What a month! August was amazing- I returned to Pittsburgh for a quick visit, I went to a Taylor Swift concert in Toronto, I discovered podcasts, I had a visit from my parents, and much more!
I started the month with a long weekend in Toronto and a brief stop in Pittsburgh on the way. I didn’t really have plans for the day in Pittsburgh; my only goal was to see friends and old coworkers. I ended up visiting my old workplace to have lunch in their cafeteria. I probably would have preferred to go somewhere else, but it was the best option to see all the people I wanted to see (and their buffalo chicken wraps are amazing). For some reason I was nervous to be back in the building, but it was so nice to see everyone and I’m so glad that I went. There were a lot of reasons why I was unhappy at my old job, but some of the people there were amazing and if it wasn’t for their support I don’t know if I’d be where I am now.
After lunch I relaxed for a bit before going to happy hour with a bunch of friends. This was easily my favorite part of being back in Pittsburgh. I was able to catch up with people I haven’t seen in months and I had so much fun. As usual, what I planned for happy hour slowly turned into happy six (or more) hours. Somehow I migrated from the North Shore to Bob’s Garage near Aspinwall, which was the most ridiculous but fun thing to have happened. The night ended on a surprising but exceptionally high note, and I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried.
Confession: the whole reason for the Pittsburgh/Toronto trip was a Taylor Swift concert. Months before I moved to Oregon, my friend and I had bought tickets for her Toronto concert. Why Toronto? We were able to get floor seats for about the same price as a higher-level seat in Pittsburgh, and having floor seats was important to me. I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since 2007 when I first heard “Teardrops on my Guitar” on the radio. I was 17 at the time and the song resonated with me enough that I bought her CD the next time I was in the music section at Walmart, and I haven’t looked back since. Taylor and I are the same age so her songs have always felt relatable to me; they’re timely and relevant to whatever is going on in my life. While I was going through different life stages and dealing with friend drama and relationship troubles, there was a musician my age singing about the same things with words that could have been pulled out of my own journal. I can attribute so many of her songs to a specific time, place, or person in my past (and yeah, that includes ex-boyfriends).
Reputation, her latest album, especially hit home to me. Haters gonna hate (hate hate hate hate) but the album is all about rebirth, personal growth, and learning how to recover after you fall. It felt like every song on that album directly correlated to events in my own life, and it hit just the right level of anger that I was feeling at the world. Reputation was the soundtrack to my 2017 that I didn’t even know I needed. I watched the video for “Look What You Made Me Do” on the day it was released last year, and as I sat there with chills on a hot August day I knew without a doubt that I was going to see this show live.
And I did. To sum it up in one word: AMAZING. Her concert isn’t just a musical performance, it’s a whole damn production. There are fireworks and smoke and awesome dancers and strobe lights and flashing bracelets and all sorts of things that could probably lead to a sensory overload. The best part? When she floated over the crowd in a lighted orb (as my friend put it “like Glinda the Good Witch”) and performed a few songs from a mini stage, and we got to dance and sing less 30 feet from her. From this day on, when I hear “Shake it Off” I will always think of dancing my heart out on the floor of the Rogers Centre, close enough to make eye contact with Taylor Swift herself.
Other than going to the concert, we didn’t have much planned for Toronto itself. The only two things on my list were to see the CN Tower (I wasn’t interested in going to the top) and Graffiti Alley. We arrived in Toronto on the day of the concert, and when we stepped onto our Airbnb balcony I was able to cross the first item off my list: we had a marvelous view of the CN Tower. On the day after the concert, we ate brunch and checked off my other must-see place. We walked down Graffiti Alley, and I loved all the artwork. I was getting some serious Valparaiso vibes and was happy to be surrounded by so much color.
After Graffiti Alley we walked to the bohemian Kensington Market neighborhood and browsed through a few vintage clothes shops. We wandered through Chinatown, and in the afternoon we went to the Bata Shoe Museum. There was a Manolo Blahnik exhibit which was our primary interest, but the rest of the museum was fascinating too. I particularly enjoyed the exhibits on shoes in Arctic climates. In the evening we stopped by Summer’s Ice Cream and were personally serenaded by a street pianist. Then, after a post-ice cream beer our day of meandering through Toronto was over.
It takes over five hours to drive from Pittsburgh to Toronto, not including time spent sitting in line at the border crossing, so if you’re making a round trip it adds up to a lot of time spent in the car. Naturally, my friend and I caught up, chatted, and listened to music but we really needed something else to help pass the time. Thus began my introduction to podcasts.
Somehow I missed the podcast trend happening. I guess I was just never interested; I enjoyed listening to my own playlists in the car and in general I’m more likely to stay up late reading a book than anything else. But we listened to a few in the car, and now I feel like I’ve been missing out on something. Podcasts are now a part of my daily life- I love listening to them while I get ready in the mornings, while I cook, and while I clean. Some of them have been so interesting that I go out for lunch just to sit in my car and listen! Throughout the month, there are two that have become my favorites.
First- True Crime Obsessed. The episode “There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane” was the first ever podcast I listened to in the car ride to Toronto, and I was instantly hooked. The basic premise of the podcast is that the hosts recap and discuss true crime documentaries, but in a totally comedic way. I love a good true crime or real-life mystery story, but to be honest I barely watch any TV, so watching a documentary is just about the last thing I would do. However, I’ve now discovered that I love listening to scene-by-scene summaries of these documentaries, especially since they are delivered with wit, humor, and hilarious judgment. I haven’t made it through every episode, but so far my favorites are “Wild Wild West,” “Evil Genius,” and “The Dog.”
The other podcast I’ve been listening to is Girls Gotta Eat. It’s a hilarious dating podcast that covers all the modern love topics you can think of, and more. When I listen to Rayna and Ashley talk about their dating escapades and thoughts on related subjects, it makes me feel like I’m at a happy hour or brunch with friends, talking about our love lives and opinions on what everyone is (or isn’t) doing. I love it; it’s funny and relatable, and I would recommend it to any independent woman.
Mom & Dad
Toward the end of the month, my parents arrived in Portland for their first visit since I moved here. It was a busy five days with jam-packed schedules, and we had a lot of fun despite a heat wave and smoke hovering over the city. Within Portland, I took them to the Saturday market, Powell’s (my mom appropriately said that it was like my dream come true), a rooftop bar overlooking the city, Salt and Straw, and restaurants and shops in my neighborhood. On the days that I worked, my parents got tickets for a hop-on, hop-off trolley that stopped at some of the main sites in Portland. On one day, we made what I like to call the “Coastal Loop,” a day trip to Astoria and Cannon Beach. In Astoria, the column was disappointing due to fog but the sea lions were out and about along the pier. My dad got incredibly close to them, and then we saw more while we lunched at Buoy Beer Company. In Cannon Beach we walked out to Haystack Rock, and my parents enjoyed it because it was their first time seeing the Pacific Ocean.
However, their favorite day involved visiting waterfalls and Mt Hood. We started off at Bridal Veil falls, which we had to ourselves since it was relatively early on a weekday. Then we stopped at Multnomah Falls and walked up to the bridge. My dad said that he had seen pictures of this waterfall years ago, but he had never known where it was. We had a quick lunch in Hood River, then drove to Trillium Lake. We spent some time walking along the lake and marveling at the view of Mt Hood, then went to Timberline Lodge before driving back into the city. It was the last full day of their visit, and I’m happy that I was able to send them off on such a high note.
I turned 28 in the beginning of August, and it gave me a moment to really reflect on the past year and think about what’s ahead of me. One year ago (just about to the day) I was depressed about my job, crying over a guy, frustrated with myself in terms of health, money, etc., and overall I was feeling trapped and didn’t see a way out. Flash forward one year to today and I’m excited about my career, I’m happily single (and not just saying that), I’m on a good track when it comes to self-care, and in general I’m simply loving life. Looking back made it easy for me to see just how much I accomplished in 12 months: I found a way to save money for my travels, I quit my job that I hated, I traveled solo through two countries, I moved across the country, I started a new job where I’m challenged and motivated daily, I’ve surrounded myself with new people and experiences. That’s a lot. One year can change literally everything; I’ve proved it myself.
Around my birthday I had a few people ask if I felt different since I was almost 30. Honestly, if anything I feel more confident and motivated, which is maybe not what they were looking for. I’m not dreading approaching the next decade of my life, I’m excited for it. Since I’ve learned how much I can accomplish if I put my mind to it, I’ve set some big goals for myself. And no, they have nothing to do with getting married or having kids. I’m focusing more on the things that actually matter to me: investing in my relationships with family and friends, taking care of myself, prioritizing my writing, finding ways to grow personally, traveling and experiencing other cultures. For the first time in a long time, I can honestly say that I’m happy where I am, and I’m genuinely excited about where I’m going. It’s a good feeling.
Outside of feeling great about life and spending time with friends and family, I’ve been filling my days with other simple pleasures. I read a few books this month: One Hundred Years of Solitude, A Place for Us, and The Map of Salt and Stars. All were excellent! I had a great time with friends at a Goo Goo Dolls concert in Albany, OR, and I went to an awesome pizza meet-up where I ate amazing pizza and learned all about the chef and pizza-making process. I’ve been keeping up with my Italian classes and signed up for the fall semester. Overall August was great, and I’m happy that I’m closing summer out on such a high note. Now I’m just hoping that the sun sticks around through the next month!
What exciting things did you do this summer? What is your favorite concert that you’ve been to? Do you reflect or make lists of goals on your birthday?