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I’m in the throes of a vacation craving more intense than I’ve felt in years. I think I’m alienating friends by being so singularly focused, but I realized a while ago that I have not left the lower 48 (except going to Canada briefly), in 7 years. This is not ok with me.

How does a girl who professes to love travel more than most things, let it slip this far? I’m not completely sure, but I intend to stop it.

In all honesty, I though that moving to the East Coast would calm things a bit– it’s not that same as traveling to a completely foreign land, but creating a new life in a completely different part of the country never previously visited, must be close. As much as I want to explore my new home, I really have to admit that driving to Cape Cod is unlikely to satisfy me.

This begs the question: why have I not chosen a career that allows me to travel, or even requires me to travel? Answer: because I do not know what career that is.

For all of my searching as an undeclared sophomore, I still have no idea what people do for a living. I grew up in a small town where things were clear-cut: doctor, policeman, teacher etc. The small-townness of it all, allowed to stereotypes of the 50s to prevail, and people had jobs that were readily understood by anyone else unlike, say, “I’m a shoozit, which means I do x, y, and sometimes z, but usually my assistant handles that.”

I spent the first two years of college reading books, taking test and surveys, all in an effort to understand what the hell I should major in because I thought that would determine what job I would do. All the tests said either lawyer, or writer. All of them. In my mind, two choices could not be further apart, though both appeal to me. Although, after I finished my first masters, when I realized that I could not be a full-time writer, I also realized that I love the idea of going to law school, but would rather never practice law– thanks meyers-briggs.

So, now I’m going to be a librarian, which is a career choice that has felt the more comfortable of any I’ve ever made, and one that I could have made even given my rather limited wordview on careers (it may be just that I overthought things)– except all I can think about now is travel and how librarianship stifles that. Even though I would be basically unemployed as a writer because I lack discipline, and the ability to write anything that doesn’t sound smartassed– I could legitimize traveling because it would lead to the next big novel, character, article, vignette, script etc.

Librarians, mostly need to be on-site to manage the goings on at the library.

This is why, as I told a friend a couple weeks ago, I plan to be a librarian turned professor turned writer turned editor turner writer/lecturer who is in high demand but can be picky. I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

So, I needed librarianship to make writing fun for me again, I need travel to make librarianship fun again, we’ll see what happens after I achieve travel because I’m seriously running out of passions– maybe thats when I discover the whole new talent that I previously never knew I had.

My cousin Sara’s cat used to eat books. He would masticate away at the corners until they were rounded and indented with tiny tooth-holes. I was visiting that part of the family one summer (they lived in Wisconsin, about 8 hours away– so we only saw them once or twice a year), and Sara asked me if I’d like some of her old books that she had already read, and grown out of.

Since Sara was cool and older, I gleefully went through her bookcase looking for titles that sounded appealing. I left a stack of books on her floor for her to approve, and then, late that night– her cat gnawed on them. Most were still readable, so I took them home and read them. Sometimes, it was a struggle to make out the words in the upper corners, but I am nothing if not persistent. I tried to lend one of the books to a friend in the “ohmythisissogoodyouhavetoreaditsowecantalkaboutit!” way that pre-teen girls do. Then I was reminded that my better friends at the time didn’t much care for reading– even if the books had been intact.

One of my favorite of the bunch was Six months to Live by Lurlene McDaniel. It’s a story of a girl, a little older than me at the time, who gets juvenile leukemia. She suffers chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and her best friend dies. By the end, she’s in recovery and optimistic. She looks through her dead best friend’s things and hugs her teddy bear.

After reading that book, I assumed that I would get cancer. Anytime I cut myself and it took to long to clot– must be leukemia, if I felt fatigued– leukemia, if I lost more hair than usual while washing or brushing it– leukemia (which really doesn’t make sense because I certainly wasn’t going through the chemo that would make my hair fall out– but logic is not at play here). I was going to get cancer– Dawn Rochelle did, and she was a normal girl like me.

Until last week, that was the only Lurlene McDaniel book I was aware of. Actually, I couldn’t have told you who wrote that book because I read it the same summer I read A Summer to Die (oh pre-teen angst), and I tend to confuse the two. Last week I was at job #2 (public library) looking for missing books in the YA section. One of the books was by Lurlene McDaniel, and when I found it I saw on the cover it said “a companion to Six Months to Live.

It seems that there are four books in the series, and poor Dawn Rochelle has relapse after relapse, one bone-marrow transplant after another all while dealing with the grief of missing her dead best friend (who she met in the cancer ward), and the social stigma of being known as “the cancer girl”. Life is hard for Dawn Rochelle, and it makes one wonder why Lurlene created a character just to torture her through a series of increasingly slim and poorly-written volumes.

Then I found out that this is all Lurlene McDaniel does. She write books about kids who are dying from one malady or another, and depressed teenagers eat them up. It seems incredibly sick and wrong, and her explanation that she did the research initially when her youngest son was diagnosed with diabetes, really doesn’t make it ok.

I learned a lot of about juvenile leukemia reading six months to live, but it made me paranoid. I’m pretty level-headed– so what the hell is this writing doing to other kids? Well, what’s done is done. Lurlene actually seems like quite a nice lady; we’re now friends on Myspace and she thanked me for adding her.

Here is a list of some of the most ridiculous titles she’s ever written, courtesy of lurlenemcdaniel.com:

Mother, Help me live

Let Him Live

Mourning Song

Please Don’t Die

She Died too Young

Sixteen and Dying

Someone Dies, Someone Lives

Don’t Die, My Love

Baby Alicia is Dying– this one is my favorite

When Happily Ever After Ends

Letting Go of Lisa

Time to Let Go

Somewhere Between Life and Death

When I was in third grade, I was all about the group Exposé. They were three girls pumping out kick-ass 80’s jams with soulful lyrics about love and saving the world occasionally with that awesome sax so you know they really, really mean it. I was all about these girls, I defended them to the boys in my class who said their music was crap. For Word of the Week, where you look up a word and share the definition with the class, I chose Exposé, which I can still say without missing a beat means 1. the showing up of a crime 2. trickery, or fraud.

They were a diverse bunch: the Aryan princess, the feisty Latina, and the girl with the sassy haircut that I always thought looked Italian.

I recently rediscovered these ladies at job #2 when I was digging through the CD bins. The cover of their Greatest Hits album shows that they have aged well, and can still stare off into the distance looking deep, and soulful… and apparently Asian. The Aryan princess, and the feisty Latina look basically the same, but the girl with the funky haircut– not like I remembered her. How could I have missed this?

Immediately, I was reminded of the first time I saw Wayne’s World, and how I didn’t understand why Wayne had to learn Cassandra’s language. I knew she had an accent, but it didn’t occur to me that that would mean she spoke a different language originally, or that she was Chinese.  I would make a terrible racist since I guess I just can’t tell.

Upon closer inspection of the liner notes, I found out that Gioia (the one with the funky haircut), was forced to leave the group at the peak of their success due to irreparable throat damage. Such drama! And they replaced her with the girl on the cover of the Greatest Hits album– and blew my mind.

Recently, a friend told me that the only way to get people to read your blogs is to make lists. Lists are the answer, apparently. Well, to do a little recap of the year, I’m going to make a list of the things that have happened to me over the past year that are cool. These are in no particular order:

  • I got accepted into the URI graduate school of library and information sciences
  • Upon telling my parents that I was going back to grad school and moving halfway across the country, they cried and disowned me. Then they came around and have gone so far as to say that this was a wonderful decision on my part
  • I moved to Providence, RI, one of the coolest cities I’ve ever seen
  • I got a kick-ass job at the oldest lending library in America (still in its original building)
  • Before leaving Fargo, I worked at 3 jobs, now I only have 2
  • One of the jobs I had in Fargo, Fargo Public Library, is the first job I’ve ever left that I still loved, so I am capable of having a job that doesn’t fill me with rage
  • Watson (kitty), Jill (human traveling companion), and I made it safely and successfully across the country and my car didn’t break under the weight of all my crap
  • I managed to furnish my new 1100 square foot apartment spending only about $75
  • I didn’t flunk cataloging
  • I reconnected with the friend I’ve known the longest (since preschool) via Facebook and via that friend, the friend that I’ve known second-longest (almost, that’s still a work in progress)
  • I decided for sure that the field I’m pursuing is really the one that I can see myself working in indefinitely
  • My scrabble game has improved quite a bit, even though I’m still not very good
  • I just set my Ipod on shuffle, and it landed on the BeeGee’s cover of Islands in the Stream, which apparently includes them actually saying “ghetto superstar, that is what you are”
  • I have free cable, how weird is that?
  • There’s no sales tax on beer in Massachusetts, and you get 5cents back for every bottle you return
  • Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee is a delicious meal in a cup and it’s affordable
  • The other day, one of my new Providence friends told me that she’s very glad to know me and call me her friend
  • I now know the deliciousness of tempeh
  • In the time after I graduated and before I moved, even though I was working all the time, I managed to read a really lot of books and see a lot of movies
  • One of my best friends finally ended a relationship she should have bailed on years ago
  • As much as I hate the commute, I do appreciate the fact that I get to spend time in a city as beautiful and historic as Newport, RI
  • Another friend told me a few days ago that he loves my blogs
  • Although library school is the most tedious thing I’ve ever done, and most of the people I go to school with are the strangest kind of weirdo I’ve ever encountered—I’m one of the cool kids, which is hilarious
  • I just found $20 in one of my pants pockets!
  • This list could go one for quite a while

A long time ago I went to stay with a friend in Middle River, Minnesota (mil rir, to natives). I ended up coming the weekend of the Middle River GooseFest, which I was completely unaware of, but the mere mention of sent my friend Amber into a flurry if excitement. The GooseFest was the event of the summer.

I was about 11 years old or so; living in Hallock, MN at the time. The first night there, I arrived kind of late, so we watched a movie with her older sister and ate Combos in a variety of flavors. Amber lived way out in the country in a giant old house, down a dark and winding road. They were one of those families who always had a stash all of the worst kinds of junk food, and a fridge crammed with soda. I was completely amazed that I was allowed to leave my family for a weekend and go to a place so decadent, cool, and remote, with an older sister who could teach me what big kids care about. Amber and her sister shared a huge room covered in New Kids on the Block posters, and we stayed up late looking at magazines, and giving the two of them time to educate me as to who New Kids on the Block were.

The following day, Amber’s mom dropped us off on Main Street, which at the time seemed to me like an infinite stretch of wonders and new places to explore, but in actuality was a two to three block stretch of pavement with a couple stores. The street was barricaded on both ends and teeming with people, food vendors, booths selling tacky crap—everything I loved the most. We went onto one store, the general store which was a cavernous, dark treasure trove with uneven cement floors, and penny candy, and rows and rows of trinkets I convinced myself could not be gotten anywhere else. While I was inwardly exclaiming about all of this new, exciting stuff, Amber grabbed something and held it up.

“Safety pins!”

“Yes they are.”

“Oh my god this is so great, these are perfect, they’re the little ones. My sister is going to be so excited.”

I felt like I was missing something really vital, and actually started feeling a little sorry for her. I had seen tiny safety pins many times before and exclaimed over their smallness, but never gotten this excited. “What do you need the safety pins for?’

“For my jeans, of course.”

Then I felt really bad, clearly Amber’s family was poor because they spent all of their money on Combos and Coca-Cola, so she had to somehow alter her jeans with safety pins. I’d read about this phenomenon in books loads of times, and was fully prepared to be supportive, and let her know that her poverty would not stand in the way of our friendship. “Oh, because they’re hand-me-downs?”

She looked at me like I was an imbecile, “No, for tight-rolling– so they don’t slip.”

The tight-rolling phenomenon had come to Middle River, and I had no clue what that meant. Amber explained to me, and showed me what tight-rolling meant by grabbing the cuff of my jeans and doing some kind of voodoo that made it roll tightly and stay that way. The following year, in school, I had one friend who must have spent her summer vacation in the same eye-opening manner as me, but no one else seemed aware of this at all. I didn’t understand it. Amber and her sister’s teachings about the NKOTB stuck, but not the tight-rolling. So I abstained.

The following year, I moved to Cavalier, ND, and noticed that no one was tight-rolling their jeans. I actually asked someone once if they had head of the practice and whoever it was said, “Yeah, we did that years ago. No one does that anymore.” I went back to Hallock to stay with a friend one weekend and found that the tight-rolling was all the rage, apparently, Hallock was just a little behind the times.

So I completely missed the tight-rolling revolution. I still don’t get it, and I feel a little cheated out of those memories, and the chance to look back at pictures of myself and say “man, how lame was I?” So fashion trends are fascinating, especially in the way they jump around small Midwestern towns. I thought it was just a Middle River thing, but it was really a THING. I had the shirt clips, the banana clips, the slouchy socks, the purple boom box, the slap bracelets—but the tight-rolling passed me by.

Years ago I decided to go to Minneapolis/St. Paul with my then-boyfriend for a concert of “his music” (obviously not anyone I was too jazzed to see since I can never remember what they’re called) over Memorial Day Weekend.  We rode down with his two best friends, a guy and a girl, who claimed that they were just friends, but who would start sleeping together about a year later.

 These were people I knew, had spoken to several times, but hadn’t spent a considerable amount of time with.  The fact that I didn’t really “know his friends” was quite a sore subject between then-boyfriend and I, so I figured what better way to get to know someone than to spend a long weekend with them?

 When I’ve gone on road trips with friends usually what happens is we talk.  We talk in the car, in restaurants off the interstate; when we run out of things to say the silence is comfortable, or we play mad-libs.  These people stuck then-boyfriend and I in the back seat of an SUV with a bass drum, and turned up Modest Mouse so loudly that I couldn’t hear anything but that and road noise.  The two in the front seat who would later start sleeping together could hear each other fine and conversed easily and basked in the music that they thought was great, but gave me a headache.  Then-boyfriend pulled out the copy of Anna Karenina that I had lent him and started reading.

 In an effort to really get to know his friends I had done something completely out of character, I had not brought a book.  Then-boyfriend, being a slow reader, only had the one book and refused to give it to me, “I was really looking forward to getting some reading done on this trip.”

 I watched to side of the road whip by me and vowed never again to be without a book.  I also called work to see if I had accidentally gotten scheduled so we’d have to come back a day early.  For once, no, and I resigned myself to a boring and uncomfortable weekend, but also vowed to have a good attitude and try to get along with these people who clearly were less concerned about getting along with me.  I figured once we started drinking it would be fine, usually it is.

 After we arrived in the cities, we went to a dive bar for greasy burgers (grilled cheese for me), and pitchers.  There was a sign on the wall that said something like “Even a teetotaler can feel at home in here”, something like that.  No one else knew what a teetotaler was, even though you can glean it from the context, so I told them.

“A teetotaler is a person who doesn’t drink.”

The girl looked at me and re-read the sign, “Yeah, maybe.  I think it means something else.”

I have always been “the girl who reads a lot”, or “the girl who uses big words.”  No one has ever had the audacity to tell me, incorrectly, that I don’t know what words mean.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t make something up, I might guess, and say I don’t know.  This girl told me flat out that I was wrong about something that I was right about.

“Actually, that is what it means.”  I insisted starting to feel a little silly for pressing the point when it really wasn’t important, but needing not really the validation for everyone knowing that I was right, but more just a bit of acceptance.  Somehow, getting along with then-boyfriends friends was distilled down into this moment as if this girl represented all of them and their attitudes, and if I couldn’t make them listen about this one area that I was well-versed in, I would never fit.

She shrugged, “Maybe, but I really don’t think so.”

His friends then spoke around me for the rest of the meal, and the rest of the weekend, and even though I was told afterwards that I was fun and they really liked me and were so glad they finally got to know me, and then-boyfriend was so glad I came along; I can’t remember any of it.

This time of year always makes me want to be in England. The biting wind and the damp make me want to curl up in a pub with a spicy bean hot-pot and a pint of Guinness. Strangely, when I was going to school in England was the only time in my (lengthy) college career where I actually felt like a student, or at least what I always envisioned student life being like.

Freshman year at MSUM I lived in a shitty dorm, shared the bathroom with a bunch of strangers, and suffered the indignities that come with being a freshman who suspects that everyone can tell you have no idea where you’re going. That year I was a student–full stop. I had no job, school was my job, and as a result, I watched more TV and ate more pizza than any other time in my life. I tried the college stuff: I went to keg parties, ate in the cafeteria, met strange people, gained weight–all the standard things that college kids do. It didn’t feel right; I didn’t feel like I was really in college, just high school with no one to do my dishes for me.

In England, I lived in a shittier dorm that was too small for the furniture in it (I had to move the chair to open either the hall door or closet door, they couldn’t be open at the same time), I ate terrible cafeteria food mostly consisting of overcooked potatoes served as both entrée and side dish, went to noisy, sweaty dance clubs wearing foot-crippling shoes and got ignored by boys because I’m not slutty enough, and I froze the entire time I was there. It was perfect.

Maybe what made the experience was the fact that I had professors who were completely consumed with the subjects they taught. They were the kind of people who loved what they were teaching and seemed to regard lectures as more of an opportunity for story-telling than just passing time until the next exam. I imagined that they spoke of nothing else even to their families and friends, but were well-liked regardless because they made everything so damn interesting. As a result, I got perfect grades, did no homework, and still remember so much 18th century English history that I scare myself a little.

I’ll wax nostalgic about Moorhead and the excellent experiences/professors I’ve had after I leave, but it’s still not the same. It’s spooky that I can think of a place I lived for 5 weeks (can you even say you lived there after only 5 weeks?) as home, more so than a place I’ve lived for 8 years.