Monday, November 5, 2018

Change is good! Adventure is good!

From my run Saturday morning.
Today, I'm writing this blog post from the couch of my hotel room in Orlando, Florida. Yesterday, we started rehearsals for Sea World's Winter Wonderland on Ice. So begins, then, my first contract as a professional figure skater (!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

After attending the ProSkaters Open Auditions in Sun Valley, Idaho, this past July, I ended up getting cast as a member of the ensemble for the holiday shows at Sea World. I've known I had the offer since about mid-August, and I officially signed my contract in September.

And guys, I am freaking out. This has been my dream for years. Getting skating to the point where it can be a career has always been what I wanted, but as recently as a few months ago, that dream seemed unattainable and far-fetched. So now to be here, a paid member of a holiday show cast, sharing the ice as an equal with skaters I admire? INCREDIBLE.

Things are going pretty good so far. The entire month of October, I worked really hard to fight down my anxiety over the contract. I'm actually pretty confident about the skating side of things, because I feel like I'm pretty good at picking up choreography from my years with Theater on Ice and American Ice Theater. But quick changes? Being away from home for 2 months? Having a roommate? That part was all new and definitely scary. 

I flew in on Thursday and got to the hotel at around 7:30pm. I unpacked, met my roommate, and watched some Friends. Friday morning we started early, at 9am, for orientation, a few meetings, and costume fittings. At the end of the day, we had open ice so that we could practice, and the choreographer could get a sense of what tricks we had and how we looked as an ensemble. 

Rehearsals officially started Saturday, but most of our calls aren't until mid-afternoon. So, I went for a long walk/run in the morning to get a sense of my surroundings and explore a bit. Where we are is the resort area, so other than the theme parks, there actually isn't a ton of stuff around. I was able to locate some restaurants (yay Panera!), a smoothie place, a coffee shop, and a grocery store that's within walking distance. I'm definitely missing not having a car...a few members of the cast have vehicles, and they've been great about picking the rest of us up and helping us get around, but it is a little annoying to not be completely independent. Finding some spots that I can walk to will definitely make me feel better!

Rehearsals were so much fun on Saturday!! It was so fun to learn the choreography, It's all wonderfully cheesy and Christmas-y and I already love it. Afterwards, a big group of us sat in our hotel room, finished off a bottle of wine, and talked and laughed and got to know each other.

This morning (Sunday), I got up and went on another exploratory run with another skater, Erin. After a run and long rehearsal yesterday, and then a run this morning, my muscles are already sore! I definitely need to up the ice baths and yoga and rolling out my muscles haha. After our run, we sat and ate breakfast and chatted more. I LOVE being alone, and love having my own space, but I'm so glad I got to really connect with her this morning. Yesterday I spent the entire day alone until rehearsals, because my roommate wasn't around, and I have to admit I got a little lonely. 

As someone who isn't used to having very much free time, all of a sudden having the entire morning off is kind of unsettling. I was really looking forward to having that space before getting here, but now, having so much time and being in a new place feels a little lonely. But I also realize it's a great opportunity, so I'm really excited to have some time to work on some projects for myself, like getting back to writing, reading more, and doing more running and yoga. Plus, since we're contractors for Sea World, we get into all of the parks for free. I'm definitely looking forward to spending some mornings, especially weekday mornings before the holidays when the parks are pretty quiet, getting on some rides!

My roommate's dog, Maggie.
Other than that, it's really just been getting my feet under me in terms of food and establishing a little routine. Getting a handle on how to eat healthy (there are costumes to fit in!) and cheaply, with just a stovetop, is gonna be a little bit hard to learn. Since all of our work is later in the day, the timing of my day is also changing, because I've been going to sleep later and getting up later. I've been trying to get in the habit of doing some journaling and working out in the morning, and then either exploring or writing afterwards. I also still need to figure out extra time to skate for myself, which is proving a little harder to schedule than I'd hoped. 

One fun thing though! My roommate brought her dog with her, so I've been getting to know Maggie, her cute little German shepherd/corgi mix! I am decidedly not a dog person, and actually am usually scared of dogs I don't know. But Maggie is super sweet, and literally shaped like a potato. I really like her already! I love having a pet in the room, I'm actually alone with her right now and it already feels so much less lonely!

So there we have it! That's pretty much what's been going on. Overall, it's a lot to get used to, and a lot of feelings, but I'm so grateful to be here. I'm happy that after all these years auditioning and training and sending out videos and getting rejected, I stuck it out to make it here. This is a great opportunity I've found myself in, and I'm determined to take full advantage of it. It felt like a big leap to leave home and quit my job at the school, and I want to do my best to keep going and never go back to something that's just a dead-end job. 

I'm determined to do my best here, and while everything still feels so scary and unsettling, I'm excited to see where this all could lead. Adventure is good! Change is good! And this contract is definitely full of both of those. 

Happy Monday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Thoughts From July 2018

There's a lot of rejuvenating power in a well-placed lazy weekend. Since as far back as September of last year, every weekend has held lots of skating, long work days, traveling, competitions, and everything in between. This month, though, held a few empty weekends, so there was finally time for Saturday adventures, lazy Sunday mornings, and laughs over drinks. An absolutely wonderful reminder that little moments are often as fulfilling as big moments, and empty space doesn't always  mean wasted time.

Something isn't inherently bad just because it's scary. This past month, I felt pushed out of my comfort zone in a lot of positive ways. My immediate, gut reaction in those situations was to push back, and step away from whatever that scary thing was. But, that's a pretty boring way to go through life. A lot of good stuff lives outside of our comfort zones, and I want to work on stopping my immediate associations of 'uncomfortable' with 'bad'.

Let yourself be excited about positive possibilities, instead of worried about negative possibilities. This is sort of related to my previous point, but this month I found myself worrying about the possible negatives of a future situation, rather than getting excited about all the great future possibilities of that same situation. The future is coming whether or not I spend time worrying about it now, so while it's good to be thoughtful, this month was a great reminder to not let that turn into over-thinking. Plus if positivity leads to a healthier, more productive present, then chances are that will encourage a healthy, productive future, too.

Some people splurge on their nails or massages. I splurge on breakfast. I think I've officially found my favorite, over-indulgent way to treat myself: go out to breakfast (preferably somewhere with an outdoor patio) by myself, and journal and read over numerous cups of coffee. It's my happy place.

There are limitless possibilities. Keep moving. Sometimes, I get stuck thinking that because I've done something a certain way for a while, that's the way it will always be. But the truth is that there are so many possibilities and paths before us, and we don't have to always do the same things. I'm excited for the change of routine this summer has brought me, and even more excited to keep that energy going throughout the year.

A month can hold a lot of stuff. Don't waste the time you're given. Looking back at my 1 Second Everyday video from July, it blew my mind that on July 1, I was still in Chicago for TOI Nationals. Since coming back, I've had friends stay with me for a few days, I've stayed at friend's places for a few days at a time, we filmed our AIT Boston company piece, I re-worked my audition program, I traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho, for skating auditions, plus there's been work and kayaking and the beginnings of new relationships. It's crazy how much a month can hold if you try to take advantage of it.

In case you missed it: On Ice Perspectives filmed our AIT Boston piece, "Turn to Stone"! Here's the teaser. Also, my 1 Second Every Day video for July 2018. 

Reading Update: July was a great month for everything except reading. I'm still in a rut and stuck in the middle of Final Harvest, a poetry collection by Emily Dickinson, as well as in the middle of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and Best Food Writing 2012 compiled by Holly Hughes. To try to break the rut, I started 300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson on my trip, but I think it just buried me deeper. *sigh*

Happy Wednesday! Be the grittiest. 
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Thoughts from June 2018

Remember when I wrote the month-end post for May and was astounded that it was already mid-June?? Well, here I am again to write the month-end post for June! And can you believe it's already July 14?! 2018 is half way over and I'm in a state of shock.

June always feels like a big month to me. My team travels to TOI Nationals, the work I do at the school wraps up, and everyone starts shifting to a summer schedule. Plus, the year is officially half over, so it's the perfect time to sit down and re-evaluate goals. During the month, June is usually too busy for a lot of reflection. But to sum up the this second quarter of 2018, I wanted to share some thoughts that June brought up.

Whatever your thing is, seek community first and foremost. Between creating, working, and learning alongside other artists at the American Contemporary Skating Festival, to awesome group texts and before-work breakfasts with my colleagues at the school, to the camaraderie between all teams at TOI Nationals, June impressed me with the importance of not just doing big things, but embracing the people that value them, too. Life truly is so much better with friends.

Life is 1000 times better when you get outside. I love being outdoors, but June really showed me how much my happiness improves when I bring the little, everyday moments outside, too. In June I ran the Charles River in Boston after work, ate as many lunches outside as possible, took some great walks, and grabbed drinks on restaurant patios. Fresh air is my favorite happiness booster.

PC: KR Photogs
Be grateful for these moments. These moments are your life. A little cheesy, perhaps, but a huge lesson that came out for me at TOI Nationals this year. I competed on a Junior level team this year, and spent a good chunk of time focusing on getting on Senior for this upcoming season. But at Nationals, I really tried to to take a step back and just appreciate where I was. Not over-analyze where I was last year, not put so much into next year that I didn't appreciate the great team I was sharing the ice with. Each moment is so important. I want to be better at not rushing through them for the next thing.

Most good things start at you being who you are. Whether it's choreographing a new piece, dating, or applying to a new job, most good things don't have room to start if you're not being yourself. Don't kill something super early on because you're shadowing it with the person you think you should be. Once we do the work to get comfortable with who we are, we have room to do the work we're meant to do.

Going somewhere new is always worth the money. Enough said. End of story. I don't care how broke you are, if you want to go somewhere, go.

In case you missed it: Re-capping our Memorial Day weekend in Boston, our 2018 CE from TOI Nationals, and our 2018 FS from TOI Nationals.

Reading Update: In the month of June, I finished Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which I found really engaging to read but not necessarily my favorite book ever. It did make me really want to go to Italy, though. I also finished Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency #3) by Alexander McCall Smith, which was as enveloping and tranquil as ever, but also a little slow-moving this time around. I listen to these on audio, so I might just literally have to bump up the reading speed.

I'm currently in the middle of Final Harvest by Emily Dickinson (a poetry collection), A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (which I'm really, really, wanting to like but am having trouble getting into), and a collection of the Best Food Writing of 2012, compiled by Holly Hughes

Happy Thursday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, June 14, 2018

May 2018

WENT: To the cutest little breakfast place in Gloucester, and a great weekend in Boston for Memorial Day.

READ: I finished four books in May! I listened I Shall Be Near To You by Erin McCabe on audio, which while not being one of my all-time favorite books, was probably a top fiction pick for me so far this year. I also listened to A Spool of Blue Thread and Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant, both by Anne Tyler. Neither, I'm sad to say, were as incredible as my first experience with Anne Tyler (An Amateur Marriage). I also finally finished Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, which took me a long time to get through but was so, so worth it. As always, more reviews in my Instagram Story Highlights!

WATCHED: I really didn't watch a lot of stuff this month, which I guess is a good thing? Friends, Deadliest Catch with my mom, and Masterpiece Mystery's Endeavor are probably my top favorites right now. 

WROTE: A lot of journal pages, and Upwork proposals. On the blog: Summer Afternoon in Boston & The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Hiking Mt. Moosilauke & A (Much Needed) Re-Set.

MADE: A showcase program! And iced tea. 

STARTED: Coming up with plans for next year. 

CROSSED-OFF: I finally got busy submitting proposals to freelance writing jobs through Upwork. 

TRIED: My Novice FS test, sticking to a budget, and a couple new bars.

FAILED: My Novice FS test, to stick to a budget, to pack my bags and lunch the night before.

PERFORMED: A heck of a lot. With American Ice Theater of Boston in Canton, Haverhill, Wesley and Westborough. Competed at Spotlight on the Cape with Act 1 of Boston. Tried my Novice FS test.  

THOUGHT: About the fact that every single weekend, from this past March until the end of June, is packed with plans.

What filled your May?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Boston For Memorial Day Weekend

Way back in March, my friend Kat and I started getting really anxious to see another one of our friends, Caitlin, again. The three of us had all been on Act 1 together for two years, but this season, I'm the only one still on the team. Kat lives outside of Boston, and we see each other quite a bit, but Caitlin lives a few hours away from me in Maine. We haven't all been together since 2017 TOI Nationals (almost a full year ago!). It was definitely time to plan something.

A few group texts later, and we finally decided to get together for Memorial Day weekend! Caitlin and I drove down to Kat's family's house on Friday night, stayed over, spent all of Saturday in Boston, and came home Sunday afternoon.

Friday night, we stayed in and spent some time catching up. We also made a drink run and ended up buying all of the pink drinks (PSA: the Cape Cod Cranberry Spiked Seltzer is amazing!) and ended up playing cards against humanity.

Saturday morning, we had a slow easy breakfast at home, then ventured into Boston. We made up a group of five: me, Kat, both of her sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth, and Caitlin. Our first stop was the Charles River Canoe and Kayak in Kendall Square. We rented their large canoe, and spent about an hour paddling around on the Charles. It was a really fun (and cheap!) way to start the day. We got to hear some of the Boston Calling Music Festival from the water, we joked that next year we should just rent the boats for a few hours and get to hear it that way!

Once we had completely sweated through our shirts, we returned the canoes and drove towards the Boylston Street and Copley area. We were all getting hungry at this point, so we ended up at Met Back Bay for a late lunch. Their patio seating was full, so we ate inside, and it was lovely! The food was amazing, and everything was cozy and conversational. I ordered their breakfast burrito, and I'm not sure I've ever had anything so perfect.

Once we were done eating, we went shopping! We went to Francesca's, where we spent most of our time. I ended up getting a really cute floral wrap dress. It's a little short, but I think it'll still be great for work and church, and I have a wedding in June I might wear it to. After Francesca's, we wandered into some more boutique type places before ending up at the Prudential Center. We pretty much just window shopped there, but it was still fun!

At that point, our group split up, and Kat, Caitlin, and I went out as the over 21's. We started at Back Bay Social Club, which was pretty good, and then eventually made our way down the street to a new-to-us place, Lir. We stayed there for the rest of the night, and it was a great chance to get a little goofy, catch up, and discover Iced Coffee cocktails (which are fantastic, by the way).

It was so fun to be out in the city the Saturday of Memorial Day. It was almost 90 out, and everyone was outside, hanging around watching soccer games and grabbing brunch. Between memorial day, the music festival, a ton of graduations, and the multiple weddings we passed, it felt like everyone was outside celebrating. Definitely a great day to kick off summer!

Sunday morning, we slept in and took our time pulling ourselves back together, before parting ways and driving home! It was so fun to be back with the ladies that share some of my favorite memories. We definitely can't wait a whole year before doing this again...we're already debating a Burlington VT/Montreal roadtrip this summer!

Hope everyone's Memorial Day was spent with good food, good people, and sunshine!

Happy Wednesday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Summer Afternoon in Boston & The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

A few weekends ago, I found myself with an afternoon to kill in Boston. I had rehearsal with AIT Boston until noon in the city, and then had practice with TOI Boston that night at 7. Commuting all the way home just to turn around and come back was out of the question, plus it was going to be a beautiful Boston Saturday afternoon, so I started brainstorming ways to use the time.

While on our hike, Kelsie came up with the great idea to check out a museum, and recommended I check out the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Now, for someone who's lived not even 2 hours from the city her entire life, I haven't actually done a lot of typical Boston things. Growing up, we'd always take trips to historic sites...but we usually ended up somewhere like Virginia, or Pennsylvania. We skipped a lot of the things that were closer to home.

Which means that now that I'm spending so much more time in the city, and am so much more comfortable navigating it, I want to take advantage and soak up all the amazing things Boston has to offer. I texted Caroline, one of my teammates, and we met up to check out the museum.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opened on January 1, 1903, on land that had been bought by Isabella herself for the purpose of creating the museum in 1898. Isabella, whose appreciation for art was spurred on by extensive travel and the intellectual scene in Boston, wanted to create a place for art to not only be hung but be appreciated, and made. Her personal collection, which the museum is drawn from, started with collecting rare manuscripts, particularly works from Dante, and kept growing, to include masterpieces like Vermeer's "The Concert" and Rembrandt's "Self-Portrait, Age 23".

In 1901, when the building was finished, Isabella moved into private living quarters on the fourth floor of the museum and began work personally arranging the museum. She remained intensely involved in her work, not only arranging the rooms but organizing performances, concerts, lectures, and inviting artists to take up residency there. When she died in 1924, she dedicated the museum to the "education and enjoyment of the public forever", only asking that nothing be moved, or re-arranged.

But in 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum early in the morning, and stole 13 works of art. The pieces that were taken, among them Vemeer's "The Concert, are worth over $500 million. It is the largest unsolved theft in history, and even today, 28 years later, authorities remain just as stumped as to their whereabouts. To remember the stolen works, and keep hope alive for their eventual return to the museum, empty frames remain hung in the places the paintings occupied.

I absolutely loved the museum. The original building (called "The Palace") has four floors, but is open in the middle, with a glass ceiling letting in natural light. A garden takes up the entire middle, which you can look down into from any of the four floors, and has elaborate tile walkways, arches, and fountains. The actual rooms are arranged to look less like a gallery, and more like an actual house, with scenes set up to showcase incredible rugs, or furniture, or tea services. One of my favorite rooms had a bunch of door-like wood panels hung to the wall, each covered in framed sketches and etchings, that you could move and work your way through.

Once we'd seen everything, the large stone archways offered a great place to sit and enjoy the garden. Caroline and I sat for a while and talked, since it had been a while since we'd really caught up. It's such a peaceful place; even though it was crowded, a calm hush blanketed everyone. I can see it being a beautiful place to sit and journal, or sketch (which the museum encourages!). We only spent a few hours there, and I definitely feel like it's the kind of place where you have to go a couple of times to really see everything.

We were going to check out the museum cafe, which looked really good, but they were closed by the time we were ready to eat. The museum is in Fenway, so we walked a little ways and came across a really cute restaurant named Tapestry. Not gonna lie, the main reason we chose it was because of the outdoor patio. This particular Saturday was one of the first super sunny, super warm afternoons of the year, so they had opened the patio early for drinks and pizza even though the rest of the kitchen wasn't open until later. We ordered the Mediterranean pizza (awesome cheese! But kind of soggy...), and waited until they opened for bar snacks and got the Greek nachos (which were awesome!). So we ate a whole pizza as our pre-bar-snack snack, haha. Tapestry is in a pretty quiet, residential area of Fenway, and it was so nice to sit outside, under the sun, and enjoy the breeze and each other's company. It was a wonderful way to kick of a season full of many more afternoon adventures with friends.

I'm in the city a couple of times a week, but it's always for work, or practice, or both. But, I enjoy spending my weekends in the rink (and even the commute) so much more when I take advantage of all the amazing things the city has to offer. Here's to searching for fun, instead of just driving right home.

Happy Thursday!! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Hiking Mt. Moosilauke & A (Much Needed) Re-Set

Last Friday, the school that I work at was out for April Break. The call to get outside and get moving again has been ringing in my ears for a while now, and my friend Kelsie, who's also a para, felt the same way. So, we planned to meet up Friday morning and drive to Mt. Moosilauke in Benton, NH, for the first hike of 2018.

While I'd always gone hiking as a little kid, as I got older, work and school and skating always seemed to get in a way, and I found myself going a few ears without anything that qualified as a 'real' hike. Then last summer, I climbed Mt. Major with my mom, and was immediately hooked.

I couldn't believe how much fun hiking was. I had always known I enjoyed it, but the rush of peace, possibility, and achievement I felt with every single step blew my mind. After Mt. Major, I went on to do Mt. Tecumseh and Mt. Canon last summer, as well as multiple quick trips to smaller, local mountains. I decided that I would work my way through the 4000 Footers; NH's 48 mountains that reach an elevation of 4000+ feet.

My incredible friend Kelsie looking like she stepped out of a hiking magazine.
It felt so good to get back out to the mountains. Benton is pretty far north in NH, so Moosilauke still had snow cover the entire way up. We had no problem with ice (we both came prepared with spikes for our boots), but we did sink in a lot. We'd be walking along, laughing and not paying too much attention, and all of a sudden one foot would sink all the way through the snow, tripping us and leaving bruises up and down our legs. Some of the falls were hilarious--I sunk all the way up to my waist once!

Once you're a little more than half way up, you can really see the change in the tree line. Everything gets smaller, shrubbier, and mossier. Along the trail, there are a few really great spots to stop and appreciate the view. The cloudy weather made all the far off mountains look blue, and paired with the snow and the evergreen trees, it looked like a painting. The peak was really cool, because it's a bald top mountain. For the last portion of the trail, you're just hiking across rocks, with a 360 degree view. By the time we got the top, the cloudy skies we'd started out with had gotten even worse, so it was pretty foggy. The winds were crazy, some of them felt like they could knock me over, but they did keep the fog moving, so every couple of minutes the clouds would part and we could see the view.

The wind driving some of the fog away at the peak.
We stayed at the top for a little while to take some pictures, but it was easily 20 degrees cooler than just a little ways down the mountain, so we started our way back down pretty quickly. About a quarter of the way back down, we stopped for lunch, and then kept moving. The way down was so much quicker than the way up! Overall, I think the snow actually helped us gain time. The estimated time for the hike was a little over 6 hours, and we got back to our car after 5 hours and 50 minutes. But, the gate to the parking lot was closed, so we had a half-hour walk on the road in both directions to actually get to the trail-head. Subtract that from our time, and the fact that we stopped for lots of pictures and to eat lunch, and we made really good time!

On the hike, we talked about everything from work to dating to TV shows we watched as kids to our futures. A big idea we both commented on, though, was the wash of peace that came over both of us. When you're hiking, you have no where else to be. Nothing to run to next. It's just you, and a close friend, and the mountain. As you hike, life becomes more real. You're simultaneously impressed with the beauty around you, and the importance of appreciating every second we have in this world, while also realizing that so much of the crap we fill our daily lives with really doesn't matter. I had this epiphany on the way up that I wasn't put here to conform to what society's expectations of me are, or to spend my time worrying about making enough money, or doing the 'right' work, or getting to a certain place by a certain age. I'm allowed to explore. I'm allowed to do what works for me, and what makes me happy. I don't have to judge myself by anyone else's measure.

For me personally, hiking is about so much more than exercise, or even crossing peaks off of a list. It's a reality check, a brain re-set. The evening after, I feel so accomplished and invincible, and so much more ready to tackle life in a way that makes me happy.

Mount Moosilauke, Benton, NH.
Elevation: 4, 802 foot.
Trail: Gorge Brook Trail.
Gained Elevation: 2, 506 feet.
Date Completed: April 27, 2018.

If you find yourself with time to hike in NH, I'd totally recommend Moosilauke! It's a great winter hike, and I'm sure the bald top views are even prettier in the summer!

Happy Thursday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian