Welp. I move tomorrow. More accurately: I move into the apartment that I will share with my boyfriend tomorrow.

Can you say big step? Because I can.

In all reality, I am so excited for this move. Probably more excited than I’ve ever been about moving, except perhaps for my move to England. I can’t wait for this next step in our lives together. There are no nerves about that, whatsoever.

But there is, if I’m being totally honest, a hint of sadness about saying goodbye to this little blue apartment in the heart of Phoenix. I love the mid century modern feel of my small blue-trimmed complex, nestled at the apex of downtown and Arcadia, where there is a happy hour on every corner. I’m giving up my 4 minute morning commute (7, if I hit the light wrong). I’ll wish I still had the gray brick accent wall in the living room. I’ll miss my little back patio, even though the tree that hangs above it does shed too much.

I’m really glad that I got the chance to live alone. Granted, I didn’t always like it and I oftentimes missed having someone constantly around, but I think everybody should live on their own at least once in their lifetime. Personally, I’m especially grateful that I got to do so when I did, fresh out of college and right when I was figuring out how to navigate “adult” life. It was an important, and transformative, time for me. I learned so much about life, and I learned even more about myself.

So, in the spirit of saying goodbye to a place that taught me oh so much, I though I’d reflect back on what I learned about myself whilst I dwelled in this little, dishwasher-and-laundry-less apartment of mine:

1. How to be alone.
This is perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned yet in my adult life. You don’t really realize how un-alone you are through childhood and college. People are constantly there, whether it’s parents, siblings, roommates, or friends. Living alone was the first time that I had long stretches, even days, where I barely had any interaction with other people, not including the cat. And at first, when those stretches came along, it was weird. Unsettling, even. But eventually, I learned how to be totally alone, and — beyond that — how to totally enjoy being alone.

I love spending solo weekends baking. Granted, I try to pawn off the baked goods on pretty much anyone I think will eat them, but the actual art of baking is something I really, truly enjoy. And if I can blast a musical soundtrack in the background and sing along, loudly and unapologetically, in the process, it’s all the more fun.

I figured out how to unwind, by myself, after a long day at work. I’m a really big fan of hitting the gym for a de-stressing workout, then coming back and pouring myself a nice glass of wine while I get to work cooking my dinner, with a random sitcom I’ve seen 7 times playing mindlessly in the background.

I learned that I really enjoy cooking for myself, and others. I like the freedom of being able to throw together what you want, without being reliant on a menu or price. I also think it’s oddly therapeutic for me to spend my evenings by the stove.

Essentially, I learned that I really like to be in the kitchen.

2. How to keep clean.
Okay, Mom. You win. Cleaning the bathroom every weekend does have its perks — mainly that you don’t have to put in way too much elbow work when it gets grimy. Maintenance in cleaning, and tidying up, is totally key. I can’t say I still adhere to this rule, because, in the spirit of honesty, I also learned in the past year and a half that I absolutely hate cleaning my floors. (Particularly my fake-wood floors, and particularly because I had a cat that sheds everywhere. It’s just such a hassle.)

That said, I also learned how I like to organize things, whether it be my clothes or the pantry or what have you. It’s funny, because you don’t really consider how, when you live with others, your organizational habits tend to play off one another. Living alone let me have total control of where things were, and that was oddly freeing. I learned what worked for me, and what didn’t.

3. How to budget.
Put this up there with being alone as one of the top lessons I learned while living alone. There’s a unique kind of independence that comes with being solely responsible for everything from the rent to the internet bill to the Spotify monthly fee. There’s no more fallback on your parents, or your roommate, or whoever might be there to pick up the slack if you pull the “I’m in college” card and need a bit of help out. Sure, having a real adult budget is a bit of a reality check, but it’s an utterly important one, and I can proudly say that I have never been more financially stable, or independent, as I am in this moment.

4. My own likes and dislikes.
I’ll admit it: I’m impressionable. If someone I spend a lot of time with likes one thing, the chances are that I will begin to like that thing, too. Or, at least, I did. I think that’s also just a part of being young.

Living alone showed me what things I really do like, and really don’t like. As I mentioned above — I really like wine. I like the taste of it, the elegance of it, and the way it just slightly takes the edge off when you need it to. I like pasta, a lot. And I like finding ways to pair my food, pasta or not, with whatever wine I’m drinking. It’s fun, even if it comes off a bit pretentious for a twenty-three-year-old.

I also like the gym. I can’t justify the steep prices for group classes, and things like yoga and Pilates just don’t quite cut it for me. I like to have a well-rounded workout, and I like having it easily accessible.

I don’t like artsy movies. I dragged myself through them for a while, but I would so prefer a lighthearted comedy or even a silly kids show (as evidenced by the fact that we are currently watching Pokémon). I even like watching sports better than the “edgy” movies I once tried to convince myself I was a fan of.

I like to pray alone. Usually, I’ll get into a spot where I want to spill my guts, first to my diary and then to God, once I’ve had a chance to process exactly where His hand is in it. But I don’t necessarily like to share my deepest prayers with others, even though I do believe in the power of prayer. I’ve actually been challenging myself more in this lately as I’ve asked for prayer for some of the tougher things going on. I’m trying to step away from my concerns that such requests are selfish or attention-seeking and trust in God’s love and the power of His people. But I still like to pray alone, more than anything.

5. How to be myself.
This sounds silly, and I realize that. But I think learning how to be yourself is an essential lesson in life, and it’s one that, unfortunately, maybe people don’t learn until later. I see people my age falling into the rut of being what people “expect” them to be — whether its in their career, their personal lives, or even their own likes and dislikes. And I totally get it. Like I said, I’m impressionable. I, of all people, know how easy it can be. But in the past year and a half or so, I’ve learned that there is no way I’m going to give up something I love, or pretend to like something I can’t stand, just because I’m trying to impress someone or try to make them see me in a certain light. It’s not worth it.

I’m not going to spend years saying I love wine and then all of a sudden change my mind just because my boyfriend doesn’t really drink. Same goes for pasta, or prayer, or the color purple. I love all of those things wholeheartedly. I don’t want to become a walking contradiction, and I don’t think it’s necessary. The people who love me will love my affection for Pikachu just as much as they love that I only pay attention to sports when they get to the championship round. Anyone who doesn’t isn’t really worth it. And while I will be the first to admit this isn’t the easiest lesson to learn, it is certainly one of the most transformative. Once you start accepting yourself, you’ll find yourself immeasurably happier. Just trust me on that one.

So, yes. I’m certainly sad to say goodbye to this chapter in my life, and this cute little apartment. But I can walk away with a small sense of pride, I think, knowing that I did it. I lived alone, for a substantial amount of time, and I loved it, for the most part. I learned a lot, about life and about myself, and I think that’s all that you can ask of each chapter in your life. Now, I can only hope that the next one brings just as much growth as this one did.

I have a really good feeling that it will.

I initially wanted to start this post as 23 things I want to do while I’m 23, but I have a bit of an issue with such resolution-type posts… mainly because life is entirely too unpredictable to commit to such a lengthy list.

So instead, in the spirit of learning lessons and growing from them, I decided to reflect on the 23 things I learned before turning 23:

  1. When torn between going to the gym or spending time with people you love, pick the latter. The miles can be run some other time; the memories are far more precious.
  2. That said, when you feel like you need some alone time, don’t be afraid to take it. We can’t be social all the time, and sometimes, it’s okay to make yourself a priority and recharge your batteries. Your mental health will thank you.
  3. That said: don’t be afraid to talk about your health, mental or otherwise. If something hurts, go to a doctor. They’ll fix it, or at least give you options to do so. If you’re struggling emotionally, there is nothing wrong with confiding in someone, be it personally or professionally. We are human beings, and inherently flawed as such. There is no harm, or shame, in admitting that we aren’t perfect and we need help. Everyone will at some point or another.
  4. Taylor Swift has the perfect song for every occasion. I don’t care what anyone says, I will always love her songs for being so relatable.
  5. Some things are better left unsaid, like your not-so-positive opinion of someone’s outfit. Other things, especially the hard things, need to be spoken. No matter the consequence.
  6. Traveling is exciting, invigorating, and an essential part of life – but it is just as important to take the time to be rooted, and relax.
  7. You won’t stay in touch with everyone, no matter how close you were at one point or another. Social media has made it much easier to keep up with people, but there’s a difference between liking every Facebook post and actually knowing what’s going on in their lives.
  8. Then again, when you meet the people who matter most, no amount of distance or time spent apart can sever that bond.
  9. Music can create some of the best connections. So can food.
  10. Pineapple does not belong on pizza.
  11. Loss is an unavoidable truth of life. Whether its the loss of your favorite keychain, losing a game, or the painful loss of a loved one – each loss will help shape us. Maybe we find a new favorite keychain, or learn to stop trying to play the game we just aren’t good at, or a new community who help pull you through a season of grief. Loss will happen, but good can certainly come from it.
  12. Some people will never forgive you for your transgressions. These are the same people who won’t see that you had good intentions even if you mishandle a situation, or let you forget about that time you said something you didn’t entirely mean. These aren’t the people whose opinions should matter.
  13. It’s not as easy to live without a washer and dryer (and dishwasher) as you might think.
  14. Social media is a highlight reel. It’s also a wonderful vessel for communication and a tool to express yourself. Also, most people don’t care if you double post on Instagram.
  15. Sentimental jewelry is worth investing in. Maybe it was frivolous to spend thirty pounds on a Claddagh ring from that tiny silver shoppe in Scotland, but I’ve worn that ring proudly every day as a reminder of both my grandmother’s Scottish heritage and the amazing adventure I took to Edinburgh.
  16. Not all great wine comes in expensive bottles. (However, my favorite wine does.)
  17. Having lofty dreams is totally cool. Having unrealistic expectations is not.
  18. Sometimes, the vision you had for your life at a certain point won’t pan out the way you thought it would… and it will turn out better than you could have imagined. No, I’m not living in London and writing a glamorous travel blog like I once thought I’d be by 23. Instead, I’m dwelling in the desert, quietly exploring new places and experiencing new things, and absolutely loving life.
  19. It’s important to make sure you don’t accidentally select the Uber Pool option. Otherwise, you and your friend might end up in a questionable part of Queens with a bunch of people you don’t know.
  20. Turning away from God during hard times might seem like the easy solution, but it’s absolutely the wrong one. Even if we are angry at Him for putting us through a certain season, we need to turn to Him for guidance. He has reasons, and a plan. Trusting in Him will make everything easier.
  21. The finest things in life are family and friends.
  22. Never buy a romper that is not stretchy enough to step out of without getting entirely undressed. Also, never buy a romper that ties in the back.
  23. The best kind of love shows up when you least expect it.

Here’s to another 365 more days around the sun, and to 24 life lessons to share a year from now.

So far, my September plans have not gone… well, as planned.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that there’s no point in being upset about that.

Life happens. Things change. Relationships come and go, friendships ebb and flow (that unintentionally rhymed). Ultimately, what matters is how we look at the changes and the curveballs that are slung at us, and how we respond to these unexpected twists in our journey that matters.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “the path.” Now, if you’re my family, you’ll laugh at that. If you’re not my family, you’ll give me a quizzical eyebrow raise and ask what sort of new-age tangent I’m about to go on. (Not, of course, that there is anything wrong with new-age beliefs. Anyways.)

I was watching Serendipity the other night. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, despite its horrendously rom-com attributes, and in many ways because of its total rom-com-ness. I can’t help it; there’s something about a love story set primarily in New York City, focusing on the chance meetings and encounters that life brings along that is just captivating. I don’t care how predictable or cheesy the film is. Serendipity will always be one of my favorites. Plus, John Cusack is in it. You have to love it, simply for that reason.

While I was curled up on my couch with the kitty on my lap, watching Sara (no H) and Jonathan try to navigate the web of the world and find each other again, I couldn’t help but think – maybe we should all be a little more serendipitous in our daily lives.

We try, so hard, to plan life. We set goals, we work hard to reach our goals, and when we are going along that “path,” everything feels like it’s right on track.

And then, something happens.

And suddenly, we feel a little bit – or, if you’re me, a lot a bit – off track.

But why?

Because we’re so focused on following the plan that we don’t even take the time to see the possibility… and potentially, the benefits… of jumping off the path, even temporarily.

Life isn’t meant to be planned out. It’s as simple as that. Everybody says it, and everybody is romanticized by this idea of chance… but not enough of us live by it.

So what’s the point in being so intoxicated by it, if we aren’t actually going to let ourselves believe a little bit in it?

I am wildly aware of how terrifying it is to trust in chance. However, I have also been lucky enough to experience how rewarding letting fate take its course can be. I stumbled across an internship about a year and a half ago… it has now blossomed into (what I hope is) a promising career that I absolutely love. But I wouldn’t have ended up here, thriving and excited to go to work every day, if I hadn’t trusted in the random opportunity that happened to fall into my lap.

Sometimes, living serendipitously doesn’t have the happiest results. Sometimes, like John and Sara, it separates us from our “true love” for years – to the point where we’re engaged to others and they are too. Sometimes, all serendipity means is a life lesson.

But that is okay.

Life isn’t supposed to be easy to decipher, and it isn’t always meant to be planned out.

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Sometimes, we just have to throw our hands up, let the plan fly away into the wind, and scream out, que sera sera.

Whatever will be, will be.

Guys.

August was rough. I hate to say that. It’s typically my third-favorite month. It comes after December (because Christmas, duh), and November (because Thanksgiving, double duh). Normally, I relish when the calendar turns to August because it means that the best month of the summer has arrived. It’s both my birthday month and typically includes Tahoe Time, and I usually get a trip to the Bay Area in, too. All of these things typically add up to equal one stellar month.

This year, it was a bit different.

Yes, I still got to go to Tahoe. Yes, I still had a birthday… those clearly don’t change. I didn’t get my Bay Area fix, but I got it in May, and I had just returned from some quality Nelson time in July. None of these things were what was wrong with August.

It was just… rough.

You know those months (or those days, those weeks, those years) that just seem to draaaaag by? That was this one. It just seemed that, despite the good things that happened, there was always a larger, heavier one following. I felt a large portion of this month feeling like I was barely keeping my head above water and that’s just not a fun feeling.

And so, I am really not all that bummed to say goodbye to August 2016.

September will bring changes. In my experience, it always does. Some are great, some are bad, and most of them are unpredictable. But this morning, I got my first Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee of the season (for which I must make a general shout out to the barista’s at my Starbucks, who fully understand my own ex-barista ways and who indulge them accordingly). My best friend flies in for the three day weekend tomorrow afternoon. Next week, the weather will be in the upper 90s.

Fall is coming. Change is near.

I can say goodbye to this rough, life-altering, welcome-to-adulthood-let’s-let-it-kick-you-where-it-counts summer.

And I can say, happily and healthily… hello, September.

If you know me personally (and, for some of you, even if you don’t), you know that my family has been going through a bittersweet transition. We’ve had a place at Lake Tahoe for nearly 50 years, and it has come to the point to make the decision to sell the condo.

My mom and I went into our visit this past weekend with a positive mindset. Partly because, you can’t not be excited to go to Tahoe. And partly because, well, realistically, Tahoe isn’t going anywhere. The lake is large, gorgeous, and people are making a constant and consistent effort to Keep Tahoe Blue. We have the condo for two weeks at Christmas, and our family has plenty of friends that have – incredibly kindly – offered to let us stay, whenever we want.

I’m grateful for that.

And this weekend was absolutely lovely. It always is. The Lake is our “happy place” and it is virtually impossible not to enjoy yourself while you’re there.

I mean, just look at it. It’s breathtaking.

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And Tahoe has given me, and my family, so much.

From Wet Woody’s on the deck at Gar Woods…

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To learning (at a very late age) how to (pathetically) build a snowman…

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(Hey, I live in the desert. Give me a break. )

To bonding over, and devouring, the best dessert known to man. (If you’re ever at Jake’s/Kimo’s/Dukes, get the Hula Pie. You won’t regret it.)

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The family acquired a taste for wine at an early age at canoeing at a more appropriate one…

My aunt and uncle met on the beach there…

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I got carded by the waitress who has known me since before I was born…

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And no matter what happens between our visits, Tahoe never changes. (Well, the shoreline occasionally does. And sometimes, you know, there’s snow.)

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter who owns a condo or where we end up staying. It doesn’t even really matter if we make it back again – although, of course, that’s blasphemy. The Arute blood can’t stay away from those crystal waters too long.

Sure, the beauty of Tahoe is certainly something. There is an air of magic about the place. And that is definitely a tantalizing quality.

But the most magical part of the whole place?

It’s where our memories were made. And our memories aren’t going anywhere… and beyond that, there’s a plethora of future memories waiting to be experienced.

Again.

Tahoe isn’t going anywhere. So thanks, Tahoe, for everything we’ve gotten from you and everything we’ll continue to get.

(But I would appreciate if the pier would reopen.)

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