When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Cookies

Colorful mess in the kitchen, lemon cookies “before” pic

Dear Reader,

Are you lucky enough to engage in hobbies that you love? Or, or are you like me and have to cram your love of audiobooks, language-learning, and wandering into your morning commute? Finding time to do the things we love can be difficult, but often worth it. 

Talented woman (who regrettably isn’t me, pictured) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, summer 2016

I have a number of abstract life goals. One of these goals is to become more of a “renaissance woman” (speaking several languages fluently, knowing about fine art and architecture, etc.). My plan is to do this in baby steps. Step one, is to explore new hobbies. One hobby that I am particularly interested in integrating into my life is baking.

Ramen, Tokyo, Japan, summer 2016

When I travel I like to try foods that I would not normally find at home. Some of these dishes I end up loving, while others I only “love” for the experience (never again will I try jellyfish, the slimy Russian meat pudding ‘kholodets,’ or papayas [lol, sorry!]).

Eggs with Soldiers, Oxford, England, summer 2019

Traveling and trying new foods has also made me interested in baking international dishes that I may not be able to find at home. While I won’t be attempting to make crème brûlée anytime soon, I have started my baking journey with cookies. Specifically, at the beginning of each month I try my hand at baking and deliver my treats to a staff meeting at one of my part-time jobs. I embarked on this goal a few months ago and have already made oatmeal raisin and almond cookies. Today, I will end the summer with lemon cookies for the early September meeting.

I am not a baker, Dear Reader, but I am literate, which gives me a fair shot at following the easy-to-read lemon cookie recipe. After a busy day at work, I quickly went to the grocery store and collected all of the ingredients including a few extra lemons (just in case!). However, at home as soon as I began to pull everything out of my shopping bag I realized I forgot to buy a zester (a cheesegrater like instrument used to scrape the outside of citrus fruits), which was integral to the recipe. I was very upset, the staff meeting was the next morning. It was already later in the evening, raining hard outside, and I just didn’t feel like making a return trip to the store. 

Rainy day in Boston, Whole Foods, summer 2019

At this point, Dear Reader, I had to ask myself. What is the point? Baking is supposed to be a hobby, it’s not supposed to bring me stress. If your hobby starts to bring you stress, is it worth continuing? …. Maybe?? I talked with my ever-practical boyfriend who didn’t really see one more trip to the grocery store as a big deal (in fact he offered to sponsor my Uber in exchange for picking him up a few items), and maybe he’s right. 

The course of anything never did run smooth! 

Very imperfect, but very good tasting lemon cookies!

To give up at the first sign of trouble will make you less capable of dealing with obstacles (if only emotionally). If we think something is worth it, we shouldn’t make excuses to ourselves and allow external factors (the weather, …our willpower to leave the house, etc.) to stop us. It’s so, sooo easy to quit, Dear Reader. Life gave me lemons and I was about to say, lemons suit me just fine! But, if you want lemon cookies, don’t settle for lemons.

Love,

Raven

Home Sweet Boston

Charles River, Boston, MA, winter 2018

Dear Reader,

After my travels to Iceland and Scotland, I have finally returned home to Boston! It can sometimes be hard to return back to everyday life after an adventure abroad. The thought of going to work, paying bills, and running errands can make one long for just a few more days as a traveler.

This is not a good feeling, Dear Reader. Longing to be somewhere other than where we are will not make us happy. I’m trying to get better at enjoying the moment rather than counting down to my next trip, so I am doing my best to see Boston with a “traveler’s mindset.” I am encouraging myself to become more aware and more interested in my surroundings in order to spark some excitement into the commonplace. In this way, I hope to make my home life more of an adventure.

In the meantime, Dear Reader, I am absolutely exhausted and I have developed a bit of a cold. If you follow my blog you may remember my “Well Wishes” post. In this entry, I describe how I use vitamin C and zinc tablets to stave off the common cold. Well, Dear Reader, this method worked and kept me well throughout my Icelandic adventure and most of my Scottish adventure. It wasn’t until my last day in Scotland when my exhaustion began to catch up with me that I began to develop stronger cold symptoms. 

Charles River, Boston, MA, summer 2018

Now, it is time to take a break from being a traveler and to be happy back home. Wherever you are, Dear Reader, I hope it is a nice place, because coming home should never be something that brings us sadness.

Love,

Raven

Until Next Time, Scotland!

Dear Reader,

My lovely Scottish adventure has come to an end. In this post, I just wanted to share some of my peculiar observations about Scotland that you may not find in your Google searches of the country.

Irn Bru soda, Edinburgh, Scotland, summer 2019

Irn Bru

You see this orangey, liquid concoction above? It’s not orange soda, but an Irn Bru (pronounced “iron brew”). What is an Irn Bru? Great Question! It surely does not taste like oranges. I would almost describe it as a banana-y or caramel-y soda. My boyfriend said that the taste reminded him of cold medicine that he used to take as a child. This is not something that I would normally drink. In fact, I’m sure that my eyes skimmed right over it several times before me Scottish friends pointed out the beverage to me. I asked them what’s Scottish, they said try the Irn Bru.

Vegan Burgers

Scotland is big on meat (have you tried the haggis?), however, there are many vegan-friendly options available. And, Dear Reader, not only are these options “available,” but are also reaaally good. I am not a vegan myself, however, I ordered the vegan cheeseburger more than once. In the United States, veggie/ vegan burgers are often listed on the menu without any sort of description of what is in the patty. Typically, one can expect to find either a quinoa or black bean-based burger, but also the “impossible” burger. To me, the impossible burger is the most burger-like as the texture is consistent like that of a beef patty and the taste does not lean heavily in one direction (e.g. it doesn’t taste strongly of black beans or quinoa). The meat-like, smoky taste of the impossible burger makes this burger a hands-down meatless favorite. All of the vegan burgers I encountered in Scotland were like the impossible burger and ALL were amazing. Even if you do eat meat, try the impossible burger (or any Scottish vegan burger), it just may surprise you!

Rainy day in Glasgow, Scotland, summer 2019

Weather

I was only in Scotland at the end of August, but I think it’s worth sharing my impressions of the weather during my time here. Make sure to pack your “Wellies,” Dear Reader, as it rains a lot in Scotland and wandering around with wet feet is no fun. While I was in Scotland the temperature jumped from 83 degrees, clear and sunny, to 55 degrees, cloudy and rainy. Make sure to check the weather before coming because you may end up needing to pack both sandals and shorts, as well as, rain boots and a jacket.

There is so much in Scotland to experience, Dear Reader. Vacationing can only offer us the smallest of glimpses into what it is really like to live in a place. I would love to get to know Scotland more, so as I sit in a taxi en route to the Glasgow airport, I just remind myself that this isn’t goodbye, but until next time.

Love,

Raven

Highland Holiday

Oban, Scotland, summer 2019

Have you ever heard of a wee Scottish town called Oban? Coming from the Scottish Gaelic word meaning “bay,” this little town sits on the western coast of the Scottish Highlands. On our little Scottish adventure, my boyfriend and I spent seven short hours at this touristy destination. In this post, I would like to give a little recap of our time there, which can serve as a mini “what to do in Oban” for the interested traveler.

Oban Chocolate Company (small building next to the blue construction curtain), summer 2019

Eateries

It rained a bit during our little visit to Oban, which meant that we were ducking into restaurants and cafes for the first part of the day. One cafe I would recommend is the Oban Chocolate Company. If you are lucky enough to get a seat, you will be delighted to see the assortment of sweet treats on the menu including Belgian waffles, cakes, and, of course, chocolates, as well as a variety of coffees and teas. The Oban Chocolate Company also sits right along the bay, which means you can enjoy the picturesque oceanic views while you relax in one of the love seats.

Dogstone, Dunollie Woodland Trail, Oban, Scotland, summer 2019

Dunollie

Dunollie Woodland Trail, Museum, and Grounds is a complex located just a few paces north of the Oban metropolitan area. Wanderers can walk down the woodland trail past the farming land and right up to the Museum and Grounds entrance. The trail is free and worth seeing if you’re in the area. However, the Museum and Grounds require visitors to pay a fee. I did not pay to enter, but was still able to see some of the ruins from the trail.

Oban Distillery, summer 2019

Oban Distillery Tour

When I first stepped foot in the Glasgow airport, I was immediately confronted with whisky ads. The Scots like their Scotch! Built in 1794, the Oban distillery is one of the oldest (built before the city itself!) in Scotland. Though rather small, this little distillery boasts a variety of both smoky and sweeter malts. Even if you’re not a fan of whisky this tour also educates visitors of the whisky-making process: malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation, and aging (did I get that right?). At the end of the tour, visitors can try a few of the batches and are given a Oban shot glass as a souvenir. With your glass in hand, make sure to cheers the Scottish Gaelic way — Slange Var!

McCaig’s Tower, Oban, Scotland, summer 2019

McCaig’s Tower

If you decide to look up Oban for yourself, you will likely find beautiful, scenic views of the bay from high above the city. You don’t have to be a professional with a drone to capture these views, you just need to hike up to McCaig’s Tower. Though architecturally reminiscent of Roman aqueducts, McCaig’s tower is a rather new structure, built at the turn of the 20th century as a monument to the family of the same name. Within the tower you will find a garden with small trees, grass, and a few benches.

There is so much to do in Oban that we simply didn’t have time for on our short trip, including wildlife boat tours and ferry rides to the surrounding islands. Is Oban worth the trip. Yes! If you found the above to be interesting and fancy a day trip to a small port town. However, if you are looking for something not as touristy, you may want to reconsider. I was so lucky to be able to experience Oban. This town is vastly different from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Seeing all three places makes me feel as if I’m putting together the puzzle pieces that make up Scotland. 

If you plan to see Scotland, Dear Reader, see as much of it as you can!

Love,

Raven

Edinburgh Excursion

Edinburgh, Scotland, summer 2019

Dear Reader,

When my boyfriend and I chose Scotland as the destination for our vacation neither of us really knew anything about the place. We resorted to a flurry of last-minute Google searches that were all along the lines of “where should we visit in Scotland?,” “best city to visit in Scotland?,” “which is better Glasgow or Edinburgh?” etc. We were so anxious to book a trip; our schedules are pretty hectic so planning a vacation (and booking everything) was a challenge. When we were both in a room together long enough to make our travel plans, we jumped to book our getaway in Glasgow, because, at the time, it seemed that the internet was leaning in favor of  this Scottish destination. 

I try not to have any regrets. If I make a not-so-great decision, I can usually find something positive to reassure myself with. I say this, Dear Reader, because I must admit that I think I enjoyed seeing Edinburgh much more than our Glasgow homebase. My boyfriend and I did a day trip to Edinburgh and -by god! Dear Reader- it is truly a storybook city. You can see ruins and castles and hills and ocean! Like a pop-up book, this city has a collection of unique captivating features that are both a surprise and wonder to discover. Edinburgh is eclectic in the way it intertwines the old with the new. Bridges and thoroughfares are conduits for tourists to travel from storied structures to modern marvels. 

Debating Chamber, Scottish Parliament, summer 2019

In Edinburgh, my boyfriend and I visited the Scottish parliament for a free tour (make sure to book in advance!). The post-modern structure was designed by the Spanish architect Enric Miralles. The building itself is reminiscent of an art museum and is unlike any government building that one would see in the U.S.. The building, like Edinburgh, is a mix of old and new. Indigenous stone is splotched and layered with painted metal. Windows are irregularly shaped and obscured by dark wooden facades. Construction finished in 2004, a few years after the lead architect died. Some architectural choices remain a mystery, but many can agree that this building represents the heart of Scottish democracy.

Saint Anthony’s Chapel Ruins, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland, summer 2019

Another thing we did on our mini adventure was visit Holyrood park. This “park” is but a monolith! With imposing hills and high-above cliffs, it is like a wall protecting and framing the old city. If you are in need of a new Christmas (or other holiday) card, go here! You can get stunning views of the city from on top of the peaks. You can also see the ocean and ancient ruins here. If you’re more natury, this is definitely a good location for a long hike. 

When traveling to Edinburgh, my best advice to you, Dear Reader, is to allow yourself enough time to explore! It was a shame that my boyfriend and I found ourselves rushing through the picturesque, old streets because we were afraid that we would miss our 3pm tour of the parliament building. Give yourself enough time to stop for a coffee, look at the shops, and wander without aim. Why not take the time to really enjoy it!

Love, 

Raven

Girl on a Train

ScotRail train, Glasgow, Scotland, summer 2019

Dear Reader,

Trains are your friends, well, at least they are in Europe. While on my laptop in Glasgow I started feeling FOMO (fear of missing out) creep in as I scrolled through all of the “best things to do” in and around the city. I thought to myself, how silly was I to spend my whole Scottish adventure in one city when there are so many places in this region to explore?! Well, Dear Reader, it turns out that I didn’t have to fret for long because TRAINS 🙂 

While in Glasgow my boyfriend and I took advantage of the UK’s extensive train system to travel to two other Scottish locations – Edinburgh and Oban. Edinburgh, the Scottish capital is located 45min to 1 hour east of Glasgow by train. There are two main rail stations in Glasgow – Central Station and Queen St. station. Depending on from which station you depart you could be on the fast 45-min train or the hour-long journey to Edinburgh. The train is very easy to use. One can simply purchase tickets from a laptop and pick them up at a vending machine at the train station. There’s never really a need to purchase train tickets far in advance, in fact, you can simply select a departure time and you will be issued either an “on” or “off” peak ticket depending on whether you choose to travel during the rush hours. If your plans shift and you find yourself on an “on” peak train with your “off” peak ticket you can simply pay the difference once you are on board. If you do not need to check-in any baggage or make any adjustments to your journey before arriving at the station you need only arrive 15 to 20 mins in advance of your scheduled departure. 

I must say that my trip to Edinburgh was absolutely wonderful, so instead of describing it here, I promise to dedicate a post to this wondrous destination soon. 

Oban, Scotland, summer 2019

Our other excursion was to Oban. Oban is a resort town located in Scotland’s West Highlands. About three hours away from Glasgow by train, Oban is nestled on a bay of the same name. Oban is very touristy and is known for its Gaelic culture, ruins, castles, and aquatic wildlife. The train ride from Glasgow to Oban was absolutely incredible. 

Scottish countryside, view from the train, summer 2019

“Ye Highlands and ye Lawlands, Oh where have you been? They have slain the Earl o’Moray and layd him on the green”. — The Bonnie Earl o’Moray

These lyrics that I have reproduced above are from a traditional Scotlish 17th century ballad. I’ve known these words for years, but they popped into my head when I looked out of the train window from Glasgow to Oban. Glasgow lies in the Scottish Lowlands and Oban in the Highlands. Crossing the Low-High divide offers the unsuspecting traveler magnificent views of the sparkling waters, jutting hills, and green forests. At times, I could have guessed I was in sunny, Southern Europe and other times in the dense and woody Pacific Northwest. The views are stunning. Have you heard of Loch Lomond? There’s an old Scottish song about that one too. Please Google it, all of my iphone pics of this wonder are severely inadequate. I was on the wrong side of the train to properly capture the loch. 

Sometimes I am guilty of making my vacation my final destination. Sometimes, Dear Reader, to stay in one place for a few days is exactly what we desire and need during our time off. However, if you find yourself to be a little bit restless like me… just keep moving! Choo choo!

Love,

Raven

Faraway Friends

Scottish countryside, view from the train, summer 2019

Dear Reader,

I am now in Glasgow, Scotland on vacation. There is so much to do and see! This city is so full of culture, history, and life, I am totally unsure where to start. I also have two friends who live in the area. These two lovely ladies are friends from college whom I haven’t seen (or spoken to, or even texted) in almost 3 years. Who do you consider to be your friends, Dear Reader? I sometimes struggle to answer this question. Is there a statute of limitations to reclaiming a friendship after time and distance pass you? Is a good friend still as good friend after one year of little to no communication? How about two? Ten?? 

One evening while I was in Reykjavik a week before my arrival in Scotland, I hesitantly cast my first text on Facebook messenger to my old friends. I sent the text late at night right before I went to bed to give my friends both time to process the request to meet up and also plausible deniability should they not respond to my text. I then turned the wifi off of my phone and quickly went to sleep. The next morning I rolled over to see that I had a few unread Facebook messages. They had responded and were all too happy to meet up! What a sigh of relief that was! I had wrestled with the question of “to text or not to text” and I am glad that I had opted for “to text.” Dear Reader, do not doubt yourself before you try something. Doing so will only make you stew in the “what ifs.” No one needs hypothetical regrets in life.

St. George’s Square, Glasgow, Scotland, summer 2019

So I met up with my two friends in George’s Square in Glasgow and from there we walked to Stereo, which is a vegan bar/ restaurant. They have a lot of interesting offerings including vegan “cheese” and “jackfish and chips.” The conversation and company were also pretty great. So many things have changed: we have all moved away from our college town, relationship statuses have shifted, and we’re all working instead of studying. But, also, so many things have stayed the same. My one friend remarked that checking in with friends a few times a year or even every other year is sometimes all you need to stay close with someone. It’s not about the quantity of time, Dear Reader, but the quality. I have learned so much about my old friends in one evening. This time spent with them cannot be compared to the everyday superficial conversation with acquaintances.

Friends are friends wherever they go. I do not know when or where I will ever see these ladies again, but I am glad to know that they will still be friends when we meet again.

Love, 

Raven

Well Wishes

Glasgow, Scotland, summer 2019

Dear Reader,

I am immediately off to another adventure! Straight from Iceland I am now heading to Glasgow, Scotland. Although I quite enjoy a fast-paced life, sometimes it is good to slow down and give your body a break. I am not feeling too well today. I think the cold Icelandic air has gotten to me. My body was ill-prepared for the change in weather and my immune system was caught off guard. I have a cold and a sore throat. I have traveled enough by now to know that at this stage of my sickness that things at this point can either start to improve or get drastically worse. So in this post, I just wanted to share with you some ways that I use to combat sickness on the go.

“Boots” pharmacy in Glasgow, Scotland

Vitamin C + Zinc

The old saying goes “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It’s important to remember to eat healthily when one travels. Traveling exposes you to new environments and new germs that your body may not be well prepared to fight. Getting enough vitamin C and other antioxidants is especially important for fighting off a cold. If you ever find yourself traveling abroad you may find it harder to get your hands on any sort of common cold medication that you can easily encounter at your local CVS, Rite Aid, or Walgreens. Many European and Asian pharmacies do not sell common American preventative medicines over the counter. If you ever plan to travel for an extended period of time, I highly recommend that you stock up on any common medication that you rely on for aches and pains as you may have difficulty finding these same remedies abroad.

Left: purchased in Iceland (Vitamin C only); Right: Purchased in Scotland (Vitamin C + Zinc)

Anyway, I digress, if you find yourself starting to feel a little “sick-lish” I recommend taking one of these miracle tablets as pictured above (in the U.S. there is a very popular brand of these known as Emergen-C). These little tablets contain high concentrations of vitamins that you can dissolve in a glass of water. If you feel even the slightest of sore throats I advise that you rush over to your local pharmacy immediately, as these little tablets are NOT medicine but are vitamins that can help strengthen your immune system and help your body fight sickness BEFORE it starts. If you can find these little tablets that also contains Zinc, choose these ones! Zinc is actually proven to shorten the duration and intensity of common colds. Zinc is like a secret weapon, it’s a totally natural medication that you won’t have any problem buying at home or abroad.

Sleep

Skipping time zones, weathering new climates, and wandering all day can leave even experienced travelers exhausted. You may find yourself starting to nod off before dinner, even if you made plans to grab drinks at 9pm. To be jetlagged or to be rested – how to answer this question! If you want to enjoy your time abroad, staying on the same schedule as the locals is, of course, advisable. However, late nights and early mornings can certainly take a toll on your body. If you are fighting a cold while traveling, my best advice to you is sleep while you can!

When your body is fighting illness it is in a weakened state and needs much more care than on a normal day. More sleep, more nutrients, and more water are absolutely essential for the healing process. We are all human, Dear Reader, even when we are traveling. If you are feeling a bit sick, listen to your body and rest. The worst thing you can do is push your body too far, because if you do not make time for your health early, you could be spending the rest of your vacation in bed, or worse, at the doctor’s office.

Love,

Raven


A Farewell to Iceland

Street in Reykjavik decorated for the Pride festival, summer 2019

Dear Reader,

My journey in Iceland is coming to an end! I was here for just a short week, but still so much has happened on this little adventure. As I make my way to the Keflavik airport on the Flybus shuttle, I would like to take this 45min journey to share with you some of my random observations and thoughts about the country from over the past few days in case you wanted to know about some of the country’s peculiarities.

Alcohol

Okay, Dear Reader, I swear to you that I am not a lush, but the alcohol policy in Iceland is a little more Puritanical than I would have expected for a European country. All alcohol stores in the country are government run. These liquor stores, like other government agencies, operate on limited hours (opening as late as 11am and closing as early as 6pm) and at limited locations (less than 40 stores for a population of 350,000!). So, if you are wanting to have a quiet evening at home with a bottle of wine or have a few friends over for drinks, you may want to make these plans well in advance.

People

People, people everywhere! What to say about Icelanders? Many are friendly, hospitable, and open.  I met some other Americans in the city and they described an Innkeeper to me who assisted them with their check in. They described the man to be friendly and conversational. He was also happy to help carry luggage, give directions, and even offer to make coffee for the jetlagged foreigners.

Most Icelanders are multilingual. As a microstate with not much cultural capital, these people will not be able to converse with many outside of their homeland. In Icelandic schools the students are taught Danish first, both because of Iceland’s historical ties to Denmark but also because many Icelanders end up studying at foreign universities, namely in Denmark, but also in other Nordic countries including Norway and Sweden. In addition, most Icelanders speak some English (many are fluent!), which makes traveling around the country very accessible to travelers.

Water 

If you’ve ever taken a long flight on Icelandair, you may remember a friendly flight attendant handing you a bottle of Icelandic water upon your entrance onto the aircraft. Iceland is known for its crystal clear, thirst quenching water. Originating from glaciers and underground springs, Iceland has a surplus that it is proud to share with visitors. One peculiar thing about the water though is the smell. Not the bottled water that I have described, but the smell of the hot tap water. Something mysterious happens when you switch your tap from cold to hot. The refreshing, icy liquid that you have grown to love becomes a sulfurous, smelling mixture that makes one want to check for a gas leak. The reason for this curious odor is because the water has geothermal origins. The rotten egg smell comes from these springs and is totally natural. While totally safe for washing dishes and showering, this is likely one instance in which you may not want to drink the water.

Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik, summer 2019

There is so much more to be said about Iceland, Dear Reader, including tales about the history, culture, language, and lifestyle, but I do not want to bore you with my ramblings, so instead I just wanted to point out a few things that you may not discover in a superficial search of the country. Dear Reader, if you ever are lucky enough to visit Reykjavik, take advantage of all your time here (whether exploring, driving, or swimming) there is so much to behold if you are open enough to see and experience it.

Love,

Raven

Nudity Mandatory, Clothing Prohibited

Vesturbaejarlaug, Reykjavik, Iceland, summer 2019

Dear Reader,

I am in Iceland as I write this post. Although I am here for something semi-work-related, I was able to do a few touristy things in the evenings and mornings. A few days ago, I visited a public pool. As you know, public pools come in all shapes and sizes from rectangular holes in the ground to olympic size constructions with colorful, twisting waterslides.

The municipal pool that I visited in Reykjavik is not the sort of community pool that you would find in the U.S.. One thing that immediately struck me was the variety of swimming/ bathing holes available to enjoy. There were little pools with very warm water (over 90 degrees Fahrenheit), “normal-temperature” hot tubs that could fit over 20 people, kiddie pools with flotation devices, lap lanes, and cold pools at around 46-53 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to these bathing options guests could also enjoy the saunas.

To enter these pools, guests must first go through the locker rooms. In the women’s locker rooms there are signs stating that one must “shower naked” before entering the pool. At the back of the locker room there is an open shower space lined with shower heads with one large soap dispenser on one wall. By each shower head there is a little rack on the wall to place one’s swimwear. No privacy, no clothing, and, apparently, no problem for the Icelandic women. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and friends showered together in the open. Women of all shapes and sizes placed their swimwear on the little racks, collected the special soap from the dispenser and took their ritual shower before entering the pool. I, as an American, was a little taken aback by this protocol. Sure, in the U.S. I have seen naked women in locker rooms, but nothing like this. In the U.S. locker-room, nudity is optional. One can shower in her bathing suit in a communal shower if she pleases, but more often, there are shower stalls for privacy.

I must say that I felt a little uncomfortable in the Icelandic locker room. I have nothing against nudity, but to make it mandatory, seemed a little absurd to me. Growing up, I went to a school that outlawed skirts and shorts that rose above one’s fingertips when standing and tank tops that did not cover all the top of one’s shoulders. This “conservative” (I use quotes because I realize that this can seem liberal in other parts) style was ingrained into my developing, juvenile brain as normal. I do not consider myself to be a prude, but I am a ways away from voluntarily dis-robbing in the middle of a locker room and strutting naked with my swimsuit in hand.

I guess it all comes down to culture. I wish I could have experienced more cultures when I was a child. I believe that doing so would make me more comfortable with unfamiliar things, surroundings, and situations (nudity included), but I guess recognizing one’s attitudes and understanding them is a good start to becoming more comfortable with one’s self and environment.

I did push myself out of my comfort zone that day. I put my towel in my locker and walked to the showers in my birthday suit. I stood naked next to a woman who has probably been coming to this same pool since she was a girl and showered without shame. Dear Reader, what a world we live in where one person’s normal is another’s nightmare. For some reason, we are taught to be ashamed of our bare skin in the United States, to such an extent that mandatory nudity in the privacy of a women’s locker room seems like a ludicrous demand. Wherever you are Dear Reader, you come from a certain culture that deems some styles of life, dress, and behavior as appropriate and others as not. We need not only see things in the way that we were taught, because if we do, then we are destined to burden ourselves unnecessarily with fear, regret, and shame. 

When I returned from my luxurious swim in the heated water, I once again had to face the communal showers. Well, guess what, Dear Reader, facing your insecurities is not as hard the second, third, or fourth time around.

Love,

Raven

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