Hello friends!

It’s been a minute since I’ve had anything to say on here, for more reasons than one.  I’ve been busy – I’ve conferenced, I’ve moved, I’ve worked at the lab day after day in some crazy momentum and now – I’m back.

And I’m back with a very specific plan in mind, at least for the next month: travel.

I’m writing this in the Orlando airport as I wait for my Aer Lingus flight to Dublin.  I’ve set aside five weeks of my summer to wander Ireland and the UK, and I am absolutely thrilled.

Also terrified.  Very, very terrified.

I’ve traveled solo before and I’ve traveled to the UK before, but never for this length of time, and never this spontaneously.  I don’t have a plan.  Well, I have a vague, “I want to go to these places and I have a return flight booked” style plan.

// this girl only looks fearless, inside she's quaking

Anyways, plan or no plan, I came back to this blog because a) I wanted to (and want to return to regular blogging asap) and b) I want to pseudo photo blog my adventures.

Given I’m not spectacular at photography and I don’t own any nice cameras, this ought to be fun!

I also want to recommend places to eat and stay and tour along the way.  Because hey, why not share my new knowledge?

So check back often.  I’m thrilled to see how this goes!

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To go along with the great closet reduction of ’16, I’ve decided to tackle my biggest clutter problem area: the underside of the sink.  When it comes to hygiene and beauty products, I’m a bit of a hoarder.  I keep mascara too long and stock up on five different Bath and Body Works sets and buy soap in bulk instead of only when I need it.  This is probably associated with my candle addiction and a general desire to have everything, including myself, smell amazing.  Maybe it’s because I spent my formative years saturated in chlorine and hairspray, and now I’m making up for lost time (and damaged hair).  Maybe I just really like all the colors b&bw body wash comes in.  Who knows.

What I do know is that this has to stop.

Solution?  Make use of my neuroticism and penchant for list-making.

For a week, I kept track of all the products I used.  I even recorded the general time frame during which I used an item – morning, day, or night.  I noted what I liked to use and what I was really only using in an effort to empty the bottle.  I tossed some expired things I wasn’t even aware I had.  I organized.  I made myself become aware of what I was putting in – and on – my body on a daily basis.

When I reviewed at the end of the week, I realized I didn’t really need a box full of stockpiled body wash and toothpaste.  I wasn’t using anything at a rate fast enough to warrant hoarding.  And if I’m completely honest, I have way more stuff than I even realized that probably won’t make its way into my hygiene rotation until 2017, if that.

Plus, I had another, secret motive for this portion of the decluttering.  I learned a few months ago about microbeads, which are tiny plastic beads used in many different hygiene products.  Unlike natural exfoliating items, microbeads don’t dissolve or biodegrade. They’re also so small that they rarely get filtered out at water plants, meaning that they end up in oceans and landfills and potentially your food and drinking water.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not really interested in trying to digest plastic…

(FYI – microbeads have recently been banned in the United States!  They should be eliminated from all products in 2017)

Microbeads, along with other environmentally conscious thoughts and feelz, are my secret motive.  I want to be more aware of where my various beauty and hygiene products come from, and that means being more restrictive about what I use and when I buy things.  It’s also an unfortunate truth that many environmentally conscious items can end up being expensive when compared to the “less green” options.  Hopefully, shopping less and more consciously will even each other out.

How do I tie all this together?  Well, the first step is eradicating unused and unusable items from my hygiene hoard.  This ranges from expired topical creams to chunky nail polishes – anything that doesn’t function the way it should.  Where I could, I recycled empty containers.  After getting through the toss phase, I moved on to develop a hygiene routine that I now keep posted by my mirror.  This way, I can remove items I find I’m not using anymore, or add products that I transition into my routine.

I haven’t actually made any new purchases, however.  As I run out of particular staples, I’ll start researching products to see if I need to replace anything in my daily cycle, either in terms of environmental impact, cost, or personal usefulness.  But that’ll be the fodder for a future post, so for now, adieu!

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I like to think I wear many hats.  I like to think I can flit from writer to consultant to scientist to dancer to student and beyond.  Wearing this many hats means I can be versatile.  It means I can chameleon my way through life.  But this many hats also means that sometimes I have to sacrifice breadth for depth, and that doesn’t always suit me.

To simplify, my hats slot into two boxes: that of the creative, and that of the scientist.  This is not to say that the scientist isn’t benefited by creativity, nor that the creative doesn’t sometimes require precision.  It just means that these two realms have some sort of fundamental separation between them.  It means that what people expect out of me as a scientist and a researcher is not the same as what people expect out of the writer.

This leaves me with two problems: the problem of breadth, not depth, and the problem of separation.  These two problems are what I’ve come to know of as the root of my struggles since graduating from my undergraduate.  They are problems that look and seem simple to resolve on the surface.  But I promise you – they are not.  I’ve had to dig for solutions.  I’ve had to throw caution to the wind at times, while often struggling to keep silent at others.  It feels wild because this has become a balancing act in the search to find balance.

And no, I haven’t succeeded yet.  I probably never will, at least not in any consistent way.  But over the past year and a half I have found a lot of ways to manage and a lot of ways to learn.  Seeing as I’m a reader through and through, books have been some of the best resources.  I’ve started developing a stack of memoirs (mostly by female authors) and travel guides, self-help books and advice from creatives.  I call it my “avocation reading list” because it exists to help me employ my passions.

I plan on sharing more from the list in the coming year, but I wanted to start by talking about two books that really kickstarted this reading journey.  One is a travel advice text and the other is one for creative living, but both tout the benefits of simple lives and creative outlooks.  Neither tries to give the reader a one-fix-all kind of solution, instead offering many different examples and situations for the reader to relate to.  I listened to both as audiobooks and both are narrated by the authors, so while I personally still prefer physical copies I can mark up, I can definitely recommend them as short and easy listens.

The first book is Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts.  I think I had heard of this book years ago but not in any interesting way.  Instead, I found it organically in my Audible “suggested listens” list.  Vagabonding is about long-term world travel, not creative living, but the precursors to that travel involve a change of lifestyle and outlook that I consider fairly inherent to an everyday, creative life.  The book is full of practical tips and hilarious anecdotes, as well as stories from travelers all over the world.  However, I think the most important part is Potts’s continual insistence on openness to experience (which is part of psychology’s big five personality traits, so this is was a surprising example of creative/scientific crossover) and simplistic choices.

The other book wasn’t about travel, though the author has done plenty – instead, it was a book specifically on creative living.  Big Magic is Elizabeth Gilbert’s foray into the self-help side of memoir, and I have to admit that it felt pretty successful to me.  She speaks from the experience of decades immersed in creativity, but she’s always honest about the fears and issues that arise in the process.  Her words are amazing (particularly in audio form) because she gives you permission to try and fail.  She literally gives you permission.  (I think it’s around chapter three.)  Because I listened to this after Vagabonding, I felt like I was listening to an echo that had grown stronger and more self-relevant: it seemed like the universe was trying to tell me to embrace fear as a part of life, but to live on in spite of it.

Listening to these books, and being able to listen to them on consecutive drives from and to Orlando, felt like a tiny contained bit of depth in my life.  It felt like an open door or a sudden bit of empty space in my otherwise cluttered life.  In the few weeks since I experienced them, my life hasn’t changed dramatically, I haven’t picked up and left my work or done anything wildly creative – but I have felt more open.  I have felt more possible, in a way, like being is a little bit easier when you notice the sky every morning or the rain at night.


Have you ever tried to embrace creative living?  Do you have any book suggestions for my reading list?

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My roommate and I have started a new tradition – we’ve begun (erratically) frequenting a self-proclaimed “nerd bar” on Friday nights to sing karaoke.

It started on accident.  We had gone to the bar because we had heard amazing things about their grilled cheese, and suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a happy crowd of amateur singers.  And man, was it infectious!  Before we knew it we were up dancing and laughing and singing along.  I even got up on stage to sing “Toxic” by Britney Spears, a throwback to my days in high school show choir.  And a few weeks later, my roommate finally braved the stage for a rendition of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”  Instant hit with the audience!Continue reading

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I’ve been having one of those humdrum weeks where even a mani-pedi and a well-crafted schedule can’t make me feel better.  I’ve danced, I’ve sang, I’ve watched enough Netflix to validate my need for a subscription (and then some), yet I can’t shake the blues.  I don’t even really feel like reading, which is normally an indicator that I am exhausted beyond belief.  It doesn’t help that two of my current reads are statistical texts.  Nobody really wants to read those, I promise.  Even stats nerds don’t want to read them.  I’m related to a couple of stats nerds, so I can say that last statement with confidence.  No one wants to read about stats.

Too bad for me: if I want to effectively complete my courses this semester, I will have to force them down.  Thankfully they pair well with ice cream and self pity.Continue reading

I had a post planned about one specific recent obsession (more on that in a later post!) but managed to leave all my blog notes on campus today, after leaving all my research notes at home the previous Friday.  Clearly, I have not returned from vacation mind.  As January is almost over, this is just a little bit disturbing, but we’ll let my therapist deal with that 😉

Instead, I will be telling you about several of my recent obsessions!  It helps that I fall in love with music/books/restaurants/other people’s pets so quickly.  In order to make sure I wasn’t just listing things I could see from my desk, I turned to my friend Emily for topic suggestions.  Thank goodness for pals who don’t mind frantic “tell me what to blog about!” Skype dates!Continue reading

It doesn’t seem like it’s been three months since I developed my first ever fall capsule wardrobe.  I based it on Project333‘s suggested wardrobe of 33 items (though I didn’t include accessories or shoes in my capsule, I got as many of those as I wanted!), and I have to say, I had a great time!  I never ran out of clothing and no one ever commented on me wearing “the same thing” all the time.  I even discovered some fun new ways to pair articles of clothing together!

But now that the Sept-Nov run is over, I have a few thoughts on my first capsule wardrobe.Continue reading

I’ve had a couple of posts recently that were planned and missed, though I’m happily planning on adding them soon – after all, both are on topics I’m interested in talking about.  I missed them on purpose.  I missed them because it felt flippant to post them, even if no one saw them but my friends.  Before I post them, first, I wanted to just write.  I didn’t want an outline or a topic.  This is my one hundredth post, and I want it to have a little extra meaning.

There have been a lot of tragedies in the world recently.  Tragedy isn’t a thing unique to the present, but it is something that feels far more salient today than it might have back in January.  At least to me.  And I know I’m not the only one with this sudden, eye-opening awareness.  It’s easy to pretend that bad things never happen, just as its easy to pretend bad things will never happen again.  (Or, if you’re a fatalist, it’s easy to imagine the good will never come back.)  It’s easy to feel like there’s nothing that you, as an individual, can do to make a difference.  I feel that way all the time, and it’s terrifying.  I’ve never been interested in fame or fortune in the stereotypical sense, but I have, for my entire life, felt this incredible desire to have an impact on the lives of others.  A positive impact.  I want to be a person that people look to for help.  I may only be able to provide a shoulder to cry on, but still: I want to help.

So I understand feelings of futility.  I also understand feelings of relief, that I am still safe, that my people are still safe, that I am not in a place where I have to live in fear.  I am in a place where I can wear what I want and say what I want and do what I want, and for the most part, I am completely safe when participating in all of those behaviors.

I am so, so blessed to have these freedoms.

But it concerns me that these freedoms aren’t universal, and it concerns me that people have decided to police these freedoms with violence.  Even more than that, though, it concerns me that there are people in the world, in my city, in my own family, who would rather bury their heads than risk learning about how they can help create a better world for everyone.  Friends say to me, “well, what can I do,” and shrug off responsibility, as if it were something that you can give up.  You can’t.  Responsibility is an inherent part of being human.  You can’t say you’re not helping, that you’re not making an impact, because every time you interact with another person, you are changing them.

I know this is true, because a girl I taught at summer camp three years ago emailed me out of the blue to tell me I was integral in her plans to one day be a pediatrician.  All because she said I encouraged her to try her best.

I know this is true, because one of my fellow researchers, a woman I disagree with vehemently on many political points, has thanked me for always talking to her with an open mind.

I know this is true, because I once spent an hour discussing religion with three strangers in a Panera, and while we might not have left with changed minds, we left with the sense of peace that comes from have open and honest discourse, free from the vitriol so many use freely in their arguments.

I know this is true, because I am changing all the time.

Maybe this isn’t a solution to the horrors that have occurred in San Bernadino, in Paris, in Yemen, in Lebanon, in so many parts of the world.  But it is something we should all consider.  Kindness, to all, to anyone, but most of all to those we are afraid of, is the first step toward finding common ground.  And once we reach that ground, we have the opportunity to build.

About a month ago, I announced that I was going to go on a semi-hiatus in order to reassess my blogging priorities and practices.  I may not have blogged much during that time, but I did write a proposal for a pretty prestigious grant (fingers crossed!), planned and held a social event for over one hundred people, traveled to Los Angeles and back, and really considered what I want out of my graduate program, my blog, and my life external to both of those things.

Ultimately, I developed a couple of goals that I hope will be a) achievable and b) satisfying.  I won’t bore you with the goals related to my work life – I’ll save them for after I’ve successfully implemented them – but I also have new goals related to my blog that I’m more than happy to share here.

First, though, I should mention that I have tried to pursue blogging goals before; except for one ill-fated post (which I’m still working on, mind you), I haven’t ever tried to really express them in words or share them with anyone else, let alone with the internet as an audience.

As a researcher (and a student of life), I know that the best way to accomplish goals is to make them concrete and break them down to manageable steps.  These steps should be measurable and concise, because otherwise, how are you going to know you’re done with them?  I kept this in mind as I did my “soul-searching” this past October.  It led to two overarching themes in my future blog plans: how I want to use my blog for personal development and what goal I have for my blog as an entity.

My primary usage of my blog: to develop a consistent writing habit.  It’s been helpful this past ten months, but it hasn’t been continuous except in fitful bursts.  I’ve already developed a two month editorial calendar in order to accomplish this goal, and I’m working on finding material so I can create a basic set up “fall-back” posts should I ever run out of time to write one in a more present sense.

My primary goal with the blog: to build an audience.  This is a less tangible goal (though it’s measurable in terms of numbers), but as I’m posting on the internet instead of keeping all this material tucked away into a journal or an email with my mom, it’s clear that I’d like to share my work with the world.  My first plan to accomplish this goal is to simply look at other blogs with a more critical eye and determine what they do well and how they successfully find and keep readers.  This is one of those easy and hard tasks: easy because I spend too much time on the internet anyways, hard because what’s successful for one blogger may not be successful for me, and vice versa.  I’ll have to learn as I implement new techniques to the Music of What Happens.

Concurrently, I will be implementing strategies to achieve goals in my non-blog life as well, so I expect this to be a continuous process, not something I figure out quickly.  But I think it’s going to be fun for me.  I am definitely going to try to make it fun for you, too!  Keep a weather eye on the horizon, my friends, good things are coming this way. 🙂


What are your global goals for your internet presence?  What are more specific steps you use to achieve them?

I’ve been pretty frustrated with various aspects of my life recently.  To be honest, that’s been the theme of the past year and a half of my life – navigating young adulthood has not been as smooth a journey as expected (when is it ever?).  But there are parts of my life that seem to be getting really, really good right now, and other parts that have a lot of potential I never noticed before.

This blog falls in the land of potential.  Until now, I’ve been fussing around with blogging casually, developing grand aspirations and barely following through.  This is not how I generally like to operate, yet I’ve let it slide up until now because I always figured I get around to cleaning it up “later.”

Well, later needs to be now.

So for the next few weeks*, I’ll be on semi-hiatus.  I say semi because you can expect literature-related content as a finish one or two classics from book club, but not much else.  I don’t want to give up on this blog – I really like writing for a blog, it’s cathartic and fun and educational – but I want it to be good, not just a bunch of random content thrown slapdash together.  I’ll be taking a step back to develop themes and finally get around to editing posts and standardizing my social media presence.  I’ll also be taking a step back because I need time to write an NSF grant, but maybe there will be more on that later. 🙂

Just sit back and relax.  Before you know it, the Music of What Happens will be playing again.


* I say weeks because I have no timeline for this hiatus, at least not yet.