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looking at old journals by Amber V. '24

gap year chronicles, ft thoughts on science, art, and moving through the world

I’ve been reading my old journals this winter break, thinking about the person that I was two years ago, the ways she’s changed and grown and carried on. I wrote a lot while I was living out of my car, interning at a writers’ retreat, and backpacking through Europe. This break, I typed out the entries that seemed interesting to me. This IAP I trimmed that list to the ones that are most palatable for a blog.


I didn’t journal much during the fall semester — my friends and I keep joking that we’ve become illiterate, too hosed to read good books. For all of October I have exactly one journal entry, begun at 3 am and completed at 4, after which I double-checked a math pset until 5 and then fell asleep.01 I thought that I was dedicated to learning and understanding the right answer, etc etc. In hindsight I had consumed a Monster at 9pm.

This coming semester, I plan to journal more, to store the memories I don’t think to take pictures of, to record the little moments that arise.


When it comes to pen and paper of any sort, imposing order is a fruitless pursuit. But I’ve come to appreciate the chaos that I nurture. I think it shows a lot — the curly, legible cursive when I’m thinking carefully about what I write, and the slanted scrawl when words are pouring out, my thoughts flying faster than I can jot them down.

I’ve never owned a polaroid but these feel like snapshots to me. I hope they’re nice to look at (I’ll translate from the scrawl).

Be warned that I occassionally curse like a middle child trying to prove to her big sisters that she’s cool.

this entry is from the blue journal, the first night I spent away from home. I was taking a gap year, and had just started a vanlife trip around the western United States.

That day, I’d gone running in Flagstaff, then secured a free trial at a gym with a shower, as various vanlifers on YouTube recommended. I ate a civilized meal of canned beans on a plate, which was the last time during that road trip I bothered dirtying a plate when the can itself would serve.

I wrote huddled in the back of my car, an orange minivan with a hatchback, in the middle of a Walmart parking lot. I’d hung string lights around the back, spread a bright Mexican blanket over the folded-down seats, trying to copy the vibe of cozy camper vans. Instead I was worried that someone would notice the light. I was writing to avoid having to fall asleep.

To quote:

It’s funny how I feel

a little bit frantic

a low-thrumming panic

I’m gone and I’m gone and I’m



Flagstaff is lovely, I like where I’m sitting.

My fingers are shaking and I

should have brought The Slow Regard of Silent Things02 a book set in the same world as Name of the Wind, about Auri, a girl who lives in the tunnels beneath an ancient university and is out-of-tune with much of the world.


like Auri I am off-kilter

awash in the world

and tomorrow I will not be home.


I’ve never really written poetry for anyone else to read, and when I write for myself I’m all sorts of dramatic. I fling line breaks everywhere.

That night I was staying up in my car, wary of falling asleep for the first time. I wrote:

So apparently in daytime I feel a little untethered [arrow to the previous page]

But when night approaches I feel actually scared.

If I were with people — namely Keiko — we’d name that fear, recognize it, and then move on and do things.

Annie would not be afraid at all.

But I am alone, and thinking of Willow03 the protagonist of the novel I was writing takes effort, while fretting over parking spots is free.

I need to re-engineer my focus.

I’m starting to get scared of giving up — not tonight, nor tomorrow, but of finding Flagstaff easier and then never quite leaving, until home is in fact easier than Flagstaff. 

Right now I am tired and I’m longing for security. Airbnb. But I must make myself hold out.


I will not regret doing this 

(unless something happens)

(but I don’t think it will)

(campsites are pretty safe.)

Spoiler alert: nothing did. I stayed in suburbs more often than campsites, thinking that in suburbs, no one would suspect my car was occupied.

I skimmed this journal again. It’s mostly thoughts of being on the road, schedules of my next few days, and plans for the next scenes in the novel I was writing. Every few pages is a detailed description of what the characters should next be doing or thinking. For nearly all of September, my mind was consumed with the machinations of my novel, while I drove or as I figured out the next step of surviving in a car. It’s lovely to recall how much of myself I poured in to that project.

Sometimes I loved the road, the openness, the wonder. I would discover little pieces of cities and drink up small towns which I would most likely never visit again. Other times I was exhausted, worn thin from using gas station restrooms and guessing which gyms might have open showers, watching the headlights in the rearview every night, to make sure no one was following me before I parked and bedded down.

journal entry

still early September, in Flagstaff, at night, watching people dance:

It04 </span>‘It’ being a book of poems by W. S. Merwin that I’d found in a little free library  doesn’t speak to me, exactly

(most poems do not)

But it speaks.

I will read its words aloud by the side of highways

and leave feeling as if I have touched something,

or rushed through something 

(I am too prone

to that)

and that there were meanings which I did not understand — or even felt the rush of air from beating wings, much less saw the falcon — but I like it.

[…]05 ok let's not laugh at that figurative language *too* much. to be fair. I was living on cans of beans here.

Funny how wandering the crowded streets alone does not make me feel lonely, and it isn’t warm outside but I will not admit to the cold. [I meant admit. I thought about writing ‘submit’ and decided, no, I am not in resistance but denial]

There are so many wanderers here. Nomads and people who buy four-dollar stickers proclaiming it. Dogs and creatives and well-dressed students, and we’re here, and this Lana del Rey song sounds like a country dance tonight.

Entry from Sept 9th, Cortez, CO, the sidewalk of a park while I waited for oatmeal to boil on my one-burner camp stove:

I really, really like this book [Shadows of Sirius by Merwin], I who have never liked poetry before. 


And also I am happy

with the sun burning brown into the back of my neck

a whole pot of oatmeal on the sidewalk,

Talking to a biker and a rec center worker


I woke up cold and happy and my tea is not oversteeped.

I am groomed and greasy-haired but you cannot tell. I have taken over the sidewalk, sitting barefoot, queen of the dead leaves and dandelions. This is what I imagined, huddled in my armless chair, watching YouTube.

Suddenly I long to stay, in this sweet, cool Colorado town, but I have a date with Grand Junction and a meeting with the Raven King for which I am already late. We’ll have to catch up on poetry tonight.

Look at all the little purple flowers in the grass.

Sept 10th, nighttime, parked outside a diner or maybe a Jack-in-the-Box. I only remember the color scheme now. (except not really bc that is not where I could have been. where was I. I don’t know.)

(No one told you that this was a good idea because it’s not.

You have never been a person who enjoys camping, and travel for travel’s sake is lovely, but the road weighs heavy on you. It is not a haven. No one except YouTube ever told you that it was.

No wonder, I thought, that I don’t want to write. I have always wished to have art support life, a la Stephen King + Misery, but that has never been the case for me. Not with Willow. I am so scared of fucking up my carefully-laid plans.

I am so…

happy that I’ll be at an Airbnb in a few hours. I’m still not sure what to do after. Count the days?


hand-drawn map of colorado, painted green

I’ve never been a painter, but I had this set of $5 watercolors, and I decided I didn’t need to be good. 

September 10, 8pm — this one’s interesting because it says “It was heading out of here [Mountain Village] that Vienna came on.” That’s it, that’s all it says. Which is funny because I remember Vienna came on, and I just started crying, big deep crying, except it couldn’t have been too dramatic or it wouldn’t have been safe to drive. 06 I sort of like crying in cars actually, because you're like 'wow, I am letting myself cry. I am so in touch with my emotions.' At the same time, you are keeping a handle on yourself for sake of safety, so you're like 'wow, I am so rugged, a master of stoicism.'

Why? A mix of stressors, probably, but foremost in my mind was the fact that I was writing, but never fast enough or well enough; and this year was supposed to be my chance to write, my last and greatest chance for a long, long time.

It’s funny because when I look back, this was one of the periods where I wrote the most, produced what was then my best work.

That same day, travelling over Colorado mountains:

Ok but this is the most haunted town


Long, winding roads that seem too narrow for two cars to pass. Only slow songs come up on my playlist, including this horrible banjo cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” We’re driving through a forest and it’s beautiful but the road itself is spooky. Dirty windshield, indirect sun despite [there being] clouds everywhere.

I stop here, because the town doesn’t seem to be getting any bigger. There’s one gas station but I can’t see it.07 google maps said it existed I roll down the windows and it’s suddenly cold. I pull on my green plaid jacket — 

First I put my head in my hands — fists in my eye sockets, pressing hard. No water escapes but they’re red. The twisting road and malnutrition and lack of sleep all pushed together.

My feet are cold but I want to touch the river. Also I want tortillas. In shorts, a thin sweater, and Birkenstocks, I go walking. 

There’s a liquor store but I’m not twenty-one. I wonder if they’d sell to me anyway but I walk past.08 I did not, for the record, drink anything during this trip. I had to be able to drive away at any time. Lab by the door w/ brown eyes, a different shade than Cuddle’s.09 my childhood dog, a black lab mix

A museum, ppl talking. Most of the shops here are closed. They say I can go in + I say “It’s okay, I’m just wandering” — I don’t want to spend money except on tortillas, but there doesn’t seem to be a market here. There’s a general store w/ an OPEN sight but the windows are empty.

The people laugh.

[cont. on laptop]

I think I reached the AirBnb that night, and spent a few days in a small Colorado town with a cafe that served wood-fired pizza.

journal entry, outlined in orange paint

overheard dialogue as I typed away at the back of an empty cafe.

“Coffee is the drug I’ve been looking for all my life.

I shunned it, because my parents were coffee junkies

So I became a cokehead.”

“I chose alcohol

And then coffee was a ne-ce-sity

And an arc of sulking to feeling good:

Sept 14

Am I sorry that I’m missing Yosemite Yellowstone? (clearly a lot of emotional investment there). Or just disappointed to find that my stupid emotions go spiraling out of control when I’m trapped within my own head — saddened that my self-control is in fact weaker than I’d ever imagined, that I am, apparently, incapable of coping because I’m sitting in the window of this pretty, spacious coffee shop, plenty of time to write — a whole day, in fact, and I slept most of the night — and I want to cry. Why do I feel so? This place — downtown Grand Junction — is beautiful, chock-full of art shops and boutiques (it’s really a wonder that they all survive). 

Of all places to be…

This ain’t bad. This is the most liberal, artsy city I’ll see until Salem + Portland, which are, y’know, four days away.


Okay, girlfriend. You remember the trial? [a scene I was planning to write]

Moonlight through the window, shadowy apprentices gathered on the green? (The green)



Can’t think too hard on the world or it crumbles

We are the trappings around us

But I’m being sulky today, so the iced coffee ain’t doing it for me, because of course I choose to wallow in this…

Wow I am fascinating.


Kid. Jesus H. Christ.


Sept 14, Saturday — Nighttime at the Planet Fitness parking lot

Guess what else is fascinating?

How writing, exercise, and cleanliness make everything better!

I even have the energy to cook couscous and honey. I have never been industrious enough to take out the stove at night (although it does take less effort every time)

Let’s see… so today I dried my laundry, got asked for my number (after [the guy asked me for] a lighter), made oatmeal, walked downtown, went to a cafe, where life seemed horrible until I wrote, slowly at first and then feverishly, for 5 hours, so much that I didn’t realize the cafe closed, or that the full brightness was making my eyes sore. I sat on a bench outside and wrote for one and a half hours more. It was the sort of painful glory that I long for. Can’t wait to repeat it tomorrow.

I must note, modern me stepping in, how interesting it is that this is when I learned to know my body. I was trying so hard then not to feel things like hunger or stress, to just shut it all off, but all the while I was trying to problem-solve how not to feel miserable. And I eventually connected the two. It just took me a while.

I thought that admitting this was hard would be going soft. But softness is good. It can cushion the diamonds you’re forming.

Writing still does this for me. It makes everything better.

snow-capped peak overlooking a grassy field

September 26, Mt Shasta City, CA

Yaks Koffee

You feel like being home

[graffiti on] the wall tells me. And I do. I am so happy that nearly any indie cafe, with coffee and strange unique mixes of sugar + chocolate, and maybe food to boot, can make me feel happy.

Did I think that the bagel was taking a while? I was right. It’s very crispy.

The space between one ceiling and the other is bedecked with necklaces. I had wondered how a small town could be so obsessed with crystals — three shops and a bookstore in as many blocks (really in fewer) — but living in the shadow of a snow-topped mountain, with plums enough to illustrate the word “abundant” and blackberries fermenting on the vine… I can begin to grasp it.

Thursday, Sept 26 — night.

Mt Shasta City Park

This is a… fitting end. My string lights are up, albeit more messily strung than that very first night, so aesthetic + so terrified outside of a WalMart. Now I’ve grown careless. I may even sleep here.

It strikes me how my internal monologue and humor has changed, subtly, as I grew older, and also how much of it is the same. But that’s awfully meta, and I’m not posting any contemporary journal entries to compare against.


It is funny, looking back, how I returned from a creative writing internship at Wellstone Center talking constantly about organic cooking and goat cheese. I remember buying a giant squash for squash soup and never doing anything with it, until my mom chucked it in the oven and we ate it standing there in the kitchen, as we do. I think we did, anyway. I definitely didn’t make soup.

Then I returned from Europe talking about travel, all the places I would go. Now I’m here, “look at this metal!” “Wow look at that weld.” “A saw?” “A drill!” 


Wellstone journals

journal entry with cartoon sketches of authors

so clearly I am not a visual artist :P

Oct 26: Today was a really lovely day

Lipstick but drawing in the half-light of fairy lights held in place by lots of paper is hard

So much milk!

Around Oct 27, the electricity went out at Wellstone while the host family was away, and it was just me and three writers. They were a couple, named Carmiel and Duncan, both of whom I think wrote literary fiction, and Vanessa, a memoirist who led retreats in which people camped among wolves.

To be fair, medieval times were dark

The funny dot candle doesn’t light the path or steps hardly at all, though it’s very cool to see the trees — or rather, a few oak leaves — loom suddenly out of blackness.

Rising Smoke [my novel] finished! And felt the vast number of edits to come… (at least the dark [a section of the book] is shorter now)

The beauty of a dozen candles on the counter, pretty light amidst deep shadow. The closeness, the community, everybody giving. Carmiel + Duncan may go on Vanessa’s retreat — I may intern with her. I’ve got Carmiel’s book (“You’re so sweet, Amber”)

You really can meet amazing people. This place is so lovely and so very worth it.

And the perfect quiet when they all went to bed, leaving me alone with some candles and a hefty manuscript…

These journals — above is the one with a river on the cover, and below is the other one, with a sun — hold so many thoughts on writing, and my day to day schedule, and the writers who popped through and the people who run Wellstone. But mostly it’s about books and words. There are complex plans for my editing of my first novel. There are drabbles on the very beginnings of the protagonists of my third novel, before they had names, before they were anything more than a bio major with shaven red hair and a lanky werewolf on a subway car at night.

journal entry

Nov 18, 5:30 pm: Wow, life is strange. I feel more dead than 6 hours of sleep should make one feel. My legs are sore in a placebo-effect version of exhaustion, bc I know that I haven’t taken an off day.10 wow look at this. self-awareness. I got so close man

Life is strange. I am scared of my own editing — Steve [the owner, who mentored me] thinks I should pare down more, and on one hand, I know he isn’t wrong — on Saturday I went over that scene and realized that M + G [characters, Malupit and Gyle] circled back to magic a few too many times, that we keep pushing G being tough + also in pain, but I didn’t do anything  abt it.11 like, I noticed that pattern but didn’t cut out the superfluous mentions of magic, or merge them together, or really cut any lines whose absence would make the conversation flow better

On the other hand, my style is of a meandering nature, and I sort of want to preserve that. Not… like, style — it’s very hard to explain, bc on one hand I know stuff has to go, and the writing will be stronger that way. But on the other, I’m scared of losing all the flair.

So… let this piece sit for tonight. Tomorrow, return to it. Do Steve’s edits, maybe some of your own. Then on Wednesday, open all the versions + read ‘em, newest to oldest.

I think about that lesson on editing to this day. Steve was right; cutting unnecessary lines and words made the scene much better.

I’ve learned to cut words, to murder my darlings, but it’s always a struggle. I still wonder, all the time, if I’m cutting too much, or not enough; if I will accidentally core out something vital as I snip and prune.

journal entry

Nov 19, when I was re-reading my first novel and planning the edits.

Today I was… happy? So happy, at times, but in a way that is kind of hard to describe.

I think reading my old stuff + liking it always puts me in a strange, reflective mood. My Draft III contains a sort of nostalgia, a wistful for the never-was, and sometimes I fear it is further now. I used to daydream so often.

Funny, because I’ve written a novel. Two. I’ve done 4000 words in a day, now, and my prose, on the whole, is far better. And yet, there’s a…pull… to my old stuff, an innocence, a feeling that I am not afraid of trying to be Robert Jordan or Patrick Rothfuss. I want… that. 

Matthias said there’s a rhythm to my writing. Fátima said there’s an urgency, that it feels dark, nighttime. 

I am so basking in my own thoughts tonight.

Walking up from the goats, I felt so happy, that sort of swamp cooler summer glow happy, the overcast skies happy. Doolen skies + my favorite color really is grey. I will be so cheery in England, desert girl with her senses reversed.

People keep commenting on the beauty of these hot days, and they aren’t wrong, and I really do love the heat, the way it leaves you alive— but I love the not-yet-cold, when you have to fight to keep your blood running + your body limber. Idle and the chill settles in. Yet it is so beautiful.

I still feel that loss of wonder. My craft is better. I’ve gotten much better at describing the feeling I’m chasing: the lost-in-the-mist vibe that people like Gaiman and Mirlees are chasing, too, the shimmering image Joan Didion describes. Still I feel sometimes that I am further from it than I was, further even than I felt when I wrote this journal entry two years ago.

It used to be that I thought of my characters nonstop. I associate Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” with a particular scene of my protagonist and her love interest running through a city at night, because I planned the scene during a high school dance rehearsal where the song played on repeat.

I still think of my novels when I’m in the thick of writing, but day to day, my thoughts are pulled other ways. Sometimes when I go running, I charge myself to think not of people or work, but of my next project — something about road trips, lying low in seedy motels, three friends huddled close to a campfire while sticks crack and leaves crunch in the woods behind them.

Nov 26 [we went to the aquarium]

I started thinking about childhoods…

I remember marvelling at tomato plants, recalling the three-bed forest we cultivated when I was in second grade and Ruby [my sister] was three. I like only home-grown tomatoes, but those ones I enjoy immensely. I am grateful for those memories — seed packets at Home Depot, Mom gleefully hefting her pike.

I recall feeling relieved and grateful to discover that I really do love animals — Butterfingers and Henrietta [the goats] — that it isn’t just a myth I’ve told myself. That after finding Bowie 12 my sister’s guinea pig, sorry Bowie to be kind of dumb,13 this is hardly fair. Bowie is like a cat. Bowie has priorities, all of which are spinach, or other types of leaves. Also, cucumbers. I can marvel at Henrietta’s curiosity, appreciate the way she always comes to me, intrigued.

My childhood, I thought once, was not so different from that of the kids here.

I’ve thought a lot of different things — how I don’t kill spiders, how I have little patience for propriety.

I went to the aquarium and honestly thought “hell yeah, I wanna be a marine biologist. Wonder what the field is like? The private / non-academia sphere of it?” Not until now did I realize that that very thought is all childlike wonder (and also there’s an aquarium in Boston with electric eels who dream and light up lightbulbs).

I read Sy Montgomery’s book14 The Soul of an Octopus and as she expounded on animal consciousness, I began to feel vaguely irritated — like, yes of course they can think, chickens + goats + et cetera, now tell me something new. I am so glad that I was raised to see a world of conscious beings; more so, it seems, than many. That is a perspective not easy to impart.

I kinda love the animal sciences realm. Montgomery, the aquarium, those books at the library which felt just like nature documentaries from childhood. All those biologists, their parallel… they are used to octopuses and parrots and whatnot acting just like dogs, and they are at the same time excited by it.

I am figuring out day by day more of what I want to do when I grow up.

And man, I still am…

the first pages of the yellow journal, my last few days at Wellstone.

December 15, 2019

Library House, 11 am

It feels like waking up from a dream. Stepping in here + being struck by its beauty the same way I was that first day. It feels like I am starting to become myself again. […]

I’ve been shuffling about the house — empty again — with the sort of manic lethargy that comes of driving more than running. My mind feels crowded by 6 hours of sleep (not really a small amount but call me spoiled) and all the packing I haven’t done.

But the house is quiet, and I have a book to read.

Two books.

Soon I will run. I will shower + eat + pack my things, maybe read a little more before bed. Let’s see. But I want to leave knowing just what I’ve created, in these two and a half months.

Am I editing the way I want? Where do I go from here?

As a reminder…

In September I was on the apprenticeship ceremony of Book Two, pretty much. I finished Book Two on October 20th.

Two short stories — “Cherry + Chocolate,” and “Knots.”

Then Book One edits. I did Ch 1-6 and Ch 12 by November 11, apparently, which means that Phantom Fire and Ch 7-9, inclusive, plus some Ch 10 attempts + mapping, took place over the last month, up to now.

The wordcount is lower, though by how much, I’m not sure.

Let’s read it. Let’s see how I feel.

In the latter bit of ch1— the snow — the “pain cold shiver shiver ouch pain” is a real solid reflection of W’s state of mind. Maybe I’m okay with that. (Read the rest, Ch 1-6).


So it’s not done. You’ve rewritten some parts + edited others. Some stuff is way better than it was, and some is different. Large 𝚫.

However, a lot of the language is still unsatisfactory. A lot of times I thought a paragraph or line could be better.

You can edit, but you haven’t really been careful + thorough, making sure each crease is smoothed out before moving on. 

Overall… I was reading quickly, on a screen. So I don’t know if everything felt a little choppier because of that, or bc I cut all the sentences down.

My fear that everything would be butchered + choppy, though, was unfounded. 

I actually disagree with the dissatisfaction I was feeling there. I think I did okay. My current theory of editing is that major changes to the structure come first, and wordsmithing (or making sentences sound pretty) come last. This theory is inspired by an episode on editing in Season 10 of Brandon Sanderson’s Writing Excuses podcast. I’d done a lot of structural edits. I think I simply hadn’t reached the wordsmithing stage yet.


In Tucson, then away.

Dec 23, Tucson

I want to go to college with another novel written, with Book Three mapped, with more steps taken toward publication — an agent would be great, but short story mags would be too. A polished pitch, a finished, pretty manuscript. Those are the three goals, I think. A journey.

I want to go to college knowing how to savor journeys. How to self-discipline, yes, but how to balance feelings w/ productivity, pleasure w/ work — all in a way that lets me write 2000 words/day and read 12 books, of course. 

I think it’ll all be fine.

I am so fucking ready to leave.

and? I kinda did — not the writing part, but the balancing part. I have gotten better at balancing work and pleasure. It’s easier when you’re doing work you don’t care about as much.

I have not, of course, managed to do that while writing 2000 words a day or reading 12 books. I did not specify a time frame in which I would read those 12 books. I’ll read 12 books this *year*, I bet.

I wound up getting a handful of stories published in magazines, too, which is nice. I like that some of my goals were met, and that I still find the others worth pursuing.

Jan 6, 2020

8:22 pm

I am in a big big plane + it is soaring upward. I’m sleepy and exhilarated and less scared than before. It all feels surreal.

I’m thinking of the 5 French people in La Posada de Huertes, and the chances of one of them being female and queer and close to my own age. I’m picturing myself on a horse, staring off in the distance, sighing, “I told you, dumb bitch, no romantic entanglements…”

[this is a John Grady reference, to y’all who read All the Pretty Horses]

Are we allowed to put tray tables down? Will the food be free? Who knows.

I still must write that blog post [not our blogs, ofc], and tomorrow figure out VantageWest [a bank]. But after that, no more threads, no strings. I’ll be free to write about witches + read and explore, meet fellow travellers, make connections + maybe sparks.


My goal this month is to finish edits, but it’s also to re-ignite the passion for fresh prose, to create stuff.

My focus in Europe is to explore, fill the well, leave with sights + cities behind my eyes. But it’s also — perhaps more so — to write. To really write, to fall into prose generation as I haven’t for months. To come home with stories behind me.

I also, by the way, have a backpack full of fantasy books, half a dozen different kinds.

journal entry

Jan 7

Probs like 16:00 or 17:00 but my phone refuses to acknowledge the time shift…

The top bunk of a mixed dorm in Madrid, which apparently means all men + one couple. Someone is on the phone in Spanish. […] Everyone [else] is quiet, so I’m just up here, sans wifi password.


Being here with someone — anyone I know + trust — would be really nice.

Ok now I’m just mentally crashing.


Tmw: Museo del Prado. Running. Writing. Then maybe a pub crawl.

Next day: Find a good spot to write! + Run around the city + look at things.

I wish I had more time here, but w/o friends it’d be sorta lonely…

This whole trip will be sorta lonely lonely…

(and thus we see that 2 nights of no sleep + 12 hours of no water ain’t great. Bc I literally thought “lonely” has two e’s, like “loneley.”)

[Not because I just wrote that I’m mentally crashing. Because I made a spelling mistake.

I love baby me. She is so great. She is so fun n wild.

Of course I am probably too into self-love to run off to an off-grid farm with 12 wild horses nowadays, so maybe she had something figured out. Not everything. But something.]

journal entry

Jan 10, 2020, almost 9 am, on the train, through actual mist

The sky, you know, is perfect.

You can’t see houses for the mist.

I walked through Madrid at the crack of 7:30, before dawn, when everyone was awake but most shops were closed, as though we all knew, logically, that it wasn’t early, but it was dark.

Breakfasted on fresh-squeezed orange juice, the tasty sour kind, + cafe on leche + a croissant turkey sandwich. E5.50 → like $8. Find that in America. [at a bus station, actually, that isn’t too hard]

This train goes through all of Spain.

And my gods, yesterday was great. I liked seeing the city, all those ancient statues. I loved that cafe […] with its class and demi-cheapness, a sort of mix you really don’t find Stateside. I wrote 2000 words (in only 5 hours). [this was sarcasm]

And Maria + Carolina are the loveliest people! Music students, both of them fashionable + pretty + kind. Mom is right — I never knew I could have such a good time going out with strangers.

Jan 13! Beside my hard-earned fire, day 4

Yesterday I felt guilty looking for other HelpX places — isn’t this lovely? You can see the city village, and the mountain is beautiful.

But wearing dirty clothes for the second day in a row, I am realizing that I do not want to stay for long. With the internet I can remember myself in relation to the wider world — which, actually… I like having myself, and I like not feeling isolated. But the prospect of no internet for a week was actually quite thrilling.

I love that horses can just show up, nine of them, independent but unafraid of people. I love the dogs scurrying around. I am… entertained by the breaking-down cars that haul wood down mountains, the concept of sharing a seat with a handsome, sweaty man (who is married, + also really sweaty).

I liked watching him throw wood.

I liked how Alex climbed on the horse, unafraid. Diana, too, is lovely.

I liked talking astronomy with Ben in the kitchen, using the cup for earth, even if I still do not know whether or not the constellations look the same from different latitudes.

The things I do not like are the cold, the fact that my socks are always wet, the lack of a washing machine, the icy icy tap when doing dishes, the way the bathroom smells of wine, how long it takes to build a fire. (Although there is a certain satisfaction to it, once it’s done.) The lack of a shower. 

My legs feel seven shades of awful, one half-decent run all week.

[I am so entertaining. This is why I need to keep journalling. This is literally so fucking funny.]

A Bath.

The water steamed for two hours, and I dipped in feet unused to warmth used to the cold floor of showers. They burned like I didn’t know they could.

In the tilted, tarnished mirror…

Looking at the candlelit stone grotto from the depths of a tub, ankles crossed on a cold wall, I thought of faerie folk and nobles, and how a lover’s caress would change beneath the water. How difficult to reach all of one’s own back.

My heart was beating hard, and I thought that I would not trade this for MIT, not now.

When I rose from the bath my body was so warm. I could stand naked for long minutes without feeling cold. My wet hair did not scare me as I had been sure it would.

Then sitting by the fire, drinking nettle tea (21 days and your blood + liver are detoxed; don’t drink right before or after eating; 1 liter per day), with Cespa (Spark, hablar for un cespa; the smallest one, all white, a miniature of Tzipsy) sleeping on my lap, after much squirming and gnawing with new puppy teeth. Eating bites of dates and talking with Theo [the owner], who is quiet in company but holds his own one-on-one.

Funny how he’s unhappy with splinters + Manolo BS-ing him, but overall, underlying, is happy. Whereas I am outwardly smiling, then crashing once I am alone…

I really am happy with this. I really don’t want to stay another day, but I can enjoy + appreciate the time I have spent here.

It was a good bath.

And they are a puppy bundle.

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Granada (Friday, 1/17/20) 12:12 am, or close to that

White Nest Hostel, which has free coffee, oranges, tea + staples at all time of day or night. $15 a day, baby! I want so to spend more time here.

I had dinner with Yuhan, a 34-year-old woman from Taiwan, and we stayed out til midnight without realizing it (now I understand why I was crashing — it was the hour, not the conversation). She’s travelled to many, many places in Asia + Europe, and made many friends on the way, which I think is fantastic — a prime example of traveller culture.

My clothes are all dirty,15 the off-grid farm had no washing machine :'( so the plan para manana is probably to stay in until they are clean — free coffee, anyhow. Ruthie + Crisa + Stefan are chillin’.

My ear got infected I think in the bath, and it has grown steadily more painful since. Then, just now, I rinsed it with salt water — and now it hurts like a motherfucker. But it will pass.

[Oh my I find baby me so funny. I love her so much. She is just out there vibing with her fucked up ear. She is almost like irl Willow.]

[Literally imagine if I did that shit now. Like trekked around and just wrote all the time and somehow had the words actually be good. That would be so sick.]

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Velez-Blanco (an abandoned castle on a hill above a small, sleepy town in southern Spain)

It’s interesting how there’s a sense of warring pride + shame in the descriptions of the once-grand ruins (or is it me, seeing what I expect to see?). How many times they mention that the crown jewel of this palace was sold long ago + is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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Naples, Italy

Weekend update:

I hit my funny bone + it still hurts. But that’s fine.16 why was I constantly injured. I do not even remember this incident.


I’ve read + written of bustling marketplaces before, but apparently I have not felt one. There was an energy on the street that swap meets + farmers markets are without.

Everyone is out there in a very different style than California — makes me wish I were in style.

Those women on motorcycles…

Feb 02, Sunday

On the train back from Pompeii

Anyway it’s funny how, in my mind, I have a dream of myself. I will be as prolific as I am half the days here, as on top of my running game as September — any September. I will traverse 20 miles quite frequently. I won’t be so worn out after six or ten17 heh I really did have aspirations (although I’m not that dead, and man does it feel good to approach one’s limits — even if they are newly diminished). I will be fashionable + self-sufficient, warm when I want to be + cold if I choose.

It’s funny how I’m designing that dream while in Italy. I’m actually smiling now. I’m travelling

It’s like — sometimes I feel unlike myself. Like I’ve become untethered + don’t know where to port. But…but it’s all okay.

In a week, I will have my own room, and not have to worry about paying for food.

In a month + a bit, I will be with Debbie. I will run + write, a solitary retreat.

Eventually I’ll be home.

And then I’ll be at MIT, around people who are like me.

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Feb 08,18 my birthday was the next day way too late at night

19 is gonna be the year I love my body—

It’s gonna be the year I fall in love — with art + history again, with math + chemistry. With Willow.19 again, my main character. With werewolves.20 main characters of my 3rd novel With rain and sunny skies.

I may not get an agent, but you bet I’m gonna try (and I will earn that gelato,21 I had a deal with myself where I couldn’t get gelato until I submitted to some number of agents. And I did! Then I had gelato every day. baby).

I will read books

and write books

and edit and learn. Walk. Waltz in the gardens of fae.

I will travel places to which I will long to return.

Abs, baby, abs.

I think it’s gonna be cool.

[It’s funny ‘cause I think I did. I was already in love with art and history, reading every plaque in every museum, taking pictures of Greek gods. I did like math and chemistry, for all of freshman year. I perpetually re-ignite my passion for writing. I miss sunny skies.] 

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Feb 10, Venice, Italy

2900 words

(Days where I write lots of words are so good. Suddenly I don’t want to sleep, bc I don’t want to lose the feel of this day — and that is a good feeling to have.)

Remember that lantern in the mist, sitting on the steps that let out in the water. It might have said “You wish you were here” once, but now the first words have eroded, and it’s only “wish you were here.”

Glass pens with glass tips, fit for a king. Glass seals. A note-book I perhaps should have bought.

Glass pens with glass tips.

I wanna make that. MIT glass, baby.

I want to read Merchant of Venice now —

And the Neapolitan Chronicles. Books.

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~Feb 20

Okay but imagine: not a road trip to Boston. A motorcycle trip.

No highways, just backstreets, past farms + swamplands. Tent + camping supplies in the saddlebags, plus yogurt + eggs bc you know how things keep now.22 I do not think they actually keep like that in America. Anyway I have not tried to find out. Planet fitness along the way, I suppose, but camping in the outskirts, the wilderness (or hostels. Those too).

Hair always windswept. Big bomber jackets.

It’d have to be mid-semester…

No clue if that’ll ever happen, but I think it was cute that I wanted to do it.

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In the airport in Ireland, waiting for a plane to take me home:

There is, in my head, a vision of who I want to be. I want abs and arrogance, high energy, excitement. I want to form deep connections with complex people. I want to write quickly and well. I want to understand science deeply madly and truly. I want to feel my body ache and heal. I want working hands. I want quirky fashion and well-selected jewelry, an ability to do makeup a bit, when I choose. I want interesting, oft-varied hair…

and? kinda, check, check, check. Deep connections, complex people; check, check.

I don’t write much quicker now, but my craft is better.

Understanding science would be sick, man. Although personally I do not think most people understand too many things entirely, especially outside of their chosen field. I remember a physics prof joking that he hadn’t done an integral by hand more complicated than (1/x) for years. He knew how to set up integrals for his equations, of course, but didn’t need to fiddle with sin and cosine rules to solve them. I don’t know what I want to know deeply, anymore, what I care about enough to pour myself into. It would be cool to know more chemistry, to understand materials science, the chemical makeup of metals and wood. Thermo seems interesting.

I just did 35 runs on the Green Building Challenge23 an event in which East Campus runs up all 18 floors of the Green Building as many times as they can within 4 hours and yep, body is both aching and healing.


Fashion, quirky. Jewelry, cool. Makeup, messy but that’s sort of the vibe. Hair is not “oft-varied” but I like the way it falls.

Seeing these goals made me happy on a deep level. I’m not the vision of everything I want to be, right now, but in these ways I’m closer than I was. And I think that’s how it’s meant to work.


I think that some day I shall look back on these blogs and find them just as entertaining as I find my old journals.

A lot of the things I’ve learned — how to eat healthier, to set achievable goals, etc — I never realized that I’d learned, until I looked back on these journals and saw how I used to exist. Which means that learning those things was a slow, years-long process, the culmination of small changes in my habits and mindset. That’s encouraging. It means I can teach myself good habits, slowly and gently.

It strikes me now how young I was, how innocent, how bizarrely rugged. I am writing this blog young, not yet 21, still hammering out the rough edges of me.

I’d like to travel like this again, in a year from now or three. I’d bring friends. We would not be so scared of the big world, and that might make it less of an adventure.

But it would be fun. We’d return with new stories behind our eyes.

Which of your own journals or memories strike chords with you?

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  16. why was I constantly injured. I do not even remember this incident. back to text
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