each spring i get this feeling of melancholia in the center of my stomach. i get nostalgic and restless and i listen to the song cavalier and i anticipate goodbyes. the air feels wetter in my lungs and the world gets more colorful and charged like van gogh's arles. it's delicate but beautiful but breakable, and this is the time of year when the world teaches me the necessity of letting go.

of boys, specifically.

everyday when i walk past the bell tower to get to the parking lot, i'm reminded of one wet pink spring day nearly three years ago. i was heavy heartsick and listening to stacks, and poor and unsure about what i could achieve in the next years. during that week i would sit on a bench underneath the floating blossoms and pretend to look busy, but really to wait for a sunny-eyed boy to pass by. he was magic, and i couldn't have him, and he never believed what i could see in his smile. i saw him recently, for the first time since that wet pink world, and he still sparkles. it feels like springtime.

last year my spring was red like the new tulips surrounding the white house. he was a sudden thaw. a week-long kiss. we were magnetic for a few days--leaning farther than necessary into each other on unshaky metro rides and sitting silently, shoulders touching, as the only audience of the slow motion art film in the basement of the gallery. he told me he kissed me because i smiled like i had a secret. he wanted a mona lisa. i am a girl, and it ended as quickly as it began--just like springtime.

pressed between those years was a yellower spring revolved around a boy perpetually wearing red plaid. i spent that spring unbrave enough for him, and in his many entrances and exits since, i don't think i have ever been truly courageous. i have never been more frightened than to think that maybe i could love him. or that if i did, he probably wouldn't love me back. or that if i couldn't fall in love with someone to paper-perfect for me then i would never fall in love at all. so i didn't. i felt nostalgic that spring for things i never thought i'd know: the way he brushes his teeth. his heartbeat before he kisses me. his mother's handwritten notes. these things are already a memory. i had them for such a short time that they weren't even mine. like cherry blossoms, they were only fleetingly pink, floatingly white, and then they were gone.



more new

2014 was the best year of my life. my dreams lined up to meet me this year, and i took them in hungrily and happily. i watched my life become something i always wished it would be. it was beautiful and fast and precious and full of feeling. it was everything i hoped for.

i carry memories of this year with me  like little snowglobes. they are delicate and they are perfect, and somehow i can watch them from the palm of my hand. even my most challenging moments are kept inside orbs of rose-colored glass, and i take responsibility for that. my life's mission statement is to take a conscious effort to find and make beauty, and this year i got it right. mostly.

my memories are idealized, sure, but not only in retrospect. i loved that morning commute down pennsylvania avenue, the city hustle, the 2am green line anxiety. i loved the soviet concrete jungle, the mashed potatoes, the dusty stairs of the school on taikos gatve. and i loved the loneliness of provo, the late nights in the library, the stress of planning for adulthood, and the distance of phone calls from indiana. and by that i mean, i loved it as much as i could. i loved it while i hated it. i tried my best to be grateful, and gratitude turned the year golden.

2014 was also a tremendous struggle for me. i sunk. i made mistakes. i broke habits. god and i became strangers. i didn't know what i wanted, or if i really had the strength others had seen in me for so long. i wondered if all my faithful fervor had been an illusion. i wondered if i wasn't worthy.

i never knew that experiences like this could happen simultaneously. i never knew that my mind and my confidence and my passions and plans could soar so high while my heart and my faith and my trust and diligence could sink so low. i was a canyon of a girl.

luckily, 2014 was also a year of reunion. i said hello to familiar hearts behind new faces and i said welcome home to parts of my heart that have long been living in other chests. my love came back to me. and it healed me. and god did, too.

and now, with new, i feel resolve. i'm ready, you know? i started 2015 with my first ever new year's kiss, and with the first time in a very long time that i have chosen to be vulnerable. it was a good start. i hope that 2015 brings more adventure, more realized dreams, and more important lines on my resume. but my greatest desire and my heartfelt resolution is to live it with bravery, kindness, and honesty. and most of all, to live it in the presence of god.


"living is like tearing through a museum. not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering - because you can't take it in all at once."

-audrey hepburn



i'm dreaming i
can't help it.
it's lavender, my skirt
blooms in riverside park
gold strands in my hair gold
flecks in your eyes gold
shines and rosebud smiles
it's precious i
can't have it
i'm dreaming

wishing i could stop
from turning silly, twittering
it's dangerous, i
have a penchant
of missing things while
they're still here.
and you
have a penchant, love
saying goodbye while
i'm still near.

let's start to begin, this time
towards orange leaf houses in vermont
towards tail-feathers, leather libraries,
soul willows swaying
in glowing cities
kitchen ballet in watercolor
rain rachmaninoff in
cream sauce my pink
lips on your
i'm dreaming.

and every time i have, of you,
they don't come true.


to be known

i crave being known. being seen. having all those parts of me, those layered colors and dusty corners of virtues and vices, acknowledged. to be known as a whole, a verity of being and not an image of a part.

and maybe why i want this so much is because even i don't know everything about who i am. to myself i am one giant contradiction, guided by honestly only one consistency: i have love. otherwise, self definition eludes me. i'm stubborn and softhearted. devoted and fiercely independent. i love cities but i need space. i preach loving before judging but one of my biggest hypocrisies is that i judge those who don't. i'm an introvert with ten best friends. i'm snarky and i'm kind. i'm lazy and ambitious. i'm a mormon and a feminist.

and perhaps the biggest contradiction seems to be this: that faith, and doubt, and light and dark, and happiness and sadness are all within me, all at once. i passed through a year where i was at my most critical and faithless. but still, it was the happiest year of my life. the most blessed year of my life. a year where i often felt like a smile on two feet. it still is, and i don't know how that's possible. i was aware that i was going through a cycle of pride. there was no need to smack me awake. i looked at my heart from the outside and i saw it clear as day, but i felt no urge to change. i prayed relatively little this year, but every time i did i was praying for a desire, please, give me some sort of desire to be better. and even now, it's just starting to grow. i'm only on a tinge of an upswing.

this year has been an absolute wonder for my level of confidence. i have never felt so capable or beautiful, in body or in mind. but as a latter-day saint i have never felt so inadequate, so inferior to the spirituality that even i used to hold. at sixteen i was a far more worthy disciple.

but, in recent moments of clarity, i've realized that i am things that i don't see in me. that divinity and potential are what define me. that my identity does not have to be all wrapped up in who i am at this moment. thank goodness for that grace. that there is a god, and that he sees me, all of me, but not even all of me as i am. all of me as i was. and all of me as i can become.

and even in the thick, muddy, stifling silt of it, of it i'm grateful for this doubt. there are things i know, and things i will know, only made possible by the grief of questions.


lithuanian retrospective

as always, my retrospective image of lithuania is romantic in my head. the soggy puddles have turned to dew and the soviet domes started glowing purple, and i know there is still not an inch of me that can claim lithuanian culture. it's just simply beyond me. freelanding, bravehoming american me, ignorant of occupation, unaware of the struggle to thrive in a newborn economy. but what i do know is beauty, and i know how to notice it.

in just one square of the city the age of stones range from medieval to renaissance to baroque to contemporary. i can walk down any street in old town, fingers brushing the plastered pink walls, knowing that I am touching something that is the far-off ancestor of my own great country. older than the soviet union, yes, but still many more years older than america.

on our last weekend in vilnius, the five of us took a new trolleybus route to the cemetery. hilly and wooded, the memorials and crosses rise organically out of the green earth of the cemetery. it is the resting place of heroes: lithuania's thinkers and movers, soldiers, symbolic and beloved figures like m. k. ciurlionis. in tombs or beneath simple wooden markers, all seem noble to me.

for me, this cemetery seems to mirror what i've seen of lithuania: chipped and tired but emanating beauty and rooted in what seems like history that is as old as time itself. that history is complex, and the country has been an independent state for about as long as i have been living. though i can't say who was in the right and who was in the wrong throughout the country's many decades of occupations and revolutions, i can say that lithuania inspires me with its resilience. 

maybe there's too much said for "bouncing back". resilience isn't immediate and energetic recovery. resilience requires time, and grace, and hope. it's steeped in dreams and vision and innovation and yes, it often happens slowly. it's also grounded. for the resilient, for lithuania, and for me, identity is inextricable from the journey. i have learned and grown so much while living there, and i will always have a special love for this complicated, beautiful land of rain.

when i think of vilnius, a flurry of images spring up in my mind. indulge me with them, will you? red and white rickety trolleybusses with windows stamped with "made in czechoslovakia", the old man who perpetually bummed cigarettes of people at the bus stop, the stomach dropping fear of seeing the transport control police step onto the bus when i hadn't tapped on. laser lights transforming the presidential palace on culture night, plates of fries ordered from cute late night bartenders, dancing the ymca at buddha. the undulating edges of baroque cathedrals, sitting on the wooden swing with imantas, or laying on the grass underneath the sprawling trees of bernadine park and feeling the river breeze and little kids' fountain squeals. the glowing milka-purple chocolate aisle at maxima, green floaties around our waists, the supermoon and our skinnydipping bodies at the lake. the dandelion fountain, the taco guy's dreads, hot air balloons over gediminas tower, my pirate cat wallpaper. kitchen table evenings killing bugs as we talked, schemes of how to get rid of endless bowls of soup, and the agony of waking up at 9:30 for breakfast. and, most importantly, 20 something different sets of arms around my neck. "teacher". teary eyes listening to the students singing "count on me". and the rewarding, beautiful drudgery of walking up taikos programnizija's concrete steps every day. 

i miss it for everything it was, but mostly for everything i was when i was there. it was beautiful. i felt beautiful. i was a certain me there that i will never be again. and that's what makes experiences like this so hard to leave.


from there to here

i'm sitting in my bedroom in justiniskes. i'm cross legged on my hollow children's mattress, surrounded by the infamous cat pirate wallpaper, the words on the cabinet above my door still encouraging me: "wish it. dream it..... do it." precisely 5 ellipses. my phone and i are singing budapest together, a song i first heard in a little restaurant in italy, titled after my homeland, i place i was just about two weeks ago.

i'm watching a china video. i'm watching what was once my present, me surrounded by my sweet sweet students, fielding kisses and i love yous. a shot of phillip's hands comes up, when he had me draw him and i on each of his palms the day before i left. tears sting the corners of my eyes when i remember saying goodbye to him on the steps outside of the cafeteria and how he kept turning to look at me as he walked away. then i giggle a bit when i remember how tear-drenched we all were, red faced, eating kfc on the bus to the airport in our panda hats. despite it all, i'm watching myself at my best. the happiest, purest, most confident self i've ever been.

i read the alchemist when i first got here to lithuania and this quote runs through my mind often. it keeps me grateful and amazed:
he still had some doubts about the decision, but was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. when someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.

everything i've done since china happened because of china. sometimes i'm amazed that i even decided to go in the first place, but i suppose my streaks of spontaneity and courage have always been active. i remember when i made my final decision, behind the steering wheel of my little blue acura on a drive home. i was at a stoplight in front of mack's house with my basket full of laundry in the passenger seat and i said out loud, that's it, i'm going, it's yes. and i can't even believe what's happened since then.

going to china opened me up. i had all these qualities, all these capabilities before i went, but it wasn't until i made that decision that i started to really become myself. all this restless bravery, all this boundless love, all this self-awarded freedom unwound in china. that decision took me to buddhist temples high above clouds, to the ancient stones of the great wall, to the dumpling filled kitchens of families i now love. it brought reed running to me down the hall when i returned to school from beijing, when i first felt that pang of calling, a passion for education and for children. it brought the independence and sense of adventure that motivated me to create meaning wherever i was, which in turn made up my mind about my career path, which pushed me along to things like watching brian kershisnik paint a new canvas which i had hung on the gallery wall, to internship coordinators who told me i was actually really good at this, and recommended me to every museum in washington dc. that decision brought me to work the first day in the united states national archives, it helped me climb out the window of the museum's learning center to stand in that forest of neoclassical columns and feel like i was in the center of the world. and, in turn, it brought me here. to this complicated, nuanced country that has taught me so much about how blurry lines can be when it comes to history and politics. it brought me to this european dream where my days are filled with things like praying in pink cathedrals and waking up in renaissance abbeys and kissing austrian boys in front of baroque fountains. in this country i have gained more confidence and gratitude for my body, a new awe for sunsets, and four dear friends to laugh around the tiny kitchen table with at night.

but it's not really those fluffy things that are significant about my experience here. what i've learned through it all is the level of capability i have and how crucial action is. how intentional you have to be about creating an authentic life and gathering meaningful experiences. the current of my decision to go to china certainly led me to all the wonderful experiences i just listed, but those things didn't happen to me. i had to seek them. i had to take them. my mother calls me lucky and my father calls me spoiled, but i adamantly insist that i am neither. what i am is ambitious and very, very blessed. opportunity doesn't fall into my lap and finances don't rain into my pockets. the reason i have done all of this is first, because i wanted to, and second, because i allowed myself what i wanted. and once something becomes a great enough priority, there is very little that can stop you from achieving it. i didn't always know what i wanted, and i still don't know what my life will look like in the next few years, but it all starts with a decision. an action. the bravery to make a change.

i sit here smiling to myself. big. because so many of my dreams aren't dreams anymore.