What Kissing Strangers Has Taught Me About Being Brave

Dear P,

A couple of weeks ago, you posted a video of complete strangers kissing. It inspired me to go up to random strangers and ask them if I could kiss them. This has led to loads of fun make-out sessions and a bad cold.

Just kidding. I haven’t been kissing strangers, just asking if I can take their pictures and ask a few questions, mainly about UT. I started a HONY-knockoff blog called “Seen on UT Campus”. For the last month, I have tried to post at least every day. I started this blog so that I could get better at speaking to strangers and to make people feel like individuals at this giant university.

I have to gather my courage for every one of these interviews. I get so nervous, I might as well be asking if I could put my mouth on their mouth. I’m not afraid of the possibility that the person I am interviewing will not want their photo taken. Every person I have asked so far has been flattered. What irks me about these interviews is that they are always awkward, at least for a couple seconds.

The price of human interaction is effort and awkwardness. It takes a certain amount of effort for me to make a space in my day to walk around campus with my camera. More than that, I very much dread the uncomfortable first few seconds of the interview, when the person asks, “Why do you want my picture?” and I have to respond, “I run a blog called ‘Seen On UT Campus.’”  This response always makes me feel stupid. It makes me feel stupid to admit that I care enough about something to go out and take pictures of strangers every day. I feel vulnerable, and I start interviewing my subject as soon as possible.

Brené Brown taught us that vulnerability is the key to having meaningful connection in our lives. I am going to go a step forward, and say that awkwardness is a key to having meaningful connections in our lives. You are supposed to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Yesterday, I read this article in Rookie. It is a roundtable discussion about money. The participants in the discussion came from all different backgrounds and they talked about how money and class affects their lives. The reader can tell that there are parts that made each of the writers uncomfortable, but they forged through this taboo topic because it helps them to understand each other more honestly. Another taboo in our society is tragedy. Last month, a member of our hometown community went through a grievous series of events. M and I were talking yesterday about how we keep trying to make letters, cards, and gifts for her, but they all seem trite. Our inability to give back to a person who has helped us so much makes us feel guilty, which feeds back into our lack of action. M and I made a pact yesterday that we would send in the things we had written, even if they seem lame to us. We decided it was more important to show our support than say the perfect thing.

The discomfort I feel every day for my “Seen on UT Campus” project helps me through conversations like this. I always admire how comfortable you feel talking about religion. Yesterday, Nick Offerman came to speak at UT. He started talking about his views on religion and you could feel the tension building. A lot of people left the event. Offerman talked about the need to have calm, open discussions about religion. I agree with this sentiment, even though I think these conversations can only happen if we have nothing to prove, if we accept that we disagree with other sentiments and they are still valid. Not long ago, Bill Nye the science guy had a debate with Ken Ham about evolution vs. creationism. Everyone I have talked to, including some of my professors, agree that this debate was a colossal waste of time. Creationists are aware the evidence for evolution, for the most part. They just choose not to believe it, which makes me uncomfortable, but it is their own business what they believe. To continue a positive discussion with a creationist, I would have to embrace my discomfort and listen carefully to what they have to say. You are very good at doing this, P.

I may not be kissing strangers, but as a human, I deal with uncomfortable situations every day. I try to put myself in as many uncomfortable situations as possible so that I can expand my comfort zone. You do the same, taking hard classes and putting on magnificent events that could go wrong. Yesterday I listened to James Altucher’s podcast with Dan Harris. Harris talked about a phrase his father used a lot: “Insecurity is the price of security.” The price of having solid, open relationships is effort and discomfort. Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations is the cost of striving to be better.

Love,

E

Nostalgia

Dear E,

I found a picture of us from the summer and decided I needed to post it because, obviously, you are my woman crush and today is Wednesday so a #wcw was in order. Here’s the picture.

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I couldn’t tell you all of the details from that day, but I do remember paddling around Barton springs in the same canoe, and you laying down in my lap, and me forcing that random guy to take photos of us with my disposable. He was teasing me about it, but it was totally worth it. I remember making everyone take jumping pictures, and not much else, but I know I was thinking there was nowhere I’d rather be than with one of my best friends.

After I posted this picture I went on to go stalk your instagram. Some of your photos got upwards of 180 likes (like the ones of me jumping tehehe). I remember when you really got into photography. Every moment was a photo opportunity. We were such a dynamic duo, you with your camera always on hand and me with my awkward poses.

I seriously miss you so much. Looking through your instagram feed made me extremely happy and extremely sad at the same time. It brought back so many memories, of sunlight and the Texas heat and quests and having nothing to do except ride around in my car and blast music and find cool places to take pictures. We had it so good, E. The picture of you, me, JM, Gabe, and  Shalini in octathlon, being adorably awkward or the picture of the polaroids we took last New Year (which was amazing, because I can’t think of anyone else I would’ve wanted to start the night off with, slash holy crap, those gowns>>>>). There’s pictures of us making words with glow-sticks and spinning around in tutus we crafted with our bare hands. There’s pictures of us creating flower crowns in the summer and me throwing leaves into the camera in the fall and photos in libraries, in mirrors, in tunnels; the list goes on. Looking at all of your pictures makes me think of all the times we didn’t take pictures too, like when you and me and Wesley would skip orchestra to watch Harry Potter (woah the nerdiness of that sentence kills me), or when I would go to your house to nap in your bed because my house was on the other side of town, or that time we sat by the heart in the park and I cried my eyes out. It’s weird how many images our tiny old town holds for me. I can’t wait to be back so we can forge a whole new set of memories, hopefully with a few we manage to captures in time forever.

Sorry for being so nostalgic. Love ya!

P

Making Mondays Sunny

Quote of the Week:

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

Golda Meir

Dear P,

It has been a been a beautiful week filled with great food and better companions. The “Things I’m Grateful For” list this week might as well be “Best Food in Austin”.

Things I’m Grateful For:

My mama’s visit, getting this article into Thought Catalog, learning that I was accepted to my study abroad to Australia next spring, eating at Zocalo CafeKerby Lane, and Clay Pit in the last twenty-four hours, feeling better after being droopy at the beginning of the week, journal night with I, dinner at Hula Hut with S, hot chocolate from Walton’s, a visit inside our breathtaking Texas capital, samples from Whole Foods, finishing Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography on the Librivox podcast (it was free), getting your mom’s friend request acceptance on Facebook, my stellar run last Monday, visiting the Half-Priced Books in Austin for the first time, my on-point outfit last Tuesday, and missing our very sad UT football game yesterday.

Hungry yet, P?

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Things to Make Next Week Sunnier:

Continue following the daily practice, study hard for neurobiology, trying to start doing yoga and meditating again and avoid comparing my life to the lives of others.

I’m missing you loads and I hope everything is stellar in Boston.

Love,

E

Some of My Favorite Businesses in Austin, TX

“Some of the most consistent innovators of the modern era have also been among its biggest monsters. [Think of] the diabolical creativity of Nazi Germany, which was the first country to use ballistic missiles, jet fighter planes, assault rifles, and countless other weapons. And yet nobody wanted to add Peenemünde, where the Germans developed the V-2 rocket during the 1940s, to the glorious list of creative hothouses that includes Periclean Athens, Renaissance Florence, Belle Époque Paris, and latter-day Austin, Texas.”

 

Dear P,

Austin is my favorite city in the world. Everything here is vibrant and growing. Austin is not just a city, it’s an attitude. Here are five businesses that truly capture the Austin vibe and how:

Whole Foods

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The headquarters of Whole Foods is just down the street from me. I pay homage to it regularly, as you know. Whole Foods has been heavily criticized for its prices, as in this article by the Huffington Post, but I think the prices are justified by the volume of free samples and the quality of the customer service. The people that work there are genuinely passionate about Whole Foods and your experience as a customer. You can’t fake that.

Car2Go

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Unlike Whole Foods, Car2Go is not a local Austin business. It was started in Ulm, Germany in 2008. However, it’s taken off in Austin and I want to talk about it. The concept is brilliant. You find a nearby car on their handy app, swipe a card, enter a pin number, and can use a car for as long as you want at $0.38 a minute. It’s perfect for a college student because you don’t have to pay for parking on campus. Gas is provided as well. The only disadvantage is that, occasionally, other people are using all the cars in your area and you have to go on a walk-around until you find an available vehicle.

Buffalo Exchange

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I thought Buffalo Exchange was an Austinian product, but turns out it started in Tucson, Arizona. Regardless, my Buffalo Exchange, the one by UT campus, is definitely the coolest, because it has a conglomeration of clothes from only the coolest students, professors, and other UT backwash (see this article that dubs UT the most “hipster” campus in all of America). You can find anything at Buffalo Exchange, which you learned firsthand during your visit this summer.

Amy’s Ice Cream

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The best ice cream in the entire world. Trust me, I was breastfed on Bluebell. The people that work there are always so cheerful and funny. They let you take pictures with them if you wear their silly hats. The word on the street is that you have to undergo a strenuous application in order to be employed by Amy’s. Overall, it’s the best quality food institution I have ever encountered.

Lush

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Lush isn’t an Austin native, either. However, I was aware of this ahead of time because it was one of my favorite places to visit when I lived in Cork, Ireland. Lush is like a fragrant Disneyworld for adults, both male and female. A charming employee will lead you around the store, trying out all the different fizzy, smooth, and grainy concoctions. I was so excited when I found it in Austin, right next to Amy’s on 6th Street.

BookPeople

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I saved the best for last. BookPeople is an independent bookstore and is only found in Austin. Not only is it one of my favorite businesses in my city, it’s one of my favorite areas in the world. If you are a book person, you will eventually find your way here, and you will love it. Read this lovely article about how BookPeople fights to stick it to the man in the calmest possible way.

Basically, P, your statement that Boston is better than Austin is, right now, refuted. Keep Austin Weird.

Loads of love,

E

Kissing Summer Good-Bye

“No summer ever came back, and no two summers ever were alike. Times change, and people change; and if our hearts do not change as readily, so much the worse for us.”

-Nathaniel Hawthorne

Dear P,

Isn’t it ridiculous how our lives keep getting better and better? I thought that summer 2012 would be un-toppable, but it looks like we’ve done it again. We both hung out with fun, joyful people, had the opportunity to give science-ing a try, and read a bunch of great books. My summer involved some great music and poetry, going to the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, lounging at Barton Springs, and getting splattered with bodily fluids while volunteering at the hospital.

I’m so glad I got to see so much of you this summer, P. Let’s start planning to make next summer even better.

Love,

E

Austin Lovin’: E’s Camera

P’s visit in pictures and one GIF

Friday

 

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P gets Chacos

 

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Bookpeople: the best bookstore in Austin and possibly the world

Saturday

 

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Kirby Lane

 

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If you’re ever in South Congress, check out the costume store “Lucy in Disguise”

 

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“Uncommon Objects” is also a pretty amazing store. It reminds me of my grandma’s house.

P, thank you so much for visiting. I had one of the best weekends I’ve ever had in ATX and I miss you already.

Stay weird,
E

Ways to Get Educated

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Hi P!

You’re coming to my dorm in less than three hours. I’ve been living in sparkling anticipation and I have so many adventures planned for this weekend.

Yesterday, I was having lunch with our friend B and I mentioned MIT OpenCourseWare. To my surprise, he had never heard of it. There are so many ways to educate yourself using nothing more than a device with an internet connection that college is gradually becoming obsolete.

Here are a few:

MIT OpenCourseWare

If can’t find the course you want on MIT OCW, here’s some more. And yet more by iUniv, a Japanese start-up company. The University of Pittsburgh has free courses hereAlison is another great courseware database. So is UDAcity.

Khan Academy! Sal is the best math teacher I’ve ever had.

If you want to interact with other learners or real teachers, try P2PU, where volunteers act as free tutors, or OpenStudy, which has a similar goal.

If you want to learn a language for free, help me beat the Rosetta Stone monopoly and click here. Duolingo is one of my favorite websites.

Textbooks are expensive and cumbersome. Rather than buy an expensive art history textbook, use this. Thanks again, Khan Academy! CK-12 is a textbook site that provides books for kindergarten through 12th grade students. Flat World Knowledge textbooks are for the more collegiate. They are published under an open license, so they can be edited by professors. Connexions is a website with lots of learning modules, all for free!

These are just resources to find information. If you are looking to improve your study regime, I highly recommend Quizlet. You can share your flash cards with all your friends and test yourself on your phone with their cool app. Scott Young is my favorite learning-focused self-improvement blogger. He recently tried to take MIT’s entire computer science curriculum in twelve months.

Different ways of acquiring knowledge beg the question: Is college really worth it? I think so, mostly for the reasons Scott outline here. I am in the fortunate situation of being able to work in an important research lab over the summer, an opportunity I would not have if I were not in school. However, many people think college is a scam. Here are James Altrucher’s eight alternatives to college. I think we should all be able to justify our decision about whether to attend college as readily as we can justify our religious and philosophical beliefs.

Happy learning!

E

Making Mondays Sunny

P’s Quote

“The world will knock you down plenty. You don’t need to be doing it to yourself.” -Elizabeth Scott

Things I Love This Week

For some reason I’m having trouble thinking of the things I love this week, so I guess I’ll revert back to the things I always love in life

My family, texts from my little brothers, my best friend E, sleeping, being alone, going to the library (the Boston Public Library is absolutely beautiful), texting C all the time, yoga, free smoothies, how helpful people are here all the time, the flavor pineapple surf, and the fact that summer is almost here and school is almost freaking over, and the thought of being back home in t minus 3 weeks

Things to Make This Week Sunnier

study really really freaking hard

eat some froyo

work out as much as I did last week (I really went at it)

study some more

go to the movie theater

hang out with people I don’t usually hang out with

study study study

My birthday is coming up soon! At this current point in time I can’t say that I’m really excited for it. I’m not really looking forward to it and it’s my first birthday away from home, which is sad. It’s also on Wednesday, which is humpday, making it exponentially lamer. I guess 19 isn’t really a big one, except for that you know it’s your last year of teenagedom, which is both exhilarating and sad.

Here’s for hoping that next week is a good one.

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Surgeries in the OR

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Pics from Macklemore with K and A.

Much love,

P

Sorry, P! I got so sucked into studying yesterday that I completely forgot MMS!

E’s Quote

“What a joy it must be to be a truly great writer, even if it means a shotgun at the finish”
-Charles Bukowski
I’m sorry this is a depressing quote. I don’t believe you have to be suicidal to be a truly great writer, but lately I have been investigating the ties between mental illness and creativity. I think Bukowski sums this correlation up with his usual grit.

Things I Loved This Week

The weather in Austin. I can’t imagine anything more perfect.

Eating Indian food on top of a hill Saturday night.

My dorm had a festival Saturday. It involved a lot of bouncy contraptions, bubbles, ice cream and a climbing wall.

Making pumpkin muffins with A squared while watching “The Lion King 2”

The hunt for the perfect overalls with I. I still haven’t found them yet.

Eeyore’s Birthday.

Getting glamorous Friday night. Then traipsing home early enough to indulge in a music-sharing and freestyle fest.

Snapchats. Snapchats. Snapchats.

Quizlets, Koofers, and chai tea lattes: the three ingredients to actually studying.

I’ve just been feeling a lot of love this week, you know? I’m so grateful to have you and T and A and I. It makes me tear up to think of how lucky I am.

I wrote James Atrucher and JAMES ALTRUCHER WROTE ME BACK. It was the most exciting thing ever. We’re basically best friends now.

Things to Make Me Happy This Week:

Ace my finals

Keep following Altrucher’s “Daily Practice” (laminated for me by I’s mom)

Sending you lots of love, P! Keep on keeping on, and you’ll be home in Texas soon!

E

Chuck Norris Never Finished a Marathon

Dear P,

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A and my mom were more nervous than I was when we got to the race. My mother was genuinely worried I was going to defecate in my pants. She usually has a lot more faith in her potty-training.

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(A and I, pre-race)

The energy at the starting line was magnetic. It made me feel as if I was humming with power and potential movement. This high persisted until the fourteenth mile, which dragged the most. P, it was like that night in Scotland where we walked for such a long time that I fell on the beach and refused to get up; there was the same sense of time unfolding on itself. I ran with a bouncy girl named L for about eight miles, up until the fourteenth. It left a bitter taste in my mouth to fall behind her, but a body can only do so much.

From the fourteenth to the seventeenth mile I ran by myself. This was the most intense part of the marathon for me. The fourteenth to seventeenth mile in a marathon are like your sophomore year of high school: you no longer feel like you are having a novel experience but there’s no end in sight. I’m glad I was running alone: the concentration I employed to continue putting one foot in front of the other left no room to pay attention to what anyone else was doing. At the seventeenth mile, a boy with “Where’s Waldo?” socks started running beside me and yelling encouragement. Apparently I looked like I needed it. I am inclined to believe this stranger was an angel; when I asked him he didn’t deny it. He floated onward at the nineteenth mile, when A came.

My mom and A were meeting me everyone two or three miles to deliver water and this gel stuff that started to stick in my throat after the fifth mile. At the nineteenth mile, A started running with me. She delivered a constant stream of motivation and encouragement for the next seven miles. I didn’t know it was possible for a human being to yell constantly while running seven miles to a non-responsive companion, but A did it. She didn’t just encourage me, but everyone within a ten-step radius of me. I don’t know how I ended up with friends like you and her, but somehow I won the bff-lottery.

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(Me leaning on A post-finish-line)

There were two little hills right before the finish line. I sprinted up the first hill, certain that the finish line was on the other side. When it wasn’t, I actually started crying, but thankfully kept running. From the top of the second hill I caught sight of the finish line and started absolutely flying. I had planned to look cute, or at least smile, as I crossed the finish line, but I just ended up looking furious. I think I was still annoyed at the two hills.

Unlike my predecessor Pheidippides, the first Marathon runner, I did not drop dead when I crossed the finish line. I hugged my mom for a long time. She started crying. I think it must be a strange feeling for something that came out of your uterus to run twenty-six miles. She was very glad I had managed to keep my bowel movements in check.

P, I definitely recommend running a marathon if you ever get the chance. It leaves you with a satisfied feeling.

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See you in three weeks in Boston!

-E

ACL and Birthday Fun In Pictures!

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Day 1: My Birthday

Tegan & Sara:

 

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Florence + the Machine

 

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And the one and only

 

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At the Black Keys, S and I were in the very front. It was the best end to a birthday ever.

October 13th:

Saturday was much more relaxed with:

Rufus Wainwright

Andrew Bird

 

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The Shins

 

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Jack White

 

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And lastly, October 14th:

Kimbra

 

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Freelance Whales

 

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Gary Clark Jr.

 

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Polica

The Civil Wars

 

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They were so cute.

The Lumineers

The Avett Brothers

 

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Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

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Thank you for the fashion site you forwarded:

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2kxBg9/:1yILT1@jN:Mz3RKkbx/www.catherinenicole.com/blog/2012/10/what-to-wear-to-acl-music-festival-2012/

It was helpful during my more indecisive fashion moments.

I hope you’re not getting tired of my constant snap-chatting because it is SO FUN. Also, I miss you every day. The only time I feel the least bit homesick is when I think of your giant car with it’s amazing speakers. And our Tuesday lunches in which we ate Wendy’s salads, spilled our guts out and came up with solutions to all the world’s problems.

Hugs and kisses,

E

P.S.- Shout-out to S for letting me use her pictures! My camera was sadly out of action.