Friday, October 12, 2012

i'll let your ride be free

Somewhere deep within me, I knew it was only a matter of months before a post appeared on this blog again. My old readers are probably not those who are reading this, but this post has been slowly forming over years and I finally feel that I have enough of a grasp to put it into published words to share with the great expanse of no one and everyone simultaneously on the internet.
Perhaps you should read THIS first.

People watching has always been a favorite pastime. Perhaps its one of the reasons why I love travel so much. Its amazing what you can quickly get from an interaction with a stranger. You can pick up from the way they position themselves, the things they say, the framing of their sentences, the crooked line in their smile, slight darkness in their eyes that there's more than what you know. Sometimes you don't catch any such glimpse in a stranger at all. The Kroger cashier says, "Hey, how are you?" and you politely respond with some platitude, "fine, thanks, how are you?" and then the same statement is repeated back to you. At this point, generally some comment about one of the products being rolled over the scanner is made, method of payment is discussed, occasionally the weather or another nonsense topic is raised in the interest of making small talk and presuming dead silence as unacceptable awkwardness. These bull shit conversations used to drive me crazy with strangers. But the real truth is, how frequently do we have these same conversations with the people we are supposed to be confiding in, trusting, and sharing the deepest things with?
Rather frequently, wouldn't you agree?
And isn't it a pity. There is a well-circulated pin posted above that says, "be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." I've been chewing on this concept lately. Just starting law school in a state completely across the country, and around the globe from where I spent the last year building connections has attracted new light on the beauty and obstacles presented by young friendships. You avoid religion, politics, ex-boyfriends, hot-topic issues because you don't know their background. You say something that in your frame of reference is totally relevant or appropriate, but in their world, it is interpreted as the exact opposite. Exaggerated words are taken at face value and repeated. Young friendships are built off series of interactions walking a tight rope of "here's a small insight into me" and "i want insight into you" but too often, both slip by.
What is even more frightening is the likelihood that friendships formed on surface nonsense can seem like the real deal and can be rewarding, even lasting for years.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, when you have a friend that is experiencing all kinds of trials, you can be so close to that person, you can empathize with them so deeply that on some level you are experiencing it as well. As referred to in one of the most vulnerable posts on this blog, I have a fundamental issue with life struggles and the lack of ability to guide someone through a same or similar circumstance as one that I myself hobbled along. This week in particular, I was given an opportunity to attempt to be the friend I needed in that time. It was such a strange sensation to sit and think of what I wanted and needed at that time. It's amazing what you let yourself forget. As I tried to reconstruct fragile memories of wondering what the result of one of Mom's surgeries would be, I was reminded of the CDs I played while walking through the hospital hallways, of the smile cemented to my face that I didn't even recognize when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I thought about the constant admonitions of "I'm praying for you" and "God is good and He is going to get you through this" and how my gut reaction to each one made my stomach churn as I grasped onto each word but swallowed it down with doubt and anger.
I've thought so many times that "I want bones like iron, blood like mercury so I can tell you when I'm rising and when I'm sinking in" as so eloquently described by Dispatch. But life isn't like that. You can wear your story on your sleeve, you can sigh heavier throughout your day, your confusion can be visible, or your jaw can be crooked into a smile even you do not recognize yet all go unnoticed. So luckily, you can only worry about being open and honest enough about your own experiences to share them and hope that another will benefit. You can only be concerned with having listening ears and sensitivity to the needs of those around you.

The point I am desperately and poorly trying to make is this: you just never know what battle someone that you are interacting with is facing. At any given moment, that interaction could make a huge difference or none at all.
The emotional energy that you invest in someone else or something else may never be fully appreciated. And that is a shame. But in my experience, as it drains you to fill someone else, in the end, you are filled when they feel restored and you were a contributing factor to that restoration.
I am confident the emptiness that comes from the emotional investment initially, will ALWAYS be rewarded.

So, GO invest in someone.
Invest in everyone. 

"Well, I got a bad disease. 
Right from my brain is where I bleed. 
Today, love smiled on me. 
It took away my pain
Say, please, I'll let your ride be free.
You gotta let it be.

It's bitter baby
but its very sweet.
I'm on a roller coaster but I'm on my feet.
Take me to your river, let me on your shore. 
I'll be coming back, baby, I'll be coming back for more. 
I could not forget but I won't endeavor. 
Said my pleasure, I won't regret it never.

Where I go, I just don't know.
I got to, got to take it slow.
When I find my peace of mind, well, I'm gonna give you some of my good time."
-Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soul to Squeeze

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


well, i knew what i didn't want to know
and i saw where i didn't want to go
so i took the path less traveled on
and i let my stories be whispered when I'm gone
when I'm gone
well in this life, you must find something to live for
'cause when the darkness comes a-callin' you go back to where you were before
'cause this life is as fragile as a dream
and nothing's ever really as it seems
as it seems
well i lost my innocence one day, when in i let him dive
but the way that he looked at me made me feel alive
and now i know nothing at all but the release that comes when you're in mid fall
in mid fall
in mid fall
cause in this life, you must find something to live for...
-Lily Kershaw, As It Seems

Sometimes, a song strikes me to the core no matter how many times I have heard it before. And its a clear visceral response that I can feel where my heart and mind simultaneously agree, "yes, thats it! thats exactly how we feel." I don't know if songs affect you that way, but lyrics are certainly one of my favorite languages when my own fails me. The past few weeks I have had so much on my mind, such weight on my shoulders while simultaneously traveling substantially. It's been a total roller coaster ride. At this point, these days are all about managing the highs and lows and ordering them to balance out. I have been thinking about the future of this blog and whether or not I will continue to maintain it. In September will be the blogs second anniversary. I am quite confident I will not have much time to dedicate to its postings next year while I have my nose buried in a book and selfishly, since I am unaware of who reads it if anyone, I cannot help but thinking my time will be better spent in the upcoming months dedicating time to my own journals and my travel blog ( That being said, if there is demand, there will be future posts and if there is no demand, this blog will probably be rarely updated. There is inspiration and ideas for great posts and not enough time or drive to see them through. This blog has been near and dear to my heart. It's posts contain raw thoughts and emotions with words direct heart strings and my opinion as precisely as I could have expressed it.

I hope that whatever reservations usually keep you from commenting, that if you were ever to leave a comment, it would be on this post. Otherwise, readers from wherever in the world that you are reading, it's been quite a journey. And journeys are one of my favorite things. It's certainly one hell of one I am on. And I wish you nothing but the best on yours.

With love,

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

i remember a time my balance was fine

"I try so many times but it's not taking me
                                                                            and it seems so long ago that I used to believe
and I'm so lost inside of my head, and crazy but I cant get out of it. 
I'm just stumbling
                                                                           And I'm juggling all the thoughts in my head
I'm juggling and my fears on fire
but I'm listening as it evolves in my head...
And I remember the time my balance was fine
and I was just walking on one fine wire
Life plays so many games inside of me
and I've had some distant cries, following 
and they're entwined between the night and sun beams
I wish I were free from this pain in me
I remember the time my balance was fine..."
-Colbie Caillat, One Fine Wire

hashtag happy, no wait, miserable. no wait, happy.

These days are characterized by mood swings of new proportions. I feel that the weekends where I stay in Madrid drag on, the weekdays also go by painstakingly slow but yet, the fact that its the EIGHTH of May shocks me to the core. 
I have seven weeks left of living in Europe. 
Then, I am looking at around three weeks to move from Atlanta to Malibu. 
Admittedly, my mind is already in Malibu in many regards. I find my mind wandering to thoughts of buying a new couch, selling some things in the house, going through junk I have no use for with less care than a host from Clean Sweep. I am preoccupied with things I should be doing that I cannot at this time- find an apartment, finish my FAFSA forms, etc etc that I need to be in California barking down my Father's back for help. Conversely, I was walking through my neighborhood today thinking of how deeply I will miss Spanish rolling fluidly off my tongue, weaving through these intricate streets alive with culture and rich in history, with free time to do things like blog or read three books in five days and be completely up-to-date on all my favorite TV shows. But as a friend recently candidly wrote me, "the universe can be such an asshole" and you don't get to choose when certain chapters end and begin nearly as tactfully as you may wish. and that's how you end up with mood swings, questioning your own incapability of balancing what you're doing in this moment and where you're headed. 
One of the most poignant themes of my time living in Spain has managed to again remind me that i'm no master and i have much more learning to do. Where is the balance between falling for someone stupidly and falling for someone gracefully? When do you cut yourself off and demand yourself to walk away? At what moment is your investment in someone else's time and feelings the "right amount"? Is there such a thing? Is falling off that wire such a tragic thing, anyway? Maybe the most healthy way to approach complicated paradoxes is not by carefully walking the tightrope without falling off, but instead on hopping from one side to the other? 
These are questions I blog about because they're things rolling around desperately in my thoughts with no answers. What do you think? Where do you find balance in your life? Where is there lack of balance? 
All I know is I identify with the lyrics presented above. I know that over the weekend, I felt trapped in Madrid. claustrophobic like I wasn't able to breathe while thinking my next booked flight was not until my flight back to the US in July. Though I have zero intentions of changing my habit of caving to my gypsy-like desires, high blood pressure due to lack of foreseen travel in five weeks is a new level I am not sure is healthy. With my patience growing thin on nailing down upcoming weekend plans, finally a few things fell into place. I have plans for this weekend, which I am super excited about. Yes, in two days I will be on the road again. And it makes the surrounding air easier to breathe. 
I also booked my (extremely expensive, might I add) flight to VIENNA! As I have written many times, Vienna has a huge hold on my heart. One of my first mission trips and most certainly the most impactful mission work that I participate in, this upcoming trip will be my seventh trip to the shelter. I couldn't possibly be more thrilled. 
Until I have "it all figured out" (which will never happen) I will most likely continue to endure this insomnia while I lay awake wondering why I don't have some magical "how to balance abstract nouns and life's absurdities" handbook and blogging about how I managed to screw it up.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

you´re not drunk if you can´t stay in your lane

The reason why I love bad days is because the next day is always so much better. Sometimes, you feel like the sky has exploded and only you know (Age of Rockets). Or according to Jack´s Mannequinn, "alone in a crowded room." I firmly believe that life functions on a very carefully calculated balance and contradiction, where unless that balance is somehow maintained via whatever force, everything would totally fall apart. To be honest, I cant quite erase the images provided by The Adjustment Bureau when I think about whatever or whomever controls the balance. There is this quaint little tale in Spanish about a cicada and an ant. In the summer, the ant works really hard to store up for the winter and the cicada mocks him from his lounge chair laying in the sun. The cicada explains to the ant that he must enjoy the summer! The ant retorts, when you have no food in the winter, don´t come cryin´ to me because you should have worked during the summer! I´m sure there is some fable in every language along these lines, where the moral of the story is "don´t build castles in the sky" literal translation from Spanish. This is a balance that I am trying to grasp fully and the entire law school application process juxtaposed with living in Madrid has been operation teach Stephanie to appreciate the now AND prepare for the future simultaneously. I can confidently say that as I look back over the hours I spent pouring over research, websites, books, advice columns, though I am sure it prepared me in an inmeasurable way to make the decision that I did, Pepperdine wasn´t on my beautiful color-coded Excel spreadsheet. I don´t know what the faculty to student ratio is, or how many volumes are in the library but that doesn´t mean it wasn´t an informed decision, because it absolutely certainly was. It´s just that, sometimes the BEST things in life, you cannot plan. And when you look back, you will see that you really had planned it all along and it all followed that plan better than you could have ever imagined. And that my friends, is a truly spectacular thing. Life is unpredictable, ridiculous and beautiful all rolled into one mess. Who would have it any other way?

"Well, you´re not brave if you still keep the letters
and you're not sane if you don't want to get better
and you're not drunk if you can´t stay in your lane
 Well you're not awake but you haven't been sleeping
 and you hate God but you don't believe in him
and you're not scared but you still got you're eyes closed
the sky explodes, and only you know
Well it's not fixed if you love it broken
 you're not lost but you're missing your exit
 and you're not scared but you still got your eyes closed
I want you to worry when I don't call you back."
-Avada Kedavra, Age of Rockets

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

in awe of what's in front of me

“California, guilded crowns.
Mile markers counting down.
Somewhere down, down in the ocean of sound, we’ll live in slow motion
And be free
The door’s unlocked and opened
The door’s unlocked and opened.”
–Death Cab for Cutie, Doors Unlocked and Open

Bear with me here, because this is a loooong post. Posted first on my blog about my experience living in Spain, but equally applicable here. 

I sincerely hope you can find the time to read every word.
First: the headline—I will be attending Pepperdine University School of Law in the fall! Now, allow me to fill you in on how WE came to this decision and the revolution it took to get me there. Or, I should say, here.
Wow, what an incredible and ridiculous trip this has been and these past two weeks have indeed been particularly ridiculous. I was able to accomplish quite a bit in a short, short period of time. The first few days I distinctly felt like I had only revealed that I had more questions than I did answers and more and more I felt an increasing pressure to make some sacrifice on what I wanted for these upcoming years. I didn’t feel like I found a school that “had everything I wanted.” No, I felt like that didn’t exist. Instead, I was choosing which things I was willing to give up and which things I wasn’t going to compromise on. This was a suffocating feeling, but at least the decision was slowly approaching and becoming clearer. I ended up applying to 26 law schools and I was overwhelmed with blessings at the many, many schools that offered me a place in their 2012 incoming class of future JD students. I never expected to get into so many places and in the end, the great choices that I had increased the difficulty of my decision.
         The burning question this entire decision process has been, “Where do you want to live and practice?” And, flatly, I do not know. I simply do not know the answer to that question. Where you want to live and practice is incredibly important for where you attend law school. That city is where you establish a network, where the most alumni live, where your school will have the most connections for job placement, the state where you will be the most prepared to take the bar and not to mention, the city you are committing to live in for at least three years and most likely through your first job or two.
             I need to rewind. One of the reasons why I have always loved Death Cab For Cutie (a band) is because of Ben Gibbard’s (the lead singer and lyricist) remarkable ability to capture this idea of never quenching wanderlust. Many of their songs discuss “falling in love with an open door” and it is their “You Are A Tourist” that this blog was named after. Read its lyrics in full and then I’ll explain why it’s been so strongly on my heart throughout this entire last few months journey.

“This fire, grows higher…
When there’s a burning in your heart, an endless yearning in your heart, build it BIGGER than the sun, LET IT GROW.
When there’s a burning in your heart, don’t be alarmed…
When there’s a doubt in your mind, ‘cause you’re thinking all the time, framing rights into wrongs- MOVE ALONG.
When there’s a doubt within your mind, when there’s a burning in your heart and you think you’ll burst apart, well, there’s nothing to fear. Save the tears. When there’s a burning in your heart and you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born, it’s time to go and define your destination. There’s so many different places to call home.
Cause when you find yourself a villain in the story you have written, its plain to see that sometimes the best intentions are in need of redemption, would you agree? If so, please show me.
This fire, grows higher…”

Those last few months in Tuscaloosa, I felt like a tourist in this city where much of who I am now was born. I knew that fire to get out of the city and dream chase and live in Europe for a year was something real that had to be pursued. My plan after studying in Spain was to enjoy my senior year, retake the LSAT, live in Europe for a year and then go to law school. It would be a boldfaced lie to say that at times that plan has seems farfetched, out of reach and absurd. But hindsight is always crystal clear, and it’s such a blessing to look back on the tears cried over missing application deadlines or the disappointment with my LSAT score and think, “woah, it all has gone exactly according to plan.” And it really has.
        My months in Spain have taught me many things and in many ways, the most significant thing I have learned has been about myself. Though the fairly recently developed Brown nomadic lifestyle is now deeply ingrained in me, my definition of home has been crystalized.
Home is not Roswell or Tuscaloosa or York or Madrid.
Home is not in Irvine or seat 17F.
Home is a strange combination of all of these places.
Home is in the people that I love that revitalize me, encourage me, bless me, make me happy, make me laugh until my stomach hurts, allow me to call them venting, hold me when I am crying, that read my emails, that listen intently to details of my day, who Facebook stalk my photo albums and who I can pick up with wherever it may be that we left off.
Home is a collection of these places because the people that I love are spread out all over the world. Literally. And so, as for where I want to live and practice law? Well, I want to be a little closer to “home.” That is, the definition of home according to Stephanie Brown. Augustana has a song where he belts, "Do you want to see it, the place where I am free? It lives INSIDE me."

The morning of April 6th, I slept in for the first time in weeks. I woke up to Dad having read all my hours of research and all the brochures and viewbooks I had collected over the last few months. I listened intently as he was on the phone explaining to a friend that the day before after touring two schools fifteen minutes away from his apartment in Orange County, I had crossed them both off the list. He snuck in a few words of disappointment to the man that was the best man in my parents wedding saying, “I would really like her to come to school out here, but it just doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.” I left to lay by the pool and call a friend to explain, whether it was NYC or Miami, they were both incredible options, but they were both so far away from “home”. I was hell-bent though on not sacrificing a better education and better option for my future just because I have friends and family in California. All these thoughts about home and proximity to people that I love and need were not separate from this decision. As ratios, percentages, dollar signs, images and descriptions were all swirling around in my head like a broken radio I couldn’t turn off in my mind, behind all that were these feelings of being sick of being SO far away from everyone.

Friday afternoon, Dad and I were out running errands and we were having a discussion on “THE DECISION.” I had been leaning pretty heavily to New York Law School and imagining walking the halls of the sleek, new building and sharing with strangers on a plane that I live in Manhattan. It’s certainly a dream to live in NYC but after further research and review, University of Miami is just a better fit. Miami Law has everything I could possibly want and more. Though large and with a huge faculty to student ratio, the clinic offerings, the academic programs, the Latin population, the study abroad options, the notoriety, the connections and alumni network are all ideal. And before we knew it, Dad and I had reached a decision. Miami.

We ran into Best Buy for a few things and when we returned to the car, I had an email saying “CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve been accepted to Pepperdine University School of Law!”
I just kept repeating, “DAD!!” I had no other words.
This changed everything.
I delayed my flight to Europe for a week to fly back to LA to see Pepperdine and attend an Admitted Student’s Open House to make my final decision.
At church on Easter, this was my most exciting news to share with anyone and everyone who would listen. Each person made it clear their preference for where my tuition check should go. And who can blame them. Pepperdine has epic things to offer and being accepted feels like a dream. Feels like a life that isn’t actually mine.

After a full day of the Admitted Student’s Open House, it was even clearer than before that Pepperdine is the place for me. Several really incredible interactions took place. I spoke with students who told me they are praying for the incoming class and one girl looked me dead in the eye and said, “You’ll make the right decision and God will lead you here, because Pepperdine is a place where God leads people.” When we met the dean and she introduced herself to us, Dad said, “Well, I think she’s decided to come here!” The dean shrieked in excitement and gave me a hug. Completely thrown off, I stood there, thinking, “Wow, this is the community I am being welcomed by and I can’t wait to get back here.” It was a powerful day and I am so confident that this is the right decision.

I seem to be incapable of finding words profound enough to explain how my blood feels like it is running smoother in my veins. I am incredibly confident that Pepperdine will nurture, feed and build my dreams in a way that no other community would be capable of doing and its such an exciting thought to know the steps that lie ahead may be hard work, but are on the exact path I have been envisioning. Now, its time to go back to Madrid and enjoy my last few months before I sell my blood to the library. I’ve got a new pep in my step feeling like the doors are unlocked and open. I can’t wait for these next few months to be the best yet.

“I’m just in awe of what’s in front of me.” –Empire of the Sun

Looking back on a conversation I had several weeks ago with my boss in Spain, I said, “Pray that I see the name of the school in the clouds.” I can honestly say, it really did feel like God’s answer was indeed that clear. I cannot thank you enough for the prayers, support, encouragement and awesomeness that you all have offered me along the way. I simply could not be here without you.

And you’ll have a HOME in Malibu in the fall!