reunited, and the jury's still out on how it feels

Round about this time exactly 10 years ago, I was entering my senior year at Bartlett High School. I was the editor of the school newspaper and the field commander in the marching band. I was captain of the Wordsmith team and president of the Model United Nations and also high priestess of the over-achievers and Professor Emeritus Nerd of the Century.

Or something like that.

Reminiscing about high school is a weird thing for me. All that over-achieving certainly afforded me some fantastic experiences -- I won trips to New York, and to leadership conferences, and plaques and certificates and all kinds of honors -- and I wouldn't trade a second of a minute of a day of those four years in marching band. But there are a lot of things I would trade, happily and without hesitation. In high school I was very overweight, and unsure of myself. I never could seem to click with the group the way others did. I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself, and when I should've been enjoying the fact that I was young all I could think about was gut-rotting anxiety over school or my job or friends or something else, probably all invented.

And I was, at all times, extremely aware of the hierarchy of popularity. The people who could win a student council election and the people who couldn't. The people who could sit at that table at lunch and the people who couldn't. The people who could say and do whatever they wanted about and to anyone, and the people who couldn't.

I can't write a blog about how high school sucked, which is, I think, what I thought I would do. Because really, it just didn't. I had so many wonderful opportunities. I had the support and love of my parents, who helped me try my hand at just about whatever I could dream. I had a car, and three square meals (hey, sometimes more!) and a bedroom of my own and life was good.

But does any of that make me want to go to my high school reunion this spring? Not particularly.

The very concept of a high school reunion, for our generation and moreso the ones who'll come after us, is an odd and superfluous thing. Any and everyone I had an inkling to keep up with after high school is my friend on Facebook. I've seen their wedding photos and their creepy 4D ultrasounds and their new job posts and Instagrams of their kids on the first day of preschool. I know an absolutely freakish amount of stuff about people I haven't spoken to, digitally or in person, in 10 whole years. It's really pretty ridiculous.

And frankly, I've seen all of those photos and updates and tweets and statuses from people I actually didn't ever think I'd have an inkling to keep up with after high school, either. I suppose I don't see the high school reunion being abolished any time soon, but the level of connectivity we all sustain now has to make you wonder what the point really is of having one, anymore.

Turns out that the high school reunion committee for the BHS Class of 2003 perhaps did not receive my many letters and smoke signals regarding this concern (or perhaps I forgot to send them while I was busy tweeting about being deeply disturbed by the 4D ultrasound photos I saw on Facebook, posted by a girl I sat two desks away from in one half-a-semester class 12 years ago whose maiden name I CAN'T EVEN REMEMBER).

(Y'all. Can we talk about that for a second? We'll get back to the other thing, hang with me: if you delete your maiden name from Facebook, I need you to understand that I will, without doubt, lose any connection with a single fleeting memory of who you are and how I know you. Also? While we're at it? Your maiden name is not a nickname. It does not belong in quotation marks. The end.)

So the planning for the reunion is in full swing, and there's a Facebook page and Twitter feed and wouldn't you know it, I followed both of them because a.) I couldn't help myself (though I tried) and b.) maybe I figure if I don't end up going that at least we'll be friends on a social network, which is where 50 percent of real life happens, anyway.

Truly, I don't know if I'll go. I have the unfortunate burden of an elephant-like memory (a comment I would not have been comfortable making about myself in high school for fear of being the butt of a secret joke), and I do remember the terrible things that teenagers said and did. I also know that they were teenagers, just like I was, and I fully believe that people are capable of change. And that teenagers can be total shits sometimes, and that's just biology. Or chemistry? BOTANY.

Anyway. Right now, I'd say I'm 70/30. Seventy percent of me says don't do it and 30 percent of me says I'll regret it if I don't. As a friend pointed out recently, I do have the good fortune of looking better now than I did in high school. A good many folks I graduated with certainly can't say that. But is that really worth going? Just to be there, in person, a size 8 and not a size 18? I think that size 18 me would probably think so. In fact, size 18 me is positively schvitzing at the idea right now.

But that moment only lasts -- well, a moment. And my guess is, ironically, that might not be very satisfying if they all already saw it on Facebook.

So what do you think? Did you go to your 10-year reunion, or do you plan to go? Why or why not?

And don't you think that being afraid you might assault someone is a reasonable reason to stay home?



pressing the shift key

It's a strange thing, the way I feel about this blog.

Judging from the date stamp on the last entry, it's been exactly three months today since the most recent published post -- a distinction that is necessary since there is a draft full of photos of the FHB and I's trip to Little Rock to see Tom Petty that's been waiting to go live for almost as long.

Needless to say, since I stepped out on my own a year ago (yes, a year) my life has changed dramatically, and not just on the business front. I've got a boyfriend -- that aforementioned FHB -- who I'd much rather be spending time with than blogging about, and I made the decision not to get home internet service when I moved back to midtown in March. Keeping this thing updated instantly became a tougher task when working on a post required either taking time out of my day at the office or making special time in the evenings or on the weekend at a coffee shop.

But that doesn't mean the blog hasn't been on my mind. I've contemplated at length what exactly the next step should be for Just A Girl in the World, and the one thing I knew for sure was that I didn't want to walk away from it. This blog chronicled some of the highest and lowest points of my newly adult life -- England, grad school, New York, extreme poverty and ultimately, the happy move back to the place I never thought I'd end up but am so very, very thankful I did. All of that writing is important to me, and I like that it exists in the world, on the internet, and that I can come back to it any time I want, like a lazy Tuesday afternoon when I want to remember how I felt when I first moved into my apartment in London.

Change is necessary, though, and as my life has changed, so will this blog. I simply can't chronicle every piece of my life any longer. It's not realistic, and I'm also more and more interested as I grow older in keeping things to myself. So my plan from here on out will be to post once each month, and we'll hope for two posts. Maybe three, if I'm feeling particularly excitable. I do want to continue to keep a snapshot of my life here, and I enjoy keeping my friends and family who are far away in the loop on what I'm doing.

I promise that this will not count as my July post, but I only have a little bit of time to make good on that so I guess I'd better get to it.

To those of you who've been reading since the beginning, thank you. This has been a constantly engaging and challenging piece of my life. Here's to what's next!



the back to midtown countdown

On Thursday, I dropped the first box of stuff off at my new apartment. It was full of shoes.

This morning my mom and I loaded in a few more, and made a trip to my mini-storage to clear out some of the smaller odds and ends before the moving crew (translation: friends bribed by donuts) arrives tomorrow morning.

As I opened boxes this morning and pulled out all sorts of around-the-house stuff I'd managed to completely forget existed in the last seven months, I said to my mom, "It feels like my birthday!"

And then, a pause.

"Except all the presents are really dirty!"

Whoops. Good thing the dust spray was at the top of the pile in the mini-storage. And the Clorox.

And the trash bags.



the revelations of the keepsake box

As you may recall, I am getting ready to move. (Do you want to come sit on my couch in my apartment?)

The moving process involves plenty of packing, of course, but since most of my worldly possessions are contained in a 5 by 15 cell on Poplar Avenue -- not 201, thankfully -- I've turned my attention to the cleaning-out and getting-rid-of portion of our program. Quite aggressively.

(To be fair, "quite aggressively" is really the only way I've ever done it. For someone who has saved just about everything I ever breathed on as a child that I thought might mean something to me as an adult, I am oddly cutthroat about tossing things in the garbage when it comes time to trim the fat. TRIM IT! Trim it, I say.)

Underneath my bed at my parents' house, there were four separate keepsake boxes. FOUR. And there are a few more in the attic and at least one more in the closet, not to mention the keepsake box that's in storage. (I think there's only one in there.) After a particularly successful session last night, I consolidated the under-the-bed holdings into just one solitary box. It was a proud moment, y'all.

Some of the things I'd held onto in those boxes, you just would not believe. I have two words for you: Payne. Stewart. Yes. Payne Stewart. He made me love golf. Admittedly, it had a lot to do with his fashion choices, but we all come to the light in different ways, right? Inside my scrapbook, the scrapbook where I kept spelling bee certificates and citizenship awards and documentation of pretty much everything vaguely consequential that happened to me between the second grade and high school, was a two-page newspaper story about the death of Payne Stewart. TWO EFFING PAGES. I had carefully cut them out, trimmed around the edges, and taped them both into my scrapbook. Probably next to an honor society induction invitation.

Of course, beyond the downright absurd, I also found in this keepsake box (like every one I've ever had) pages and pages of writing. There was a three-ring binder from my high school creative writing class with dozens of free-writing prompt exercises, written in various sparkly colors of gel pen. There was my portfolio from three years on the high school newspaper staff, with literally every article I ever wrote for The Panther's Prey. And then there was a journal, a beautiful journal whose origin I would've forgotten altogether if it weren't for the inscription. It had been a gift from my third grade teacher. She gave it to me when I was 17, working for the local newspaper. I'd written a story about her, and she took me to lunch a few months later and gave me this journal.

I had written in it just a few times, but I could tell from the care I'd taken with my penmanship that I had intended for it to become a collection of sorts, something I would be proud or willing to show someone someday. Mostly, they were the random musings of a high school senior. But there was one entry that caught me. It was about music.

It was about the way I feel when I discover new music, the way my ears feel when they're swimming in new sounds. The way I feel when I walk into a record store. The way I feel when I create music. And then, very abruptly, I'd written: "Someone asked me today if I was passionate about journalism. I hesitated."

I went on to push at all the big questions: is this really what I want to be doing? Is what I've always planned for my life and my career the right thing for me? Do I love this or not? Does that matter?

It's such an odd thing, the time traveling that personal writing like this can allow you to do. Plenty of times in my 20s, after college, after grad school, I wondered those things. I wondered if this career that I'd always thought I wanted was really what I was meant to be doing. And ultimately I chose to leave it behind, when I had opportunities to keep working for daily or weekly newspapers and made the decision to pursue something different. I wouldn't say I'm one to second guess myself, but I am one to wonder.

As much as I love what I'm doing now, I still wonder. All the time.

But it seems like even then, I knew that this was where I was supposed to be. I threw a lot of things out of that keepsake box last night, but the journal is still there. I think it always will be.



defining abject terror

At such point in time as I actually manage to live through this whole starting-a-business thing, I think I'm going to write a book. And that book is going to be called: You Can't Tell Me What to Do (The Slightly Embellished but Mostly True Story of How I Got Laid Off, Got Angry & Started a Business that Probably Should've Never Worked, Ever).

That'll fit on The Times' best-seller list, right?

In one of the chapters in that book -- maybe the first chapter? -- I'm going to talk about abject terror. Many people might feel that describing just about anything as "abject terror" leans a tad on the side of hyperbole. I submit to you that these people have never started a business.

For those of us who have, abject terror is as common as a Tuesday afternoon. Or a Wednesday morning. Or maybe both! Today, as I was running some errands in the middle of a ridiculous day that was situated right in the middle of an even MORE ridiculous week, I decided I was going to write this book because of this very thing: ABJECT TERROR.

Because when you decide to do something like this, no one tells you that between once and 700,578 times each week you will experience (wait for it) abject terror that you have, in fact, made just about the stupidest decison in the history, even, of stupid decisions. Even compared to, say, sticking a paper clip in an electrical socket -- which a classmate of mine did in the eighth grade because he "wanted to see what would happen" -- this decision still seems completely, painfully obviously DUMB.

And then you wake up the next morning and (usually) find it in your heart to go a little easier on yourself. Until the next time.

This is what I will talk about, in my book. I will say, entrepreneurs! Abject terror is real. You will feel it. For some of you, it will feel like you are at the top of the Sears Tower on one of those tight-rope-walking thing-a-ma-jigs. For some of you it will sort of feel like overtime in a Tigers game. PERMANENTLY. And some of you will probably just be constipated for six months.

But however it manifests itself -- and this is the sentence I'm predicting/hoping/praying will be included in this chapter, though I can't know yet for sure -- it does eventually go away.

You will live through it.




the secret mission, and how it didn't even hurt

On my first full day in London, Sarah and I had a very critical mission. A secret mission, if you will. (And clearly, I will.)

We headed down Caledonian Road, not far from where Sarah lived for a while and I called home for a short bit in my last month or two of grad school, to a shop called Jolie Rouge.

Jolie Rouge Tattoos.

For the longest time, since the summer I spent here in undergrad, probably, I've wanted to immortalize my love for London in ink somewhere on my person. For years I've waffled back and forth on what to get. First I wanted a lion with St. George's cross inside, or maybe the union flag. Then I just wanted the flag, by itself, but something artsy. And then something else and something else and nothing ever seemed just exactly right. I knew I wanted it on my hip, and I knew I wanted it to be fairly small. And I knew, most importantly, that it had to be inked in England. I mean, that part seemed obvious to me. It was the only part that seemed obvious to me, actually, until about a week before I left on this trip.

I don't know what happened, but it just hit me. Every pint glass in the UK has to be certified as an imperial pint by a certifying body, and that certification is etched on the side of the glass. Although some newer glasses feature a simpler, text-based seal, the majority of them feature the word pint, the symbol of the crown, and a number representing the district in which the glass was certified.

This was it. The gut feeling, the tap on the shoulder from the universe I'd been looking for, it was there. The feeling I needed to feel was all up in my ear, going, FEEL ME. This is the one.

At first I'd thought I would use the number 904 in the design, since September 4 was the date that I moved to London. But as I was sharing the idea with my coworker John, he suggested I use 901. It's the area code for Memphis.

And so, on Saturday at noon, Sarah and I headed back to Caledonian Road. We ate breakfast in a greasy spoon across from the tattoo parlor, where we met and were serenaded by Cally Road's own Elvis -- which was totally my fault since I decided to try to snipe a picture of him on my phone and was caught right in the act by Mr. Presley himself, who didn't seem to register why it was interesting that I'm from Memphis, but also might be on hallucinogenic drugs -- before heading back to Jolie Rouge for a tattooing experience so utterly painless that I literally almost fell asleep on the table.

And as soon as I saw it, I fell in love. So here you go: a tattoo years in the making, but worth the wait, if only because it now represents the two places in this world that can lay claim to equal parts of my heart.


P.S.: You didn't think I'd leave you without a picture of Cally Road Elvis, did you?


a very ironic thanksgiving

Thursday morning I woke up to my second Thanksgiving on English soil, feeling pretty much like I'd felt the last time around: when no one else is talking about turkey and pilgrims and shit, you kind of forget it's anything other than a regular old Thursday.

And that is precisely why I got myself out of bed at a semi-decent hour and headed for Heidi's house to help her peel assorted potatoes both sweet and not-sweet, and also to pull the mind-blowingly disgusting innards out of a turkey carcass. And clearly by that I mean, watch Heidi pull the innards out, screech and dance around the kitchen and call the entire display "moral support."

And of course, Heidi and I observed one of the time-honored traditions of Thanksgiving that surely even our forefathers recognized: the need to stuff one's face ALL DAY LONG in preparation for a gut-bustingly huge meal.

After a really good day of catching up over vegetable preparation and bloody giblets, people started arriving around 7 and the drinking of cider and carving of the turkey commenced. After, of course, we all sat around taking pictures of it with our phones because we were so overcome by its beauty.

As we sat around Paul and Heidi's living room stuffing ourselves, we ended up -- shocking! -- talking about Memphis music. AGAIN. It started when Paul showed me his prized Elvis TCB sunglasses that had been tragically broken on some recent adventure in hopes that I might be willing to make a trek to Graceland to procure a replacement pair for him. Then someone started talking about Big Star and next thing you know I'm being myself, sitting cross-legged on the floor thumbing through Paul and Heidi's record collection like a blind woman feeling someone's face to figure out what they look like, when I find a Box Elders LP and the conversation turns to Goner Records. Someone said, "You know about Goner?" I said, "Their record store is around the corner from my house, y'all."

I crashed at their place that night, and the next morning was awakened by -- wait for it -- the SUN. It was the only truly sunny, blue-skied day of my trip, but it was the perfect timing for it. I was headed to Southwark that morning to hit up Borough Market to get a jar of my favorite jam, find some breakfast and eat a LOT of cheese.

I was meeting up with Paul and Heidi again that night to drink a few rounds at the pub, but before then Sarah and I enjoyed a walk along Regents Canal and an incredible full English at this cute little place called The Breakfast Club in Angel, where I explained to Sarah that The Breakfast Club is actually a film, and those people on the walls are the actors in said film.

This also may have been the day that we discovered that "porn shop" and "pawn shop" sound EXACTLY the same in an English accent.

And then I came home and saw a commercial for a show called "Extreme Pawn." And I laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

Your final installment from the motherland will be, as promised, the real and ultimate secret mission.