home away from homesickness.

the following is a short stream-of-consciousness post originally written for my personal tumblr blog, slightly edited to exclude the many profanities originally included in it. 

I’ve been missing London so much lately.

I miss my boyfriend like hell, but now that I’ve spent time with him outside of London and in Philly, I’m realizing just how much I actually miss London itself. They’ve become two separate things because they’re no longer connected the way they used to be. I miss Simon beyond words, but now it’s becoming very clear to me just how much London as a city has come to mean to me. It’s no longer just because Simon is there and I want to be where Simon is. Simon was here, in my city, in my apartment, nowhere near London, and I still missed London.

I miss the tube, the underground, my commute to and from school. I miss the streets and the cars and the people. I miss the dirty-ass Thames. I miss Boots. I miss Oxford Street, and Primark. I miss the countryside full of greenery and cows. I miss the train ride to Simon’s house. I miss Simon’s family, Simon’s friends, Simon’s car. I miss having such easy access to the rest of Europe. I somehow miss living in a tiny closet, because I was living in such an awesome place with someone who ended up becoming a really great friend of mine. I miss walking through Kings Cross, and up the road to Angel to yell at Vodafone for their awful customer service. I miss Brian, the professor who had us meet him in bars every other week and then just walked around talking to us for three hours and called it class. I miss the pubs, the atmosphere. I miss surprisingly delicious real-chicken McDonald’s. I miss Pret. I miss Nando’s. God, I miss Nando’s.

It has always blown my mind how much any given song can take you back to a particular time in your life. It’s crazy to me that I hear My Way by Fetty Wap and want to burst into tears because it reminds me of London. I listened to it on repeat for an hour today. Just put my headphones in, sat up straight, closed my eyes, and hoped that when I’d open them, I’d be on the Piccadilly Line.

I miss seeing Brand New with a girl I had just met at Alexandra Palace, I miss seeing Fall Out Boy for the fourth time and meeting the love of my life at Wembley. I miss Camden, real Camden, and Shoreditch. I miss the jitters of waiting in line to meet Pete Wentz. I miss Hyde Park and high tea. I miss Kensington, real Kensington, and casually walking past Buckingham Palace. I miss seeing the London Eye from my bedroom window.

I just miss London. Damn, I miss London.

xx Gabi

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long-distance relationships.

Editor’s Note: This post was inspired by a Cosmopolitan article I read yesterday about a long-distance relationship. It resonated with me a lot, so I figured it was time to talk about mine.

If you’ve been following me for a few months (or you’ve spoken to me at all since October), you’ll know that my boyfriend Simon lives in England. Having met at a truly incredible Fall Out Boy show in London, we were obviously destined to be together. Clearly, some ominous omniscient being watching over us (read: Pete Wentz) wanted us to meet.

12366041_10207912280075073_76715821180008690_oThat said, we’ve now known each other for almost four months and officially been together for a little over two months, even though I have now been back in Philly for over a month (that is the most math I’ve done in over a year). I like to think that I’ve gained some wisdom on long-distance relationships (LDRs) now that I’m in one, so I thought I would shed some of that light on you. (Please note: I am not a professional. I just like talking about my boyfriend.)

Here is some advice and maybe some hope for those of you who are in or may one day be in an LDR:

#1: If you’re with the right person, long distance will not be that hard.

Okay, this is kind of a lie. Long distance is really, really difficult sometimes. That said, if you’re with the right person, it is manageable. I’m not sure what I expected of LDR-hood before I was thrown into it, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it didn’t really feel that much different. Sure, I haven’t kissed my boyfriend since before Christmas, but our almost constant communication hasn’t dwindled at all, and being 3000 miles apart, we’ve kind of been forced to make the extra effort to become closer in other ways in order to continue progressing the way a normal, geographically-close couple would.

#2: Communication becomes EVEN MORE important.

Communication is 100% the most important part of any relationship. If you don’t talk about stuff, you’ll suppress, you’ll repress, and you’ll struggle to grow both as a couple and as individuals. In LDRs, this is even more crucial. Simon and I obviously can’t wait to see each other in person to handle a problem; we have to take care of things as soon as they happen. This is where technology comes in. Part of what makes the distance so manageable is the fact that things like Skype and FaceTime exist. I still get to hear his voice and see him outside of the hundred Snapchats we exchange every day on a regular basis. iMessage has also allowed us to text just as much as we did when we were on the same continent, even if it uses up all of my data (sorry mom). If you find yourself in an LDR and don’t have iMessage, I recommend the app Couple. You can text, send drawings, let your S/O know when you’re thinking of them, and even utilize a feature called Thumbkiss, where you can make your thumbs… well, kiss. (Editor’s note: I tried to explain this better. It did not work.)

There are so many different ways to communicate through technology that our ability to interact as a couple hasn’t really changed at all. We’ve just had to learn to make up for the things we can’t do with words. (It is possible that Simon and I have just gotten lucky with that as we are both writers, and expressing ourselves verbally is pretty easy. I’m pretty sure you can read any of my posts and know that I talk a lot.)

#3: Knowing when you’re going to see them again makes things way easier.

This isn’t really advice, or anything useful, so sorry. I understand that in many cases, LDRs are indefinite, and you might not know when you’ll be able to see your S/O again, but knowing that I’ll be seeing Simon again relatively soon (5 weeks!!!) is really comforting. That said, after his trip to Philly in March, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to see him again. At this point, it’s looking like I won’t be able to make it back to the UK before Christmas, which is admittedly scary. Fortunately, we got that aforementioned communication thing down pat.

#4: You will get used to the time difference.

Simon and I only have a five-hour time difference, so I can’t really speak for the North America/Australia LDRs, but being in different time zones isn’t as bad as either of us thought it would be. Five hours isn’t even that much time. There have been times when Simon has had to wake up really early and I hadn’t even gone to sleep yet, but that’s more of a reflection of my absolutely horrendous internal clock than anything. He always says good morning first, and I always say good night last. It really isn’t any different than just having an S/O with a much better sleep schedule than you.

#5: If you really have to force it, it might not be worth it.

This might be a bit redundant, and also might be a bit of a crappy thing to say, but it’s true. LDRs take an insane amount of work, like all relationships do, but it should not feel like work. I never feel obligated to do something or say something for the sake of my relationship. I don’t really want to compare it to a job, but it really is just like having your dream job. You have to work, yes, but you should love doing it. If you have to remind yourself to text your S/O, something ain’t right.

There will be times in any relationship where you might have to compromise, but it should never feel like a sacrifice. The only thing Simon and I have sacrificed for the sake of our relationship is sleep just so we could Skype for a few more minutes. We have never felt like we’re losing anything or giving something up. It isn’t losing five minutes of sleep, it’s gaining five minutes of a good conversation.

~~~

Ah, a super long post about a super long-distance relationship. How appropriate.

BONUS: built-in drinking game a la You Deserve A Drink by Mamrie Hart: re-read this post and drink every time I repeat myself, say something mushy, or say “Simon.” If you get hurt, I’m sorry and please don’t sue me.

35 days!

xx Gabi (+ Simon)

life update/ch-ch-changes.

Well guys, I’m home. Back in good ol’ filthy Philly. It feels nice, being back with my best friends, and more importantly, my bed, which you’ll be happy to hear has never been more comfortable.

Getting readjusted was a little difficult. I live alone now, and with my mom not telling me what to do, I didn’t fully unpack my suitcases for almost a week, because I almost didn’t want to come to terms with the fact that I was home. London is now one of my favorite cities, and saying goodbye to it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

That said, it wasn’t just London I had to say goodbye to. Those of you who know me personally will know that I actually met someone at that Fall Out Boy show back in October that I wouldn’t shut up about, and that someone is now my incredible boyfriend. Unfortunately, he had to stay in England, because immigration or whatever, and I am now finding myself in a long-distance relationship for the first time. Fun fact: long-distance sucks.

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Fortunately, however, I am pleasantly surprised by how… easy it’s been. Don’t get me wrong, I miss Simon like hell and I want to be with him more than I could even begin to explain, but technology has advanced so much that it has been virtually effortless to communicate with him. We still get to text all day thanks to the beauty of iMessage, I still get to see his face 700 times a day via Snapchat and hear his voice whenever we Skype (which is almost every day), and it almost feels like nothing has really changed. Sure, I’m 3000 miles away and there’s a five-hour time difference, but I slept until the middle of the afternoon regularly in London anyway. No lost time!

Now that 2015 is quickly coming to an end, I’m finding myself looking back on where I was this time last year, and I’m realizing just how much I’ve changed since then. I had a different boyfriend, different friends, and most importantly, a very different relationship with myself. Now I’m only a little bit older, but I’m a hell of a lot smarter, and I like myself maybe more than I ever have. I don’t know if that’s just because I’m no longer a teenager and I just… don’t hate everything anymore, or if I’m finally surrounded by people that actually bring me higher and push me to be better, but whatever the reason, 2015 was definitely a year of growth and personal development for me.

I hope you all had a great year and if you didn’t, I hope 2016 makes up for it.

Happy New Year!

xx Gabi

Scandinavia to Mesopotamia (with a few stops).

I’ve surely mentioned my roommate Pat a few times by now. For some
background, she is as small as she is vicious, she will do your dishes if you pay her in cupcakes, and she is one of the most driven journalists I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, let alone sleeping next to.

One of Pat’s many talents is hunting down obscure and awesome stuff to do in the city. On Saturday, we fought the insane winds and sudden wake of winter, traveling out to Canada Water in Rotherhithe (a small

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Pat, Scandi Market, 21 Nov. 2015

residential area of Southeast London) in search of a Scandinavian Christmas market stationed outside of a Finnish church. What we found was a utopia of Norwegian food, Swedish candy, and a rock choir serenading us with Queen’s greatest hits. The highlight of the festival was possibly the abundance of puns (a-pun-dance?) strewn throughout, a

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Fine & Scandi, 21 Nov. 2015

stand labeled “Sweet-ish candy” and a food truck called “Fine & Scandi” being my personal favorites. We indulged in Norwegian hot dogs (albeit on explicitly “American” buns), ate our fair share of Swedish candy, and pushed through the crowd of beautiful blonde Vikings drunk on spiked hot chocolate just to find ourselves in hipster heaven, a vintage shop, with the most expensive item of clothing still costing less than £10.

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Do I smell that bad?

From there, we tubed back into Central London and made our way over to the British Museum, where my mature adult half was intrigued and amazed by all the ancient artifacts, and my less mature inner child wrote some totally objectively hilarious Snapchat captions to go along with some of the more amusing pieces.

I find it interesting and kind of ironic that the British Museum had such a huge collection of non-British artifacts. The collections we had time to see stretched from Mesopotamia and Egypt to Greece and Italy, and only after about an hour did we encounter any British artifacts. Upon telling a native Brit of my plans for the day, they responded with, “oh cool, enjoy the British Museum, a.k.a the things we stole when we could get away with it.”

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British Museum, 21 Nov. 2015

After the museum, we tracked down a little Mexican restaurant called Benito’s Hat for some delicious burritos and all the guac our bodies could handle, and then we strolled over to Regent Street. Starbucks’ in hand, we watched the intricate Christmas lights overhead change, with the suspended clock gears projecting beautiful colors and designs. We made our way through Piccadilly Circus, spent way too long in the makeup section of Boots, and headed home.

The fact that I was frozen down to my bones for the remainder of the evening aside, I was so happy to have experienced such a culturally diverse day. We started in Scandinavia, made our way through Mesopotamia, stopped in Egypt, stopped in Greece, had dinner in Mexico, and then ended right back in England, taking in the crisp London air and pretty Christmas lights. It can be hard to travel. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and can be scary. That said, it can be surprisingly easy to experience other cultures without leaving your city. You just have to know where to look. Or, alternatively, have a Pat to do it for you.

xx Gabi

Judaism, Sikhism, + Agnosticism

Religion has never been a very big part of my life. Yes, I was raised (loosely) Jewish, I spent four years in Hebrew school, and I was Bat Mitzvah-ed. I have every intention on taking my Birthright trip after I graduate, and I love spending Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah with latkes my family. I identify as Jewish by blood, but I don’t really know if I’m religious enough to identify as Jewish by faith. I don’t know if I truly believe that there’s a big omniscient being watching over us, or if that lie I told about doing my homework when I was 12 will come back to bite me in the ass when it’s my time to go. Part of me wants to cringe a little when people tell me that something horrible happening is “all in God’s plan,” and it can be really difficult to believe in someone that’s supposed to be all-powerful and loving when they’ve let innocent people die and let Donald Trump get this far in the presidential race.

Adonai aside, I understand and love being Jewish. We’ve been around forever. We’re certainly not Hinduism, but we’re pretty ancient. I may not practice Judaism very, for lack of a better word, religiously, but never in my life would I want to erase that part of my identity. Erasing my Joots (Jew roots) would erase my people’s history and culture, and we’ve done some pretty cool shit (סלח לי). Name one time you had a candle last you eight whole days. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Fortunately, last week I was given the opportunity to do some on-site religious research and visit a Sikh Gurdwara in Southall with my classmates:

I can’t really say that my stance on religion has changed much. I may have a better understanding of Sikhism, by which I mean, I now know what Sikhism is, but nothing life-changing clicked in my head. However, I will say that as a non-practicing outsider, Sikhism seems pretty great. Sikhism is one of the youngest religions in existence, only founded a few hundred years ago, and it is accepting of every religion. Gurdwaras are Sikh places of worship, but you don’t have to practice Sikhism to go there. They have “langar,” which is essentially free food for anyone who wants it, and their whole shtick (that was me being Jewish) is that they will accept (and feed) anyone. While I suppose it isn’t wildly uncommon for a religion to be accepting, it isn’t wildly common. I don’t know everything about the faith, or their beliefs on homosexuality and abortion, but hearing the word “acceptance” in a religious building made me feel oddly reassured that these people knew what they were talking about.

I think that if I really learned anything from this experience, it was that I need to learn more about religion. Maybe I’m just a little lazy, or maybe I’m just really ignorant, but my views on religion really don’t go past the views I’ve picked and chosen and tailored out of the minds of the people around me. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll wake up and decide to become a born-again Jew, dedicating myself to my synagogue (which, ironically, was once a church). For now, I’m just Jewish by blood, and agnostic by choice.*

*Subject to change.

xx Gabi

“Honestly, I think I found my people. I was raised in a church, where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell. If I was good, I’d go to heaven. And if I’d ask Jesus, he’d forgive me, and that was that. And here y’all saying ain’t no hell, ain’t… sure about heaven, and if you do something wrong, you got to figure it out yourself. And as far as God’s concerned, it’s your job to keep asking questions and to keep learning and to keep arguing. It’s like a verb. It’s like… you do God. And that’s a lot of work. But I think I’m in, at least as far as I can see it.” -Black Cindy on converting to Judaism, Orange is the New Black

leaving home/getting settled/the first two weeks.

My only justification for the lack in posts over the last two months is that I wasn’t in London yet and had nothing to say about it.

Now, I’ve been here for two weeks, and I’ve just been lazy, so let’s have a chat.

Leaving Philly was hard. Not really leaving Philly, but leaving my mom and my friends. I somehow managed to not be a total wreck saying my goodbyes that day, but the few minutes right after each goodbye were some of the hardest. I’m not going to say I handled it well, because I’m really not sure hyperventilation is a good thing, but I got through the day without getting dehydrated from crying too much like I thought I would, just because a not-much-younger version of myself would’ve. #CharacterDevelopment?

If you want the truth, my first day here was… rough. I don’t know if it was the delusion and exhaustion from a transatlantic redeye flight that I didn’t/couldn’t sleep on or the genuine fear of being in a different country without my parents or anyone I really knew, but my first 24 hours were just straight-up bad. Surprise, surprise, Gabi can’t handle stress. It actually wasn’t until I unpacked all of my stuff (in a record-breaking 15 minutes) that I started to relax a little. I think seeing that my suitcases were about the size of my entire room scared me and made me think I would be forced to live out of my bags for three and a half months and never feel fully at home here. Fortunately, as usual, I was wrong.

It’s now been two weeks (almost exactly), and I’ve settled quite nicely, if I do say so myself. I’m currently harboring a standard beginning-of-the-semester cold, but I feel at home in my closet-sized room. You’ll be happy to know that my roommate isn’t even a serial killer. We both found coffee that we like, we figured out how to use our stove (only after reporting it broken), and I’m like, 95% sure I don’t drive her crazy (yet).

Since we last spoke, I’ve toured the Houses of Parliament. I’ve seen Shakespeare’s Globe twice, and I crossed the Millennium Foot Bridge (albeit with some fear that Death Eaters will attack it again). I saw Brand New and Basement perform at Alexandra Palace and talked to a cute boy from New Zealand about music and traveling. I took the National Rail on a day trip to Brighton and toured the Royal Pavilion, and even dipped my toe into the English Channel (which was a cozy 60 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s been a very eventful two weeks, I’m not even sure how I’ve managed to still go to class.

Tourist attractions aside, I’ve fallen in love with real London. The Underground is a utopia compared to the Broad Street Line, and I have yet to encounter a bus that wasn’t exactly on time. In one of my classes, we were asked to describe the city in one word. Many said “traditional” or “posh” (a word that I have a serious bone to pick with), but all I could think was “organized.” London is the most well-oiled machine of a town I have ever experienced, and I am fully aware of the fact that it’s going to spoil me. SEPTA will seem even worse after I spend three months riding around on tubes that don’t smell like rotting garbage and cat pee.

I have approximately one million more things to say about this place, but TL;DR I’m in love.

Please note that starting with my next post, I’ll be incorporating some required posts for my blogging class this semester. All posts for that class will say #BlogLondon2015 (mostly so my professor can find them, but also so you guys know what you’re reading).  

cheers from across the pond, across the country, or across the hall,

xx Gabi

the beautiful sigh of relief: an update.

consider this short post a follow-up to my previous one.

I was so nervous about meeting my soon-to-be neighbors (and roommate) that I kind of forgot how awesome making new friends could be.

I met four people that I’m going to London with last night, and I didn’t not like any of them. It was so natural. We were all laughing our asses off within minutes and everyone had something in common with someone else at the table. We talked about our pasts, our plans, and our packing situations. I even managed to get answers to some questions I had about the trip. My anxiety about London was cut in half after just a few hours spent sitting in a bar on campus during a thunderstorm talking to people with similar concerns. I got phone numbers, Facebooks, and even plans for brunch. I know whose faces to look for in the airport and I’m honestly a lot more excited about who my roommate might be. Not to mention, I’m not seeing myself sitting alone on a train to Paris anymore.

Not all forms of anxiety are resolved with space. Sometimes you need the opposite. The kind of anxiety I usually have requires silence, darkness, and coldness, so I tend to forget that sometimes a stressful situation can’t always be fixed that way. People have answers, and this is one of the few times in my life where my anxiety has been subsided by extensive social interaction.

I’m feeling so good about this trip now that 52 days went from seeming way too soon to way too far away.

xx Gabi

the fear (is a very good song by Lily Allen).

listen, I’m pretty social. I have some outrageous anxieties, but fortunately for me, my social anxiety is decently manageable and I’m pretty good at making friends. I’m horrible at keeping them, but a view on YouTube counts after 15 seconds even if the person doesn’t keep watching, right? I took a stat class, I know what I’m talking about. (I don’t. I almost never do.)
the statistical data of my social life and the truth of the matter that is my social life suggest very different things. the numbers suggest that I can make a friend in two minutes flat (and it’s true, I’m great). the problem remains in the truth. I’m picky with friends. I want everyone to love me, but after one too many friendships fell apart, I realized it was because they were all one-sided. sometimes they were way to into it and I was pushed away by their eagerness, but it was usually (almost always) the other way around.
as much as I hate the word, I am clingy by nature. I can’t help it. if I meet someone and they spark any kind of excitement in me, my first instinct is to hold on to them for dear life. people are not usually as great as they seem anyway, so it wasn’t always a bad thing that the friendship didn’t flourish, but I probably did scare a few people away with my, ahem, attentiveness, and missed out on a genuinely good relationship.
I like to think I’ve grown out of that at least a little bit. I learned the hard way that relationships of any kind (platonic, romantic, what have you) NEED to be two-way streets. if the other person isn’t putting in the effort you’re putting in, it can’t be very healthy, y’know? you either need to have an agreed nonchalance about the whole thing, or a mutual decision to put an equal amount of effort into it.
that’s where it gets kind of difficult. communication is awesome. I love talking to people and I want people to know how I feel about things. the problem with that is that not everyone feels the same way. some people don’t know when to communicate or what to communicate or even how and relationships suffer because of it. even more so if neither party is good with communicating, because seemingly every authority figure in my life has taught me that two wrongs do not make a right.
so, get to the point, Gab. what’s with the annoyingly melodramatic title?
alright, internal troll, relax. I call this entry “the fear” because making friends is damn scary, especially when you fly overseas with a bunch of strangers and have to live with them for four months. you’re basically screwed if you DON’T make friends with them. is that not terrifying?
I’ve only spoken to a handful of people going to London with me, and I do see myself actually befriending some of them, but the relationships I’m going to build are not relationships yet and it is 50% my responsibility to make them develop. do you get why I’m afraid now? I’m blindly walking into an endless void of people I do not know who I have to actively get to know as soon as and as well as possible. the really hard part about that is that it’s not like kindergarten. how we made friends in kindergarten:
toddler 1: I like blue!
toddler 2: I also like blue!
toddlers 1 and 2: LET’S BE BEST FRIENDS.
ah, those were the days. in college, if you tell someone you like blue, and they like red, it literally blows up into a four-hour political debate (don’t even get me started on the greens). I am not exaggerating. I once told someone I liked the color blue and proceeded to get yelled at for it. gotta love them political journalism majors.
TL;DR: I’m scared. I kind of hope everyone else is too.
56 days.
xx Gabi