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Neurotic As Hell

Choosing Figs Blog

Where I stood to watch 3 years ago. Where I will eat on Friday. Three years ago today I boarded a one-way flight to New York to attend the July Fourth Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest and begin my 'round the world trip. At the time I thought, "There's no way I would ever want to travel for more than a year," and I'm pretty sure everyone else thought, "She's not going to make it three months." But things chance. People change. Yesterday I again boarded a one-way flight to New York. This time to compete in the July Fourth Nathan's...

Mallory gets a steady job baby-sitting for a couple of twins. And boy are they cute: they dress alike and look alike. There is no way to tell them apart! But soon Mallory learns that just because they are cute on the outside, doesn't mean they're cute on the inside. They are terrors! They throw off their name bracelets so no one can tell them apart, they speak in their own special twin language, and they switch places. Mallory is ready to give up. They are too much trouble for her to handle. But then she discovers a secret: the twins aren't...

Booking plane tickets makes me nervous. I can spend hours searching Kayak and Skyscanner for the perfect place, the perfect price, but, even if I find a great deal, can never bring myself to book. Even if I know that I have to be somewhere for something at a specific date and time I hem and haw over whether I should get there an extra day early or what time of day I should leave and arrive. The longer I travel, the harder making travel plans gets. It seems like it would be the opposite: I'd get so comfortable picking...

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....