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i want to just get up and go. to get in my car, and drive miles away where nobody knows who i am. i want to experience the unexperienced.  i want to meet someone who doesn’t know my name, and fall in love with a complete stranger, and then wonder how it was that i could ever have lived without them in my life. and all i want to have with me on this journey is a bottle of iced tea, a mix-tape, and my best friend. i need to feel the wind in my hair, the beats pumping through my veins, and the sweat of my legs sticking to the leather seats.  this is all i want, this is all i need. give me simplicity. give me feelings. fulfill my wanderlust. consume me. 

A Conclusion

         I cannot accurately describe the feeling of hopelessness.  As long as there is hope, there is faith.  As long as there is faith, there is protection.  As long as you are protected, you will survive.  Once that survival instinct becomes blurry, there is a fine line between the end and the future.  This past summer I came across that feeling.  One that I wish I could erase from my repertoire of emotions, or more so lack of.  All of a sudden, activities once loved become meaningless.  People you used to surround yourself with feel useless.  There becomes nothing left except a bleak hole of existence.  The closest thing I can think to describe it as is being in a crowded room and feeling completely alone.  While you know in the back of your head that there is an entire world awaiting, filled with new experiences and people, you just don’t care.  Suddenly, you are alone and there becomes nothing to fill the void.  You feel lost in familiar surroundings and disoriented to your own home.  And once the depression has set in and you feel that it just isn’t going to go away, the turn that hopelessness takes is one that truly battles the instincts.

         The only way to escape the desolation is leaving.  Leave it all behind.  Take everything that you know and store it away for a while.  Even if just for a day.  My escape back to reality and to salvation was the United Kingdom.  From the moment that I stepped onto its land, I was transformed. I was mesmerized.  I was transfixed.  There was nothing more important at that time than absorbing everything I could grab my hands on.  Suddenly, this black world has light again. Slowly but surely, the light creeps back in.  Everyday offers a new and exciting journey.  You find yourself.  You meet people that you never would have.  You experience amazing things. You experience horrific things.  And at the time you may wonder, “why is this happening to me?”, but instead you must divert your thoughts to realizing that it will get better.  In the end, there is a purpose to the madness. 

        My favorite poem by Jack Gilbert has a line in it that has always stuck with me. A line that while I would never personally get a tattoo, if I did, it would be something that I would be comfortable keeping with me for eternity.  The line states, “We must admit, there will be music despite everything”.  When I read this line for the first time, it instantly stuck with me.  I thought that I understood it, but I didn’t really. It wasn’t until I traveled to Ireland that it truly resonated with me.  I was standing in a rowdy pub in Temple Bar of Dublin with one of my best friends, Leah.  We were listening to a rock band play on stage.  The guitarist was shredding it, riff after riff, perfect note after perfect note.  I was dancing along to the music, allowing myself to become absorbed in its beauty and mystic virtue.  Allowing the dancer in me to take over, I let myself go.  I let the alcohol that I had drank earlier kick in and take me away.  The blood flowed in my veins, heart beating rapidly to the music, adrenaline pumping, loosing myself.  All of a sudden, I stopped dancing. I felt my cheek, and touched water.  I was crying.  My stomach sank as far as it could go.  As the music continued, I tried to cover up my sadness, hoping to not ruin the amazing night.  As my level of discreetness is minimal, Leah asked me on the walk back to our hostel, “What’s wrong Julie?  Why are you crying?!”.  And finally it hit me.  That line resonated in my brain. …there will be music despite everything. I got it.  I was myself again.  I saw the light.  I didn’t just hear the music, I saw it.  Despite everything that I had put myself through, all the tears, all the misery, all of the complete and utter distress, there once again was the music, as promised.  I felt it.  And I didn’t want to let go of it.  I couldn’t.  I told her how I didn’t want to go home.  That I knew the magic would end eventually, and I didn’t want to go back to the person that I was before.  I finally found my light.  I was Julie again.  My light overwhelmed my darkness, even if just for that moment in time, it was beautiful.  It was one of those feelings where you are so happy that it saddens you because you don’t think you will ever feel this happy again.  There are few moments in life where I have felt that way.  This was one. 

       I flew back home (home being Leeds) within a couple of hours of making it back to my hostel.  Slept for about an hour, then woke up to make my way to Dublin Airport.  I checked in, still a tad hungover.  I had about an hour before my flight and hadn’t eaten anything.  I made my way upstairs to the food court area.  I went into a deli they had, filled with fresh meats and dairy and bought a gourmet sandwich and a small pint of Irish milk.  I sat by myself in the dining area.  I used to hate eating alone, it made me feel isolated from the world.  But this time, it was ok.  I sat and ate my food while looking at the photos I had just taken from my trip.  I looked at the beautiful things that I had seen, remembered the fun that I had.  This was fun that I never would have expected to have had a few months prior. I sat and looked around at where I was.  I wasn’t sitting in Chicago O’Hare Airport.  I was in fucking Ireland.  I made it.  And I did it by myself.  The girl whose OCD at one point was so terrible that the idea of missing a Metra back home, or taking an Amtrak to school, would send me into a panic.  I successfully managed to go from Leeds to London, London to Victoria Station, Victoria to Gatwick Airport, and Gatwick to Dublin.  I did it all over again.  The milk I was drinking, wasn’t from Wisconsin cows.  These were Irish cows.  I had made it.  I had river danced in an Irish pub, partied at Bono’s nightclub, climbed the Cliffs of Moher and saw a rainbow cross the horizon of a castle, walked the entirety of Dublin, traveled to Galway and saw the village of Claddaugh, had a pint of Guinness at the Guinness factory, had Irish bacon with cabbage and Irish potatoes, smoked a blunt on the street with a Scotch forty-something year old cougar.  Was this my life?  Yes.  It was.  How amazing it was to realize this.  The music goes on.  The music comes back.  Slowly, and while the speed it takes is infuriating, it eventually comes back.

          One of the most magical parts of a journey, are the people that you meet along the way.  You start to think that at a certain point in your life, you have your friends.  You have all you need and there is nobody else that can enter your life that will give it meaning, especially from 3800 miles away.  What a horrible assumption to make.  Within the first month of my trip I found a friendship soul-mate.  Her name is Annie.  It is to her that I can thank for a great portion of my trip.  It is rare that I find myself clicking with somebody so similar to myself.  We both knew that I was going to leave at the end of the semester, and part of us both hesitated to allow ourselves to become close, at the risk of the pain it would bring once I left.  I felt guilty that I spent so much time with her, as she was a first year in her first semester at Leeds as well.  Once I left, her best mate would be gone.  But instead, I let myself be selfish.  I knew that this was someone that I wanted to surround myself with. Rapidly, our friendship grew.  She didn’t run.  She found me fascinating.  I found myself fascinated by her.  We became each other’s partners in crime.  We would dance until 4am, drink most people under the table, eat food constantly that only we would enjoy, share our life secrets with one another, share our families and offer our homes to each other, talk until all hours of the morning, go to Zumba classes, and just generally enjoy our own company.  I spent Christmas in her home, having one of the most magical experiences of my trip being right there with her family and friends, eating delicious food at a long table filled with warmth. There became a point of no return, when I became attached and knew that I wasn’t going to let go. I realized that I truly love and trust this girl. I instantly trusted her with my life secrets, somehow feeling completely at home. I tested her repeatedly with things that should’ve made a sane person bolt.  But maybe she isn’t completely sane.  I did say that we were so similar, and I most certainly am not completely sane.  My conclusion eventually became that a truly beautiful person had entered my life.  What a blessing in disguise.  Once again, more music played.  More light shown in.  It was as if my life had window shutters in front of it, and slowly as each experience occurred, the light starts to creep in.  Gradually the shutters would open.

         I made friends that made my trip unforgettable.  Friends named Eduardo and Dublan that stuck with me until the end, allowing me to embrace my Spanish side.  Whenever we would go out, I would make them speak Spanish with me, allowing me to get back in-touch with the inner-wanna-be-latina.  They took me to parties of Latinos from all around the world.  I danced salsa, ate Venezuelan food, tried real Mexican tequila, spoke Spanish for hours, and this was all while in England.  When I was pick pocketed on my birthday, they helped me search for two hours until I found my wallet thrown onto the ground in a puddle of beer.  They made me feel instantly at home.  I met two girls named Laura and Gracie who I found myself quickly becoming close to.  They made me apart of their group, making me feel like I had a clique that I could instantly gel with.  I could be my absolute crazy self that I find myself trying to hide.  I have a part to me that is like a wild horse, it’s difficult to tame, but it’s beautiful all the same.  I could be this with them and not be scared.  I could be anything I wanted to be, and there was no judgment.  My Chinese roommate Ivy and I became very close. And even though there was a language barrier, we somehow managed to share the most personal details to our lives, go out dancing, and have secret Chinese food dates. 

       And then, I met Ryan.  Ryan became the ultimate unexpected of the unexpected.  When I thought that I could never find love or adoration from another again, here one of life’s surprises came at me.  We instantly clicked.  We didn’t leave each other’s sides for about four days in a row, keeping up the feeling of waiting to get sick of one another, and it didn’t come.  As I traveled with my dad for an additional three weeks at the end of my semester, he kept me company. We spoke every night, allowing these chats to become the favorite part to my day.  I found myself checking for wifi anywhere that I went so that I could text him on my i-phone.  I introduced him to my family, welcoming him in very quickly as mine.  We became each others and didn’t care about the consequence, just loving that feeling of wanting another again. The idea of leaving now became unbearable.  Here I had established everything I could have ever wanted.  I had amazing friends, a home living in a party city, an amazing school, a boyfriend, and train tickets to travel anywhere that I wanted.  Why the fuck would I board that plane?  Was I crazy?  I would have to be in order to give that up.  I found love from so many people that there was no way that I could possibly risk going back to who I was before now.  Not happening.  I almost wished that I had a terrible time so that it wouldn’t be as difficult leaving.  Instead, I’d be running onto the plane.  I felt strange being the only one of my friends abroad that did not feel ready to go home.  I became me here.  I saw nothing except misery going back. 

        But then I made a list of all of the things that were waiting for me when I went home.  I had an actual stable house to go back to. I didn’t have to go from hotel to hotel, place to place, and could actually feel at home.  I had my best friends in the world waiting for me.  I had Sam, Zach, Nora, Diana, and Caroline all waiting for me, praying for my safe arrival home.  My wanting to stay had nothing to do with not wanting to see them.  It more so had to do with my desire to stay revitalized; to escape from all the of troubles that waited me when I came back.  But as much as I loved Leeds, I wasn’t considered to be an equal with the students there.  I was constantly discriminated against, educationally, being told that my standard was at a different level to theirs.  I was told that, even while I was a straight A English student back at home, I was going to have to get out of that method of thinking.  I was no longer an A student.  I was no longer babied.  I was inferior.  At home, in the University of Illinois, I felt intelligent.  While I’m a small fish in a big pond, I was considered talented.  My work was admired, I received a talented student scholarship in theatre, and I was consistently achieving good grades.  Here, that didn’t happen.  I was starting over in every sense of the word.  I missed the Krannert Center.  While it has its gossip and its problems, it is by far superior to any drama program that I had come across in the UK.  In Leeds, I wasn’t performing.  I was constantly finding ways to act or dance at home.  And lets face it, I’m a performer and a theatre student above all.  I wasn’t meant to forever study English literature, hence why it’s my minor.  At home, I was able to take advantage of opportunities that the Brits could only dream about.  So why am I being so spoiled?  Before I left for England, I practically had to be forced onto the plane, and now I’m bitching about going home?  What a disorienting feeling.  I didn’t know where I belonged.  I still don’t.  I have four homes, all of which confuse me more and more of where I am meant to be.  I have Chicago, where I was born and raised, a city that I have always prided myself on being from, and even bragged about while abroad.  I have Urbana-Champaign, a fairly new home that became my oasis for the past 3 years, but has been laced with toxins from my college experiences.  I have California, a place that I have been frequenting since I was born.  It is here that I feel nothing like myself, but in the best way possible.  I feel refreshed and at home.  And finally, I now have England.  A place that I had dreamed of merely visiting, and now I have an entire family and life in.  Where is it that I belong? I have no idea.  That’s what scares me. How can someone have four homes?  Four places where they belong?  People are lucky to have even just one, and I have four. 

       My last month in England was one of the most challenging times of my life.  My dad and I had an absolutely unforgettable experience.  I traveled from Leeds to Edinburgh, to Cambridge, to London, to all around France’s Normandy coast, to Paris, back to London, back to Edinburgh, to St. Andrew’s, to Manchester, back to Leeds, and back to London. All within a month. And within that month I managed to be hospitalized twice, one after a near death experience of anaphylaxis and consistent hives that reoccurred every day for a week, strep throat, and the crème de la crème being bell’s palsy.  I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.  I had overcome the worst of the worst, every parent’s nightmare. And yet, I still did it with a smile on my face…well…at least a half smile.  Even though my mind, body, and sanity were all consistently tried, I saw and did things that were magical.  I rowed on the backs in Cambridge, climbed up a hill to Edinburgh Castle, saw the Normandy D-Day American Cemetery, drove myself around Paris in a manual, saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, drank “Sex on my Face” at a café next to the Notre Dame, saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle at midnight, ate Haggis and drank whiskey, saw the first golf course in the world, and somehow managed to offend the hearing impaired in France.  So much occurred in such little time that no matter the hardship, it didn’t quite matter.  I was in Europe.  Everything, no matter how painful, managed to have light.  There was music everywhere, even with feeling like death was creeping around the corner. My voice was gone, fever up, face numb, and yet, life was like a symphony.  I had only been in England four months, and I felt completely changed from the girl that I was when I had left. It’s funny how much can change within a matter of months.  Throughout four months of summer I had changed from my bubbly self into the depressed walking dead.  And once again, in four months I went from walking dead, to Julie. 

       It seems funny saying that simple things like rugby games, Indian food, nightclubs, and Shakespeare all helped in bringing me back to life again. Such simplicity went so far. The memories that I made are now irreplaceable and inerasable.  Again, a part of me wishes that they were, so that the sting of leaving wouldn’t have been so strong.  And while I wait for the sting to hurt less each day, once again with time moving ever so slowly, I will just have to execute patience.  Because in the end, the frustration and pain will eventually subside, and life will bring unexpected pleasures again.  And as promised, the music will play. 

I realized that I haven’t really shown many photos of Leeds on here.  So here’s a little montage of my new home.

This is what the city looks like at night. Gorgeous. 

the city hall is one of my favorite places to pass. 

the parkinson building in the heart of campus. 

Bodington Hall, my place of residence. It’s a crap shoot, but it’s grown on me.

More to come soon,

Cheers!

Leeds Kirkgate Market is my favorite building in the city. Don’t ask me why.  It just is.  So beautiful.  
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Leeds Kirkgate Market is my favorite building in the city. Don’t ask me why.  It just is.  So beautiful.  

my first rugby game! Leeds uni vs. Leeds Met
For some reason, everyone shouts UNAY to cheer for Leeds uni, soo..UNAY UNAY!! My roommate alyssa seemed to like the cheer “Your mom works at McDonalds” or something like that? We shouted it regardless of if that was the right wording. Hmm.  Americans are better with their intimidation tactics at sporting events. 
Whatever. UNAY UNAY!!
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my first rugby game! Leeds uni vs. Leeds Met

For some reason, everyone shouts UNAY to cheer for Leeds uni, soo..UNAY UNAY!! My roommate alyssa seemed to like the cheer “Your mom works at McDonalds” or something like that? We shouted it regardless of if that was the right wording. Hmm.  Americans are better with their intimidation tactics at sporting events. 

Whatever. UNAY UNAY!!

Lists on lists on lists.

Things that I miss about America:

  • Not having everybody comment on my accent every time I talk.  It was fun the first 50xs.
  • Being able to eat large portions of food and not be looked at like I’m “Precious”.
  • Big sized jars of Jiff peanut butter.
  • MEXICAN FOOD.
  • Dancing like a complete skeeze and not being looked at like you can buy me.
  • Being able to just call up my house and talk to my parents without having my shit international phone dropping it every other minute.
  • My frannds.
  • Krannert.  I’ve never felt so blessed to have such an amazing performing arts space after seeing the ones here. 
  • Chicago deep dish. The pizza here doesn’t have tomatoes on it…enough said.
  • People bagging my groceries for me at the grocery store.
  • Nutrition facts not being written in big ass letters on the front of everything I buy, reminding me of why I shouldn’t eat it…
  • The appreciation of rap/hip hop music.
  • Professors actually caring about your success in your classes.
  • To add on to that, having actual syllabi for classes.
  • Not having it rain every day. It actually stays sunny for long periods of time…can you imagine that?
  • Snow
  • A real Halloween
  • Pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks
  • Also: the emphasis on fall! (My favorite season)  It stays the same temperature here basically all year round so nobody really cares.
  • The feeling of…freedom I guess. 
  • Not having to wonder if the food I’m about to eat is going to taste…interesting.
  • Walking on the right side of the road/not having to worry about getting killed by erratic drivers.
  • Not worrying about pick pocketers.
  • People swearing just as much as I do.
  • Movie theatres getting the newest movies immediately and showing more than one.
  • Lake Michigan.

Things I don’t miss about America:

  • Having a guy creep up from behind at a party and think that just because you like to dance, that means he can rub up on you.
  • Butchering of the English language
  • Not being able to legally drink
  • Gossip/drama
  • Radical republicans/religious fanatics.

Things I love about England:

  • Accents:  they really never get old.
  • Geordies.  I’m not sure why, but they make me swoon. I think because their accent is so obscure and different, I just can’t get enough of them! 
  • No matter where I am, or what time of day it is, somebody is always down to grab a drink.
  • I can hop on a plane whenever I want and fly around Europe.
  • Fashion. Fashion. Fashion.
  • LONDON.
  • The constant supply of Indian food I have access too. Mmm.
  • Clubs
  • The architecture of the buildings here is gorgeous.
  • There are so many awesome people here.
  • Tea. All the time.
  • Chocolate/Cadbury.
  • LONDON
  • Having the best teeth so everybody always compliments my smile.
  • Being the foreigner for once.
  • Hard cider
  • Staying out until 5am and it’s normal.
  • Making friends with people from all around the world.
  • People ending their texts with “x”s. It just makes you feel happier.
  • Did I mention LONDON?
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