Category Archives: Life Stories

Its Official, Y’ALL

Those who follow this blog semi-closely will know that in 2017 I travelled to The Hague, Netherlands, for a summer program in International Public Law at the Hague Academy of International Law (short summary – it was a month of learning all about how the United Nations and international relations work with lawyers from all over the world; and I was sitting there like “Wellll…….I have a degree in Biology, with a minor in International Relations? That qualifies me to be here, right?”).

While my degree may not have been directly in line with those of the other attendees, my knowledge base from participating in Model United Nations, and later working with the United Nations, definitely was. It was one of the best months of my life. Almost immediately after I got home, I researched which LSAT study books which were best at preparing test takers, created a study plan, and devoted myself to a extremely boring 4-months of intense studying.

During my undergraduate at UBC, I definitely struggled. I was never the best in the class. I had trouble keeping up with a lot of the biology course materials. I even failed three classes. At graduation, my GPA was the equivalent of a 2.45 in the USA (according to LSAC, the law school admissions council. Though by UBC’s conversion rate, it was actually more like 2.7 – still not great, but not as bad.) By the end of my degree, I honestly felt like I wasn’t intelligent. And it really hurt my self-confidence.

Fast forward to December 22nd, 2017. Sitting in a starbucks parking lot, getting ready to go write my law school admissions essay, I paused to check my email. “Your December 2017 LSAT Score”. I held my breath. While I really wanted to know the score, the exam had been supremely difficult. Leaving it in December, I was sure I hadn’t gotten more than a 160, if even that.

Despite my fear, I opened the email.

“Your December 2017 LSAT score is 168.  The percentile rank is 96.”

Y’all, I’m not gonna lie, I 100% screamed in excitement at that score. For those that don’t know, that is a score high enough to get into some pretty amazing schools. And immediately I stopped feeling so dumb – I did better than 96% of all the other test takers; I am not stupid; UBC sciences were just really hard.

I think part of why I studied so hard was I was so worried that I wasn’t intelligent enough to get a good score – let alone a great one. And I knew that my GPA would be a pretty big hindrance in my application (which it definitely proved to be). But with that score, I had at least a remote chance of getting into a good school, maybe even with a scholarship.

Now fast forward to May 2018. Five applications for law schools were submitted; one immediately offered me both a position and a scholarship, but it was a backup and I hated the campus when I visited. The other four – “Waitlisted”. I may have a good resume and LSAT score, but that GPA is still a glaring caution sign for the schools that would otherwise be interested. [In a conundrum I will never understand, somehow I was waitlisted at American University (top 100), George Washington University (top 50), AND Georgetown University (top 14). How one of those didn’t reject me immediately (Georgetown) will always be lost on me.]

I ended up having a conversation with myself, and realized that going to law school just because I want to go to law school – without considering which school would be best for my career (and which would allow me to graduate with minimal debt) – would be foolish. I would wait, and if I got into a school that I believed would be best for my life goals, then I would attend. But if not – it is better to wait.

I did not end up getting into either of the two schools I had put on my ‘definitely attend’ list. But instead of sulking, I mustered up my courage and tried again – this time only applying to my top choice school, American University – Washington College of Law, which has an amazing new campus, provides scholarships, and is top 10 in both International Law and Intellectual Property (my backup plan).

I wish I could say I was admitted immediately. I wasn’t. I submitted my application in September 2018, and waited with bated breath to hear an answer. Six months later, “American University Washington College of Law Notification” appeared in my inbox. Needless to say, it was not a great feeling.

Waitlisting is almost worse than rejection – its an institution saying “well yeah, you are pretty interesting, but we’d rather have someone more interesting. So here, we want to keep you as a backup, just in case that more interesting individual doesn’t turn up.” It keeps you waiting, holding on to a sliver of hope that maybe – just maybe – you’ll get in. But it can always end with a rejection still. (Can you tell that I’ve thought about this a lot? Side note – I’ve also thought about how Michelle Obama got into Harvard off the waitlist; and how Barak Obama didn’t even begin law school until 27. Once you get into law school, you are in law school, waitlist or no. And everyone has their own time frame – you don’t have to go to law school at any specific age to be able to succeed.)

I started wondering – this is the second time I have tried. Will I ever get into law school? Should I even be a lawyer? Is this the universe’s way of saying I should refocus my efforts elsewhere? Law school is extremely expensive, should I just get a masters degree in another field? My LSAT score is valid until 2022, I can wait a few years and reapply maybe. Or maybe I move on.

Not. Even. Two. Weeks. Later. I get a phone call. Not only am I accepted off the waitlist, I have received a significant merit scholarship (yay less student debt!). The person on the other side of the phone says, “Will you accept the offer of admissions?” WELL YES, YES I WILL. Talk about a freaking emotional roller coaster.

And so the saga ends. I am officially attending American University, Washington College of Law in the fall of 2019. By 2021, I’ll finally be able to say I have similar credentials to all my friends from the Hague (though by then, I’m sure most of them will have Masters/PhDs/be super bad-asses in their field. I’ll catch up eventually, maybe, we’ll see!)

One final thought, and the reason I’m writing about this for all to hear (even though bits are embarrassing), sometimes life works out for the better. I am actually very happy that I didn’t get into law school during my first try – by not getting in, I have been able to settle into my apartment in DC; a close friend stayed with me for 4 months and I got to enjoy my time with her; I had time to help my dog settle into city life (though, to be honest, he still prefers North Carolina I think); and I’ve had time to make some truly amazing friendships. I firmly believe none of that would have happened if I had started law school last fall. Instead of getting sad/depressed/angry about failures, look on the bright side – every missed opportunity opens the door for other unexpected opportunities. And it all works out for the better in the end.

A Proper Diet Isn’t Always a Lot of Work

It’s easier than you would think to cook something healthy.

I know – this sounds like a shameless plug for someone who has just lost a lot of weight. And you are right, it kind of is. But one of the most common things I hear from people about my weight loss is ‘how did you do it?’ and while, yes, I did (and do) run disturbing amounts, the most important part of my weight loss was definitely my eating habits.

As I said in my last blog post, I did not change my eating habits for the purposes of a ‘diet’. I was studying for a very difficult test, and decided to eat the healthiest foods I could imagine in order to boost my brain activity.

Here is the thing; I am one of the laziest cooks you have probably ever met. If a recipe is going to take me more than 30 minutes, it is highly likely that I will just make something else. I also have absolutely no idea how to cook chicken – no matter what I do, it always comes out tasting like jerky. I did, however, learn how to make a mean steak.

The key: use an iron pan (not non-stick, you want the steak to stick a bit for the next part), put some olive oil in it, turn the stove on to medium heat, throw in your steak and cover the pan with either a splash guard (because the olive oil will sputter and splash and burn the shit out of your hands/arms) or a lid. Leave it in the pan for 4 minutes, flip the steak, and wait another 4 minutes. Now, I’m weird and love a more well-done steak, so I’ll leave it in for a bit longer, so its about 8minutes on each side in total. But more sane people will probably prefer a more rare version of this meal. If you want it to cook faster, cut the

Also – if it is a good enough steak, you wont need seasoning because it should taste good all on its own. But if you really want to, mix in some ‘Greek Seasoning’ while you put the steak into the pan.

After you’ve taken the steak out, throw a box of spinach into the pan (normally about 1lb) with the leftover stuck-on steak. Mix in some salt and pepper (throw in some garlic too if you are feeling feisty, maybe even a sliced up shallot), and a bit more olive oil to keep the bottom of the pan wet, then cover and heat on medium for 30seconds. Stir, and leave on for 30 more seconds.

And you are done. A meal in under 30 minutes, with no sweat (though maybe a burn or two if the olive oil got you like it always gets me).

Here is one caveat – like I said, I am lazy. I will not eat the entire steak in one night, because then I will have to cook again tomorrow. Instead, I’ll cut the steak into multiple meals (normally 3 or 4, depending on the size), and in less than 30 minutes I have done meal prep for every dinner that week!

Easy right?

Here is another trick I’ve learned, though this is mainly from laziness rather than my attempt to eat health. Do you have a giant pot? Do you have some teriyaki sauce, steak sauce, or even general salad dressing? Do you have 1lb of stew beef? Maybe a few veggies (maybe some potatoes, I really like carrots and broccoli)? If yes – pour out the sauce into the pan, put the beef in next, throw in the veggies cut into boil-able pieces (about 1/2inch slices for the potatoes and carrots), keep the broccoli on top (it’ll be steamed this way), cover the pot and leave it on medium for 15minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Once you can pierce the carrots and broccoli with a fork, its done. And again – a weeks’ worth of meal prep in hardly any time.

If you want, you can cook some rice too as a base for under the stew. I find Jasmine Rice tastes the best. But I’ve honestly still not mastered the art of cooking rice so I always skip this step…

Laziness pays off sometimes.

Size Doesn’t Matter – Your Attitude Does.

Over a year ago, without really realizing it, I started on a journey that would make me into something I never in my wildest dreams thought I could be.

It all started when I began studying for the LSAT. I knew I needed to cut out TV to focus better, but I needed something else to do with my free time. So instead, I replaced the hours I would spend watching TV with hours in the gym. I’ve always low key hated weights and the treadmill, which is why I started with something simple that I’ve used plenty of times before – the elliptical. I went from ‘running’ for 15min, to 30min, to 45 and eventually 1hr30min. It went from a way to kill time to an activity I had to do otherwise I would feel awful and be incredibly grumpy. Essentially, I became addicted to running – which is super ironic since my old motto in life was ‘there is nothing worth running for.’

What I never realized was that my new favorite past time was completely transforming my body. At the same time, I had completely changed my diet to better support higher brain activity. Where I used to eat take out at least once a week, I almost always ate steak and spinach. Where I once ate Fruitloops and other super unhealthy cereal, I now only ate Cheerios or Kashi. Instead of drinking a gallon of milk in less than a week, I cut out all dairy except for in coffee (because coffee without diary is just unfair.) And it was paying off; my test scores for the LSAT were extremely high. But it was also working with my new exercise habit in ways I didn’t imagine it would.

For most of my life, I’ve tried really hard to diet and exercise. I always tried to make myself into the ‘ideal woman’ in the magazines. My legs were always too big. My stomach always too fat. My arms too large. But I was extremely active. Most of my body was muscle, from what I could tell. I ate what I thought was healthy food. At times I barely ate at all. I tried everything under the sun to be the ideal woman, and I never could get there. Even swimming an hour every day never got me there. I had actually accepted the fact that I would never be society’s idea of ‘beautiful’ – I was me, and that was all I would ever be. I had never been smaller than size 10, and I accepted that I never would. I just wasn’t physiologically capable of it. To be honest, this mindset was actually very good. I was very comfortable with who I was, and was confident (finally) with what I looked like. But, as life goes, as soon as I was okay with something, everything changed.

I first noticed I was smaller than I had previously been when I went on a trip with my father in January. My pants didn’t exactly fit right, but I spent most of my time at home in yoga pants for the gym or a swimsuit for my job. So it really didn’t matter to me – why buy new clothes when I never wore normal clothes?

Then February came. I was going to spend the next month and a half in Europe with friends, and needed new clothes. So I went to target and grabbed what I thought was a size 10 – after all, I had never been smaller than size 10 so obviously that was as small as I could ever be. On accident I actually grabbed size 8, and when I put on the pants and they were too baggy, I was utterly shocked to find that I was wearing such a small size and it was actually too big for me! (I immediately messaged my university friends, absolutely elated and shocked and almost speechless, barely able to comprehend this new development in my life.)

I ended up buying $500 worth of new clothes in that euphoric high of fitting into such small clothes (which I promptly took back once the high wore off). Size 6. How could I fit into size 6. This was absolutely incredible!

What was so shocking, though, was while I was the smallest I had ever been in my life – smaller than I ever imagined I could be – I was not the lightest I’d ever been. At the time I was 175 lbs, 25 lbs heavier than when I was 16 years old and size 10. I didn’t understand, how could I be so small but still not be the lightest I’ve ever been?

That was in February. Eight months later, in October, I’m only 10 lbs lighter, weighing in at 165 lbs, but I’m wearing a size 2. Size 2. The size I thought no human could actually fit into fits me. A goal I never thought was possible was reached without me really realizing what was happening. Every health barrier I thought was impossible to pass had been not only passed but absolutely obliterated, without me even realizing. It is actually to the point where I don’t want to lose more weight – a feeling I’ve never had and never thought I would have. None of my clothes fit anymore, but not because I’m too big. For the first time in my life, they don’t fit because I’m significantly smaller than I once was. Even the clothes I bought in February barely fit. It’s so surreal, I’m not even sure these words really capture the pure mind-fuck this entire experience has been. I look in the mirror and literally do not recognize myself. Going through photos, I can’t believe what I looked like versus what I look like now. It’s absolutely mind blowing.

Yes, part of me thought that my new diet and exercise habit would lead to some weight loss. Some. Not a pure transformation of who I was. And honestly, I am not 100% sure I love it. But those are personal feelings that I have to work through myself, and eventually come to accept. Maybe one day I’ll write another blog about it.

An extremely important conclusion I have come to is – there is no such thing as a barrier. If you put your mind to something, even without realizing, you can break every wall you thought was blocking you, even some you didn’t realize were there. And also, I don’t care what your scale says. It doesn’t matter if you are 110 lbs or 170 lbs, all that matters is whether you are healthy (which, according to my doctor, I’ve never had such good blood tests in my life) and if you are happy. Size doesn’t matter – your attitude does.

MIA – But With No Shortage of Stories

For those who follow this blog, it’s probably been very apparent that I disappeared for a few months. Which is actually completely normal for me when I’m not ‘traveling’ much. (I say this in parentheses because I do travel a lot still, but to places which I do not deem worthy enough to write about. Like North Carolina. Or Washington, DC. Or even NYC. Because I’m spoiled.)

Since I do use this blog to keep up with the many amazing people I’ve met over the extensive traveling I’ve done, here is a short update:

In August of this year, I finally set down roots in a city – for the first time since I was 18 years old. I officially have an apartment which I will not have to move out of in 8 months – another first. And I have finally put an end to living out of a suitcase, which – trust me – gets old after the second year. I also have finally gotten to unpack all of my treasures from the 35+ countries I have visited, and get to display them for anyone who visits. Plus the semi-optional rants about all the stories attached to them, should any visitor be stupid enough to ask.

For anyone that has moved though, it is an extremely stressful experience, hence the disappearing act (finding a place, then packing, then moving, and unpacking again. It’s all very awful. I’m extremely content with the idea of never doing it again.)

First of all – dear god mattresses are disturbingly heavy. And of course I’m a fool enough to put a protective cover over mine, which I stubbornly refused to remove until after the move. And once it was removed, we realized my bed actually had handles to move it easily. Needless to say, my father was not happy with me. Stubbornness will be the death of us both.

Second of all – Murphy’s law always applies. And you will definitely meet a handful of your neighbors at the precise moment that you are sweating profusely and yelling at your father about how he has broken the adjustable mattress frame that was your first purchase of adult life and has now been broken before you even started making payments on it. (Only to discover it isn’t actually broken and you look like a brat to everyone 😅 It was a really stressful day, y’all.)

Third of all – when you’ve lived in 15+ apartments in 6 years, you accumulate a lot of things you didn’t realize. But somehow life works out that you have almost everything you need without ever having to buy anything. And really this is just a vindication for my extreme hoarding all throughout university. So I can finally say – “Yes, Dad! I DID need to fly back that baking pan and all my kitchen utensils from Canada, only to store them for over a year, because it WILL come in handy!” Now if only I had tried to hang on to my favorite cooking pots too….

And finally – its much more difficult than I realized to break the habit of living out of boxes. Two months in and my clothes are mostly still in suitcases/boxes while my closet and dresser are virtually empty because I forgot how normal people live… But I’ll get there again someday, right?

P.S. For those wondering, no I am not in law school. Yes I am still planning on going to law school. First I need some money to pay for said law school.

Pre-Birthday, Much Delayed Life Update

So I’ve been lazy and haven’t given many people an update – mainly because my life is so in flux and I’m just too lazy to keep explaining the changes. But here is an important one:

[Warning, long post, so for those who want a summary, scroll to the bottom for TLDR]

About three months ago now, I was accepted to the law program at the College of William and Mary – which was a really amazing thing, because W&M is a wonderful school in a beautiful town. And I was proud, so I told everyone about it (via instagram, because 2018.) But my heart was never truly in attending there. I had visited W&M before in high school, and it wasn’t my favorite, but I applied as a backup because it truly is an amazing school.

Fast forward a few months. Life threw me a curve ball – I was accepted to W&M, but I was waitlisted at literally every other school I applied. Georgetown. George Washington University. American University. UNC-CH. Everywhere but W&M. (Though, really, waitlist is better than rejected, so at least there was that.)

Admittedly, I had been very conceded about my application process, and I truly believe it was the universe’s way of bringing my big head back down to earth and humbling me (I definitely need it sometimes). So, since I hadn’t gotten in anywhere else, W&M was going to be my school, and I planned a trip to go visit Williamsburg and start staking out apartments.

But like I said – my heart wasn’t in it. My whole life I have been a big city girl. Part of the reason I left Raleigh was because it was ‘too small’ in my mind. After living 6 years in the 3rd largest metropolitan city in Canada, with nearly 2.5million people, the size of Williamsburg – a city purposely frozen in the 1700s, with barely 15,000 people living there – was a serious shock to my system. And I hated it. [And had a semi-mild mental breakdown that my father had absolutely no idea how to help me with.]

Yes, I did want to be a veterinarian for the majority of my life, but having cows and pigs and sheep grazing – in 18th century farmyards, no less – right next to the law school was definitely not on my list of things I would expect for my future home for three years. No matter how many times I told myself, “You have to like this; this is your only choice”, it just wasn’t happening. Maybe for a year I could deal with such a small city in such an isolated place. Maximum two years. Never for three years. For gods sake, they don’t even have a dance club! What type of college town doesn’t have a dance club??

The ultimate dealbreaker – the closest airports were 50minute and 45minute drives away. Even in Vancouver, the giant metropolitan city with a million things to do both in the city and around the city, I would regularly fly away for the weekend because I have such insane wanderlust and needed to explore the world. Yeah, I will probably never have time to explore during law school, but I need the option. Otherwise I feel extremely claustrophobic. There was no way I could go to William and Mary; it was just not possible.

(All this talk of logistics aside, the school also has a seriously small international law program compared to the other schools I applied to [except UNC-CH, which also has a small program for IL, which is why it was my 2nd backup] so realistically the university was not good for my career options either. You should never attend a law school in an area where you do not want to practice, because a big factor in getting good law jobs is the connections you have. So you want to attend a place where you will make connections in the field you want to work, or the region you want to work. W&M had neither. It wasn’t just my insane nitpickiness about what type of city I can live in.)

So the decision was made. I would not attend this school in the fall; my life plan was now up in the air, and depended completely on the schools where I was waitlisted. It broke me a little, honestly. I seriously considered whether law school is really for me. Most of the adults in my life are lawyers, and all of them tried to discourage me from pursuing law. Maybe they are right, maybe it isn’t for me. I greatly disliked the constitutional law class I had sat in on at W&M; maybe this was all a sign.

With all these doubts in my mind, I chose to visit the DC area again – partly to see the amazing Tanner, but also to go to the last waitlist-open-houses that Georgetown, AU, and GWU were holding. I’m so glad I did.

I was very fortunate to meet with another close friend who graduated from AU Law this summer, Cynthia. What both of us thought would be a short coffee and see-how-you-are-doing (plus a quick tour of the law school, which was very informing!) turned into multiple hours of talking through life and remembering (at least for me) why we are friends and why I am ever thankful for having Model UN in my life (because without it, I would never have met her, or Rebekah, or Verna, or Ayush, or Angela, or Joy, or… well the list is very long). After that, and after seeing how amazing AU treats its law students, I realized my doubts were wrong. I could be a lawyer, and I should be a lawyer, but I should make sure I am going to a school that I truly believe will be beneficial for my life – I can not and should not settle.

After visiting the three DC schools, I can honestly say American University was my favorite. It may not be ranked as high as the others, but you can easily tell how much everyone cares about one another. Their international law program is amazing, as is their intellectual property law. Their buildings are brand new, technologically advanced, and right next to the metro. And the best part – well, no, there isn’t really a best part because the school is just overall very amazing – but a really good part is that they very clearly put a focus on student wellbeing and health, which is something I always thought was seriously lacking at UBC.

Since that visit, I’ve examined my life. I’ve examined my priorities, my goals, my fears, and my expectations. Its all come down to this final decision – it is not worth 3 years of my life and $100,000 of debt to just get a JD; I need to get a JD in a place I care about that I know will care about me. I’ve gotten in to other schools on my list, but what they offer me is not what I believe I need. So as my life stands, I’m moving to DC in the fall and hopefully will be attending AU Law (waitlist pending); if not, I’m going to try to get a job in international relations in DC – we’ll see how life works out.

Ultimately, though, I want to stress this one thing to everyone: everyone has a limited amount of years on this earth. You never know when you will go – it could be tomorrow, it could be in 100 years – so don’t waste it doing something you dislike, being somewhere you dislike, just to reach a goal you may not live to see or may not live to enjoy. Life is precious and fleeting, so enjoy every second while you have it. As the overused yet completely accurate saying goes, “Live every day like it is your last.”

TLDR: I’m not attending William and Mary law in the fall; I may or may not go to law school in the fall; I am 90% sure I’m moving to DC anyway (90% because life always throws me curveballs, so really I never know what is going to happen.) But ultimately – don’t settle; life is too short to be somewhere or do something you don’t like. Live every day like you last, because it really could be.

A Global Citizen

A few months ago, I read an article deriding the use of the term ‘global citizen,’ suggesting that the moniker should no longer be used. And it has really stuck with me. According to the article, the use of this classification is misleading – everyone has citizenship in one country or another, there can be no such thing as a ‘global’ citizen.

I disagree – true, the phrase as a moniker has been used too widely; however, it does classify a specific population of people. A global citizen is a person who has experienced the world; who has lived in multiple countries; who has travelled extensively and has taken time in each place to learn the culture of each group of people. A global citizen is a person who no longer can classify themselves as simply their original nationality, nor can they accurately classify themselves as any of the nationalities in which they have lived. A global citizen is a person stuck in the middle ground – not totally A, but also not totally B. After 18 years of living in the United States, 6 years living in Canada, and assorted months in between living in Australia, Colombia, and Netherlands, I fully classify myself in this middle ground. I am not longer fully an ‘American’ – but neither am I a Canadian (or Australian, Colombian, nor Dutch.) In this strange middle ground, I encapsulate habits of all the countries I have lived and many of the countries I have visited. I still maintain a collection of behaviors from my American upbringing, while also often speaking like a Canadian; I continue to use Australian slang from the months I lived on the Sunshine Coast, while also maintaining habits I learned in the Netherlands. I am, therefore, ultimately placed in the middle ground of not truly being any one nationality – and there is only one title which I can claim: global citizen.

After my time in the Netherlands, I was speaking with a close friend of mine who has also lived in multiple countries and has travelled extensively. I explained to my friend how difficult I found it to describe my nationality – she agreed. She has the same trouble. While she is originally Singaporean, she is also a Canadian. Having grown up in Singapore, she is identifies as Singaporean – but she also was taught at an American school, and has spent the past 7 years in Canada. And she has the same trouble as me – she is not fully classified as any of the nationalities of which she claims. So what is she then? She is as I am – a global citizen. A person who has travelled extensively, lived in multiple countries, and observed the cultures of each place she has lived.

In a time such as the one we live, where people can easily traverse national borders, it is understandable that the idea of ‘global citizen’ can be applied too broadly. Any person who travels, who learns of different cultures in an academic setting, can call themselves a ‘global citizen’. And it is understandable why this over classification could cause problems. That being said, should said person travel, live, and absorb the cultures in which they explore, the moniker of ‘global citizen’ is not a false one – for some people, it is the only moniker to which we apply.

Life Update – Introducing Phantom, the Toy Australian Shepherd

Two years ago today, I lost my best friend and baby girl, Carma. Last year today, I was escaping my grief by preparing to leave on my Grand Adventure in Europe. This year today, I have finally gotten enough courage and faced enough of my pain that I decided I could finally have another puppy in my life again – meet Phantom (because his face reminded me of Phantom of the Opera and I’m a nerd), a toy Australian Shepherd.

Not going to lie, its been a bit hard having a new puppy because it reminds me how much I miss my Carma, but I know she would be happy as long as I am happy – and I know she would have loved to play with her little brother!

Little baby, Phantom (yes, he is that tiny!)

My Carma and I, Christmas 2011

Life Update

Hello everyone!

It has been awhile since my last post, so I thought I’d give a quick update on what I’ve been doing:

About 8 months ago, my maternal grandmother passed away. As my mother is the executor of the estate, her and my father have been dealing with consolidating all of the worldly belongings of my grandmother’s. Thankfully, most of her things had been sold/given away when she sold her home over 15 years ago, but she still had enough stuff to fill a 3-bedroom condo – all of which has now been moved to my parent’s house and a storage unit.

So what have I been doing? Well, basically I’ve been helping my parents deal with the estate, clean up our house, get rid of the random stuff that we haven’t used in over 15 years, and train their crazy 70 pound puppy named Zippy who likes to jump up on people like Tigger (she is currently laying on the chair next to me). And in the course of all this, I have finally gotten convinced to take the LSAT to prepare for my likely career as a lawyer (Dad also keeps dragging me to his Alma Mater’s law school reunion events. His thought: ‘Well, if she has to get a law degree, she has to get it from UNC-Chapel Hill’).

So thats a quick update on my life! And because I hate studying for tests, I’m going to be spending some extra time before I leave for Europe on July 5th writing some blog posts to update everyone about how my trip went! (Honestly, if anyone has anything to help me procrastinate, I would love it!)

Because Fear of the Unknown Affects Us All

To be honest, before every long trip (and even some short trips) that I’ve taken, I get a little nervous. My heart starts fluttering – have I made enough plans to make sure I have a smooth trip? Is it going to go as planned? Will I like it? Will it be worth it? I’m traveling to a completely unknown area, and I am all alone, is this a good idea? Should I just cancel? If my flight gets delayed or cancelled, is it a blessing in disguise? Should I just stay home?

These thoughts have consumed my mind before every trip I have taken; when I was 14, flying off to 8 days in Japan with my middle school, I was so nervous I thought I would do something terrible wrong and cause an international incident. No joke. My mother spent hours calming my down from a full-out, crying-so-hard-I-couldn’t-speak freak out. But, just like mom said, I did not actually cause an international incident (would that even have been possible? Probably not).

The thoughts happened when I flew to Greece and Italy a few years later, and when I went to Australia the year after – and the year after that. They happened when I flew out to UBC for the first time (although, let’s be honest, who doesn’t freak out a little when they move all the way across the country, into a totally different country, where you know absolutely no one?) Even when I was going to Europe in October, my heart was fluttering. As I was rushing to the airport, wondering if I’d be late to my flight, the thought crept into my mind – ‘well, if I miss the flight, I can just stay here. Thats a lot less scary than two months, alone, traveling all across Europe.’

As I laid in my bed last night, the thoughts crept back in – ‘What if the fake-gun-fiasco (as I have now named it; if you don’t know what I mean, read my last blog post) means I can’t fly? Then I’ll just stay home. I might kill my parents after, but 6 weeks here is a LOT less scary than 6 weeks in place I have never been…’ But despite my heart beating rapidly and my mind nervously wondering what the next 6 weeks have in store for me (and despite the fake-gun-fiasco), I boarded my flight into the unknown, defeating the anxiety bubbling in the pit of my stomach, and started my next Grand Adventure!

Fear of the unknown affects even the most seasoned travelers, but giving into that fear means you miss some of the most exciting adventures the world can offer!

Because No Plane Ride is Ever Uneventful

If you follow my travels, you will know that any flights I take are far from uneventful. To be exact, I cannot name you the last time something outrageous didn’t happen on one of my flights. I can, however, tell you the most outrageous (albeit, in some lights, possibly deserved?) thing that has ever happened to me on any trip. Ever.

For a little background – over the past four years I have been a student of Krav Maga (Israeli Military Martial Arts), practicing at the UBC REC center normally twice a week. Over that time, I have achieved a yellow belt, first stripe status (and would have already tested for my second stripe, but I’m always out of town when testing occurs…) Needless to say, after four years I’d consider myself very devoted to practicing Krav Maga, which caused me to get two things: a practice knife and a practice gun, both of which I use to prepare for my belt tests. And since I’m moving back to America, I brought them back in my luggage, with all my other earthly possessions still in Vancouver, so I can practice at home as well. But I was smart – I put them at the very top of a checked bag filled otherwise with clothes, at a place easily accessible by TSA, and totally expected my bag to be searched by TSA. No doubt.

Also – both the gun and the knife are 100% plastic, 100% solid (meaning they cannot be modified into a real weapon), and the gun is a comically bright banana yellow. Both are very clearly fake, no question. (The knife

See, clearly not a real gun.

And to be clear, I knew it might be a red flag for TSA, but I honestly did not think it would be that big of a deal. Turns out – I was wrong.

It was such a big deal that US Customs agents pulled me into the back room, called the RCMP, had both Customs and the RCMP question me, filed a full out report, and searched through all my bags – TWICE. Lesson learned, don’t fly with fake guns. Because despite being clearly legal on the TSA’s website: “They are okay, but please pack them in your checked bag”, you will get pulled over. And it will cause a problem. But unlike real guns, there is no procedure to declare you have a fake gun, and there is no guarantee TSA won’t just confiscate it (thankfully they returned mine.) So there is literally no way to bring one without causing trouble at the current administration’s TSA checkpoints.

For those curious, here is the full story:

Check my bags, no problem. Get through security check, no problem. I’m in a trusted traveller program (well, two of them: Nexus and Global Entry), so everything is a breeze. Get up to the Customs agent (you do US Customs in Vancouver if you are flying straight to the states, which I was), he passes me through – again, no problem. Walking to leave the area when a guard approached me, “Lena Raxter?”

Me: “Yes sir?”

Him: “You’ve been selected for a random screening, please come with me”

Me: (thinking) Shit, if this is some of the bullshit executive order, try-to-deny-an-American-entry-back-into-my-own-country, I’mma be super pissed.

Him: “If you just have a seat, an agent will be with you soon”

Me: (not thinking, mainly because this is super weird and has never happened to me in the hundreds of international flights I’ve flown) *takes out my phone to check the time*

Him: Ma’am, please, no phones. Please come with me, is there anything I should know about your bags?

Me: Yes sir, I have a fake training gun in one of my duffel bags that I use for martial arts.

Him: (With an expression that I thought was surprise on his face?) Oh, okay, thank you for letting me know. We’ll get your bags. Here, this border agent will help you.

Me: (sits with the border agent, still a bit pissed, wondering if I’ll make my flight)

Guard 2: (asks tons of questions about where I live, my criminal record, etc. etc., repeating at least three times ‘So you lived in Vancouver?’ and I’m like ‘umm…. I just said that?’ Still wondering if this is another of the Trump-era witch hunts.)

Original guard, whispering to Guard 2: “We have her bags and have removed her from the flight” Wait now, WHAT????

Now, I’ll admit firsthand, I did get a bit defensive. Why? Because number one: you removed me from the flight???? Maybe I heard him wrong, maybe he just removed my bags, but I have pretty good hearing y’all.

And two: when the border guard started talking to me about my fake training gun I use for completely legitimate purposes (my yellow belt was also in the bag the gun was in), he made a point of questioning my judgement.

Guard 2: “What level are you?”

Me: “Yellow belt, first stripe.”

Guard 2: “And what does that mean?”

Me: (Explains in deep detail)

Guard 2: “So that means you should have good judgement?”

Me: “Well, um, yes, I would think so?”

Guard 2: *rant about how I couldn’t have good judgement because blah blah blah (summary – bringing this fake gun is bad judgement)* Rant included: “Would you bring a fake grenade on a plane?” Well, no sir, I wouldn’t, that is actually illegal.

OKAY, dude no. Lets remember: I put it at the top of the bag. I stated immediately to the first guard that I had it. The gun is banana yellow (on purpose, because I never wanted people to mistake it for a real one). I can, in vivid detail, explain what I use it for and my qualifications I have attained through the practice I have done using the training weapons. Just to stress this, I never concealed I had it, while at the same time making it extremely accessible. And also had checked into TSA’s requirements: “Please pack them in your checked bag.

(Now, maybe I should have told United at the gate that it was in my bag. But I honestly had completely forgotten – after all, I was carrying around four 50lbs bags plus a backpack and a giant jacket stuffed with other jackets. So it completely slipped my mind.)

But no sir, please don’t question my judgement for following the very regulations that our government has set. When I was doing something that was completely, 100% legal according to TSA’s website.

Side note – I also got really pissed when he said “And I’m here to protect my country and say who can go into it” – Again, sir, No. Because this is my country too. I’ll give you leeway, because you are guarding entry to my country and hey, maybe it was a real gun – but when I am upfront and clear, don’t act like I am trying to subvert the letter of the law for the nation I was born and raised in.

Following this, two RCMP agents (for those who don’t know, they are like Canada’s version of federal police. Kind of like the FBI, but they function as a police force for areas that lack a local police force.) And, like Canadians normally are, they were supppeerr nice.  I talked with the officers, explained – in very vivid detail again and with a fully calm tone, which is probably how I managed to make my flight – everything that I had explained to the Customs agent. The officer smiled, thanked me, told me I wasn’t in any trouble,  that they were also informed that the gun was fake and comically yellow by the screening agents. They understand, no big deal, everything is fine, they are just required to follow up on this. Then he asks for my address, I give it to him, he says no problem, have a great day.

30min later, FINALLY, after more annoying questions and what seemed like an endless amount of typing into his computer, the US Customs guard finally lets me leave. So I run to my flight, only to find out it had been delayed more and still hadn’t started boarding yet. (Yay! But also, really?)

Here is where I can be at fault – I did pack a fake gun into a checked bag and was taking it across international borders. Despite being super careful and upfront about it, I can understand how it was a problem. That being said, as my angry father is hearing the retelling of this story – “No dear! You do not need to apologize! All you did was pack a fake gun, which is completely legal!” (Dad is a lawyer, for those who don’t know.)  And to be honest, if they did this to someone who is carrying a US passport, neither my father nor I can bear to imagine what foreigners are being put through!

But either way: dude – what a freaking crazy experience. I did not, in a million years, realize a comically yellow, solid, plastic, fake gun would make that big of a fuss. As long as there is a story, right?

Also, lesson learned (again) – Canadians are nicer than Americans. Much nicer.