cherish it all

Hey my people. I usually don’t like that phrase, but I’m feeling sentimental so it fits. I hope your weekend has been wonderful so far! Can y’all remember those sweet days when you smile so big and so much that your face hurts? That’s what I’m feeling right now. I wasn’t planning on writing anything this weekend, but my heart has been so full with gratitude for this place that I wanted to make sure I remember it all!! So happy Saturday night from my little home in Copenhagen. All night it’s been full of loud laughter around the dinner table and little white-blonde topped heads running around and good, good food. I am so thankful!

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I’ve gotten to explore more neighborhoods in Copenhagen this week, with friends or with classes or solo. The past 48 hours especially have been beyond joyful. On Thursday afternoon, I spent some time writing a paper at the Royal Library, which always always always makes me feel like I am in Hogwarts. The main reading room has row after row of carved wood study tables, each topped with a cute little green lamp. After working on my paper, I wandered back to Copenhagen Central station to make my way home. I walked in right in the thick of rush hour, which meant tourists and businesspeople and students galore. It was so fun to think about all the lives intertwining in this one place.

For dinner Thursday night, my host mom’s family friend and old boss, Anne Louise, came over. I have to stop being surprised when everyone I meet has had such a cosmopolitan world traveler life, but I don’t know if that is possible! Anne Louise was my host mom’s boss at her summer job, which happened to be an internship at a Paris law firm! Anne Louise owned that law firm (a “one woman show!” she called it) for years and also spent summers in Italy. We ate homemade tomato soup and freshly baked bread for dinner, and Anne Louise entertained us with a story of how one summer at her villa, she and Anne Sophie, my host mom, gifted the Danish ambassador to Italy a jar of pears that ended up exploding all over his kitchen. So she could have been arrested for attempted assault! But thankfully she wasn’t!!

Y’all, it is so joyful to see old friends laugh over good memories. I am thankful to have these type of friends when we’re talking about memories that are only a few months old, and thankful to have this sweet example of friendship sitting right in front of me at the dinner table.

 

Friday morning when I walked out the front door, the construction workers at the next house over were blasting Mariah Carey. Great start to the day. Then, I had two classes: Criminology and Criminal Justice in Scandinavia and Psychology of Adolescence. I can quickly get bored or fed up with my classes, so it was a great reminder on Friday that my classes are taught by kind and interesting people at the front of the room, and I sit around a whole group of kind and interesting people, too.

After Psych of Adolescence, Adeline and I walked to Papirøen, which is a warehouse where food trucks park permanently. It was one of the coolest places to eat I have ever seen, and as Adeline exclaimed, “this is so Nashville!” I think Copenhagen and Nashville are a little bit alike in their quest to create spaces with character. On our way to and from Papirøen, we got a little bit lost, which is mostly due to my resistance to use a map. Thankfully Adeline is gracious and was fine with wandering the streets and humored me when I interrupted our conversation repeatedly to say, “This place is just so beautiful!” Because it is!!!

Friday night, a couple of girls from class and I went to a coffee shop that is stocked with thousands of board games. It was incredible, and it was also packed!! We played Monopoly in Danish before I got too tired and headed home. I lost really, really badly. As in, “I ran out of money and sold all my properties to stay in the game” lost. We definitely had to look up the Danish words on all the Chance cards, which was a funny learning experience! Danes love to spend time together doing anything, and since I am not as inclined to bar hop as the average 20-year-old, it was fun to see over 200 people filling every corner of this coffee shop.

 

Just for clarification, the flag above isn’t the Danish flag (but if you’re me, and forget what it looks like daily, you’d think it is). Our next door neighbors are Norwegian and American, so they put up the Norwegian flag for just one day on a birthday, which was a weird change on my walk home not seeing the long, skinny Danish flag!

Saturday has been equally as soul-filling! I got to sleep in, go on a run, and work on homework some more, and then a ton of my host family’s family friends piled into the house for the day that never ends! The doors were thrown open and the trampoline squeaked and the sun set on some real life quality time. Y’all know what that’s like right? Today has felt just like when back home, our closest family friends get together and eat and talk and sit around and laugh for hours and hours. Except today life has mostly happened in Danish, so I understand less of it! Just some of the names from today: Lars, Jens, Hans, and Vilhelm. So Danish!!

My host mom made a whole salmon for dinner and then baked rolls and an apple pie for everyone. She makes dinner every night of the week and is so joyful about it, because she always tells me, “I truly love cooking and being creative with food!” I can only imagine that in 20 years it will be ridiculously easy for me to complain about making dinner or just not do it altogether, so I love having her as an example that you can find joy in all things.

Time here has taught me to cherish everything– the intangibles, responsibilities and opportunities and friendships, and the tangibles too, like baked goods. Yum. I feel like this week God has given me so many examples of how joy is a precious commodity. Sometimes we act like it’s limited, but it’s not, and that is great news. Knowing that there is joy in every circumstance has changed the way I think about my own life and speak to other people, too.

 

I love y’all! Thanks for reading this– I want to know what y’all are cherishing right now! This life is so sweet.

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less sugar-filled but just as excited

Hi, my friends!!!!

We have some catching up to do!! If I haven’t talked to you in awhile, I would love to hear about what’s happening with sweet wonderful important you via email or Facebook message or text or Snapchat or any fancy form of communication. And if you want a postcard, send me your address!! Mail is my favorite thing.

If you don’t have a soundtrack for your day yet, I would suggest “It’s a Good Day” by Kay Starr. The sweetest song!!! Anyway, I am so grateful for some time to be able to write this, because this past week or so has felt very go-go-go. I wrote before about life being big here. I think I want to edit that sentence to make it this one:

Life is saturated here.

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This life is saturated with streets worthy of wide-open eyes, and meals worthy of savored bites, and small moments of kindness and wonder, adding up all day, repeating again and again with each sunrise so the weeks read like one long “Thank you” note. I just can’t snap out of feeling like I live in a movie.

I laughed out loud seeing 20 three-year-olds sitting happily on the train platform, pointing at the sleek red trains as they hummed beneath little baby feet. My heart swelled a few sizes when an elderly woman on the bus offered her extra kroner to a girl just my age, panicking because she’d come up short a few coins for the fare. My host family noticed my amazement, standing at the picture window, because God paints the most beautiful red-yellow-blue sunsets each night as we sit down to share dinner together.

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I remember a conversation from early on in college, with a couple of girls the year older than I am, about how quick we are to deem things “the worst.” They commented on how every small problem we have gets magnified: writing papers becomes “the worst” and slow walkers on the bridge are “the worst” and not getting out of class early enough to get Commodore Chicken is “the worst.” And then they declared that not everything is “the worst” and they were going to hold each other accountable in order to stop saying that, because there is no possible way that the grievances we complain are “the worst” are actually so.

I doubt they remember that conversation in that car over a year ago (hi Jenny and Anna!!), but it’s a conversation, one I didn’t participate in but was listening to, ears peeled, that stuck. And so when another friend (hi Browncat!!) decided that her new word to affirm with was “amazing”, I did too.

Complaining about a situation is easy and my first route when I want to participate in conversation or connect with people. But then I realized how much I hate when I complain, and decided that if I couldn’t find anything “amazing” about a situation, I wouldn’t say anything at all. This is hard for me because I like talking. But I think the words we use are significant; they can bring people and situations to life, or they can relegate entire experiences to being “the worst.”

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I understand that there are difficult situations written throughout our lives, ones that might merit a “the worst” label in the moment. But the amazing part I’ve learned about those situations is that they teach us a lot about who we are and who our God is. And especially while I’m here in a beautiful new country, cultivating gratefulness rather than bitterness is important–for my parents, for Vanderbilt, for my friends, for me.

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This week was the one where I left Copenhagen and the one where Copenhagen became home. It’s funny but not surprising that the two go hand in hand. This week was Core Course Week, a week DIS schedules where we don’t go to any regularly scheduled classes. We all sign up for a core course, a class in a major discipline with academic travel linked to it. I decided to take my core course on Prostitution and the Sex Trade.

Prostitution is legal in Denmark, but policies vary throughout the Nordic region and rest of Europe. This past week, we spent two days in Copenhagen and two days in Sweden, a short drive across Øresund Bridge, connecting the two countries. The class is eye-opening and heartbreaking in a lot of ways. There’s too much to write here, but if you’d like to hear about it, I would just love to talk to you about it!

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There were 44 of us on the trip to Sweden, and we loved it. After all of our lectures and presentations, we got to explore the cities of Malmö and Gothenburg. Gothenburg was definitely the highlight, as we got to spend all of Friday night at Liseberg, the largest amusement park in Scandinavia. Y’all, it was amazing.

We went on 6 or 7 rides, some several times, and were just not disappointed. The kiddie rides weren’t even disappointing. Europeans take their amusement parks seriously! The park closed at 11, and when we realized the wooden roller coaster was still running, four of us sprinted halfway across the park to ride it two more times by 10:49. By the end of the night, we fell into our cozy little hostel beds and conked out.

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On the bus ride back to Copenhagen, it felt like this place had become more like home to each of us. Through sleepy eyes, we each chimed in about our lazy Saturday plans. Pretty much everyone’s included a bed or a couch and some Netflix and snacks. As much as we all loved being in Sweden together, we needed to recharge. Sometimes I see tourists walking the streets of Copenhagen and realize how different our lives are. Their lives in Copenhagen are a little bit like my 24-hour life in Malmö and Gothenburg: on the go, exploring, taking it all in. I’m thankful for the extended time I have in Copenhagen so it can feel like a real-life home.

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The semester will just pick up from here–in just a couple weeks, Adeline, Laura and I will be exploring Germany, Austria, and Prague, and then two weeks later my class is off to Amsterdam. I know it is a privilege to have such a support system back in the States and am overwhelmingly grateful for each one of you! Thank you for continuing to love me well, and keep me updated on how to care for you!!

knowing yourself and your cheeseburger preferences

I turned 20 in June, and most days I feel as if I am only just beginning to know myself. The other day I ate a pepper and thought, “I liked that,” and then realized that that might be the first pepper I have eaten in my entire life.

In equally as earth-shattering news, I am an introvert who has believed she was an extrovert for about 9 years. The term I coined with my roommates this summer for my personality is “recovering extrovert,” because as a person-who-thought-she-was-an-extrovert it is not exciting or celebratory or full of pizzazz to realize you are relegated to (what I thought was) the inferior personality type.

There is no inferior personality type! That is my spoiler because I couldn’t handle more than one space bar perpetuating that sad myth. Extroverts are spectacular and introverts are splendid. And if you fall somewhere in the middle, I think you’re in good company with the rest of the world!

I’m really glad I learned about Piaget’s theory of cognitive development in probably every single one of my child development classes, because in realizing I am an introvert, and knowing parts of my personality didn’t mesh with my definition of introvertedness, I had to accommodate.

Accommodation is a Piagetian concept that allows children (and adults too!) to redefine certain concepts based on new or contradictory information. I thought introverts were antisocial, and I know I’m not antisocial. I thought introverts were mousy and quiet, and I am quiet about as often as I am loud. As for the mousy part, I think that might be a rude value judgment on anyone so I’ll toss it altogether. I thought introverts didn’t like talking or listening, and let me tell you: I love to talk and I love to listen. I thought introverts were negative and cynical, and I am generally excitable and optimistic and peppy. Needless to say, introverts come in all varieties and accommodation was in order!

In realizing my introvertedness, I inadvertently opened myself up to caring about a whole group of other people. Sometimes at Vanderbilt I feel out of place because I am not the one starting chants at football games or winning VSG elections or getting 300 likes on Instagrams. At least to me, Vanderbilt seems more extroverted than introverted. But that’s not a bad thing, just another way to learn how to understand people. I am glad I finally “admitted defeat” in the extrovert arena, because it allowed me to develop a less biased view of people, with their funny catchphrases and the way their eyes widen when they tell stories and how they care for strangers on the street. There’s incredible variation in personality, and it is all important.

When we got here, Adeline said someone described Copenhagen to her as “the city of introverts.” I’m not sure I’ve really seen that, but then again, when you’re dealing with introverts, you might not see them a whole lot. So.

Whether or not this city is actually made up of a disproportionate number of introverts, being here has given me the freedom to recharge without the Vanderbilt go-go-go mantra marching through my head at all times. I get to sit in coffee shops and donut shops and libraries and on my couch and reflect, recharge, process–lots of internal introspective words going on here. I get to think about the kind of friend I want to be to my friends and the kind of friend I want to be to strangers and what kind of job I want to have when I graduate and also some less admirable things like am I not immersing myself fully abroad if I keep eating peanut butter?

That is to be determined, but I did just buy some more peanut butter and they package it in unfortunately small jars here (no JIF to be found!).

One of my friends (hi Sarah!!!) got me reading a book called A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman. She says a lot of good things, but the words I think are most relevant to my introverted crisis-turned-celebration is this one:

We are walking poetry, the kind that moves, the kind who has hands and feet, the kind with mind and will and emotion. We are what happens when God expresses himself.

Amen to that!! We are what happens when God expresses himself, and he doesn’t express himself incorrectly. He breathed us into life, with nuances to get excited over instead of uptight about. His scribbling of walking poetry into the way we give out love and the causes that make our hearts swell and whether you would die on a mountain for Whataburger or In N Out: these differences are Divine.

One of the tooth-and-nail battles I’ve had with myself since I started writing all these little words on this little blog is that it’s weird to write things and it’s weird to need a space to process. The answer to both of those non-questions is no!! Simply no. I can, however, get into a habit of living internally. But I know that all of these words are ones I would say to my friends and family in a conversation over FaceTime or in Edgehill or on the floor of a dorm. So I’m thankful, incredibly thankful for y’all and the ways you support me and listen even when listening means reading because there’s an ocean between our next face-to-face conversation. I love y’all!!

Here is my note in case my parents read this: both of my parents are introverts, and life becomes easier when you want to become them instead of fighting to become not-them. They are great people.