travel

#DearMe: A Letter to My Teenage Self.

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Dear (Slightly Younger) Mikayla,

When I first saw the idea of writing a letter to you, I found it a bit weird. I mean, I know you and you’re too hard-headed to listen to anyone, even me. But, ultimately, there are numerous things I would love to be able to tell you, wishes and warnings alike.

So, I’m writing.

From my perspective now, I know the truth of the matter is you spend a lot of time wondering what you’re doing wrong. You worry that you’re living just this side of disaster. You stay awake too many nights trying to envision something other than a question-mark future…

Stop. Please.

Everything you’re fretting over now—the friends, the classes, the feelings, the exams, the family members, the applications, the politics—none of it is going to break you. You’re going to be alright, I promise.

Okay, I’ll admit: over the course of the next few years, you’ll truly struggle with who you are and who you want to be. There’s no use worrying though because we still haven’t figured it out in the year 2015 and that’s perfectly okay. Trust me when I say that no one has their whole life figured out at 13, 16, or 21. All that matters is that you’re continuously working on it.

Remember: life isn’t a tightrope walk over a spike-bottomed canyon.

Learn to treat every day like a stroll on the beach–the tides move in and out, but you stay standing. Just enjoy the ebb and flow.

High school will pass over you like a breeze, but sometimes it will feel like hurricane-force winds and there’s really no helping that. That’s what high school is all about–learning how much pain, how much uncertainty, how much knowledge you can stand. Chickadee, high school is about survival and endurance—even when so-and-so stops calling you a friend and what’s-his-name tells you that you’re hard to love, hold tight.

You’re a military brat, you’re made for a fight.

When it comes time for university, go with your gut.  Don’t waste time in places you know you don’t belong and don’t even want to be. Be logical and be honest. The standard university experience isn’t so idyllic and it isn’t for you. Forge your own path and you’ll end up steps ahead. Freshman year, while playing an obligatory Welcome Week name game, you’ll dub yourself Magical Mikayla–make it your goal to be that person.

After university commencement, you’ll take two semesters off. Some days, you are going to swear that it’s a waste of time, that you’re wasting time, but I swear that this opportunity to be a wanderer is precisely what you need right now. Over the course of 8 months, you’ll visit 20 different states and this time, like no other time before, travel will be all you have to focus on, all you live for.

Revel in your experiences. Get caught up in simple pleasures.

In the coming days, when you’re feeling just south of sanity, you’ll remember the feel of west coast rocks and east coast sand, the sound of northwestern rain and southeastern thunderstorms, and the smell of strong coffee and harbor winds mixed together. The places you’ve been before were wonderful, but these are the places you’ll cling to and remember best. These places will resonate.

And, just like that, you’ve caught up to me.

The future is still a masked mark in the hazy distance, as it will always be, but there is an abundance of hope, desire, and ambition. There is an ever-growing collection of wonderful days and a group of delightful people who genuinely care.

There is possibility.

My ultimate wish for you is simply that, on your way from where you are in your time to where I am now in mine, you relish the journey.

With lots of love (…and feeling incredibly strange about signing this),

(Slighty older) Mikayla

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Goodbye, Year of Exploration. Hello, Year of Ambition.

For the last three years, I’ve rejected the idea of explicit resolutions and instead made a habit of declaring a single word to embody each new year. There was the year of discovery (2012), the year of dedication (2013), and even the year of exploration (2014). Each year lived up to its name, albeit sometimes in surprising ways that pushed me to my limits and then a bit beyond.

In 2012, I discovered who I was away from my friends, outside of my hometown, and apart from everything that I’d always thought was certain, as well as who I was when I came back. In 2013, I dedicated myself to whatever felt important, including finishing my bachelors degree in English and refining my art. And, in 2014, I explored whatever struck my fancy, even as that led me to travel from coast to coast for months on end and begin a master’s degree in criminal justice. No two years were the same, yet no year was more or less enthralling than any other.

All of that being said, 2014 was pretty intriguing. I spent three months in California, Oregon, and Washington. Then I spent three months in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. That’s not to mention all the states and shores I visited on the way to and from those places. I turned 21 and wasted my newest privilege by drinking a pitifully small volume of alcohol (say “no” to big kablue-nas). I began graduate school and discovered that sometimes the student teaches the professor. I baked foods and treats I couldn’t even pronounce and used ingredients I’d never heard of before.

In short, I explored.

Now it’s time to put all of that behind me, to close the door on 2014’s wild exploration, and step into the year 2015, which already seems daunting and intoxicating.

Over the next 365 days, I’ll be traveling back to South Carolina, the state I know only through my family tree.  I’ll be completing my Masters of Criminal Justice degree, complete with nerve-wracking comprehensive exams. I’ll be leaving my friends and the only place I have ever truly regarded as “home.” I’ll be taking control of my health and defying my genetics. I’ll be taking important steps in my personal and professional lives, striving to achieve success through desire and determination.

All in all, 2015 can and will be nothing less than wild and engrossing, fast-paced and sublime. Thus, in the same vein of thought, I’ve decided to call 2015 the year of ambition. I chose the word ambition to embody or headline this year mostly because I have a strong desire to achieve multiple things this year. I have an end-game in mind and nothing will stop me from reaching it. In addition, I’ve come to realize that being ambitious is just in my nature and that is something to use to my advantage, to accept as a benefit. So, this year will be a journey in accepting ambition as a facet of my nature.

Keeping with tradition, as I jumpstart the New Year, I won’t write down any particular resolutions because, well, it just feels awful when a perfectly composed resolution isn’t fulfilled precisely as it was written. I prefer to stick with matters of certainty, like the inevitable graduation and move, and variety, like the generality of being ambitious in all my endeavors. Along the way, I simply hope that at least 15 marvelous things will happen.

Here’s to a year of purpose and cheers to everyone reading this. I hope that you find precisely what you are looking for in the exciting days ahead. Happy New Year!

Traveling Onward and Westward.

Right now, I’m in Monterey, California. One day ago, I was in San Luis Obispo (SLO), California. Last week, I was in Port Hueneme, California. the week before that I was in Seal Beach, California. And, some time before that, I was rambling along the hot and bumpy interstates of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

In case it’s not quite clear yet, I’m currently on a westward journey from Texas to California, moving upward to Vancouver, British Columbia. So, I would like to share a little bit of my travel experience and perhaps help those who will set out on their own journey. Here are a few of my westward highlights:

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Killeen, TX

I’m not really “from” anywhere. Answering the question of “where you’re from” is a bit complicated for a military child. But, if I were ever to claim anywhere, I would probably claim Fort Hood and the cities surrounding it.

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Hurley, NM

From my experience, New Mexico is a state that likes to emphasize culture, particularly Native American and Mexican culture. The moment you cross from another state into New Mexico the atmosphere changes and, if you crossover near sunset like I did, you’re in for special and beautiful treat.

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San Simon & Dragoon, AZ

I’m not a fan of Arizona. It’s hot and dry, there isn’t a patch of grass to be found, and apparently you have to be over the age of 55 to be old enough for any of the respectable campgrounds. But, I will give the state credit for its photograph-ready rest areas and the fun of counting the train cars that run parallel to the interstate.

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Arizona Interstate 10

Who can complain about watercolor skies?

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Blythe, CA

Texas and California have quite a bit in common, at least in terms of geography and transportation–it takes forever to get in and even longer to get out. There is no better evidence of this than how long it takes to reach a full-fledged city after crossing the California state line from Arizona.

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Palm Springs, CA

This town/city/place is stunning because of both the way the valley casts the sunlight at sunset, as well as the sheer number of windmills that are stationed in neat rows like sentries. There is something decidedly and beautifully changeable about this place where the sky is painted and the wind is power.

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Seal Beach, CA

My family discovered Seal Beach two years ago when we ventured out on a very similar westward journey, and we couldn’t wait to come back. It is a darling town, particularly in the winter season when tourists are limited and the locals are a bit more settled in. Perhaps the best part of the whole town is the developed and thriving downtown area.

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Port Hueneme, CA

Port Hueneme, Oxnard, and Ventura, California, occupy relatively close quarters along the coast just west of Los Angeles, and that makes all three cities perfect in terms of accessibility and amenities. Plus, there is diversity in everything here–people, cuisine, entertainment, and so much more.

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My family always jokes that we pack a drought to bring with us whenever we travel or move. While California has recently been experiencing drought conditions, our presence here seems to have brought the opposite effect. The last time I saw this much mist was when I was in Washington in 2012.

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El Capitan Beach, Goleta, CA

This “in the middle of nowhere” state park is just stunning. When we drove in, there were quite literally no other people or cars about and the ocean waves were the only noise. It’s a bit more suited for a “stop and go” visit, but it is lovely regardless of how long you choose to stay.

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U.S. Route 101

On the road again…

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Avila Beach, CA

Avila seems like it would be a bit of a tourist attraction during the summer, but during the winter and spring it is the perfect blend of off-duty tourism-based businesses and local favorites. The pier makes for the perfect place to stop and watch the sun set–or rise, at least, as much as you can see a sun rise from the west coast. Also, be sure to stop into Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab for some delicious hand-scooped ice cream.

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Pismo Beach, CA

We stumbled upon this beach overlook at the very back of a neighborhood and on the edge of a gated community. There’s not much to mention aside from the generally delightful view that “almost” outweighs the poor parking situation.

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Shell Beach, CA

I may have these pictures labeled incorrectly because the beaches seem to overlap quite a bit here, but it was a beautiful area regardless of the area name. My only complaints were the cliffs with nothing to guard from people falling off of them, and the children (and teenagers) running about that my inner summer camp counselor self kept wanting to snatch back from the edge.

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Pismo State Beach, CA

If you don’t mind walking approximately one-half of a mile to even see the beach then this is the campground and beach access point for you. We didn’t actually stay here overnight; however, we stopped in for the day and took in the sights. To the east, the view is quite similar to the cityscape of San Francisco with colorful homes climbing up into the hills overlooking the sea.

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Camp San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, CA

When I lived on Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, I felt like I lived on the smallest military post in the world. I was convinced that something as powerful as the military simply couldn’t exist on or in a place so small. Well, the California Army National Guard exists on a much smaller installation in San Luis Obispo. There may not be much a PX/Exchange or Commissary to speak of, but the quiet and inactivity of the post is peaceful.

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San Luis Obispo, CA

Regretfully, I failed to take many pictures of downtown San Luis Obispo, but I assure you that it is absolutely wonderful. The downtown area is a successful combination of refurbished buildings and new construction with stores like Pottery Barn butted up against delights like Palazzo Guiseppe’s. Also, as a college town, the options for entertainment and food are endless, intelligent conversation isn’t hard to come by, and you can walk nearly everywhere.

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Estero Bluffs State Park, Cayucos, CA

It’s a state beach. Dogs, bikes, camping, and about 10 other activities are not allowed within the gate because of endangered birds called Snowy Plovers. That’s about it, really. The view is nice thought!

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California State Route 1/Pacific Coast Highway

On the road yet again…

(For the RVers that may read this, I feel obligated to note that driving North on CA-1 can be a bit difficult with longer rigs, and driving South is decidedly easier. Also, driving this route at night is not recommended because of limited lighting, resources, service stations, areas to pull off, and narrow roads with sharp turns.)

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Goodbye, Year of Discovery. Hello, Year of Dedication.

I have an issue with New Year’s resolutions.

It is not so much the act of making them. It is the act of leaving them unfulfilled. Often it seems that resolutions are made simply to be forgotten as the chocolate high and bubbly buzz fade. Regardless of the year’s worth of time that passes before open eyes, rarely are resolutions actually achieved. I myself am guilty of making resolutions and dismissing them over the course of the year. Even those resolutions which I am heart desperate to fulfill, often get pushed aside as unimportant in the wake of new circumstances. At the donning of 2012, the Chinese year of the Dragon, I made nine resolutions on this blog:

2012: Resolutions.

  1. Exercise more frequently and achieve the most physically fit state possible for me.
  2. Listen to others as well as to my own conscience.
  3. Finish the short novel that I have begun.
  4. Travel as far as possible and allow my senses to run rampant in each new place.
  5. Feel as often as I think, for too much of either is no go
    od at all.
  6. Find family.
  7. Paint and draw until my ideas run out–art will never come to be if you never begin.
  8. Disappear to a new place and find what I do not even know I am looking for.
  9. To be like a dragon and achieve exactly what I want.

Now, as I feel 2012 fading into a year of memories that even I already cannot keep straight, I am disappointed in all that I have not done. Yet, at the same time, I know that something must have happened in this time that has passed. So, I have made this list as well.

2012: What Actually Happened.

  1. Reading whole stacks of books from the library.
  2. Learning who my real friends were in the midst of college confusion.
  3. Spending three months traveling the west coast with my parents by RV and car. 
  4. Buying this domain name/address and finally putting new efforts into my blog.
  5. Learning how to ride a bicycle without training wheels or having Padre help me.
  6. Letting go of high school drama/ the past, and remembering how to start fresh.
  7. Conquering my fear of heights by traveling to the top of the Seattle Space Needle.
  8. Allowing myself to deal with the emotions of life rather than always being logical.
  9. Not voting in the first presidential election for which I was actually eligible to vote, and thereby showing my political colors even as others did not respect them.
  10. Developing a growing disdain for the way in which technology has dulled the emotional and social connections of people in modern society.
  11. Realizing how strong the influence of music is upon my moods, thoughts, and feelings, and also realizing how much greater CDs are than downloads.
  12. Changing my degree plan from Computer Science to Business Administration and then back to English and Literature, the only degree I can really see myself finishing.

I think the best way to describe 2012 is as a year of true discovery.

At the end of it all, 2012 was less about all of the action verbs themselves, and more about that which I learned from those verbs–the lessons along the way.

In books and travels, I learned freedom. In writing and bicycle riding, I learned what it is to feel simultaneously weightless yet weighted down. In overcoming fears and focusing on emotion, I learned my own strength and power. And, in college and music, I learned that there will always remain lessons to be learned and songs to be sung or heard.

After a year of unexpected discovery, I will not be making another set of resolutions. Neither will I be casting aside the idea of goals entirely. Instead, just as this year was all about discovery, I want this year to be about something else.

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2013 will be a year of dedication.

The people who have known me for years know that my interests are spread wide and far. One day, I may be entirely dedicated to art and design, and the next my focus may be on boxing or military history. My interests are so thinly spread that dedicating myself to any of them in particular is difficult.

And, it is scary. Absolutely terrifying. The idea that I might make the wrong decision and end up devoured by an interest that does not truly deserve such dedication. Being happy in my choices is so utterly important that I have entirely avoided making any choices at all. It is time to change that.

This year I will be learning from the discoveries of yesteryear. Embracing the idea of falling into something so deeply that I might be entirely encompassed. Welcoming whatever my heart longs to be immersed within.

I will dedicate myself to a soul song and let my life sing.

  1. And
  2. maybe
  3. through
  4. my
  5. soul
  6. song
  7. at
  8. least
  9. thirteen
  10. tremendous
  11. things
  12. will
  13. happen.

I cannot wait to see precisely what they will be.

Happy New Year, my darling readers. I adore each and every one of you, and I hope your 2012 served you well and that your 2013 will be even better.

Do not be afraid to let your life sing.

Remember: “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth” (Walt Whitman).

We Cannot Stand Alone.

Some of the best life insights comes when you least expect them. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can learn from the world around us. Never as clearly have I recognized this reality as tonight.

Picture this.

You are ordering a drink at Starbucks or whatever your local brew may be titled. You are paying an employee to make you a drink that millions of other are simultaneously drinking. You are giving an employee money so that, in return, they may make you a drink that is identical to that which millions of others are enjoying.  In the end, your dollar–or five dollars, as it may be with companies like Starbucks–is one sale in a million. You are one customer in a million. You are a customer demographic that ebbs and flows like tides, yet remains constant in its existence. What you are doing, the actions required of you by a society that recognizes consumerism and thrives on it, is not original. Your actions are that of millions.

Money is expended like tissues when a cold is tearing at your sinuses and your head.

Or, picture this.

You are traveling to a place that you have never been before. You admire the different culture. You revel in the sensation of feeling something for the first time. But. The air you are breathing has been reprocessed for hundreds of years. The ground you walk on has been tread before and will be again, every second, of every day, with no ultimate change in the pattern. The towering buildings you are bewildered by and the historical markers you marvel at have been seen before and your eyes are no different. What you are perceiving as “fresh” and “new” has most likely been here longer than you have been on this earth. This culture is not new.

The world is the same, even as you feel that you are not.

Finally, picture this.

You are trying out for a reality show. You are singing, dancing, or generally being yourself before judges that you only ever dreamed of meeting. You are casting hopes and inner cravings onto the shoulders of people who are no better nor worse than yourself. The song you sing has been sung before, even if the words are slightly different. The dance you dance has been danced before, even if the movements are slightly altered. The personality you present so easily to ridicule and slaughter or praise and encouragement has been experienced before, even if the way you speak or the clothes you wear are different.

You are the product of years of cultural integration.

In the future,  you are an independent variable that the world has created, guided, and provided for, so that a dependent variable may be obtained. Yet, there are so many other independent variables that your power alone may not be noticed. When you are combined with other variables, you are strong. You are an army. You are a true force.

Your dollar is worth so little, yet the dollars of the world fund empires.

Your eyes are not seeing anything new, yet the eyes of the world come together to create instead of simply seeing.

You are not truly unique, yet when you come together with those around you, your impact is palpable.

Alone, we are nothing.

Together we are strong.

The knowledge of the world is easy to hear when you learn to listen. However, the knowledge of the world is hard to spread when we refuse to speak. This world and the people within it are powerful, if only we learned to come together.

I can feel revolution in my bones.

Can you?

The Year of the Dragon: 2012

There are so many events that are meant to happen in this year: Supposedly, the world will end or come to some cataclysmic fall. The first generation of students to have only been educated in the 2000s will graduate from high school. The United States Presidential Election will take place. The 60th year of Queen Elizabeth II will be celebrated in each British land and the Summer Olympics will be held in London, England. This year, however, is no different from the last or the next. It is simply a year, and a leap year at that, with it’s measly one extra day. Yet, each year, people across the national lines will commit to new year resolutions, a practice that I personally commend, if and when the resolutions actually come to fruition. As I see it, what would be the point in resolutions that never became resolute? This being said, I myself have a few simple resolutions that I would like to make and set for all to see. You may peruse my resolutions below, but please feel free to post your own as well. Happy New Year, darlings, may it be a wonderful one for you in spite of the heavy topics that are sure to be addressed throughout 2012. Good luck in each of your own pursuits in this year of the dragon.

  1. Exercise more frequently and achieve the most physically fit state possible for me.
  2. Listen to others as well as to my own conscious.
  3. Finish the short novel that I have begun.
  4. Travel as far as possible and allow my senses to run rampant in each new place.
  5. Feel as often as I think, for too much of either is no good at all.
  6. Find family.
  7. Paint and draw until my ideas run out–art will never come to be if you never begin.
  8. Disappear to a new place and find what I do not even know I am looking for.
  9. To be like a dragon and achieve exactly what I want.

Falling Into Flight

Here’s an excerpt from the novel I am in the process of writing.
Please let me know what you think.
Thanks, darlings!
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Adequate.
Just enough. As much as necessary. No more than needed and no less than demanded.
Adequate.
Growing up, teachers wrote perfunctory descriptive words inside each of my report cards. One would inscribe “Satisfactory work” and weeks would be spent afterward wondering of the difference between “satisfactory” and, the next level, “excellent.” Another would proclaim “Sufficient development, Emilia!” with an utterly unnecessary exclamation mark, acting as though sufficiency was quite good and truly expected. Yet another would describe “Acceptable participation,” yet what exactly was acceptable about simply being acceptable was lost in the teacher’s mechanical and unfeeling writing.
Adequate, you see, was never something that I wanted to be, for adequacy is a word that is neither insult nor compliment, neither barb nor patch. Adequacy is and has always been my enemy.
I am not a person that will tolerate being less or average. I am a seeker of the best and a purveyor of the excellence I find, and plain adequacy would not figure into the equation.
Adequacy is the villain that I am waging an unending battle against and excellence is the ambition.
This is not the typical tale of a problem overcome through love and dedication.
This is not a story of magical creation and naïve airs.
This is a journey and a flight.
This is a running away from adequacy and a search for excellence.
This is my departure from all that I once knew about being just enough and my entrance into being all that I can. This is my quest. Welcome.