1. Spent two weeks in Buenos Aires
What I did: Stayed at an amazing hostel and met amazing people from all over the world (really!); ate a lot of empanadas and pizza when I realized, as much as I tried, I just don’t like red meat; attempted to speak Spanish but ended up mostly speaking Italian by accident, used a lot of hand gestures, and finished every communication by nodding emphatically and saying “Si si si!”; watched other people tango at a milonga but was too chicken to try it myself; had my first taste of South America, with every intention of going back one day.
What I learned: I will never be able to afford nice things because I am going to spend all my money on travel.
2. Taught at a Young and Teen Writers’ Camp
What I did: Kept myself busy by teaching two creative nonfiction classes an afternoon to students from 4th grade to rising college freshmen; discovered that younger students need a different classroom approach than teenagers (seems so obvious, right? forgive me, teens are my default these days) and that, really, it’s best to let them run around for at least five minutes in the middle of class; spent time in my old academic building from grad school, with old buddies from grad school, and reveled in the ensuing nostalgia; watched as my students surprised me over and over with their writing.
What I learned: When asking 9-year-olds what the world needs more of, girls will almost always answer “world peace” and boys will almost always answer “technology”.
3. Had a new fiction piece accepted for publication
What I did: Self-explanatory. You can read it online: “Ashes” by Caroline Swicegood, up on the Ampersand Review.
What I learned: Even after years of publishing, it makes me feel shy to think of people reading my writing, but man, seeing my work in print is still surreal and exciting.
4. Read some books
What I did: Read stuff from Heller and Hemingway to Dawkins and Sagan to Russell Brand’s autobiography (I had finished all the books I took to Argentina with me and someone had left it in my hostel room).
What I learned: I’m not as embarrassed by that last one as I probably should be.
5. Took advantage of only working part-time
What I did: Slept in occasionally, watched Netflix, went out to eat, went to museums, went to movies, swam in lakes, swam in the ocean, got sunburned, went to a music festival, saw friends, saw family, visited my hometown, spring cleaned my apartment, drank coffee slowly in the mornings, started learning Turkish, weeded out my closet, played board games, played video games, daydreamed about future travel, prepared for the coming school year, debated the merits of hard copy submissions vs. electronic submissions, researched writing fellowships and grants, protested at the state capitol, got my car stuck in mud on a mountaintop, did a tintype photoshoot (!!), caught up on world news and local politics, went camping, took pictures, laughed, loved, etc.
What I learned: Free time is awesome.