Broadway!

Once in a while, it’s important to go out of your comfort zone; to pursue those things you’ve always dreamed of doing when you get the chance. For me, that opportunity came in the form of a spontaneous solo New York trip.

Broadway! 6-17 (1)

John Wayne airport at 6:00 AM. Packing light is my talent.

Here’s some context; I’ve used my time really productively this year. And by that, I mean that I’ve let my musical theatre obsession grow dramatically (pun intended). Two new musicals have really stood out to me this season: Dear Evan Hansen and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. The latter even inspired me to read all 1,350 pages of War and Peace, the show’s source material.

Broadway! 6-17 (9)

Both of these shows will eventually tour around the country, landing in LA and Orange County. The chance to see them with original casts and staging, however, is totally unique to Broadway. At this point in my life, I’m lucky enough to have time and money to spare, so I started flirting with the idea of traveling to New York. I scoured Broadway chat boards for information on procuring cheap tickets, found an affordable round-trip flight, and discovered a cozy Airbnb in Times Square. Everything was coming together.

Broadway! 6-17 (26)

I’d been to New York only once before, tagging along with my mom for a work conference at age four. I had faint memories of visiting Central Park and maybe going to a museum? Other than that, my only experience with NYC came from movies and TV shows. I was essentially replicating the weekend trips from my time studying abroad: traveling to a totally new city, figuring out the public transportation, and making the most of a very short amount of time.

I left from California around 6:00 AM on Tuesday and arrived in New York at 5:30 PM (thanks, time zones). From there, I immediately headed to the Music Box Theater, home of Dear Evan Hansen. Thanks to its popularity and success at the Tony Awards, the show has been completely sold out for months. My only hope was to wait in line for Standing Room Only tickets, a bargain at $42 instead of the usual $200+ seats. I got to the theater at 7:30 PM with all my stuff, preparing to wait overnight for the box office opened at 10:00 AM the next day.

Broadway! 6-17 (13)

My view for the 5 hours I waited for Standing Room tickets! Could be much worse.

When a group of people come together who all geek out over the same Broadway musical, a sense of camaraderie forms instantly. Many of these new friends had done Standing Room for other shows, and they had awesome stories to share. One of the girls next to me worked as a stage manager; another was a journalism major who got to interview Broadway stars. The hours flew by as we sat and talked. I met people from Chicago, Utah, Toronto, and even London, all of us brought to this glittering city by the mutual love of theatre.

That night, a miracle happened. It turns out that the day before, the Music Box Theater had switched its Standing Room policy. Since the change was so new, few people knew about it, and most didn’t line up until 10 or 11 PM. At approximately 12:15 AM, a security guard came to hand out wristbands. Each of them were numbered according to our position in line; I was number four. We all wrote our names in order on a clipboard and were told to return the next morning at 10:00 AM to buy our tickets from the box office.

Broadway! 6-17 (85)

All my friends, part 1. Note the red wristband, my salvation!

The next morning I woke up bright and early, eager to begin my day of exploring the Big Apple. I savored a delicious bagel with lox and a rich cup of coffee, then meandered back to the Music Box Theater. Reuniting with my newfound friends was fun, but tinged with nervous energy as well. Some of the Standing Room tickets are allocated to friends of the cast and crew, and it’s impossible to predict how many will be left over each day. As it turned out, there were plenty of tickets left over for the matinee, but only 5 or 6 available for the evening show.

My body jittered with caffeine and excitement as I stood in line. “I’d like a ticket for the mezzanine… I mean, matinee,” I stammered to the box office attendant. She smiled wordlessly and printed out my ticket. Seeing the words “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Nicole Kennedy” on the same ticket stub was a dream come true. I was in!! All my friendly neighbors from the Standing Room line got tickets too, and we hugged and rejoiced together. Happy tears were shed. It was a truly magical, euphoric moment.

Broadway! 6-17 (37)

All my friends, part 2.

I still had a few hours to kill, so after saying goodbye to my new friends, I started walking through Times Square towards Rockefeller Center. After slightly getting lost in its vast array of boutiques and cafes, I picked up a nice salad and took it to Central Park for a picnic. The juxtaposition of nature and skyscrapers was beautiful; it reminded me of my days jogging through Hyde Park in London.

Broadway! 6-17 (54)

Dear Evan Hansen was amazing. Ben Platt’s remarkable performance has been well documented, so I’ll just say this: I hardly cry at anything, but I was absolutely bawling by the end of the show. The Music Box Theater is a fairly intimate space, so even from my Standing Room “seat” in the back of the house, I could see the actors’ faces up close as they performed. As Evan sings in Act 2, “Words Fail.” I simply cannot put into words how amazing it was to see this show.

Broadway! 6-17 (38)

Yoga event in Times Square, because why not?

After the show, I flailed around Times Square for a couple hours, window-shopping in department stores and gift shops. It reminded me of a cross between Piccadilly Circus  and Hollywood Boulevard: touristy, loud, and very claustrophobic. When I ran into a guy wearing a creepy Trump mask, I knew it was time to get out of there. So before seeing Great Comet, I found respite in a dive bar, where I enjoyed a pint and an old issue of The New Yorker (as one does in New York).

Broadway! 6-17 (111)

Yep, I wore these shoes all day. My arches were happy, and fortunately the Fashion Police didn’t arrest me.

Thankfully, I’d bought my Great Comet tickets beforehand, so the experience of getting to that show was much smoother. The atmosphere was breathtaking from the moment I walked through the door; Comet‘s Tony-winning scenic design transforms the Imperial Theater into a uniquely immersive environment. Every seat offers a completely different experience. I was way back in the cheap seats, but it still felt very intimate. Ensemble members danced through every aisle passing out letters and pierogis. I even “cheersed” with one actress during one of the lively dance numbers, tapping my vodka soda against her empty shot glass. Hearing Josh Groban perform live was transcendent. The score, composed by the amazing Dave Malloy with original text from War and Peace, came alive with a vast array of musical genres. I don’t think I stopped smiling once.

Broadway! 6-17 (96)

My view from the Upper UPPER upper Rear Mezzanine! And rainbow playbill for Pride Month!

After the show, I immediately went to the stagedoor and met some of the amazing cast members. Everyone was super friendly and down-to-earth, happy to sign programs and chat with us. I’ve heard horror stories about fans being really pushy and rude at stagedoors, but the people around me were all super respectful. There was a bit more of a flurry when Josh Groban came out, but everyone still remained calm and kind. Normally Josh stops to take selfies with fans and have more substantive conversations, but that night he had another commitment afterwards, so he wasn’t able to stay for quite as long. I was fortunate enough to get his autograph and a couple blurry photos.

Broadway! 6-17 (109)

Yep, that’s THE Josh Groban with his beard and cute lil hat.

Between the jet lag, excitement, and uncomfortable sofa bed in my Airbnb, sleeping that night was almost impossible. I only got a couple hours before my alarm woke me up at 5:30 AM, signaling the start of my journey home. It was a super short trip, but I’d seen two amazing shows and seen some of my favorite actors perform up-close… I was a happy camper.

Broadway! 6-17 (121)

This trip has instilled in me a greater love for live theatre and a better understanding of New York. One day, I hope to go back there for longer. I want to see Brooklyn, the Upper East Side, more of Central Park, and all of the amazing libraries and museums. For now, however, I will cherish the memory of this wonderful trip, and hold steadfastly to the confidence I’ve gained from planning it myself.

NMK

Advertisements

Some Other Me in Seattle

Last week I went on an epic road trip with some of my best friends from college. For some it was a grad trip; for all of us, it was a celebration of friendship and freedom and the beauty of our surroundings. Together we were closing a chapter of our lives, enjoying one last hurrah as a group before leaving for grad school or jobs in different cities.

Road Trip 2017 5 (41).JPG

From Los Angeles, the six of us packed into a rental minivan and drove up the West Coast. We hiked to Bishop’s Peak and learned about the history of Mission San Louis Obispo. We survived two nights in a sketchy Bay Area Airbnb, walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, and ate authentic Dim Sum in Chinatown. We admired the state capitol in Sacramento before retreating to the gorgeous mountain town of Quincy, then drove through acres of lush forest to the Oregon border. We explored books at Powell’s and wildlife at Multnomah Falls. Finally, we made it to our ultimate destination: Seattle, Washington.

On my last day of the trip, I broke away from the group for several hours to visit some of my favorite places in Seattle. I started in Capitol Hill, the neighborhood where I’d lived for a week while volunteering with L’Arche my junior year of college. Everything was just as I’d remembered it–the lovely foliage of Volunteer Park, colorful Craftsman-style houses lining each street, and rich coffee from Victrola Roasters.

Road Trip 2017 5 (235).JPG

I walked down rainbow-striped crosswalks on Pine street, past designer boutiques and political protesters in Downtown, until I reached Pike Place Market. Later that day, after reconnecting with friends and saying my final goodbyes, I drove by the University of Washington Law School and picked up dinner nearby. The sky, which had been sunny for most of the afternoon, suddenly began to rain. As I activated the windshield wipers, my eyes also began to water. What?

I’d had such a good day, felt such peace during my time in Seattle. Yet very quickly, I recognized the source of my melancholy: I was mourning a life that wasn’t mine. A life of taking classes in UW Law’s beautiful glass building, studying at local coffee shops, riding my bike along the Puget Sound. An opportunity to live as a twenty-something in a vibrant city, to venture out of my Southern California comfort zone. That life felt so tangible as I walked along those paths, and yet so out of reach.

Last year, I watched Idina Menzel perform in a musical called “If/Then” at the Pantages Theater. In the show, a thirty-something woman named Elizabeth ponders how her life would change if she made different choices. Elizabeth splits into two separate personas: Liz and Beth, both played by Menzel. Their separate storylines play out in drastically different ways, completely altering the course of her life. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure story fully fleshed out, an intriguing look at humanity’s fascination of the road not taken.

In a moving song called “Some Other Me,” Elizabeth sings (click on the lyrics to hear it):
Some other me is homeless / Some other me is queen / Some other me has seen things that no other me has seen / If I met her I would ask her that one question we both fear:
Some other me / How’d we end up here?

943423_10208217392898222_7775554853829838097_n.jpg

As each of us grow up, we are confronted with increasingly difficult and complex decisions. Choosing a career path, getting married, buying a home; these are all wonderful things, but choosing one closes doors to alternative possibilities. It can be overwhelming to think about all the things we’ll never get to do, the moments we’ll never experience in our short lives.

Proverbs 16:9 says In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. How awesome is that? We have free will, so we’re able to explore or settle down or do whatever we want. Yet at the same time, God is guiding us every step of the way, blessing us and keeping us safe. We don’t have to worry about making perfect decisions because we have a Lord who loves us unconditionally.

Maybe one day I’ll be called to move to Seattle. God has placed an inexplicable love for that city in my heart, and I don’t intend to ignore it. For now, I’m continuing to lay down roots in Southern California, to fully embrace each moment, to invest in the strong relationships and opportunities I’m building. That’s all any of us can do, and God is taking care of the rest.

NMK

Coachella on Easter

When I was a little girl, my family used to gather in Palm Springs every Easter. It was a fun-filled time of hunting for eggs with my cousins, enjoying brunch at the country club, and joyful reflection on Christ’s resurrection.

Easter 2004 (2)

This year on Easter I found myself in Palm Springs once again for a very different reason: Coachella. My friends and I stayed in the same place I used to stay every Easter: my grandparents’ house. Amidst a breathlessly fun weekend, it was a blessing to have a home base where we could shower and rest before driving back to the festival grounds in Indio.

One of my friends had finals directly after Weekend 2, so we opted for Weekend 1. At the time we didn’t realize that Easter fell on the same Sunday. Yet when the weekend came, she told me, “I don’t feel bad about being here, but I don’t want to post any pictures on Sunday. I don’t want to distract people from the true meaning of Easter.”

Her comment wasn’t meant as a joke, but it was funny to me. The true meaning of Easter? Even in my fairly religious family, our celebrations have never been exceedingly religious. Historically, Easter was designed to fall around the time of the vernal equinox, sort of like how Coachella is always planned towards the end of April. Some of Easter’s most pervasive symbols, like bunnies, and colored eggs, come from pagan rituals. Even the name “Easter” is derived from “Ostara,” a fertility goddess. Yet much like other secular holidays, Easter was eventually co-opted by Christianity and rebranded to signify a meaningful event: Christ’s death and resurrection.

Coachella 2017 (3).JPG

On April 16th, 2016, my social media feeds became a pathwork, alternating between families dressed up for Easter and friends in a different kind of Sunday best at Coachella. It’s not every day that the dichotomy between “Christian” and “secular” is laid out so clearly. My friend and I decided to compromise and partake in both: we attended an Easter service before enjoying the final day of Coachella.

We went to a nondenominational church, one that has a relationship with my home church in Irvine. Its congregation was large enough that we could anonymously slip into the back, and we figured that people there would accept us despite our Coachella outfits and wristbands. So I was a little annoyed when the pastor made a dig at the festival: “For some of you this is your home church, some of you might just be here for Easter and you’re coming back on Christmas, and some of you might just be high on weed, wandering in here from Coachella. Either way, you are welcome here.” Thanks, I guess?

The rest of the sermon was good, but I couldn’t help being bothered by that opening comment. His remark showed a very one-sided attitude towards the demographic of those who attend Coachella—and those who attend his church beforehand. If someone is going out of their way to attend church during a festival weekend, isn’t that a good thing? We weren’t the only ones either. We ran into two of our sorority sisters who were at the same church, also headed to Coachella afterwards.

Why do people go to music festivals? The answer varies slightly with each person. I was there to see Bon Iver and The Head and the Heart and dozens of other performers up close, and—admittedly—to get some cute Instagram pics. Others come to rub elbows with celebrities or simply blow off steam with friends. And, okay, some people do want to get high in the desert. At its core, Coachella promises an elevation from the mundane. People from LA and Orange County and San Antonio and all over the word come there looking for an interruption, something to add color and joy to their daily lives.

Here’s the story of Easter: Jesus came to teach and heal humanity. On the first day, he died brutally on a cross, betrayed by people from his own community, to carry and redeem our sins. But on the third day, he rose again. What was dead came back to life.

The masses of people who congregate at Coachella are looking for something to celebrate, for a way to feel alive again. It’s a place of joy and connection, a place to instantly bond with the stranger who’s singing along to Lorde at the top of his lungs, a place to strike up an insightful conversation with someone at the phone charging station in the Heineken tent. “I feel like all the people here are just friends who don’t know each other,” I remarked at one point.

17917545_10212588285447804_9215096834031309034_o

I think Heaven will be something like Coachella, except the dust won’t trigger allergies, our feet won’t hurt after walking around all day in sandals, and we won’t feel claustrophobic from being around all the people there. Instead of Kendrick Lamar or Lady Gaga, we’ll be face to face with our Lord, glorifying Him in all His wonder. It’s going to be a bazillion times more incredible than anything we can fathom here on Earth.

I’m so glad I spent my Easter at Coachella. I’m immensely thankful that I got to celebrate Christ’s resurrection by doing something that made my soul feel alive. God isn’t found only in a church building; we carry the Holy Spirit with us wherever we go. On the third day of Coachella, I looked around at this field filled with people joyfully dancing, this space flooding with music and light and color, and said a silent prayer to God: “You are so present right now. Thank you for this moment.”

NMK

Questions for the New Year

2017 is here!! A new year is an opportunity for new beginnings and life change. How will you respond?

Instead of making resolutions (which are notoriously hard to follow for most us), I prefer to take inventory with myself so I can move forward with deliberation.

Which each of these questions comes an implicit follow-up question: “How will I learn from this in 2017?” I hope that each of them will help guide you as you set your course for the year to come.

goals

  • What were my greatest victories in 2016?
  • Where did I fall short this year?
  • Do I have any regrets? What can I do to amend those situations?
  • If I set any New Years resolutions for 2016, did I stick to them?
  • What are my 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year goals? What can I do in 2017 to make them happen?

relationships

  • Who were my closest friends and confidantes this year?
  • Who have I hurt this year? What can I do to make amends with these people?
  • Who do I want to be closer with? What steps can I take to nourish those relationships?
  • Is there anyone I need to thank, affirm, or help out right now?

memories

13566072_10209676947106165_2086501180_n

  • What were my top 3 highlights of this year?
  • What were my top 3 worst moments?
  • How have I grown from adversity this year?
  • Which celebrity death impacted me the most this year? What can I learn from that person’s life, and how can I honor their legacy?
  • What music, films, books, etc. defined 2016 for me?

legacy

ambition

  • If I had to summarize my 2016 in one word, what would it be and why?
  • What word do I want to be my mantra / mission statement, for 2017? What can I do each day to achieve that?
  • Who am I at this very moment? What can I do to savor this stage of my life and appreciate the person I’ve become?

I hope these questions help you reflect and grow, and I’d love to hear what you have to say! Leave a comment below with some of your answers. 2017 is off to a wonderful start!

pepperdine-10-16

NMK

Espresso-ions of Praise

After college graduation, the rush to find a post-grad job begins. Many of my friends have started at entry-level jobs in their chosen fields: accounting, marketing, tech… as for me, I’m working at Peet’s Coffee.

light-year-2016-8-19-10

It’s still surreal to me that I’m actually a college graduate; that when Pepperdine starts up in a week, I won’t be one of the students navigating new class schedules and waiting in line for caf food.

I’m living back at home, rediscovering the city where I grew up and navigating life as an adult. It’s an opportunity to recharge and relax before taking the next big step of law school.

Working at Peet’s is a humbling experience. Many of my coworkers are younger than me, studying in high school or college and working part-time. One of my coworkers is a first-year at the local community college. He’s been working various jobs since high school, and now relies on his job at Peet’s to pay tuition. Another girl is a student at my old high school (which is about three blocks from the store), and is grateful to work somewhere “better than In-N-Out,” where many of her friends have jobs.

light year 2016 8-26 (4).JPG

As for me, this is my first time working a minimum-wage job, and my first time truly understanding my privilege. Although my family was never super wealthy, I’ve never had to worry about affording textbooks or school supplies. Instead of working through my teenage years, I had free time to invest in tennis, choir, and my church group. I’m realizing now that many teens don’t have that option.

Another humbling experience: learning that it’s okay to be completely terrible at something. Giving myself grace when I hand a customer the wrong change, over-steam milk for a latte, or utterly fail at making latte art (it’s harder than it looks, you guys!). I’m learning the true value of listening to those who’ve walked in your shoes before, of asking the “stupid” questions, and of taking responsibility for mistakes. It’s preparing me for a lifetime of learning to do things that don’t come naturally; tasks that require dedication and a desire to continually improve.

A couple weeks ago, I traveled to Northern Arizona with my church group to serve as Work Crew for high school students at their Lost Canyon summer camp. Before every meal we served, our leader Conrad would lead devotionals, emphasizing the role of service as worship. While the teens left to enjoy chapel services with praise music and sermons, we cleaned up their dirty plates and set up tables for the next meal.

light-year-2016-8-9-1

I started my job at Peet’s almost immediately after I returned from Lost Canyon, with themes of service and sacrifice still resonating in my mind. And I must say–having a Christlike attitude has helped me find meaning in the harder parts of my job (like taking 50-pound trash bags of coffee grinds to the dumpster).

Working at the register, I get to interact with each customer who comes through the door. I’ve served police officers, nurses, and even my music teacher from middle school. With each bagel I toast and coffee cup I pour, I have the opportunity to brighten their day with good service and a smile. If they’re addicted to caffeine like I am, I may be giving them a needed boost to carry out their jobs well.

light-year-2016-8-19-16

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

No matter how mundane or gross the job, viewing our work as worship can completely transform our attitudes. The workplace is a mission field, and whether you’re picking trash off the side of the road, answering calls on a customer-service hotline, or simply showing kindness to someone in your office, you are serving the Lord! God put us on this Earth to be His hands and feet; sometimes we’ll be lifting those hands up in praise, and other times we’ll be using them to scrub crud off the pastry oven.

light-year-2016-8-16-5

Side note: THANK YOU to all the friends who’ve come to visit me (and taken stalker photos)… you guys make my day!

So I offer you this: encouragement. Whatever job you have, whatever season of life you’re in, pay attention to how God is using you. Focus on how you can bless those around you. And if you need a shot or two of espresso to properly accomplish that goal, you know where to find me.

NMK

.

Zumba in the Chapel

As part of my healthy-ish lifestyle, I try to fit some excercise into each day. Running and hiking are my favorite activities, but when it’s too dark or hot or I’m far from good trails, I like to do the next-best thing: Zumba.

Zumba began as a Latin dance workout, where instructors lead simple routines to fun music. I love it because it’s a great way to workout while feeling like you’re just dancing in Da Club (if the club encouraged precise group choreography). Recently it’s gained tons of popularity in the US, so it’s easy to YouTube a Zumba routine for practically any song and do it at home.

13566072_10209676947106165_2086501180_n.jpg

Last night, we celebrated the end of the academic term in Florence with a final banquet on a rooftop overlooking the city skyline. As the sun set and the sky darkened, I realized it had become too late to go for my usual run through Cascine Park.

So after returning home and changing from my dress into workout gear, I brought my laptop to the bottom floor of the Pepperdine Villa for a late-night Zumba party. My usual spot was occupied by other students, so I set out to find a vacant classroom. Privacy was key; as much as I love shaking my booty in front of a laptop screen, I certainly don’t need an audience for it.

After trying a couple locked doors, I found one that opened effortlessly. Expecting another classroom, I was pleasantly surprised to walk in and discover a lovely little prayer chapel!

13566040_10209676904465099_1191864350_n.jpg

For a minute, I debated whether it would be…appropriate? Decorous? To dance to Shakira and Justin Timberlake songs in such a space. After all, I would never do Zumba in the chapel at Mariners Church or in Stauffer Chapel at Pepperdine. People get married in those places. People light candles in memory of loved ones, read scripture, and sing hymns. It’s not a place for shimmies and step-touches…

Right?

13550912_10209676891024763_1411502578_n.jpg

This weekend I had another interesting experience in a chapel. My friend and I took a day trip to Milan on Saturday. Our tickets allowed for only about seven hours in the city, so we were determined to make the most of our time. First on our agenda was seeing the Duomo di Milano (or Milan Cathedral), famous for its intricate white spires and its colossal size.

Aiming for maximum efficiency, I held my place in the entry line while my friend got in line to buy tickets. As I approached the entryway, however, I became aware of a potential problem: I was wearing a tank top and a short skirt; perfect for a balmy summer day, but strictly prohibited by the cathedral’s policies.

13563212_10209676880984512_170872293_n.jpg

Fortunately, my problem had an easy solution: I bought a 2-euro scarf, which was large enough to drape in a way that concealed my shoulders and knees at the same time. Sure, holding my purse became awkward with this garment, and taking photos was nearly impossible, but at least I was…covered?

The same people who think God is horrified by the sight of a woman’s bare shoulder would probably faint after seeing me do Zumba inside a chapel. In their minds, there’s a clear dividing line between holy and depraved, spiritual and secular.

13565455_10209676893024813_2125668106_n.jpg

Here’s what the Bible says:

The God who created the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, because it is He who gives to all people life and breath and all things. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands and territories. This was so that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grasp for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist [that is, in Him we actually have our being], as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ – Acts 17:24-28

13551170_10209676897944936_1068488316_n.jpg

Also this:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

God’s presence isn’t restricted to temples or cathedrals. His Spirit resides in us all the time, whether we’re eating or drinking or dancing or climbing 436 steps or having sex or wearing a parka or wearing nothing. So whatever you’re doing, you have the opportunity to glorify Him!

13578936_10209676891624778_535492873_n.jpg

I’m almost certain there will be Zumba parties in Heaven, and I don’t think there will be dress codes for entering the pearly gates (although my new scarf is so fun, I might keep wearing it anyway!). While I cannot change much about legalism in the Church now–unless I somehow gain control of the Duomo di Milano, which would be awesome–I can encourage you to question the boundaries we set between holy and secular.

13536158_10209676879424473_1899553321_n.jpg

Jesus is in the business of transforming our entire lives, not just the parts that occur within the walls of a church. Let’s dance our way through!

NMK

Room for a View / Cinque Terre

I went to Cinque Terre this weekend and it was fantastic! That’s not what this post is about, but enjoy the photos!

When I started preparing for my time in Florence, one of the first things on my agenda was to find a book set in my future home. Drawn to the concept of juxtaposing my own experience with a well-written fictional narrative, I browsed the Google results for “books set in Florence” and the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble until finally settling on E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View.

Imagine my amusement when I picked up my new novel and read this line in the introduction:

If you were a young woman, from a relatively well-off family, coming of age in Britain at the turn of the twentieth century, you might think of passing a month or two in Italy, to prepare yourself for a life in polished society by learning a little something about Italian art.

The author of this section, Radhika Jones, was clearly talking about a phenomenon specific to the Victorian Age when E.M. Forster wrote his novel. So to see such a parallel of my own experiences–if you were to substitute “Britain” with “America” and “art” with “music”–confirmed that I’d definitely chosen the right novel.

Our protagonist Lucy knows very little about Italian culture, stays in a house with other people from Britain, and delights in seeing a view of the Arno from her room. Literally same, I thought to myself while reading the first chapter. Except my view isn’t as good as hers.

My view hasn’t been very good here. As you can tell from my previous blog post, I’ve been a little bit negative about Florence. Its strangeness has overwhelmed me, and until recently I’ve felt paralyzed by its expanse. I’ve found myself surrounded by wonderful people, yet aching for loved ones back home. In short, I’m going through culture shock… something I never really dealt with in the more comfortable lands of Lausanne and London.

But then I remind myself of this: most of life is not about what you see, but about how you view it. Missing a morning train can be a hassle, or a chance to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee. Being away from best friends can be isolating, or an opportunity to take solo adventures and invest in the community nearby. And having a tiny room with a mediocre view can be a tragedy, or a guaranteed way to bond with your roommates.

As for me, I’m determined to start choosing the positive view. I want to be realistic about when things aren’t great, but I’m also committed to keeping an open mind about the people and places around me. It isn’t hard when what I see is so innately magnificent.

NMK

Florence, I like you, but you freak me out.

Have you ever seen a really, really ridiculously attractive person?

Not just someone who’s kinda cute, or someone who has beautiful eyes or great abs. I’m talking about a person who’s so freakishly good-looking that it’s actually hard to look directly at them. They glance in your direction, and you quickly look away and awkwardly avoid eye contact.

(Oh wait, that’s just me? Never mind.)

 

The most romantic place EVER: Piazza Michaelangelo!

Anyway, I’ve been living in Florence for almost four days now, and so far my impression of this city is kinda like looking at an intimidatingly attractive guy.
Here are some things about Florence that kinda freak me out:

  • Cars drive super fast and don’t give pedestrians the right-of-way. I can see my life flash before my eyes every time I cross the road.
  • Most streets where you ARE allowed to walk are extremely narrow, so if the people in front of you are slow walkers… good luck.
  • The men selling purses can always tell when you’re admiring the merchandise, and they shout things at you as you pass by (not the best marketing strategy, dudes).
  • Our program director warned us that Italian men like to follow women around. So far that hasn’t been true in my case, but I still feel paranoid whenever I pass by a male on the street.
  • The weather here, which is generally sunny and perfect, will occasionally blindside us with rain and crazy thunderstorms.

My morning run by Ponte Vecchio… it was raining, but still absolutely gorgeous.

Don’t get me wrong; I am already quite enamored with this city. I love how there’s art on every corner, whether it’s a famous sculpture or a Renaissance art museum or just some interesting graffiti. I love the old brick houses with flowerpots in every window. I love the smell of strong coffee and the colorful displays of gelato. I love catching glimpses of the Duomo as I meander through undiscovered parts of town.

Here are some things that comfort me about Florence:

  • There’s a tiny river near our villa that reminds me of the creek in my hometown where I always used to ride my bike.
  • The Brandy Melville here has Malibu and Newport Beach merchandise, which is strange because it’s actually an Italian company, but definitely fun.
  • When I went for a run the other day, I thought this guy was catcalling me but he was actually just being helpful and telling me that the road was blocked ahead.
  • You can buy a bottle of local Tuscan wine for under $15… enough said.
  • The Pepperdine house is filled with amazing people and community that brings a sense of home to this foreign land.

The aforementioned tiny river, and the street where our Villa is!

I hope that soon I’ll feel at ease in this city, that I’ll learn to walk these narrow streets with confidence and make it home without staring at the map on my iPhone.

In my new four weeks here, I hope to build my relationship with Florence from unrequited crush to fabulous love affair. For now, I’m gradually figuring out this magnificent city, learning to gaze at its visage without recoiling from its beauty.

NMK

 

Some Shades of Grey

This isn’t a post about an erotic novel, sorry. This is about my life. This is about a reality that, in the dominant culture at Pepperdine as well as in Christian culture at large, needs to be discussed more often.

12167163_10207769139652171_1308816958_n (1)

I took this photo on a hike in Malibu. Following an unseasonably hot week (90 degrees in October?!??), we finally experienced a day of cool breezes, cloudy skies, and even a trickle of rain. This day of Autumn also coincided with Waves Weekend, meaning that all the visiting parents saw our beautiful campus shrouded in a grayish fog.

I remember thinking to myself, “What a shame! Here we have this incredible campus with an unbelievable view, and yet all these people will see is the gray covering it!” This attitude, unfortunately, kind of sums up how I’ve felt the past couple months.

Pepperdine 2015 9-3 (12)

When I returned to campus this fall, I had a mental list of things I hoped to achieve. I wanted to get into Chamber Choir, play on the Club Tennis team, and take a more active role in Sorority Recruitment. Last year I tried for the same things, but God made it clear that I had to work on myself a bit more before taking on those roles. This year, He gave me a resounding yes, and as a senior I’m able to take part in each of these activities. Between that, my job with Campus Ministry, and my schedule of upper-division English classes, my lifestyle is incredibly busy and very rewarding at the same time–the perfect combination for me, since I tend to thrive under pressure.

I write this not to humble-brag about my accomplishments, but to get at this central point: Even though I finally have what I wanted, I’m still not satisfied. Most days I see my life like the first photo. Although my life is, by all accounts, an amazing “view,” it’s hard to look past the “clouds”–my dissatisfaction and insecurity–to fully appreciate its beauty.

Sunset 12-14 ii

Lately I’ve noticed a trend in Pepperdine social media. Somebody will upload a photo of a breathtaking beach sunset and caption it something like: “These sunsets are a great reminder that even on bad days, God is still good.” (#soblessed)

This sentiment is great!! I feel God’s presence strongly through nature, so I certainly relate to feeling uplifted by seeing His creation. But my question is this: is seeing a sunset necessary to remember that God is good? And when we do see the sunset, can we truly look past our own worries and appreciate it? Can we learn to recognize the beauty that hides beneath the clouds of gray?

I don’t have the answer, but I think it has something to do with looking past our own worries and focusing on God’s love. It has to do with appreciating what we have, working towards what we want, and making peace with that which eludes us. It’s also about loving people; helping each other see the beauty beneath the clouds.

NMK

How to Vacation at Home

Today after church, I lingered for a while in our excellent bookstore and stumbled upon the book Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae. Sarah talks about her desire to travel to Paris and find adventure, and how she’s reconciled this urge with her relationship with God, her husband and kids, and her everyday life. She also introduces ideas about how to add some “Paris” into one’s daily life.

Lausanne 2013 9-28 (7)

“Wanderlust” is definitely the word of our generation. More so than our parents, we Millennials are using our resources to travel and see the world. Yet when time and money is in short supply, how does one satisfy the deep yearning for adventure? Here are my tips for making every day feel more like a vacation!

  • Walk more.

Lausanne 2013 9-28 (11)

Fun fact: I actually wrote my Com 180 passion / pet peeve speech about my passion for walking around foreign cities (and my pet peeve for taking the Metro!). European streets provide countless opportunities to stroll down boulevards and discover unexpected delights on every corner. But even if you’re Stateside, walking can be a fantastic mode of transportation.

My friend Vanessa and I have a fun tradition: whenever both of us are in town, we meet at her home and walk to one of several nearby shopping centers for lunch, belting out show tunes and talking about life along the way. In Southern California where everyone drives, it can be immensely refreshing to just slow down and walk instead. So I challenge you: if you’re going somewhere that’s less than, say, 2-3 miles away, leave the car at home and enjoy the fresh air instead!

  • Sit more.

Pepperdine Spring Break 2015 (38)

To me, there are few things more life-giving than sitting in a cafe, sipping tea, and reading a good book. This “cafe culture” is a fundamental tenant of European culture, and it’s something I’ve tried to incorporate into my life here as well (the photo above was actually taken in Seattle!).

I’ve found that changing my environment really puts me in a more peaceful and productive state of mind. Even when I’m doing something tedious like studying for the LSATs, these outings always feel like a mini-vacation. Venture beyond the typical Starbucks and Coffee Beans to find the cutest independent coffeehouses in your neighborhood, and go do productive stuff in style!

  • Get out more.

Summer 2014 8-11 (4)

Regardless of where you live, I guarantee there are cool things in your hometown that you’ve never seen before! For example, did you know that Irvine has its own chocolate factory that offers tours? Or a museum with Impressionistic paintings of California landscapes?

Check out Yelp and TripAdvisor, consult your city’s visitor center, and just allow yourself to be shamelessly touristy! And when you end up a neighboring town–for a concert, retreat, or even an errand that takes you to a slightly different area–take the time to explore and get to know your surroundings a little bit. Approaching these situations with an adventurous attitude will satisfy your wanderlust, one day trip at a time.

Lausanne 2013 11-6 (45)

So whether you’re in the heart of Rome (where this photo was taken, believe it or not) or the suburbs of Orange County, you can live in a thrilling and meaningful way! Break from the daily routine and embrace these tiny adventures, and you will feel fulfilled wherever you go.

NMK