Last week was a difficult one for me, as it was for many Americans. I’ve experienced every emotion available to a person and my mind has finally begun to settle and allow me to explore how can I become more active in creating change for marginalized groups. I think like many white people, this election has woken me up in a VERY REAL way and I am ready to do my part.
Part of that will be sharing some political pieces on this blog. I will still continue to write about courage when it comes to living, loving, and writing, but moving forward courage will also apply to politics. Because now it must.
I read this NPR article about Trump’s 100 Day plan. While there was much in there that angered me, and surprisingly a point I agreed with on a surface level, there were points that were EXTREMELY vague in what they mean for this country.
How was I ever going to research all of that? Oh wait… Oh thank god… I don’t have to because an old friend of mine (and former running mate for student office at the University of Iowa) Scott McKeag broke it all down on Facebook for me.
I asked Scott, now a social studies teacher in Virginia, if I could repost it here unedited by me for you all to read. Scott breaks down what I was confused about and then goes on to write a very interesting opinion piece. He also makes a pretty legit request of all of us. I join you all to click the “Read More” button below and read it.
I will not gab here for long, because the guest posts are for other voices. But I just wanted to say: hurrah! My very first Cheap Courage guest post. YOU COULD BE NEXT. Just drop me a line! And now without further ado… “Why I Fear Happiness”:
I could talk your ear off about Ireland.
My second semester my sophomore year in college, I lived in Cork for five months to study abroad. On a brisk January morning I found myself in a taxi with a man with an accent too thick to decipher, two red and white polka dot suitcases, and some scribbled instructions from my father on how to find my apartment. I knew no one and tried to wear a confident, albeit terrified and tired, smile as I entered the worst apartment I’d ever live in.
What followed was five months that, as every cliche about studying abroad goes, “changed me forever.” I stumbled between pubs and classes, fell in love for the first time, traveled 8 countries over 30 days with my roommates, and found I was a person I actually quite enjoyed. My anxiety stayed at bay and my depression never seemed to take hold while overseas.
It was every montage sequence you find in a grainy sepia-toned coming of age film about 20-somethings trying to find their way. It was chaotic and hard and therapeutic and exhaustingly beautiful. When I got back to the states though, it took me years to find that person again and more or less, I never recaptured that frenzied happiness I had once felt.
Three weeks ago, my husband Luke and I boarded a plane headed to Ireland for our honeymoon. Us picking Ireland as a honeymoon destination was a decision made on a lucky find with a cheap airline back in March. It wasn’t until we took the train from Dublin down to Cork and taxied through the city that it started to feel real.
The next few days, next to the day I married Luke, were the happiest I’ve ever been. My cheeks frequently hurt from smiling too much and my slight Irish accent came back within days. Unlike my college town, the city of Cork hadn’t changed in the nearly six years since I had lived there. The hot chocolate shop still stood, as popular with locals as ever, and the famous chipper was still serving bags of greasy chips. The pub I used to frequent still had the same white daisy painted over the blue exterior. Even the table configurations inside were the same.
We took trains around the county of Cork and on our last day ventured out to Doolin to hike the Cliffs of Moher. While I had lived in Ireland, I joined a mountaineering club (mainly to meet Irish men but that’s beside the point) and seeing the Irish cliff sides again brought everything back. It brought me back. I was 20 again and confused but also deliriously happy about the freedom that being away from home can only give you.
But I wasn’t back. I stood on a mossy tuft of grass and looked out over the sea. We had taken a picture together moments before and when I looked at it, I could see my forehead wrinkles. I had smile lines. My hair was longer but slightly less thick. I also was thinner but different.
This was different.
I was now 25 and married. I lived just beyond the city limits of Chicago with Luke and our aging dog who didn’t quite understand she was aging. I had a stable job. I was happy.
I’m not a fan of happiness. It’s weird to see that written out but it’s honest. Happiness is fleeting, it’s inconsistent, it’s never permanent. It’s a hope, not a promise. When you finally start to feel happy, that’s when you should be afraid because now you have something tangible to lose. I didn’t realize how happy I was in my life until I stood in the October air of County Clare but now I’m do. And now I’m afraid.
Most of my life I’ve been unhappy. I don’t know if most people would gather that as words are easy enough to hide behind. I talk about myself in vague, self-deprecating ways so no one delves deeper. I talk constantly about anything and everything so people don’t question me for fear that I’ll never stop talking. I can remember two concrete times in my life I could call happy: those winter and spring months of 2011 and the past couple years.
I don’t know what to do with happy. It feels like something palpable I should be able to hold tightly. I remember my flight home from Ireland back when I was 20 and how scared I was. It was like emerging from this contained segment of my life and desperately wanting to hold onto who I had found. What I had found. I had figured it all out and nothing would ever be bad again. I remember crying the second the wheels touched down in Milwaukee. The pressure behind my head built and I was nauseous. Somehow, I felt I had to let go. In the coming months I’d fake my way back into sorority life and be more miserable than I’d been in years.
Recognizing happiness is like when you’re in a horror movie and thinking about the monster is what makes it more powerful. If I recognize I’m happy and draw attention to it, that’s what will be the end, or so my brain keeps telling me.
When the plane touched down in Toronto from Dublin, Luke and I scrambled through the airport, desperately trying to get through customs as fast as possible during our short 1 and a half hour layover. We made it just in time to our plane to Chicago. We laughed the way you do when you’re tired but also relieved. He squeezed my hand and kissed my sweaty forehead. As the plane took off and we headed back to Chicago, I reached out and grabbed a hold of his thigh.
This time when we landed back home, I didn’t want to let go.
Molly Sisson, 25, graduated in 2013 from University of Iowa with a BA in English and a focus in Creative Writing. She attended University College Cork for a semester in the spring of 2011. Following college, she fell into a career in finance and currently resides in Oak Park, IL with her husband, Luke, and their overly energetic dog, Lucy. She spends most of her free time reading listicles, binging entire series on Netflix, and eating lots of macarons. She sporadically posts blog entries on her blog: http://awriterswordvomit.blogspot.com/.
I am so excited to announce that Cheap Courage is now accepting guest bloggers!
Below you will find your basic standards for post submissions… these are the things that will make it easier for me to vet writing and schedule posts. The most important thing is that the post reflect the Cheap Courage lifestyle. That means it is not only a reflection of your life so far, but most importantly, it’s all about doing NEW stuff! The stuff that scares you. Write about anything and everything but keep the heart of this blog in mind.
We are here to grow. We are here to challenge ourselves. We are here to laugh. We are here to find our courage when all hope is lost.
That’s it! Follow the submission guidelines below and you’re golden!
For a person who not only plans to visit every major US city in this lifetime, but also prides herself in this endeavor, it was a little embarrassing that I had never been to Philadelphia. A historic city just an hour and 15 minutes away from New York on the train. Turns out, my boyfriend had never been either. I hired a dog sitter and we decided to run away for a weekend at the end of September.
DAY 1 – Friday
This is was one of the last hot days we had on the East Coast, so I was able to wear shorts and a t-shirt for the day. We were sweating but it was a beautiful day. We were able to check into our hotel early, the Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, and we were even upgraded to a bigger room, on a higher floor.
Pro Tip: Business travelers typically check out early on Fridays which means you have a better chance of checking in early. This applies to hotels like ours that are in a business heavy district.
Reading Terminal Market: Absolutely our first stop was food related. Are you joking?! Had to be. We were absolutely overwhelmed by the early lunch crowd and amount of options but we settled on Franks A Lot because the BBQ chicken looked so good. (Not because Frank is my boyfriend’s name.) Food was solid but it was dessert that nearly made me cry.
He had a donut from Beiler’s Donuts (couldn’t help but notice the boxes all over town, people are obsessed!) I had Bassett’s ice cream. I chose coffee topped with melted marshmallow sauce. This ice cream was so freaking creamy and I admired how it was just ice cream scooped in a bowl. It was not made for Instagram… it was made for bellies. It was so delicious and really put me in a good head space to look at historical stuff.
Liberty Bell: Fully satiated we walked our way to the Liberty Bell. (We actually walked there twice because SOMEBODY had his pocket knife on him…) We passed a bunch of historical buildings on the way but these made me mostly sad. They were surrounded by a not so great part of town and looked lonely. But onward we went (twice). The museum was free and there wasn’t a long line. I’ll be honest when I say we skipped most of the history and zipped right on up to see the bell. It looked like you would imagine and we took pictures in front of it anyway.
Ben Franklin’s Grave: Since we did this trip without a set itinerary we sort of wandered around looking for what was cool and what had no lines. We saw a sign pointing toward Ben Franklin’s grave and so we followed it and wound up at a pretty old cemetery. We paid $2 to get in but had the same reaction as everyone else there: “It’s $2 to get in? What?” “I mean… I guess it’s only $2.” Walking this cemetery reminded me like walking Pere Lachaise in Paris… only I didn’t know who anyone was. Ben’s grave was covered in pennies, which made no sense, but he’s buried with his wife, which I found quite nice. In a creepy way.
Random Deli: Right after the grave viewing we needed alcohol so we stopped at a random deli, had a wine and a beer on the patio, and watched a lady ride one of those city tour buses, while riding a Segway. Simultaneously. #idontdolegs
Rittenhouse Square: After our historical duty was served, we wandered around Rittenhouse Square for a bit just trying to get our bearings and see what good food was around. It was on this walk that I spotted two of our Saturday activities that I LOVED and will point out later. (Sweet Charlie’s & The Dandelion) We also discovered a Tiki Bar that we would visit later. I can not recommend getting lost enough. It pays off!
NAP INTERLUDE THIS WAS THE BEST. TAKE NAPS. I never take naps in my real life. I always take naps when I travel. I believe in not getting crabby while exploring.
Village Whiskey:We went here on the recommendation of an old high school friend of mine. We waited for about 5 seconds for a table, got to sit outside, and I had hands down one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. The Ginger Rogers (dry gin, ginger syrup, lemon, rhubarb bitters, sparkling rose). I do love a rose cocktail. Fries were pretty good (but I am a fry CONNOISSEUR, so it’s hard to impress me) and my cobb salad was really yummy.
Tiki Bar: Exactly what it says it is. Rum cocktails and a laid back vibe. I absolutely loved finding a rooftop in Philly. It wasn’t even crowded! It was a perfect night cap for a warm day.
DAY 2 – Saturday
We woke up eager for brunch. After a quick Google search of places that do boozy brunch we found Day By Day in Rittenhouse that was referred to as a Philadelphia staple no less than 5 times. I was thrilled. But first we made two stops along the way…
Fat Jack’s Comicrypt:We found this adorable shop on our walk to brunch and popped in. Amazing collection of comics and everyone working there was really nice. It’s such a pleasure to be able to go into a bookstore and not have it be loud and busy like most in NYC. So enjoyable!
Sophisticated Seconds:I had Googled good thrift stores the day before but all the returns, including this one, read like consignment shops with pricier stuff. When I went in however, I was super surprised, and pleased to find a whole range of stuff. I picked up an adorable red cashmere sweater dress here.
Day by Day: Ah, finally brunch! We messed up a little and didn’t realize that this place, like many others, was BYOB. But it was probably for the best as we had a long day ahead of us. Frank ate an INSANE stack of Challah French Toast and I had a yummy, healthier omelette. I really liked the atmosphere here and the food was as good as the reviews said.
Philadelphia Museum of Art: We had originally intended on going to The Franklin Institute to look at the impressionists, but as we neared that building we couldn’t help but notice the GIANT, BEAUTIFUL building down the way. We guessed it had to be the PMoA, so we decided to walk toward it. (See how not having an itinerary can be so fun!?) As we neared it we noticed a Rocky statue, not realizing we were at the Rocky steps! We of course raced up them and snapped a ton of photos (of the steps, of this crazy sculpture out front, of each other) before entering the museum.
What an absolutely pleasurable experience. I am from New York so I am so used to being in an overcrowded museum just mushed in a mix of people. On a Saturday afternoon the Philly Museum of Art felt practically empty and we were able to amble about at our leisure and see some seriously cool art. I have never felt more relaxed in a museum! Ever. We had so much fun here and since it cooled down considerably and was cloudy– it was a good dark day activity.
Sweet Charlies:Frank paid for a cab to take me to Sweet Charlie’s so I could eat more ice cream. This was closer to what I am used to. A long line, Instagrammable treats, and a cult following. BUT WOW. This is the best, best, rolled ice cream I have had. It is so rich and creamy. Incredible.
NAP TIME WHAT WHAT
McGillin’s Olde Ale House:After my rest (haha) we went out for happy hour drinks. College football beer bar. Standard fare, but loved that it was in an alley with a beer garden. People were able to gather in the street without getting run over.
Jamonera: It turned out that some friends from NYC were also in town, who knew!? We met them at Jamonera, which had been consistently packed since we arrived. I was so excited. We even had an outside table! Here we had two pitchers of sangria, and I again, ordered some fries. These were yummy thick cut fries, almost like potato skins, and they paired nicely with the sangria.
Tinto:We still had some time before our 9pm reservation at The Dandelion, so we had a glass of sangria at Tinto, next door to Village Whiskey. This had also come recommended from my friend so we popped by. Service was excellent. Sangria was yummy. And I definitely wound up leaving my credit card here, but didn’t know it until I woke up the next morning… sorry Tinto crew.
The Dandelion: The cutest restaurant ever! It reminded me of One if by Land, Two if Sea in New York City. The restaurant is an entire townhouse and there is seating in different rooms on different floors. I got to sit in a little booth nook! I was thrilled. We split a bottle of red wine here (Cannonball, a favorite) and we both had the Crab Risotto after a few appetizers. I typically like my risotto softer but the ambiance, all the red wine my system, and the olive plate made up for it. Adorable date spot. My coworker also brought her parents here a week later and they enjoyed it as well.
DAY 3 – Sunday: Our train was at 10:30. We had somehow been given a free breakfast at the hotel with our upgrade but I was a little hungover to enjoy it. I did definitely have some eggs though, before dragging myself to Tinto. Thank god the team there is SO nice and accommodating. The card was locked in a safe, so I left my address and got on my train. In the end, I made my friends go pick it up. What a mess!
Visiting Philly for the weekend was perfect. It’s so close, so you have almost no travel time, and the food is really phenomenal. I would definitely recommend going if you’d like to do Major City Lite. All the perks, none of the crowds.
Can you hear that? That’s me sighing so deeply that the roof is rattling. The past two weeks have been trying, tiring, and… good for my character. Two weeks ago I received a promotion at my day job. This was a position that I had been chasing for two years relentlessly. And now it’s here. And now it’s mine. And now I am hella tired.
Adjusting to my new role has, on the surface, been alright, I feel like I am where I need to be finally… however, I come home exhausted, I work later, and my balance of life has been thrown for a loop. It’s amazing how small changes affect our entire being.
At the same time as my promotion I really hurt a tendon in my left leg and had to stop training for my half marathon. I am unable to run. Running is my main source of stress relief so not only have I found myself coping with new issues but I do not have my usual coping tools available to me. It’s been a weird September.
I found myself going back to my bookshelf for comfort. Reading books I read a decade ago for the first time, to help relax me. I wanted to find a center and I hoped it would be in those pages. I read Kerouac’s On The Road, Hornby’s High Fidelity, and I’ve been eyeing my Fitzgerald collection (I own all of his books) with a hunger I usually reserve for pizza.
As a result of using texts to soothe me, where I would normally use my body, I’ve put together a list of books that have made me feel strong in the past and that deserve a re-read. I’m hoping you too will pick up on of these books and feel strong and centered.