4 trains & 5 buses: Brighton, UK

Public transportation and I are the epitome of a love/hate relationship. First, I love how quickly it is to get around. Then, I become painfully aware of how many people are coughing around me. Then, the Tube breaks down and I have to take an Uber. Then, I see the Uber bill and remember how much I love public transportation.

As much as my negative feelings toward it grow, last weekend, public transportation made a gorgeous last-minute day trip possible. Patrick crafted a plan to go to Brighton for the day, and he triumphantly played dad and mapped the route for us.

Train 1: London –> Brighton

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Bus 1: Brighton –> Devil’s Dyke 
We happened to be there on a beautiful sunny day when a group of paragliders were sailing over the hill, adding even more color to the bright green landscape. That’s one great thing about England–even when it’s cold and there are no leaves on the trees, the grass is so green.
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Attempting to paraglide via scarf.

Adding the next three to my ongoing collection of “Millennials in Europe”:

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Mara gets a special shoutout for best shoe choice of the day. As we struggled through grass, mud and rocks, Mara wore her LL Bean boots with pride.

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Also she’s my go-to unsuspecting model and only complains a little bit about it.

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This is Mara summed up in one picture–ll that’s missing is coffee.

Bus 2: Devil’s Dyke–>Brighton

Before getting on this bus, we embarked on a mission to beat the sunset and arrive at our next destination before dark. It was bold, and we were up to the challenge.

Train 2: Brighton–>Seaford

Bus 3: Seaford–>Seven Sisters

It was after getting off this bus that I thought I broke my camera, only to discover when I got home that it was actually on self timer and I didn’t notice. Despite my utter obliviousness, I managed to get some gorgeous shots as we sprinted over a gigantic hill to get to the coast.

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But all the trains and busses and running over a hill and rolling my ankle and drenching my shoes with mud was worth it for this:

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It got dark quickly, but not too quickly for a moody silhouette photo.

Bus 4: Seven Sisters–>Seaford

Train 3: Seaford–>Lewes

Bus 5: Lewes–>Three Bridges

Train 4: Three Bridges–>London

Our group was surrounded by so much beauty both in the city and in the country, all in one day. England is unreal.

Lily in London: 2016 pt. 1

It’s the 5th day of 2016 and a few things are on my mind:

  1. My 2015 resolution to not go to the ER was a success! Zero emergency room visits for the entire year was a huge win for this neck-breaking, finger-spraining, toe-breaking, accident-prone girl. Seriously, when is there going to be a loyalty program for University Hospital?
  2. I just moved into my flat for the next four months in London.
  3. Jet lag is real.

For those who haven’t heard from my mom’s adorably sappy Facebook posts, this semester I will be living, working and studying in London through Mizzou’s journalism school. My internship is at Weller Media Agency, which creates digital content and PR for record labels (with clients like Lady Gaga, Jessie J, James Bay—could not be more excited about this position.) I’ve never stepped foot outside of the continental United States until about 3 hours ago, but I am so ready to explore and fall in love with this city.

Big travel wins for the day:

  • My suitcase weighing in at 50.0 pounds even
  • Witnessing a near-brawl over line cutting in O’Hare security
  • The baby sitting in front of me on my flight only crying once

In addition to keeping up with this blog, I’m a travel writer for the journalism study abroad office, which I’ll link to throughout the semester. Keep up with my square-imaged life on Instagram (@lilyzacharias) and pray I don’t become the inspiration for the next Taken sequel.

“Humbled”

A few weeks ago, I sat down with my laptop and go-to study playlist and began my first ever practice GRE exam. I was THAT jerk in high school who never even looked at an ACT prep book, yet rolled into the test and got a score I never dreamed of being able to get, so naturally I was pretty confident in my abilities to whip out a killer score with minimum effort. I finished the test under time and excitedly clicked “View my Score.”

So…I viewed my score. My incredibly, painfully low score. Ouch.

There I was: my ego crushed, my spirits low, my stomach craving ice cream. I went into the test expecting the absolute best, and left feeling utterly embarrassed that I thought I could conquer the GRE in one unprepared shot. In a word, I was humbled.

Which brings me to what this is really about:

There are three words that I absolutely abhor seeing on social media. Typically accompanied by pictures of nature, non-candid laughter or engagement photos in fields, these words are: “blessed,” “thankful,” and “humbled.” They are words rich in meaning, and when used properly, convey beautiful emotions. But sadly, their proper use is not the norm.

For years I’ve suffered through reading about the world’s hashtag blessedness and thankfulness, but the recent trend of self-proclaimed humility has sent this [perhaps overdramatic] writer over the linguistic edge.

The first time I cocked a snarky brow at the word “humbled” was senior year of high school. I had just lost an award that I really wanted and was egotistically convinced I was going to win. I sent a congratulatory text to my friend who did get it, and she sweetly responded with her thanks, noting that she was “so humbled to have this opportunity.”

Wait, what? If anyone was “humbled” in this situation, wouldn’t it be the girl crying in the bathroom because this was her first taste of real rejection, and every experience leading up to this moment had conditioned her to think that because she was “so amazing” there was no way she couldn’t win? Sitting on the edge of a toilet wiping mascara off your face while reading bathroom stall graffiti…now THAT’S humbling.

Maybe it’s just me being judgmental. Maybe my respect for the English language and admittedly annoying dedication for its proper use makes me hypersensitive to cliché words. But maybe—just maybe—my judgment is warranted.

Let’s get to the basics. Being humbled is, by definition, to be “lowered in dignity or importance.”

I went ahead and replaced “humbled” with “lowered in importance” to see this definition in action:

  • “I am feeling so lowered in importance by the amazing internship in a cool city I just got!”
  • “I have been truly lowered in importance by being crowned Homecoming Queen.”
  • “I am so lowered in importance to announce the thousands of dollars I’m spending to study abroad for a semester!”

How could accomplishing something that you’re bragging about on Facebook possibly have humbled you? If you’re humble––if you’re “showing a low estimate of your own importance”––then why are you making an effort to actually broadcast your own importance? (Hint: it’s because being legitimately humbled doesn’t result in likes on Facebook/it’s a trendy word to use.)

Being humbled is important. Being humbled means you’re grounded. But being humbled should not be the buzzphrase that makes you feel less conceited while writing self-serving Facebook statuses.

I was humbled when I lost that competition my senior year of high school. I was humbled when I didn’t get hired for four jobs my freshman year of college. I was humbled when 10 agencies didn’t respond to my internship resume I sent out last spring. And let me tell you, I was damn humbled when I received my GRE score.

I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t announce on Facebook––I’m just an easily annoyed bystander with free time to write about it. I’m simply throwing it out there (read: begging) that if you’re proud of yourself, leave it at that. If you’re posting it on social media, share your excitement! But for the love of Merriam-Webster, don’t hide your happiness behind a thin veil of humility.

And hey, if you share this post, I would be INCREDIBLY humb—, nope, excited that you agree with me.

A semester erased

Last weekend, the fatal combination of my iPhone, water and an accidental software update left me with an unresponsive phone and the crushing reality that I couldn’t remember the last time I had backed it up to my computer.

Call me crazy/overdramatic/first world problematic, but this is where the panic and immense urge to kick myself set in, for two reasons:

First, since the age I could operate a camera, pictures have been a huge part of my life. I have a 200gb photo library on my computer of photos I’ve taken since 2004 and I keep thousands on my phone. I’m not GOOD at taking pictures, but I relentlessly take them nonetheless. They immediately evoke memories; they take you back to times that would have easily been forgotten.

I snap photos of friends when the light hits them just right, I take selfies with my cats, I screenshot Snapchats that show off my favorite people’s weird personalities, I make gifs of my roommate running down the hallway, I shoot videos of ukulele parodies, I take panoramas of thousands of people in Memorial Stadium. I photograph to remember emotions, to remember jokes, to remember people, to remember huge plates of pancakes that I miraculously finished.

Second, I am no stranger to technology. I’ve owned an iPhone since its 2007 release, I have two external hard drives for my laptop, I’ve fixed friends’ spinning-beachball-of-doom computers and crashing phones. I know you need to backup your phone, but I lazily ignored the “unable to complete backup” error message. I know iCloud backups exist, but hated the idea of having all my information in the cloud. I know I should have a life proof case on my phone, but the case’s camera cover decreases the quality of photos. Which brings me back to my heartache of the week:

I have no pictures from September 9, 2015 to December 5, 2015. A semester of concerts, hiking, traveling, working, laughing, studying, living: erased drowned. (Water damage is real, friends.)

After I had a shiny new rose gold phone in my hands and I discovered this news, my mind raced to all of the places I could recover these memories: Does Jillian save all the pictures I send her? Does VSCOcam save the photos I uploaded to edit? Are we sure Google/Apple/U.S. Government hasn’t been secretly saving all my pictures somewhere?

So here they are: the salvaged remnants of my junior year of college. The good, the bad, and the downright ugly (I’m looking at you, passport photo.)

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I’ll never recover the video of me rapping “Love the Way You Lie,” or the pictures from when I met George Lucas. I can’t scroll through hundreds of photos that tell the story of my 5th semester at Mizzou. I ditched my fears of internet insecurity and signed up for an iCloud backup.

And most importantly, I’ve accepted the fact that even without photo documentation, these people, this semester, this life, is still as memorable as I could ever hope.

12 Faces of Friendship

Two summers ago, I bought lilyzacharias.com at 2am when I was supposed to be writing a paper, and ever since this commitment to a lifetime charge of $14 a month, my website has caused me to be the butt of many of my friends’  jokes. My defense that journalism majors are almost expected to have their own websites these days failed, and I began to question it myself.

Is it self-glorifying to think that someone is going to visit a website named after my name? Do I look like a complete try-hard? Is this why everyone hates journalism students?!

Eventually I came to terms with the idea that going into a creative field warrants a creative website, and I have loved customizing and personalizing it (and learning a bit of code) ever since. In this weekend’s redesign, I completely revamped my main site (not this one, just to clarify) using Adobe Muse, a steep upgrade from GoDaddy and WordPress.

But this time, I didn’t want to make it all about me–who I am is not because of me, it’s because of the people who surround me. The faces that now grace the bottom of lilyzacharias.com belong to phenomenal people, and life would be painfully dull without them.

Take a look and read about 12 of the incredible men and women who I am lucky enough to call my friends.