Deep thoughts & a Lion tattoo

It’s odd how quickly things can change. I mean this in terms of how you’re feeling, how you see the world, the people around you. All the elements of your day to day that you’ve just started getting used to can so easily snap into something different.

 

From an outside-looking-in perspective, these bits may all look the same from one week to the next, but your own mind may see and create an entirely different story. Lately for me these changes can come minute to minute.

At 10:02am I’m feeling hyper-focused, enjoying my coffee as I’m typing away at my desk. Then 10:03 rolls around and I’m off, in an internal monologue as my mind spirals.

12063820_1180291731984086_8347221336383474163_n

Maybe it’s the caffeine, maybe I didn’t sleep enough, maybe I’m just homesick (for Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee) #SFlove.

Homesick or overcaffeinated

Anyways, one second I’m thinking about my family back in the states and feeling guilty for putting them in this long distance relationship.

The next second I’m worrying if I’ll ever settle on the right guy like I’m Ted Mosby waiting for his wife. I worry if I’ll ever find a group of friends as strong as the ones I made in college, if I’ll ever be as happy as I was last year or if I’ll ever find what I’m always searching for or even know what that something is.

 

 

In some sense, this is the beauty of life–the power of the mind and its ability to see what it will. There is a power in being able to make decisions that will shape the rest of your life.

The realities of living abroad

I often wonder how other people’s minds work. I truly mean that. I think about this all the time. I’m going to be honest that my mind and spirits fluctuate so often and rapidly since moving abroad a year ago.

In a way that’s a part of growth. The highs are fun, lows–not so much. It’s all part of the process though towards easing worries–the chasing of happiness until you don’t have to chase it anymore because it’s following you around.

32455259_1955375654475686_8734435094476881920_n

Living abroad you’ll surely be asked, “How are you? Enjoying it?”
And you’ll respond, “Oh it’s great. I’m really loving it.”

And the funny part is that I’d say that exactly and I wouldn’t be lying one bit. Because as hard AF as it is to be miles and miles away from your family and the friends you used to see every single day and fall back on to get you out of your funks that will certainly happen, as hard as it is, it’s true.

Living in Brussels and being in Europe in general, is incredible.

27304276478_aa1c135e5c_o

That’s why I’m still here folks. I’m not ready to flip that switch and leave it all behind because the sadness of that outweighs the fact that there are days that are just hard.

I think this difficulty is a mix of overwhelming the mind with so much newness that it craves the comfort of familiarity in terms of culture, food, even the friendly smile or hug of someone who knows you, or if you’re talking about the states, someone who doesn’t even know you but just thinks you could use a smile.

12592622_1180291745317418_1587632773455165140_n

It’s a mix of that and a mix of uncertainty, wondering if you’re doing the right thing.

Family matters

The experience of living abroad is once in a lifetime but I often wonder about the expense. I’ve become more of a worrier than I have ever been since moving here in terms of how my absence is affecting my relationships with those back home.

If they’re meant to last they will. Family of course is stuck with you, but again it’s the guilt of missing out or as the kids say, fomo. Will my sister forgive me for not being there for her high school graduation…How am I making my mom feel by not being with her and the rest of the fam as they celebrate mother’s day…

Calling them yesterday and talking for a bit through a very lagging, staticy phone connection is just not the same as waking her up with making chocolate chip pancakes and bacon with my sister and going out for dinner in Chicago and bowling and apparently buying a $20 basket worth of skittles that my brother is eating in an elevator.

32423169_1955372431142675_3809661941744402432_n

Which speaking of, the dude has a full lumberjack beard now and I missed it’s growth. Lol. We also both like Kendrick Lamar and Post Malone a lot now and could have gone to a concert together.

My dad is the half Irish half Hungarian one and I’m meeting all of his distant cousins and relatives over here, many he’s never met, but I want him here too.

14991892_1361504673862790_6723463201965706755_n

All the coulds and woulds and I wishes, gives me those moments of wondering what am I doing all the way over here.

Self-growth

I’ll tell you. This above bit IS SO BAD. Location is just one factor in happiness and read a bit futher and my tattoo will clear up this sadness a bit. As much as it sucks to be so far from people you love and have had around your whole life, the only person you can count on for the rest of your life is you.

Maybe it’s the Novo Amor I’m listening to as I write this, but I’m honestly tearing up as I write that last bit because it’s so melancholically true. And also beautiful?

40465964994_e77793bd4e_o

This, this my friends is why it’s so important at the very shaping years (20s) to focus on ourselves. This is where we’ll learn the most about ourselves because as we face life’s challenges we’re making ourselves into the people we need to be.

Girl with the lion tattoo

I write this and think of my tattoo, the first and so far (though not for long) the only. Underneath the huge a** lion that I have on my hip, it reads in French: L’union fait la force.

Unity makes strength.

I got the tattoo done in Brussels while studying abroad here last year and at the time I had fallen in love with Belgium, so getting the phrase of the Belgian coat of arms seemed already fitting. Although, I’ve since learned this line was the motto for the atrocious Belgian imperialism in the Congo so fek.

DSC_0791

Yet too late, but don’t worry; my own resonance with that phrase is what made up my mind about getting it permanently written on my skin.

My U N I T Y MAKES S T R E N G T H tat shows my realization that distance in love knows no boundaries. Yes it strains it and it’s not always easy, but if you’re loved and you love them, it’s all alright.

 

 

I may thrive in my independence and divergence from normal, but I know I can’t go it alone. As I noted in another blog post of mine, humans thrive on connection. Meghan thrives on connection. I need people around. Strangers, friends, they’re all good.

13873013_1274436555902936_6529131606290592890_n

I studied communication and fell in love with journalism because it was based on connecting with people, talking to people, interviewing them and helping them feel understood, which always inevitably helps you understand yourself. It’s a mind expanding process talking to people and those are what I crave.

DSC_0782

So to family and all my amaze pals back home, I may be far physically but I don’t feel so. I’m strong in knowing that no matter the distance we are united.

Unity makes strength.

When I’m in doubt and forgetting this, I look down at my tattoo. The strength of a lion (#Leo), and the strength of feeling united with people who love me and I love no matter where we are.

Some day we ourselves will be all we have, so we better make ourselves pretty strong. We got this.

13669816_1261287317217860_1800401453452042365_n

Yes I took this. This happened.

Advertisements

An ode to living

Growing up my parents rather fortunately brought my siblings and me to California wine country. I took this photo in our trip to Napa. Regrettably at the time, we were all underage.

As I write this, I can say that my taste for wine has developed since. And at 23 years of age, I can attest that peace of mind is found midway through a bottle of cab.

A few sips or glasses in, and the succulent bliss of quality grape hasn’t hit you quite yet. Finish the entire bottle and you’re left more sad that it’s over than you are happy with how far you’ve come.

41237214_2131234940223089_8753626580313440256_n

The same can be said for a nice meal, a slice of cake or a strong brew of coffee. Once you’ve reached that halfway point, you’re at the sweet spot. At this juncture, you’re immersed in the sweet pleasure of gluttonous delight.

You think not of what a shit day you’ve had already or the fact that the indulgent break is almost at its end. Is life itself not the same?

We’re interminably chasing. We aim for the next best thing–whether that’s looking backward or setting our sights on an imagined future.

Wishing we hadn’t finished that last bottle and dreaming of things to come. I write not because I know the answer; I am far from it.

47282197_2248220821857833_2256130308950720512_n

But that’s quite okay, is it not? In the end, all we can tangibly do is live each day better than the one before. Reach higher, love harder, connect more deeply–this is learned with age.

And by age I mean not the numbers of years, but more the experience within those years. It’s not the years in life but the life in the years, as they say.

Let’s make them count.

Reveries of a restless mind

Life moves so fast, yet is not the passing of time so slow?

If introspection and life crises hit you daily and you’re feeling lost, this is for you.

The older you get, the more impactful decisions become. This isn’t news. It’s more of a realization we all don’t want to accept as true.

Should I move, take that job, call that guy…Following all monumental decisions, there are waves of regret that follow. Yeah, I’m talking to you margherita pizza, which took me 1 hour to finally order.

Regardless of which decision you end up seeing through, you will doubt it. And you will, inevitably doubt yourself.

Choosing your path

Does gut feeling outshine logic? If you opt for what you feel in the moment, it must be the lesser of two evils, right?

At least in my case, basing life-altering decisions on a meager 23 years of life experience is not wise. We must decide however. Spending life in a crippling state of indecision is not life well-lived.

Imagine I’m 70 years old (please don’t actually). If I had lived THAT much life, the odds that gut feelings are a nudge more trusty are higher, but at 23? That’s a failed mentality.

What then do you do when the thought is recurring that you made a mistake. You feel your path could be different?

Everyone is restless

Follow me down the rabbit hole.

I get freaking anxiety when I’m sick. The other night, I hit my head badly. Damn high heels and the pressure of blending with Dutch skyscrappers of humans, I was not dressed fit for walking. The result was likely a concussion that had me thinking–I’m done. This is it, then and there.

The following day, I had a headache so bad – the worst of my life – I could’t focus on anything. Even the thought of picking up my phone to answer text messages was too much to bear all day. Turns out I was coming down with a fever as well and my friend had the same. Who knows what was up; I’m better now. What I do know is I was staring at the wall for the better half of the afternoon, anxious that this is how I would be forever, like I had lost my mind. Dramatic?

Yeah, warned you. I felt like those people in movies I used to make fun of when they needed to hold someone’s hand. Even a stranger on a plane would have meant the world because their anxiety over flying was just so bad. Feeling grounded by some other human, anyone, would be the saving grace, proving they were not alone.

This was exactly how I felt. I wanted a hand to hold – and not out of loneliness in the typical sense but in a scared and helpless little human way. And so, I spent that Sunday silently freaking out in my room, listening to Justin Timberlake to soothe me, hugging my stuffed animal golden retriever, and not able to sleep.

When anxiety fades, you feel like a weight has been lifted. You are grateful af to be alive again. This digression is not meant to belittle those who have come even closer to death or who legitimately have more intense and frequent bouts of anxiety. This is me putting pen to paper on the mind of Meg.

In any case, it’s in these moments that you begin to look at your life, at what you realize you could have lost, what you want and don’t have, and oh how sad it would be to lose out on the chance to have it.

For me, that’s family nearby, that’s love, that’s the feeling that you are understood and seen as your authentic self by most everyone you encounter. For me, to be remembered for Meghan in her truest form would be quite cool.

Defending authenticity

There are too many times that you hold back: business professionalism, trying to fit in with certain crowds, ‘going with the flow’. All the while you know that it’s when you’re around close, long term peers that you’re real.

It’s cool to meet new people. Certainly I love it. As I get older, I realize how difficult it is. To get people to understand your truest self is complex because as you grow ‘you’ becomes a combination of people. You must stand-in in their absence. For me, it’s my best friend, closest cousin, my sister. I am some odd combination of them and the qualities they brought to this world. Why? Admiration. Love for their authenticity.

Living in Amsterdam, freshly moved from Brussels – those ‘people’ are not so near. I am fucking impatient. Investing in new relationships in this deep way takes time. I feel an urgency for the ‘new’ to see me for me. The me that shines in the presence of those who shaped me.

One could say you take those people with you wherever you go. You might say holding onto a solid version of your truest self is something that comes with age as well, but don’t tell me that. I know it.

It’s hard. In fact the hardest part of moving somewhere new is exactly this. So badly we want to retreat to the old because of the investment made in relationships elsewhere, where we’ve spent more time. The people you know from those places but also the cities themselves call you to your many homes.

The unpredictable turn of Brussels’s cobblestones under foot, the coffee scent that floats from Madison cafes, crisp suburban air and cars speeding past, the active spirit of bikers breezing in the rain of Amsterdam’s canal maze.

Soundtrack to life

Music brings back old times, good and bad. I’m one of those addicted personalities listening to a song on repeat until temporarily exhausted. Listening back to songs is therefore ultimate nostalgia for me.

I hear the French pop artist Amir and recall my final semester of university in Madison, drowning myself in a schedule of near entirely French classes, thrilled to move to Brussels for good in just a few short months.

Living in the now

Your mind and soul miss the people, your body–the cities. It’s in moments of anxiety, sickness, tears, that we need the elements of a past life. Phone calls and face times help but are nothing more than temporary escape. Once you dial off, you’re again stuck living in the realization that those places and people – at least for now – are not part of this life.

I’ve kept in close contact with only a few from home over the 1.5 years living abroad, namely my parents, my sister and my brother. My level of love for everyone else is not here reflected, but it’s an investment that has simply been neglected. Priorities shift for us all indeed.

Sometimes you must trust life with work out. To quote a constant from my dad growing up: “Everything works out in the end, and if it hasn’t worked out yet it’s not the end.” While  as a teen, I found this incredibly cheesy and would roll my eyes at the wisdom, age 23 showed me this golden nugget in a new light. This outlook on our journey finally began to resonate.

Shit moods & smiles

There are days you’ll wonder–why is everyone around me so happy? What is the trick. For the days you’re in a shit mood – which you also can’t explain – and you simply must slap on a smile and pretend, don’t give up.

It’s a combination of things that affect our psyche. Somethings we can control, others not. Genetics, alcohol, who we choose to invite in our lives, whether relationships will wind up in a disappointment so strong it aches at your soul, causing self-depreciating thoughts and feelings no one should ever have. Yes, the list goes on.

Returning to dad’s quote–these struggles and trials we feel we’re facing, they will find a resolution. It’s just not yet.

44522651_254104028621894_1136624633454264320_n

Defining insanity

While the process of understanding how to reach ‘joy’ may be long and filled with unknowns, take it step by step. Surround yourself with the right people to lift you out of slumps. Another thing? Habits are just that and can be changed. If your current situation is not making you happy, don’t sit still.

Uncertainty can often be traced to a lack of purpose. Switching friends, careers and, yes, countries, and quite frequently will of course cause turmoil. With all the newness, it’s easy to lose yourself. To that, I say hold fast to the self you know best and love. And don’t fear.

Recentering

Purpose traces back to feeling useful, offering something to the world you feel confident in and love. For me, that is food. Don’t lose that spark and source of joy that brings you back to you when you need it.

Even if life’s ebb and flow dwindles the time available for your passion, don’t lose sight. Maintain purpose, hold your passions close and you will reach a contentment so beautiful you’ll forget the rest. Baby steps, but we’ll reach that end one day.

 

M

Free spirit (has their sh*t together, in progress)

I never fully understood what people meant when they said — it’s when we’re alone that we discover who we really are.

This always sounded like bull to me.

Sure, I grasped the precious moments of doing something independently. I’ve even travelled, quite often, on my own. Still, the concept of self-discovery then was too forced.

The experience is rewarding, certainly, but most of the time I am looking for ways to escape my thoughts, typically shopping or clubbing or I simply join other people. Which hey, life lesson from Meghan, (some) strangers are just people at the first step toward becoming your friend.

 

32423241_1954357047910880_2134889803160748032_n

Soul searching is unique to you

Yet, the introspection never reached the level it needed to this way and now I know why: it’s when you’re most expecting something that you won’t get it.

It’s as if thinking too deeply on anything creates this illusion, this haze that would only ever be just that. I think that in listening to friends who advised me to soul search and stop and breathe for a second, in doing that, I was in fact doing the opposite.

We spend so much energy trying to tick boxes, to fit a mold that we weren’t put on this earth to tick. Stay with me because I have something here. I’m not talking superficially about trying to fit in with a certain clique or group; this isn’t high school. We’re beyond that now, unless you’re still in high school then you go glen coco.

18556980_1566832896663299_1764746239479956494_n

In this case I mean we’re always trying to make sense of life, our lives. It’s recently hit me that this is all wrong. While it’s necessary to decide in some instances what exactly we are doing, more often it’s not the way.

In defense of going with the flow

When we live our days with such structured plans, preconceived notions of how the day will go, as if our minds were already made up by our current personalities, insecurities, our environment, we miss out on so much living. Essentially, there is such untapped potential for our best life that we’d gain by going with the flow.

Free spirits are free spirits for a reason. I consider myself one, more so recently than when I was younger. This could be attributed to moving to a new country and feeling an energy in the opportunity around me, but more honestly I think we all have this drive inside us. This capacity to let go and see where we end up.

Speaking like a true 20 something year old with no ties right now–it’s the best kind of feeling to have such freedom to act as we want, move as we want and live our lives as we feel like it. Or maybe this is just an American thing #landofthefreevibes. Just kidding.

Accept not having your sh*t together

Back to my point, some people would call me a Yes Man. I don’t have many reservations to trying new things; I actually thrive on it. I’m not saying this boastingly because this is by no means always wise.

Going with the addage of always wanting what you can’t have, there are times I envy friends who are much more calculated and logical in how they live. With plans to meet friends, with who they date, with how they are in their work, I envy how they just have their sh*t together.

DSC_1068

I recently laughed with coworkers as they were casually discussing where they buy potting soil for their plants. I haven’t even bought myself a pillow for the apartment I’ve lived in for the past 6 months let alone potting soil. Also give me a plant and the moment I glance at it, it’ll wither.

Living like a Yes Man

Anyways, the way I see it, living the Yes Man life (to contine the metaphor) allows for breadth and not for depth. Let me explain. Living this way, there is always something to do. There is no shortage. Combine the free spiritedness with a love for being around and meeting people and you have a schedule that is bound to exhaust even the most enthusiastic of souls.

And this, this is where I find myself recently. As I put these thoughts to paper (laptop screen), I find myself looking out over Brussels, teetering on the ledge of free spirit and has her sh*t together, realizing it’s okay to miss some event that you know will be fun, just as it’s okay to stay dancing in the club till 9am sometimes (or often).

32620876_2057699370924592_4154769685033779200_nPC: Rob Jones

Life isn’t about suddenly flipping a switch and saying ‘great I have all my sh*t together now I made it’. Because of course, those who we think have that, they no doubt see it differently and may even want some of the Yes Man free-spiritedness every once in a while.

Find your balance

Something my dad has always reminded me growing up was BALANCE. He literally said this one word to me at multiple points in my life and it’s so me. Or not me as I needed the reminder.

I have such passion when I get into something. I really, really love it. Justin Timberlake I’m looking at you. But that outside perspective from my dad in those moments where I studied too much (lol @highschoolme), partied too much or took too many pictures of food for Yelp, my dad was there to remind me,

balance.

DSC_1179

It’s a crash and burn in a sense, or bound to be. Yes, yes, yes, yes. You can only take so many Yes’s before your candle burns out, my friends.

And case in point that as I write this, it’s a gorgeously sunny May night, perfect for rooftop drinks and of course the Facebook event calendar is packed with options for just that.

And though for the last three days I’ve only slept 4 hours each night (another story; I’m fine), tiredness isn’t why I’m at home simply sitting looking out my window at the Brussels skyline experimenting with my DSLR settings via selfies, instead of sipping spritzes till midnight.

No, I’m en mi casa at the moment because I needed this time. I needed to sit in complete nothingness (with some Bon Iver on in the back haha) and have a lil contemplation session, which for me always takes place via writing.

Yea thanks anyway yoga, you do make me feel incredible physically, but for a true mental recharge of this sort, that is not the trick. I need this blog space. And as I write this stream of consciousness I wonder if a blog is an appropriate outlet, but for me, if it’s not published and public it never happened. Cough, cough trained journalist speaking.

Blogs exist for various reasons. For me it’s a place to make things real. See as a dreamer, a romantic, a free spirit 😉 it’s easy to confuse reality with an intangible or currently nonexistent one. Maybe this is me, metaphorically on my gradual journey from free spirit to slightly more of a ‘has their sh*t together’. Writing gives me that clarity.

DSC_1000

We’re always told to do what makes us happy and I think I’m starting to see that that’s not always the obvious answer of ordering your favorite take-out or watching your guilty pleasure Netflix series. These are instant, in the moment, happiness fixes, which I wholeheartedly support, but the path to reaching a  r e a l  happy may be studded with some bumbs of ‘meh’.

I can’t tell you what that journey looks like for you, but I know I’m slowing finding mine.

DSC_1145

 

Why I love Amsterdam

You know those memories that are so vivid, you remember nearly every detail? I find that this is often the case while traveling to new places, but especially for cities that you truly vibe with.

I can only say this was so for a few places and Amsterdam is certainly one, if not the one.

30798859864_b4d956f993_o

It’s a bizarre feeling to be in love with two at the same time. Cities, people, it’s all the same. Just kidding.

To explain, I love Brussels and among friends and fam, this is quite known. Not a popular opinion, but those not in love with Brussels, don’t know it well enough.

Anyways, love is not finite, so Amsterdam and Brussels I love you both. There I said it; conscience be free.

41796683172_f3a0346644_o

My first trip to Amsterdam was a milestone for me in many ways, but mostly because it was my first trip alone. While this was not originally the intent, a friend’s plans fell through and I thought #yolo let’s go.

This was a wise choice.

IMG_3460

Solo trips warrant a mirror selfie to document it all happened.

Anyways, the entire first day of the trip I was in awe, seeing a city so unique and exceeding expectations so much so that a large part of the day was spent frantically describing Amsterdam’s greatness to my family back home.

30829808693_0c8db4d11e_o

I felt like I was in the board game Masterpiece or inside a Vermerr painting. It was beautiful.

The people were so kind, reminding me of home in the states but at the same time certainly not.

31639271765_ed6a91f165_o

The city is bustling with bikes all around, making me question what the rest of the world is doing driving cars and not doing this.

Regardless, a few things are certain, I’ll never get tired of roaming the gorgeous Amsterdam canals for hours, lost but not admitting it, or just not caring.

27970289448_c805800698_o

I’ll never tire of the weekend market in Jordaan, bee-lining my way to the bakery in the back that makes the best breads on spot, which inspires my inner bread baker after each bite of its dark, seedy interior.

41121927594_2ac44bd186_o
Noordermarkt – Boerenmarkt

I’ll never tire of the melty, fresh as f*, homemade-in-front-of-you stroopwafels from the Albert Cuypmarkt even as the inner caramely syrup layer spills all over your face.

40032006740_c9059b0bb6_o

How about the fact that you can buy 50 cent avocados, 1 euro scarves or the most delicious olives at the same place as above??

27970117018_e375750674_o

OK.

I’ll also always praise the fact that in Holland, peanut butter is a staple and not just on bread. Peanut sauce is meant and does come served atop grilled chicken, fries and yes mayo does belong here too.

40032096330_50cb3ee663_o

It’s patatje oorlog everyone, prepare.

And how about the pancakes? My love for pancakes runs deep and the same can be said in this great city.

31640072425_2933efbcf5_o

It warms my heart, knowing that my favorite bakery in the world and inspiration for my future bakery is housed smack dab in the center of Amsterdam and no trip is complete without a visit.

41796434032_9b503d148a_o
De laatste Kruimel

Also, you can find brunch in this city simliar to home, thank heavens.

All this is not even mentioning the city’s passion for electronic music and the knowledge that Amsterdam and the Netherlands is the birthplace to some of house music and techno’s greatest djs.

21314606_1691032160910038_5414207610887937345_n

I clubbed in an old school.

Though we were on the guest list and had tickets, I waited in line for an hour to get into another club far outta the center. I knew upon entry that the wait was nothing compared to how great the music and night was.

I’ll never tire of my two days of AMF at Amsterdam Arena, happily letting Steve Aoki throw a cake in my face as the beat drops.

IMG_3453

I’ll never tire of ADE and how an entire week is devoted to this music and thousands of djs flock to do what they do best with people who genuinely love it.

27460047_1847772195236033_2511967365142726627_n
pc: Dockyard Daytime Festival ADE 2017

I’ll never tire of that moment of happiness at the Awakenings stage at Dockyard, zoning out as techno blares and speaks to your soul in an old factory outside of town.

26850657_1827243527288900_3640799865984312144_o

I’ll never forget the CLASS house music djs of Strafwerk and dancing all day in the sand on Amsterdam’s beach at Blijburg.

20988979_1561284873934243_8447436087928111231_o

Overall, I’ll never tire of the energy of Amsterdam. In my mind, before visiting, I pictured something so entirely different. More chaos, beeping cars and obnoxious stoned people.

26965730987_6d780225ab_o

If you’ve been, you know that here quite the opposite is true. Unless it’s King’s Day or you’re in some section of Red Light with tourists who want to live out the above description.

31266919400_9b9083c507_o

Spend some time wandering Vondelpark and soak up the green beauty. Pass through or stay in De Pijp and feel one with a more local side to the city.

IMG_3439

I’ll never tire of the eclectic-ness.

40032202420_8f149a933b_o

There is a restaurant entirely focused on avocados, a cafe that does everything coconut, and one of the city’s most exclusive clubs is a secret and in the back of a burger joint that looks about as classy up front as Five Guys. We were out of place, but loving life as we sipped our 20 euro gin tonics and knew we were surrounded by either a) celebrities or b) millionaires.

31603173346_7947038786_o

I can still picture my first time in Amsterdam and sitting on the side of a canal, facetiming my mom, telling her how I was going to write a book about this place. Well, one year or so later a blog article is what we have, but it’s a start.

41122254994_b7279d09b5_o

I suppose I found my time better suited visiting the city repeatedly, every few weeks since moving to Brussels a year ago.

And that is the best part. Each and every return trip, I experience something new.

40935244355_e08f3a8aa0_o

There are so many walks of life, people of different interests and backgrounds, not to mention the expats and hundreds of thousands of tourists that pass through and fall in love with the place themselves.

40032211690_12ae090753_o

I thrive hearing from friends that they haven’t been to Amsterdam yet and then I frantically book a trip there with them.

27459299_1847772381902681_1654470786289250048_n

I feel like a mom who can’t leave her kid in fear of missing it say ‘gah gah’ for the first time. I want to see that first reaction to this gorgeous place.

I know I’ll live in this city some day. I look forward to writing my love again and in a new way, post-move. For now, I’m packing for my trip there tomorrow. Actually though.

31602422426_a99bba8bcb_o

X,

Meghan

 

Wednesday: afternoon thoughts

Growing up neither of my parents were into cooking.

Sure, my dad liked to grill and mum would kindly whip meals together, but family dinner night for us most often meant dining out at a rotation of our frequented restaurants.

That is, aside from the nights like these where the sibs and I got all dressed up, mum made a classy meal of typically steak and baked potatoes, and we drank water from wine glasses, lit some fancy candles and hid behind the couch until my dad walked through the door home from work, at which point we’d scream and run out to hug him.

31369134_10216235629384837_5983971899640643584_n

Oh to be 7 again.

But back to family dinners, they mostly happened at restaurants.

Mid afternoon, sometimes mid morning, someone was bound to hit up the family group chat asking what’s for dinner.

The conversation went something like,

Chinese?
No.
Pizza?
Had that for lunch.
Thai?
YES.
Ok. In the car at 6!

I sound less than enthused here, but in a sense, I enjoyed dining out and am grateful for these chances to expand my palate and make my own cooking better.

Clearly the case, as I’m holding together a falling apart chocolate cake in this picture below circa 2013.

At least it tasted great.

10258346_648575271893378_5158981743925415721_o

But I genuinely think these dinners out shaped who I am today in more of a personality sense. It’s social to get out of your own home and see more of life, in terms of cuisine and the interaction with the outside world.

Overblown? Nah.

For an 8 year old, the world is small.

Anyways, I think the important element to this routine was just that, it was a routine. Going out to restaurants as a family was a constant in my life and something that I knew, regardless of how the day went, was going to be there.

11038798_1413740298934825_8464375245307587629_n.jpg

Also, in the same way that everyone says you’re better off spending some time in a service job to appreciate the industry, I felt ‘one with the waiters’ at our weekly dinners growing up.

I built an empathy for people that I find (or hope) continues in me today.

25720152760_7396c007bb_o

You rarely consider the impact that little aspects of how you were raised or your childhood influence the person you become.

This is something you hear parents fret over, as moms’ bellies extend like watermelons, they’ve got a book on parenthood in hand.

31287557_10216235592743921_6361469159540260864_n

This makes sense. Everyone wants to know what they’re getting themselves into, what to expect, so they can be best prepared.

That’s just it. Everyone wants to be the ‘best’.

Perfect. #1. Gold medal.

18447634_1566833639996558_8205659977342567760_n

Yet, is this really what we should be aiming for?

Where does this get most of us besides disappointed at the finish line when we find out we’re in 4th place not 1st; at the cooking competition when we see our cookies awarded #5, not #1; after an interview where you were not the best candidate for the job, not a perfect fit.

Life and we should be imperfect, flawed, messy. We all already are and life is.

Why not embrace that and instead be grateful. Grateful for the uniqueness within each person, each relationship and each way we’ve been raised.

13432319_1237841419562450_1760947454513486720_n

This is perspective. Imperfect can turn into unique, messy to relaxed, flawed to human.

This, this I like.

Why I live in Brussels

I’m often asked: why Brussels?

Each time I hear it, I laugh because for me the answer seems obvious. If you know Brussels, how could you not be in love?

From its bizarre yet majestic architecture, cobblestone streets, use of the French (and Dutch) language, raging nightlife and more diversity than you’d find most other places, Brussels is unique.

And even the word unique doesn’t quite capture the ambiance of sitting on the Mont des Arts steps with a bottle of wine, having deep talks as you watch the sun set over the city.

Unique doesn’t exactly sum up the underground techno and deep house parties that carry on into the next morning.

Weekends are meant to be spent dancing with friends and finally taking an Uber home at 8am the following day.

And give it a week of living here and you’ll become friends with at least one person who djs.

It doesn’t describe the fact that you can find a frites shop, waffle stand or chocolatier on every corner and you may even start smelling them from blocks away.

After living in Brussels for long enough, your nose will start to know.

You’ll quickly discover your favorite mayo and will never stray from ordering it every time you get fries or a kebab. For me, it’s Brazil sauce.

And if you’ve been to Europe, you know the beauty that is the kebab and in Belgium, the durum.

In all honesty, there are never too many kebab shops and they’re never closed when you need them, even if that need is at 5am as you’re heading home from the bars.

We’ve all had a drunk 5am kebab, which feels so right the night of but the next day feels like ‘shit why did I do that, I should go for a run’, before preceding to lie in bed all day.

Unique doesn’t explain the sacredness of Belgian beer and the culture surrounding it.

It’s not just delicious, it’s social and perfectly acceptable to go for a drink with a friend and end up getting a 9% beer, still without the intention of getting completely lit (though sometimes that happens too).

I’ve also had dinners consisting of just beer. Why get off work late and deal with the hassle of eating when you can skip right to the fun stuff? Plus, they’re so calorie-dense that it works.

Again, unique doesn’t capture the nights spent sitting in the center of the Grand Place with strangers, just enjoying, drinking Jupiler and listening to the one random guy who always happens to have a guitar.

Unique doesn’t convey the vibe of the people in this city and how you won’t meet one person with the same or even a similar life story and what brought them to Brussels.

On the other hand, it’s just as likely that you’ll be saying ‘what a small world’ on a weekly basis. Don’t be surprised if you bump into someone who’s been or is from your hometown, even if that happens to be 4,000 miles away.

Unique doesn’t describe the ease of reaching London

31429750006_26cb4ee1e6_o

or Paris by train,

30529338182_7b35b316ba_o

Amsterdam by FlixBus,

or Berlin with a 10euro flight.

31124271786_67cb0c8f9a_o

It doesn’t describe how, even after living in the city for years, you can go for a walk or hop off a tram and still find a street or neighborhood you’ve yet to discover and that looks so unique from the rest.

Its infrastructure is quirky.

Unique won’t show you the students at weeknight happy hours in cimdix, the classy weekend brunches in Chatelain, hipster food markets and bio shops in Saint-Gilles, the glitzy chocolate shops of Sablon or the brilliance of Parc Cinquantenaire and of course the shock of Grand Place, looking even more impressive each time you walk through it.

It won’t explain that, as the heart of Europe, people come and go, perhaps living here for a few months for an internship or to study and building close bonds with the people around them, as they’re all new to this place.

Complain that it’s dirty, drunk, constantly raining, bureaucratically slow, falling apart, overcrowded, full of crazy drivers and insane traffic, high in taxes, expensive at restaurants…and I will agree.

However, for me, I can forget it all because this is Brussels

and I love it.

xx,
Meghan

Parlor Coffee

Food options each day range from vegan sweets and bagel sandwiches (very common to Brussels cafes), to waffles, bacon and even French toast on weekends.

30367627205_200cf6ddd3_o

I’m always most intrigued by their bakery items as each time I drop by, they are offering something new. From gluten free banana breads to vegan cheesecakes, though I’m neither gluten free or vegan, I am always intrigued to try as the aspiring baker that I am.

In terms of offerings I’ve tried, the star of the show is matcha. Their matcha “brownie” is studded with chia and others seeds and their matcha latte is one of the most successful I’ve had.

30070772470_fc121c4e73_o30332443266_6992578ebe_o30281631031_4e35001881_o (1)

I also like their gorgeous juices, even if you do have to pay more than you may like. Though, I guess it’s standard as far as juices go. I remember paying $8 for a small green juice in San Francisco; it was lukewarm and tasted like my front lawn, but all the celebrities love the place on instagram. Classic. These juices actually taste great, so try it out.

30281493011_ec47bba4cd_o

The café is spacious with its upstairs seating as well so that weekday and weekend you are likely to find a cozy spot. The space is brightly lit thanks to large windows that peek out to the quaint Chatelain neighborhood of Brussels. The outlets are also plenty, making Parlor a prime place to get some work done and eat and drink your way through the menu.

30070745600_226120293f_o30281664101_631e261363_o30070686240_ee04d2cf45_o

 

Jat’ Café

Trusty, trusty Jat’. The café is spacious enough to never feel too uncomfortably packed. Its location is prime, just off Mont des Arts, one of the most beautiful overlooks Brussels has to offer.

I love stopping in for a nice weekend brunch, chatting with friends reliving our weekends over warm coffees and fresh made juices. Most of the seats are couches, making for a comfy set up for these lazy Sundays or for a weekday space to get some work done.

The drinks are tasty and always served with a flavorful, almondy-tasting coconut macaroon. Most times when I have more of an appetite, I’ll go for a bagel. There’s a rather tasty chicken truffle option that always tempts, served with a green juice on the side, you can convince yourself the meal is semi-healthy.

30645609255_2bb8f480e3_o

Taking foods and drinks to go is another easy option at Jat’. With a fridge just inside the door full of ready to grab salads, sandwiches, yogurts, fruit, etc., Jat’ is a quick fix for getting a quick lunch to bring back to the office. The options here are also often healthy, which is even more of a motivator.

Jat’ offers a rotating menu of new drinks and lattes as well, making each trip an opportunity for a new drink discovery. Some drinks are more over the top, covered with a few layers worth of whipped cream. The indulgence is nice. More often I opt for a cappuccino.

As a warning, while you order, you’ll be tempted by dozens of bakery items—croissants, pain au chocolat, muffins, cookies, all the good stuff.

Plenty to enjoy and plenty of options, which guarantees you can take multiple trips to Jat’ without getting bored.

I love telling stories

There is power in being able to tell great stories that is not as recognized as it should be.

My first bold impression of how storytelling should be done was from my high school history teachers. I fell in love with history on account of my teachers’ ability to recount incredible stories. They transformed droning information from textbooks into a Hollywood action film that I didn’t want to stop watching. They were passionate about history and it shone through thanks to their understanding of how to tell great stories.

29737683383_ca5edb4dc8_o
Normandy Beaches, Normandy, France

How is it that they captivated me and my peers so wonderfully? Granted most of these teachers were Irish, the masters of storytelling. In fact, my family background is rather heavily Irish as my grandma hopped the pond and left County Mayo when she was around my age.

So it’s safe to say I’ve been around great, hilarious storytellers my whole life when you to take my grandma, all her siblings, plus my uncles and my dad into account. I grew to be amazed by great stories and great storytellers.

The next step then, is for me to become one myself. Though my storytelling abilities may not quite be at the level of my Irish relatives or my history professors, I can tell a good story where it counts. Depending on the subject, I do become quite passionate, which is again an element necessary for captivating an audience.

Dublin, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland

A post from Social Media Examiner cites how showing an audience your trade is a wonderful way of connecting with them, “Ed Sbragia, an international recognized winemaker, tells the story of a wine set in the barrel room. The video is short and inexpensively made, but this is the kind of content that engages viewers”.

Yes, the time has come then to apply a visual storytelling component to my online persona. Videos would especially be beneficial for the type of content that I would like to produce, which is more recipe videos, photos and tag-alongs to food and travel adventures I embark on.

30284221521_07b013f5c7_o

Journalists have caught on to the significance of visually conveying stories, though a recent blog post notes that previously “many stories rely on the journalist speaking about something which does not have a visual element”. 

Lately, however, many journalists have begun Facebook live videos and even Snapchat for a more personal touch and a more captivating source of information as opposed to a long article or blog post. I mean who does that.

The Muck Rack Profile gave an example of this type of journalism in action with Adam Rapoport, former editor and chief of Bon Appetit, “Rapoport typically shares his food and travel adventures and also shares a glimpse into the production of Bon Appetit’s magazine and online content.”

In honesty, I will keep future blog posts short and instead opt for videos. I enjoy watching videos more than I do reading long material so of course many others must feel the same.