move again (within city limits) but I can’t imagine this past year any other way. It is wild to think that not one of the memories that I now cherish from this past year would exist if I hadn’t just up-and-moved across the country.  Who knows what will be this time next year. I look forward to all the adventures that this year will bring.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who helped make this past year so special, memorable and wonderful.

Happy One Year In DC Anniversary to me!

Caryn in DC

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10 Years Later…

I remember on graduation night 10 years ago, thinking that the 10 year reunion seemed like an eternity away. It seemed so far off that it would never get here. But time doesn’t stop and just like that, I was standing among my peers once again. It is crazy to think about all that has happened since my high school graduation let alone what the world was like a decade ago.

Just within the year I graduated…

  • We were on the brink of the tech boom in 2003.
  • The Recording Industry Association of America filed copyright lawsuits against Internet users for trading songs online.
  • Apple launched iTunes and was cited TIME’s Coolest Invention of 2003
  • A white tiger attacked Roy Horn of the duo “Siegfried & Roy” leaving him partially paralyzed.
  • Microsoft released the first Tablet PC. The year book says, “it enables users to write directly on the screen rather than typing on a keyboard”.
  • tabletKelly Clarkson won American Idol.
  • The space shuttle Columbia exploded on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, killing all aboard.
  • Amber Alert is introduced.
  • JK Rowling’s fifth Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released.
  • Phones were actually used for making calls and texting with T9.
  • The first camera phone (with a terrible picture) was released and people & companies were panicked about privacy.
  • Oh, and there was no Facebook yet.
  • and more.

nokia phone

Fast forward to this past Friday – to my 10 year high school reunion. It was held at Benchmark, a bar in downtown Chicago the Friday after Thanksgiving.

I am now comfortable and confident in my own skin so I walked into the bar alone; something I NEVER would have done until recent months. I knew I’d obviously know people so it wasn’t like I’d be alone for long. Plus, I’m at a point in my life that if you are still going to judge me, that’s your prerogative. I walked around and did my best to talk with everyone, even if we weren’t particularly close in school. We’re all adults now; I’m long over the high school cliques and drama. With a few exceptions, most people dropped their cliques and were friendly, pleasant and chatty. Majority of people looked the exact same. While I think my face is a bit thinner, I know I fall in that category, too. I enjoyed catching up with friends I’d lost contact with and meeting my peer’s spouses. One benefit to attending reunions is that you have an opportunity to rekindle those lost friendships. It was very surreal that it was actually happening, that it was my turn to be celebrating. How had 10 years passed so quickly? It was bizarre being in a bar with all these familiar faces, that I hadn’t seen in so long, all in one room. It was really nice to reconnect with those I’d lost contact with.

10 Year Time Capsules I had completely forgotten about filling this out at Grad Night until someone asked if I had found mine yet. Turns out, I did! I’m so grateful I took the time back then; this was so fun to read. Apparently, even then I knew I was passionate about impacting lives, making a difference and knew that it was important that I stay true to myself.  Here are a few of my answers:

  • Favorite TV Shows: FRIENDS, Everybody Loves Raymond, My Wife and Kids (FRIENDS was still on!)
  • What is the funniest thing you did at GBN, but didn’t get caught? I didn’t do anything risky worthy of getting caught (Yeah, sounds about right)
  • What do you want to do for your career? PR, Marketing, Sociology, Psychology, anything that will have an impact on someone else.  (I wound up minoring in Sociology and I have a background in media/marketing. I also took my current job for that EXACT reason that I wanted to have an impact on others!”)

Predictions for 2013:

  • What is your occupation: No idea
  • Where will you be living? Chicago (close – I moved away from Chicago Feb 2013)
  • Will you be married? No. (sad, why didn’t I even believe it?!)
  • Who will you still be friends with from your graduating class? Of the five people I listed, only one remains.
  • What do you hope your greatest achievement will be? Stay true to myself, graduate college and make a difference in other’s lives.

Even though I may have lost my way for several years in there, it seems that I always knew my purpose, my passion. The fact that I took my current job specifically to “make a difference and impact people’s lives” and have recently taken drastic actions to ensure that I find myself – enabling me to finally be true to myself, is absolutely wild. I guess I knew myself better then than I realized!  I think it’s funny, but kind of sad that I didn’t think I’d be married either.

Facebook Contrary to what most people think, I think it actually helped serve as a conversation starter for some. I heard, “Oh, your wedding photos were beautiful,” “I saw you moved to California, how is it?” or “You went to Africa!” etc. It added dimension to conversations. If you had nothing to say but wanted to be friendly, it wasn’t creepy but rather complimentary to say, “I saw you got married, Mazel Tov” or something along those lines. I sure as hell am thankful Facebook didn’t exist while I was in high school but it wasn’t as detrimental to the reunion as I expected.

I originally went to the reunion because I figured, “I’d rather go and know it sucked than not go and regret it.” There is a lot of hype and high expectations that build in anticipation of the big day.  Turns out, I’m really glad I went. I had a great time catching up with people and it was great to see so many familiar faces. A lot has happened in 10 years, both in the world and for me personally.

Left: Senior year 2003. Right: at the reunion with Tom - my prom date (left) and good friend Robby (right).
Left: Senior year 2003. Right: at the reunion with Tom – my prom date (left) and good friend Robby (right).

Once again, 10 years from now seems almost impossible to imagine. But just like this reunion, the 20 year reunion will be here before we know it. To think that I’ll be almost 40 at that point is mind blowing. Oye. I feel old just thinking about that.

10 years from now: I hope I am happily married, settled with two(?) kids and a loving family. I hope that I am happy in my job and that it allows me to support my family, that I continue to have adventures, pursue my dreams, continue to travel, and am making a difference in people’s lives. Maybe I’ll be back in Chicago, maybe still in DC, maybe I’ll be in a different country all together. Who knows!

Here is to the next 10 years…

Did you go to your 10 year reunion? 20 year? What did you think? 

The Bittersweet One Year Anniversary {Parallel Universes}

Today would have been my one year wedding anniversary.

I’m struggling with this. It is a very surreal and strange thing to process. How has it already been a year? It is crazy to think how fast time has flown by and all that has happened in the past year. Had I gotten married, NOT ONE event of this past year would have happened. Not.a.single.one. Think about that for a minute. Crazy, eh? It is stop-in-your-tracks and mind-numbing to think what could have been. It is even more wild to think that all the memories I have now from this past year would not exist. That’s such a strange to think about. Where would I be today?

Today is also the day I celebrate my one year anniversary of starting my assent up Mount Kilimanjaro.  I am so proud of myself for accomplishing that feat; a feat that I am still in disbelief that I DID; a feat that I have to look at photos to believe sometimes. And that would not have happened had I been celebrating the wedding anniversary.

So instead of cutting into and eating the top-tier of my wedding cake and exchanging paper gifts, I am alone looking through photos from when I climbed Kilimanjaro. It was ironic, it was coincidental, no it was Kismet, that it fell on the same day. I couldn’t have planned that better if I tried.

It is this parallel universe of celebrating two anniversaries; like looking down a kaleidoscope and seeing an alternate life. It’s like Sliding Doors; seeing what your life might have been if one decision was different. I’m proud of all that I’ve done, accomplished and am experiencing; of how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned about myself. But I miss him and wonder what our life would be like.

I know where I live now, who I’ve met, and the things I’ve done – none of it would have happened. My outlook on life would be different. I know I am much more positive and grateful for the little things; I would not be who I am today, that’s for sure. So much would be different. I’d be a Mrs.

There are those things we look forward to all year; we set goals, we hit milestones, we meet new people, we plan vacations, we advance in or change jobs. We have experiences that we expected and others that we never could have predicted. We grow another year older, wiser.  Yet the one thing that is consistent in all of it, is that time doesn’t stop. With that, every decision we make leads us on down a new path, and we must learn from our experiences. I guess having both anniversaries on the same day, makes today easier to swallow; it puts life and the choices we make into perspective.

Today is, and always will be a bittersweet day. Two anniversaries in one; today I celebrate both what I accomplished and what could have been.

Last year today, in my travel journal, I wrote, “To new challenges, to new beginnings and going over the hill to leave the past behind.” And that is just what I am celebrating today.

Happy Bittersweet One Year Anniversary, to me.

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today…

I arrived in Tanzania, Africa for what was the greatest adventure of my life – a month of volunteering & teaching in the community, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going on Safaris, and visiting Zanzibar. All of it completely changed my life. I’m in disbelief that it has been a year already. I miss Moshi and my experience EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I don’t think a day goes by that I haven’t thought about it in some capacity.

I’m so grateful for that experience.

I can’t believe all that has happened, come and gone in the past year and all that I’ve learned and discovered both about myself and others along the way. Nzuri sana.  It’s funny, I always catch myself first, but my instinct is still to say “Asante Sana” instead of “Thank you.”

In that month, I learned so much about myself, what it means to be a community, how privileged americans are and how much we take for granted. I learned so much about gratitude and appreciating what we have; that being wealthy has everything to do with how grateful and happy you are and nothing to do with how much money you have.  I learned to follow my heart; to express love and gratitude and to live passionately. I learned there is so much more to life than just the items we own or the cars we drive or the life we live. I realized how important it is to experience other cultures and to leave your first world expectations at home when you travel to a third world country.

Time and how we perceive it is an odd thing. I reflect and think about all that has happened in the past year since I first arrived in my host city and I am silenced.

When put in perspective that I’ve already lived in DC for 7.5 months, one year ago feels simultaneously both light years away and just few months ago.  It’s a teeter-totter of emotions and memories. It seems like it never happened; it seems like 6 months; it seems like decades ago and it seems like a year.

So much has happened since I landed in Tanzania. I look back on the impact the children had on me, and vice versa; the fact that I no longer have to dream about someday fulfilling a lifelong dream of volunteering and going on African Safari’s is exhilarating and saddening.  It’s crazy that I actually held residence in Africa. Not at a hotel, but a place I called home for a month. It’s hard to fathom that I climbed the largest freestanding mountain in the world and lived to tell the tale. I think about that accomplishment and it still blows my mind that I DID THAT.  At this point it feels like it is a figment of my imagination, just a dream I conjured up in my head, and I have to look at photos for proof I didn’t make it up. I am still in awe and incredibly proud of myself that I actually did it let alone successfully made it to the summit no less. I accomplished 7 things on my life list.

In the past year since returning, I flew 22 hours alone, my sister got married, I was unemployed for a while, I moved across country on a gut feeling and then I got a new job soon thereafter; one that I love because I know I get to impact lives everyday. I made a new home in that new city and made new friends. I’ve accomplished  2 more things on my life list.  I ran my first 5K. I played league sports and started my own Ladies Only fantasy NFL leagues with friends. I have spent an ENTIRE year eating only meat that was GMO/anti-biotic free.

Man, a lot has happened – and that’s just the start of it all.

From the moment I boarded the plane wondering what this adventure was going to be like – until now – the adventures haven’t stopped. When I woke up a year ago today, I never would have predicted just where my life would be today – all because of that one decision to go to Africa.

I miss Moshi and my students every day. This adventure and experience has become a part of who I am and I am proud of the person I have become. I am strong and brave; I am bold and adventurous. I have learned to be true to myself, to follow my gut and to surround myself with people who make me a better person. I am more positive and grateful. I know that I can accomplish big things; I know I can push myself; I can climb mountains and continually challenge myself. I’ve learned to honor who I am and to do what makes me happy.  I’ve grown more into the person I want to be. Asante Sana.

You can’t predict what the future holds but you do have to have faith that you are going in the right direction. Time is a funny thing. It never stops. And as we get older, it only goes faster. It blurs together and weeks become months and months become years. I still can’t believe an entire year has gone by.

What started as the greatest adventure of my life has evolved into my life being a giant adventure now. I am grateful for my experience and thankful I had the courage to follow my dreams and make it happen. I look forward experiencing (what is now) the upcoming year and reflecting on all that I will have done. Maybe a year from now I’ll be in a different city? Engaged? Single? Maybe I’ll be an Aunt? At a new job? Whatever will be this time next year, I look forward to all the adventures that lie ahead.

Hakuna Matata.

faces

summit

Change of Times – The Day the Clock Stopped.

Do you have something, an item or chotchky, that you have held onto through the years for no good reason other than because it held some nostalgic link to your past? For some unexplained reason you just couldn’t get yourself to throw it out?

My nostalgic item from college was a clock. A stupid black and white, cheap, whopping TEN dollar wall clock from Target. I bought it the fall semester of my sophomore year when I had just moved into my sorority for the first time. I lived with 3 other girls and when we were decorating our room, I bought this little cheap clock to hang on our wall. It hung above us all, above our couch in a spot where we all could see it. At the end of the semester, I moved down the hall and it came with me. Every time I moved, in college and even in Chicago, it came with me. The Clock found a spot on a bedroom or bathroom wall in every apartment I’ve had ever since. It became a staple of my room. While a lot of stuff got tossed when I moved to DC, I was sure it made the trip with me when I shipped my stuff. I didn’t know what it was about The Clock, but it made me comfortable knowing it was there. The place never felt like home until it was hanging on the wall. As the years passed, I changed but The Clock stayed a constant in my life.

It was a good cheap little clock; I rarely ever had to change the battery on it, maybe max two or three times in 9 years. That’s magical in clock lives. When I arrived in DC, it was one of the first things I unpacked. I immediately hung it on the bathroom wall and felt comforted. I noticed that afternoon that The Clock had stopped. So, naturally, I replaced the battery. It worked for about 15 minutes and then stopped again. So I bought a brand new pack of batteries and tried again. It not only stopped working, it killed the brand new batteries. This repeated 3 or 4 times before I finally gave in and said my goodbye. It wasn’t the batteries, The Clock had had enough. I paused and had a bit of a hesitation when I put it in the trash but knew it was for the best.

When I first bought The Clock in 2004, it was symbolic of the times changing. I was no longer a silly naïve young Freshman at Indiana University. I knew the campus, I was older, wiser and now I was a sorority girl living in a sorority house. I was on the verge of a lot of change and had a lot of adventures and growth ahead of me. 

Looking back, it is goofy that I had an attachment to a clock. But when I stop to think about it – it is quite symbolic of my life. It was with me for almost 9 years. It was there with me through all my college experiences. It was like a fly on my wall that witnessed many firsts and tears, tons of late night girl chats, silly sorority girl fights, hours of long studying, boy crushes, and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it likely was with me from the very first time I ever met The Ex, 3 years before we ever dated. It was with me through our entire relationship and as I lived out The Year of Caryn, looking to rediscover and find myself, it was there.

I moved to DC because I felt in my heart that I needed a fresh start. I wanted to put the past behind me and start a new. I knew it was time for a new chapter in my life to begin, time for new adventures and for change. While the clock used to be a constant in my life, I’ve learned that the only thing that is constant, is change.

It’s funny – it wasn’t just a silly cheap little clock, after all. It represented almost an entire decade of my life. There was no logical explanation as to why this move was any different from the many that came before, or why The Clock was hell-bent on killing every new battery I tried. The only thing that was different was me. I had changed. I am not the same girl who bought it 9 years ago nor am I even the same woman I was when I said goodbye to The Ex. The fact that the day The Clock stopped was the very day I moved in to my new apartment, in a new city; the day I was starting over with new adventures and a new beginning, is just too wild to be a coincidence. Moving here, I told the Universe I was ready to put all that had happened in Clock Decade behind me in order to embark on this new path. Just like that part of my life, The Clock is just a nostalgic memory now. I had to say goodbye to it, move on, start fresh and buy a new clock to go on the wall. Change of times, indeed.

dali melting clock