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I'm sometimes called out about how negative I can be. And I get it: my blog can be kind of a downer. But that doesn't mean I'm not happy. And it doesn't mean I don't have a totally amazing life full of good food, friends, and experiences. It's mostly just that I use writing as a way to make sense of things, and usually you don't have to make sense of happy things. Happy things are happy things. Negative things are more complicated. Negative things need to be worked through. Negative things need attention. And, for me, writing is the...

Other people do fancy things. Other people go to those kind of parties that cost $50 to get in. Other people get gussied up to go to a museum event, like the Last Speakeasy Chicago prohibition party, on a Thursday night. Other people. I don't. I am the kind of person who sees people doing fancy things, who sees people spend $50 on a party, who sees people getting gussied up for a museum event on a Thursday night and thinks, "other people do that." Other people. So, even though the CTA was plastered with ads for the Chicago History Museum's "Last Speakeasy...

It's been over a month since I left Athens. Stopped traveling. It's been over a month since I came back home to Chicago, since I started back at my new old job. And it's been over three years since I've been back in Chicago and working "permanently." The transition back into work has been easy. Too easy. I went back to a position I held for five years, so I already knew it inside and out. There was no grace period, no training period, no adjustment period, I was just thrown in. So much so that no one even bothered to re-teach...

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...

"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...