life-changing experiences + being alone.

It can be difficult to determine whether or not something is truly a life-changing experience or not. We don’t always want to label something as “life-changing” because chances are, more important things will happen to us one day, and we don’t want that powerful label to lose its meaning. That said, after much consideration, I am officially declaring yesterday a life-changing experience for me.

If any of you follow me on social media (*eh hem* Twitter, Instagram), you might’ve seen that I was given the opportunity to meet Pete Wentz yesterday. Pete, the bassist of my all-time favorite band Fall Out Boy, did a signing at their three-day pop-up shop in Camden, and I was one of the 120 fans that got to attend. (Side note: I have to give most of the credit to my girl Sam for this one. She made her way over to Camden before sunrise on Friday to wait in line for the wristbands to get in, and if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have known that I could show up at 9:30 and still get one. Thanks for not sleeping all night so I could, babe!)

I have been a diehard fan of Fall Out Boy since my older sister put Sugar We’re Going Down and Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year on one of her mix CDs in 2004 and left it in the boombox in our bathroom. (Side note #2: When was the last time you heard the word “boombox”?) I caught up on FOB’s first two albums (From Under the Cork Tree becoming one of my favorite albums ever), fell in love with their next two, and survived the 2010-2013 hiatus (though seriously struggled when My Chemical Romance broke up during it — my little emo heart couldn’t deal). I reveled in the glory of their comeback during my senior year of high school and I am thrilled to report that they’re still excellent, unlike many bands that get back together and suddenly don’t know how to make good music anymore.

Being such a huge fan, I was actually kind of scared to meet Pete. It was mostly because I was worried my legs would just give out when I saw him, but it was also because I was so terrified that I would be disappointed. It is unfortunately common that someone meets their favorite celebrity just to find out that they aren’t really good people, but I felt fairly secure in the fact that Pete was known for being a nice person and that the whole universe hadn’t been lying to me all these years. (Spoiler: It hadn’t.)

With Pete Wentz in the Fall Out Boy Pop-Up Shop at Rock 'N' Roll Rescue Camden, 11 October 2015.
With my husband Pete Wentz in the Fall Out Boy Pop-Up Shop at Rock ‘N’ Roll Rescue Camden, 11 October 2015.
The newest (and biggest) addition to my wall, signed by Pete.
The newest (and biggest) addition to my wall, signed by Pete.
There’s something ironic about meeting someone known for singing and screaming on stage just to find out that they’re really quiet off stage. It is equally ironic that I, the girl who never shuts up, was completely silenced just from being in Pete’s presence. I don’t think either of us said more than two words to each other, and after he signed my new most prized possession and took a selfie with me, I was escorted out, borderline paralyzed in awe and slightly confused by what had just happened to me. At least I didn’t cry?

Alright, Gabi, we get it. You met Pete. What does this have to do with being alone?

Well, disembodied voice, if you must know, after the signing, I attended Fall Out Boy’s show at the SSE Arena in Wembley by myself. I had never been to a show alone before last night, and I think I can safely call it my new favorite thing.

I have been to many concerts in my life, and Fall Out Boy has been a large chunk of them. This was my fourth FOB experience, and by far, my best FOB experience. I was anxious about going to a show alone. I usually like having someone to stick with because the idea of getting sucked into a mosh pit with no one to pull me out is terrifying, but I realized after seeing Brand New perform at Alexandra Palace that getting separated from your friends at a show is almost inevitable. With that in mind, I embarked on my journey to Wembley alone, prepared to take on the wild crowd on my own. Halfway through FOB’s first song (after staying relatively calm during their three opening acts), I realized that I shouldn’t be fighting the crowd, I should be embracing it. I’m not really the kind of person to have my back against the wall all night at a show, but I have never been a crazy “dance like no one’s watching” person. That changed last night.

Clearly, the only logical explanation is that my friends are bad people. I’m always with them and have kept my dancing fairly reserved out of fear of being judged by them, but being on my own last night, I have never felt more uninhibited. Possibly apart from the group of people I met at the show who knew nothing about me and couldn’t justifiably judge me, no one was watching me, so I danced like it. I jumped, I screamed, I sweat, and I almost passed out from dehydration. My feet are still screaming almost 24 hours later and the fact that I have a voice right now has got to be some kind of scientific breakthrough. Having fun has nothing to do with the people around you, but everything to do with yourself. I always thought that I had less anxiety going to a show with friends than I would on my own, but going to this show alone proved me wrong. “Care-free” is the last adjective I would use to describe myself, but last night, that is what I was.

xx Gabi

P.S. If you’re interested in listening to some Fall Out Boy, you can check out my Spotify playlist, “Fall Out Boy: Gabi’s Top Ten.” If you don’t have Spotify, I can only recommend that you look these songs up on your own.

  1. XO
  2. I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy And All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me
  3. Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying (Do Your Part To Save The Scene And Stop Going To Shows)
  4. Dance, Dance
  5. A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More “Touch Me”
  6. Thnks Fr Th Mmrs
  7. Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year
  8. Irresistible
  9. The Kids Aren’t Alright
  10. Saturday

Please note that this is my personal top ten and I will fight with you about this for hours if you try to tell me I’m wrong. Someone please take that as a challenge.

Advertisements

the things you never think about.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m pretty neurotic. I made a tentative categorized packing list for this trip two months before I left Philly, before I even had suitcases. I thought I had considered everything and couldn’t have possibly left a single thing out, but nothing could have prepared me to face the hard truth about myself: I need a lot of stuff. (Disclaimer: when I say “need,” I mean “would benefit from.” Not to be confused with “would actually die without.” I’m just spoiled and dependent on materialistic things, not fighting for survival.)

It didn’t really occur to me until a few days ago just how many small things I was used to having and no longer had.

Last week, after a quick stop at Primark, and with a heavy sense of buyer’s remorse weighing on my shoulders, I was the proud owner of a new blanket, a new sweater, and new shoes. Only when I got home did I realize that I had no scissors to cut the impossible-to-rip tags off. I tackled them with a dull knife, yes, but at risk of damaging my pretty things (and my pretty self, she adds, under her breath), I didn’t get very far. Fortunately, after mass-texting about twenty people, my next-door neighbor-turned-friend became my friend-turned-knight in shining pink hair and lent me her scissors (thanks Sam). It really wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but at least I don’t have an itchy tag on my blanket poking me in the feet at night. I am lucky enough to be here with thirty people that I interact with almost daily, and it has helped a lot in those times of shallow, materialistic “need.”

With that in mind, I can’t help but consider the fact that I would be totally helpless if I was here on my own. I’d either have to grow as a person and learn to live without the random little things that I hadn’t thought to pack, or worse, be forced to buy absolutely everything new and not be able to close my suitcases for the flight home without abandoning everything I arrived with. I’m already sad thinking about the fact that my brand new memory foam pillow and shiny new toaster will have no place in my luggage and will likely be left here as a nice surprise for the next resident of the right bed in room 68, but c’est la vie, or whatever.

For my readers/future travelers, here is a list of a few things (but definitely not all things) that you should pack, but will never think to pack, and will kick yourself for not packing when you realize you need them at 3 AM:

-Scissors: To cut that buyer’s remorse in half!

-Meds, and lots of them: Fortunately, this is something I did actually pack. Having a nurse for a mom comes in handy, as bringing a box of Advil Cold to a country where Advil Cold does not exist seemed obvious. (Side note: expect to get sick if you’re going to be in another country for more than a week or two. that Advil Cold has come and gone in less than a month.)

-Office supplies: This one is mostly for students. It can be argued that waiting until you arrive in the country and purchasing these supplies is a better option, but throwing a notebook and a few pens, highlighters, etc. in your bag just to get you started can’t hurt. (I partially do this because I live for being that kid that not only has 15 pens and highlighters with her but is also totally willing to lend them to classmates. It’s how I learned to turn being a nerd into a surefire way to make friends in high school.)

-An open mind: Before you groan, bear with me. An open mind is so important for traveling, especially for the eternally anxious like myself. Yes, an open mind for seeing new places and trying new cuisines is important, but for those of us who are staying somewhere for an extended period of time, an open mind in the grocery store is important too. You are not going to eat out every day. An English grocery store is nothing like an American one, so I’ve had to try new things solely because I wouldn’t eat otherwise. You also have to keep an open mind about the people around you. This is my first experience living with a roommate, so I’ve had to be extra considerate of my roommate. My room was essentially cut in half and the number of people that sleep in it was doubled, so being mindful of your surroundings and your peers is crucial. Getting in to an open mindset prior to your arrival in a new place will help prepare you for the inevitable culture shock you will experience, and might make things a little bit easier. The Sleep Foundation even suggests changing the time on your phone to the zone that you’re traveling to ahead of time, so you can subconsciously start adjusting to the difference.

The longer I live in London, the more I realize that there are a thousand things I hadn’t considered, but now all I can think about is what hasn’t hit me yet.

xx Gabi

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

the prep.

you never realize just how much goes in to planning a big trip like a semester in London until you start planning it. half of the things I’ve had to take care of and consider during this process hadn’t even come to mind prior to my orientation meeting.

things I had anticipated:

-registering for classes

-calculating expenses

-buying my tickets to and from London

things I had not anticipated:

-literally everything else

I had no idea how many different things were involved in the process. I hadn’t thought about cell phone service overseas (which, if you know me, is actually kind of surprising). I hadn’t thought about healthcare, or where I would stay when I traveled outside of London. I didn’t think about whether or not I’d need a Visa based on my decision to apply (or not apply) for an internship. I hadn’t considered the fact that all the money I’ve been saving to irresponsibly blow in Europe would have to include a budget for groceries and laundry. I, somehow, hadn’t even thought about packing, and how I would manage to fit three and a half months of my life into a 50-pound suitcase and a carry-on. Needless to say, I had multiple panic attacks during that four-hour orientation and the days (months) that followed. (I also won a free t-shirt that day for winning an Instagram photo contest I wasn’t even aware I’d entered).

Weirdly, the thing I worried least about was my passport. I’ve had one basically my whole life (thanks, parents!) and I got it renewed a year ago so that I was already prepared for this very trip. That said, I’m still so worried about the infinite list of other things that need to be done before departure that I can’t even be comforted by the fact that I don’t have to worry about a passport. *Circle of Life blares in the background*

But I digress (I digress a lot in my writing), I am still decently (outrageously) unprepared for this trip. I have my flight and know where I’m living, yes, but I don’t even have a big enough suitcase yet, let alone have any idea of where to begin with packing. Maybe I’ll just make it easier on myself and only take one pair of jeans. I can do laundry every three days, right? On top of that, who needs cell service? This gives me a perfect opportunity to get some adorable Union Jack stationary. I’ll write home every day. It’s not like the weather in London will change in the time it takes for my mom to get a letter from me telling her it rained that one day…

LOL I AM FREAKING OUT.

xx Gabi

the dream.

Everyone has a dream, right? Not the kind where you get chased through the desert by a thousand monkeys in your underwear (you’re in your underwear, not the monkeys). Everyone has that dream too, obviously, but no. I mean a real dream. Winning the House Cup, defeating Voldemort, you know what I mean. London is my dream.

I did the People to People student ambassador program when I was 13. I saw Italy, I saw France, I saw, regrettably, a LOT of underpants. A bus jam-packed with forty 8th graders? It was bound to happen.

Anyway, our last stop on the trip was a measly 48 hours in London. I saw more in that 48 hours than I did that time I binge-watched season 3 of Orange is the New Black (last weekend) and all that crazy shit went down (SPOILERS!). I saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London. I rode the London Eye and ate fish and chips (twice). I saw a performance by the legendary percussionist/dance group STOMP and had a picnic in Trafalgar Square. I even saw Fleet Street, Diagon Alley, and 221B Baker Street (though 13-year-old me did not get how awesome that was at the time). The city changed me. I like to think I grew up a lot that summer, though it’s debatable. We are still talking about the girl who was given a credit card for said trip just to leave it at home by accident.

I digress (you’ll soon learn that I digress a lot in my writing), London is my dream. I’ve been itching to go back since the minute I left and now it is finally happening. I want to sit in a cafe outside in a leather jacket in September because it’s actually cold enough for one. I want to ride a subway that could actually pass a health inspection. I want to be a short train ride away from Paris and Barcelona. It’s all going to be real so soon and yeah, I’m freaking out a little. There is a lot to get done before I go, but I have my ticket, I have a place to live, and I refuse to have anything but a perfect experience.

xx Gabi

two months to go.

two months. 68 days, to be exact. I have two months (68 days, to be exact) until I leave Philly all alone (with 20 people) and take a transatlantic flight to London, where I will live and study for three and a half months. I don’t know if I’m being calm because I’m actually calm, or if I’m being calm because it’s right before the storm of nerves, fear, anxiety, and FEAR hits. did I mention fear?

now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not afraid of London, or flying, or being on my own. I’ve been to London (though only for two days), I’ve flown countless times, and I love being on my own. what I’m afraid of is what comes with being on my own: independence. I realize that’s confusing, but I guess until this point in my life, being “on my own” just meant staying home alone for a few nights in a house pre-filled with food by my parents when they go on vacation or something. studying abroad is actually being on my own. I have to trust and rely on myself to budget my own money and my own time, and that’s terrifying. this is adulthood before adulthood. I’m starting my junior year of college, I still live at home, and student loans still kind of seem like a distant nightmare slowly creeping up on me but that’s still far enough away that I can pretend it’s not there yet. studying in London is supposed to prepare me a little more for responsible grownup life, right? …right?

this blog will be used to document my trip. not only will I be in London, but I am also planning on traipsing across as much of Europe as I possibly can from September 1st until December 20th. until then, I’ll use this blog as an outlet for the anxieties of planning a trip as big as this and as an outlet for the really exciting parts that I want to share with you guys. and by “you guys” I mean my mom, who I talk to every day anyway. I love you, endless Internet void I’m screaming into.

to be continued. two months. 68 days, to be exact.

xx Gabi