THE BOOKS I READ ABROAD

Dear Reader,

I always try to make reading a priority. This is a lot easier when I have more free time, but even when I have free time, I don’t always devote it to reading. I haven’t read nearly as many books this summer as I would’ve liked–although I will argue that I’ve been productive. I’ve been trying to write and organize some things and I’ve actually left the apartment on occasion to go to the rec and work out. Big things are happening.

It’s funny, though, because I had a lot less free time in Europe, but I spent the majority of it reading. Wifi wasn’t always available (or reliable), but I had three books in my bags that always were. Also, while I enjoyed the people on the trip, it was exhausting having to constantly interact with people. I would often slip to the back of the bus or up to my hotel room when I needed an escape.

God I love books.

I started chipping away at The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern at the beginning of the trip. The storyline is really intricate and seems pretty convoluted at first, so I would just read a few chapters before bed while I stayed in Luxembourg. At the end of the week, though, we took a six-hour bus ride to Switzerland.

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This was heaven. I claimed the last row of seats, sprawled out, and read the last 200-or-so pages.

I really don’t binge books like this that often. The only books I read in one sitting tend to be graphic novels or short books that I need to finish for class. The Night Circus was completely different for me.

The story jumps back and forth between time and tells it from multiple different perspectives, but once you get to the point of the book where you’ve figured it all out–and once you get to the point where all the side stories are reaching their climaxes–it’s hard to put it down.

I was completely captivated–and I’m sure the people around me would’ve noticed my occasional audible reactions if they weren’t asleep or had headphones on. I wouldn’t have cared, though. I was nestled up against the window so the falling rain would be in my peripheral and didn’t take my nose out of the book until it was done.

The writing is so vivid that I saw it all playing out like a movie in my head, but I think that it would work so well as a series because there are so many twists and turns–it wouldn’t be hard to ensure that each episode has a cliffhanger or two. I would love if this turned into a Netflix series or something. In this day, we have so much that could ensure that it would be visually stunning and truly magical.

Of course, that’s a risky thing to wish for because I would hate if they screwed it up–Eragon and Percy Jackson fans were pumped for their movies, and those certainly didn’t live up. That’s the risk when you have a book that good–and The Night Circus is that good.

It’s definitely one of my new favorites and is a story that’s going to stay with me. After I put it down and went back to the real world, I felt like I could see the beautiful things in life so much clearer. It might’ve been because I was in Europe and seeing cool sites anyway, but a week after I finished it, I was walking around Prater in Vienna–not a circus, but an amusement park. It might have reminded me of this book because of how old it is and all the history it has, but I was walking around, thinking, there’s definitely magic in this air.

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While in Luxembourg, my friends and I went to an English bookstore. I picked up a book called Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend and knew I had to buy it after reading the back. Ultimately, it’s a story about a girl who travels from Sweden to the US to visit a friend. She ends up in a town in the middle of nowhere and ends up opening a bookstore.

First of all, I’m a sucker for books about books. I think most booklovers are. When books you already love are mentioned, you gain a connection to the story and the characters that are talking about them, and when books you haven’t yet read are brought up, you get more books to add to your reading list. Plus, the protagonist that loves books more than people is too relatable.

Second, I knew I had to buy it as a memento from the trip. I’m constantly trying to build my library, and when I put this one in my classroom, I can say that it’s a book that I bought while I was studying other school systems and learning how to be a better teacher, which I think is cool as hell. It also at least mentions travelling/Europe, so it’s relevant in that case, and it’s translated from Swedish to English–which I also think is cool.

As for the story, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, though, this is in part because I’m a sucker. The story begins by describing the main character as too plain to be a protagonist and too focused on stories to have a life of her own. This immediately sets the book up to be relatable, and then when everything that you would expect to happen happens, you just feel comforted.

There are enough secondary storylines and gems within the novel (book recommendations, fun anecdotes, good quotes) that I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by spelling out the pattern.

Young woman moves to small town and falls in love with the life she ends up living there. She opens a bookstore, makes friends, and falls in love. That’s the dream. That’s the cliche, and it’s all set up from the beginning that her life is not like a book–but then, obviously, her life has to end up as a story worth telling.

So I really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t rate it 5 stars or even recommend it to everyone–I told Sarah to read it and she decided she was done with it within 100 pages. It’s pretty lengthy, and while it drags in some places, I would say it even leaves a bit to be desired. Still, I liked it. And I liked that I read it abroad. I’ll look at it on my shelf and think back to buying it in Luxembourg and reading it in the Swiss Alps. I smiled like a goof at some of the pages and decided almost immediately that I would love to own a bookstore one day. It’s not for everyone, but I was entertained and even a bit inspired. That’s a good read by my standards.

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Around Christmastime, I bought Where’d You Go, Bernadette and was really excited about it because I had heard how smart and funny it was. So I started it in January–around the same time that I also started a classical mythology class that turned out to be way more demanding than I had figured. That was the main reason why I put the book back on the shelf after finishing “Part 1,” but the reason why I never went back to it is because I just wasn’t that interested.

I certainly saw merit in the praise it received. I thought the characters were really well developed and the writing was great–everything was smart and funny all around. I guess I just didn’t see the point of the book, I guess. This is kind of funny now that I’ve finished it because I can see it clearly now–and I can see why I was so uninterested. Though there is a driving plot in the story, this novel is so much more about what it has to say, now what it has to tell about what happened.

The story is about Bernadette, a wife and mother, who disappears, and her young teen daughter who is trying to find her. The story is told from letters and emails from multiple characters and direct narration from Bee (the daughter), but because Bernadette’s voice is still present throughout, you’re not worried that she’s really gone or won’t be found–or, at least, I wasn’t.

So even though the plot summary may make it seem like it’s a gripping mystery, that’s probably not the best expectation to have. It’s more a story about family and love. Bernadette is neurotic and has crazy standards for success and it’s interesting to see watch as everything comes together.

It really is an enjoyable read. All of the characters are super intelligent and Bee is so lovable–even when Bernadette isn’t. I’ll definitely be rereading it, though, and I’m excited to see how I see the story with the new perspective I now have because of it.

God, aren’t books great?

Sincerely,

Sammy

WHO EVEN FOLLOWS THIS THING ANYMORE?

Dear Reader,

The only consistent thing about me is my inconsistency, that’s for sure. But it’s final’s week in my life currently (well, the past three weeks have basically been considered “final’s week” for me), and I am a terrible procrastinator. Fortunately for me, I often procrastinate schoolwork by working on passion projects.

I’ll practice guitar or listen to covers I think I might be able to pull off one day. I’ll write handwritten notes or journal entires. Sometimes I’ll work on my teaching portfolio or browse Pinterest to see what I could implement in my own classroom. And just now, even, I finished listening to Logic’s third album, “Everybody,” and then read some articles on what people think about him–side note, LOTS of people hate on Logic. I don’t really care, though. I like his message and I like the way he tells it. Good enough for me.

But this blog is very much a “passion project” for me. I’ve never tried to make money off of it (lol could you imagine) and I haven’t been consistent in my posts for QUITE some time. But I still keep it around because every once in a while I feel like writing a blog post.

That being said, I really feel like I’ll be utilizing this more once the summer hits. So I thought I’d just make this little update post for anyone out there who still checks in on me every once in a while.

MUSIC: Music is one of the things that continues to inspire and motivate me. I’ve gone kind of crazy with making playlists this year (pushing on 90 in total, so says Spotify) and I’ve certainly pulled the occasional accidental all-nighter because I got wrapped up in finding new shit. But I have a lot that I want to share and a lot of half-written blog posts that I want to eventually publish. There’s one in the works about my favorite albums of all-time, and another one of my all-time favorite covers from The Voice that I can’t stop listening to. I also just have a lot of admiration for people who know SO MUCH about music. So, while this certainly isn’t going to turn into a “music blog,” you can definitely expect that in these next few posts.

SCHOOL/TRAVEL: Every semester I get more and more into my major–English Education–which is a good thing, of course. It’d be pretty concerning if I became less interested in it over the years. But in a little over a week, I’ll actually be leaving for Europe to take a two-week course that compares different education systems. Now, this blog also isn’t going to turn into my professional development in that realm (that’s for a separate corner of the Internet where I reside), I will be visiting four countries in two weeks, and then hanging out in Vienna for another week with my family. So, you’ve seen me in Hilton Head. You’ve seen me in Gulf Shores. Get ready to witness me taking on Europe.

TV: Netflix has sort of been killing it with the originals lately. I, along with everyone else, finished Thirteen Reasons Why and definitely had some thoughts. I really don’t know if I’ll post all of that, though, because my journal entry about it ended up being over 3,000 words. You guys don’t want to read that. I also watched BoJack Horseman before that (LOVE, btw) and am now watching Girlboss which makes me want to get bangs and steal stuff. So who knows, maybe I’ll share some opinions on these shows in a bit. Critical thinking can happen everywhere, y’all. Don’t let our hierarchy of culture tell you that we need to bash good television and praise art that makes us feel nothing.

 

LOVE LIFE: 

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READING: Lastly, I’m hoping to read a lot more this summer than I have thus far in 2017. Last semester I was going strong all the way until the end, but the motivation just hasn’t been there lately. However, I did just give a speech on the importance of reading and as I was talking I was just thinking, “shit I need to start practicing what I preach.” So, if anything, this blog might start being book recommendation and review heavy. But, hey, could be worse, right?

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m twenty-years-old and the world’s lookin bright. If you’ve been following me for a while and like what you just read, I’m happy to have ya around. If you’re bored out of your mind and wanna leave, no scrape off my nose. I’ll probably have to delete this thing or make all the posts private when I start looking for a teaching job in a year and a half, anyway. So let’s live it up while we can.

I mean besides, it’s not like the internet is forever or anything.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{NEW VIDEO} SUMMER BUCKET LIST

Dear Reader,

I am SO behind with everything. Because of my summer class, I haven’t really had the time to relax and get organized, like I planned on doing, but I’ll officially be done with it after today which means I can get back to my life!

In other words, I can get back to sharing my life.

I can get back to blogging.

But I have a lot of projects in the works right now. I got back from Cuba a week ago and I have a ton of footage to edit and stories to tell and pieces to write, but I also have other ideas for this summer.

Sarah and I are doing a bucket list (we made this video like three weeks ago and I uploaded it last week so sorry for the tardiness) this summer and I think I’m going to get back to writing book reviews (I’ve finished Yes PleaseChina Rich Girlfriend, and The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy recently).

Also Sarah really wants me to write another “If We Were Having Coffee” posts. She hardly ever reads my blog but she loves the ones I write like that for some reason so I’ll probably do one soon.

Anyway, I have a ton to do before my class is officially over, so I’ve got to get back to work, but yay for it being finally summer!

Sincerely,

Sammy

{SB2K16} GULF SHORES: DAY SEVEN

Dear Reader,

The week has finally come to a close and I’m very sad about it. I’ve gotten pretty used to the routine that we have here, and I don’t know how well I’ll do transitioning back into real life (not to mention going back to school).

Basically each morning, we all wake up and take our time to recover from the night before and plan out our day while making breakfast and watching TV. This morning we made chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs and watched Trainwreck before starting our day.

It was pretty overcast, but we obviously had to spend our last day on the beach. We built a sandcastle, tossed the football around for a little bit, and Paige and I went tried bodysurfing once again because the waves were crazy.

By this point it was already 5 and we had decided we wanted to see Batman vs. Superman tonight so we all got ready as dinner was being made (burgers with fries and barbecue chips).

And then we saw the movie.

Paige is a huge DC fan and has been highly anticipating this movie for two years, so it was extremely entertaining to sit next to her during it. I, on the other hand, have never seen a Superman or Batman film, so I was pretty lost.

Still, I really enjoyed the movie (even though I found specific parts to be confusing and sporadic) and it was even better coming back and listening to Paige as she Googled things that happened and helped connect the dots and make predictions for the next movies that are going to come next in this franchise.

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And now I sit here at midnight with my bags packed next to me, already dreading the trip back to Ohio that awaits me in five hours.

Thanks for following me on this adventure. Maybe I’ll do another one of these for my next trip.

Until then,

Sincerely,

Sammy

{SB2K16} GULF SHORES: DAY SIX

Dear Reader,

It stormed in Gulf Shores today, which was actually really cool to watch from our condo on the beach. At first it was even cool to watch while we were sitting on the balcony, but then the wind picked up and the thunder and lightning got more and more intense, so we moved inside where we could watch the rain pouring down the windows and freeze whenever the lights would turn off.

Because of the weather, though, we really didn’t do that much today. Mostly people just recovered from last night (where these lovely photos were taken)

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and tried to rest before Nav’s 21st birthday celebration at midnight.

For the people who are 21 and over, this means going to the Flora Bama Bar (the bar that’s on the border between Florida and Alabama), and for the unders, this means night swimming in the rain.

I think we both win here.

So anyway, the day was mostly spent watching episodes of Drunk History, Workaholics, and Futurama, and playing card games in between.

Paige and I decided to leave the condo once today and head to the beach so we could get some fresh air (and I could take a picture for my photo a day).

I took these gems

   
     
And she took these

   
   

I don’t think we’re really capable of taking cute candids, but she did get this one, which I rather like.

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Then we saw a kid walking on the beach and asked him to take a picture of us. So, after capturing this beautiful candid,

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he snapped some of us.

 Then we headed back upstairs, just in time for dinner (stir fry tonight–have I mentioned how much I love the food here?), and here I sit typing up all of this before the night unfolds.

Until tomorrow, friends.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{SB2K16} GULF SHORES: DAY FIVE

Dear Reader,

Remember when I said I had two concerns for this Spring Break?

Well the one just blew up in all of our faces.

I completely understand what it’s like to deal with your own issues without anyone else knowing. I know what it’s like to have family stuff on your mind while everyone else is having a good time, and I understand how it feels to be constantly drawn back to the grim reality when no one around you seems to have any idea what’s going on.

And I know how I see everyone else in that kind of scenario. I know what it’s like to be oversensitive and I’ve been in the situation where I’ve blown things out of proportions.

But in that situation, you have to put everything in perspective. You have to realize when you’re in the wrong and when something you’re doing is an overreaction.

Today was a great day. We went go-karting

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and then to the arcade. We hung out on the beach and went body-surfing. We had Zaxby’s for lunch and grilled chicken for dinner. We hung out and played some more games and even met up with the other alpha sigs later tonight.

It was a great day overall. And when I look back at this day, I’ll remember it as just that.

But there were two very intense screaming matches. There were harsh words thrown out that can’t be taken back. There were even tears shed.

Because I guess it’s impossible to have a single day go by without there being some kind of drama.

But now it’s late and I just want to sleep and all I’m thinking about right now is the fact that we got tickets to Lolla and I’ll get to see G Eazy and J. Cole and Lana Del Ray and so many other sweet headliners in just a few months.

Life is good.

Despite some of these setbacks and pity outbreaks, life is good.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{SB2K16} GULF SHORES: DAY FOUR

Dear Reader,

Sorry for the late post tonight. It wasn’t an extremely eventful day, but it was still pretty busy (if that makes sense). 

We found some people on the beach from Miami.   

The alpha sigs I’m with learned that they have a hand sign (lol).   

I had some great heart to hearts in the ocean. (Apparently it only takes two days to really open up to people.)

Oh, and I got asked to formal. So I guess I’ll be hanging out with this group of people a lot in the near future. 

Sorry for the lame post. Maybe I’ll have some good stories for y’all tomorrow. 

Either way, spring break is super fun. Gulf Shores: 10/10 would recommend. 

I’m already dreading going home at the end of the week. 

Sincerely, 

Sammy 

{SB2K16} GULF SHORES: DAY THREE

Dear Reader,

I finally took a picture on the beach today.

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I’ve talked a lot about body image and my own self esteem issues on this blog, but today I finally posted a picture of myself on the beach. I saw it and immediately hated the way my feet, thighs, and face looked, but I posted it anyway (cropping out my feet though).

I’m not sure if it’s because of the positive insta feedback I’ve received (hey, it helps) or if if I’ve just looked at it so much by this point, but I actually don’t absolutely hate it anymore.

Here I want to add the obligatory: please don’t comment about how beautiful I am if only I could see it-type comments because I really don’t know how to respond to them and I really don’t know how to see past my own flaws. But what I’m saying here is that I am making progress and it’s good. I still wish my thighs were thinner and my teeth were whiter (and a long list of others), but this is progress.

(I’d also like to point out that I’m not wearing the sweater because of my body–it was still really cold today and I had goosebumps even with what I had on. Come on, Alabama. I expected better from you.)

The rest of the day was great, though. Two of the guys are sleeping in the main living room, and I guess the other guys chose to wake them up by blaring “The Circle of Life” through our speakers. So that’s also how Paige and I woke up as well.

But it wasn’t too bad because once we had gotten dressed and ready for the day, we were greeted in the kitchen with mimosas and french toast for each of us.

Not a bad way to start the day.

The rest of the day involved a lot of games and hanging out on the beach and typical-spring-break-type stuff. It was (relatively) chill but a ton of fun, and I’m proud to report that my sunburn isn’t really as bad as I initially thought. And (knock on wood) I don’t think today made it any worse.

Also, naps in the sun are very pleasant. Highly recommend.

I think one of my favorite things about this trip is that everyone loves to cook, though. I swear, I’ve had better meals here than I’ve had at home and at college. After the french toast this morning, Paige made me a delicious sandwich by toasting the bread and melting the meat and cheese over it. And then for dinner we had chicken parmesan, which was even better than the food we ordered in last night.

It’s a good thing I didn’t work on my beach bod because this week would’ve ruined it anyway.

Another pleasant surprise than came out of today (well, last night and today) was the resurrection of my drunk journal. Technically I guess I started writing in it again on March 3rd, but I have no recollection of that. The recent entries, however, are very positive and humorous, although I can’t always remember what exactly I was talking about when I wrote them.

Oh well. I like to think that’s what Hemingway would want. (He’s the inspiration behind this, after all.)

Until tomorrow!

Sincerely,

Sammy

{SB2K16} GULF SHORES: DAY TWO

Dear Reader,

In the past twenty four hours, I got sunburnt and one of our own got arrested.

It’s sad that neither of these things are really that surprising.

As I’ve mentioned in my last post, Gulf Shores has had a ridiculous number of arrests in the past two weeks. The police have no sympathy for underage spring breakers who think that the same rules apply here as they do in their college towns.

Still, I really feel for the guy who got arrested (he’s a part of the bigger group, so not my immediate group, specifically). He has a bit of a history–he’s been arrested before at home but was able to get off with things like community service, but he just tends to be a bit of a liability when he drinks.

So people had some concerns with him coming along and made a few comments, but they still let him join when a last-minute cancellation was made on Thursday (the day before they left). And then on Saturday morning, he found out that his ex-girlfriend (my friend Paige) is also coming along.

Their history and breakup is not one I’m about to get into, but the guy’s still pretty bitter.

Still, he didn’t go and get blacked on Saturday out of anger or spite. Instead, he decided to go to his friends’  house, but when two of the guys he came with got too drunk, he went out with them to hail a cab. Instead, a cop rolled up with their lights on. He tried to walk back up to the house, but the cop burst out screaming, “You don’t move!”

Then she arrested him.

And with all of the craziness that is spring break and the long process of arresting and processing a person, he didn’t get picked up until 2:30 today. (And then they had to drive the hour and a half back to the condo).

So I can see why he was pretty pissed.

 

As for my sunburn–well I put on SPF 30 this morning, so I’m pretty pissed too.

But all in all, my day was pretty great today. The weather was windy and cloudy and actually pretty cold, but it’s only supposed to get better from here (which I think is a theme of the week). Plus, the highlight of my day was the people I got to spend it with.

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All of the guys in the house are no longer strangers and are all super funny and nice–two standup qualities, I would say. Then I met some people from the other group (which is just short of 30 people) and there are definitely some characters.

Great stories are coming out of this trip.

I almost met a TON of Phi Mus today. I found out the other group of girls lives two buildings down and when we were meeting up today, we saw a group of people taking super Tumblr-type pictures of them candidly laughing in the sand throwing the quat with each other. We didn’t introduce ourselves, though, because they were all perfect and intimidating and we didn’t want to interrupt their beachy photo shoot.

Then when we went to the other beach, a group of girls from Atlanta came up to us and told us they were Phi Mus too, so we danced with their speakers and laughed as they yelled “Roll Tide” in the offbeats of just about every country song.

THEN a group of girls came up to our huge group and were begging for a bandaid because one of them cut their toe on a seashell, when they saw Paige and I wearing our letters and said, “oh my gosh we’re Phi Mus too!!!” They were from LSU and seemed extremely excited to find some fellow sisters (lol) on Spring Break.

I wish we had a bandaid to give them.

So today was a pretty good day, and it seems like it’ll only get better from here.

I’m looking forward to what tomorrow has in store.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{SB2K16} GULF SHORES: DAY ONE

Dear Reader,

I’ve never been on a “rowdy” Spring Break trip before, so when my friend came to me and said I could go to Gulf Shores with him and some guys for $200 (which clearly beats the alternative of going back to the middle of nowhere for a week), I happily jumped on board.

So that’s how I ended up sharing a condo with three complete strangers, one acquaintance, two good friends, and a guy I haven’t even met yet (who is coming tomorrow).

We left Oxford at 5 this morning (after a nice McDonalds breakfast) and started the twelve-hour road trip to Alabama, already slightly behind schedule.

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But after only a few pit stops

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and some traffic

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we finally made it to our condo on the beach.

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I’ve decided I kind of want to keep my blog updated with the details of this adventure because 1) I don’t get a lot of opportunities to travel these days and 2) there’s sure to be some things worth documenting on this trip.

I already have some concerns.

My biggest is probably the fact that over 600 arrests have already been made in Gulf Shores since Spring Break “season” has begun (about two weeks ago). We’ve already seen tons of cops and cars being pulled over–even a Domino’s delivery car was pulled over on the main stretch by our place.

It just seems that they’re really cracking down and, although I know that I can personally handle the temptation of drinking on the beach, I’m worried that we could get into some serious trouble down here.

Another thing is that the friend of mine that arranged this is a pretty petty person. He just blows things way out of proportion and tends to make a bigger deal than ever needs be. Already on the way down here, he was starting things by constantly complaining about his need to be the “lead” car.

This, as I’m sure you can imagine, can get really annoying, and this quality is only amplified when alcohol is involved.

Fortunately, there are two other groups of people in the fraternity that he’s in that we can hang out with, and there are two other groups of people in the sorority that Paige (the other girl in our group) and I will most likely be spending some time with when the sausage fest becomes too exhausting.

And lastly, I’m worried about myself. Self esteem has never been my strong suit, and while I thought I made a lot of progress in Hilton Head, I realized the fact that it was strictly family really helped. So far I’ve only seen a handful of girls in bathing suits here (it’s cold and cloudy and we got here around dinner), but they all have flat abs and skinny thighs.

And, of course, we have the fact that I’m currently hiding out in the bedroom writing this blog post instead of drinking with the people I’ll be living with for the next week.

That’s half because I’m exhausted from hardly sleeping last night, and also half because we only have beer and I think my beer gut is far big enough for the moment.

So I’m worried I’m going to be a little more reserved this week or just simply sadder because I still hate how I look. I still don’t know how not to without changing it, and I still haven’t gotten around to putting in the effort to make that change.

So for now I’m stuck in a body I despise with the knowledge that it’s purely my own fault.

Okay, I really didn’t mean for this to become another one of those posts where I’m hard on myself and harping on my thoughts, but I can’t say I’m surprised it took that turn when the fact that I’ll be spending the next seven days in bathing suits on the beach is my reality.

I am really excited for the trip, though. I know a ton of people down here and the ones I’ve just met seem to be a lot of fun already.

And hey, it’s spring break!

No time to be stressed about things that don’t matter.

Sincerely,

Sammy