I Moved Here At The Worst Possible Time

Exactly three weeks ago, in one of the few quiet moments I remember having in New York, I wrapped one mitten around the handle of a large, rolling suitcase and the other around the handle of an umbrella, which I held above one-third of my head and three-thirds of the head of an older woman whose gray hair was wrapped in a plastic babushka. A blizzard of “historic proportions” was supposed to slam the East Coast later that day, but the snow had already started falling like an innocent whisper that would later turn into an anguished scream as its intensity increased.

We were waiting outside Penn Station for a bus to take us to Boston. The driver, who was fanning warm air toward his face with a crinkled copy of Sports Illustrated, refused to open the doors until 6:45 a.m., which was 15 minutes before the bus was supposed to leave.

“Come stand under here with me,” the woman had said a few minutes before, nodding her head up toward the small umbrella.

“No, thanks,” I said, my words getting caught in the scarf wrapped around my face. “I’m okay.”

She scooted a few centimeters toward me, her shoes making a soft scraping sound on the gravel.

“I’m trying to be nice, but I also want you to hold this,” she said. “My arm is tired.”

The wind blew the umbrella and our bodies. I readjusted my grip to check the time on my phone. She readjusted her stance to check the sky, and I don’t know whether she was looking for a lull in the snow, or daybreak, or something else entirely.

The amount of snow piled outside my window on Feb. 16.

The amount of snow piled outside my window on Feb. 16.

True to his word, the driver opened the doors at exactly 6:45. I left the city I had called home for the past five months on the first bus out. I looked back only to see a white cloud swallow the skyline. The storm traveled at a pace just less than bus-on-a-highway-miles-per-hour, so the road ahead of me was clear but the path behind disappeared.

The blizzard eventually caught up, and it hasn’t stopped snowing since. It has snowed 95.7 inches in Boston so far this winter, most of it in the past month.

“You moved here at the worst possible time,” people tell me. “But it’s not always like this. I mean, the snow has to stop eventually, right?”


My life flashes before my eyes during the last sixty seconds of every year. It started in 2000, when I heard a vague rumor that the computer I played Jumpstart learning games on would crash and the world would end.

To calm myself, I remember lying on my floor during News Year’s Eve 1999 and listening to Britney Spears’ “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart” because I figured it was an appropriately sad song to listen to while I waited for an inevitable death. (I was a really fun 7-year-old). As I pushed the “back” button to start the song over for the umpteenth time, I wondered how long the new year could be called “new.” If problems are supposed to happen in the new year, optimistic, 7-year-old Allison thought, maybe they’ll stop when the year isn’t “new” anymore.

We survived Y2K, obviously, but since then, I’ve often wondered how long the new year, or anything, really, can be called “new.” To distract myself from the inevitable dread that builds until the New Year’s countdown, I’ve spent the past few New Year’s Eves walking around and asking people who are otherwise enjoying themselves, “How long do you think the New Year is ‘new?’”

The answers vary. “Two weeks.” “A month.” “A few days.” “Until I stop following my resolutions.”

“You need another drink.”

It wasn’t until this year that I decided, for me, the New Year is “new” as long as there’s hope it’ll be better.


Just before I moved, someone put Boston in a snow globe and gave it to a toddler. First, her parent turned it upside down to let snow coat the houses, roads and trees, and then, once it settled, the parent handed it off. The toddler has turned the snow globe upside down, shaken it and thrown it against the wall repeatedly. It hasn’t broken.

Boston is trudging through a snowstorm that has buried sidewalks, streets, parked cars and, often, plans to exist in a world outdoors. I have spent more days snowed in my 114-year-old house than I have out of it. It has often felt like a slow descent into madness set to the first fifteen seconds of Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca” because the people who live above me have a piano and haven’t improved enough to get past the opening lines (or played any other songs).

The walk back to my cute little yellow house

The trek back to my cute little yellow house

When you move to a city where you can count the number of people you know on one hand, or, more accurately, on a few fingers, people will tell you that you’re brave. For me, being brave wasn’t in the act of moving. In the moments when I was accepting a new job, signing a lease and waiting for the bus driver to open his doors, I felt confident. I felt like it was “right.”

Now, as I keep getting thrown against the glass of the snow globe, my hand leaving a faded print on the windowpane before I slide down, I find myself having to be brave. Being brave comes when I’m alone inside my 114-year-old house listening to the floors creak and jumping every time my neighbors fling snow at my window while I sit in my new bed and realize that, for the first time in my life, my situation doesn’t have an expiration date. Graduation or an internship end date won’t force me to move. This is my life, and now, more than ever before, I get to decide what happens next.

I am exploring from the inside out. I know which floorboards creak and I’m starting to know which cabinet to look in for the plates and which to look for the mugs. I watch the snow roll off the roofs across the street like steam escaping from a boiling pot, only to soon feel a cold chill run down my spine as it seeps in through the storm windows that won’t close. I feel a growing pain in my heart because I want to start learning and exploring and living but am trapped inside. For now, I am trying to figure out my new life while bumping into things in the dark.

“It’s not always like this.”

Today is February 16 — 47 days into 2015.

The New Year is still new.


New York, New York, and other reflections

It takes about 80 minutes to travel from Rome to Florence on a high-speed train. I rode on such a train earlier this summer. I sat in an aisle seat next to a 30-something woman who wore sunglasses so her 60-something mom, whom she was traveling with, wouldn’t see that her eyes were open. She leaned her head against the window and pretended to be asleep while her mom listed their plans for when they arrived in Florence, speaking to her daughter, herself and no one in particular.

The daughter’s head against the window could’ve been the focal point of a painting, the background a blurred landscape of the Italian countryside created by our speeding train. When passed by at 150 miles per hour, the trees become formless blurs of leaves. Individual pines blend into one another, like the ticking milliseconds that amalgamate on a stopwatch.

Then, without warning, the train enters a tunnel and the window turns black. The trees disappear. The only view is your reflection. The reflection moves slowly compared to the zooming landscape. The face bounces up and down. The eyes blink open and closed, open and closed, and open — the face is still there.

Then, again without warning, the landscape appears and whizzes by, all green trees and clusters of sunny wildflowers.


It takes less than 60 minutes to travel from Cleveland to New York City on an airplane. I rode on such a plane last summer. I sat in an aisle seat next to a man in a suit who lowered the brightness on his computer screen and then tilted it away from me, but not so far that I couldn’t see the word “confidential” in bold red letters. He slouched against the wall of the plane but left the window uncovered. At thousands of feet high, the sky is blue with white dots of clouds below. The land below vanishes as you are transported in a small aluminum-alloy box that holds your world because it holds you.

I traveled to New York last summer because I would spend the next three months interning there. I didn’t love the city. This is not a surprise to anyone who knows me.

“How was your summer in New York?” People would ask, eyes sparkly and full of anticipation. “What is it like to live there?”

“It was a great experience,” I would say, purposefully letting experience hang at the end of the sentence so it could speak for itself.

For a while, I thought I hated the city. There were too many people. Even when it was sunny, the tall buildings cast shadows so long that every time I walked outside, I felt dark and small. Everyone moved quickly. Mouths that smiled were rare.

I decided months later, while alone and surrounded by trees and air, that I couldn’t go back there. I wouldn’t.

I am moving back to New York less than three weeks from today.


Even when the Italian scenery reappears, you can see your reflection in the window. There you are, projected onto the moving blades of grass. Your features are more defined than the blurs of green and yellow and blue and brown. You are now part of the scenery that passes, but instead of staying behind with the vineyards and the hills, you move forward at a rapid pace. The scenery becomes part of you. Your skin loses pigmentation. The greens and yellows and blues and browns color you. You are made more vibrant by the world around you.

Then black returns. And you, the colors of you, reappear without the radiant glow of travel and adventure. You look away. “This I know,” you think. And so the train ride continues, with moments where you try to distinguish the new blurs that pass. Then, in the darkness, you close your eyes and look away from the familiar.

I “hated” New York because instead of being the reflection in the window, colored by the scene and the people, I was the blurred tree in the countryside, a millisecond amongst millions who raced the clock. I am not the first person to feel this way. (Writers penned books about it, after all). And, I will not be the last.

I wasn’t used to the way New York reminded me every day that life passes more quickly than a 150 mph train. Instead of knowing that my friends were busy because of white message bubbles that said, “I can’t today,” I saw people, thousands of them, hastily elbow one another in a rush to get to where they needed to be. When the subway doors closed in a man’s face as he ran toward the train, I saw how easy it is to be left behind. When a young woman dropped a quarter and ran back to put it in her purse as a homeless man reached for it, I saw what it means to scrape by. When I watched “bed guy” lie in his bed for days at a time, I was reminded how often we feel alone.

Humans are constantly left behind, lonely, hungry and fatigued. But New York reflects humanity in other people — people who feel lonely, left behind, tired, desperate, and, of course, happy — rather than in windows. New York shows you your reflection millions of times each day. You can look away, but only at the risk of missing part of yourself.


In three weeks, it will take me less than 60 minutes to fly from Cleveland to New York City. I will see clumps of clouds below the plane, and I will bring my small world to New York to do work I am genuinely excited about. I am fortunate.

I don’t know if I will feel like the reflection this time. I want to be colored by the scene and the people and the energy that lives in the city.

I will try.

This time, I won’t close my eyes because I think I know what I’m seeing. Now, I know that if I, if we, look away from what we think we know, the land, the clouds, the sky, the flowers, and the people, then we—our lives—will pass by.

I Scream, You Scream, But At Least We Have Ice Cream

I find humanity in the Andy’s Frozen Custard drive-thru.

Frozen custard occupies a special place in the fast food hierarchy. It is not a McDonald’s, scarfed down for speed and convenience and, above all else, for the fries. It is not a Subway, where we feel some degree of control and personalization over the available toppings. This is mine and it has everything I like, we think as we dismiss the fact that there are only two cucumber slices and it would be nice to have more, but now someone is squirting mustard and ooh that’s too much but there’s no turning back.

Andy’s is different. People go through the frozen custard drive-thru under the guise of convenience, but mostly to remain undetected and safe in an enclosed space where no one can see that they’re alone and eating a giant plastic container filled with what some might deem an unnecessary indulgence. To walk away from the please-order-here window and back to the car with a single cone or sundae is much bolder than remaining inside, where there is time to deliberate, a window to roll up and a cupholder to stash the container inside. The only interaction is between you and the cashier, who has seen isolated ice cream eaters before. It is safer to speak the childish menu item name with your foot on the brake. To let the halting be significant. To intentionally pass over a penny that is heads up, in case someone else needs the luck, and to drive away quickly while pretending the flush in your cheeks is solely due to the change in temperature from the open window.

There is humanity in the Andy’s Frozen Custard drive-thru because it is filled with remnants of pain. Middle-aged men somberly scooping mouthfuls of sundaes from behind their steering wheels, the sweetness in their mouths relieving work woes or family feuds or, perhaps temporarily, mid-life crises. College-aged women, who wear Greek letters, playing with their spoons. They watch as ice cream drips off the white plastic and onto their shirts, the stains hanging on until there are enough quarters to have a laundry day. Elderly women offering licks to their dogs and then tasting from the same cone, their love matured past concerns of germs yet reduced to a primal bond over food.

In the solitary dining sessions, there are seldom smiles. These are also quicker. The task of eating can only linger so long when the only thoughts to distract you are your own.

There is humanity in the Andy’s Frozen Custard drive-thru because it is mostly filled with solitary people, many of whom could be sitting alone at a bar. Sitting in a car offers a semblance of privacy that doesn’t exist in a bar, where the mulling and sipping seems stereotypical and expected. Andy’s is a secret tradition, one disguised to housemates with blasé, “I’m just going to the store,” or “I have an errand to run. I’ll be right back.” And the moment, even if tinged with embarrassment, is yours.

Happy Andy’s exists, yes, but Andy’s as a celebration treat still has the slightest flavor of a pain just passed. You made it through that mind-numbing test. You turned in a huge paper. You got a job!

You made it through today.

My sadness tastes like cookie dough frozen custard. This is not a terrible thing. It could be copper or salt water. A bland lump that can’t be swallowed. Blood. An insincere kiss.

After I order, I park and idle, but I can’t turn off my thoughts. Instead, inside of the other cars, I find slices of souls hidden in the empty gazes we wear as daily defense masks.

I am reminded of humanity in the coldness we consume to numb the aches. I am reminded when I see that, within minivans and sedans, the ways we cope are similar. I am reminded that I am not the only one who will scrape the sides of my plastic container and ingest bite after bite of cookie dough custard heartache.

I scrape, scrape, scrape until the taste is gone. Until nothing is there.


Exactly one year ago today, I sat in the blue plushy window seat of a Boeing 777 and watched both the television screen on the seat in front of me and my reflection in the plane’s window. My window-pane shadow, with a starless, uncertain darkness in my pupils was the same starless, uncertain darkness that cloaked the ocean thousands of miles below me.

For eight full hours, I alternated between staring at imagined waves slowly lapping and folding over themselves in an endless cycle of hydrologics and at a tiny computer plane on the television-screen map. That pixilated plane, void of sleeping and insomniatic humans, inched closer and closer to a red dot named the place I had been dreaming about since I was 10 London.

I think about London every day. London does not think about me.

London was the friend I talked to every day and then grew apart from. The one I had a friend crush on for years and finally had the courage to introduce myself to with a hesitant smile and with gushing-sharing-too-much-information-that-showed-I-Googled-her compliments.  Not in a repugnant way, but in the I-know-you-have-so-much-to-teach-me-please-be-my-soul-mate way. And she was.

London kept my secrets and promised not to tell as I pleaded with a whisper, looking at my gnawed off fingernails instead of into her eyes. London, along with everyone who cared to listen to my Anglophilic dreams, knew how much studying abroad meant to me. She didn’t judge me when I confused anxiety and excitement, a feeling that happened daily when I couldn’t identify whether being abroad made me feel liberated or discouraged and was left with a cavity of tangled nerves. She knew how I had read every blog, book and poem I had time for before I flew over the nighttime sea in the hopes that I would be ready. London laughed at my false sense of preparedness and made a point of proving that I didn’t really know anything at all.

I blogged about everything I saw and did when I was in England because I was terrified that I would forget. I was scared all of my adventures would mean nothing if I couldn’t remember the name of the tube stop where I exited for work (Bank) or the area I lived in (Camden), and that is why it’s so important for me to quiz myself on these facts today.

London? I lived there for four months when I studied abroad! In Camden. On Kentish Town Road (I think). Yes, in a flat with two others. Worked in the city, yes, right by the River Thames.

These facts are important because they prove that London happened. That it wasn’t a dream. These facts are important because no one wants to talk about how, for the first sixteen nights, I couldn’t fall asleep for hours because I felt terrified and alone and how, when I did finally get to sleep, I bolted upright after a few hours in a disoriented panic. Worried about many things out of my control, but most of all, that my cyclical sadness would root its sharp talons in my heart so that I couldn’t enjoy the trip I had been looking forward to my entire life. In those sixteen nights and in the dozens that would follow, I remember walking to the window and looking out at the solitary streetlight. Feeling isolated in the early morning hours when I imagined everyone else to be wrapped up in their blankets and their dreams. I didn’t know, in those unquiet nights, and wouldn’t realize until I left England, that it’s possible to feel half a world away from someone both when you’re half a world away and when you’re in the same room.

I spent every day with London and then I moved away. Until I return, London will remember me as the overeager 21-year-old I was when I knew her. She will ask me if I still love British writers, if I learned to put enough milk in my tea and if all of the smiling I did at peacoatted men on the subway ever landed me a date. London will remember a different me if when I come back because I was braver and more adventurous when I was with her. In my daylight hours with London, I lived through exotic-sounding pubs and pints, in accents that once made me blush but then became normal, in lunches I packed in plastic orange grocery bags, in long walks down winding cobbled roads, in the chill in my spine from the cold whose jolts of electric energy made me feel alive.

Now, I live in heated rooms and once again travel through words on pages instead of words hanging in the air. I try to harness the spontaneity that occurred in the foreign land but now feels foreign altogether. I listen 70% of the time and talk 30% and in my silences, I can sometimes hear London. But mostly, I hear the way things are now.

Everything changed but when I came back not much had changed at all. How was London? It was great. I still can’t believe it happened. It was great because that statement is mostly true; I had many of the best days of my life in those four months. That statement is mostly true because memory is a faulty construct of our own illusions and I remember everything being “great.” But there is a dash, just a dash, a drop, a smidge, of bruising dishonesty in my answer.

One day, I will once again watch a pixilated plane travel toward the red dot, the old friend who will remember me as the person I was.

You look different! So do you. You’ve changed.

Well, London, you changed me.

It Didn’t Work Out

Based on a true story.

Boy: “If you could have plastic surgery on any part of your body, would you?”

Girl: “Oh my God, no way.”

“Really? Why not?”

“If I really think about it … I don’t know. I guess because no part of me is so entirely and constantly debilitating that I would want to change it. And spend all of the money on it. And I imagine it would be really painful and there’s no guarantee it would work out. If I thought it would make my life sufficiently better and really impact my overall happiness then there would be a difference. But I guess … I guess I think I should try to be more accepting of who I am than to try to change something.”

“Oh. Ok.”

“… Why? Would you?”

“Yeah, I would.”

Really? Where?”

“On my nose.”

“Really? There’s nothing wrong with your nose.”

“It’s too big. I don’t know. I just hate it.”

“Hate it enough to get plastic surgery? I mean –“

“Yeah. Absolutely. It’s bumpy. I just, I just hate looking at it. But I can’t believe you wouldn’t change anything. Like, if money were no object and you could change one thing. Any thing. Anything.”

“I think your nose is great. Really, I wouldn’t lie about that. But what are you saying? Are you trying to imply something? What do you mean?”

“No, no, I’m not. It’s just, you know, if you could change one thing. What don’t you like?”

“Come on. You know me. It’s not just one … Don’t you think about what it’s going to be like later?  I mean, I’m going to get old and I might gain weight and I’m definitely going to have wrinkles and maybe my acne will last way into my twenties and there’s no plastic surgery for that. And maybe I won’t be able to lose baby weight or maybe I’ll just love desserts because I do and then even if I got something done, like liposuction or something, it wouldn’t matter after a while. We’re supposed to be flawed, I think. I don’t know … don’t you think that we’re more than what we look like?”

“I don’t know. Are we?”

“God, I hope so. You’re always going to have flaws. Definitely on the inside and those don’t go away with plastic surgery. And that’s ok. That’s what makes us us. Human and all of that symbolic stuff. Like, even if my thighs were smaller I’d still worry too much.”

“I mean, I guess.”

“What are you saying about the way I look?”

“I’m saying that you could look better. I could, too. It’s not that personal. Everyone could. We can always be better. But wow, what you were saying … I don’t want to get old. That … that scares me.”

“Aren’t you still going to love someone when she gets old and doesn’t look the same?”

“Well, yeah. I, I don’t know. I guess it’ll just be a different love.”

“You’re making me feel sad.”

“No, you’re making you feel sad.”

“What you said hurt my feelings.”

“What I said caused you to let your feelings get hurt.”


“Think about it.”


My eyes are the same color as my hair.

A hazel, muddied mix of brown and blonde stains my irises. I lean in to my mirror and inspect the color. Instead of seeing the pigment, I see more of my reflection. A smaller version of myself in the center of my eye that gets bigger as I lean closer, closer, closer. My face, the color, becomes more magnified in my own view. It all blends together, but the tint doesn’t change. I am my reflection. But what is the color? Is this shade only mine or do others have it, too?

Is there anything inside of me that I can call my own and only my own?

I’m worried it’s not enough to be just one shade. If I had a palette full of colors in the snapshot of my face, I might be able to camouflage the unseemly tints with better ones. But sometimes, even the most dazzling colors can’t disguise the deepest stains.

Is there any one thing I could tell you, one color I could show you, that would distinguish me from everyone else you’ve met?

There is a chance, if I showed more than one shade in my above-the-chin snapshot, that it wouldn’t come out looking like a rainbow. It might be a Picasso painting so disorienting it would alienate the people who looked at it and make them move onto something better looking. Something that made sense and wasn’t so messy. A Monet. A tranquil flower scene filled with perfectly placed dots and brushes of paint.

Inside, I feel a lot of colors mixing together in a funnel-shaped panic. Fallow is the triumphant hue in my face. It escaped. The rest battle for a chance to show themselves. But it’s hard to know what to let out and what to keep in. It’s hard to know if any color is so special it would make a difference. If it would change how you saw me. More importantly, if it would change how I saw me.

For now, I will keep them all hidden inside. The hazel, muddied mix of brown and blonde stain can remain.

Because, is there really anything inside of me, or you, that we can call our own and only our own?

Mazed and Confused

Maybe I’ve been feeling a little lost, but this weekend I got intentionally lost in a corn maze. And, yes, I know that’s supposed to happen. As part of our annual fall tradition, my friend Alicia and I voluntarily entered an endless, starchy labyrinth with twists and turns and ups and downs and stalks and stalks of husks that marked out different kernelled, shucked and cobbed paths. Paths that all seemed like good options so it was hard to know which one was right.

We began by turning left. We kept turning left and left and left and sometimes right and somehow stumbled upon one of the maze’s eight embedded trivia questions whose answers would spell out a mystery word. In the shadows of stalks two times taller than we are, we talked about the important and nebulous things that make me feel lost. The future, where to move, where to work, where we’ll start again. We talked about boys and men, unrequited and mutual love. We made wrong turns when we started talking about the places we’ve gone and the places we hope to go. As we passed a tired mom carrying her baby and her burdens in her arms, I winced when I thought of how, probably sooner rather than later, I could be in her position.

I talked about wanting to see the Grand Canyon and how, when I was a silly, stubborn pre-teen, I thought going to see it would be “touristy” and now it’s the place in the U.S. I want to go more than anywhere else. The stalks listened as we talked about how things have changed. They dangled husks in front of our eyes that we brushed aside when we confessed how much there is to see. Especially before we have other people relying on us.

We walked towards the ends and the exits and talked about self-confidence and lack thereof. Of books and words and plotlines and what it means to translate a story from one language to another and to subsequently lose some of the meaning. Of what it means to translate a thought into a sentence and to lose some of what you really want to say.

We found a few clues and kept finding exit number one again and again and again. We looked at the map and thought we might find an answer to a clue in a stalk-formed star. As we ventured forward, my broken, practically soleless adventurer shoes showed their age. This, as other adventures will be for me later in life, was too much. I slipped and slid. I regained my footing just before the mud began to make me stick and then I was stuck. Stuck in the mud and stuck in the thought that I’m more than a little nervous because I don’t know what or where or who is coming next and I want to. I really want to know.

“How many people do you think actually find all of the clues?” Alicia asked as she took her turn leading the way.

“I don’t know … probably two.”

As time became measured not in the number of minutes but in the number of slippery steps, we stopped talking, found clues and passed people who were also searching for answers. We weren’t the only ones. I wasn’t the only one. I’m not the only one.

We turned right and right and right and sometimes left and did I see that ear of corn before or do they all just look the same and is taking this path, ok? Have I been confused before and yes, yes I have. Have I been lost before? Yes, yes, I have. But I’m not the only one, and oh look it’s the last clue.

And there it was. I don’t know if we were the only two who actually finished as I predicted, but we were two who did. In that moment, in the middle of a maze, we had it all figured out. The answer, through slips and twists and laughs and worries and mud and muck and confessions, came.

It was right in front of me.

I’m Not Lonely Because I’m Alone

I went on a date with myself and didn’t feel lonely even though I was alone.

I’ve been struggling to define what I think is fun because it isn’t always what most other people my age enjoy doing. The imminence of graduation hangs over my weekend plans as thick and as heavy as the humid Missouri weather on these slow, blistering August days. I get dressed up and go out to bars long after I start to feel tired because it’s what I’m “supposed to do” to socialize as a young 20-something in her last year of college. Some nights I don’t mind squeezing between rows of boys in boat shoes or brushing past girls dabbing yellowed stains of spilled beer off of their neon hi-low skirts.

Tonight was different.

I wanted to see a movie, and I decided to go alone. I used to feel ashamed of spending time alone. I thought it meant no one wanted to spend time with me.

I now know that this isn’t true. That people have other interests and commitments and that’s nothing to take personally. I could’ve asked many people to go with me, and I’m positive several of them would have happily obliged. Instead, I walked with nothing but a wallet full of loose coins and a mind full of even looser thoughts to Panera, my favorite fast food chain, and ordered my favorite meal. The young couple eating at the table next to me said as many words on their date as I did on mine. Instead of feeling empty and alone while eating beside two others, I felt full and comfortable. When the cheery Panera employee asked me if I’d enjoyed my dinner, I said yes. And I had.

Once I’d finished, I walked to the movie theater and saw Blue Jasmine, the only movie showing at the time. I felt sympathy for a detestable, neurotic character acted brilliantly by Cate Blanchett and sipped a glass of wine as the couple next to me held hands and, eventually, stopped watching the movie to watch each other.

On a campus of 35,000, I rarely feel alone. I always have a friend to study with, watch television with, eat frozen custard with and, sometimes, cry with. To consciously and actively be alone is scary, simply because its all too easy to avoid the worst parts of ourselves. We don’t have to listen to our worries when we’re with other people, and we don’t even have to focus on our impending fears when we scroll through Twitter or watch television because technology distracts us from the issues we aren’t ready to face.

I faced myself tonight. I turned off my phone and sat in a movie in silence. I walked home and, instead of looking at my smartphone, listened as the mid-Missouri wildlife sang a country lullaby that I don’t know when I’ll hear again after I graduate. Tonight, I decided that I could finally be comfortable enough with who I am to be completely and consciously alone in public.

I went on a date by myself and didn’t feel lonely even though I was alone.

I think I might be growing up.

Mr. Darcy Doesn’t Exist

Disclaimer: Before I came to England, many of my friends and family members joked that I would find my “Mr. Darcy” in England. Of course, the comments were playful teases, but I heard them so often I believed it could happen. And more than that, I wanted it to.

I’m 21 now. Luckily, that isn’t an “old maid” like it would’ve been in Jane’s time, but it’s fair to say that I see more and more of my Facebook friends getting engaged (and not just as April Fool’s pranks) and many of my own close friends have met the people they will spend the rest of their lives with. I have seen how these relationships make them feel, and how they complete parts of my friends’ lives they didn’t know they were missing. My own parents met in college when they were around my age. Why couldn’t my “dream man” come from the place I’d always dreamed of visiting?

He didn’t. 

It is with a love for England, not for Mr. Darcy, that I visited Chatsworth House, which is used as Mr. Darcy’s house in the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice.


Mr. Darcy doesn’t exist.

Fortunately, Chatsworth does.

I peer through a clouded bus window covered with the dirt of passengers gone by. Specks of misplaced wanderlust, now forgotten and shielding my view. I am not the first to come here, and I won’t be the last.


Even in a dirty haze, the house is a dreamlike beauty that makes my heart beat a little bit faster. The rolling hills. The stately mansion. The light fog rising up from a trickling river. The stuff quintessential British dreams are made of.

I am in England.

There are no signs of the Chatsworth estate’s wealth out here. Just sheep. A steady waterfall. Slippery rocks with glints of rain. A silent brook that makes no almost sound as it trickles slowly. Gardens that stretch 105 acres.


There is a path, but I have no map.

I don’t know what lies ahead.

So I walk heel-toe through the hedges. Rainboots plodding on the gravel paths. Past an elderly couple whose stride is matched and perfected from years of walking beside one another.  Their wrinkly pinky fingers are linked. Past a mother with permanent purple circles under her eyes. She sighs as her toddler’s chubby fingers stretch for a lollipop behind the concessions counter. Past a pair of siblings who pull on each other’s sweatshirt hoods. One trips over a tree branch, and his eyes well up as he starts wailing “Mummy!” with an articulate British accent.

This is England.


I keep going. Further until I enter the edges of the gardens. And further into the silence.

I push a long mossy branch out of my way and keep walking. My rainboots are clunky and my approach is loud. Birds scatter and move to higher and quieter posts. Away from the sound. Away from me.


I walk up a slick slope and temporarily lose my footing. My left hand stops my body from crashing into the hill, and I glance around, an embarrassed blush spreading over my cheeks.

Then I remember. I am alone.

I plod past an abandoned cottage that a single spider has now claimed as his own. I walk down a set of stairs and into a cave once used by miners, now marked by evenly spaced lampposts. Little lights that illuminate a path in the darkness.


My entrance interrupts a private moment shared by a couple. As I squeak towards them, his hand untangles itself from her hair and moves sideways on the damp cave wall to shield her from view. She glances downward, holding her breath while waiting for me, the intruder, to pass. When I leave, their giggles echo down the tunnel and back to me.

I am alone.

I keep going. A little faster now. And then I see it. A wooded area with years-old rocks. A canopy of bare tree branches dangle. There are no birds that scatter. No spiders weaving homey webs. No waterfalls, no brooks, no streams. Just rocks and a windswept silence that is even too caught up in the moment to whisper doubts into my ear.


I sit on a rock. I write. And I write.

A light rain starts to fall and I roll my eyes, but smile inside. It’s an English cliche, but it couldn’t feel more appropriate. The spots look like teardrops on my paper, but I am not sad. I am alone, but not lonely.

Mr. Darcy is not home.

He never will be.

An hour passes and it’s time to walk back past the waterfalls, flowing rivers and grazing sheep. To face the elderly couples, fighting siblings and lovestruck pairs. Past the stroller tracks, spilled ice cream cones and blooming buds. Back to the train and back to London.


I stand up and brush the dirt off my jeans. With the flecks go my illusions and unfulfilled expectations.

Because I did get everything I’ve ever wanted. The hills, the sheep, the rivers, the light rain. The smell of spring. No Mr. Darcy could’ve given me the England I’d always dreamed of seeing. Of feeling a part of. Of breathing in and breathing out. Of knowing that for those few minutes, that rock, that spot, that moment were mine.


I stand up and turn my back on my little writing spot. I don’t look back.

There is a path, but I have no map.

I don’t know what lies ahead.

Seeing All of the British Treasures (Including a Prince, of course)

What have I been doing the past few weeks? Writing papers, going to work and playing a little game I like to call “cram as many Londony things into my last weeks as possible.” So far, I’ve been winning. (Against myself).

What was on the list? Fittingly enough, I started last weekend by going to the British library to look at the “British Treasures.” I think the words “British treaures” would pretty much sum up what I’ve spent the past few weeks pursuing. As you can tell from my last post, being in London at a time when so much tragedy is going on in the world has made me feel a little vulnerable, but I know I’m incredibly lucky to be in England and need to make an effort to get out and see everything I’d hoped to before I leave.

There’s a lot more to the British library than books. Of course, it does have the original Beowulf manuscript from the 11th century, which somehow survived a fire that charred the book cover. It has Mozart’s wedding contract, which says that he and his wife both cried tears of joy during the ceremony. There’s a tiny Jane Austen writing desk that looks more like a shelf than anything. Beethoven’s tuning fork. The original, handwritten Magna Carta. Scraps of paper the Beatles wrote their lyrics on. The Mendelssohn Wedding March.  The world’s first illustrated medical book, and more and more.

The pages of the manuscript survived the flames

The pages of the manuscript survived the flames

My roommates asked if my favorite part of the exhibit was the Jane desk, and while it was cool, it was nothing like the original table she sat at. I think my favorite part was seeing the original drafts of work that some of the world’s most famous authors wrote. There were rough drafts from George Eliot, Oscar Wilde and even some early edition Shakespeare papers. All of them featured notes in the margins, scratches through ideas and half-formed sentences. I felt like I got to see part of the “process,” which was pretty cool, and similar across all of the different writers.

Last Sunday night I went on a tour of the staterooms at Buckingham Palace. I brought the average age down by about 20 years and was one of the only single people there, but it was still very cool to see London’s most famous palace at night.


Of course, no pictures were allowed. I couldn’t even try to snap some because the security was so tight. We had a guide lead us around, but we also had two security officers there to block the doors and keep an eye on us. And the queen wasn’t even home!

King George IV, a greedy guy that liked to spend a lot of money, acquired the palace. He made it his goal to seek out many famous works out art to feature on the palace walls, so most of what is left is his. He has a table that was made for Napoleon, hundreds of Dutch paintings and rooms filled with gold lacquer designs.

Actually, miss, there's no sitting allowed on the furniture

Actually, miss, there’s no sitting allowed on the furniture

I had always heard that the Queen hates the palace, and maybe compared to Windsor it isn’t as “palace-y” or fortress-y. For some reason, in my head the palace was a dim and dingy place that was cramped and ugly. Thinking back, that makes no sense, and Buckingham is truly stunning.

What's not to love?

What’s not to love?

On the tour we got to see the grand dining room, the picture gallery, the room where the royal family takes wedding pictures, the ballroom, the music room and a room with a trap door that the Queen uses to make her grand entrances. (It looks like there’s a mirror and a dressing table on the wall, but the entire wall pulls back to allow the queen to step through. Sadly, they wouldn’t open it more than a crack. Maybe the Queen was really inside).

Everything was very color-coordinated

Everything was very color-coordinated

The guides really emphasized how Buckingham is a “working” palace. Although it’s beautiful and full of relics, the staff makes full use of each of the rooms and is even more cautious to keep it clean and put-together. It’s only open to the public on select weekends and during the summer simply because the Queen lives and uses it every day. And no one is EVER allowed inside when she’s there, of course.

We ended the tour with a glass of champagne. Of course, I was awkwardly drinking the bubble alone so I got out of there pretty quickly, but it was an amazing “insider” tour and I was really glad I was able to go.

Speaking of British treasures, I got to see the one and only Prince Harry this past Friday! Jessica is a self-proclaimed royalist (read: royal stalker) and found out that he was speaking at a hotel to promote the Walk for the Wounded, which is a charity where wounded soldiers will trek to the South Pole. But, it was thanks to her that we got to see him at all! Harry is actually going to rough it and go with them, but when we saw him his only struggle was keeping his pants up.

Well, hello there!

Well, hello there!

We were the only girls amongst a sea of photographers, so he looked right at us. The encounter was admittedly brief. He showed up right at 2:30 p.m., got out of the car, looked at us, and continued into the hotel. The whole thing took about 20 seconds at the most. But don’t read too much into it, there was definitely a connection there. Maybe I’ll be the next member of the royal family!

My favorite thing I’ve done in the past few weeks is visit the Chatsworth House, which is home to Mr. Darcy in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. That little outing deserves its own post. I mean, you know me by now. Why wouldn’t it?

Until next time,

Allison, aka the future Princess