If you know me only from ________, you probably think…

High school:

I’m terribly shy and awkward. I have close friends but not many acquaintances. Most of my free time is spent in online game rooms or on AIM. I’m also an avid Xanga contributor and will eventually accrue 11 years of almost daily, extremely thorough postings before the website shuts down.

I’m staunchly pro-life and Republican. I bring posters of aborted babies to class presentations and print petitions to send to state officials. I protest the ACLU. I threaten to sue my school for silencing my voice.

I’m a strong Christian [until age 16 when my grandmother suddenly dies of aggressive brain cancer]. I then start questioning the religion without finding answers. Feeling immediate harsh judgment from the church community, I move away from the faith. I don’t return but you probably don’t know that in school.

I’m smart — but only in English and History. I take AP classes for those and excel. I struggle in Math and Science. But I still graduate in the top 22% of my class and have dreams of moving away and starting fresh. I move to North Carolina to begin college.

College, freshman year:

I’m reserved. I’ll talk to you if you talk to me, but I won’t go out of my way to chat with you. I won’t “hook up” with you. I won’t do drugs with you. I try vodka, hate it, and refuse to go to any more parties.

I’m OCD. Your feet disgust me. Your mess in the communal bathroom irks me to no end. Your obnoxious noise at all hours leaves me no choice but to post a passive-aggressive list of “room rules” on my dorm door. I get fed up and transfer back to New Jersey.

College, study abroad:

I’m not very multicultural. I don’t know much about the world. I’ve never left the United States in the past 20 years. A solo trip to Barcelona scares me to tears.

I’m not very self-confident. Years of questioning who I’ve become and where I’m going has led me to retreat back into my shell when faced with an open and diverse environment.

I’m artistic. I take many photos with my D-SLR. I go everywhere with that thing.

College, Rowan:

I’m passionate. Whether it’s passion driving my fear-driven Camden article or passion to break out of my reserved ways, I’m seeking a real goal at the college I’ll eventually graduate from with honors.

Nothing. Unless you’re in the close-knit newspaper-kid group, you likely don’t know me. I transfer in my sophomore year, study abroad my junior year, and graduate a semester early. You may only vaguely know me from a class or two. I slipped through college quietly. Perhaps we’re Facebook friends.

Newspapers:

I’m going somewhere. I’m young and fresh from school, but I already have a clip from USA Today in my portfolio. I’ve spoken to celebrities without batting an eye. I had a nice chat with Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy fame for 19 minutes without fan-girling. I speak to every source in the same tone. I don’t play favorites.

My articles don’t need much reworking for the most part. I’m meticulous in how I form sentences. Typos bother me to no end.

I’m a go-getter. Another 14-hour day? I will complain, yes, you can bet I will. But I will do it and be up early the next morning to snap more photos or schedule more interviews.

I’m way too opinionated when it comes to company politics..but not in my articles. I always strive to be unbiased in my reporting.

PR:

I’m outgoing. You will see me everywhere around the organization.

I’m an excellent photographer. I will likely take your picture to include in a newsletter or three.

I’m going places. I’m professional and empathetic. I will go to your home to learn about your background and how the organization assisted you. My goal is to write an exceptional piece highlighting your progress. I will keep you in the loop through the production steps and printing schedule.

I’m frustrated. I know this isn’t the right place of employment for me but I don’t know what to do. I quit.

Marketing:

I’m painfully shy. You don’t introduce me to the team and I’m not used to working in a cubicle, so I retreat into myself again. I don’t understand the situation fully but knowing you feel this way about me, I make no effort to show my bubbly or talkative side. My social life outside of work is active enough for me to stay silent.

I’m a fast and accurate writer. You are correct. My year in the newspaper business primed me well.

I’m nice (and potentially funny too!) if you’ve actually spoken to me. Not many fall under this bracket.

TEFL:

I talk about Yelp, beer, and hot dogs more than anything else. You are correct.

I can’t figure out what I want to do with my life. Do I want to teach? Do I want to go back to the States and stay there? Do I want to go to Asia?

Extended family:

I’m going to hell. The salvation of my childhood and teenage years no longer matters because I stopped believing a decade ago. You must pray.

I’m an alcoholic because I like beer just like others that came before me in the family. You must pray.

I’m a democrat and naive. You must pray.

I’m a recluse. You must leave me alone. Do not invite me to your wedding. It won’t bother me. Only contact me to say you’re praying for me. That’s what I want to hear.

Yelp:

I’m social. I’ll walk up to you at an event and introduce myself. I’ll talk to you about what’s “hot and new” in the restaurant scene. I’ll like your check ins.

Hot dogs and chicken salad are my favorite topics. You are accurate.

I contribute too much. You’re probably right but will have to deal. I’m not a professional writer at the moment. I don’t have a journal anymore. Yelp is my journal of sorts. Feel free to unfriend me if you don’t find my posts valuable.

I’m your friend. This is likely accurate as well. At this juncture, most of my friends stem from this website. And you are all great people. See you soon.

Beer:

I’m knowledgeable. I can talk with you for hours without batting an eye. We have plenty in common…unless you’re all about IPAs. Although, even if you ARE all about IPAs, I can still talk to you about my Pliny the Younger, Heady Topper, and Sip of Sunshine feelings. I will probably tell you I don’t understand the Younger hype. I may tell you the story of the time I raced down several city blocks to get the last Heady ticket after it kicked as I stepped into another bar.

I like sours quite a bit. I used to hate sours but then a friend insisted that I just needed to try them more. You likely know I’ve now visited Crooked Stave and Cantillon but regret missing Cascade while in Portland last year. You might also know a trip to Almanac is on my goal list.

I’m generous. I will always offer a sip of my beer, even if I haven’t tried it myself yet. Unless you are sick. Then you can try the last of it. I don’t want your sickness.

The street:

I have something wrong with me. Often I walk “funny” — because my sacrum is twisted and out of sorts from a car accident. I live in near constant pain and if I stand the wrong way, sit the wrong way, or breathe the wrong way, I may start limping or walking awkwardly.

You can walk into me. No, you can’t. You also can’t elbow me, step on my feet, shove past me, or take up my leg room in tight spaces. You don’t have those rights, but you probably hardly see me or don’t care.

….

Why does this matter?

Perceptions. And judgment. That’s why.

You are free to think any and all of the above, but you’re not me. And I’m not you. These personal perceptions may be totally true or it’s possible you don’t think any of them.

As I conclude this leg of traveling and prepare to head home, it’s safe to say I’m terrified beyond belief. I have folks telling me that I must move to South Korea. Why did I do the TEFL program if I don’t put it to use? I have other people telling me to stay in the States. To find something closer to home.

I worry about how people must see me now: a failure. Someone who made a big deal about moving abroad and then ran right back.

But the next step is my personal choice. And I have no idea what to choose.

The other day while exploring Amsterdam, I decided to visit the Van Gogh Museum. I didn’t expect much if I’m being totally honest. But the collection BLEW ME AWAY. And learning so much about Van Gogh as a human was intriguing.

Did you know he didn’t paint his first piece until he was 27? Twenty-seven!

I think I sometimes forget I’m only 26. It’s okay that I have no money to my name. No retirement savings. No home. No boyfriend. No job. No roots.

It’s scary as all hell, yes, but it’s not the end of the world. I have to shape my own perception of the situation and what I’m going to do and be moving forward.

I could be the Democrat, beer-lovin’ Yelper from Philly and find a menial job to hold me over until a new, more lucrative job opens its doors to me.

…I could say my “ttyls” to Yelp, my friends, and the country again, and start the process of moving to South Korea to teach English.

…I could go back to school and earn my Masters in…something?

…I could do something totally different.

The world is full of opportunity and that’s never a bad thing. I’ll land in Philly on November 30.

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