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Neurotic As Hell

Choosing Figs Blog

After running the 5K together, my friend Emily looked over my life list and suggested a girls night out at the Signature Lounge — the bar at the top of the Hancock Tower. At 100 stories — 1,127 feet — the John Hancock Tower is the fourth-tallest building in Chicago and the seventh-tallest skyscraper in the United States. While I've been to the top of the Sears Tower (ahem, it will always be the Sears Tower) several times before, I never went to the top of the Hancock Observatory. (Or 360o Chicago. Because it's apparently not called the John Hancock...

"How is the couch to 5K going?" a friend would ask me every week when we hung out, to which I'd reply, "I've got the couch part down." Ten weeks ago I signed up to run my first 5K and immediately downloaded one of those "couch to 5K" apps onto my pink iPhone. It was a nine week, three times a week, program that alternated reps of walking and jogging dictated by a very lovely sounding woman whispering directions in my headphones. "Let's jog," she'd say. "Brisk walk," she'd say. Or, at least she would say those directions if I had...

Photography has always been my crutch. In high school I learned that if I picked up a camera I could participate in anything without really having to participate: a way to be social without having to be social. I could document parties without having to interact. I could watch concerts even if I didn't understand the music. I could sit comfortably on the outside looking in. Photography is still my way to participate without participating. Though, it's no longer always a combatant to social anxiety. As I recently said: I make a better competitive eating photographer than I do a...

Four plates of golden charred hot dogs were plated in front of me. Twenty in all. The sheen of grease on blistered skin glistening in the hot sun would beckon me on any normal Saturday afternoon. Smother them in ketchup, add some pickles, a plate of chips on the side, some pink lemonade to wash them down. A leisurely Saturday of food and friends. But, standing in a suburban Kmart parking lot in front of a full crowd, next to some of the best eaters in the business — Eric "Badlands" Booker, Michelle "Cardboard Shell" Lesco, Yasir Salem — the hot...

In Norse mythology, a valkyrie (from Old Norse valkyrja "chooser of the slain") is one of a host of female figures who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live. Stolen from Wikipedia. Sometimes I get an idea. And I get way too excited about that idea. And then everything goes wrong and I end up crying for days and nothing is fun anymore and I just want to give up and crawl under my comforter with a tub of ice cream. When I qualified for the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, I knew right away that I...

I'll admit, I started reading the book once before. I'd found a copy on a take one leave one shelf in a Medellin hostel and grabbed it without replacing it. I got maybe 100 pages in before giving up and the paperback spent the next six months buried at the bottom of my backpack. About a month ago, I dug it out, determined to finally finish. It was taxing, though. The writing was so trite, grade-school level vocabulary with interspersed big words that had to have been copied straight from the thesaurus. On every single page someone gasped or gaped or...

"I've always wanted to do that." It's one of those phrases that often rings in my head. When I quit my job to travel, so many co-workers said to me before I left, "I've always wanted to do that." Sitting on a beach in Koh Phangan, watching poi performers twirl fire, a new friend would whisper, "I've always wanted to do that." And I say it to myself, often, watching salsa dancers in Colombia, listening to an Australian play the guitar in a hostel, even hearing someone talk about skydiving in New Zealand....

Last year at this time I was studying Spanish in Guatemala. It was lent when I was there and, during Semana Santa, Holy Week, the days leading up to Easter and the month before, daily religious processions and colorful sawdust alfombras filled the streets. Men, women, and children, dressed in hooded robes would carry heavy wooden platforms topped with elaborate depictions of Jesus. Up front, someone would swing a metal canister burning incense that left trails of smoke and musk. Some processions were small: one scene carried by a few people through the streets. Other times, they were big and...

After every one of Mat's improv shows he asks me how it was. And I reply, "it was good." It's happened for so long that it's now just a joke, he answers himself in tandem as I do. "It was good." What can I say, I've never been one for critiquing things. His improv team, 98.6, formed in 2010, and I've been going to his shows regularly since. They call me their superfan and abuse my willingness to photograph their shows for free. But I usually get a free rum and Coke or two out of the deal, so all is...

The rehearsal room was packed with employees sitting in rows of fold-out metal chairs. I tapped my pen against my notepad remarking to a coworker next to me that I didn't even know why I'd brought one. I am currently just a temp at work. Though I'm filling in as the digital marketing coordinator, a role I held there for nearly five years before I quit to travel, right now, I'm just a temp. "Interim." So attending a quarterly company meeting, when I knew I wouldn't still be working there a quarter from now, had little to do with me. And...