To Fly.

Back in the planning stages for the great Austin adventure of July 2014, my anchor G went into our group text and asked for a reaction to us getting tattooed while there. For a long time, I thought that something I have planned for New York would be the last tattoo for me, but her words reignited the impulsive spark in my head that generally rules any important decision-making I have to do. I said to give me 24 hours, and if I thought of anything, I’d be down. For a few years I’d been playing around with the notion of an owl tattooed somewhere, so I started looking into some old ideas I’d saved, but I didn’t get that “YES” feeling that made me want to get inked again. I left the office that evening, and walked along thinking it how it would be such a great experience to get tattooed with G, our soul sister E there for support, as she’s been for tattoos for us in the past; if only I could come up with an idea, something with meaning and heart that represented the lightspeed journey I’ve been on for almost a year. As I stopped on the sidewalk to wait for the light, I saw a feather floating behind the tail wind of a speeding cab, and the gears in my head started turning.

If you’ve met me in person, you’re probably giving me some serious side-eye at the predictability of the above inspiration, the almost-flower child who wanders around in a hippie daze, jewelry on her face and feathers in her hair. Maybe it’s not the most inspired idea for a tattoo, or the most original, but that wasn’t where I was going with this idea necessarily. Meaning, as cliched as it might seem, or as predictable as it might be, I thought and planned enough about what this tattoo would mean to me, and how feathers go so far beyond a silly fashion trend or an impulse decision; I found inspiration in that little feather, floating on the street corner, maybe from a flea-ridden pigeon or maybe something beautiful, lost over the city grid. In the minute between staring at the floating feather and crossing the street, I finally made a decision, and texted G and E back right away. In the end, everything, from the size of the final product to the location on my body, brings me the inspiration I need sometimes, a small reminder of a very important lesson: To fly.

Now obviously I don’t mean that literally. Much as I love a good airplane or would probably trade part of my soul for the mutant ability to fly for real, I don’t have the money for a trip and haven’t had the opportunity for such a trade (yet…). When I say To Fly, I mean to take a deep breath and take a leap. Flying for me means letting go of inhibitions and insecurities; flying is calming my over-analytical brain for a minute and believing in myself first. Flying is independence, a solid foundation of just me, knowing myself and my instincts above everyone and everything else. To Fly means I’m not waiting for someone to give me a boost, a lift, or anything else to help me achieve something I should be able to do on my own. To Fly is to trust willingly, love freely, and sometimes let your mind run wild with possibilities, as small as the chance of a maybe-FaceTime chat or as big as the next tattoo.

There’s an old Sex and the City episode where one of the men makes a point that once you see something you’ve never noticed before, like an old playing card on the sidewalk, you’ll start seeing that thing everywhere. I have absolutely noticed that with feathers in the city: they line the subway steps into my morning station, float outside the coffee shop on Bedford, blow into the streets while I’m walking home from yoga. Big feathers, small ones, gray ones, white ones, brown ones. I couldn’t recall a single instance of seeing a feather in the city prior to July and now they’re everywhere. I’ve said before that I find tattoos have more meaning once you’re removed from the original idea, but I think this one has evolved into my hastily-formed thought on the street that warm June night. This tiny tattoo hiding behind my ear is a rarely-seen reminder of Austin, absolutely the time of my life; the tiny feathers littering the streets of the city are reminders every single day why I got a feather in the first place. Little and little-seen reminders to always, always fly.

PLD Montage: Vol. 4 (Austin edition)

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to chronicle this past weekend, the annual college reunion, because it could go in so many directions. I could talk about how much it means to have that time with my People, the ones who know all of my flaws and love me anyway, after we’ve all had a tough few weeks. I could put up something cute and cryptic about unique bonding experiences, or how much things can change in a year and yet how things can feel exactly the same, as though no time has passed. But the more I cycled through photos and memories on the long trip home, there is really only one way to give the past few days, officially dubbed “Best Weekend Ever (Seriously)” the justice they deserve.

Readers, I give you the latest Montage: Austin Edition.

  • While packing for the trip, I left out a few things that I would need to bring, but couldn’t lock in a suitcase until right before we left for the airport. Namely: glasses case, deodorant and phone charger. Despite a hot date with jalapeno margaritas the night before, E and I had no well, only minor problems waking up at 4 a.m., and I laid out the things I needed to pack as we scrambled around my apartment waiting for the car (Uber count: 1) to arrive. Everything travel-wise went incredibly smoothly – until I went to put away my glasses, apply deodorant and charge my phone.
    Lesson learned: Just because you’re not at a bar doesn’t mean 4 a.m. LB can be trusted.
  • In the week leading up to Austin, I was having a bit of a disagreement with my landlords about who was responsible for paying for my missing doorknob (ref.). It eventually worked out in my favor but it did leave me a bit shorter in budget for the weekend. I figured I’d just use my credit card for trip expenses, so I carefully planned the rest of my weekly spend to leave that card untouched, using cash in lieu of credit so I’d had as many funds to play with in Austin as possible. Following a very joyous reunion, set to the dulcet tones of Iggy (natch), we explored part of Austin for the afternoon, went back to the hotel for some pre-dinner drinks and a fashion show, and rolled out (Uber count: 2) to the supremely classy East Sixth Street for dinner, drinks and dancing. With Texas prices, my budget plan was beyond perfect, and I was so excited to be with my college loves again, so excited for all the crazy things we had planned for the rest of the trip. And then I lost my credit card somewhere between dancing on the bar at Coyote Ugly and getting the patio bartender at Toulouse to follow us on Instagram.
    Lesson learned: STOP. DRINKING. VODKA.
  • After getting back on Saturday night (Uber count: 3, 4. E went home first), I had a bit of a white girl meltdown about the card and how I was going to have fun throughout the weekend. I continued to cry and complain about where my card was like a spoiled brat with zero regard for the other two people forced to share a room with me. After keeping them up for a little while, I finally calmed down and passed out in the surprisingly comfortable hotel bed. Then woke up early, felt great and went by the pool to tan and do yoga for a couple hours, and kicked the other two out of bed when I got bored so we could brunch and find a bar for the World Cup Final.
    Lesson learned: Do not wake sleeping friends to humblebrag about your productive morning when you kept them up the night before.
  • Once the Argentina game ended (Aside: UGHHHHH. End aside), we decided to skip our afternoon plans of actually exploring Austin and stay at the bar with our new best friends, the daytime bartenders, who we’ll call Birthday Boy and Ham. The rooftop bar was perfect for a Sunday Funday, complete with water misting over everyone (#TexasIsHot), an adult-sized see-saw, two rocking horses, random dogs, free barbeque tacos and cornhole. BB and Ham joined us once their shifts were over, and we lost track of the time, laughing hysterically at everything, making friends with everyone and G, E and I just being together, like old times. When the sun went down at about 9, G and E decided to head to down the street for dinner (Uber count: 5), but I was having probably too much fun for a 20-something on the see-saw while BB and Ham bought drinks in honor of my sideboob. I decided to stay at the bar for a little while and meet them back at the hotel instead, and planned to stop for a quick dinner on the way back. Three hours and perhaps a shot (or two) later, I made it back (Uber count: 6) and even got up early enough the next morning for round two of yoga and tanning. It wasn’t until we sat down to breakfast at the hotel that I realized I hadn’t eaten more than a bite of free barbecue pork taco in 24 hours. G’s reaction: “At least you’re not hangry!”
    Lesson learned: If that’s all you’re going to eat in 24 hours, at least have the entire taco.
  • At the end of the trip, after a long day of travel with 2 dead phones, I finally made it back home (Uber count: 7), only mostly hungover and very glad to see little miss. Once my phones were revived, I started scrolling through photos from Best Weekend Ever, and found that I had been somewhat snap-happy at the bar the day before. I sent some of the choice images to G and E, and despite pure exhaustion, we stayed up for another hour on the group text, laughing and reminiscing and trying to pretend we were texting from different rooms, instead of different states. I can’t believe the trip is over. I can’t wait for next year.
    Lesson learned: Despite distance, time and a lot of changes, your best friends will always love you.

I have a million more stories, featuring fantastic quotes that include “Wait is that a metaphor or do you actually have a warrant out for your arrest?,” “WATCH ME DO MY CHEETAH DANCE!,” “I think it’s true love if he massages your stomach when you’re constipated,” and “He gets serious bonus points for not giving me beard burn.” But there are a few stories that stay between friends – especially when you only get together once a year.

Here’s to Peace, Love, 403 in 2015: Perhaps we’ll learn how to behave by then. But honestly? For another weekend like this one, I hope we never do.

Jessie Spano-levels

Something odd that’s plagued my group of college girlfriends is that we’ve never been single at the same time. Back in college, it’d be one out of three single, maybe the occasional month of two out of three, but inevitably at least one of us was in a relationship at any given point in time, both in college and beyond. In particular, my anchor G and I had absolutely never been single at the same time and never expected it to happen, as we both found ourselves in serious relationships starting at 22. When those crashed and burned within a few months of each other, we planned a night in the city, just before New Year’s, where we could finally experience something we’d been looking forward to for years: single G and LB, dressed the hell up and ready for strong drinks and cute boys.

We reminisced the next morning when we both got back to my apartment woke up in my bed because where else would we be, about our hilarious antics the night before. Between vodka shots (never again) and a little adventure to Village Tavern, we’d somehow managed to act like we were 19 again in all the right ways, consequences be damned in lieu of a good time. And then just as quickly as she left, it looked like that was the one and only time we’d ever be single together. One perfect weekend memory(ish) of finally getting a drink as single G&LB.

Every year, my college girlfriends and I plan a trip in the summer. Since we’re all scattered around the country, it’s a simple tradition we’ve enacted that ensures no matter where we are or what’s happening, we take a few days to be together, as though no time has passed from that beautiful May day in 2010 when we had to say goodbye to college and each other. After forcing G to come north since the first trip in 2011, my soul sister E and I are finally gettin’ ourselves down to Texas, meeting G in Austin for a weekend where we only have a few definite plans. E found her Person years ago, and for a while, the rest of the trip dynamic was uncertain, as G and I both fluctuated from un-single to very-single at different times. And in the end, it’s perfect: single G and LB, ready to take on the Texas sun and those Southern boys, the second time ever in 8 years of friendship.

There aren’t words to describe how I’m feeling about this weekend, a chance to get away, a chance to see my college lovies, a chance to make some permanent changes and a guarantee of some college-level PLDs. So, as E and I look forward to a 6 a.m. flight out of JFK this weekend, here’s a gif to do justice to the feeling I can’t describe:

SESC

 

See you next week kids!