Tag: change

biking always terrified me.

Confession time.

Biking always terrified me. The fear was born at the beginning – I didn’t learn how to bike until I was seven years old, which to me was always horrifically embarrassing. I got my first nice bike when I was around ten from LL Bean, I loved it (dude, it was pink) but I didn’t really have anywhere to ride it. I lived out in the country surrounded by a combination of dirt roads perfect for my brothers’ BMX bikes and paved roads full of crazy traffic that I wasn’t allowed on. So I rarely rode. I quickly grew out of that bike and I never got a new one.


Where were these awesome balance bikes when I was a kid?!

My first week in college I realized that Dickinson had a bike rental program. Awesome! Especially since I didn’t have a car. My new roommate and I decided to take a ride to Walmart with a new friend to get some decorations for our room. I forgot that it had been nearly a decade since I’d pedaled anything. The second I swung on to the crappy rental I realized how awkward I felt. I completely wiped out on the way there. That’s probably on the list of my life’s most embarrassing moments.

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transitions | on community vs. wanderlust.

I’m terrible at transitions. Horrible. The days leading up to one I’m a frantic mess, trying to tie up every loose end, say my goodbyes, and prepare for whatever is coming up. Then for weeks after I’m always an emotional mess and I always forget why.

There’s a reason for this that’s taken me years to figure out – transitions, in my life, are related to two very separate values I hold: community and wanderlust.

Community: Growing up in rural Maine, it’s hard not to have and hold this value as deep in your heart as any value can be. Growing up I always knew I wanted to live in small town. I love knowing people everywhere I go, I want the bartender or barista to already know what I want, I like having friends of all ages – from toddlers to the elderly, I need my family. The second I land anywhere my roots are already establishing. I travel deep, not far. I don’t like to sight see, I like to investigate cultures. My favorite part of traveling to Tanzania was delving into the small community around me: which people filled what roles, what people ate, what they did for fun, who their families were, the social quirks – and then finding my place.

Wanderlust: Again, growing up in small-town Maine, it’s hard not to dream of the world beyond Boston. Traveling has impassioned me since I was a child. A hunger to understand other cultures led me to raise my own money to send myself to El Salvador at 15. This life changing experience led me to attend the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa 3 years later, and then to study wildlife management in Tanzania the year after that.



“You can have roots and wings, Mel.”
– Jake, Sweet Home Alabama
(only the best movie ever created…)

As I prepare for our road trip departure on April 1st I feel the impending, and familiar, value-collision-stress. My roots are so deep in Carlisle that it feels like I’m going to college all over again – only this time there aren’t winter breaks. With an undefined plan that leads west I have to face the fact that I have no idea when I’m going to see the people and places here again.

Yesterday, I went to my favorite cafe for the last time. I got lunch with my favorite professor for the last time. I had my last waitressing shift at Andalusia. I said goodbye to the best regulars I’ve ever had as a waitress. Today, I said goodbye to the kids I babysit for the last time. In the coming weeks I’ll have my last day at work, say goodbye to some of my greatest friends, say goodbye to Dickinson, to my favorite bar, to the trails I frequently run, etc. etc. etc.

And it’s not just Carlisle. Leaving the east coast means moving further from home. This past weekend I saw my best high school friends in New York City. We had an amazing time together in the big city, and I know for certain I’ll see them again, but it could be years before the four of us are all together at the same time. In two weeks I’ll spend time with my parents before, again, I have to say goodbye for the foreseeable future.

I’m de-rooting again, and it hurts. But at the same time – I’m so ready. I hate repetition. Adventure is always on my mind. This road trip is everything I want and need right now. Wanderlust has me tight in it’s grip. After seeing so many other countries through my education I’m ready to see America up close and personal – deep, not far.

But even though I’m bad at transitioning, I also love the raw emotion it brings up. I’m forced to face how much I love the community around me, and how much it loves me. I’m reminded of how much work and love I’ve put into my life here. Then, I get to look at my future and be proud of my decisions not to settle, to live fully, and embrace being young. I get to look forward to putting roots down somewhere else.

Communities in my life so far:

sperry enlightening.

I swore to myself and slammed the refrigerator door in the middle of my dessert selection process. I forgot to feed the pigs. It was getting dark and starting to rain. I tossed aside my daily sandals, rain in mind, and grabbed my old Sperrys from the back of the closet. I pulled them on as I hopped out the door and headed for the wooded path to the pen. My bare feet slide into the leather shoes – instantly, a wave of familiarity flooded through me.

My Sperrys are old and falling apart: the soles are smooth with use, the leather wearing, the stitching has even unraveled on one of them. To be honest they aren’t even real Sperrys. I never wanted boat shoes, but when my Birkenstocks fell apart the Goodwill Sperry mimics in our spare closet were my only immediate option. The shoes have been loved despite my aversion toward them.

The next two years of my life are etched in their wear and tear – winters and summers both. I never did buy new shoes. When I went to Tanzania I regretfully closeted them. Bringing them wasn’t practical. Six months later, hurrying to do chores, I slipped them on absentmindedly. Unknowingly, I slipped on more than shoes. I slipped on a version of myself I had forgotten – a self from six months ago that I suddenly understood is no longer me.

Senses have a way of stirring up old memories you forget you have. Usually it is smell that triggers mine; every person, place and thing has a specific aroma I will always remember. But when I slipped my Sperrys on I experienced the same sensation through touch: my feet tingled with an acute awareness long forgotten. The memory I conjured wasn’t a thought, perception or attitude. It was the memory of a feeling. I simply relived how it felt to be me before I went abroad; a mixture of anxiety, insecurity, pride and love.

When I got back to America I wrote a multitude of journal entries, spent hours reflecting, experienced countless epiphanies – all that normal cultural transition stuff. Yet, it took a pair of shoes for me to understand. My Sperrys showed me exactly how Africa changed me: for just a few seconds I became who I had been, as a result I learned who I have become.


the much loved Sperrys on vacation at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival last summer.

the much loved Sperrys on vacation at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival last summer.

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