Paris: A Twelve Year Old's Dream

I first decided that I wanted to go to France when I was twelve years old. I was talking to a family member while visiting Washington D.C. for another family member's wedding when I was asked where I'd most like to go in the world. Considering my grandparents had very generously gifted me a trip anywhere in the world for my eighth grade graduation, I'd been thinking about this question a lot. I replied saying I'd like to go to Paris, and the idea just stuck. After eighth grade, I wound up going to New York City instead, but for the four years I was in high school, I knew that come graduation I'd be on a plane headed to Paris. 

Over the six years between deciding to go to Paris and actually going, the places I most wanted to visit changed. Now, if I could go anywhere in the world, I'd probably choose Ireland, Amsterdam, or Thailand. All three places have something I'd like to see, and I hope I'll get there someday. Still, even though in the last two years I've wanted to go to other places more than France, I still chose Paris as the city I wanted to go to after high school. 

I think it's because, during those six years, the Eiffel Tower had become like a beacon of hope. I really like symbols, and the sheer symbolism of this beautiful tower made me want to visit. From the age of 12 up until now, I have dealt with anxiety and small bouts of depression, and hopelessness is a feeling I am well acquainted with. Even so, 9 times out of 10 I am still able to look ahead to what the future may have in store. For whatever reason, I always knew that the Eiffel Tower was part of that future. 

When I was twelve and spent most of my time alone, I dreamed of a time when I'd go to France and feel like I belonged somewhere. When I was thirteen and fourteen and started feeling far more anxious than usual, I waited for the trip where I wouldn't have to worry about what was going on at home because I was somewhere I'd only ever dreamed of. In high school, I knew that the day I made it to Paris was the day I'd be able to move on, at least a little bit, from all the stuff that had been holding me back. 

It is quite possible I had too much hope placed on one trip. Still, I had been looking forward to and dreaming about going to Paris for six, very long years. Obviously, my trip to Paris (and Marseille and Luxembourg) didn't magically cure negative thing I have going on, but it still reminded me of how far I've come. Going to Paris and climbing the Eiffel Tower reminded me how, six years ago, I was far too afraid of heights to even attempt climbing it. Going to Paris and navigating train stations reminded me, even though I was with my mom the whole time, how capable I am of traveling in high stress places like train stations and airports. 

Going to Paris also reminded me how far I have to go. Ask my mom and she'll tell you that I didn't speak a word of French while we were there, and she's right. My perfectionist spirit still has a fear of messing up, and I didn't want to try speaking a different language because I didn't want to make a mistake. Obviously, this is something I have to get over. I'm registered to take French 101 fall quarter, so hopefully I'll be able to do all the talking and my mom can do her own thing next time we go to France, but that one instance isn't all I'm talking about. Being in Paris reminded me of my perfectionism in general, and how it's still something I need to work on. That's one of the cool things that travel does. It shows you what you can work on in order to grow into a better person. 

I loved my time in Paris, and I can't wait to go back. Being there was a six year long dream come true, and I can't think of a better way to have spent the last week of July. If you ever have the chance to go, please do. And if you have a place you've wanted to travel to for a long time, I hope you get there. My twelve year old self used Paris and the Eiffel Tower as her symbol of good things, and I can honestly say to her that she got there, she got the good things, and her life got better. 

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Four Years of Music Tours

I've been in choir for all of high school, and that means I've had music tours for all of high school too.  I recently came back from my fourth and final music tour, and it's put me in a very reflective state of mind (though, when am I not feeling nostalgic?), and I wanted to go through all the days I've ridden in busses with my friends, slept on gym floors and in hotel beds, and talked until 2'AM every night. I'm going to go day by day, year by year. This is probably only interesting to me and maybe the people I've traveled with, but nevertheless, this is all I felt like writing. So here you go: 

Day One: 
Thursday - April 23rd, 2015: This was the first day of my first music tour, and it was a good one. The first night consisted of me talking with one of the senior girls for a couple hours (even though there was no reason she had to talk to me), and then one of my best friends and I went outside to the swings. I've actually written an entire post about this day, and if you want to read that you can do so here
Thursday - April 14th, 2016: The first day of my second music tour wasn't as interesting as the first year. What I remember the most was the first night, when we were staying in a school gym and it was so windy that the windows at the top kept banging open and shut. This was also the day where I listened to Hamilton for the first time, as my friend Janae had been trying to get me to listen to it for forever and realized she had a chance to make me listen to it when I had no way of leaving. I'm glad she made me, though, because it's one of my favorite musicals two years later. 
Wednesday - April 26th, 2017: Every time I've moved while in California, I've gone further and further north. This means that when your teacher decides to go to LA for music tour, it takes longer than when your teacher from your old school decided to take you to LA for music tour the previous year. The bus ride seemingly took forever, and I remember that all I really did was play Heads Up with three other girls from last year's senior class. 
Wednesday - April 25th, 2018: This day was a weird one for me. We didn't have to travel very far, so the bus ride wasn't that long, but after spending three hours in a mall during a stop for lunch, I was more emotionally exhausted than I tend to be on the first day of music tour. Because of this, I wasn't in the most social mood, and I couldn't have been happier when I found a quiet place to read in the midst of the busy hotel. 

Day Two:
Friday - April 24th, 2015: Day two of year one consisted of me finding more swings, listening to the band play songs that would be stuck in my head for the remainder of the school year, and finding some more swings to occupy my time when there wasn't much else to do. 
Friday - April 15th, 2016: Anyone who has been reading these consistently for the past couple months will know that I love Los Angles. When my school took us there for music tour, I was happy to know that I'd be able to visit the city itself for a few hours. I went back to Griffith Observatory and sat in front of the star wall for longer than everyone else, and went back to Tom Hanks' star even though I'd just been there a few weeks earlier (because of course I did). 
Thursday - April 27th, 2017: Day two of my third music tour is arguably one of the worst days of my high school experience. Parts of the day (like singing at Knottsberry Farm) were really cool, but other parts of it left me in my hotel room crying while on the phone to my mom. But even though this day isn't one that I look back on fondly, I learned that I have really good friends, and that's always good to be reminded of. 
Thursday - April 26th, 2018: The second day of my final music tour was spent in San Francisco, where I had one of the best days of 2018 thus far. I walked around Pier 39 with some of my favorite people and ate the most delicious strawberries I've ever had. I had an amazing macchiato and an even more amazing gluten-free sandwich with avocados. Thursday was a really good food day, but also a really good music day. We were lucky enough to see the San Francisco a symphony, where we listened to an incredible group of musicians and I sat next to my most sarcastic friend and nicely mocked the tippny player. This was a good day. 

Day Three:
Saturday - April 25th, 2015: What I remember most from this day was eating lunch at the church we'd been singing at and then singing our thank you like I'd seen multiple high school choirs do over the years. It was strange, and I'm glad I haven't had to do that since. I also remember that I played a flute for the first time in about a year. It was just a scale, but it was enough to remind me why I still don't play now. 
Saturday - April 16th, 2016: I don't remember much of this day, but I do remember that I was really happy the whole time. I borrowed jeans from another friend because I always under pack for music tours. I took polaroids with other friends and talked by our sleeping bags for hours. 
Friday - April 28th, 2017: This was a good day. There were beautiful sunsets, a beautiful church, and I laughed a lot. Considering the day before had been an utter disaster, this day was a breath of fresh air. There were chairs that would shock you if you moved them too quickly (as I learned from experience), and the sound of some of my favorite people singing some of my favorite songs. 
Friday - April 27th, 2018: I am someone who, while scared of many things, doesn't mind facing their fears every so often. One of my biggest fears is wide open waters that I could potentially drown in. Still, upon hearing that we'd get to go kayaking on our third day, I was excited. Annaliese became my paddle buddy as well as an encouraging teacher. Even though there were moments when I was definitely afraid of what I was doing, I can honestly see myself kayaking again in the very near future. 

Day Four:
Sunday - April 26th, 2015: The last day of my first music tour was spent at Six Flags, and I quickly discovered that Six Flags and is not for me. I've never liked roller coasters, so my time there was spent watching everyone else's bags and acting like the mother of the group. It really wasn't my favorite day, but I liked listening to Hamilton on the way home. 
Sunday - April 17th, 2016: Once again, I found myself at Six Flags for the last day of music tour. This time, though, I couldn't escape the arms of my friends as they dragged me onto a roller coaster. "It's for little kids," they said. "It'll be fine!" they said. They lied. After looking at the chart later, I discovered that the roller coaster they'd chosen for me (appropriertly named Ninga) was one of the worst ones, though it was pretty short and had no loops or drops. My friend Joli actually took a video of me on the roller coaster, and, let me tell you, it was a sight to see. 
Saturday - April 29th, 2017: This was a day that I will always look back on with happiness. It was my half birthday, which always fills me with an odd sense of joy. I undid a braid of my friend Julia who had been swimming and ended up with broken elastics and wet jeans due to her dripping hair (but I wouldn't trade that hour of laughing and listening to Ed Sheeran for anything). I saw Into the Woods, and took pictures that I always look back on with feelings of love and peace. 
Saturday - April 28th, 2018: I'd forgotten just how much I love being at the beach and playing in the waves, and this was the day where I was happily reminded. I know I said earlier that I'm afraid of open oceans, but I do love the waves, and running around in them as a highlight of this music tour. 


In my four years of high school, I've had really good experiences and opportunities to go to cool places. Being part of choir gave me many of those opportunities, and these four music tours will always remain some of my favorite memories from high school. I've come back from some heartbroken and sunburned, but I've come back from others happily refreshed and ready for the homestretch of the school year. Music tours have been a time where I look back on the year I've just had, and try to imagine what the year ahead will bring. They are a time when bonds grow closer, and a time when you start to realize how important everyone around you is and just how much you love them. I've been very lucky to have four years of these experiences, and I wouldn't trade any of them for anything else. 

Cousins & Anniversaries - England 2018

This time a week and few days ago, I was in England, surrounded by my little cousins, two aunts and an uncle, and my grandparents who I hadn't seen in three years. While there, I got to go around London a little bit (normal stuff, like seeing the Queen ;-)), spend time with my cousins, and read a poem at my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary. It was a weekend filled with memories that will last me for a long time, and already miss everyone who is still over there. 

I got to London on Friday afternoon and was greeted by my grandparents, full on Love, Actually beginning and everything. I was reunited with my Michigan cousin and aunt for the first time in four years, and saw my England aunt and uncle for the first time in three years along with their two boys. I also met my babiest cousin for the first time, which was certainly a highlight of my time in England. That night, my cousin Melody and I finally caught up after not talking all that much for four years. She's only a year younger than me, and we're both graduating this year, and it was weird for us to not talk since starting high school. So we finally caught each other up on some of the things we'd both missed. Then I fell asleep, because even though jet lag doesn't get to me that much, I do have a tendency to just black out after being awake for longer than 24 hours. 

Saturday was my first full day, and arguably my favorite. Last time I was in England, during the summer of 2015, I went to the Newbold church and instantly loved it. It's taken me a while to realize that while I'm a church person, I'm not a church person person, if that makes any sense at all. Being at the Newbold church doesn't make me think of all the church-y people, but rather makes me focus on why I like church in the first place. While there, I went to the Sabbath school for 2 year olds and loved the fact that they have bubbles (bubbles). I sang In Christ Alone while helping my older baby cousin with a word search. Later in the day, I drank coffee while sitting on the couch with all three of them. I also attempted to read them the story of Esther for the first (of 6) times. 

Sunday was my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary party. I read a poem that made my Nanna cry (happy tears, happy tears), and had a couple conversations about poetry with people I'd only met seconds before. I was woken up that morning by the sound of tiny feet pattering into the room, and tried to read the story of Esther another four times (I was unsuccessful each time. Have I mentioned yet that these children chose this story every time?). I twirled the youngest two around a room and talked about wishes with the oldest ("I wish that every day could be the best day always."). I talked to my aunt about the many things we have in common, and she helped clear up some stuff from my own head. By now the middle baby cousin had stolen my stuffed moose, so I took the pink unicorn and slept with that instead. We traded back once I had to leave. 

On Monday I returned to London. Three years ago I promised myself that I would one day climb to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral. I have another post going up next month where I'll go into more detail about the experience, but I'll just say now that I loved it. My fear of heights and tight spaces was definitely tested, but I'm very proud of myself and thankful for my aunt who carried my coat for me. Back at her house, I finally succeeded in finishing the story of Esther and high fives were had by all. 

This trip was only a paragraph in the great story of my life, and I can already tell that the chapter will be much harder to leave. In two-three years, I will be at Newbold, living in England full time for the school year. I'll get more experiences like this, like reading stories to my cousins and talking to them about wishes. I'll get to watch them grow up a little bit. I'll climb the stairs of St. Paul's Cathedral a couple more times, and sing my favorite hymns in churches. I honestly can't wait for those months, and I know they will be hard to leave. That's the thing about trips like this- you get a glimpse into what your life has the possibility of looking like. If in two-three years my life looks even a tiny bit like this, I will count myself very lucky. 

 Me and the baby cousins on the Saturday afternoon. I've realized that if I have coffee in my hand and cousins on my side I'm a pretty happy Claira. 

Me and the baby cousins on the Saturday afternoon. I've realized that if I have coffee in my hand and cousins on my side I'm a pretty happy Claira. 

Going Home

At the end of last month, I went back to where I grew up for a little less than 24 hours. It was a trip filled with nostalgia, but also with lots of closure. On the drive down, I slowly began to recognize the landmarks I'd used when I was a little kid. There is a hill that stands right before the ocean, and when I was little and we'd be driving home from a vacation, I used the hill to know we were almost home. It was dark as we drove past, but I could still make out the outline of the hill and when I squinted I could see the ocean. 

I woke up the next morning and went to the beach with my mom and grandmother. I hadn't been on this particular beach since June of 2014, but for some reason it still felt completely familiar. There are few times when I can say I felt completely at peace, but while walking I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of calm. 

Since my mom had to work, we went back and my grandmother and I went to get bagels for the three of us at the place my mom and I used to go all the time. The last time I'd eaten a bagel from that place was as we drove away in 2014 to our new house. I must say, the wait was worth it as they tasted exactly the same three years later. While my mom worked, my grandmother and I decided to drive into San Luis Obispo to go to the Barnes and Noble we used to go to all the time. But first, we made a small stop in my old neighborhood. We parked, and then I was able to walk past my old house. It's a different color now, and the yard doesn't look the same. We walked around the neighborhood, and as we went by my old favorite houses a quote from chapter one of A Separate Peace came to mind: "... It seemed to me standing there to resemble the giants of my childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are absolutely smaller, shrunken by age." 

Going to the Barnes and Noble was really fun because it was like returning to where I found my love of books. While there I (of course) got a couple new things of poetry and Letters to a Young Poet, which I read last month. We then drove by the other beach I went to for most school vespers, which made me remember an old sweatshirt I lost there in third grade that is unfortunately lost forever. When we left, my grandmother and I drove past the health club where I had swim lessons/practice for five years. This was actually really cool, because I think about those days all the time and driving past the place was almost helpful in a way. 

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After we left, I had the strange idea of driving past my old school. This was by far the strangest part of going back. I went to that school for nine years, and so much of my life was spent in those hallways, classrooms, and with those teachers and students. All we did was drive by (I didn't have any need to walk around), but I still got to look in a little bit. I had just read through some of my journals from eighth grade, and seeing a glimpse of the places where the things I'd written about had happened was very strange. 

They say you can't go home again, and they're right. Even so, for a few hours I was able to feel fourteen again. Last week while at my grandparents house, my family was talking about what ages we'd be fine repeating and which we never would. I said I would never want to repeat ages 11-14, and that's still true. Those five years were the hardest for so many reasons, but even so it was almost cathartic to return ever so slightly. You can't go home again, but you can return to the places, memories, and feelings. I had to say goodbye again, but this time with a new perspective. By going back I was able to notice how much I've grown in the last three years. I learned so much in the twelve years I lived there, but, if it's possible, I think I've learned even more in the few years I've been away. I'm thankful for the years I had there, but going back was able to give me a little bit of closure so I can look forward to the future. 

Seattle

I recently visited Seattle, Washington for a few days. The road trip I took with my mom ended on the tenth when she dropped me off at the office I worked at and we said goodbye. I stayed in the city until the morning of the fourteenth, and although that's less than a week, there was a lot involved. I'm starting to write this the same day I flew home, and considering how much I currently miss everything this may end up being a bunch of paragraphs of emotions. 

When my mom and I parted ways, I realized that I was officially in a city I didn't know very well surrounded by people I didn't know very well, but my sense of adventure somehow overtook any anxiety I could have had and I felt perfectly fine. I stayed with one of my mom's friends from college, and the first thing I did after looking at the office was walk down to a pier with her to look out at the water. Some of my favorite memories from the trip involve eating breakfast and drinking coffee with her while talking about a myriad of different things. 

I think one of the funniest parts of this trip was finding people who are pretty much the living embodiment of what is running through my head most of the time. This made the couple meetings we had quite interesting (read: enjoyable) for me, but now it makes me miss everyone all the more. Even so, there are some people that you meet and you just know that they are going to be important to you for a long, long time. 

A few days into my visit, my uncle took me to the campus of the University of Washington. Although I had spent the last six months being 99% sure of where I was going to college, I kept my mind open and sort of fell in love with the campus. I only visited two places (the library and theatre building. Ahem, theatre building), but I still loved it. I'm not sure I can say that I see myself there, but I like the possibility. This then leads to me sitting on my uncles' roof on my last night in the city. I took the picture below and kept thinking about the previous few days. I've always loved Seattle, and ever since I was little I've liked the idea of living there some day. The idea that I could live there earlier than some day is both terrifying and exciting. 

I loved being in Seattle. I honestly think my few days there couldn't have come at a better time, as it gave me a sense of clarity that I don't think I would have received anywhere else. After walking in a city by myself and flying back alone I feel far more able than I did before. After working I feel more experienced, and after the three days as a whole I feel better. Seattle is a good place, and I'm glad I'll get to go back. 

 

 I took this incredibly subpar picture the night before I left. 

I took this incredibly subpar picture the night before I left. 

Roadtrip, 2017

When my mom finished her school year, we packed the car and began our three-state road trip.  Our plan was as follows:

1. Go back to Mendocino, California for a day trip 

2. See a play at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon

3. Go hiking in Bellingham, Washington.

4. Get to Seattle a little early so we could go to Pikes Place together before parting ways- sadly- so I could go work for 2Human Strategies in person for the first time.

It was a good plan. We started preparing a few days in advance and I started counting down the days right away. To be honest, I didn't care where we went as long as I got to spend some extra time with my mom and I got to go to some new places. 

Mendocino (or, the land with no ice cream)

I'd be lying if I said one of our main reasons for going back was simply to get some of the best ice-cream I've ever had. We were sadly disappointed to discover that July 05th is not a good day to visit a small town because there will be lots of tourists and no ice-cream. Even so, we walked along the coast, took lots and lots of pictures (ladybugs included), and drove through a forest of redwoods. It was really good to go back. 

Ashland, Oregon

I have started to notice a trend where whenever I go see a play or musical I feel like crying as soon as it starts. I still have no idea why this is the case, but it always happens. While my mom and I were in Ashland, we saw The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The outdoor theatre was beautiful, and I was very happy to be seeing a play (er, musical?) with my mom. 

Bellingham, Washington

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The drive from Ashland to Bellingham was incredibly long, but I'd say it was worth it. On our first official day in Washington, my mom and I went hiking. We'd had a trail in mind but after being unable to find it, we found ourselves somewhere else. It was beautiful, though, and I am very glad we went. 

Seattle, Washington

Before we parted ways, we went to Pikes Place where we stood in the long line at the original Starbucks (worth it, but if I ever go again I'm wearing different shoes) and tried chocolate pasta. After a couple hours, my mom started the drive home and I stayed until I flew back last Friday. I'm in the process of writing a whole post about my time in Seattle, but I'll quickly say that I loved my time there and I think it was important that I went. 

The whole road trip experience was wonderful. I loved visiting new places and, as always, spending a lot of time with my mom. I can't wait for our next series of adventures.