Monday, August 24, 2009

The Misadventures Continue

When I say that I'm all or nothing, I'm really not kidding. This impassioned personality drives me to do ridiculous things, such as collect every single issue of InStyle for years and years on end or spend an entire summer's worth of paychecks on bras and panties or voraciously read an entire 500 page book in two sittings.

Consequently, Memoirs of a Geisha is the best piece of fiction that I have read in a long time.

I feel slightly guilty when I disappear into another world like that; I mean, I don't want to miss out on roommate bonding simply because my mind moved to WWII era Japan last Friday. So when Jessie popped into my bedroom last night to say that she was going on a walk, I benevolently tore myself away from the pages. It was cool and dark by the time that she and Allison and I left the townhouse, so we thought we should probably walk on campus where there are lights. You know, Allendale is very dangerous and just to be on the safe side.

Let's just talk about Grand Valley's campus for a minute. First of all, it is the most gorgeous campus I have ever seen in my life. Granted, I instantly fell in love with North Park when I visited it in Chicago three years ago; it seemed like the perfect, quintessential college campus with its brooding buildings and hidden walkways in the city. I never thought I would find anything better, but as I walked on my campus late last night for the first time in months, my heart swelled in pride. There are trees everywhere. Artwork and sculptures and ponds and pathways and perfectly manicured lawns define this place. Under the stars and the moonlight last night, I couldn't help but reflect on all of the memories and experiences that I have had in this place and my heart fell just a little bit more in love.

Now, there are a number of things that every Grand Valley student has to do before they graduate, an unofficial list of sorts. For example, there is a giant metal ball hanging off of one of the buildings that nearly every freshman jumps on to take stupid pictures and post them to Facebook. I think that the purpose is to show... I don't know, circular motion or inertia or gravity or torque or some other word that I don't really know the meaning of, but I can pretend. Anyway, I was above such things as a freshman, but mainly because I have an irrational fear of jumping onto things.... like rope swings endlessly terrify me. Whatever. The point is that it was something that kind of needed to be done before I graduated, and last night seemed as good a night as any.

It wasn't that bad, really, but it wasn't that spectacular either. I mean, the three of us laughed at how STUPID I looked, but other than that, it wasn't that big of a deal. So we traipsed over to the fountain outside of Student Services to check another thing off the list.

You see, there is this fountain, this beautiful three-tiered fountain that looks somewhat spectacular when it's all lit up at night. Students are obviously highly discouraged from getting into said fountain, but... we're college students so Allison and Jessie and I decided to wade around in it. Jess jumped up on the edge of it, more hyper than I've seen her in a long time, and while Allison and I finished rolling up our pants, she jumped in.

Except you know how wet surfaces are, oh I don't know, SLIPPERY?? Yeah, the bottom of this shallow fountain was no different, and before we really knew what was happening, Jess's feet slid out from underneath her and she fell. In the fountain. Just slipped and fell. It was like watching a cartoon character step on a banana peel, only to pause midair and then plummet to the ground in a heap. If she had been mere inches to the right or left, she could have been seriously hurt...but she wasn't.

Consequently, I think I blacked out from laughing so hard.

I'm not kidding. Allison and I were literally rolling around on the brick walkway, wheezing from laughing too hard. Jess just jumped out of the water and came and sat on top of us with her wet clothes dripping all over our dry ones. I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard. It was a really good night.

I won't go into details about how Allison and I lifted Jess into the next tier of the fountain or how we nearly froze on our walk home or how a couple boys in rollerblades nearly killed us on the way, but suffice it to say it was a good night. Maybe it was one of those nights where you had to be there to get it... or maybe it set the tone for a really great semester. Either way, I'm still laughing.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Same Questions, New Adventures

Here I am. Finally.

Here I am where I belong, where I love, where I grow, where I nearly always long to be. I am back in my townhouse; it feels so incredibly, deliciously different this year. I have two new roommates and the change in temperament is tangible. I walk in and feel calm. I walk in and feel at home. I walk in and feel like I never left.

Well, that's not really true. Last year ended on a high note and while this year looks like it's picking up pretty much right were I left off, there are going to be some serious changes in my life.

I don't mind change, for the most part. I think I've told you that before. With the exception of leaving my heart at school to come home for the summer, I have never feared the unknown. I'm learning, though, that change and the unknown are not always the same thing. The unknown is scary and dark and mysterious; change is just her cheeky little sister. Last week, relationships changed in my life. My wonderful youth pastor moved to Texas. My childhood best friend got married. Other important friendships redefined themselves considerably. The tables are turning once again, and once again I am on the verge of something big.

To say that this summer was horrible would be a gross exaggeration; to say that I was happy would be only a slight exaggeration; to say that I loved it would be a lie. I'm caught in the balancing act between growing out of one home and into another, vacillating between childhood and adulthood. Saying goodbye to Steve and seeing Kelsey as a beautiful bride solidified this fact in my mind, but this summer as a whole taught me too. My world continues to turn and all I can do is observe it, continually trying to redefine myself and my position in it as the woman I am becoming.

One conversation I had the summer before I moved to college always strikes me in times like this. I was at Food Dance with Rachel, an awesome, beautiful friend of mine. She had graduated from college a year earlier, and I will never forget the look on her face or the tone of her voice when she leaned over and said, "Carly, I am a completely different person today than I was when I was a freshman." At the time, I tried to envision the Carly of the Future, the college graduate, the one that was so vastly different than the one sitting in Food Dance that day. What was I going to be like? Prettier? Thinner? More serious? More focused? In a wildly different career path than creative writing?

Over two years later and I'm halfway done with undergrad and I can partially answer those questions: Yes....and no. I know I am different than I was as a freshman. The pictures on my wall prove it. My friendships prove it. The way I think and the way I go about doing things proves it. I feel different. I don't know how, exactly, but I know that I am. I know I am when I look at three of the girls who have been constant in my life since I got to GVSU and see their growth and progress. I know we're on the same page. I know I'm heading in the right direction.

So I start this year the way I left the last one: on the verge of something huge, something great, something fabulous and Carly-specific. My hopes are incredibly high, and I have faith that I won't be disappointed. I'm ready. The only question that remains is who wants to go on this adventure with me?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Ode Full of Hatred and Love

Since it's been over a year since I started writing this blog, let's do a quick recap of things that should be obvious to anyone who has ever looked at it for even the flashiest of flashes.

1. My name is Carly.

2. I think writing is okay.

3. I live in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

4. I go through phases.

5. I sort of like college.

6. I hate running.

Oh, what is that you say? I've never covered my intense loathing for aerobic activity? Well, well, well...we have a lot of catching up to do.

It's not that I hate working out. I mean, I can be honest enough with myself to say that I don't love working out, but generally once I'm at the gym, I'm okay [except for that one time Shelby and I went for a grand total of 12 minutes...but that's another story altogether...]. I love the burn in my arms and legs and abs when I'm actually working hard. I love being sore and knowing that it's for a reason. I love walking on the track for an embarrassingly long time, daydreaming about different things every day. But I don't love "working out." And I especially don't love running.

Let's just ignore the fact that I'm quite possibly the slowest runner in the world for a moment [but seriously -- I'm pretty sure geriatric grannies pass me with their walkers]. I could get past the ridiculously red face, the icky panting, and that feeling like my throat is about to close up if I could just hit that point that everyone talks about, that elusive Runner's High. Where is that?? Where is my Runner's High?! Plus, all of my friends who are runners always nod their head knowingly and claim that it is an addictive activity, to which all I can say is: YEAH RIGHT. I feel like I'm being lied to constantly.

And okay, maybe I need to run more than three days in a row to get the feel for what they are saying, but it is just so horrible! I push myself hard, but the only thing that has been getting me through it is the idea of this blog post lamenting my situation, and now that this is done...what's next? My music choices are already ridiculous enough... I think I need something different. While most people listen to hard core rap with a beat to keep them going, I vascillate between P!nk, Britney, and other random stuff. Seriously, the other day it was a mix of Gloria Estefan and Queen; I felt like I was the main clip in an 80's movie montage. In my head, I was running on the track, then suddenly I was in a powder pink bathroom, ruining the ozone layer with my intense amounts of hairspray and rimming my eyes in some electric blue liner. Then the scene would cut to me and my friends going through stacks and stacks of vinyl at the album store, with a close up on our fingerless-gloved hands flipping through titles. THEN we'd suddenly be at some killer party, where James Spader and Andrew McCarthy would fight over me. The montage would end with me stepping off the track and straightening my leg warmers, Flashdance style.

Look at the lengths I go to in order to distract myself from the task at hand. I DESIGNED MY OWN 80'S MOVIE MONTAGE. Running is just not working for me.

In all honesty, I never would have made it through the era of high cut bathing suits and Buns of Steel; it would have forced me to be a very different person, a timid and insecure person. As ridiculous as it may seem, I'm incredibly grateful to live in time where curves are more socially acceptable again and where a woman can look like a woman. I don't want to go so far as to say I owe my sense of confidence and self-appreciation to J.Lo or Kim Kardashian, but they've helped, you know? Besides, I think that women like them are more beautiful than skeletal stick figures any day. Feminity and womanly figures should be celebrated, not starved off and ran to the bone.

Maybe I'm just saying that because I really, really hate running. Because I do -- I just detest it. And it can't help that I'm the most impatient person in the world when it comes to exercise results... I do 20 crunches and then feel my abs. On one hand, it's easier to "appreciate" the more natural state of one's body. But on the other hand, I think it's an active decision to love your shape, especially when there is still a lot of pressure coming from different directions to look a certain way. Sir Mix-A-Lot and Beyonce have helped, but even they can't fix everything.

So with that, I'll make my verdict: I still hate running. But that's okay, because I love my body the way it is. And even if, against all odds, I somehow fall into a running phase where I experience the addiction firsthand, it's still okay -- I could run 500 miles a week and still have this Crookston booty. Either way, I'm looking all right.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

All You Need Is Love: The Story Behind the Album

By definition, I consider myself a romantic, but a very specific breed of such -- I am a cliche-hating romantic. I don't believe that there is one specific person out there for everyone, I don't believe in love at first sight, and I promise you that if my future boyfriend/fiancee/husband/whatever chooses to propose to me on Valentine's Day, I will punch him in the face and say no, try again in a week. That is a guarantee. Don't test me, because I will do it, I promise.

That being said, there is something about Christine and her boyfriend Rex that makes me wonder about my staunch stances on such things. Not the Valentine's Day proposal [nothing will ever change my mind about that], but about the concept of soul mates, people born to be together.

I can't quite put my finger on it. The way he treats her, the weird sense of humor that they share, their commonalities and their differences -- it all adds up into being a really beautiful picture of young love. They are real and they are not perfect, but they are better together and they find their strength in their bond. What's more, they have fun together... a lot of it. I've been there -- I've seen it. I don't always understand why the activity of choice is fun, per se [rat birthday party, anyone?], but Christine and Rex have a pretty contagious enthusiasm for life.

To be concise, they are the couple with whom nobody is the third wheel, and as the perennially single girl tagging along with coupled off friends, let me tell you: This. Is. A. Rarity.

Needless to say then, when Rex asked me to help him think of a plan to propose, I died a little bit from excitement. I mean, I've only been waiting for this moment, my entire life -- to be a small part of one of the most important, special moments in one of my best friends' lives??!??! I could probably bounce a couple ideas around, sure...

And so we talked and talked and planned and planned and made phone calls and visited locations and finally, the genius ideas were in place and all that was left to do was to keep it a surprise. This wasn't easy when Christine knew that I knew, and therefore pinned me down on the couch one day, demanding to know what was going on, but at that point I just laughed. I'm so sure. As if I would tell her anything about this.

See, here's the thing: Christine and I have known each other forever. Quite literally, we grew up together at Calvary, at Heritage, at KAMSC...birthday parties, field trips, school changes, lab practicals, graduation, college nightmares and triumphs, breakups, health scares, family issues -- we've been through a lot together. So you'd think that we might have photographic evidence of this...except we don't. Christine and I had one picture together since second grade, and it wasn't even cute. It was obnoxious.

See? Oh gross. I can't believe I'm putting this on here. We were sitting in my car in Christine's driveway. This was the day before I left for Brazil, and by the time that I got home, Christine was already going to be at State for school. Effectively, we wouldn't see each other again until we took this picture?? My 18-year-old mind baffles me. And I needed to cut my hair. Anyway. I digress.

Since neither of us particularly like this picture, we always talk about how we need to take pictures together...and then proceed not to. My 20-year-old mind baffles me too, sometimes.

Luckily for us, my Aunt Nan is an amateur photographer, and she's always willing to indulge her favorite niece's borderline narcissism. I told Christine that Aunt Nan wanted to work with more than one individual at a time in a more urban setting than my front yard, just to beef up her "portfolio" and expand her skill set. What Christine didn't know was that it was all part of the mastermind plan and that Aunt Nan was in on the whole thing. Oh no. Christine had no idea what was about to happen.

So we went downtown and took roughly 13 billion pictures. Needless to say, it was awesome and Christine and I got some vastly improved pictures together.

Thank you, Jesus and Aunt Nan, for making this possible.

After a while, at a seemingly random and yet perfectly orchestrated, predetermined time, the three of us headed back to Bronson Park. As we walked up the sidewalk towards the fountain, her family casually ambled out from behind it and sat down on a bench. Christine didn't see them though. She was distracted.

What Rex could possibly be doing in the middle of this beautiful park with a bouquet of flowers is beyond me. I mean, you'd think he was proposing or something!! But, no, Christine still didn't pick up on what was going on.

I think she's starting to catch on...

Halfway through Rex's romantic speech, Christine finally figured out what was happening.

And then this happened...

I'll give you one guess as to what her answer was.

To say "Mission Accomplished" might be a bit out of place here, considering I was only a small accomplice, and yet...that's all I can think of. One of my best friends is getting married, and I am thrilled that I got to be a part of her proposal story. Congratulations, Christine and Rex! I love you both and I am so excited for your future together. It's going to be beautiful, just like you.

Oh, and don't worry. I promise to be the best Maid of Honor in history.