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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...

"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...

I've been boring lately. Really, truly, boring. I'm not going to complain about it because being boring has been entirely my choice. I could be at Carnival with my friend Matt right now. I could be in Ecuador learning to surf with Chris. I could even be living on one of my friends' couches in the city. But, instead, I'm living in the suburbs. Staying with my mom. Without a car. Enduring one of the worst winters Chicago's ever seen. It's a certain version of hell....

Don Eduardo del Rey, draped in yellow and black armor, galloped into the stadium. His smile was snide but sincere as he rode his steed in parade with a confidence becoming of such an accomplished knight. We cheered for him, waving our yellow flags with revelry, as others booed. We swooned as he handed out roses to the girls in the crowd, secretly hoping he would bestow one of us. We clapped in elation when he crowned Heather, our guest of honor, Queen of the Tournament. We scrambled to our feet whooping ovations when our knight took to battle, as...

I still bite my nails, still throw my dirty laundry on the floor, still leave used dishes in the sink. I can't play the guitar, can't knit, can't paint. I never finished that novel I started writing in college. I haven't had a boyfriend in over ten years. I never became a dancer, an actor, a writer. I don't even have a career. I'm still paying off my grad school loans. I'm afraid of heights, of talking on the phone, of getting eaten by a shark. I'm getting to the age where I should start having kids.   I celebrated my birthday at Las Tablas — a Colombian restaurant in...

It's not that 2013 wasn't a good year for me. By any standards, it was amazing. I spent six months backpacking from Guatemala to Colombia. I spent two months traveling around Ireland, England and, briefly, Scotland. In the US I made it to Hawaii, Seattle, and Memphis. I'm doing good. But, even though spent most of the year moving around, I felt like I was at a standstill. I got lazy traveling last year, picking places not because they were where I necessarily wanted to go most but because they were convenient or cheap. I hardly worked, choosing instead to squander my...