I'm certain I owe the Monday night staff of Jon & Vinny's on Fairfax an apology for crying into the last order of ravioli. It was lovely, really. No way did I deserve the gesture. No how. And yet, it arrived and I promptly unraveled over several plates of pasta.
I can't discount that prior to sitting down at dinner I had just wrapped my first Coachella experience. "Chemically imbalanced" and "sleep deprived" mix like oil and water with "stressed," "ill-prepared to leave for a year," and "very good bolognese." Go figure. And so I cried for 24 hours, slept for 13, drank a lot of pretentiously homemade fresh juice, and was juuuust about back to normal by Thursday.
Was going to Coachella a good idea given everything I have going on? Probably not. Would I do it again? Of course. Ravioli tears and all.
It was probably 2013 when I got this idea in my head that wherever you are at midnight on New Year's Eve it serves to foreshadow your year ahead. Honestly, I can't find a single Pinterest post or meme-ish platitude on Google to support that statement right now, so maybe I made it up to cope with a shitty 2015. But anyway. It's just this thing I think. Or thought. Still think, I guess.
When 2016 hit, I was smack in the middle of The Brooklyn Hangar, under a disco ball, feeling a touch confused, and a bit maxed out on the senses front. But I was happy and was pretty damn present. Bob Moses had wrapped, Justice was playing, Gesaffelstein was up at 1am. Something like that. There was loud music, and bright lights, and new people among the hum of a big city. I felt like I was a curious observer inside a cosmic confetti snow globe of strange magic unfolding all around me.
Five months later, I still feel that way: in awe, with gratitude, laughing it off, reveling in the novelty. I'm getting ready to leave for a year's worth of travel to Europe and South America to a soundtrack of Boiler Room Eastern European deep house. In the months leading up to now I've gone to a strangers's memorial service, got a quarter-sleeve tattoo, dressed up as Tonya Harding for a 90s themed party, accidentally put a dishwashing machine tablet in my mouth, have thought extensively about launching a line of welding goggles, pulled my neck out while trying to simultaneously dance and blow-dry my hair, fell out of a shuttle bus, purchased and returned $600 sneakers twice, have had enormously sweeping and accidentally emotional conversations with multiple Uber drivers, treated myself to a boudoir photo shoot, fell in love with a Brazilian waxer named Tracy, ended up at a famous DJ's after party in the California desert, accepted a new job, decided to up and travel internationally for a full year, have spent just about all of my money, and have eaten pizza every damn week. If NYE was any sort of precursor to the year ahead, I think I'm on to something. Or maybe I am somehow living in a wizard glitter video game played by a half-spoiled teenager who hates my jokes.
Anyway. Real talk.
In February, two things happened: I was offered a new job and I was accepted into Remote Year's fifth class, Darien. Though the two are separate, they're co-pilots in my upcoming travel itinerary.
On May 18th, I'm flying to Milan. The plan is to be out of the country for just over a year, returning to the states from a two month stay in Argentina in early June of 2017. I am neither going it alone nor am responsible for planning. Fret not, those who know me. It's also not simply a vacation since a multitude of peers and I will continue to work for our respective employers in remote capacities.
If it sounds strange, it is. Welcome to the new digital era.
Remote Year is a platform which affords young professionals the opportunity to maintain a lifestyle of work and global travel. Their services manage logistics -- flights, trains, accommodations, workspaces -- and cultivate a community of support by way of seventy-five, fellow digital nomads embarking on a shared adventure.
You could almost call it "study abroad" -- it's akin to that, sure -- but having just started to digitally connect with my peers, this isn't a group of haphazard college kids. Far from it. With the average age of participants just over 30, most of us seem to be established professionals, financially independent, passionate, quirky, and focused.
(Don't ask why they accepted me. It was the beginning of February when I grossly miscalculated the wide range of the Skype camera and carried out a quick interview with my very-much-dead Christmas tree in the unintended background and Diego -- my not-so-subtle or small dog -- sitting on my lap. I'd have ended that chat ASAP, too, Emily. Nevertheless, here I am.)
I found out about Remote Year online, probably via a targeted ad on Facebook or Instagram. I likely was cookied after spending quite a bit of time Googling ideas for a weekend trip in March which was, funnily, an off-shoot of the New York, New Years experience. My suggestions were a bit too lofty for four days on a thirty year-old budget, however. At my best, I was pitching Iceland and Martinique. At my worst: Egypt and Chile. Importantly, though, the exercise reminded me of how deeply I wanted to go explore the world, of how now was the time, and of how relatively simple it could be for me to make it all happen. So when I saw the Remote Year ad, I applied on a whim. I had nothing to lose save for $50. Plus, the acceptance rate was less than 0.5%.
Three rounds of "why not?" interviews later and I was in. The universe is funny like that.
For the year abroad with RY Darien, I'll be spending a month each in twelve different cities across two... err three continents. The first official stop is Prague, starting on May 29th, where we'll be for all of June. Subsequent countries on the itinerary include Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Peru, and Argentina.
Prior to the start of the program, I'm sneaking in a week of bop-around time in Italy, fittingly with my weeping ravioli witness. 2016 has been ridiculous up to this point: why practice modesty now? Milan to Rome and every amazing carbohydrate, scenic view, and bath robe in between. And while I can't guarantee it, I'm liking my tear-free odds.
Because employment is central to Remote Year's mission, while abroad I'll be working remotely with my team at Playground Partners, a Boston-based startup where I've been since the beginning of March. The brain child of Chris Merrill -- a long-time partner in crime -- and John Barrows, we're just now entering our third month of operations. After having spent the last four years working a rather physical job in Gloucester, it is a blast getting back into a cerebral, creative space. I am thankful for my teammates and leaders who are trusting me with this opportunity. I'm psyched to see what comes out of new networks, connections, and experiences. Duh.
Depending on the day, or even the time of day, I'm somewhere between crazy excited and paralyzingly anxious to leave. Sometimes I'm Beyonce, sometimes I'm Bright Eyes. Sometimes I'm kale chips and a run, sometimes I'm a cigarette and Dominoes. All rather standard Lil, truth be told.
But, yes, sure, it's overwhelming. Between a daunting to-do list, still putting in hours behind the bar, trying to pull this blog together, coming back up to speed in the startup world, and simply getting myself to and from LA in *one* piece for Coachella, even applying deodorant in the morning feels like a victory. (It's also a constant fear of mine: that I've forgotten deodorant. If I had to guess, I accidentally apply Secret prescription strength three to four times on any given whirlwind morning. That's probably not a great carcinogen exposure statistic. Sorry, Mom. Also, not a great secret, Secret.)
Was I 1,000% shot by the time I sat down at Jon & Vinny's? Yep. I hadn't truly begun to prepare myself for this wild journey ahead: hadn't mentally committed to doing the work that needed to be done, both in a tasking and an emotional sense. Immunizations, travel medical insurance, unlocking iPhones, buying adapters, handheld luggage scale selection, portable clothes line considerations... And so a temper tantrum ensued as I gave in to that icky grey cloud of perennial adulthood ambiguity. Partly because I could, partly because I couldn't not, partly because I felt safe, partly because if you don't let go and own it, that shit eats at you like high molar HCL. Whatever the reason, I needed the marinara meltdown. It was a call from the rest of 2016 saying it wasn't going quietly into the night.
The wake of it all has been quite pleasant. It was like I hit a wall, bounced off, and stood back up ready to get stuff done. Finally.
Reactions to my news have largely been positive. Lots of carpe diem-leaning cliches and big, big hugs. The most common word I hear is "jealous," though, which is uncomfortable. Not because I think anyone could and should up and do this -- not practically speaking, anyway -- but because there's nothing that makes me feel good about eliciting envy in others. I mean, I guess that's the crux of social media these days, and, yes, my Instagram feed will probably benefit from this trip... But it makes me feel funny to hear about jealousy.
There are, of course, people who react with far less enthusiasm and far more horror. They look at me like I'm nuts, like I'm completely insane for actively choosing to travel in a world of terrorism and earthquakes and Zika Virus. They're scared for me. I get it. Admittedly, my Mom's first reaction when I told her about Remote Year was that I'd be taken hostage. Could it happen? Stranger things have, I'm sure.
To hedge my risks, I've registered with the State Department and will have access to International SOS, a third party emergency safety agency contracted by Remote Year. I'm vaccinated, documented, and have bought a whole bunch of security junk on Prime. I have shared Google Drive folders with contact information and copies of important things like Passports and blood type cards. I'll probably get a will notarized before I go, too. Just in case.
I'm not naive enough to think that the global state is entirely safe or secure or certain. But I'm also not jaded to the extent that I can reason staying put in MA equates to any single guarantee. It's taking a risk to leave, for sure. Driving to work is also a risk. And one with much less favorable odds.
To be clear, no matter what happens to me anywhere, ever, on any timeline, the only thing I feel is gratitude for the life I've lived. Sometimes I wonder if this is selfish and deluded. Sometimes I think I should plan more for the future or establish longer term goals. Sometimes I think I should stay home simply so I can keep petting and singing songs to Diego.
Beyond the stress of safety and international security concerns, this has been an enormous emotional transition for me and my family. Departing the business after spending so much time in the trenches is tough in and of itself. To not only excuse myself from that lifestyle, but to also cavalierly exit the country, leaving a mortgage, a dog, and a car behind is a new age flavor of unintentional emotional warfare. I'm missing two of my best friends's weddings, major holidays, and countless other moments, I'm sure, for the sake of this experience. I understand the anxiety and the sense of abandonment that's emanating off the home front. I do.
That my parents, brother, and I have spent much of the last month and a half arguing vehemently is no surprise. What else are Irish-Italian families supposed to do with their feelings?
Ergo Curious Lil.
This blog in intended to share my upcoming adventures with curious parties. It's also a place for me to explore through writing: to work some things out, to practice wholeness and vulnerability, to connect to fluid ideas of self and worth and truth. It is a place to collect those things that make me feel grateful to be alive among this absurd digital landscape like songs I can't stop playing on repeat or art that gives you goosebumps or poems that make sense of the senseless. Maybe it's a place for me to develop professionally, too. Who knows.
But here we are.
I am lucky. So, so lucky.
I wouldn't trade anything -- not an experience, good or bad, not a place, not a person, not the amorphous pain of my 20s, not these awful scars -- for a different life or for more years of life on the tail end. For most of the last decade, I used to say that the only thing I'd do differently was not go to a private university. Taking up the state's generous offer to students like me might have been a better move for my family and I for lots of reasons. My time at Villanova was often a struggle.
But eight years later, I'm not sure where I'd be if it weren't for my Villanova education and connections. Very likely I wouldn't be getting ready to globe-trot. I probably wouldn't have been crying at dinner in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. I bet I wouldn't have been in a Brooklyn warehouse on New Year's Eve. But maybe I'd be in exactly the same place. It's a silly wonder.
I'll be ringing in the 2017 New Year in Mexico City, or at least that's the plan before headed to Columbia. If it's silly to wonder how and why I got to this point in my life, it's equally ridiculous to speculate where I'll be in seven months. So, until then, all I'm banking on is a safe arrival in Milan, my endless curiosity, and a set of memories from a year that started like this:
I'm waiting under the disco ball, bathed in blue light, standing cross-armed, watching the scene on the stage intently. I'm trying to figure it out. I'm looking for perspective or some hidden message in the moment. It turns midnight in a nonchalant fashion; the younger kids probably never watched Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, anyway. What does it matter? You return to the place you left eventually. We do; each and all. A spot on the arena floor, a family, a philosophy, a home. Some things cannot wait. They have changed, like the year. But some things do. They can. They stand and greet you with wide arms and with newness-drenched familiarity. 12:05am in nowhere Brooklyn has happened countless times before now, yes. It will happen tomorrow, too, most likely. And beyond that. And paying no mind to meanings of tomorrow or next month or next year or next or prior lifetimes. Is this hedonism? Is this nihilism? Is this authenticity? Is this letting go? Is this trying? Is this living? Is this it?
Yeah. I think. Yeah, yeah.
This is it.
Keep in touch. Take care. Thank you.