2018 has been a big year for me! I graduated from Florida State with my MS in Anthropology, visited so many new places, grew this blog, and connected with tons of new people. Today, I’m reflecting on all of these things, month by month, and go through some of my goals for 2019. This is a longer post, so stick with me.
I rang 2018 in with some gal pals at the Georgia Aquarium‘s Black and White Ball. I love all the fantastic things the Georgia Aquarium does for marine life, especially whale sharks. Spending the evening at the aquarium was so magical, especially since there weren’t any kids or school groups around.
In addition to the actual event, I was able to spend time with two good friends, one of whom is an Atlanta native. On New Years Day, she introduced me to Cinnaholic, where I ate the single greatest cinnamon roll of my life. Plus, it was vegan! The remainder of January was spent working on my thesis draft and stressing out over my final semester of graduate school (real thrilling stuff, there).
I kicked February off by taking a weekend trip to St. Petersburg, Florida to visit with a college friend who was in town. It was my first time in St. Pete and I was absolutely blown away by the fabulous art scene in the city (especially all of the gorgeous murals lining the streets). I even got my first tattoo, a small sun behind my right ear, during the trip at St Pete Tattoo Company. We ate tons of good food, went to a Mardi Gras street festival, and visited with one of my friends from Florida State. It was a much needed weekend away from the stress of writing a thesis.
My favorite part of visiting St. Pete, though, was seeing some incredible glass pieces by one of my favorite artists: Dale Chihuly. I’d seen pieces he’d created at Maker’s Mark on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and in the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but this was the first time I’d been able to see a full exhibition that Chihuly had curated. I cannot recommend visiting the Chihuly Collection in St. Pete enough!
I finished the draft of my thesis the first week of March, so I decided to take my first solo trip of the year. I spent the night in Orlando, Florida, visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando and met a friend who was in the Disney College Program at Hollywood Studios. The trip was my first solo trip in about 2 years. Orlando was the perfect place to take a solo trip because it was familiar. The trip eased me back into solo travel and it put me in the proper mindset for exploring places on my own. For anyone wanting to try solo travel, I suggest going somewhere you’ve been before for your first trip!
As a student, I was given a week off of school for Spring Break. I decided to go home for the week to visit with friends and family. My week started with a long weekend in Nashville, where I was able to catch up with some of my closest friends. Surprisingly, both of them are named Ashley. One of the Ashley’s is from Nashville, while the other flew in from New York City. I had such a wonderful time showing the New York Ashley around my favorite city. It really made me fall in love with Nashville all over again.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it home for Easter this year. Luckily, my sister decided to come to Tallahassee to celebrate Easter (and Indy, my pup, turning 2) with me. No trip to Florida is complete without a side trip to the beach, so we drove down to St. George Island for the day. I’d been to St. George Island a handful of times and love the little beach town so much! It was wonderful showing my sister around the tiny town.
Later in the month, I attended the Society for American Archaeology annual conference in Washington, D.C. I stayed with my sorority big sister and her boyfriend and had the best time with them. We went to a Nationals game, visited the National Mall, ate some awesome pie, played political putt-putt golf, and spent hours catching up. While they worked during the week, I attended the SAA conference and was able to tick an item off my bucket list: seeing the cherry blossoms around the tidal basin.
April brought some pretty big news. Throughout the month, I kept getting pretty sick. I finally went to my doctor, explained my symptoms, and she told me she thought she knew what was going on. One blood test later and I found out that I have a meat allergy, specifically to alpha gal protein. Apparently, my many kayaking trips and hikes around Tallahassee came back to literally bite me. I’d been bitten by a lonestar tick and was told I can no longer eat any meat that walks on land (and yes, that means no bacon). I had to finalize and defend a thesis while adjusting to a new vegetarian lifestyle. It was a lot of stress, but I grew a ton from the experience.
May was a huge month for me. I graduated from FSU with my Master’s in Anthropology. 2 of the hardest years of my life were finally over and I felt like I could breathe again. My sister graduated from undergrad the same day as me, so I skipped walking in my graduation and hightailed it to Lexington to be at her Senior Vocal Performance Recital. After spending a few days with the family, I was off for basically a month of doing nothing but travel.
First, I headed to Austin, Texas with two of my best friends from college. We ate, drank, and walked our way through the city. I fell head over heels in love with Austin in a few short days. I especially loved hopping around the bars on Rainey Street, gazing at the street art, and hiking up to Castle Hill Graffiti. It was hotter than hell while we visited, but I seriously cannot wait to visit Austin again.
Next, my little sister and I headed down to Walt Disney World for a final trip that was just the two of us. She got a job in NYC with Teach for America and planned on moving in the middle of the summer. The two of us really love Disney (see my posts here, here, here, and here). I had really missed my sister after living so far from her for 2 years, so the trip was a nice way for us to have one last hoorah before we went back to living super far apart.
My final trip of May was with my mom and sister to New York City. A few months earlier, mom won the ticket lottery for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and decided to take us as a graduation gift. We’re really big Broadway people, so I was able to go to several shows during the trip. In addition to Cursed Child, I saw Bernadette Peters in Hello, Dolly!, Anastasia, and the revival of Carousel. Each of the productions was amazing and I am so blessed to have been able to see them. Mom and I were also able to do something new in New York: visit the Statue of Liberty.
I traveled to yet another new city in June: Savannah. My best friend planned to move to Minnesota for graduate school at the end of summer and another friend and I wanted one last trip with her before she left. After looking at the cheapest flights, we settled on Savannah, Georgia. We spent a long weekend exploring the haunts, historic homes, and tastes of the city. We were even able to getaway to Tybee Island for a day. Lucky for me, one of my friends is getting married and moving to Savannah, so I’ll soon have a place to crash in the city.
July 2018 was full of changes. The biggest change came towards the beginning of the month. Brandi, one of my closest friends since childhood, was admitted to UK’s hospital because of complications with her cystic fibrosis. She had been in and out of the hospital for a while at that point, but was told that this time she would stay in until she received a lung transplant.
Things became even more complicated and Brandi had to be intubated, which basically meant that she was going to be in a coma for a bit with a breathing tube down her throat. She later had a tracheostomy, which allowed her to wake up again. I went to visit Brandi as much as I could (which meant the weekends). The trach made it hard for her to talk, so she spent time teaching me hand signals and how to read lips (and over the top facial expressions). Things were looking up and we spent July praying for a transplant.
The other big July change was that I said goodbye to Tallahassee and moved back in with my parents in Kentucky. Being back home was a major adjustment, especially with my pup in tow. Luckily, I found an awesome internship with a museum and started working with them during July!
Moving home was a really big change for me. After about a week back in Kentucky, I was itching to explore the area. I visited Idgie’s Sunflower Farm, the Adsmore Museum, spent a day seeing all of my favorite Nashville area murals, and even took a trip up to Cincinnati to see Fiona the Hippo. While all of that was going on, I celebrated turning 24 and did a lot of reflecting on my life so far.
Things took a turn the last week of August when I got a call from Brandi’s fiancé. Things for our girl weren’t looking good. Brandi left us a little after 7 PM on August 29. The room was full of people who loved her, and we were all in so much pain – many of us still are. Brandi was always obsessed with kangaroos and Australia, so her mom and fiancé plan to take some of her ashes over there to spread (which you can read more about here).
Losing someone you love so much sucks, there’s really no other way to say it. I didn’t feel like myself for quite some time after we lost Brandi; heck, I don’t know if I ever will. I know she’d kick the crap out of me if she knew I was laying in bed moping all the time, so I made myself get out and do things. One of those things was connecting with her best friend, Sam, who I now consider to be a dear friend.
I started September off visiting my best friend, TH, in Minneapolis. She had just moved the week before for her amazing new graduate program. It was my first time visiting the Midwest, but definitely won’t be the last! We gorged ourselves on food at the Minnesota State Fair, visited a super cool brewery, and saw our fav, Taylor Swift, in concert at the U.S. Bank Stadium. I was so thankful to be able to spend a weekend with TH. She always knows how to snap be back into feeling like myself and that’s exactly what she did.
Later in the month, I headed up to New York City for a weekend visiting my baby sister in her new place. She showed me around to some of her new favorite spots around the city, including my now favorite rooftop spot in the world: Magic Hour. We wandered around Central Park, took a trip to Dumbo in Brooklyn, visited the Color Factory, and saw Daniel Radcliffe in The Lifespan of a Fact. I was even able to check out a FSU bar in the city to watch the Noles take down Louisville. I’m so proud of the work my sister is doing with Teach for America up in NYC and am so happy she was able to show me around her new home.
I went back to two of my favorite places in October: Disney and Washington, D.C. My mom is a teacher, so she gets a week for fall break. She asked me if I wanted to visit Disney with her and I enthusiastically said yes. We took one of her best friend’s daughters with us and had a heck of a time. We attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, hopped around all of the parks, and got to see the all new Toy Story Land. The International Food and Wine Festival was underway, so, naturally, I ate way more food than I probably should have.
Mom had a teaching conference in Washington, D.C. at the end of October. Dad and I decided to tag along, you know, for support. We visited the museums, got to see the pandas at the National Zoo, and took a day trip out to Mount Vernon. My sister took the train down from New York for the weekend and we saw one of the funniest musicals to date: Beetlejuice. My sister and I also checked out a witch-themed pop up bar for Halloween weekend. I basically felt like I was living my best Sabrina life.
I spent most of November at home and worked a lot. The leaves changed and my pup went crazy, since he’d never really experienced fall before. Things got even more hilarious when it snowed and he refused to go outside because he didn’t like the cold weather. Mom promptly went out and bought the dog a sweater, so he quickly adjusted to the new weather.
My sister was unable to come home for Thanksgiving so, after spending Thanksgiving Day with my family, I headed to Lexington. TH had come home for the holiday and I spent the weekend hanging out with her and her family. We kicked holiday season off by visiting Southern Lights at the Kentucky Horse Park and eating tons of kettle corn.
December is probably my favorite month of the year because it’s when the holidays are in full swing. I hate the cold, but love Christmastime. I’m like Buddy the Elf, minus eating all of the sugar. This year, I went full holiday mode and visited as many area attractions as I could. I went to Merry and Bright at My Old Kentucky Home, Lights Under Louisville, Holiday Lights at Cheekwood, and A Country Christmas at the Opryland Hotel. Even that wasn’t enough Christmas decorations for me! On Christmas Eve, mom, my sister, and I continued our annual tradition of driving around my hometown and looking at everyone’s lights.
After Christmas, my mom, one of her friends, my sister, and I headed to Nashville for one of my all time favorite activities: watching the Nashville Predators. Unfortunately, the Preds lost, but seeing them play was one heck of a way to end the year.
Looking Ahead to 2019
I have some amazing things planned for 2019. Soon, I’m headed back to Minnesota to visit the annual Ice Festival. This spring, I’m bound for France to tick the #1 item off of my bucketlist: hiking the Camino de Santiago. I’ll be starting my journey in France and hiking around 500 miles to the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Later in the year, I’m hoping to move somewhere totally new, maybe even overseas.
2018 has been a big year for me, but it’s been even bigger for this blog! Last week, I redesigned the home page and got a brand new logo. I’m hoping to grow Her Life in Ruins even more in 2019! Soon, I’ll be revamping my “About Me” page, adding tons of new photos, and posting all sorts of new content to the blog. Later in 2019, I’m hoping to partner with even more brands (contact me for more info!). I love writing this blog and am so so thankful for all of you for reading it and supporting me! Seriously, Her Life in Ruins would be nothing without you, so thank you.