Friday, January 1, 2021

what was 2020?


Honestly, I don't really know how to write about 2020. 

Yeah, nope. I deleted the few paragraphs I wrote. Kinda hard to wrap up a year like 2020, when most of 2020's "claims to fame" didn't end when the calendar flipped. We've still got a world to protect, heal, and love. Pandemics, climate change, and social justice issues still exist and have existed for way longer than just this year. There was also a lot of lovely stuff that happened in 2020! I'm excited to keep carrying that on.

For this traditional wrap-up post, I gift you some random thoughts, book/song recommendations, and pictures of my plants from 2020. Mostly plant pictures, probably.

I had 65 houseplants last time I counted. 

Last time I counted was in August, so I'm sure we've at least hit 70 by now.

New year doesn't always = change. I didn't feel a massive shift at midnight last night, like I sometimes do. It's been a weird week and I don't feel ready for a new year – I've been feeling like I have to prepare emotionally, get my goals or resolutions all ready – but years don't work like that. They come whether you're resolved or not.

Transitions (concrete or abstract) have symbolic power – but they're arbitrary. Months and years are just numbered patterns and at its best, the turn of the year is an energizing, refreshing reminder to evaluate our own individual rhythms. 

What habits do you currently have? Are they working for you? 

I spent a lot of quarantine building routines that brought contentment and excitement as often as possible – like a good sleep schedule, regular movement and meditation, and healthy intuitive eating! I got diagnosed with ADHD, learned a lot about the way my brain works, and continued taking care of myself as anxiety, depression, and COVID-19 got familiar with each other.

2020 was being surrounded and loved by so many people, albeit mostly virtually! It was practicing contentment and finding more peace inside. I learned how to make latte art, and did a lot of yoga. I baked like 47 loaves of banana and pumpkin bread? I spent days and days outside; I attended Zoom classes in my backyard and started my first garden! Countless months in quarantine brought my closer to myself and my amazing roommates. 

And??? I came out to the world! I'm pan :) Read the whole Twitter thread here!  

What do I want to do in 2021?? Just keep moving forward! I have momentum after building up all those routines in 2020; I don't need a major change right now.  There's a lot of lovely stuff going on around me right now, and I just want to keep carrying on. 

2 0 2 0  I N  A  N U T S H E L L 

reading goal: 35 books // actually read: 37 books!  I met and beat my goal for the first time in a few years!

favorite book read: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Wow. This was gorgeous. Want to fall in love with a sapphic sci-fi time travel novel, written entirely in letter form? If I could make you read anything, it'd be this.   

Notable mentions include Cemetery Boys by Aidan Thomas (incredible diverse compelling queer ghost YA), Bestiary by Donika Kelly (greek myth nature poety), and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (timely chilling post-apocalyptic pandemic fiction).

poets I got excited about: Mary Oliver (always), Andrea Gibson (also always), Donika Kelly, J. Jennifer Espinoza, Ross Gay, Claudia Rankine

places travelled: Estes Park, CO; Chattanooga, TN

hours of music listened to on Spotify: 847. Somehow, this is the EXACT NUMBER OF HOURS as last year. My most-listened-to song was "Upset" by Lauren Sanderson.

a large handful of my favorites music artists from this year: Sammy Rae, Lauren Sanderson, Mt, Joy, Ashe, Charlotte Lawrence, Orla Gartland, Daisy the Great, Noah Kahan, Snail Mail, Mallrat, Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers, Frankie Cosmos, Claud, Kacey Musgraves, King Princess, Julianna Zachariou, Alexander 23, Caroline Polachek, Chappell Roan, Billie Marten, Jack Johnson, dodie, Us the Duo, Novo Amor, Vancouver Sleep Company, Winnetoka Bowling League, The Howl and the Hum, Bryce Biship, Oh Wonder, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, EXES, IDER, Kehlani, The Greeting Committee, The Moldy Peaches.

If you want a running list of indie–folk–rock music recommendations, follow my "artists" playlist on Spotify (@cdmeek)!

this year in writing: I wrote a lot of poetry! I took a nonfiction class

I got published in:
Translate Iowa Project (print, Volume IV)
Fools (print, vol. 9)
Patchwork (online, Issue I) 
The Foundationalist (forthcoming online and print, vol. V issue II)

Many thanks to the editors of these awesome journals!

I'm currently working with earthwords as a poetry editor. I also got to intern with Rescue Press over the summer, working with Marc Rahe's incredible poetry collection, Gravity Well. Read Sarah Elgatian's gorgeous review of it here (page 101)!

words for the year: nature. contentment. consistency. rest. grounding. 

L O O K I N G  T O W A R D S  2 0 2 1

reading goal: 35 books

mind: daily meditation and yoga practice

body: regular sleep cycle, daily movement (walk/run/etc), 
learn more about cooking with herbs

creative: read poetry. write poetry. write other stuff. actually blog.
write a little something every day? who knows what might happen 

Thanks for existing here with me this year,


Saturday, May 23, 2020

doing my best (what does that even mean)

Photo by Yucel Moran on Unsplash

My first three years at college were not all what I'd call my best work. 

I could point out so many places where I might have done better. I definitely could have studied more for that exam. I could have actually edited that essay instead of just proofreading it and clicking it off into the void. With a few more hours, that other essay might have been really amazing.

But, for the last three years, I have been doing my best. 

I've learned that doing your best doesn't mean every. single. thing. you do is your best work. It doesn't mean giving 100% to every task that's set before me.

I think it just means: are you spending quality time on things that matter to you, and are you content with the results?

None of us have an endless supply of energy and cares to give. With our limited resources (aka we get tired and burnt out and don't have the emotional stamina to keep up with all we've committed to), it's not practical to always expect the best from yourself, at least not in the way "your best" is thrown around and defined.

I'm learning that everyone's idea of "good" is at least slightly different. This means their idea of best will never match mine. Which means "your best" is ultimately up to you.

I get to choose what I care about. I get to choose what to put time and effort into, and what to simply get through and move on from. Maybe that essay was subpar, but maybe I didn't need it to be stellar. Maybe there were other things going on in my life that I was putting a ton of effort into.

I just want to keep reminding myself that I can still be doing my best even if everything I produce isn't my best work.

Friday, January 10, 2020

2019 was... (and happy 10-year blog birthday!)

If any of the thousands of pictures I took this year could sum up 2019, it'd be this one. 

I loved 2019. It was a year of incredible growth, adventures, and friendships. I spent a lot of time working on my daily life: I feel like I was finally able to implement a lot of healthy habits I've been aiming for, and start really living as myself. 

2019 was me being spontaneous. It was me getting stranded on the side of a highway in Scotland for an afternoon, hitchhiking across an island, visiting 39 different cities across 6 different countries. 

2019 was me getting comfortable with myself. It was beginning to understand who I am and being okay with it. It was learning from others, and spending a lot of time alone. 

2019 was me exploring. It was hiking an extinct volcano at noon, at sunrise, at sunset, and then at midnight. It was me walking out of my house, putting on "Home" by Dotan in my headphones, and choosing whether to turn left or right. 

2019 was up and down. It was a lot of emotions, but also learning how to handle them. It was me facing things I've been scared of for a long time. It was so, so much progress.

2019 was losing a close friend. Someone who spread so much love and brought sunshine into a room. We are so grateful for the time we had with him. I still don't understand how to comprehend this new reality, this world without him. 

2019 was me connecting with the earth. It was learning more about climate change and feeling sad and anxious about the future, but also empowered by the efforts around me. It was taking most meat out of my diet and paying more attention to the space I take up in the world. It was me appreciating my food and resources all the more because of it. 

2019 was me finding contentment. It was looking around and realizing that I'm doing so much better than I was two years ago, and being intensely grateful for that. It was me learning how to thrive - understanding what hurts or helps me, what makes me feel alive.

2 0 1 9  I N  A  N U T S H E L L 

reading goal: 45 books // actually read: 27 books!

favorite book read: "Riding the Earthboy 40" by James Welch. I didn't expect to pick a poetry book assigned for a class as my top book of 2019, but this one was simply gorgeous. It's influenced me long past the day I read it in one sitting, aloud to myself, on my porch, and I keep it as an example of absolutely stellar writing.

places travelled: [US] Grand Lake, CO; Chicago, IL

[UK] Scotland (Edinburgh, Iona, North Berwick, Balloch, Isle of Skye, Glasgow, Fort William, Loch Shiel, Glen Coe, Inverness, Linlithgow, the Pentlands); England (London, Manchester, York)

[EU] Ireland (Cork, Dublin, Howth), Portugal (Faro, Lagoa, Porto, Lisbon), Netherlands (Amsterdam)

hours of music listened to: 847 

A large handful of my favorites artists from this year: Maggie Rogers, Bear Attack!, Corey Kilgannon, Grouplove, The Head and the Heart, Phoebe Bridgers, Novo Amor, Seafret, Julien Baker, Taylor Swift, Vance Joy, Bright Eyes, Better Oblivion Community Center, Ben Platt, The National Parks, Beck, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Hippo Campus, Lucy Dacus, Said the Sky, Noah Kahan, Gabriel Kahane, Billie Marten, Jack Johnson, Fenne Lily, Wild Rivers, dodie, Daughter, Bug Hunter, Alex G, Aquilo, Dotan, gray, Charlie Burg, and King Princess.

If you want a running list of indie/folk music recommendations, follow my "artists" playlist on Spotify (@cdmeek)!

this year in writing: I've been working on some poetry and journaling a lot. I'm currently a poetry editor for earthwords at the University of Iowa.

words for the year: spontaneity. growth. challenge. love. new. freedom. 

L O O K I N G  T O W A R D S  2 0 2 0

reading goal: 35 books

writing: journal daily, keep writing/editing poetry, 
attempt a daily creative writing routine!

mind: meditation several times a week

movement: yoga/run/gym several times a week

1 0 - Y E A R  B L O G  A N N I V E R S A R Y

Finally, happy TENTH BIRTHDAY to this blog! January 1, 2020 marked an entire decade since smol Caroline sat down on her Gramma's old Mac computer to write her first blog post.  Thanks to my wonderful dad for encouraging me to start it and helping me set it all up. 

Since then, I've written off and on, posting anywhere from twice to 33 times a year. This year, I hope to actually get back into some sort of routine with blogging! So if you're curious about anything or want to read a post about something specific, give me some inspiration in the comments ;)

Thanks for being here, whether you've been reading this blog for the last ten minutes or the last ten years. I've loved this blogging community and I've learned so much from all of you over the years.

This blog post is getting pretty long, but we've been here for a whole decade! That's just under half of my life. What in the world happened during those ten, incredibly formative years of my life? Here are a few highlights...

D E C A D E  I N  A  N U T S H E L L

In no particular order...
  • I got through middle school, graduated high school, and completed two and a half years of college.
  • I started a blog.
  • I built a lot of blanket forts, and climbed a lot of trees.
  • I published 3 collections of poetry, 4 anthologies, was published in several poetry journals. 
  • I lived in the US, Costa Rica, and Scotland, and visited four other countries.
  • I jumped off a 20-foot cliff into the Colorado river.
  • I hitchhiked across a Scottish island with an awesome travel buddy.
  • I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, and started taking medication for it. That, as well as working on a healthy daily routine, has made a huge difference!
  • I practiced and learned about, with varying degrees of dedication, four different languages (Spanish, Nepali, Scottish Gaelic, & French)
  • I was hit by a car while in a crosswalk, on the way home from a final (this happened three weeks ago, and I'm okay, just bruised)
  • I played two sports competitively (volleyball in high school, and ultimate frisbee in college)
  • I read approximately 350 books? 400? This is a wild estimate.
  • I moved into a house in my college town with two of my best friends.
  • I finished two first drafts of fiction novels, one at 90k words (2012) and the other at 70k (2017)!
  • I generally could not be kept indoors, and skipped classes to stay in my hammock.
I did a lot of other things, but those are the ones you get to hear about today :)

To everyone who I've met, adventured with, said goodbye to, grown with, and loved: thank you for letting me in. I'm so thankful our paths crossed.


Monday, December 2, 2019

what i did, and what i didn't do (scotland 2019)

I've been back from Scotland for an entire week now, and I'm still trying to process the last five, incredible months – I'm sure I will be for a long time. If you read my last post, you'll know I'm a big fat liar. I most definitely did not turn this into a travel blog for the semester and write weekly posts to keep you updated. 

So I've been back from Scotland for an entire six months now.  The post I started writing (see above) wasn't really ever finished, haha. This blog hasn't seen a post in almost a year!  It was the kind of experience that makes you start fifty different descriptive sentences and delete them all. Which is what I've done. 

But mostly, it's been a year of living and experiencing things. Most of my writing has been offline, in a little leather journal that followed me everywhere. A long time after I first started to process my amazing time abroad, I finally wrote something for the Iowa Honors blog  (originally published here) ♥️

CM 1
Sunset on Calton Hill

what i did, and what i didn't do

They told me that when I was abroad, life back home would keep moving. That when I came home, I’d keep moving too.
Still, I was surprised at how quickly I got back into a routine after touching down in the Kansas City International airport. At how it only took a few days for the absence of the ocean to become normalised.  The Midwest eased back into my reality and Scotland returned to being a distant fantasy. But people said study abroad would fade as the weeks State-side increased; I wouldn’t believe them.  Four weeks removed from Edinburgh, and I still won’t.
fig 2
Seacliff Beach, near North Berwick
I got on a plane at the beginning of January 2019, ready for a semester of liberal arts courses in Edinburgh, Scotland. I left Iowa with a list of things I hoped to do. And I did a great many things while abroad (if the pictures in this post lead you to believe I actually lived on Arthur’s Seat, the giant hill between the city and the sea, you’re on the right track). But I think it’s important to begin by saying there were a lot of things I didn’t do in Scotland.
I didn’t write the novel I was hoping I’d write, though I had so much time to try. I didn’t do yoga every day, or make it to Wales to set foot in the land my blood comes from. I didn’t read all of Walter Scott’s novels, or the majority of Robert Burns’ poetry (I did, however, read one of his poems on the top of Arthur’s Seat just after midnight).
fig 3
Arthur’s Seat at Midnight
Of all the things I didn’t do in Scotland, some of them were harder to “not do”. Stress and fear—I began my semester filled with both of these, but as I kept going, they began to drain out of me. I spent the first few weeks on edge, feeling like I “wasn’t doing enough” until I remembered why I’d chosen to study abroad in the first place. I wanted to reflect! I wanted to watch myself exist in a new environment, one that was less demanding of my time, so that I could focus on the inside parts that really mattered.
For the first time in years, I had before me an extended amount of time that could be dedicated to quiet, inexplicable, adventurous things. My original goals were well-intentioned but for many of them, I soon realized, it wasn’t the right time at all. I was too busy living, too busy experiencing the very real world around me to even think about writing fiction, for example. I decided to remove the expectation of getting much writing done at all, and instead focus on living in the moment. Make art in the way I lived, and write about it later.
I suppose that’s what this is. The “writing about it” part.
fig 4
A trip to Kinsale, near Cork, Ireland
I once read a piece of fiction by Joe Brainard, titled “I Remember.”  In terms of formatting, it’s relatively simple. A collection of things he remembers. And while all of these things are personal and specific to Brainard’s life, often inside references to people or events you as a bystander cannot comprehend, you start to think about your own memories.  What it means to remember, how a single sentence can conjure up a whole vivid scene.
It’s like encrypting pieces of your life. Zipping up a couple hundred Word files so you know they’re all there when you want them later.
That’s how I think about Scotland.
fig 5
A stop along the highway in the Scottish Highlands
Study abroad is such a sprawling, all-encompassing event— you can’t just sit down and write about it as a whole. At least not in a way that would do it proper justice. I think most of us come across this issue around friends and family who ask that horrible question, “How was study abroad?” and expect us to summarize six months of intense personal growth and world travel. I’ve resorted to spewing superlatives until they nod, satisfied. One does not simply summarize study abroad.
fig 6
Isle of Skye with the Scottish flag!
For now, the most I can do is remember the pieces. Clips of conversations, images I’ve saved in my mind and on my iPhone’s desperately full camera roll.
Now, in the style of Joe Brainard, I want to give you some of these pieces.
I remember the color blue. I remember it in the sea and in the sky. I remember blue next to yellow gorse bushes dotting endless hills of the best shades of green I’d ever seen. I remember the strange light of the city, the brilliant grey stones of the buildings, old and so present in the moment.
fig 7
Isle of Skye
I remember walking. Walking for hours to reach the sea. Taking the long way back. Walking through the city, aimless, aware, listening to “Home” by Dotan and feeling the wind (so much wind). I remember telling ourselves the peak of that hill was only a few more steps away, then spending the next hour trying to reach the top of it. I remember walking each day until I found somewhere I’d never seen before.
fig 10
Best sunrise of my life (Arthur’s Seat)
I remember hiking Arthur’s Seat at every time of day, including four in the morning after having stayed up all night to catch the sunrise from the top of it. I remember the thirty-minute train ride to North Berwick, our favorite little seaside town. I remember exploring the ruins of countless castles and familiarizing myself with dozens of train stations in small Scottish towns.
fig 11
Arthur’s Seat during the day!
I remember how in the beginning, I felt alone and wondered if I’d forgotten how to make friends. I remember how anxiety fell off in layers like bark, and how wonderful it was to be a stranger among so many friendly people. I remember the last week. Days of leaving, of giving hugs we knew would have to last for an undeterminable amount of time. I remember how happy I had become there.
I remember these things with an ache— sometimes a happy ache, sometimes just an ache. Sometimes I dream I’m back on the streets of Edinburgh. I try to piece together what home means, now that my soul is scattered over two different continents. But most importantly, I remember.
fig 12
Sunrise over Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
meek hshot

Loch Ness, Inverness
Caroline Meek

This post was originally published on the Iowa Honors blog.

Friday, January 11, 2019

where I've been, where I'm going (2018-2019)

So... I'm currently about to fly over the Atlantic Ocean.

9:26pm CST
January 9, 2019. 

I haven't spoken about this on my blog yet, but I'll be studying abroad this semester in Scotland! This is the second semester of my second year of university, and I've been accepted to a study at the University of Edinburgh.

But what's been happening leading up to this? Where have I been all semester? This past fall was wild. I'm still processing it – a few days ago, I wrote 4,000 words in my journal trying to wrap my head around the last five months – but it was amazing.

I took some amazing classes. Publishing, philosophy, entrepreneurship, international literature, and a writing education course where I taught creative writing workshops for middle school students.  I can't explain how much I loved these classes, and how well they fit together. This fall was also the time I was in the middle of publishing Project Canvas, and guess which of these classes apply to that project? Basically all of them. It was exactly what I want my college experience with courses to be and more: interesting, relevant to my passions, applicable to my daily life, and taught by some incredible instructors.

I published a book. Along with with one of my best friends, Olivia, and a global community of other young writers. Project Canvas was in the works for two years, and we published it on November 15th, 2018!  And it's not over. We're continuing to connect writers around the world through the book and the blog (where you can submit a practical or inspirational article). Getting to know the 90+ Project Canvas contributors and editors and promoters and the rest of the team has experience that's shaped the last two years, and the direction of my future, most likely.  I learned so much about communicating with people, how to create real, high-quality work, and how to stay (mostly) sane while managing all the behind-the-scenes that goes into publishing a book. I understand more of what draws me to the publishing industry, and what parts bore or even frustrate me (@formatting, you're terrible but also kind of addicting?). In the end, Project Canvas has had a huge impact on my life and it continues to be an incredible blessing.

I worked multiple jobs. Like four, if you count "Publisher/Head Editor of Project Canvas" as a job, which you probably should.  I also worked on editing/formatting/publishing an ESL curriculum as a freelance job (that was just published this morning, actually! We love doing things right down to the wire). I continued to work as an usher at the local auditorium, which resulted in me getting paid to watch the Broadway show Les Miserables three and a half times in one week. 10/10 would recommend working at a theatre.

One of the best parts of fall 2018, however, was the Iowa Writers' Workshop. I starting working here at the beginning of the semester as an office assistant. It's surreal to work at a place I dreamt of for years (the Workshop is a renowned MFA program for poetry and fiction, and one of the reasons I ended up in Iowa in the first place), and I really enjoy being around all the people there (shoutout to Deb and Jan–if you're reading this, don't let the plants die while I'm gone! ;))

All in was a lovely semester. It may have been the busiest semester of my life, but I wasn't as overwhelmed as I normally would have been with the level of stress I was under. Gotta mention my amazing friends. This semester, they watched sunsets with me, had many deep and hilarious conversations, played hours and hours of games, and were the best friends I could ask for.  So now, 2019 is starting, and though I'm leaving the fall semester behind, I know I'm going to remember it as one of the best in my life.

2 0 1 8  I N  A  N U T S H E L L 

reading goal: 30 books // Actually read: 30 books!

favorite book read: rude of myself to make me choose just one. I choose to rebel. Some of my favorite books were Rainbow Rowell's Carry On and Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows duology!

places travelled: the middle of Missouri (Spring break trip!), Wisconsin (Ultimate Frisbee tournament) Chicago (Hozier concert that I didn't go to), New Mexico (family vacation)

number of identity/life/existential crises: probably over 2345678, but that's okay.

amount of deep self-discovery and change: a lot!  I'm becoming a more chill person, going with the flow, and figuring out how to live my life in a way that's best for me and those around me. The biggest revelation that shouldn't have been a revelation: I'm still an introvert and I need a lot more alone time than I'd guess.

words for the year: peace. turmoil. love. fear. joy. doubt. trust.

this year in writing: in 2017, I finished a novel. This year, I've mostly just been writing poetry and exploring the creative non-fiction genre. Lots of sporadic journaling.

overall rating: 12/10.  This year was so good to me. It was up and down, often heartbreakingly confusing and painful, but it was a beautiful year of a lot of loving and growing and learning.

2 0 1 9  G O A L S 

book challenge: 45 books this year
daily reading: read a page a day
mind: meditate for 15 minutes a day
body: do yoga daily when possible. weekly runs.
heart: trust God with your life, trust yourself with your emotions, 
reconnect with the Bible, LOVE YOURSELF, LOVE OTHERS
food: less meat, more environmentally friendly food.
also have fun with cooking for yourself! be healthy, child.
vague: write more letters. less electronic, more paper. 
keep listening to amazing music.

Now that you're all caught up with my life....

I'm going to Scotland!
It feels surreal. I think I'm officially flying over Canada right now, according to the high-tech video display on the seat-back in front of me. It also tells me I'm 39000 feet in the air, that it's -42.7 °F outside, and that I have 2840 miles left. Five hours till London.

While I've travelled internationally before, this is my first time traveling solo, ever! The day is going remarkably well. After boarding, I discovered that the plane is 85% full of a group of students going to a study abroad university in London!  And 5 out of the six students in my immediate vicinity are theatre students. Wow. It's like being in college. Except in the air. Air college. Anyway, it definitely eased my nerves because 100 students crammed into rows of seats? Very familiar. They don't feel like strangers in the same way that fellow plane-goers do. The girl behind me keeps laughing abruptly at a movie I can't hear, the girl next to me has a cute unicorn sticker on her phone, and some of them are even from the state of Iowa. Blessed.

I don't quite know what's gonna happen when I land in London, and eventually reach Edinburgh later tomorrow. (Like, I know where I'm going.) But...will my brain explode? Will it seem normal?  Will I be incredibly jet-lagged? These are the things no one knows. But I shall soon know, and I'll be here shortly with more (Scotland-related) pictures and accounts from what I'm guessing is going to be another wild, wildly-amazing semester.

In case it wasn't mildly apparent, this blog shall be somewhat transformed into an account of my travels for the duration of this semester. If you read this blog regularly, you should already know that I'm consistently inconsistent, and you never know what you're gonna get. So this shouldn't phase you at all. But I'll still be writing about writing (I hope to start a longer project while abroad), and probably talking some about books. I started Stephen King's On Writing on the last flight, which I've been wanting to read for foreeeever, so you might hear about that. And if this post is long, it's cause I haven't been writing much lately and I guess there was a lot to process! Woo! Write what you need to write, kids!

If you want to keep up with my music tastes during this semester, go follow my Spotify playlist!  This is how I organize my music. I just spend a few months, or even years, throwing songs into a single playlist, until I get tired of scrolling to the bottom to find my recent adds. They're usually songs that I have on repeat for a few days, then look back over fondly for the rest of the year.

Thanks for being around for my wild times!

How was your year? What are you looking forward to in 2019? Have you been to the United Kingdom? What would you recommend doing/seeing? And a question that might benefit me: what do you do when you want to write, but don't have ideas?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Summer 2018: Between the Lines

This summer I had the chance to do a research fellowship at the University of Iowa, where I'm currently (like, today) moving back for my second year of college.  I worked with the International Writing Program and Between the Lines, their intensive summer writing camp.  For the first part of the summer, I did some research on the impact of social media on global communities (help me collect more data here!), and prepared for the camp. Then, I spent the month of July in Iowa City for the actual camp.

It. was. the. best. experience. ever. 

Oh my goodness.  I can't put it into words so I have no idea why I'm attempting to write a blog post, but I loved it with every electron in all my atoms.

For two weeks, I hung out with 36 high school students from the United States, Russia, and Arabic-speaking countries.  I was the photographer for the camp, but I also spent a lot of time hanging out with the students, acting as a tour guide for all the best ice cream and book stores in town, and just soaking in the inspiration that naturally comes with a group of writers from around the world.  

By the end of the two weeks, I had:

  • ~1500 pictures
  • 36 glimpses into what it is to be human, to be a writer, to be yourself
  • 50+ new pages of poetry and writing in my journal
  • 1 new family
and so much more.  These amazing people helped me understand pieces of myself, and probably more importantly, be more okay with those things.  They reminded me why I love writing and why I will probably be writing for the rest of my life.  I learned about creative nonfiction in some awesome workshops, and realized that I really enjoy it.

I think one of the most huge things about this camp was that everyone felt so understood, so accepted. It was two weeks of the most true versions of ourselves that we had ever experienced.  I'm so grateful to have been a part of it.  

I wrote some poetry on the night everyone left, as most of the students were flying back over the ocean to their home countries.  This is the best way to give you a glimpse into my summer. This piece was inspired by Anya's amazing nonfiction workshop and a piece by Joe Brainard, "I Remember", and it's for all the people I met this summer.


I remember walking. Walking over rivers and through downtown. Walking over borders and between lines and into things we didn’t know or understand about ourselves. I remember saying goodbye and realizing that I understand a lot more of it, now.
I remember circles. Beginning circles where we stood at a distance and took careful steps to you in the center. Circles close to endings where we realized that you can find family from across an ocean. I remember crying, laughing, and laughing while crying. I remember how you asked me to take your picture and now I have one thousand memories of you in a folder on my computer’s desktop.
I remember overwhelming the waitress with pie shake orders way too close to closing time. I remember absolutely wrecking the seating arrangements in Burge so we could squeeze ourselves into two overcrowded tables. I remember the Haunted Bookshop and how many times we went back. Because you wanted to see the cat. Because you couldn’t get these books back home. Because you needed 31 more books. Because we all love places like those, where an old home became some other sort of home.
I remember how brave you are. I remember how you had so much to say, even if you didn’t always say it out loud. We heard you. I remember hearing your stories. I remember how powerful they were. How much you was packed in there, and how we all recognized each other.  
I remember screaming into The Void at 10pm and losing our voices for the rest of the week. I remember finding a giant teddy bear back at my apartment. I remember the most enthusiastic karaoke night I’ve ever experienced. I remember when we became the entire world, and when we were afraid it might not always be that way. It will, though, because together, we’re everywhere.
We went back in time. I remember dancing. I remember how proud I was of you for walking up to that podium to accept your certificates.

“I had hoped you’d see my face and be reminded that for me, it isn’t over.” -Adele, Someone Like You

I remember how time didn’t exist that night. I remember blankets and scattered chairs in the lobby the next morning, because you promised you wouldn’t fall asleep but you did anyway.

I remember how suddenly there weren’t enough people standing in our circle.

I remember telling you I won’t forget. I remember how your eyes reflected mine, pools, too shiny for goodbye. I remember how your car door closed, over and over again, but I was left open.
I remember how you left home to come to my city, and how when you returned, you left another home behind you.  I remember realizing we have the same soul. I remember how easy it was to be myself around you. I remember how you taught me what it means to be myself and when you cared about me, I cared about me more, too.
I remember smiling, after. I remember breaking and feeling whole and what it is to be loved, and I remember you.

– Caroline Meek

PS - I also want to give a big thank you to the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, for funding the Between the Lines program, and to the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates, for granting me this fellowship. You can find the International Writing Program at