Here is my obligatory end of the year post. I gleefully say goodbye to 2010. It has been an awesome year and I can only hope that 2011 is even better.

2011 is the year of Hippo Q. in Europe!! I don’t want to get my hopes up too high as it is quite possible that I end up still in DC next year. But my mentality during the upcoming months is that of a person who will be living out of her suitcase and frugally spending her euros this time next year.

2011 is the year that I’ll turn 30. I have no idea where the last 30 years have gone, but I can say that I’m feeling good. My twenties were such a crazy time of self-doubt, low self-esteem, longing, naivety, uncertainty, etc. For sure, I can’t say that I’ve figured everything out already, but I definitely feel that I’m about to start a new chapter of my life (my 30s) in a better place—though with declining eyesight, achy knees and hips, and fine lines.

My main resolution for 2011 has been reiterated numerous times on this blog. I want to live/work/study in Europe starting next fall. And I am determined to achieve that resolution. The rest of my resolutions/plans are related.
  • Soak-up my last few months of ulcer-inducing Hill life. I am looking forward to the new Congress. There have been so many changes on the Hill and I can’t wait to dig in and fight against the craziness that will come from the other side.
  • Enjoy my last few months in DC. There are so many things that I haven’t done in DC. I want to check out TR Island, the National Cathedral, and the National Arboretum. In reality, I just want to spend time with my friends. DC is such a transient city and I’ve watch so many of my friends leave. I never imagined that I would depart DC as well.
  • Intense language/culture studies. This will be postponed until I know if I’ll need to focus on Germany or France. I am excited about the possibility of living in either (or both) country. My fingers are crossed that it all works out. I’ll have a decision by February.
  • Reduce the clutter. I’ve already made some progress in this. A friend is coming over to take a few things this weekend, and I hope to start asking around if there are any new arrivals to DC who might appreciate free/cheap stuff. And from there, it is all about Craigslist and the Salvation Army. Whatever is left will just be donated to my shared house.
  • Go on some dates! Since my Europe epiphany in August, I have been reluctant to consider going out on dates. But I don’t see anything wrong with a little bit of DC fun this spring before I ship off. And yes, I said this spring. I honestly don’t leave my house in the winter. It will be perfect practice (and help me lose a bit of the desperation vibe) for when I meet the cliché EU lover.
  • Cut my hair. Sometime before I depart. I will cut my hair down to my 100% natural hair. My hair hasn’t grown out enough to do the cut now but I’m thinking that I’ll have enough length (and nerve) by the summertime.

Best wishes to everyone for an amazing 2011!


Possession Anxiety

My excitement about next year has started to morph into anxiety. There is so much that I need to do to prepare. Foremost, I must reduce my possessions to only the essentials that can easily fit into two large duffel bags (is that wise or even possible?). Everything else will be sold or given away to friends or Goodwill. I feel that I haven’t accumulated that much since my last purge – in preparation for Peace Corps – but I still have so much stuff. Where did it all come from?

I’ve been a packrat since I was a child and I have a way of assigning emotional value to the most mundane of household objects. It is one of the reasons that my mother’s basement is full of crates of my childhood junk. I feel that I am better than I once was but I still have trouble parting with stuff.

Thankfully, since the beginning of the fall, I’ve cut back on my purchases – not only to save money but also to avoid accumulating anything else that I’d have to throw away next year.

In the last month, I have started to give away/recycle/trash some of my clothes and desk items, but I haven’t made a significant dent in any of it (don’t get me started on my six, unpacked boxes of kitchen items, wft?!).

It is not going to be fun. But it has to be done. I don’t want to saddle my mother with any more boxes of my things and it is not worth putting any of it in storage. So I have to decide what is irreplaceable or would be expensive or a hassle to replace.

The truly tricky thing is figuring out what I should keep to bring with me. I know that my lifestyle will be that of poor wannabe expat, but I am not sure exactly what I will be doing and where exactly I’ll be living. And I won't know for months.

As a side note, over the weekend, I received my mother's full buy-in regarding my scheme to live/work/study abroad. I don't know what I expected but she didn't blink an eye when I told her that I was very open to staying longer than a year -- and that it all depended on my professional prospects and if I found a husband (i.e., if I could get a visa). And she was not suprised when I said that I want to raise my kids abroad. I brought this point up again today to ensure that she understood the implications. She does and she supports me.

It is great to have a mother who listens and lets me make my own decisions. I am very thankful to have her. And I can’t wait to host her (and all my awesome cheerleading friends!) wherever I am next year and thereafter.


Another Update, Plans for Abroad

This week marks the 4-month anniversary of my pursuit of French proficiency and professional opportunities in Europe. I have one more application to submit by Friday, and then, I will be officially done with Part One of my plan. I can’t believe how much time, effort, and money I devoted to learning French and to perfecting my applications. I am so proud of myself. My fingers are crossed that one of the programs I applied to will work out (I’ve already been contacted for an interview!). But given the economy, I know the applicant pool is crowded and the programs are highly competitive.

Now that it’s almost 2011, I’ve started to think about how I will celebrate my 30th birthday. For sure, I will drink and dance with friends in DC, but I also want to do something just for myself. I’m leaning toward going to see Thomas Fersen at La Cigale in Paris at the end of April (during the spring recess!! But that may not matter if I don’t have a Hill job…). I have become obsessed with Thomas Fersen, along with a handful of other French singers (Camille, ZAZ, etc) thanks to Alliance Française. A-M is contemplating Spain this spring and another potential travel buddy is talking about Eastern Europe. So I would probably go alone (it is a bucket list goal...), and if I'm not selected for the programs I applied to, it will make sense to visit Lyon, Nantes, and Avignon – the locations of the French language schools I’m considering.

So, thankfully, I’m still on track to fulfill my dream of living/working/studying abroad starting next summer/fall.

My mother arrives in DC on Saturday and I look forward to her visit. I am anxious to share with her, in person, all of my hopes and dreams for the future. She needs to understand that I am very open to living in Europe for longer than a year—and what that means in terms of the sort of career, family, and lifestyle I hope to have. We need to talk about downsizing my possessions and about my finances. It should be an interesting conversation, and yes, I think that we’ll discuss it over a French meal.


A Thought

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. That makes it hard to plan the day." (E.B. White)

Hat tip to A-M for sharing this quote that sums up my life's struggle. I wish I was the type to just savor life. But I feel that I am called to a life of service: helping children and protecting the environment.

I think it is reasonable that I should want to a year (or two) to savor life in Europe. But eventually, I must return to a life of sacrifice (i.e., minimalism, anti-consumerism, etc) and hardwork that I believe will allow me to make a difference in the nation and the world.


Giving Thanks

I am thankful every day for the progress that I have made in my life during the past year. I am feeling happier, smarter, sexier, and more confident than I have ever felt in my life. Perhaps, I have "found myself." Thanks to the breakup with Floyd, thanks to phenomenal friends, thanks to the unconditional support of my family, and thanks to all the annoying challenges that life sent my way.

Last night, I spent a few hours writing in my journal about my priorities for my life. I feel that I now have a better grasp of what will make me happy in the long term in regards to a husband, family, career, lifestyle, location, etc. I am feeling optimistic about my future. And I am grateful for that.

This year, in particular, I am thankful for the persistence of my inner voice that has reminded me of my childhood hopes and charged me to chase my dreams.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Two Meetings

Yesterday, I had lunch with Floyd. He had been suggesting that we hang out since the summertime. I figured it either it was to 1) let me know that he was getting married; 2) ask me for a second chance. The former would have been expected as it is always the result of dating a guy who doesn’t believe in marriage: Suddenly discovers that he does want to get married (just not to you). The later, while flattering, just makes me squirm.

I felt that it was important to have lunch with him given that he has been rather supportive in my pursuits to go abroad. But sure enough, he wanted to meet so that he could tell me that he is dating someone that he hopes to get serious with.

I find that quite amusing. Without a doubt, it has yanked the bandage off the emotions I thought had dissipated with time. To be honest, I am truly over him, but I am not over our relationship—or at least, I miss the carefree, in-love Hippo I was during that time. Now, I am happy, for sure, but a little jaded and definitely more guarded.

I know that his heart was in the right place in wanting to tell me in-person. A random meeting with him and his new love would have been awkward. I wish that I was able to tell him in response that I am also in a loving relationship.

Well, actually, I am in a loving relationship...with myself (possibly the most important relationship of all). Amazingly with Floyd gone, I have learned to love me.

Life Goals
A day later, I met a woman that I admire for coffee. I wanted to get her advice and encouragement about the career and personal options I am considering for the next few years. The most striking thing that she noted was how important this time in my life is; how it is very important to be building a foundation in my career and personal life now. And that I need to make important decision about what is important to me in regards to a family life and my career. She shared with me a few stories of her friends who are facing 40+ and made bad decisions.

Our conversation helped to put things into perspective, but it has also increased my anxiety about making the right choices during the upcoming years. My heart and fancy scream France, but maybe I should listen to my brain and be a bit more measured about taking that risk.

My twenties have been a time of following the rules and working hard. Thankfully, all my efforts are paying off. I would hate to make a misstep now that would destroy all that I have built, or that would make it harder for me to achieve all of my dreams in the future.

My mother will visit me in December. I look forward to seriously finally opening up to her so that I can get her advice. Then, I'll need to take time to reevaluate my priorities so that I can chart a path that is realistic but also respects the vision of my life that I had as a little girl.


The Election & My Hill Job

The past two weeks have been interesting.  My personal life is good.  My applications to for international work programs are still in the works.  But there has been a marked increase in anxiety, tension and sadness at work.

The elections are going to change the landscape on the Hill next year—not just from a policy perspective but in terms of the circles of friends that I've made on the Hill.  I am very fortunate that I should be able to continue my job next year but some of my friends won't. 

It is shocking that so many Members of Congress who have devoted their careers to helping out their constituents and making America better--won't be here next year.  So much institutional knowledge goes with them.  So much tireless service disregarded by the electorate in a misguided wave of anti-incumbent fervor.  The wave has stripped the Democrats of their reign in the House--a reign that has lead to major legislative accomplishments for our country including health care reform, Wall Street reform, credit card reform, and education loan reform.  For some reason, the American public--at least the ones who voted--decided to ignore all that in favor of a party that doesn't have any ideas and whose sole purpose is to serve the rich and corporate America.  Their "Pledge to America" is a plague on America.
Okay, off my soapbox now.  Oddly enough, the changes to come have gotten me fired up to work even harder in the new Congress.  It will be a fascinating time for the House and I remain grateful for the privledge of being a part of the fight -- even if only for a little while longer.


Musings on Voting Early in D.C.

I just spent my lunch hour registering to vote in Washington, DC. Yes, I recognize that DC doesn’t have full representation but it is my home. And after spending over a year back in the city, it seems silly to be registered in MD or even GA--though, I haven't decided if I will change my GA license...

I’ve heard that folks get called for jury duty almost immediately after registering to vote. Well see if that is the case for me. I hope not.

It feels nice to have exercised my right to vote—given all the folks who fought to give that right to women and people of color.

And I encourage everyone who is reading my blog to vote early or next Tuesday. This is an important election. And I'm sure you remember the lesson from the 2000 election: every vote really does count.


Journaling Does Wonders

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Thoreau)


Over the weekend, I did a bit of soul searching after reading a book on taking a sabbatical ("Unplugged:  How to Disconnect from the Rat Race, Have an Existential Crisis, and Find Meaning and Fulfillment").  The book really got me thinking about what I really want out of my sabbatical—and what I want out of my life.  


The most important thing that the book has done is that it has gotten me to start writing in my journal again (the author really pushes journal writing).  I used to write in my journal all the time, but over time (especially after I started this blog) my journal writing decreased.  I am trying to change that.


I've always believed that life is about love and learning lessons.  And I feel that the people and experiences that come into our lives – no matter how briefly – serve the purpose of providing you with new insight and giving you a chance to love (yourself and/or others).  If you are lucky and mindful, you'll always get both. 


In writing in my journal during the past few days I've come to several realizations – thoughts that have always been with me but that I ignored or discounted.  Here are just a few:


1)     I want to raise my children in Europe.  Most of my friends have heard me say that I want to raise my children in a household where Spanish, French, and English are spoken.  I always joke that I'll have to work two jobs to afford an educated, multilingual nanny.  But in reality, I always thought that it would be best to a) marry someone who spoke at least two of those languages; b) learn those languages myself; and c) raise my children abroad—even if for just the first 5 or 10 years.  Oddly enough, I used to talk about this  with Floyd, but over the years, I somehow "forgot" about how important those things are to me.  What that means for my career, for my love life, for everything that I've tried to build in DC, I don't know…  It is odd that I'm now talking about settling down, getting married and having children in the next 5 years—after spending most of 2008 and 2009 writing off men and babies (residual bitterness post-Floyd?). Thank you journal and thank you random French guy from Craigslist.
2)     Working on the Hill is a pit stop in my journey.  I was blinded by the excitement and the newness of political life on the Hill for about 2 years.  But now feel that this is not my true calling. It is not the sort of lifestyle I want and I don't know if it is the best way for me to be effective at "changing the world" (see #3).  For sure, it has been an once-in-a-lifetime experience.  And thankfully, it has reminded me of my love of language, of writing, and of communications.  I don't know if that means I belong with a nonprofit consumer education group, with a PR consulting firm, or perhaps, writing books (children's books!) or articles on environmental topics.

3)     The other thing that has resurfaced is the fact that I still don't know if I am meant to effect change top-down or bottom-up.  This has been my worry ever since I was in high school. I sense that my heart will always be in environmental education and helping children, so maybe it's time to explore my college dream of opening an afterschool program focused on cultural exchange and environmental education (another dream that I somehow "forgot" until recently!  That's why keeping a journal and rereading old entries is so valuable.)


The list could go on.  The bottom-line is that I've realized that the anxiety I've felt ever since I decided to take a career break is grounded in a more basic worry that I am not spending my short time on Earth "wisely."  I no longer want to live on autopilot, just floating through life.  I must seek to discover and then, consciously work toward my own personal sense of fulfillment, happiness, and peace—now. 


So, I'm going to spend the next year or two exploring what is important to me; avoiding the noise, the negativity, and the doubt (from myself and from others).  Of course, there will be distractions, setbacks, and detours, but I am optimistic that if work hard, stay focused, and sacrifice as needed, I will be able to create the life of my dreams.


Two Random Stories

During the Columbus Day weekend, I had two experiences that gave me pause.


When I was walking in my hood one afternoon, I noticed that the woman walking in front of me was providing a peepshow to the neighborhood. Somehow, her wrapdress had hooked itself on her large bag so that the entire length of her right leg was in full view. Added to that, the light breeze, and you got a clear shot of her green underwear.

After hesitating for a bit, thinking that one of the other people walking in front of me would surely alert the woman (typical bystander effect as no one did), I caught up with the woman. I tactfully told her that her dress was hitched rather high, probably because of her bag. Instead of saying thank you, this woman said something to the effect of whatever. So I continued, trying to make her understand how serious the situation was: "I can literally see everything, honey." She looked at my blankly. So I was like, fine, whatever, and walked off.

Who knows if she did readjust her dress? When I told a friend about this, she figured that the girl was doing it on purpose. I doubt that. She wasn't a particularly attractive woman, but rather a non-descript 20-something in a sundress. And she did not look like the type who was looking for attention or action. Or maybe that was her shtick.

If I was her, I would have been profusely grateful. But no, she had an attitude.

People are weird.


During that same weekend, I was walking near the Columbia Heights fountain. It was a beautiful day and everyone (and their grandma) was out eating fro-yo, chatting, and simply walking around. On my way to the metro, I noticed two gleaming quarters on the sidewalk. I paused. They were on tails and being the pseudo-superstitious person that I am I debated picking them up.

For those of you who know about my tendency of finding money ($5, $20, $100) on the ground, you might assume that I left the quarters there. I don't have a problem picking up coins—as long as they are on heads. I have a problem with claiming bills that aren't mine—as I'm freaked out by the sort of karma that may be tied to them.

So, I bent over to pick them up. But they wouldn't budge. I literally scrapped the surface of my nails on the concrete trying to pry away the first and then the second quarter. After about a minute, I shrugged it off with an embarrassed laugh and went on my way.

I imagine that someone super-glued them to the sidewalk and was sitting somewhere nearby watching fools like me try to remove the quarters in vain.

Oddly, enough, when I returned home that night, the quarters were gone. I guess someone was carrying around some acetone or a nail file to effectively pick them up. You better believe that I would have tried both if I had them.


Career Break - Still on Track

Last night, I had a heart-to-heart with my mother about my plans for a year abroad. The night before she sent me an email that included the lines: “Why are you rushing this? You have a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity that pays well and has benefits. Are you ready to handle the change in your lifestyle when you are abroad and when you return? ”

Of course, I spent the day with a stress headache thinking about my mother’s email. It was odd that she sent her words of doubt only a few weeks after giving me her blessing. It turns out that my mother didn’t quite understand my plans—that I had a plan. I think she imagined that I was going to buy a one-way ticket to France and live as a street performer. That is not the case.

The good thing about yesterday was that it refocused me. I realize now how much I value an experience abroad that is professional in nature. Sure, I've spent hours researching university language program. I have even selected my top 4 choices (3 in Lyon and 1 in Avignon). While learning French is the fundamental objective of my break, I am reaching for more. My first choice is finding a fellowship or internship program that I can provide me with professional experiences and skills that directly relate to my career goals.

Reading articles like this one in The New York Times earlier this week, reminded me that I’m not the first person (nor the last) to contemplate a career sabbatical. Floyd did it for a year. I remember how skeptical I was about his plan. He is now one of my cheerleaders.

So, I’m going to continue to scour the web and talk to people. I need to amass as much information as I can. It is all stressing me out but it’s a happy stress. A stress that is motivating me to turn my deepest dreams in to a plan.

I want to do this break right. Sure, there will be hiccups along the way but I want to be sure that I explore all of my options and put in place a sound safety net for my time outside of the rat race and particularly, for when I return.


An Election Year & Job Security

This week, I felt the need to remind my mother of the reality of a political staffer in an election year many of us may be out of a job in a few months.


There are a fair amount of nervous staffers on the Hill.  They are worried not only about their boss's reelection but about whether Democrats will remain in power and how that will impact leadership positions and committee membership.


The elections this fall are undoubtedly important to the lives and policy goals of the staffers and their bosses.  But the election will also serve an important gauge of the commonsense of the American people (sorta like how America's commonsense was reflected in the reelection of Bush in 2004).  Will we choose to let anger and cynicism dominate – bred by the realities of economic hardship, partisan wrangling, and the campaign of misinformation and fear waged by the Republican Party and its media arm, Fox News?  I could devote an entire blog to slamming Fox News and Republicans, but I prefer not to waste my time. I'll also avoid enumerating all the notable things that Democrats and President Obama have done during the past 2 years and why the vision and actions of the Democrat party are better for our nation.  There are enough blogs out there who would do a better job than I on both topics.


In the face of the upcoming elections, I am not particularly worried about my career on the Hill.  I will be sad to lose my job, and I know that I will have to compete with hundreds of former Democratic staffers for off-Hill jobs.  Most likely, I'll just move home and prepare for an early departure to France.  


The thing I am anxious about, that truly makes me sad, is the thought that Americans will chose to not vote this November.  And worse, will choose to not be informed voters this November (Fox News viewers:  Switch over to NewsHour, BBCWorld, MSNBC, or CNN for just 30 minutes each day.  You'll get an education;  Non-FoxNews Viewers:  Check out FoxNews for just 30 minutes each day, and I promise that you'll be motivated to get politically involved or at least motivated to stay aware of current events and policies).


So much is at stake this year.  And not to sound cliché, but I will say it anyway, the future of America depends on having thoughtful voters who elect selfless leaders into office, leaders who are not focused on scoring political points, but instead honestly want to improve America for the benefit of all Americans.


A Modern American Woman

Over the weekend, I met with my language exchange partner and we discussed the differences between our two cultures.  He is a Francophone from Cameroon.  He admitted that he was struck by the fact that I was making plans for the future that did not involve a family life.  Instead, everything related to my career, my education, and my travel goals.  He noted how different things are in his own country and culture.
That is the wonder and beauty of being a modern American woman.  I have choices.  I can get married, or not.  I can have children, or not.  I can be a housewife, or a career woman.  
Thankfully, the stigma of being unmarried at 50 or even 30 isn't what it used to be.  Women are putting off or avoiding altogether marriage and babies.  Women are defining themselves based on their career and community activities, and not based on their husbands/partners.  
My mother, grandmother, and so many other women who came before me fought long and hard to give me options.  
I smile everyday that I go to work for a powerful female boss.  (Nope, I'm not a sexually harassed secretary for a male boss!  And as an African American woman, I can aspire to do more than work as a maid or a nanny.)
I smile when I come home to my co-ed house (Nope, I don't have to live with my parents until I get married!).  
I smile when I book a ticket to France using my own cash (Yep, I have my own bank account and I can travel without a chaperone).  
I smile knowing that I went to school to become a more knowledgeable person and to further my career not to increase my prospects for finding a husband before I got too old.  I smile knowing that I was able to go to school.
I can't imagine living in a culture or in a time period where my only option, my expected ambition, was to get married and have babies.  A time period and culture where my views, desires, and abilities were secondary to those of men. 
I must note that I do not have a problem with any woman who aspires to succeed as a wife and mother.  That is a beautiful, meaningful choice as well.  What I do have a problem with is being limited by my gender.  And, thankfully, as a modern, American woman, I am not. 


Language Exchange

I'm sure my readers are tired of me writing about France and my French language pursuits.  But I can't help it if dreams of France dominate my free time.  I recently signed up for a French-English language exchange partner and a French pen pal.  
French-English language exchange partner
I met with my language exchange partner last week and I think we will try to meet on a weekly basis from now on.  He is from Cameroon and a student in Maryland.  He's hoping to improve his English and he is willing to help me with my pronunciation and understanding of the French language and culture.  (And yes, I am aware that Cameroon French is not the same as Parisian French or French in the Loire Valley.)  The focus was definitely on English during our first meeting—mainly because I still don't know enough vocabulary (especially verb conjugations) to express myself beyond the basics.  I hope that future sessions are more evenly split between English and French—but first I need to learn more.  I definitely plan on getting him to check my French resume and teaching assistantship essay for grammar errors.  And I've already offered to review anything that he writes for school.  
French pen pal
During the past two weeks, I've been exchanging emails with a French guy who lives in Paris.  We exchange emails almost everyday—half in English and half in French.   It has been a great way for me to learn new vocabulary words and also to learn about the life of a Frenchman.  Most of our emails are about our lifestyles and our plans for the future.  But we have also exchanged our views on hot political topics like retirement reform in France and plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero.  I hope to find a Frenchwoman to email next – so that I can get a female's perspective on life in France and of course, her perspective on Frenchmen. And yes, I still get the occasional email from that French guy in Tours.  Hopefully, I can remain connected with both guys—make even more friends—to help in my transition.  I imagine that it will be easy for me to make English-speaking friends via whatever program I join.  But it will be more difficult to make French friends who are willing to help me integrate into French society and avoid the common foreigner/tourist mistakes (like the societal norm on kissing…).
I must admit that I am anxious to move.  Blame it on "Hill burnout" and a lack of exercise, but I am walking zombie most days.  Most of all, I'm feeling disillusioned and cynical about what happens on the Hill and how much of a difference I can make.  The DC bubble seems so toxic these days and I'm just tired of the misinformation, the ignorance, and the spin.  Of course, I blame the other side.  
Mostly, I need a break from the rat race.  February, August, or whatever month next year I mark for my departure can't come soon enough.
So that's my update.  I promise that my next post will NOT be about France.


Une Rêveuse

I spent the past week attempting to immerse myself in the French language and culture. I am still optimistic that I will be close to achieving the B2 level (!!) by December given that I devote most of my free time to learning new words, studying grammar, translating sentences, listening to French music and news, watching French movies, and writing/speaking French in class. My French self-study and new immersion class are both a little overwhelming and tiring. But I am shockingly driven to achieve French proficiency within the next few months (for the teaching assistantship) and year (for school, work, etc in France).

One of the French movies I watched over the weekend was Amélie. Indeed, it is a beloved French movie, quite whimsical and fun. But it was a movie that made me worry about my own quirks—especially after hearing this line from Raymond Dufayel, the “Glassman”:

“You mean she would rather imagine herself relating to an absent person than build relationships with those around her?”

It is true that I live in a dreamworld. It is odd that I am that way given that I had an older sister to play with, but as my parents would attest, I was always reserved and tended to keep to myself. While I am much more social these days, I still relish and often, seek out solitude. It’s just my personality I guess, though one could also blame the fact that my favorite hobbies (reading and writing) tend to be independent activities.

And I am a dreamer. I live so much of my life in my imagination and in my mind—thinking about the present, the past, and the future. I’m sure that reading and writing so much fiction reinforces this.

My question is whether this has prevented me from living life. Without a doubt, I have an active, fulfilling internal life. But am I missing out on something else?

There are so many people out there who are unable to be alone. I pity them. I can entertain myself for hours with my imagination alone. Add in bright sunshine and puffy clouds (and snacks, of course), and I’m good for an entire day of solitude.

And yet, it probably is a fault to live too little in the world. Life is about relationships, learning, and love. And, although I can do all of those things alone, there is a greater chance for personal growth in doing them with others.

So, I must seek a better balance. That means, for example, I won’t prevent myself from imagining wonderfully romantic events starring me and my latest crush. But I will put myself out there more often so that I can have a chance to, in reality, experience all that I dream.


Afros & Hippos - Getting Back to My Roots

For the past few years, I’ve been contemplating breaking my addition to the “creamy crack”. (For full disclosure, I had no idea what that term referred to until I watched Chris Rock’s “Good Hair.”)

I’ve been getting my hair chemically relaxed since I was in 7th grade. Before then, my mother would plait my hair every morning with pretty clips and bows. For special occasions like Easter or my birthday, I might get a hot comb treatment. I was always amazed by how different my hair felt and looked when it was straightened. My hair would actually blow in the wind and do all the sorts of things I felt that “good hair” would do. I can’t say that my mother taught me the idea of “good hair” as my mother has had an afro since the early 1970s. So, I’d assume my understanding of “good hair” was the product of the attitudes of my school friends and my own comparison of my Barbie’s straight blonde locks and my own “nappy” mane.

The summer before I started junior high, my mother agreed that it was time to start getting my hair relaxed so that I could pursue all the styles I wanted without her having to deal with pressing my hair (only to have me ruin it in the shower, when exercising, or in the rain). I loved getting my hair relaxed. But I don’t think I was ever truly satisfied with chemically straightened hair, and that was probably because until recently, I didn’t know much about the process of chemically straightening hair and the importance of a specialized regime to ensure that your treated hair remains healthy. So, I even then I normally sported a ponytail or bun. It was easy and got my hair out of the way—and now it is my signature look.

I do wish that I had chosen to not go relaxed at 13, but then, I don’t know how I would have coped with being the only natural-haired Black girl at school. A lot has changed over the years. Natural hairstyles are much more mainstream and so many women have learned to embraces their natural curls.

So, this brings me to my latest bright idea. I want to grow out my hair. This desire stems from environmental, spiritual, and even financial reasons. Whereas I used to abhor any new growth, I now rejoice in seeing and feeling its texture and curl. I want to experience having a whole head of texture and curl—something I haven’t had in over 15 years.

Back when I was applying to Peace Corps, I figured that I would go natural before my departure. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to maintain my relaxer routine if I lived in a remote village, and I figured it would be the perfect way to transition from relaxed to natural without having to deal with the reaction of people who are used by my “straightened and pulled-back” style.

Doing it now frightens me. I worry about the reaction of my friends, my coworkers, and guys. I wonder if I will be perceived as attractive to men sporting a ‘fro—particularly men who aren’t African American (you know that I always find myself attracted to Latinos and White men). Will those men find me attractive or will they be put-off by a natural style? But then, would I want to date that sort of guy anyway? And I wonder how it will change other people’s perception of me in the workplace—especially as I seek to pursue fellowships, internships, and other professional opportunities abroad.

So the reaction of others definitely worries me. But I don’t think that is enough as the only reaction that matters is my own. I’m not really afraid of the actual change in hair texture and style. I have my mother to thank for that. Plus, cutting my hair off and sporting a funky ‘fro shouldn’t be that much of a change given that I don’t rely on my hair in framing my face and my hair has never really defined my style—it’s always just sorta there.

So, how soon until my “Big Chop”? My vote is for a few months of transitioning (i.e., letting my natural hair grow out) before getting it cut and styled into a funky ‘fro. I plan on consulting with a trusted stylist who sports a natural do this weekend. I look forward to hearing what she recommends and then, asking my mother for her blessing (as is required for all major life decisions).

Oui, c’est possible: A hippo with an afro in 2011.


My Plan of Attack

During the past week, I’ve shared my dreams of going abroad with a number of friends. Everyone is very supportive but interestingly, they are surprised to learn that I am actively pursuing this goal (i.e., drafting a personal statement for one application, meeting with people, learning French at home, etc). It is true that, in the past, I’ve talked about doing a lot of things that never panned out. But this time, I am not following some random, bright idea, but the voice of the “little girl” inside of me who always longed to live abroad and be immersed in the French and Spanish language and culture. It’s the voice that I tried to follow back when I applied to Peace Corps. And then, my life on the Hill and the allure of being settled in DC distracted me. Now, I’m back on track.

So here is my plan for achieving my goal. This will probably change as I learn about additional programs (gotta network, network, network!!) or realize that I actually don’t want to live abroad (I can’t imagine that would ever happen, but who knows…). I've included links for those of you who are interested in the same sort of thing.

1) Tell My Boss
This actually wasn’t supposed to happen for a few more weeks, but Monday I found myself in the curious position of having a heart-to-heart with my boss about my plans. She was very supportive, which is great—especially as I’ll be asking her for recommendations. But it is intimidating to put an official marker out there saying that you intend to do something. It makes it all real and increases the pressure not to fail.

2) Learn French
Today, I forked over a month’s worth of rent for two French classes at the Alliance Française in DC. Hopefully, my language acquisition via AF is much better than my Spanish review at ILI. Regardless, I am striving to reach a level of proficiency sufficient to successfully compete for the Teaching Assistant Program in France through the French Embassy. Based on the information I’ve read online, it seems like I have a chance to earn a spot as long as I turn my application in during the first deadline, am profuse about my interest in teaching in France, and hire a French tutor to help me advance quicker and to write a recommendation for the program.

Signing up for a year of group and private classes will be a major financial investment for a program that I very well may not get into, yet I want to learn French and AF is definitely much cheaper than classes at my beloved alma mater ($1,500+ per credit hour!). And, even if I don’t make it into the program, taking the classes will give me the rudimentary understanding of French that I want to have before I return to France to visit or to enroll in an immersion language course.

3) Learn German
I am really excited about the possibility of the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program. No, it isn’t France but the program would arrange for me to learn German before the program starts, and I would be able to spend several months in Germany gaining professional experience in my field. And that could be just the launching pad I need to find a job that will enable me to live and work abroad long-term.

4) Re-learn Spanish
If the programs in France and Germany don’t work out, and I’m still in D.C. (and antsy for international experience), I’ll apply to the North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain program through the Government of Spain. The requirements are similar to the France program but you can be a little older. I’ll get a Spanish tutor to improve my Spanish and apply for the 2012-2013 school year.

5) Deplete “Gotta Go to France” Savings Fund
If none of the above options pan out and I don’t find any other alternatives, I’ll follow this woman's advice and take classes next fall to acquire a TEFL certificate, get a 3-month visa, and book a flight to Paris for January 2012. I’ll spend one week applying to English teaching jobs at private language institutes in Paris while taking French classes (so that I can get the reality check of a miserably wet and cold Paris winter). And if no one hires me, I’ll just do the same thing in two or more other cities I want to visit in France (Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Strasbourg, Lyon, etc). And if after all of that I still don’t have any success, I’ll try out wwoofing, volunteering, paying to teach english (our intern recommended The Language House TEF), enroll in more more French language and cultural classes, or some other random experience (e.g., La Giraudiere) until I deplete my “Gotta Go to France” savings fund. Then, I'll return home and either get ready for the program in Spain or just return to my old political staffer life in DC.

So, yes, I do have a plan. A-M called me a dreamer. I guess I am. But I am also an avid planner. And once I am inspired to achieve something, I will devote all my energy into it. It is quite possible that I will drop this whole scheme in favor of a new job opportunity (if the Administration came-a-knocking, I would drop this in a heartbeat). Or maybe something else happens (love, family, etc) that leads me to make the conscious decision to settle-down in my career and in DC.

Life is all about dreaming, making plans, and then, readjusting those plans based on the curveballs that life sends your way. Regardless, I’m going to do my best to implement this plan of attack so that when I am 80 and I can look back and at least say that I tried.


A Countdown

So I think I’m really going to do it.

I’m giving myself until the end of February 2011 to get everything in order.

That gives me a full two years in my current office. I do have some misgivings given the career future and financial stability I would be leaving. But then I remember that I am in the exact same place I was two years ago when I was getting ready to leave for the Peace Corps. I moved into a shared house to save money, got rid of half of my possessions to make for an easier move, started taking a Spanish classes, and went to work on the Hill because I couldn’t imagine leaving DC without having that experience. It was never meant to be for more than six months. But I fell in love with the Hill’s energy, and it treated me well. My only sadness about taking a break from that career path will be to leave (and possibly never return) without having had a Senate-side or Administration experience. But I have had a few experiences that most politicos would envy.

My February deadline also gives me a little over 6 months to save as much money as I can, learn French phrases, and do lots of research into different program options. Floyd recommends that I find a way to have an experience abroad that helps to further my career so that it isn’t a random gap in employment that I’ll have to explain when I return. I am reluctant to enroll in graduate school. But I am interested in a political position abroad. I don’t have the connections to become a political appointee in the US embassy in France. But maybe that is something I can work on during the upcoming 6 months. Or at least I hope to find contacts that could be helpful for a long-term move in the future (once I've become fluent in French).

What I’d really love to do is find a legislative exchange/fellowship program that would enable me, as a Hill staffer, to work in a legislative body in France, Spain, and/or the UK. Now that would add something to my resume--while allowing me to experience living and working abroad. So far, I haven’t had any luck finding such a program. But I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and keep talking to people.

My backup plan is to apply for a 3-month visa and enroll in a French immersion program for a bit and then a Teaching English program. Then, I’ll try for the same in Spain before a bit of random travel to England and Scotland to visit friends and maybe Italy, Greece, and wherever else the wind and my wallet takes me. All that before returning to the US to live in my mother’s basement as an unemployed, broke 31 year old (with a lot of great and/or awful stories).

I think my biggest fear is having to reestablish myself in my career and in my networking circles when I return. I don’t look forward to explaining my work hiatus (as a 29/30 year old) to a potential employer. But to bring it back to how it would have been if I had gone to Peace Corps, I would probably be in a similar sort of boat of starting over with lots of uncertainty.

For those of you in the know, this plan is not about my French soulmate--though the men I saw in France would make any straight woman want to return for a longer stay... For the past year, I’ve been talking to my mother about moving to NYC in 2011. Now I'm seeking her blessing for France. So this is just a simple upgrade. And for the record, France is my soulmate or at least she is the one I need to have an ill-fated, torrid love affair with before I settle down.


Dreaming of France

I am now back in the U.S. of A. Although it is great to be back at home and sleeping in my own bed, it has been a little rough to adjust to the time difference, pace, and lifestyle of D.C. I was truly out of it at work yesterday after my body woke me up at 4 AM—ready for breakfast and to start the day. The day was all downhill after that. Today things are much better and I should be back at 100 percent for work on Monday.

The trip to France was amazing. And I fell in love with the country. So much in fact that I am now scheming to return for a longer stay. Ideally, I would go live in Paris for six months and take a French class or perhaps enroll in some graduate classes. If I was very lucky, I’d find a job. While there, I would definitely visit my college roommate and her sister in England and Scotland and perhaps, visit some of the other cities on my list. Then, I would switch gears and spend 6 months learning Spanish in Spain---or just move out of Paris and experience a long-term stay in Provence. This would enable me to knock out four of my bucket list items—living abroad, traveling alone, and becoming fluent in French and Spanish.

I do have some misgivings about such a scheme—mainly the fact that I’d be leaving behind a very comfortable lifestyle and career path for the unknown, unemployment, and debt. Without a doubt, I can see a fulfilling future for myself here in DC and on the Hill. I could buy a house, find a husband, and start having babies—and be very happy indeed!

Yet, I think that I might regret not taking a chance on living abroad on my own terms—while I still can. I don’t have any obligations—financial, romantic, familial, or otherwise—right now and that may change in the future. It is a selfish desire, but no more selfish than my desire to live in NYC. But living in Paris trumps living in NYC on so many levels. And it is just as expensive.

My crush on Paris that began 3 years ago has grown to a love of France as a result of my latest trip. I long to know and understand France—the language, the culture, the politics, the history, the landscapes, the food, the men... For so long, I was fascinated by Spanish and Spanish-speaking countries that it seems a little odd that France has moved me so. And as my friends say, how can I have fallen in love with France when I haven’t really been anywhere else? Am I only in love with it because it is a known?

I don’t think so. First, there aren’t many places in the world where I can achieve the lifestyle that desire. In the US, it is only NYC, DC, and Chicago and abroad, it is similarly only the large cities that can give me the sort of diversity, energy, opportunity, culture, and stimulation that I need to be happy. I’m not meant for the suburbs or rural life, at least not at my age. And I lean toward Europe because it is industrialized and secure. I love France because it is beautiful and I respect the French way of life. Yes, you are correct if you sense that my goal is stay longer than a year. I want to stay until the money runs out--whether that takes one year or 10. A job always awaits me in DC and if all else fails, my mother would welcome me back home.

In truth, there is nothing really holding me back from following my dreams--but my own fears of failure and the judgement of my peers. And that's not enough. I only desire my mother's blessing and a financial plan, and I can go.

So I’m going to spend the rest of the year teaching myself basic French, saving money, and figuring out how to make this pipe dream a reality. Who knows, maybe next year you'll read a depressing blog post about how moving to France was the worst decision of my life. Or maybe, my blog posts next year will instead detail how my decision to settledown in DC lead to the house, family, and career of my dreams. Who knows?! Life is all about curveballs. You have to dream, prepare, and simply, eventually, go for it.


Parlez-vous français? Non…

I have four days to cram as much French vocabulary into my brain as possible. I’m headed to France Sunday morning for one of the most seminal adventures of my 20s. It’s the wannabe backpacking trip that I should have taken back in college. But, I have no regrets. I’m going now as a mature, young woman—with a disposable income.

Cali-girl took French in college so A-M and I be relying on her to help us interact with the locals—especially in the Loire, where I’ve heard there are few people who are fluent in English. I’ve been listening to my handy Berlitz playaway audiobook (super-impressed that the technology has moved us beyond language tapes) during the slowperiods at work and at home before bed. It has helped me learn a few of the basic phrases I’ll need to know to get by. But still, there is so much to learn and understand.

I always dreamed that I would raise my children in a multi-lingual home where Spanish, French, and English were spoken. I’ve basically failed at become fluent in Spanish despite the classes I’ve taken and the resource I had for 8 years (Floyd). So maybe I should give French a try?

As of today, I’m adding that to my bucket list, right next to becoming fluent in Spanish. It really is a beautiful and useful language, and I think the best way for me to learn the language is through as many visits to France as possible.


Holiday in France

I am becoming increasingly excited that I will be in France in a mere two weeks! I spent the weekend making purchases for my trip. The key and most expensive purchases were a digital camera (welcome to the 21st century, Hippo!), and a pair of cute walking shoes.

I am most proud that I have culled my packing list to the essentials. And I am determined to not panic the night before my departure and end up bringing every item in my closet. I have items that I can mix-and-match and easily hand wash and dry. If all else fails, I will go shopping. I am hoping to acquire a few new items anyway.

Speaking of budgets, I haven’t really figured out a budget for my trip. That is a little dangerous, but I think my frugal nature will ensure that I don’t go overboard. And thankfully, I have a “rainy-day fund” that was originally created for international travel, though it is now my mid-term savings account. I don’t anticipate spending a lot of cash on souvenirs and at touristy sites. I mainly want to spend my cash on food—mostly bread and fruit—specifically fruit tarts and other fruit pastries. Dear me, I have given myself the green light to gain 10 pounds in the pursuit of the perfect fruit tart. The last time I was in Paris, I went a little crazy every morning and evening at the pastry shop near our hotel. I can recall buying 3 tarts during one trip. My mother asked, “Hippo, do you really need all three? You just ate dinner and it is late.” I ate everything that night before bed.

We decided to spend most of our time in Paris, with a short trip to Blois and then Tours to see a few chateaux and experience life outside of the “big city”. According to the travel guides, the Loire Valley is perfectly situated for bike rides so we anticipate renting bikes to ride to the chateaux, with beautiful baguettes and bottles of wine sticking out of the bike baskets. My friends love wine so I’m sure a wine tour will be a possibility while in the Loire as well.

As for Paris, while my friends are visiting the spots I don’t care to visit (the top of the Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Louvre, and Musee d’Orsay), I am determined to check out a few spots that I missed on my last visit. Namely, Montmartre, Musee de Rodin, and lots of lazy hours picnicking and reading in the Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg, and Champs du Mars. I also want to check out the faux beach and the evening dancing along the Seine.

I am hoping that we are able to have a quick meal with Organica on our first day. She’ll be leaving Paris (after spending a month in France—so jealous!) on the same day that we arrive. I also plan on spending the first day with my college roommate who offered to take a short holiday to Paris so that we can see each other.

Over the weekend, I watched The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, and borrowed two French novels to read during my trip, The Count of Monte Cristo and Madame Bovary. Les Miserable would have been a great addition but it is too large to lug around in my bag. Maybe next time?

All that is left now is to learn more French phrases, review my packing list, and step-up my visits to the gym in preparation for the culinary adventure (of butter, chocolate, wine, and cheese) that awaits me in France.


Slow Dancing

I guess I should give you a detailed update on my two dates/meetings this week. But instead I want to talk about the lost art form that is slow dancing to beautiful ballads.

Maybe I keep my radio on top 40 too much but I’m really missing ballads these days. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard a really good love song since I was a child. In those days, my mother kept a constant loop of Luther Vandross songs and my father was all about Phyllis Hyman. And of course, my father always played from his record collection Saturday mornings. I can recall many mornings of eating grits and bacon to background music provided by The Dells, The Platters, or Nancy Wilson.

I’d imagine that there are still good, new love songs out there, and that they just don't infiltrate all the club and dance songs that dominate the stations I listen to. That’s why you’ll see me tuning my radio to the Quiet Storm when I’m doing dishes in the evening—just like my mom and dad did when I was a kid. And oddly, the same songs that dominated the mix back then are still played. Which makes me think that there really isn’t much new out there.

And that brings me to the fact that I’ve been very interested in slow dancing. Whenever I listen to Sinatra or Ella, I imagine myself wearing a pretty dress and heels and gently swaying to the music, my eyes locked with those of a cute guy. That is a far cry from the bumping and grinding that goes on at all the bars and clubs in DC. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy booty shaking as much as any other 20-something girl. But now that I’m older, I long for the formality and the greater connection one can get through slow dancing. I think the last time I slow danced (with a person and not my stuffed hippo…) was with Floyd. We danced to Selena. It was very romantic. And I would take that over any other night of gyrating to Outkast, Ludacris, or anything else we danced to in those days.

A-M tells me that I need to get connected with the DC Hand Dancing clubs, and perhaps, the classes at Glen Echo.

I know that this all makes me sound like a crazy old lady. I’m only recently realizing how old fashioned and traditional I really am. Maybe it comes with age or maybe it's that this is my “authentic self.” Regardless, I am in search of some modern ballads for some wholesome slowdancing. I guess I should work on securing a dance partner first. As I know from experience, there is always a shortage of males at dancing classes.

On that note, I bombed my meeting with J. I went into it seeing it as an informational interview/networking opportunity—that was my cover and what I told myself so that I wouldn't get nervous and act weird. Unfortunately, I never directed our meeting into more social territory, and our hour-long chat barely left the realm of the professional. And I left with a new professional contact and not a date. But I'm still somewhat hopeful. My date today with O from Okcupid went okay, but I sense that I merely made a new friend. He is really nice but we'll see how things go on the next date, assuming he calls.

Thankfully, I am not discouraged (just frustrated). I look forward to going on more dates in the hopes that I'll someday, finally get it right and hit the jackpot.



I have two “meetings” lined up for this week. Yes, I called it a meeting not a date. Well, one is a date while the other is sort of a mini-date veiled as a professional/networking meeting. On Saturday, I’m meeting a guy I met on OKCupid, O, and on Thursday, I’m meeting a guy that I met at a party two weeks ago, J.

I don’t know how I managed it but I somehow got the courage to email J today. I really like him. He is smart and funny, and he seems to be interested in the same progressive politics as me. He works on the Hill, and though he is shorter than I’d like, I found myself drawn to him that night. And I don’t think it was just the alcohol. At least I hope not. I ran into him over the weekend, and I was nothing but awkward. Thankfully, I was convinced to take the initiative and drop him a line. He emailed me back and now we are set for coffee on Thursday so that I can “learn more about his job.” I just want to find out if we can click over coffee as we did over martinis.

In the case of O, I’m letting him take the lead. He brought up meeting in-person last week and we finally agreed to a time and place for a face to face. We’ve had a number of long email exchanges during the past few weeks on topics like our careers, families, childhood, and dreams for the future. Who knows if we will get along in-person. I hope we do but chemistry can be a funny thing. And that is why I insisted that we not go to a restaurant like he suggested. It is so much easier to slip out quickly after ordering coffee than if you ordered an appetizer and entrée.

It shows you how traditional I am that I was very resistant to emailing J at first. I feel very strongly, like Patty, that a man should lead in the pursuit. That’s why I only emailed O after he contacted me with something more than a random line about my appearance. And that is why I waited for O to suggest that we meet in person. But in the case of J, I was so much an awkward wallflower during our last meeting that I felt the need to contact him. I knew that I didn’t give clear signals and that he wasn’t the type to take a chance and contact me anyway. My hope is that now he realizes that I am interested and that the ball is in his court. It seems like a silly cat and mouse game, and I’ve only just begun to try and understand it.

I am looking forward to both of my meetings with girlish glee. I feel exhilarated and powerfully female. Both meetings are exactly what I need to give me a much-needed ego boost when it comes to guys.

On a similar note, I had dinner with my ex tonight. It was awkward at times but enjoyable. I’m very glad that we are trying to transition from lovers/bffs to just friends. Despite all that has passed, he remains someone that I admire, love, and respect as a friend and as my past love. He is no longer my future. And that is okay.


Women’s Golf Month

I went out on a group outing with some Hill staffers to the East Potomac Park Golf Course and Driving Range. We were there to celebrate women’s golf month, but also because we want to learn the basics of golf. There are a number of networking and fundraising events associated with the Hill that take place on golf coursea, and I think we all acknowledged that beyond the possibility of it becoming an extracurricular activity, golf is important for our professional development.

We met for lunch before heading out to the driving range to learn the basics of holding a club and how to stand and swing. I like the fact that there is a standard technique that is used throughout the game, no matter which club you are using. The lesson was informative and a lot of fun. We hit balls with a 9 iron for about an hour before calling it a day. Afterwards, we started talking about taking advantage of the $99 group classes so that we could continue to hone our skills—as a group. Yes, we were truly psyched about improving our skills.

Until this weekend, I never considered golf to be a game for me. I used to accompany Floyd to the driving range, and hit a few balls before giving up and reading a book while I waited for him. But I despite all that Tiger has done for the game, I continued to view golf as a sport for older, wealthy men of European descent. And I associated golf with a country club mentality that I wanted nothing do with.

But after my experience at the range this weekend, I am ready to have an open mind and give golf a real try.


France in August!

About a week ago, A-M, Cali, and I bought plane tickets for France. We had been talking about traveling to Europe for weeks and finally, we decided on a preferred country and departure date.

I am beyond excited about returning to France. My 10-day trip with my mother a few years ago, while wonderful, was simply not long enough to explore anything beyond Paris. And even then, there were parts of Paris I didn't get to see. But then, when traveling, is there ever really enough time?

So this August, I'll have 10 more days. We are ambitiously thinking of dividing our time between Paris, Bordeaux (or some other wine region), and then Nice or some other Provence city. I simply can't wait to watch the 9 pm sunset in Paris, and see castles, Mediterranean beaches, and fields of lavender in the other regions. I am quite certain that most of my money will willingly be spent on food--probably pastries.

We have about a month and a half to plan out as much of our trip as possible, knowing that our plans will change when we are actually there.

I am so happy to be returning to Europe and elated to be fulfilling my goal of more travel.


Online Dating - Change of Plans

This week, I joined OkCupid. Yes, I’m starting to put myself out there—at least in the online dating world. I like the fact that there are more quirky men on the site and I find the tests and general layout more to my liking. Aside from the one person I’ve been emailing, POF has been a bust and I plan on removing my profile after one more week. I will probably remove my profile from Match as well.

I realize that my very short-lived online dating foray was the result of me panicking after turning 29 in May. I started to pressure myself to try to find love this year so that could, in fact, get married by 30 (that dreaded age, right?).

But now, I’ve calmed down. Thanks to the less than stellar options that I’ve seen on the dating sites (many older men, many uneducated/non-career focused men). I don’t think that I have unrealistic standards. But I don’t think it is picky to want to someone who is similar to me in the basics (values, ambition, financial security, career/life goals, etc). I don’t want to settle or waste my time. And I don't think I have to.

But what also changed my mind was chatting with my new mentor on the Hill. I told her about my concerns regarding whether I could be a successful, senior Hill staffer, with all the time demands that would entail—while also having a fulfilling personal life with a husband and kids. I mean, I barely have time for a personal life as a junior staffer. While she recognized that it depended on the office I worked for, if I had hired help, and whether my issues were “up” in a given year, she noted that many women are waiting to have kids these days and that it seems to work out for them. So instead of prior generations being all about their home life before, possibly, finding out that they want to pursue a career. Or the more recent generation of women seeking to have it all at the same time—and not quite achieving it without conflict and something failing (their marriage falling apart or their kids having to raise themselves). She noted that these days many women are seeking to first reach the pinnacle of their career before taking a break or slowing down to raise kids and then ramping back up when their kids are school age.

It may be silly but that reminder relieved so much pressure off my shoulders. I’ve been deeply concerned about my life plans ever since I turned 25 (the age when I was “supposed” to be married). And I often worried that my career drive and priorities was coming at the expense of ever having a family. But now I feel more secure about waiting until I am where I want to be professionally before I bring life into the world or adopt. My career is very important to me and I derive much of my personal value from work—as it is a way that I feel I am “making a difference.”

So, magically, I no longer feel under pressure to find someone this year or even the next. A male in my life would be nice but it isn’t a requirement for me to be happy and to feel complete. That’s something I need to achieve on my own.

So I’ll be on POF for another week and maybe OkCupid for a little while after that. Then, I’ll put away my online dating dreams—at least until I freak out again next year after turning 30.

Do get me wrong, I am still looking. But the pressure is off to find the true love this year or the next.


Online Dating - Nightmare on Privacy

Last night, I had a horrible dream centering around Hannibal Lecter, with guest appearances by my male roommate (shirtless and glistening with sweat after a morning run, of course...). The plot of the nightmare centered around the lack of privacy of my online profile. Yes, very lame--except for the whole roommate part.

Needless to say, I woke up around 230 a.m. and immediately made changes to my online account. I created a new email address to handle the correspondence, scoured my descriptions for any possible TMI, and strengthened a handful of my web passwords.

It was a weird way for my subconscious to flag my anxiety about putting my picture on the web. Oddly enough, I didn’t wake up with nightsweats after posting pictures or info on Facebook—and we all know that FB has privacy issues.

Last night, I performed a google search of my name. I hate that my info shows up on those background check websites—as linked to my mother, sister, and even my father. Supposedly all the information out there is just compiled from public records—in addition to the stuff that I’ve put up (via work and on FB/MySpace). I can’t imagine anyway around it other than totally dropping off the grid, only paying cash, and living in cabin somewhere.

I will definitely continue to be mindful when the time comes to actually meet someone. I don't care to have any more nightmares about my online dating ventures. For a refresher, check out this site for a few tips about online dating safety.


Online Dating Update - Added a Picture

Yes, it has been a while since my last post. Nothing major to report.

However, over the weekend, I created a profile on the free online dating site, Plenty of Fish. And I finally broke down today, and posted two pictures of myself. I don't think either picture really meets the recommended criteria for profile pictures put forth by Patty. I didn't add pictures of myself looking like my weekend casual self nor the glamed-up version that surfaces on special occasions. I choose two pictures somewhere in the middle, that show the real me on a good day.

I had resisted adding my picture to my online profile for months. Adding a picture makes it all so real. But I want to give it an honest try and I know that I won't find a guy who would want to date me purely from reading my clever profile description. Of course, I don't want the physical to be the main selling point as it is so fleeting. Yet, I can't deny that the physical is an important aspect of attraction--at least initial attraction. And I am just as interested in seeing the guy's picture as he is in seeing mine before initiating contact. Me promsing that I don't look like a troll just doesn't cut it.

It is amazing that online dating has become an accepted mode of finding a hookup as much as finding love. I don’t recall what changed to make it acceptable now. When I was in junior high, I remember Celestyn finding a guy via the internet. We were so worried for her, thinking that she’d end up meeting a pedophile instead of a 14-year-old guy. Back then, it was something new and a bit scary. Now, it can still be scary but it carries more promise and possibility.

Until the past few years, I pretty much relegated online dating to being a mode for folks who were too lazy, weird, socially inept, busy, etc to find dates the old fashion way: through mutual friends, at bars, via extracurricular activities. But now, I see that it is a great way to weed through some of the nonsense and game playing that you encounter at the bar scene and find guys who are just as interested in finding true love as you are. Sure, there are still a lot of frogs out there who will put up the facade of wanting a wife, when in reality they are looking to get in your pants in as few dates (and as little expense) as possible. And I still feel that the best way to find a guy is to revisit your social circles and ask friends to connect you with the single men they know. Coupled friends in particular are always keen to help a single buddy cross over.

But online dating—especially free online dating that has been endorsed by single friends—is worth a try. Depending how it goes, I might finally breakdown a pay for Match as well. But for now, I’m putting a few more toes in the water while I wait to be comfortable enough to just dive in.


Turned 29 in ATL

I spent the last few days in Atlanta. I flew in last Wednesday to attend my mom and aunt's retirement parties--that were scheduled for Thursday and Tuesday. Thankfully, my kind boss recognized what an once-in-a-lifetime occasion it was and let me take a week off from work.

So I turned 29 in Atlanta. It was so odd to be in Atlanta for my birthday and mother's day. I haven't done such a thing since high school.

I can't believe that I'm 29 now. I am committed to making the most of the last year of my twenties. I am amazed by how far I have come emotionally since my early twenties. I didn't know who I was or what I wanted back then. I clung to Floyd, hid under my schoolwork and novels, and spent more time alone contemplating life than out living it. I want to live it now that I finally (mostly) know myself. And for me that means, tackling my bucket list for DC, spending time with new and old friends, and checking out the dating scene.

It is amazing how quickly time flies. Hanging with my high school buddies this weekend, reminiscing over the old days but also filling in each other on what we want, love, or need these days was good for me. My high school buddies knew me back when I wore a retainer, swore my eternal love for Jordy and Josh, and when I had my first kiss, and first car. I can only hope that we continue to get old with each other.

It was also good to spend quality time with my family—even answering the million questions that my mom and aunt always pepper me with. I know they just want to find out if I’m okay. I am. More than okay actually, thank God. I am fortunate to say that I have no complaints.

So, it’s been a nice escape from D.C. I still have another day that I plan to spend watching tv, hanging out with my mom, reading chick-lit, and listening to music. I needed to refresh my batteries and take the time to remember what is really important to me. Especially in D.C., when it is so easy to get caught in the beltway bubble, the harried lifestyle and semi-cutthroat world of Hill politico-wannabes, it is good to get a glimpse of your old life and ways. It makes you more appreciative for how far you’ve come and even more driven to accomplish all that you set out to do.

So, here’s to an amazing 29th year of important decisions and perhaps, a few setbacks--but mostly lifelong memories.


Going Fishing

Now that time and great friends have given me perspective on my missed connection last Friday, I realize the real lesson I learned: I feel ready to date again.

For such a long time, the strings on my heart from Floyd kept me from truly thinking about any guy in that way. And it definitely kept me from wholeheartedly allowing myself to pursue or be pursued by guys. I must admit that I’m not 100% over my ex and that I will probably compare any new guy I meet to him--at least at first. But I no longer have a silly fantasy of one day getting back with my ex. He is a friend, and I hope he is always a friend, but I know that an “us” really isn’t possible. Our paths crossed for several years and I am stronger and wiser for it all. But now, I must reentered the dating world.

I am scared. I am afraid of men and of sex. I don't know if I can effectively navigate that world after so many years of being out of circulation. Added to that, all the horror stories about dates from hell and immature, commitmentphobe boy-men, and I am all ready to commit myself to a life of celibacy and singlehood before I've even given it a try.

Yet, I know from experience that there is nothing like being in love. And from what I've heard, there is nothing like committing yourself to and growing old with the one person you can't live without.

Yes, I think I'm ready. I'm going to order two dozen dating profile cards, as suggested by Heather and Organica (what do you think about these, chicas?), to help out when I've found a worthwhile connection.

The big test will be when I see Floyd this weekend. I hope that I can keep it together and not revert to my old self. Although we have talked on the phone, I haven't seen him since he visited last summer and told me that we were totally over. So much has changed in my life since then--and for the better.

So quite timid and just a bit jaded, I'll slowly let my guard down in hopes of finding the one I can truly love forever.


Missed Connections

I apologize for dragging this topic out but I am still aggravated about Friday night. As you know, I posted a missed connection ad on Craigslist. I am aware that the rate of success from such posts is rather slim but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to at least put it out there and let the universe decide. I like to think that I’ve racked up a fair amount of good karma over the years, so hopefully, the universe will reward me with the one thing I want the most right now: a second chance.

After I posted my ad, I started reading the other ads out there. There are so many. Most describe interactions that were brief and only on the surface. Others are a bit more bittersweet—about connecting with someone but subsequently, losing a phone number (and apparently not being able to find them on facebook).

I’d like to think that I fall in the bittersweet box. The more I think about it, the more I believe that I was provided the real deal, a high-quality, single male. Someone who was clearly interested in me. Someone who I was drawn to and felt safe with. But I don’t remember his full name, and I’m quite sure that I’ll never see him again. Yes, I am hopeful but I am also a realist.

I wonder how many people miss out on great loves because of circumstances that get in the way. I do believe in Fate and the idea that our life experiences are meant to teach us lessons. I also hope that the unresolved feelings I have about the guy I met will result in karmic déjà vu—and hopefully I’ll meet him again in this lifetime and not the next.

It is possible that the guy was just a mirage. A means to remind me of my deepest desires and goals. That I want to find my soul mate, the holy grail of dating: the “mind-blowing lover/life partner/best friend forever/father of my children/husband til death do us part”. Since Floyd and I split, I’ve sort of shut down and built extra walls around my heart. I immediately think the worse of any guy who tries to talk to me. Or worse, I immediately evaluate the guy in terms of the holy grail I am seeking. And that isn’t fair to the guy or myself.

So today, I am kicking myself still. In a week or two, I hope that I would have finished internalizing my faults and truly committed myself to being the confident, sassy chica around all the guys that I meet, even the ones I like.


Got No Game

I am sitting up a little angry and a little disappointed in myself, and decided to post just to get this off my chest.

I need to work on not being shy and aloof around guys—especially the ones I like. I am so afraid of rejection and I lack the self-confidence when it comes to men to truly assert myself.

I’ve had countless talks with friends—especially Organica—about my need to get over it and just put myself out there. Sure, I’m shy but that doesn’t give me a pass to be an aloof wallflower for the rest of my life.

Tonight, I met a great guy. We talked and danced for quite some time. I later learned that he asked my friend about me, noting that he liked me but wasn’t getting a vibe of reciprocity from me.

I guess his interest was obvious but for some reason, I felt the need to reject him or push him away before he could do that to me. It wasn't intentional but it was the vibe I gave off and eventually, we parted.

It’s a warped expression of my sense of self-worth, distrustfulness, and attractiveness when it comes to guys. But I don’t know where it comes from. I like myself. And I’m a strong, confident woman most of the time. But whenever, I am around guys, especially funny, charming guys who like me, I falter and the self-conscious, unsure little girl in me comes out.

It’s something that I need to work on so that the next guy who comes along who appears to be the real deal and wants to get to know me, can get a fair chance.

In the meantime, I’ve posted a missed connection--one of my favorite pastimes from the college years. I know it won’t amount to anything. But putting it out on the web and into the cosmos, I hope will send something positive my way.

Regardless, I've learned my lesson. I can't let good guys get away or I'll end up alone (with a family of stray cats).


FDA to Address Salt

I'm overjoyed by the latest news that FDA plans to limit amount of salt allowed in processed foods for health reasons. This blog's namesake comes from my concern with the amount of sodium in the foods I eat. I've always loved the taste of salt. I can remember eating table salt in small handfuls as a child and loading up on olives and pickles for that salty high. I look back in wonder that I don't have major medical problems now (especially after years of buttery grits+bacon breakfasts and cooking in cast iron skillet with fat drippings or butter. What a revolution it was when we first got a non-stick pan!). High blood pressure runs in my family, so, I recognize the need to adopt a low-sodium diet now instead of waiting until I'm older and years of salt excess starts to take its toll. I don't want to have to take blood pressure meds or take drastic dietary changes when I'm 40+ like the older members of my family. Now, I try to avoid cooking with salt and consuming processed foods that are loaded with it. But it can be hard.

Three cheers for FDA and NYC's initiative. Sure, it may seem like Big Brother is once again meddling in the minutiae of our lives. For the record, I don't have a problem with Big Brother. But when there is such an obesity and wellness crisis occurring in our country--especially among children, teenagers, and people of color, I don't have any problems with the government stepping in, in an attempt to help Americans become healthier and live longer.


"In Heat"

Over the weekend, I found myself watching a handful of Patti Stanger's tip videos on Bravotv. I must say The Millionaire Matchmaker is a guilty pleasure. I love watching Patti interact with her clients and give out advice to the men and women she tries to match. I don't know if I agree with everything she says but I think she provides a no-holds-barred view of modern dating that may turn out to be very helpful to a dating novice like me. Yes, I've already requested her book from the library.

In one of the tip videos she recommended that women date three guys at once: one guy who may be a keeper, one guy you aren't sure about, and one guy who is a definite no but who you have a lot of fun with (think: a go-to escort for a theatre night, friend's wedding, work gathering, etc). Having all three helps to ensure that you always have options on a friday night if your first choice, "the keeper," isn't available. But, perhaps, most importantly, it ensures that you don't become a woman "in heat"--one who is dying for male attention--romantic or otherwise. I guess that is another way of saying that "having a pair plus a spare" helps you avoid giving off the desperation vibe.

That really hit home for me. I think I have a deficiency of male attention in my life. I have a few male friends at and outside of work, but I'm not even close to having even three candidates to fill the spots. And I can only imagine that helps to create or add to my "stay away" vibe.

I think it would be good to have a larger male perspective in my life. Having more male friends will help me become less nervous, eager, and neurotic around cute guys so that when the guy I really want comes along, I am cool, confident, calm and collected--and not the needy version of myself who jumps ahead to wedding bells.

But first, I have to stop feeling uneasy about adding males to the mix. And for that I need to see every guy as a potential friend and not automatically evaluate him as potential boyfriend/lover/husband material.

So no, I am not ready to date yet. But I am ready to meet some new men--as friends.

It looks like I will be joining a kickball league with an old friend. I think he and kickball will be just the ticket to adding to my repertoire.


What do you do?

It is possibly the most commonly asked question in D.C. It is my old standby for starting conversations and keeping them going in social and professional settings. Only once, did someone call me out for asking it: “now that’s an annoying D.C. question.” But last week, at a Hill happy hour that question was taken to a whole new level.

I attended a happy hour with a friend and towards the end of the evening, we decided to say hello to someone we thought was in the same professional circle. The conversation started awkwardly and only got worse. We approached and said, “Hi.” He half-heartedly was asked, as if we were groupies, “What office do you work in?” We responded. His body language immediately changed, but only a little (my friend and I work in notable offices). The next question, “Are you interns?” I responded by laughing out loud and shaking my head, quite flattered that I could still pass for a naïve, idealistic intern when I know that I’m becoming a typical jaded, burned-out staffer. He pressed on, “What is your title?” I’ve never been asked that. We told him. He wasn’t impressed. The conversation sort of ended with awkward well-wishes as he turned away. I guess weren’t on “his level.”

First of all, I must admit that I have almost immediately discounted people based on where they work. I’m not proud of it, but some days, I’m so focused on making the “right” professional contact that I will immediately discount the Republicans I meet and even the non-Hill folks. But in reality, everyone you meet is a potential contact to help you gain access and information, not only about your job, but about DC, traveling abroad, rec. sports, an amazing tailor/restaurant, etc.
Also, this encounter reminded me of why I don’t like most guys on the Hill. They are often obnoxious, arrogant climbers who (yes even in the age of Madame Speaker and Madame Secretary) often don’t value women as professional power players. I am not necessarily proud of the professional superiority card I have played at Hill receptions when I’m feeling defensive or even smug. But I never feel the need to be purposefully rude.

My friend and I won’t ever forget our interaction with this guy. It was a good lesson for us both. It doesn’t necessarily matter where you are at any one moment. What matters is where you are going, what you do to get there, and how you treat others along the way.



This week, I attended the funeral of a friend’s father. It was a beautiful service and a perfect day. But it was also a hard day for me. Not only in seeing the pain and sadness in the faces of my friend and her family but also in being reminded of the funeral service of my own father.

I was struck most of all by the comment that her father told his family that he had no regrets in his life, that he had lived it fully. It can only hope that I can come to the end with such a mindset. I can’t say that I have any regrets (except for the unreasonable ones related to the last days of my dad’s life), but I can say that I haven’t lived my life to the fullest, at least not yet. There are so many places I want to live, so many things I want to do, and so many experiences I want to share with loved ones.

Life is so short. Tomorrow, even the next minute, are not promised. It is so easy to become engulfed in the day-to-day, the rat race of climbing the career/personal ladder, that you don’t stop and enjoy yourself and enjoy the moment. Enjoy the little things: the laughter of the little girl on the Metro, the soup made by a friend, waking up to the bright sun, etc. Appreciate the little things: you are alive, you have loving friends and family, you have already achieved a few life goals, you have a home, you feel safe.

Since the funeral, I have been trying to do just that. It might just be the warm weather and the fact that I am finally through with the season of mourning (Nov-March) that I’ve made a tradition. But I’m feeling better. I’m feeling calmer, hopeful and optimistic, even if a little antsy, about what is to come.

This is an important year for me. I want to be sure that I live it, always in the pursuit of inner peace and happiness – in whatever form I deem it to be.

Life is precious.

Carpe diem.