Antelope Canyon

If you are ever in Page, Arizona, or even anywhere in relative proximity to it, I cannot express highly enough, how worthwhile it is to take a tour of Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon on the Navajo reservation, which can be toured by guide in a few hours. Potentially the strangest and most wonderful thing about the canyon is that if you drove by, or even walked by, you would never know it was there. This huge beautiful cavernous valley is hidden just below the grounds surface and the only suggestion it’s there is a crack running along the ground.IMG_5177

The walls of the canyon are made of Navajo sandstone and were carved out by the erosion from water flowing powerfully across and under the ground over hundreds of years. Northern Arizona is prone to flash flooding and these rains are still altering the canyon.

It is divided into upper and lower canyons and my aunt, Andrea, and I opted for the lower canyon tour. It requires a little more hiking, as you have to climb down into it, and then up out of it. There are ladders and stairs built into the canyon making this a little easier, but I wouldn’t recommend it for older visitors. There are also places where the corners and walls are very narrow, so it may not be the best for those with limited mobility.

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Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable, and never rushed the group when we wanted to take pictures or ask questions about a certain formation of rock. He knew where all the perfect photo spots were and paused to take pictures of the group whenever he thought there was a good opportunity.IMG_5172

 

The tour starts off with a short walk to the mouth of the canyon; here I can stress the IMG_5153importance of good shoes and a water bottle or two. When first walking out to the canyon Andrea and I both looked at each other like “wait is this it?” because as I mentioned before, you would never guess what lies just below your feet. You reach a little nook in the hill and slowly start to climb the stairs into the canyon where it’s cool and shaded. The stairs are fairly steep so you need to focus on getting down them safely, but once you’re down it’s difficult to stay focused on the ground in front of you, so it’s lucky they are mostly smooth sand.

There’s a reason that these walls have been featured on the cover of national geographic, that windows chose them as one of their screensavers, and that certain shots have sold for millions. Antelope Canyon is breathtaking.

IMG_5149I spent the entirety of the walk wide eyed and jaw slightly ajar in a sense of wonder from what I was seeing around me. You’re totally enclosed by the walls around you in their smooth swirling patterns, jutting out to play tricks with the light here and there, and it makes you feel small. Small in a good way. The type of small where you can feel just how amazing the world around you is. The type of small that makes you want to go out and explore every nook and cranny of the world that you possibly could, knowing that even then you wouldn’t be seeing it all, but being at peace with that. The type of small that makes you thankful to be experiencing the life that you are, even when there are some days that you’d rather hide from it all. The type of small that fills you with electricity, making you feel completely and utterly alive.

Berry Happy

If you’ve ever read Bruce Degen’s childrens book, “Jamberry” then you’ve probably fantasized about romping around barefoot in a land of berries with a friendly bear, eating all the berries you could possibly muster. If you haven’t read “Jamberry,” go to your neighborhood library immediately and pick it up. If the librarian asks why as a grown person you appear to be lurking around the children’s section, politely explain to her that you were tasked with reading a book about a boy, bear, and berries to fill a missing void in your life.

On second thought maybe you should just read it from the comfort of your own home… here’s the link to a reading on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJKclVRP_4s   Side note: I chose this reading because it shows the illustrations in their finest light and the illustrations in this book are perhaps my favorite of any book from my childhood. But I do apologize for the strange voice doing the reading… you may just want to turn the sound off and read it yourself…

But I digress; this post isn’t about children’s books, a boy, or bears; but it is about berries. Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with my mom, picking berries at Graysmarsh Farm in Sequim, Washington. We covered most of your berry bases, picking raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, loganberries, and boysenberries.

I’ll admit to being a somewhat subpar berry picker. Although I have a finely tuned technique when it comes to berry picking, its effectiveness has been called into question on several occasions. It works something like this: one for the bucket, two for me. Two for the bucket, one for me. A variation of this pattern is continued until my bucket is half filled and my stomach is entirely filled.

Graysmarsh has huge fields of berries, as well as lavender, and everything except strawberries were in season, so after wandering through the neat rows we ended up with about 20 pounds of berries between the two of us in a couple hours. Outside in the sun and soft breeze surrounded by sweet green bushes there’s a peaceful edge to the work being done, creating a therapeutic sensation to the activity. Once you get started, it’s kind of difficult to stop. I can’t count the number of times we would pause, saying, “that’s probably enough,” not even finishing the statement before continuing to pick our way down the row.13729004_1336449703036634_401524070210313870_n

The berries at Graysmarsh are top-notch; their flavors, textures, and pickabililty each contributing to the satisfaction of the experience. I don’t even really care for blueberries, but you better believe I was snacking on these. They aren’t mushy like others I avoid, but firm, plump, and sweet. Graysmarsh blackberries are thornless, so you can thrust your hands through the bushes without fear of being stuck to get the large juicy berries hiding in the depths of the vines. However, my favorites were the raspberries. Raspberries are my favorite fruit so I was biased going in, but these did not disappoint. Easy to pick, bordering on just the right edge of tartness and sweet, I could have easily eaten a flat of them. If I lived in Sequim, I’m fairly certain I’d be a regular raspberry picker there.

At the end of the day, looking at your stained hands and feeling the weight of your efforts hanging in the bucket on your arm, the realization of just how much work you did sinks in. It’s completely and wonderfully satisfying. Potentially even more satisfying will be the berry cobblers, jam, drinks, snacks, and smoothies that are to come!

Sweet Observations. Part 1: The Butter Pecan Phenomenon

So I’ve been working in an ice cream shop for almost a year now, and I figure it’s about time to bring to light a few of the things I’ve taken notice of. More than likely this will be part one of a seventy part series, because I’ve been given plenty of material to work with, but don’t worry, my observations will be short and sweet.

You can tell a lot about a person by the type of ice cream they order. I’ve spotted trends amongst the sorts of people who order specific flavors, but perhaps the strongest I’ve seen is what I like to call “the butter pecan phenomenon.” The obsession that those over the age of sixty seem to have with butter pecan ice cream is strong. I’m fairly convinced that on your sixtieth birthday, as soon as you blow out the candles on your birthday cake (or have made good use of the fire extinguisher in the corner) you develop an insatiable thirst for butter pecan ice cream. I’m serious here, 8 out of 10 seniors who walk into our shop ask if we have a butter pecan.

Now our shop has upwards of forty-five flavors readily available at all times, but guess which flavor is not included in those forty-five? Butter. Pecan. If you were disappointed to hear this, I’m guessing you are also eligible for the senior discount at the movie theater.

The utter despair that follows “Unfortunately we don’t have a butter pecan,” would cause some to believe that these devoted butter pecaners had just learned our flavors were limited to brussel sprout or chicken of the sea. Don’t you dare try and steer them towards another flavor, because it will just not be the same. Pistachio? How dare you!

After this, there will be a long period of sighing, lamenting the lack of their favorite flavor, as if this grief will somehow cause a bucket of butter pecan to miraculously appear in shop. When this doesn’t happen they’ll try about 20 other flavors, and you’ll cross your fingers they don’t ask for rum raisin, because that’s second on the elderly’s most popular list and second on the list of few flavors we don’t have.

Eventually they’ll find something that works, and you might even believe for a moment they’ve gotten over their beloved butter pecan. They’ll comment how wonderful this new chocolate flavor is, or how sweet the lemon bar is, and you’ll smile, glad that they found something just as good as butter pecan. And then they’ll get to the door and casually mention over their shoulders: “You really should have a butter pecan.”

 

Momcation

Being a mom seems tough. Not only are you responsible for your own well being, but you are responsible for another person’s (if not multiple others) development as a contributing member of society. As far as I’ve been able to determine a lot of effort, tears, and heart goes into that sort of responsibility. It’s only fair that moms get a break, and I’m not just talking their one day in May- they deserve more than that. More than a day, but less than a month- I’m not demeaning their worth here, I’m being practical: without them for that long all hell would break loose. In short, all moms deserve some time away from their motherly responsibilities. They deserve a solid “momcation.”

For the past 20 or so years, my mom and one of her closest friends have taken a vacation to Arizona to, as best as I can understand, get away from their two children and husbands. Their loving children who would never continuously leave their socks on the floor after being told to pick them up seven times, and their devoted husbands who would probably never forget to unload the dishwasher like they were asked… As one of those loving, albeit scatterbrained, problem children, I had mixed feelings about this annual retreat the two of them took, now that I’m older I can retrospectively appreciate that they deserved that week away.

Momcation has always held an air of mystery, although if you ask them, they’ll give it to you straight: we sit by the pool and read all day then go out to dinner and come back, chat, maybe have a glass of wine, and go to bed. Repeat x7. If it’s hard to believe that someone could sustain that routine for an entire week, you clearly don’t know these women. This year I learned first hand that this is exactly what they do.

Imagine my surprise when I was chatting with my mom one afternoon about her upcoming Arizona trip and jokingly, as I have the past couple years, asked if I could come, and she said “maybe.” She could have told me I was adopted and I might not have been more surprised- that’s how sacred momcation is. Things progressed from incredible to outlandish as I was cleared to come down for three days of their week of paradise.

It was at this moment that I realized I was no longer a problem to escape, but I was considered an asset to the adult team. Or at the very least I was no longer the nuisance I once was. And let me tell you, I’ve never enjoyed being a non-nuisance more: Best. Vacation. Ever.

After last week I’ve crafted a formula outlining the unique qualities of a successful vacation and they are listed as follows:

  • 1) Did you sit in the sun for as long as you possibly could?
  • 2) Did you consume your weights worth in gallons of iced tea?
  • 3) Were you able to successfully read while gloriously uninterrupted for hours upon hours at a time?

If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, congratulations! You had a great vacation.

During my brief stint on momcation I sat outside by the pool for three days in a row, only leaving to retrieve a new book (see 3) or refill my beverage (see 2). I’m not entirely certain how long it takes to develop an addiction to something, I’m sure it depends on the strength of the substance, but I’m fairly confident that in the span of three days I managed to develop a classifiable addiction to Arizona raspberry iced tea. It may very well be laced with something; my mouth is watering as I write this. As for criterion three, I managed to read 5 books in 3 days. Momcation needed to come with a label, “may induce uncontrollable sighing due to extreme contentment.”

One of the most shocking aspects of momcation is that any adherence to the food pyramids recommended dietary intake is strictly ignored. Breakfast the first day consisted of leftover enchiladas and chips. Gone were the “eat your veggies, be responsible” mothers I’d known for 23 years, and in their place were bachelors who stocked their shelves with margaritas and Twix bars. One night when we went out to dinner I ordered a slice of cake to eat for breakfast the next morning and it was actually encouraged. I’m not sure I’ve ever loved them more.

To some this sort of extreme relaxation might seem like the 4th circle of hell. Others are wondering where they can sign up, and to you I’m sorry to say, it’s a fairly exclusive club, and if your suitcase is not packed to the brim with paperbacks and you don’t have a fondness for queso or tequila, you will not be making the cut any time soon. It took me 23 years.

Mom, Laurie; thank you for including me on your momcation, it was an honor and a privilege that I didn’t take lightly. Thank you for providing the model of perfect, effortless, and lasting friendship; it’s a unique and beautiful gift and I appreciate your sharing it with me.

Nobody Likes You When You’re 23

They say nobody likes you when you’re 23. Or at least blink-182 says that and they seem like a fairly reliable source. To be quite honest I’ll be good with 23 as long as it’s no 22. Taylor Swift led me to believe it was a much more magical time than it was… I should have paid more attention to the whole “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time,” lyrics because there is so much truth in them it’s not even funny. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so many conflicting emotions in any other period of my life, and that’s including adolescent puberty. We all know how fun that is. Quick shout out to my parents for not disowning me in my teens, you guys are the real MVPs.

If you asked me how 22 was, my response would be completely dependent on my mood that day. If I were happy, I’d tell you it was wonderful. I got to be a part of the wedding of two very dear friends and being there for them was one of the most wonderful weeks of my life. I went on a great family vacation to Hawaii, I ran a half marathon, and I graduated college relatively unscathed with not only one, but two, degrees in four years. If it were a bad day I’d tell you 22 sucked. I had no clue what I was doing after graduation and I lost all my friends (not true in any way, they just didn’t live down the street anymore so some days it felt like it), I gained a bunch of college stress weight that I was then stuck trying to get rid of, worked a job that was okay but by no means my dream, and at the end of the day all I wanted was to be happy but had no idea how to get there. In short, 22 was a roller coaster and utterly exhausting.

My 22nd year was marked with more tears than most, whether out of frustration, excitement, sadness, or joy. If there were any justice in this world, I would have dropped a couple pounds losing them in water weight, but I learned that unfortunately this is not the way the world, or human biology, works. However nearing the end of 22, I started to finally get it through my head that I have much more to celebrate than to wallow in. You can choose to be lost and wander aimlessly or you can move with purpose, even if it’s shortsighted. You don’t have to live for the long-term goal: you can be perfectly happy with several short-term goals. They’re easier to break down and in some cases the steps needed to attain them may even be more realistically achievable. If I learned anything at 22, it’s that you can choose to wake up and be upset about where you are,
or you can choose to be positive about it; every day gives you a new choice.

Each day is a new gift and you can choose to be grateful for that, or you can compare your gift to everyone else’s, letting that comparison dull the excitement you should have for what is in front of you. When people ask me what’s new, I don’t have much to say to them that differs from the last time we spoke in terms of “exciting life events,” but I’m happy, and don’t feel the need to analyze why, but just be. I’ve found that there is an incredible difference in that.

My hope for 23, and what I wish I could have embraced more at 22, is to take each day for what it is, good or bad, knowing that the bad is only temporary and in the end, it’s all good.

 

 

There’s Something About Spring

There are beautiful things to be said about every season, but no one can deny the magic carried by spring. Waking up to the smell of fresh cut grass, the sun gleaming off the dewy drops clinging to their blades, you find a difference in the earth’s energy. You can sense the changes before taking a foot from under your covers. Positive change flows in the rebirth of the life taken by winter and hope floats lightly in the air as buds begin to bloom, animals are born, and gray turns to green.

Spring is by far the most optimistic of seasons, bringing the promise of carefree summer as it leaves the cover of winter behind. The cover that was once comforting is suppressive and spring has a way of lifting that weight just as it begins to become unbearable. Bright light replaces the soft, replacing restlessness with electric energy, and whether or not you choose to indulge that spirit, it feels positive.

The days begin to grow longer and the nights shorten, but for the first time in awhile you want them to be so. You are finally able to act on your desire to run, to leave the place you’ve been hiding, and just go. Everything else around you is changing and growing, who’s to say you can’t too? The need is instinctive, and whether they’re big or small changes, making them leaves you feeling rejuvenated.

I can’t say exactly what it is, because it’s a wonderfully innate sensation and those are the most impossible to describe, but there is something about spring. It’s not just a season you see changing around you; it’s something that you feel happening to you. What a beautiful time to make more time for yourself, to reach out to others, to try something new, to stop and smell the roses, to be incredibly present where you are in this world: to be fully and beautifully alive.

13.1

For anyone in the Seattle area looking to run his or her first half marathon, I can highly recommend the Lake Sammamish Half. The course is flat, easy to navigate, and the view along the lake is gorgeous, giving you plenty to distract yourself with. There are enough out running so you get that good feeling of running a big race, but not so many that you feel completely overwhelmed.

My main goal was essentially just to cross the finish line in one piece, although finishing around 2:30 seemed reasonable for my first time out, based on my training pace. I ended up finishing at 2:14, feeling happy, accomplished and as if I’d left everything I could out on the course. 13 miles is a fairly long distance so I had plenty to ponder along the lakeside trail, and I found my thoughts ranged from mundane to introspective.

Around mile 3 I realized that I’m actually a fairly competitive person. Up until this point I’ve lived fully committed to the idea that I am not a competitive person. My dad is competitive, my sister is competitive, but I am not competitive. But as I was angling to get around people in the first couple miles of the race I let myself open up to the idea that maybe I am a competitive person, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I had just confused a lack of competitive attitude with the idea of being a good sport. I don’t really have an issue with losing, which I’d always associated with a lack of caring or competitive edge, but during this race I realized it’s not that I never cared; it’s that I’m a good sport and know that sometimes you have to celebrate someone else’s win over your own. If I weren’t competitive, I wouldn’t have gotten straight A’s in school, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to start running this race in the beginning, and I wouldn’t feel any pressure to perform to the high standards I’ve set for myself. I’m always trying to improve upon myself, and that’s not the attitude of someone who doesn’t care. Being competitive isn’t a bad thing; it’s okay to care as long as you understand how to lose gracefully knowing that you tried your hardest.

I picked up a buddy around mile 4 and we stuck together until about mile 9. I probably should have said something to her or gotten her name, because finding her in the pack was honestly one of the highlights of my race. We alternated from side by side, to one of being slightly in front or behind the other a good deal of the race and I found comfort in the familiarity of the sound of her footsteps. I trained by myself, which was my own choice, but I’d forgotten it’s kind of nice to have a buddy to run with. There were a couple others who I recognized for the majority of the race, and it was nice to find solidarity and the push to keep going in their familiarity.

At mile 7 I was surprised to find that I was still feeling good, and being halfway through was exciting and motivating rather than discouraging.

It took me until about mile 9 before I started to realize 13 miles is actually pretty far. But as soon as I hit 10 I felt rejuvenated by the fact that I basically just had a 5k left to run. At that point I took way too much enjoyment out of the fact that I had become one of those people who easily thought things like “oh I only have to run three more miles.” Because three miles isn’t exactly a stroll through the park.

After all was said and done, I’d received my medal, cooled off a bit, and had taken full advantage of the free samples from the sponsors and booths around the finish area, I looked around felt at peace. I’d just spent the past four months training to run 13.1 miles and not only had I done it, I’d felt good doing it. I felt strong, and fast, and empowered. It also occurred to me that while I’m sure it’d be nice to be one of those people who could wake up the week before a half marathon saying, “hey I think I’ll run that,” there is something to be said for the training process. I put a lot of heart into finishing this thing and being able to finally say “I did it” is sort of indescribable. I wasn’t certain exactly how I’d feel about the entire endeavor, but at the end of the day, when I’d had a few moments to process everything, all I could think was “sign me up for the next one.”IMG_4423

I feel at this time it would also be appropriate to thank my unofficial training sponsors: chocolate milk, the musical stylings of one direction, and my brooks running shoes. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.

When You’re Singing That Song

Last Wednesday I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Vance Joy perform on his “Fire and the Flood Tour” at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. By the end of the second song, I realized I would have paid good money to hear that man sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” along a freeway’s questionable rest stop. You know, the ones with free ‘coffee’ and those expired shortbread cookies? He could sit perched atop a garbage can with his ukulele and sing with the cars flying by and my heart would still skip the occasional beat. So I mean I guess I could say the concert was all right…

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First off, if you’ve never been to the Paramount you should know it’s beautiful. I hadn’t been since seeing Broadway’s “The Lion King” in elementary school with my mom and while it felt much smaller than my second grade memory had prompted, it didn’t feel any less grand. Its architecture is beautiful and helped to set the ambiance for a memorable evening. Having been to concerts in both large arenas and small bars, The Paramount holds a nice middle ground between impressive and intimate.

 

Jamie Lawson, whom I was not previously familiar with, opened before Elle King and he was simply fantastic. Armed with only his guitar and voice, he gave a wonderful performance and had a stage presence making him likable and humble. Jamie Lawson, you’ve found yourself a new fan and I look forward to hearing more of your music. To those of you haven’t been acquainted with his talent, check him out- my favorites are “Wasn’t Expecting That,” “The Only Conclusion,” “Still Yours,” and “Don’t Let Me Let You Go.”

One of the first thoughts to cross my mind after walking out of the Paramount at the end of the night, was basically that I want to be Elle King’s best friend. From what I was able to determine from where I’d wedged myself near the front and center of the stage, she’s hilarious, incredibly talented, and in the best sense of the word, cool. I’m sure if I’d been able to sit down and have a beer with her before the show my suspicions would have been confirmed. Seeing someone pour their soul into their passion is one of the most beautiful things we can witness on this planet and that’s what Elle gave us.

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And then there was Vance Joy himself. Opening with “Mess is Mine,” I knew I was in for a treat. I wasn’t concerned about him playing my favorites, because honestly there’s not a song of his that I don’t like, but I was especially over the moon when I heard the first chords of “From Afar,” and “Red Eye.” There’s no denying the man is talented, and hearing his melodies in the flesh was chilling. I spent the show in a happy sort of reverie, enraptured by what I was experiencing, and as soon as he walked off the stage after the encore, I was certain that I could have stayed and watched the exact same performance at least three more times.

 

“Riptide” was one of the best songs of the evening, though not necessarily due to the song itself. Don’t get me wrong I do love it, but it was great because everyone knew every single word and the resulting grin on Vance Joy’s face lent the moment a lot of significance. I feel as though some artists tend to get tired of playing their more popular hits, but Vance Joy only seemed energized by the crowd’s recognition of the tune. He had so much fun with it and you were able to see him not as “Vance Joy,” but as James Keogh, a real person who appeared to have the full appreciation and understanding that he was living his dream. It seems backwards but sometimes being able to see someone as no more than a person is the most enchanting thing you can ask for.

So thank you Vance Joy, Elle King, and Jamie Lawson for laying your hearts on the stage and sharing your talents; witnessing your love for the music of life was truly a gift.

Miles and Smiles

When I joined the cross-country team my freshman year of high school, several unprecedented things occurred. Primarily, and perhaps most surprising, I developed an appreciation for running that’s lasted well beyond high school. Eight years later, I’ve signed up for my first half marathon: The Lake Sammamish Half.

Recently, for reasons I cannot fully explain, running 13.1 miles has seemed like a good idea. I’m sure after two hours of continuous movement, I’ll reconsider this thought process, but for the time being, pushing myself to a limit I’ve never reached is attractive. I’ve got exactly one month to go, and while I’m starting to get excited, I’m also pretty nervous, so to all those long distance runners out there, if you’ve got any tips they’ll be met with gratitude.

This experience has been quite the journey. I think that’s one of the reasons I like the idea of running; what a beautiful metaphor for life. You get out of it what you put in to it, seeing results only if you make the effort to achieve them, there are hills you need to climb, some days are easier, others are more challenging, but in the grand scheme of things you’re moving forward. Often the hardest part of anything is the start, and there is so much to be said for the difference between remaining static in this life or putting your self in motion… the whole concept of running encapsulates this.

Those naysayers who argue logging the miles is practically pointless because you’re haven’t actually gone anywhere, or you start in the exact same place you begin, clearly have not thought it all the way through. Running circles around my neighborhood, starting at my house to arrive back there a half hour or so later, has changed me immensely. In short terms, putting me in a better mood for the day, but also in longer terms. Both mentally and physically. This activity has the unique ability to leave one feeling empowered, clear minded, exhausted, and strengthened almost simultaneously.

The stress and celebration that was senior year left me exhausted and in some of the worst shape I’ve been in, once again, both mentally and physically. Overwhelmed, unemployed, and unable to run 2 miles without feeling as if imminent death was upon me was entirely frustrating coming off of the bittersweet high of graduation. Six months later with what feels like more than enough sweat and tears to last someone a lifetime, I have a reformed mindset, I’m down 20 pounds, and I can not only run over 10 miles, but I can do so comfortably. Most importantly, I feel better. The changes have come quietly and gradually, but in no circumstances would I consider myself to be in the same place as I started.

I’m not, nor do I believe that I will ever be, the stereotyped idea of a “runner,” but in the past couple months I’ve become more comfortable with the idea that if you love to run, regardless of how far you go, how fast you go, or how good you look doing it, it’s okay to say you’re a runner. I’m eager to try something new, go further than I’ve ever gone before, and cross this off of my bucket list feeling proud and accomplished with it’s completion. In one month I am excited to cross the finish line, look back to the place I started, and say “I did it.”

How To Choose The Perfect School; A Note to My College-Bound Baby Sister

The first thing you need to know is perhaps the most important idea you’ll take away from this entire letter, so pay careful attention to the following sentence:

There is no right or wrong decision.

I promise you. There is so much seemingly in stock to choosing “the right school” or “the best school,” but after my four years, and after hearing about my friends four or five or even six years, I don’t think perfect exists. People have been putting pressure on you, telling you that this decision will affect the rest of your life, and it will, but it won’t make or break you. Your life will be what you make of it, no matter your environment. The next couple years will be some of the craziest, but some of the best no matter which university you choose to attend, so please, please, please, don’t fret about choosing the “wrong school,” because I know you and I know that you will thrive wherever you go.

In the meantime, until you make that final (or at least year or semester long because you’re not locked in to it forever) decision, you’ll have to deal with people pestering you about where you’ve visited, where you’ve been accepted, and what they’re ultimately asking; where you’re going. It’s driving you up the wall isn’t it? I hate to break it to you, but this is only the first of many years to come in terms of these sorts of questions. Yes, believe it or not there will come a time when you will long for the simplicity of the college questions. Keep your head up through the monotony though; it’ll be over soon. Until then, here are a couple of things to consider while you’re muddling through your options:

Don’t let your friends influence your decision

Just because something is right for them, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Just because you won’t be seeing a friend every day, doesn’t mean that you’ll never see them again. And honestly even if you do end up the same place, you still might not see them every day. Don’t worry about relationships falling apart because the beauty about communication in this day and age is that if you care, and if want to keep in touch, you will. Don’t let someone else’s decisions dictate your life.

Make a list of the things that matter

It sounds tedious but trust me; it helps. Make categories of what sorts of things are important to you: class sizes, programs offered, location, club options, food offered, general feel of the campus, weather, etc. etc., and then decide which of those are most important to you, giving them each a weighted score (10-programs offered. 9-whether or not there’s a Starbucks on campus. 8-good study abroad programs 7-quality of the rec center etc. etc.) then if a school has those things, give it the points, if it doesn’t, no points. If a school doesn’t have any points for the things that matter to you, take it off your list, even if it seems like it could still be a good option for some reason. You’ve got to narrow it down somehow. Have a couple items on your list that are non negotiable, and if a school doesn’t have it, don’t be afraid to cut it out of your options. You’ll have to do some research and some soul searching about what’s really important to you, but after you’ve take the time to do it, you’ll feel like your decision was well reasoned, and not just a spur of the moment decision.

Don’t make your choice based off your family’s wants

Listen to our advice, because I like to think that some of it’s good, but don’t let us push you a certain way. Having known you for your entire life, don’t dismiss suggestions until you’ve at least given them some thought, but after you’ve thought things through don’t be afraid to say, “It’s not for me.” Essentially what I’m getting at is don’t go to UW for Dad, go because YOU want to. And if you don’t want to, that’s great too; I promise he’ll still love you. Trust me, I know from personal experience.

Don’t worry if there’s no “golden moment”

For some reason we are lead to believe that there will be a magic moment when you step foot on the campus where you belong, that will assure you that you’re where you need to be. I think this moment might exist for some people, but for a great deal of us, it does not. AND THAT IS FINE! You know how many schools I toured and applied to (don’t pretend you didn’t love the Great California College Tour of 2010) and I did not once feel that I belonged on a single one of those campuses. They were all just nice, and that was an issue for me because I was waiting for some moment of peace, some feeling that I was exactly where I needed to be, and it never came while walking on campus, or opening acceptance letters. It came eventually though. Not until I neared the end of my first year, did I finally look around and feel like I was where I needed to be. The feeling will come; it just might not present itself when you feel like you need it. It will come when you actually need it. Please don’t feel as if you haven’t found your place because you haven’t experienced that golden ah ha moment; it doesn’t occur for everyone right away.

Have faith that you’ll be happy anywhere you go

No matter where you decide to take your next steps those who love you couldn’t be more delighted in who you are as a person and the choices you’ve made in your life. Take this decision seriously, but not too seriously. Take some deep breaths because you’ll be more than fine at whatever institution you decide to attend; you just have to trust that.

Keep makin’ us proud, kid.