13 August 2016

I blinked, and suddenly it’s Saturday night. (Yep. Just started crying. Called it.)

In 13 hours I’ll be on a plane, and Scotland will be far below me, and I’ll probably be bawling again but I’ll be trying not to because I hate crying in public and I don’t want anyone’s sympathy.

I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to ever leave this place because it’s perfect.

No. Not perfect.

I couldn’t handle perfect.

But it’s right. It’s good.

It’s broken and messy and good.

I don’t know why leaving here is so hard, because I’ve been so many places and therein encountered so much beauty. On a logical level it makes no sense, which if you know me well you know is infuriating to me because I like to sort out all my feelings into logical categories so that I can justify feeling them.

(if you’re finding this to be becoming confusing, you’re not alone. i’m currently lost.)

Today I had the incredible privilege to get forced to climb Arthur’s Seat here in Edinburgh. I say ‘forced’ because I would’ve let myself fall to my death at the halfway point (or earlier…) if not for my friend Michael who made me keep on. We need people like that in our lives, all of us: people who don’t let us quit and push us to do all that we were made for.

In between loudly griping about how I was going to die and trying to crack jokes about how I was actually about to die, I warned him that once I got up to the top of the (almost-)mountain that I wasn’t going to want to come down.

I was a little bit wrong.

The wind was so strong at the peak that I almost got blown over. And since I was an idiot and wore heels, I was really ready to get to some place safer. So we reached the summit, took pictures, enjoyed the view, and then hurried down a ways.

I think Michael thinks I stopped to take a breather or take a picture or something.

I didn’t.

I stopped because all of a sudden coming down off that (almost-)mountain meant acknowledging that I have to come away from Scotland.

And I couldn’t.

Gazing out from that vantage point, out over the city and the bay and the castle and the hills of Edinburgh…it was nearly too much. I didn’t cry. I don’t cry in front of people, and I certainly don’t cry in front of people when I’m standing on the side of an (almost-)mountain in heels trying to maintain my balance in the wind.

But my voice cracked when I murmured that I didn’t want to come down. I didn’t want to go back.

I don’t know what’s waiting for me in the States. My family moved from California to Texas while I’ve been here. I move into student housing on Wednesday with one person I know, one person I’ve seen around campus, and one person I’ve never met. I start my junior year and business classes and trying to decide which extracurriculars to pursue. I make decisions about which job I want to have and how many hours I’ll be willing to work so I can put how much into the bank (to save to get back here.)

I don’t want the uncertainty.

I think maybe that’s why this farewell is so hard.

Scotland feels safe for its years of history, its sense of stability and lastingness.

I just want to feel safe. It’s what I’ve wanted for years.

I think—no, I know that I came to Scotland hoping beyond hope that somehow I’d meet Mr. Perfect and he’d sweep me off my feet and wrap me up in strong arms and I’d end up living some Scottish fairy tale that would banish my fears and make everything all right. Everything about my personality and habits was working against that outcome, but I still wanted it to happen.

I didn’t.

I didn’t find Mr. Perfect, didn’t get swept up in a whirlwind romance, didn’t find that my perfectly-ordinary story is actually a fairy tale.

So, yeah, I’m kind of bummed about that. But simultaneously I know that I’m not done changing, and I don’t think I’m actually ready to settle down with any one person.

I want to be safe. I want to be in a relationship so that I can trust someone to care enough to hold me when the world feels so topsy-turvy violent.

That has nothing to do with Scotland.

That’s more just me trying to figure out why I can’t stop crying no matter how hard I try.

I am flying out of Scotland tomorrow.

I take with me dozens of memories, way too much money’s worth of souvenirs, and a deeper love of Scotland than I ever thought possible.

I didn’t fall in love with a man. I fell in love with an entire country.

And don’t worry, my love: I’ll be back.

Soon.

– Melissa

(And yes, there’s probably more to say, but I need to pack and sleep. We meet downstairs at 5:25 tomorrow morning… Yay…)

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10 August 2016

I am currently eating raspberries. Because I love raspberries.

But that’s kind of beside the point.

It’s been a few days since I last blogged, and—not surprisingly—the days have been pretty full with crazy adventures. So…

Recap time!

On Monday we took a full day to go sightseeing as a group, climbing on a tour bus at 8am and not returning to campus until around 5:30pm. Our stops included breakfast, the Falkland Palace in Fife, and the lovely little town of St. Andrews. Between the two latter stops I took over 160 pictures, so I didn’t post all of them. But here are a few highlights:

(Make sure to check out the captions if you have no idea what you’re looking at.)

THAT WAS A REALLY SOUR RASPBERRY!!! GACK!

Everywhere we went on Monday was so very beautiful that I could hardly stand it. I’ll be back, Kingdom of Fife, don’t you worry.

And theeeeeen we got to go watch the Military Tattoo perform, and that was amazing too! I’ll get videos up…sometime before I die? No promises on how soon that’ll be. (The death or the posting. Both.)

On Tuesday (yesterday) I finally got to sleep in and then we headed out for our third performance here in Scotland. It went so so well, and I ended up riding the high of that all day. From our show we scrambled into street clothes and then stuck around the venue to see the next two shows that took place there. Both were fine, but definitely not anywhere on my list of favorite shows I’ve ever seen.

I think the two things that I have struggled most consistently with on this trip are 1. Finding my place in the group and 2. dealing with all of the in-fighting. Yesterday the quarrels between friends got so bad that I skipped out on the last show they were going to see and opted to stay back in my flat instead.

I ended up splitting my time between reading part of a novel, sitting under my desk and letting my frustration seep out from my eyes and track its way down my face, and chatting with my two favorite Emig girls over 14. All in all, it was a pretty spiffy day, but I haven’t quite gotten over the ache of feeling like I don’t belong where I’d like to.

Why is life so dang lonely sometimes?

Today started out rough, riding on the coattails of last night’s heartache, but as the sky darkened with clouds and started to drizzle rain, my spirits perked up and it has turned out to be an extraordinary day.

This afternoon I had the immense pleasure and privilege to dine with a family friend. Delia is 91, and she is one of the most fascinating, genteel women I have ever met. She has so many stories to tell, has seen so much of the world, and she’s just so willing to share it. Three hours flew by, and I was practically floating when I left her house to skip through the rain to the bus stop.

Also, I was that crazy American today: signing and dancing my way down the street with my music turned up too loud in my headphones. Shout-out to my ASL teacher, who I kind of suspect would have joined in (but translated the songs much more eloquently than I was doing on the fly).

I just licked chocolate off of my phone screen. Because chocolate.

My plans for the rest of the evening are pretty straightforward: we perform one last time in venue 45 at 9:45pm, and then we’ll take a deep breath and let this show go.

“The Shadow Box” has been wonderful, but the heavy nature of it has taken its toll on each of us uniquely, and I know we’re all ready to move forward. We talked about having a wake in honor of the patients who finally get to die. I’m down if there’s cake involved.

Edinburgh and Scotland in general continue to tug at my heart, singing some song of the wind and the sea, and I’m dreading leaving in a few days. Until then, though, I’m going to continue to glean every bit of wealth of experience that there is to be had.

I have a random collection of travel quotes saved to my phone that I downloaded for a craft project once upon a time, and I rediscovered this one today:

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

– Melissa

And then I didn’t have time to sort through pictures before I had to leave for the performance, so now it’s 2am and I’ve been through all the emotions in the book and I can say that we closed out our Scottish run of “The Shadow Box” on a high note. Now I’m going to attach carefully  selected photos and then I’m going to go to sleep.

07 August 2016

Yesterday I tried to blog, but I just reread the draft I saved and…yeah. You’re welcome.

I was not in a particularly articulate mood.

Tonight is maybe a bit better? I ended up venturing out in a group of eight today, which is about four more people than I can gracefully handle, but then I got dinner and sugar and I’m riding a sugar high. So, while you may not have an exactly eloquent Melissa, you do have one who has plenty to say.

The last few days have been remarkable, involving so so much that I’m kind of timid to tell you all about it for fear of boring you. I’ll try to narrow this down to digestible highlight-tidbits:

Friday (though I almost called it Monday because ever since I’ve gotten here, any day in the past that has involved Scotland has been a Monday, which is quite a fascinating phenomenon) was a crazy day.

  • We saw three shows, two of which were so-so, and one of which was fantastic.
  • Maegan and I agreed that, since my little brother wants a kilt, we were going to convince my him that the sparkly golden mini skirt we found at a thrift store was actually a traditional kilt in the Emig clan’s tartan. Since the Emig clan isn’t strictly a real thing, I could in good conscience tell Jake that he was parading about in an accurate tartan-that-wasn’t-a-tartan.
  • Maegan and I got on the wrong bus, I lost my bus pass, and we ended up walking 45 minutes in the rain to get to a party half an hour late.
  • We got to go to said party, a Ceilidh (pronounced like Kaylee), which is a traditional Scottish dance. They taught us some super fun dances, and I got our tech director to make Righleigh to dance with me. (Technically, dance etiquette says that no one can say no to someone who asks for a dance, but Righleigh wouldn’t abide by tradition and made me go to extreme measures.) Favorite dance of the evening was the Virginia Reel.

Saturday was absolutely head-over-heels wonderful.

  • We started off the morning at a wonderful take on Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.” The show was high energy, interactive, well-acted, and just plain fun. Plus, the company is from Corpus Christi, TX, so our mostly Texan group was super down with that.
  • I got to have lunch with my aunt—we realized we haven’t seen each other for almost ten years!—and her wonderful friend Delia. Delia lives here in Scotland, and if I’m half as cool as Delia is by the time I’m 91 (the age she is now) then I’ll be pretty freaking awesome indeed. The food was great, but the company was even better.
  • We got to open “The Shadow Box!” We had a wonderful crowd, the show went pretty well, and Becky & Delia were in the audience. It was nerve-wracking for all of us, but we made it through our first performance in a new space in a new country on a new continent, and it felt great.
  • I locked myself out of my flat, which was much less exciting and led to me crying in the common room for a while. But cries leave a body feeling better, so it was actually a blessing very well disguised.

Which brings me to…

APRIL!

No, I’m kidding. (Though that wasn’t funny; it was just weird. Solid plan, Melissa.)

Today!

Yeah. Today was a good day. (More or less. At least, I giggled a heck of a lot more than I even remember doing in the past two pretty-great days.)

This morning I got to catch a bus with three fine people and we saw an adorable little show called “The Girl with the Hurricane Hands,” plus it was free, so that was awesome. It wasn’t really in a children’s venue, which is sad because it’s a lovely show that’s totally kid-friendly.

Of the five person cast, one girl caught my particular attention.

Firstly, because she perfectly captured what the world calls beauty:

She was tall, but not gawkily so. Her face was put together attractively, her eyes sparkled, and her mouth was attractive and expressive. Her long limbs moved together with coordinated grace. She seemed to have everything so put together.

But then I saw the scars.

Realized how thin she really was.

And my heart instantly broke. For her. For the art inside of artists that drives us mad sometimes. For a world that insists that we fit its mold if we want to attain its success. For the fact that I don’t know her name and can’t just go up to her and wrap her in my arms and show her how beautiful she is.

I dunno. Maybe I am hurting for a girl who has already found hope.

Maybe I am hurting for all the girls who haven’t.

Maybe I am breaking because this city is so broken. Because this whole crazy world is so broken and we’re running ourselves to a place that tells us everything will be okay as it breaks us further.

Maybe I am crying because I know the answer but, even if I had the capability to shout it to the entire world, so much of the world wouldn’t care to hear it.

What do you do when you’ve got the life raft but nobody will acknowledge that they’re drowning?

 

I don’t think I feel much up to writing more. I do think I’m going to go find a hug. Suffice it to say that the rest of my day was lovely. Here are a few pictures from the past few days:

Laters,
Melissa

04 August 2016

So, sure enough, I was way too tired to write last night. I’d been awake for…dang it, now I have to math…um…33 hours, traveling by one means or another for almost the entire time, and I just crashed at 8pm. Not a bad plan at all, because I got a beautiful 12 hours of sleep and I have felt great all day (except for when I got really tired at rehearsal, but that’s because I am a naturally tired person and I didn’t eat a good lunch.)

Scotland is ah-maze-ing, but I couldn’t have told you that yesterday, because literally all I wanted to do was break into tears for the whole twelve hours from when our plane touched down to when my head hit the pillow. Exhausted, over-stimulated Melissa is not a particularly happy creature. But I have awesome friends and an awesome mom who talks to me over wifi and I got through it all.

Besides wanting to cry all day, yesterday we went on a bus tour of the city, and it was fascinating. Is fascinating, rather. It wasn’t so much at the time. It hasn’t stopped blowing my mind that I’m in a place where the “new town” is older than my entire country. Like, what?!

And the view.

And the weather.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to go back to Texas heat. It’s gonna be killer.

Today was so much better in terms of emotions and enjoyment levels. I got the opportunity to speed walk 3-4 miles of the city with my tech director and another student while we got lost looking for a location (and I was wearing the worst possible walking shoes imaginable) and, again, was absolutely stunned by how beautiful this place is. The cheerily painted doors, the greenery, the cemeteries, the canals, the cobbled streets and stone houses, all of it.

Yet in the back of my mind echo the experiences of my friends who were just in Scotland last month on a mission trip and the spiritual darkness that grips this land. There is so much beauty here, but how can you understand true beauty without understanding the heart and mind who designed it? It’s so…heartbreaking. Something I want to fix so badly that I end up just glossing over it in my mind.

Would you pray that I would either find a kindred spirit this week who can give me some hope or that God would lead me into a situation where I can give someone else hope?

I know I can’t change everything, but I don’t want to walk away knowing that I didn’t even try to change anything.

We had rehearsals today, including one in the space we’ll be performing in—Venue 45—and they went well. As always, there were some frustrations, but we worked through them and I just know that this show is going to be fantastic (again) when it opens on Friday. No, I take that back. It’s already Thursday, so we don’t open until Saturday. Anyway, it’ll be great.

There’s so much that’s flitted through my mind these last couple of days that I’ve thought, “OH! I want to share that with everyone at home!” but all they did was flit, not alight, and I’m not sure now what else to say. Perhaps that’s because it’s almost midnight and I am very aware that I need to be heading to bed.

Oh! I remember!

Walking across town today we passed a lot of buildings. Some of them more than twice.

(I just hit backspace for a long bit because I was about to say that ‘what I found fascinating was…’ but then I realized that I find nearly every aspect of this city to be fascinating.)

One of the things I found especially fascinating was looking into the windows of the flats we passed. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the most mannerly thing to do, but 99% of them were empty of people. I caught glimpses of people’s lives, people’s whose norm is living in a hundreds-of-years-old city and speaking with bomb-awesome accents.

People who are born tiny, and then play sports as children (we passed some darling miniature football players, ah!), and then they grow up to get jobs and start families. And they age the same way I will, and their faces wrinkle from the weather, and they accrue wisdom that they share with the young who are wise enough to listen. And it’s beautiful and uniting and heartache-inducing all at once. The world is truly so much smaller than my backyard sky leads me to believe, yet at the same time so big and fully of uniqueness that I can’t even wrap my head around it.

Life is paradoxical, and the fact that I’m thinking so just further illustrates that it’s bed time.

In some ways I’m really grateful that today’s over, because—behind all the glamour, glitz, and excitement (yes, I just killed that alliteration)—it’s been kind of a rough day. My online class ends at 6am tomorrow morning my time (midnight local time, which makes way more sense) so I’ve had to spend a decent bit of today working on my final paper, which has alienated me more than once. Then there’s the whole thing where I don’t actually want to go out and drink beer, so that’s set me off by myself several times already. And maybe mostly and maybe not, though I have recovered in the sleep department, I’m still pretty socially overwhelmed by this huge new city and a building full of people, so I’m struggling to feel motivated to go out with friends who are in large groups, though I feel secluded and sad when I’m on my own instead of with friends.

I talked to someone about it today, about how it’s felt, and we both agree that tomorrow is probably going to work out better, just because of various logistics, and I’m really hoping that we’re right.

Because Scotland is a beautiful, mysterious, awe-inspiring adventure awaiting us, and while I am completely set on enjoying it no matter what, days that are amazing without having to pry the lovely memories out of the heartache are so, so precious.

I guess in the face of all this history I’ll just close with a history fact that I’ve always adored:

awesome definition

According to the Cambridge Dictionary (and history), the word ‘awesome’ used to refer to something that inspires awe. Think about how big and extraordinary that is! I think this is one of those words that we have slangified to our own detriment. I want to be able to say ‘awesome’ and for people to know that I mean something bigger, deeper than, ‘Dude, that’s cool.’

Just a thought.

I’m going to bed now, because it’s way too late. Love y’all, and have a fabulous Thursday. I’ve already had my go at it, and—for better or worse—you’ve got six more hours.

All for now!
– Melissa

P.S. Oh! Hang on! Give me a second and I’ll post some pictures!

The Night Before Everything Changed

Okay, so the title’s a bit extreme (both in length and in terms of exaggeration levels) but I really don’t care too much. Because…

We leave for Scotland tomorrow! Though the truth of that reality hasn’t really sunk in for me. Or for any of the friends that I’ve talked to.

The last week has been dull: just working on a bunch of house projects and waiting for tomorrow to get here already. I did get to see my horse for the first time in three months today! Not that that has anything to do with Scotland, but my blog, my rules.

Also, I don’t have anything else interesting to talk about here Stateside.

Oh! I still have to finish packing. Surprise! Actually, I’m justified in my apparent laziness because it’s not laziness because I’ve been living (read: “working my tail off”) in a house with no laundry facilities for over a week and I just now got to do all the laundry that I need to pack. So I’ll go grab it from the dryer and pack it in a couple of minutes before I fall into bed and sleep for a few hours.

And then at 6am tomorrow we’ll all meet at the school to begin this journey.

(this is when i’m supposed to say that i’ll talk to you at the end of my first day in scotland but instead i’m suspecting that i’ll just fall asleep because our plane lands in the morning and then we tour all day before we can sleep and that sounds so exhausting that i’m tired just thinking about it except i’m actually just tired because i have killed my sleep schedule over the past week and i’m super behind on sleep. so…yeah. also, capital letters don’t belong in this paragraph.)

Catch ya later!
– Melissa

Woah! This is a Thing!

Okay, so I’ve been ridiculous and haven’t updated this page since October. But…nothing has really happened in all this time.

Until yesterday!

Yesterday we finally got to start rehearsals for The Shadow Box, and even from just a preliminary read-through, I know it’s going to be fantastic, because the cast and crew are totally fantastic.

We start table work tonight, and then we’ll move to blocking, and ultimately we’ll be performing! And then Finals and then summer and then…Scotland!

As far as fundraising goes, I’ve had some success, but mainly the money is going to the group fund rather than to me specifically. We’re having a departmental fundraising dinner/show on Saturday, so hopefully that’ll go really well.

I’m still selling paintings, if that’s your cup of tea, and I’m exploring some other creative options that I hope to tell y’all about soon!

That’s really all I’ve got for you at the moment, and also my phone is being dumb and “correcting” things that don’t need correcting in ways that are actually a total disaster, so I’ll sign off for now.

Later!
– Melissa

Simple Beginnings

The first step to walking is to take a first step. The first step to running is to take a first step. Perhaps that’s why they call it a first step…

– Melissa

It’s October 1st!

Yay!

And I’m writing the first blog post for my Scotland blog!

Yay!

In other news, I’m in a bit of a celebratory mood.

Sparkling apple cider, anyone?

Since this is the beginning of an entire blog, and since I do tend to get carried away and forget that I’ve forgotten to mention things, I think it would be wise to start by briefing you quickly on the situation. This’ll only take a minute, I promise.

  • In August of 2014, I began my freshman year at Hardin-Simmons University, pursuing a major in Theatre. Within the first several days of school, I attended a departmental meeting where I found out that the theatre department was bound for Scotland in August of 2016. I was ecstatic, and spend a good few days wildly daydreaming about how amazing it would be to go to Scotland with this awesome group of people.
  • In August of 2015, I returned to HSU to begin my sophomore year of college. The first day of school brought another departmental meeting, and Scotland was again mentioned. Not in passing, but in great detail, reawakening a sense of awesome wonder. Scotland as a theatre group…largest theatre festival in the world…wow…
  • During the first week of September, auditions were held for The Shadow Box: the play that we would be taking to Scotland. I only read once during the audition, and I left the stage cringing. I felt like I had just wasted two hours of my life with a horrid audition.
  • During the second (I think?) week of September, the cast list went up and I still can’t quite believe that my name was on it. I am so beyond honored to be cast in the role of Agnes in The Shadow Box. (Unless I’m dreaming, which I still half wonder. Don’t wake me up.)
  • Today I am beginning a blog to try to convince myself that this is all real and to keep people up to speed on what I’m up to and how I’m trying to raise a bajillion dollars to cover expenses. (Get used to me exaggerating. It’s kind of my thing.)

So there you have it: a quick summation of why we’re both here. Actually, that’s really just why I’m here. I don’t know why you’re here. I hope it’s because you care about me or because you have a bajillion dollars that you’re just dying to give away to a sweet college student.

(If you’re the second of those two, the link to my GoFundMe is at the bottom of this page.)

ANYWAY…

October’s fundraising initiative involves paint.

And 8oz canvas.

And lovely things.

Last summer, my sister and I spent a decent amount of time painting some awesome art for our friends. The paintings turned out really well (we both ended up somewhat giddy after each piece) and we were super excited to give them to our friends. Now, I am super excited to give a painting to you! When you buy it… I am super excited for you to buy a painting from me. So yeah.

Here is a picture of us making beautiful things:

12347

And here are some of the beautiful things we made:

You know you really want something like this for yourself.

You really, really do.

So here are prices:

“The Baby” – 8” x 12” – $8
“The Poster” – 24” x 36” – $20
“The Major Commitment” – 36” x 48” – $35

I can work with a variety of designs (silhouettes and solid colors are best), and custom canvas sizes are available.

So let me know!

Because I really do love painting. And these things really are awesome. (I almost didn’t give the Pirates of the Caribbean one away. Even though I made it for someone. Because I absolutely adored it. Just saying.)

Okay. So that’s who I am. And that’s the rundown my October Fundraiser. I think that’s all.

Anything else you want to know will simply have to be asked.

Back soon!
– Melissa