I started solo traveling because of Frank Turner.

I haven’t written in a while. I also have not been reading the blogs that I follow. It has been a busy couple months. I am not complaining about it, but, as I often must remind myself, I need to slow down sometimes.

Here’s what’s up…

In May, I took my first solo trip. I went alone, it was not work-related, it was not for continuing education, nor did I know anyone in the city I visited. I had recently been inspired by other women (some significantly younger than me and with less income to plan with) who travel the world alone. Solo female travelers. There is an entire network of them – on Facebook, on Instagram, on Meetup, on Reddit, on Pinterest – and they are fearlessly and joyfully exploring all corners of the Earth. They are #goals. The more I read about their adventures, the more I eagerly wanted to begin my own adventuring.

So I did.

I started close to home, and I started small: Tulsa, Oklahoma. Frank Turner (my favorite musician) was on tour in North America (he hails from England), and for the first time in the eight years that I have been a fan, he did not book a show in Dallas/Ft. Worth. I knew I would have severe FOMO if I did not see him during this tour, so I decided to consider my options to see him elsewhere.

The nearest stops to me were in Houston and Tulsa. Houston… No. Just no. I hate that city. It’s large and crowded with nothing special to offer. I have been there enough times, mostly for sports-related reasons, and I can say that I will be content if I never have to go there again. Ever.

Tulsa?

After a little bit of research, I decided that Tulsa would be the PERFECT city for me to venture to alone. It is small, walkable, with plenty to keep me busy during my three-day getaway.

I loved it.

First off, Frank’s show was held at a historic music venue/dance hall and it was on point. It was the kind of night that just… I don’t know. It’s the reason I love music, especially live. Here is an artist that not only writes music that hits me all up in my feels, but he puts everything he has in him into each performance. The energy is indescribable. His fans are my favorite – they are friendly, they do not talk during the show, and they sing along to every lyric. I was front and center at this show, up against the barricade. The ideal spot.

I have been to enough of Frank’s shows to know that he usually ends his set with a particular song, during which he comes off the stage, chooses a fan to dance with, and then makes his way back to the stage via crowdsurfing. He’s cool like that. A few nights before, though, in fucking Alabama, he was dropped while crowdsurfing and injured his back. This meant he wouldn’t be doing his norm that night in Tulsa. Still, I expected him to not play his guitar during this song, and I was right.

It was the perfect opportunity for me to hand him a challenge coin (he collects them) that I had brought from Dallas with me. He took it from me, smiled a ginormous smile when he realized what it was, high-fived me, and later on as he sang “I want you and me to join hands down at the front”, he looked and pointed straight at me and made the whole night even better.

I left the venue that night with $95 worth of merchandise, the show’s setlist, and happiness all in my core. When I posted a photo on Instagram, Frank was quick to give it a like. Aaaaahhhh.

I spent the following days exploring Tulsa. They have the most beautiful art museum with gorgeous gardens that I spent several hours at, even though that had not been my intention. The best part was that it was a weekday so I pretty much had the place all to myself! I also took in a baseball game (the stadium was literally on the next block from my hotel), a beautiful park, the art-deco architecture throughout downtown, a couple more museums, some historical landmarks, and quaint little shops. I could not have asked for a more perfect trip. It went so well that now I am encouraged to take even more solo trips!

We are getting to the part where I tell you why I am going to Germany next year…

It involves Frank. Ha!

You see, Frank now holds his very own four-day music festival each spring: Lost Evenings. Lyrics from one of his songs, I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous, go like this:

Life is about love, last minutes, and lost evenings
About fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings
And the aching amplitudes that get our needles all a-flickerin’
And help us with remembering that the only thing that’s left to do is live

A few weeks after I saw him in Tulsa, Lost Evenings III was held in Boston, Massachusetts. Last year and the year before, the festival was held in England. How exciting that he decided to change locales, right? All throughout the weekend that Lost Evenings was held this year, I kept seeing posts on Frank Turner Facebook groups detailing what an awesome time everyone was having. I lived vicariously through all the people who traveled to Boston for this epic event and vowed to go to it myself next year, regardless of the location, but also hoping that it would be held somewhere in the U.S. again to make it easy on me.

On the last night of Lost Evenings III, my social media feeds were all flooded with the announcement we were all waiting for: Lost Evenings IV – Berlin, Germany – May 2020.

Well, fuck.

I questioned my ability to pull it off for maybe five minutes, then saw a post on The Solo Armada’s Facebook page.

What’s The Solo Armada? It’s a group of music fans that formed in England in 2017 prior to the first Lost Evenings festival. Basically, it was a bunch of Frank Turner fans who were traveling to and/or attending Lost Evenings alone and agreed to meet up with one another during the weekend. They kept each other company and made each other feel welcome despite being alone. Following that successful weekend, the group continued to have meetups at other concerts and eventually grew to include fans from all across the globe! The biggest meetup of the year, of course, is still Lost Evenings.

So as I debated whether or not I could make a trip to a foreign country across the ocean all by myself, I jumped on Facebook to look through all the posts about Lost Evenings in Boston and remind myself of how amazing it would be to go, especially given the fact that I am such a huge Frank Turner fan! How could I not?!

It was while on Facebook that I read a post by the founder of The Solo Armada, adamantly encouraging anyone with any doubts of traveling alone to just do it. To know that when you get to Lost Evenings, although alone, you will certainly meet plenty of strangers who will help you out and quickly become your friends. That’s what the Armada is all about.

With that, ten minutes and 150-ish U.S. dollars later, my four-day pass to Lost Evenings IV was purchased!

Shortly thereafter, I was added to a Facebook group created for people planning to attend Lost Evenings. I excitedly joined the conversation and announced that not only would it be my first time to attend the festival, but it would also be my first time in Europe and that I would be there alone. As I mentioned, Frank Turner fans are the friendliest, and I immediately got words of encouragement from others. So nice! Then, in another thread regarding lodging, I was invited to stay in a hostel room with seven other Frank fans! A new friend, Francine, is from England and has traveled to Berlin plenty in the past. She is also attending Lost Evenings alone and graciously agreed to help newbie-fellow-solo-travelers out so that we are not completely overwhelmed. Get this: she already booked the hostel for me!

I mean, I can’t go to Europe and not experience staying in a hostel, right?! It’s gonna save me a shit ton of money, too! Why aren’t hostels a thing in the U.S.???

That’s not all. A few days after I had found my Berlin roomie, someone in one of the groups asked if there were any fellow runners who would be attending Lost Evenings. Not surprisingly, within a couple days, yet another group was formed: The Frank Turner Run Club! We will be meeting up to run the streets of Berlin while there for Lost Evenings! Isn’t that exciting? What a fun way to make even more new friends and see the city!

So… it is still ten months away, but I really cannot wait to meet my Berlin roomies, fellow Frank Turner Run Club members, and all the folks from The Solo Armada. This is going to be the trip of a lifetime. I get to explore a foreign city – one with centuries of history (I am a bit of a history nut), I get to make new friends from all over the world, and to top it all off, I get to see Frank Turner perform four nights in a row! My heart is all fluttered just thinking about it.

But ten months is a long time. How about another domestic mini-trip to help further build my confidence in traveling alone?

Hey, Frank. Help me choose another destination. Boulder, Colorado in October to see you during your No Man’s Land tour? Cool.

I love my life.

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Friday night musings.

April already.

These days, I really do feel that I am pretty much doing life right. I spend as much time as possible with my friends and family, but because I live alone, I get plenty of much-needed me time as well. I am reconnecting with old friends, and building foundations for new friendships all at once. I have become more willing to take chances and do things just to say that I tried and did it. I am learning, constantly learning, always observing, my mind is growing. I ignore those that do not vibe with my vibes. Everyone says to be kind, but I choose to simply not be mean. My kindness is reserved for those who deserve it, and I am good with that. Same goes for my friendship.

I feel as though I have so much to look forward to, and it’s because I do.

Life is so dreamy right now. It’s romancing me, I am in love with it again. It’s all so rosy.

Look at how far I have come, how much I have changed in the past year. It’s like I am finally becoming the person I was meant to be.

This is good.

The Opening Act of Spring.

And just like that, my favorite day of the year has arrived.

Technically, the event happens middle of the night/wee hours of the morning, but still. I am thrilled!

Daylight Saving Time.

I have made it through the past four months without needing to see my therapist, without having to take medication, and without using my phototherapy lamp. Shorter days, lower temperatures, and the absence of volunteering for Beto were all factors I thought would do me in, but BEHOLD, they did not. I kept on, and now I am heading into the happiest time of year already in high spirits.

Grandma, I am happy to say, is doing well. She’s in high spirits herself and does not appear to be sick nor show signs of slowing down. For that, I am grateful. When I first learned of her diagnosis, I immediately started grieving and mourning. I made it to the acceptance stage of that grief rather quickly, thankfully, so now, I am able to spend time with her without my heart completely breaking and without succumbing to my tears. We are joyful when we are together, which is something we both need. I know the grief will eventually return, but for now, I am not taking these happy moments for granted. As an atheist, I live for the present, and it is life circumstances such as this one that remind me why that is a good thing.

She is in Mexico this week. She loves going home. I love visiting too, even though technically, it has never been my home. There is just this warm, welcoming ambiance all about, and Grandma is well-known and adored in her little home town. I hope she enjoys her getaway. The forecast there is in the mid-80s, something I am certain she will relish. And when she returns to her home here in Dallas, she will get right to prepping her garden for the arrival of spring. Last year, we went shopping for plants and flowers together. I am hoping to do the same again soon.

With that, I am out. It should be another lovely day. Last night, some friends and I enjoyed dinner and drinks on the patio of a nearby restaurant. Today, I am off to an Irish festival that is always one of my favorite annual local events.

Thank you, life.

Monday morning blues.

I cut myself some slack this morning. I didn’t iron my scrubs, I wore them nice and wrinkled without any shame. If my Mom were to see me, she would shake her head in disapproval. That was the law of her household when I was a kid: Go to school in perfectly pressed clothes, come home with straight As. I can report that I did well.

It’s ingrained in me, I iron all my clothes to this day, carefully and meticulously. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that a lot of people simply throw what they’re wearing into the dryer and sooth out wrinkles that way. That doesn’t work for me. It’s just not enough, I can tell, and Mom would also be able to tell.

Today, though? I don’t care.

I received some bad news yesterday. Grandma Lupe – my last living grandparent, the one I have always been closest to, the one I have bonded with the most – was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t know the full details, because she’s being very secretive, but she’s in her 80s and, like my grandfather (her husband), will likely not seek any sort of treatment. I know what this means.

Do you understand why I don’t care about my stupid scrubs? I’m more concerned about breaking out in tears at any given moment. I am about to do so now sitting here waiting for this bus to leave.

I want more details. And I want to be with her.

I didn’t set any resolutions, goals, or intentions for this new year. I figured I was on a good roll last year and that I would simply keep doing what I was doing. I would maintain my focus on self-awareness, keeping those winter blues and depression at bay, controlling my thoughts. That’s it. Nothing grandiose, no deadlines, no milestones.

Now, she will be my focus. I know what I’ll be doing on my days off. If her prognosis is anything like Grandpa’s was, time is going to fly by.

Holy shit, I’m not ready.

My mind is trying to comfort me by telling me that I have been an exemplary granddaughter. I have always had a wonderful bond with her, I have visited so frequently, we have shared innumerable memories. I guess I should also take comfort in the fact that she’s a godly woman. It comforts me not because I believe she’ll just go to Heaven and meet Jesus and find my Grandpa. I’m atheist, I don’t believe any of that. But she very likely believes it, so she’ll be at peace. Right?

The bus is moving, I am crying, I have a few stops to get myself together. Maybe people will focus on my wrinkles and not notice the tears.

Does it even matter?

Good. Fun. Growth. All.

I am so ready for 2019. It’s going to be a good one, I can sense it. There is already much for me to look forward to.

First things first, my merit raise will go into effect at the beginning of the month. That’s exciting – having a little extra dough to play with. Early on, I will also need to start working on a presentation for a lecture I will be giving in Los Angeles in May. I can admittedly be a bit of an attention whore and public speaking works wonders for my ego. No lie. Both my salary raise and the opportunity to present make me feel so grateful for my job and for the career growth I have experienced since I was hired. It will actually be my four-year anniversary there next week! Crazy.

February is already jam packed with a number of shows that I want to go to: Thrice, Cursive, Poppy, John Maus, and Dropkick Murphys. Going to shows is like church or therapy for me. It just feeds my soul. Hooray for that raise, by the way, because I am ordering tickets for them all as soon as it kicks in (although I already bought my ticket for Poppy months ago).

Oh! also, a sweet little bundle of joy will be arriving in February, followed by another in May, followed by another in June! It seems that all my friends are procreating, and I am extremely happy for them, but also for myself because I see their lives and do not want to live mine that way, hahaha. I am further convinced… Hooray for being and staying childfree! Excuse me while I continue to enjoy sleep, relaxation, my hobbies, and my social life.

Dating? Oy. If I were to tell you the details of my dating life, you would think that it is messy and disastrous. The truth, though? is that it is working for me. It should not come as a surprise, I am all about being unconventional these days, doing my own thing, playing by rules that I have made up. It’s actually quite fun, and my friends who do know the details are all highly entertained. It makes me smile. We shall see where things go… I am going with the flow and making the most of it.

I am also more than ready for presidential campaigns to be announced. Let’s do this.

Y’all – I am happy.

This year started off horribly, but with determination and resilience, I managed to turn it completely around, and ended up having one of the best years of my life. All it took was an adjustment in my attitude. My therapist taught me that in order to control my feelings, I first need to control my thoughts. So that is something I have been working on all year and it has definitely done the trick. I am more in tune with myself and what I need out of life than I have ever been, and that idealist gal I was as a college student is making her way back onto the scene.

Life is good. Life is fun. Life is growth. Life is all.

December Days.

One week (plus a day) until winter’s official arrival. That’s it. Here we are.

Last year, I am pretty sure I spent December 21st crying uncontrollably. Oh, the darkness, both outdoors and in my head. It was around that date that I started researching potential therapists for myself because I just could not handle things anymore. Signs that I needed therapy? Well, other than the crying… mood swings, inability to sleep, loss of appetite, rapid weight loss, feelings of doom, anxiety attacks. The crying, though. I had never cried so much in my life. So many triggers. Seemingly crying over nothing and everything.

As I started to recover from my depression early this year, there was a part of me that figured that once winter returned, I would fall right back into it. I know I wrote about it several times, even during the summer. I have lived with this fear of becoming depressed again ever since I started to recover.

I thought it might happen in October, given the fact that October is the month I lost both Canelo and Miguel.

I was fine.

I thought it might happen in November, given the fact that daylight saving time would end and the sun would start setting significantly earlier than it does in the summer.

I was fine.

Now it’s December. December with all those fucking memories – SO many fucking memories – from childhood, from young adulthood, from the Dustin years, and then the horror of last year.

Thirteen days in – I am fine.

But no, wait. No, no no no no no. I have been better than fine all three months. I am happy, I am enjoying life, I have maintained the most positive outlook, I have cultivated a fantastic social life, I have been kicking ass at work, I have bonded with my family even more so than I already was (thanks in large part to my perfect newborn nephew). I am accepting every invitation, partying, dancing, living it up. I feel great about the gifts I have purchased, the thought I put into them, the fact that I did not spend a fortune. Those who appreciate minimalism will be proud.

I feel gooooood. Really good.

This is actually the most I have enjoyed the holidays in quite a while. It’s not so bad, is it?

It’s simply been easy this time around. This December, this year. I realize that there are still eighteen days left for things to completely fuck all up, but I sincerely believe that will not happen. There is still so much to look forward, more joyful times ahead.

How is this my life? 365 days later – how is this my life?

HAPPY Holidays.

365.

It is so weird.

For months earlier this year, I dreaded this day. It’s the anniversary of the day that pushed me over the edge, into my full-blown depression. I had had episodes of anxiety in the weeks prior, since Miguel passed away, but I was managing. Then this weekend last year happened, and it was bad. Out-of-my-control bad.

The following week was better – I went to the Lady Gaga concert with my best friend Cristina and had an absolutely great time. A couple days after that, I ran a half-marathon, which made me feel strong and powerful. I felt accomplished and seeing all the other runners with their triumphant smiles made me smile as well. That was the last time I genuinely smiled, though, I would say. It was the last time I felt good and optimistic… The day of my half-marathon. A Sunday.

My mind gave me a break and allowed me to feel good for a day. Then, on Tuesday, I was triggered into my first anxiety attack, just a couple hours before I had to go to work (I was working 2pm – 11pm shifts back then). I started shaking, crying, my legs got shaky, and I began to hyperventilate. I crawled into my closet, to hide from the world, from anything that might make things worse, and called my Mom. The last time she had seen me, I was on a high from my race. So this caught her completely off guard.

Aren’t (good) mothers simply amazing? I am sure that hearing me in that state, listening to me describe what I was going through, it must have scared her. I know it must have. But she maintained her calm and talked me through the episode in a soothing way that enabled me to gather myself and make it to work. How the hell did she know how to handle this? How did she know what to say? I was a wreck! How did she pull me out of it in such a way that made me functional at least? Amazing.

I remained gathered enough to make it through each day, but I was not well. People around me started noticing that I was not myself. I was no longer the bright, positive, friendly person that everyone knew. I stopped eating, I was not sleeping well at all, I was crying every day. The things that used to make me happy no longer did. Everything was dull and dreadful. I could not find a silver lining in anything.

Just two weeks after the first anxiety attack, I went in for my first appointment with Nikki and began the process of getting better.

At my second-to-last appointment with her in June, I marveled at the fact that it had been six months since it all began. She asked how I was handling the milestone, and I responded that I was great, but I was not surprised by it. It was spring/summertime, my favorite time of year, after all.

“Ask me again in another six months, when it is fall/wintertime and the anniversary of that shitty time.”

Well, she cannot ask me again. Not unless I go see her, which I still have not done since July.

[sigh]

Here I am. Still doing and feeling great. This time… I am surprised. I suppose I anticipated being triggered again, by the memories and the time change and the colder weather. But I haven’t been. The events of last year, they are in the past. I have learned and grown from them. Toughened up and am a little more hardened, which I needed. I was so vulnerable then. How in the hell did I let myself get there?! Never again! The time change and the weather do not bother me, mainly because I have remained active and social. I have not slowed down one bit, as I tend to usually do this time of year. Nuh uh. Nope! Not this year. This year, I am not letting anything put a stop to the fun and joy.

So… yeah. No signs of depression thus far. No bouts of anxiety, either.

Here’s hoping that this continues until spring returns in all its blossoming, lively glory!

Take good care, friends.

-D