The Scamp at a Loss

Today I woke up in a world without my Odie. He has been one of the only constants in my life for the last 15 years.

I hate the idea of being in a world where he no longer exists.

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I remember when my brother brought him home. Matt was a pain in the ass 18 year old who is the reason that my mom has grey hair. He left a note on the kitchen counter that just said “Mom don’t be mad”. When she raced up the stairs to his room and threw open the door, she was greeted with a tiny hiss from a little puff of fir in the middle of the bed. Matt had rescued a tiny kitten. He had a lot of names. My brother named him Odin. My sister and I called him Pepe because he was found in a dumpster outside a Mexican restaurant. I called him smooshy because he liked to be smooshed up against you when slept next to you.

He had a head like granite. He had no concept of personal space. He would steal your seat on the couch if you got up for any reason. He had awful kitty breath. He liked to drink from the toilet. He was obsessed with boobs and would often sit with his paws resting on them. He drooled. If you wanted him to come in for the night so you could go to bed, he would escape and evade you like a pro. He would leave out the front door and then magically appear at the top of the stairs. He liked to sleep on his back with his feet in the air.

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He was a pain in the ass. He was a great source of comfort. He was the only man in my life to never disappoint me. He slept on a special blanket on my bed when I moved back to California for a little while. He slept with me every day I was back for a visit.

He used each of his nine lives in the last 15 years. He survived being poisoned. He survived a bee sting.  He survived trying to hump a coyote. He survived me bathing him. The last few years were tough. He slowed down. He had to have his eye removed. Eventually, he developed cancer. Yesterday the vet said that it was better to gently end his life rather than put him through any more treatment.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t get to tell him I loved him one more time. I didn’t get that one final cuddle.  I did not have a chance to prepare myself for this moment that I knew was coming. I’m going to miss the cuddles, the headbutts, the curling up on my work so I had to pay attention to him.

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This little face offered me unconditional love, occasional love bites and constant reminders of how to enjoy the little things in life. I will miss him a little more now, but I know he is headbutting angels and that he is happy.

 

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The Scamp Tries a New Writing Challenge

It is 2018. 2018 is the year that I finish my PhD (hopefully). 2018 is the year that I get a career instead of just a job. 2018 is the year that I finally get to Israel. 2018 is the year that I win $5,000,000 and pay off all of my student loans and buy my sister, brother-in-law and nephews a house, and pay my parents back for all the money they have spent on me the last few years (Ok, that one may be wishful thinking, but I’m putting it out into the world and I hope that it comes true).

Last year I was awful at writing for fun. I spent a lot of time dedicated to my PhD and had some trouble with the dark and twisty. I’ve been doing yoga every day though, and painfully cut all cheese and dairy out of my diet, so I am hoping that the dark and twisty will be a little less noticeable this year.

So, new year, a new challenge. I started a few years ago with a gratitude challenge as part of my therapy. I’d been kicked out of school, accused of racism and bullied. I was miserable living in the US and needed the reminder that there was a lot of good in my life, and a lot of good in me. That was a challenge I did faithfully every week, but last year, well, that didn’t go so well. I am going to try and be really good about it, just like writing my thesis and being finished by July.

So…..the challenge for this week is to write about something funny I heard today.

This one is great…it also makes me sad for the future. I went to campus to print a bunch of articles for teaching this week. I decided that while I was there I should look at the data for my thesis because I really need to get my ass in gear on the analysis. While I was in the library, I sat across from a guy and a girl who looked fairly young. I had my headphones in and originally thought that they were speaking German.  I could not for the life of me understand what they were saying. At one point I got up to get my printing, and when I came back, I didn’t put my headphones back in. Turns out they were speaking English. Most of it still sounded like mumbled gibberish, but out of the blue, the guy says, “I wonder how the throat works? Like, does it go up here (I couldn’t see, but I’m assuming he went up his neck and to his forehead)? The girl answered, “Not that high.” Then they went back to the mumbling language that I am still not convinced is English, and I decided that it was time for me to leave before I gave into the urge to tell them that maybe if they spent more time studying they would know simple things like the way the throat works.

On a less cringy note, the best thing I heard today was a video my sister sent of her oldest running around at the park while her youngest babbled in her lap, almost as if he was narrating the scene. She sends me a lot of baby videos and they never fail to make me feel better about everything.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 46

Be prepared for a long post. I’ll apologise in advance for it. The challenge for this week is to tell the stories behind the tattoos that I have.

I have more than 20, so I will try to be brief.

2 stars on the top of my right foot. Worst 3 1/2 minutes of my life. I was 19 in Las Vegas with my mom and my cousins, and we decided that it would be a good idea to get tattoos. I had seen a photo of a model who had two stars on her foot and I loved the way it looked and knew that it would be easy to cover with shoes when I needed to look ‘professional’.

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3 cherry blossoms down my spine. I got this one in Merced at the same place that I got the hula girl. My mom and brother came to visit me for the weekend, and we all got tattooed together. The artist who did the flowers was this big scary looking guy, and I remember him telling a story about having to wear a pink tux for a wedding. He said that people made fun of him, and I asked if he took people outside and kicked their ass in the parking lot. He laughed and was so sweet to me while he did the flowers.

Hebrew lettering on my back. This was a birthday gift from the wombmate for my 21st birthday. I got this done at a shop that she likes, and I hated the experience. The people were rude, and the artist put the stencil on upside down the first time, and then made me feel like shit when I almost didn’t catch it. What’s even better, is that now that I have had the chance to travel the world, people who actually speak Hebrew have informed me that my name is spelt in a strange way, and now they love to correct me. I love it though, and it has sparked some great conversations.

Scottish pinup girl. This was a birthday present to myself when I turned 26, and it was the first tattoo I got in Scotland. Studio XIII is an amazing place. I saw the tattoo the first time I visited Scotland with my mom, and went back and got the tattoo before I left Scotland after the MSc. The owner of the shop drew the tattoo, and the shop was so happy that someone wanted to get that as a permanent work of art.1010455_594964092085_588174323_n

Vegas Showgirl. I got this tattoo to celebrate my grandmother. She died when I was a kid, and on the 15th anniversary of her death, I got the tattoo on my back to always have a bit of her with me.  I got a Vegas showgirl because my favourite photo of my grandma is one she had taken in Las Vegas. It is one of those funny photos where they take your head and put it on someone else’s body. She looks like a showgirl and she used to tell people that is what she did before she had my mom. I still have the picture. I used to carry it in my wallet, but I am worried that I will destroy it, so now it is in my bedroom where I can see it all the time. This was my second tattoo done by Joe.

Mermaid on the inside of my right ankle. This was a birthday gift for myself when I turned 23. This was the first time I went to Classic Tattoo in Fullerton, the first time I met Joe, and the first time I got a Sailor Jerry Tattoo. The best choice I ever made. This has started a long-standing tradition of visiting Joe and getting tattooed by him. I love mermaids, love rum, and love the idea of having American traditional tattoos. This is one of my favourite tattoos and gets me a lot of attention.

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Sailor Jerry hula girl. Yet another masterpiece done by Joe. This was a birthday present to myself when I turned 24 (I think). I went with 4 of my friends and had a great time. They came to dinner at my house after, and my mom showed them baby pictures and we laughed all night. I love Sailor Jerry and the style of tattoos that Norman Collins did, so this was an extra special treat. The tattoo is on my right shin, and I have a dream of decorating my whole right leg in Sailor Jerry tattoos.

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Martini girl on the back of my right leg. Another Sailor Jerry and another tattoo with Joe. This finishes off the tattoos on my right leg for the moment.

Hula girl on the inside of my left ankle. When I was a kid, Crazy Shirts was a huge deal. They are known for their funny shirt designs, and they had shops everywhere. My parents took us to Hawaii and while we were there, my mom bought me a Crazy Shirt with a hula girl on it. The shirts come with a sticker, and I held on to that sticker for years. When I turned 20, I decided that I wanted it to be with me forever. I got the tattoo in Merced, and I loved showing it off at uni because no one I knew there had tattoos. My mommy and wombmate both have the tattoo as well.

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Bonus, a photo with Joe.

Celtic knot on my right wrist. A very nice Brazilian man tattooed me in Ireland. My mommy and the wombmate also got the tattoo.

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Hamsa. This was the most painful tattoo that I have. It is on the underside of my left arm, and it was sore for almost a month. It really is beautiful though. The Hamsa is a symbol of protection in many cultures.  It translates to the hand of God and wards off evil. I have the tattoo on the inside of my arm because it rests against my heart when my arm is down.

My kitty’s paw prints. I got them right before I moved to Scotland. My baby had to stay in California, so now I can always have a bit of him with me.

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Hot air balloon from Estonia. This was my first watercolour tattoo. The girl that did it was 23 and so nice. I had a great time. It took 4 hours and was a bit painful, but I love it.

Suitcases. My best friends got this tattoo for me as a birthday present. I love it, not only because I love to travel, but because it reminds me of them.

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Heart and anchor. The wombmate and I got these as charity tattoos. Joe did them and the money from the tattoos went to the Children’s Hosptial. Tim Hendricks, a very famous tattoo artist bought Classic Tattoo and saved the shop from having to close down, so it was no hardship to get tattooed and support a good cause. It is on the back of my left arm.

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Mother/Daughter infinity tattoo. I made my mom get this tattoo with me on her last trip to Edinburgh. I had it done at Studio XIII, and love it.

Geometric map of the world. This is one of my favourite tattoos. This is my wanderlust tattoo. It is the one that everyone always asks about, and the one that really shows my love of travel. These two tattoos take up the inside of my left arm.

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My grandmother’s signature. The same artist who did the mother/daughter tattoo put my grammy’s signature on my arm. It is in a place that I can see it every day since I can’t see the showgirl. He was really great about making sure it looks exactly like the paper that I brought him.

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Pineapple. The heterolifemate and I got matching pineapple tattoos while she was living in Scotland. Pineapples are the international symbol of hospitality. Travellers used to put pineapples outside their front door when they returned from their travels to let people know that they could come and hear about the adventures and share an exotic snack.

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Okay, that is not the best photo of the pineapple, but this is an amazing bar in Bosnia and an all-around fantastic shot.

Sister tattoo. I made the wombmate get stick figure sister tattoos with me when I snuck home for a bit last year. I love them. It makes me miss her a little less since I know that she has one too. Joe did mine because he loves me and made time for me.

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Russian nesting doll. I got this for my 30th birthday. I survived my 20s, and went to see Joe when I was in California….because no trip to California would be complete without a visit to Joe. This reminds me of my trip to Budapest for Christmas. That was the first time I ever spent Christmas by myself. It was both tough and exhilarating at the same time.

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Paper aeroplane. I got this tiny tattoo in Athens. We had spent the day seeing all of the history and culture of the city, and then I stumbled upon this amazing shop. The men who worked there were hilarious. They were friendly and told me that they really liked all of my tattoos because they showed that I had a unique soul. It is one of the nicest compliments that I have ever gotten.

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Last, but not least, the newest addition to my art collection is an origami flamingo. I now have a complete sleeve on my left arm, and this flamingo is by far my favourite tattoo. The same artist who did my grandma’s signature, the mother/daughter tattoo and the pineapple did this one. I call him Frank. I like to think that if I was an animal I would be a flamingo, so having one tattooed on me makes me feel less awkward and weird.

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So there you have it, my art collection and the story behind each piece. They are great conversation starters, and I think they make me just a little bit cooler.

The Scamp in Macedonia

It is with a heavy heart that I write about the passing of my granddad Verle. He wasn’t really my granddad, but just the same, he is someone who deserves to be acknowledged.

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Verle was a spunky one. All of his WWII stories had a happy ending. He met a general….then slept with the general’s daughter. He was in Egypt meeting a prince….the princess slept with him. My mom always wanted him to come to her classroom to talk to her students, but knew she couldn’t because none of his stories were safe for work. He refused to go to the events at the senior centre because he said all the people there were too old. When my dad was having a hard time with the death of my step-brother, Verle told him to bring the ashes to his house so Eric would have a good view of the lake and could be at peace. He had a taste for Scottish vodka, and he was always humming and whistling. He was a great father, brother, granddad, and great granddad, veteran and friend. The world is going to be a little duller without him in it.

For the last five years or so, my dad has been the only person looking after him. My dad went to all the doc appointments, made sure that the cabin was always clean and in good working order, and all but killed himself as a caretaker. He was with my granddad when he died, and told him that it is was okay to go, and to stay out of trouble. I’m really sad that I was not there to see him one more time, but I am really hoping now that this means my dad can work on healing and taking care of himself for a bit.

It makes me wish I could go back to California.

It also makes me think about Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. Verle would have liked it there. It was one of the places we were shortchanged on seeing, but I have a feeling I will be going back there to try and get some writing done before I hand in my thesis.

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Macedonia is a beautiful place. I realized how dumb I was when the trip started and I thought Macedonia was a part of Greece. It is a city in Greece, but it there is also a country (and a very contentious legal battle for the use of the name). I could have stayed by the lake for a week. Unfortunately we got half an evening there.

We then went to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. This is one of the most unique places I have ever been. It’s like Disneyland for adults (or at least, that is what Busabout says). There are more statures in the city than people.  Every time you turn around you see another statue.

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I feel really bad, but to be honest, I cannot really say a whole lot about Macedonia because I do not think I really got to spend enough time there. I would like to go back and really spend some time there, and I would tell people to go there, but this one was a bit of a blur in the trip for me.

The Scamp and the Writing Project: Week 15

The challenge for this week is all about making lists. It is written that I can be as serious or as funny as I want about the subject of said list, but I had to make a list.

I was going to list the reasons why I like naps, but then I spent Tuesday waiting for FedEx and binge watching 13 Reasons Why, and decided that maybe my list should be a little more meaningful.

For those of you who have not seen the Netflix show, mini spoiler alert, it is about a girl who records the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. It is really well done, but very very very hard to watch. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but one of the things that I really related to in Hannah’s struggle was the victim blaming. When all of that crazy stuff happened at CSUF, I was the one who ended up looking like the bad guy. I was the one that felt like I had done something wrong, and was the one forced to apologise to the people who hurt me. I was forced to listen to people label me a problem and accuse me of having no integrity. These people  told me I had created the situation, and I should apologise for the way things turned out. One of my really good friends told me that I had no right to feel attacked or discriminated against because of the colour of my skin, and that considering everything, it was best to just move on from the experience. People who were my friends froze me out, took sides, and eventually rendered me obsolete. Only one of them ever checked on me, and even then, I sometimes wonder if it was just for the gossip. I spent almost a year thinking the whole thing was my fault, and thinking that not only was my entire career over, but that I was going to become a racist because of it. That was the worst part, thinking that I was going to become the hateful monster that they all thought I was.

So in honour of the way that TV show triggered me, I thought I would make a list of 13 reasons why I am learning to be happy and love myself.

I had an amazing therapist who believed me. Not having insurance, I had to turn to other methods to get help. When I had run out of sessions at the uni, I went to the Brea Family Resource Center. For $10 a week, I could see a licenced therapist to help me work through my depression. I was really dark and twisty while I was at CSUF. I used to cry to class and on the way home from class. When it all ended, I spent most of my time in bed, didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t go out, and barely got dressed to go to work. My mother used to pretend she needed me to do things for her so I would have to put clothes on and leave the house. The BFRC saved my life. I’m not sure if they realise it, but that Thursday appointment was sometimes the only reason I made it through the week. Laurie, the therapist I saw, never made me feel crazy about what I described in the programme, never told me I was wrong when I cried about how depressed I was, and reminded me time and again that as long as I worked hard to make sense of, and heal from what happened, I would not bare any permanent scars, or become a racist. She worked really hard to help me separate the people who hurt me from what I knew to be true of most people. She got me through some really really dark days, and she was one of my biggest cheerleaders when I got the position in Edinburgh.

My family. They hugged me every time I came home crying, teased me to lighten the mood, and never questioned my telling of events. They took phone calls, called the evil women bitches, and sat in meetings with me so I didn’t have to face anything alone. They offered support, love, and a chance to feel normal…or as normal as you can when you are majorly depressed and feel like a giant failure.

Sour gummy worms. This needs no explanation. They make everything better.

My cat. He gave unconditional love. He didn’t care what I did or didn’t do as long as he got plenty of snuggles and got to sleep on my bed every night.

The beach. I used to go sit at the beach a lot to watch the waves and calm down. There is nothing better than sitting with your toes in the sand and a sea breeze tickling your face.

My friends. I have some really good friends from California that stuck by me, and friends that I made while living in Scotland who used to send care packages and have Skype dates with me to remind me that I’m not alone. I still have group chats, constant texts and the occasional care package to remind me that they love me. I can’t wait for more of them to be able to have the chance to come visit.

My passport. While I was trying to heal, I used my passport to see the world and  feed my wanderlulst.

Edinburgh. This city saved my life. I fell in love with it the first time I moved here, and being given the chance to move back at just the right time has made all the difference. I know that everyday isn’t perfect here, but I feel at home here, so dealing with the bad days is easier.

My Edinburgh friends. The people I already knew when I moved, and the people I made friends with since the PhD started have made a huge difference in my life. I have made more friends in the last couple of months than I had in years. It is nice to have people to share a meal with, to play music with, have a drink and a laugh with, and to talk to when I am feeling insecure, sad, or angry. I love them a lot, and while I don’t always talk to them about the dark and twisty, they seem to like me and are willing to support me just the way I am…..even when I am being unreasonable.

My current therapist. She is expensive, but worth it. She has really helped me build my self-confidence and find ways to not only manage my anxiety and work through my depression, but she is helping me break my habit of the dark and twisty and slowly getting me to become more of a glass half full kinda girl

Yoga. Enough said.

My blog. I can get the crazy thoughts out of my head and onto the page. It is nice to get the words out of my brain, but it is also nice to feel like I am sharing a bit of me with the world. I don’t normally do that face-to-face with people, but it is pretty easy for me to do from behind my computer screen. I have met some lovely people through my blog, and it is nice to know that there are people out there that share my love for writing and travel, who struggle with depression and anxiety, and are generally interested in what I have to say.

Last, but not least, the knowledge that no matter what happens, I will be okay. I’ve managed to make it this far, so I think my chances of being successful are pretty damn good.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 7 and 8

Week 7: Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

I got the year 2015. Hmmmm. Two years ago at this time I was in Boston with one of my favorite Scotland girls. We were there during one of the worst snow storms of that year, and we had an amazing trip. She was very supportive with all that was going on at CSUF, and she left our hostel room so that I could interview with my now supervisors. She kept telling me I had nothing to be nervous about, that I would be great during the interview, and then she took me out to celebrate on our last day in Beantown.

2015 was the year my life changed. It sucked. Parts of it were really hard, and really made me question everything that I was doing with my life. My depression was really bad, and there were a few days that were a struggle. I was able to see a really good therapist at the local community centre, and I know that she had a major hand in helping me get healthy.  My 28th birthday changed all of that. I jumped out of an airplane and got a job in Scotland.

2015 was the year the wombmate got pregnant, and tomorrow we will celebrate my muffin’s 1st birthday. I was lucky enough to get to be there for the birth and his first few days in the big bad world. In three days we will be reunited for mischief and mayhem.

Week 8: When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?

I like to joke that I am not really an adult yet, but I am sure I am. I’m not really sure about the first time, but the day I bought my Ford Escape was definitely a day that qualifies as an adult day for me. When my cute little Civic was totaled, I had a rental car until I got the insurance money. When I took the rental car back to the dealership, my brother-in-law and I decided to wander around a bit. A man came out to help us, and when he started talking to my bro-in-law, and when I saw Estelle, I knew I wanted her. Through the process he talked to my bro-in-law like he was in charge, but I asked to see the engine, talked about the oil changes and maintenance, and any previous accidents. Eventually he figures out that I am in charge, and although he talks to me the way a dad would talk to his daughter, he was nice. I usually let my dad handle these things, but after a quick call to him to see how low I could go on the price, I went in and negotiated everything on my own. Again, they talked to my bro-in-law first, and since that made me a little mad, I just held fast to the price I was willing to pay and then I drove home in a car that served me well for a year, and is now in the care of a good family friend.

While it seems like a silly thing to make me feel like an adult, when my dad said I did alright when he saw the car for the first time, I knew I was golden. Next year when I pay off the first of my student loans will really make me feel like an adult.

I am now getting ready for the long trip to California and the last few days of my 20s.

 

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 5

I’m a week late. I have not been motivated to write lately. I’m tired and have been running around for data collection, meetings with students and teaching in the evening. All of this is good though. Things are progressing nicely in all of those areas, and I am feeling much better about where I am in terms of my work compared to last year at this time, and I think I am finally on a steady path. I didn’t like the writing challenge for last week, and today marks my 30 day countdown to turning 30, so I thought it was time to update the list.

16. Create a budget to pay down my student loans. Unfortunately this one involves my mom helping me out for right now. There was no way I could afford to pay that and go to therapy, so I am burdening her for a bit longer. The loan is getting paid though, and I am a couple months away from being under $10,000. I’m really excited about that.

18. Create a solid workout routine. Even though the sleep doc couldn’t really help me with my sleep issues, she did give me some ways to help my joints during the day that forces me up and around, and I found a couple of yoga classes to do before bed. My phone also has a help app that guilts me into walking around more during the day. It works, as I try to get at least an hour of walking in a day.

22. Learn to cook a fancy meal. I made my own Chinese food! Orange chicken, chow mein, and egg fried rice. The rice I cheated on, but I made everything else.

The chow mein was a little bland, so I will have to keep working on that, but it wasn’t bad for my first attempt.

With 30 days left, I still have some big things to cross off the list. I’m working on the rap song, but finding a horse and hot air balloon here is super difficult. I’ve managed to get 20 things crossed off and still have some time to work on the rest. There is one thing on the list that I realize might be hard to cross off, but I am going to remain hopeful.

20 days until sunshine.

  1. Learn how to drive in the UK.
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Start a new tradition
  4. Go back to therapy
  5. Visit three new countries (1/3 done with my trip to Malta, next up, France in November and Hungary in December)
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Quit the tutoring centre
  8. Volunteer for a literacy programme
  9. Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  10. Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  11. Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  12. Master scorpion pose
  13. Attend the symphony
  14. Learn a rap song from start to finish
  15. Host a dinner party
  16. Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  17. Create something original
  18. Create a solid workout regime
  19.  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  20. Learn to dance
  21. Eat an exotic meal
  22. Learn to cook a fancy meal
  23. Yell at a football match
  24. Go horseback riding
  25. Master British spelling and punctuation
  26. Create a good sleep schedule
  27. See my favorite group in concert
  28. Fall in love
  29. Stop holding grudges
  30. Let go of my expectations