Tension, terror, and learning that life goes on.

15 Nov

Today, I’m supposed to be writing an essay. (Actually, two.) As it happens, I’m the queen of procrastination, and whenever I have some urgent assignment to work on, I find something else to do instead. When Facebook gets boring, I delve a little deeper. On this occasion, I ended up on College Confidential, browsing the Brown University forums from one year ago.

One year and fifteen days ago, I submitted an Early Decision application to Brown – an application I’d spent countless days and sleepless nights honing, and one that I really thought just might be quirky and clever and passionate enough to make up for my slightly jumbled, perhaps less-than-impressive transcript. One year and twenty days ago, I visited the campus for the first time after months of long-distance love, and somehow, the second I arrived, I was home. Having never been the most normal of people (quite frankly, I’m a bit of a weirdo, although ‘lovable oddball’ is

The Van Wickle Gates - Brown's most well-known landmark. Besides Emma Watson - she counts as a landmark, right?

preferable, haha!) I struggled to find my niche in high school, and had a really hard time making myself understood. Without getting too emo, I was basically a bit of a social pariah, and while I had a few great friends, I never, ever belonged. When I discovered Brown, the ‘lovable oddball’ of the Ivy League, I discovered with it an incredible network of passionate, driven, truly strange and wonderful people: people who could understand without words where I was coming from, people who weren’t afraid to be ‘nerds.’ I met one of my best friends, Lauren,  through this process, and was thrilled to find myself in the intellectual company of people who inspired and excited me, and thus, pushed me to do the same for them.

Brown, too, inspired me: it is brilliant without being pretentious, creative without being cliche. Walking around

Me, my favorite Brownie Mike, and Lauren.

campus with Lauren was like following a treasure map with Xs scattered across the page; every corner turned yielded some new, amazing discovery that cemented the school even more firmly as my university of choice. In just two days I made memories that I will never forget, and friends that I hope never lose their eclectic brilliance. I was overcome by the sense of belonging I finally felt, and, heading home, I felt as though I’d left a part of myself behind.

On December 15th, at 5pm, we were due to find out our results. My friends and I posted frantically on College Confidential, living behind online facades built up of SAT scores, extracurricular activities, AP tests…as the final days drew in, I found myself unable to do anything but feel incredibly nauseous and pace around the house, nervous energy rolling around me like thunderclouds. ‘D-Day’ was the worst: rereading the frantic comments on the discussion board makes me feel sick to my stomach and really, horribly anxious, even now. As a group of nutty potential Brunonians, we counted down the hours, the minutes, and finally, the seconds, until we could click the button that would present to us our fate. With my mother freaking out next to me, and Lauren on the phone (both of us, might I add, actually crying – we were THAT stressed out), I clicked the button.


Not even the smooth disappointment of deferral; no, I got the knife-to-the-heart. “You’re not good enough,” said the one place I’d ever been able to be myself. “We don’t want you.” Every part of my body went numb; for a minute, I couldn’t even react. But then it hit me, as it would continue to do for weeks thereafter, and I cried. I cried and cried until I thought I would dry out and die from all the crying. My mother, being the rational one, tried to cheer me up with Princeton prospectuses, and UVA application forms, but I couldn’t imagine my life anywhere but Brown. I thought that Brown was the key to finding myself, and now that I’d had a taste of that, it was all I wanted.

In the weeks thereafter, I went through all the stages of grief. At first, there was denial: I was convinced that something had gone wrong within the system, and they had accidentally sent me a rejection. When my official letter came in the mail, I was angry, and tore it to shreds, then left it on my desk to taunt me. I looked back on conversations with people who’d ultimately gotten in, and found myself picking apart their grammar and spelling, wondering why THEY’D gotten in, instead of me. Once that subsided, I moved on to bargaining, and in a fit of lunacy, called the Admissions office and begged them to let me appeal my decision. And then I spent several days in a row in bed, crying over my lost future, convinced I’d be in downeast Maine forever.

And then, I got over it. I woke up one day and decided to keep going; that day, I picked fourteen more universities to apply to, and got down to business. One year later, I’m not at Brown, nor am I at any of the subsequent fourteen universities I applied to. I’m not majoring in Drama, like I’d planned, and I’m not even in the country I’d intended to be in. But somehow, over the course of a year, I’ve found myself in me, not in a university. And now? I never thought I’d say it, but I’m glad Brown rejected me. I’ve never been happier than I am here, at Kent, surrounded by equally brilliant people to those I met in Rhode Island, and equally inspired by the people I’m fortunate enough to call my friends. These are the passionate, quirky people I wanted in my life, but the difference is that I don’t need them in order to validate my own identity. I need them simply because I love them all, and I love myself with, or without, them. And that’s the most important lesson to learn.

Life? It goes on. As Vonnegut said, “so it goes.” What, at the time, seemed like the harshest of blows somehow managed to bring about one of the best changes in my life.


Laugh with or at me. Go on.

12 Nov

Apparently, when racing to meet a word-count, my writing becomes melodramatic and trite. Going back over today’s work I found this gem…thank god I have all of December to edit.

His femur had shattered to match its partner, and even now it felt as though the tiny fragments of bone were constantly working their way through his wasted leg, upwards through his torso, and finally stabbing gleefully into his heart.

His heart, his heart, his empty hopeless heart…it had snapped along with his bones that day. The day he had lost the love of his father, the day he had lost his freedom, the day he had lost the ability to ever love himself or be loved by another – that day, he felt as though he had died, and he was still waiting to rise, Christ-like, and be reborn.

Good lord.


Viva La Revolución!

11 Nov

Yesterday morning I woke up at 6:30, exhausted (I’m NOT a morning person) but looking forward to a break in the routine and a fun day in London. 36 hours later I am so proud and inspired by what I was lucky enough to be a part of.

The National Demonstration, for those who don’t know, was a huge march in protest of government cuts and the

Gathering at Horse Guard.

resultant proposal for tripled tuition fees in the United Kingdom. If these proposals pass, tuition fees could reach up to 9000 pounds per year – which may not seem like much to those in the States, who often attend universities with annual tuitions of $50,000 – but when you consider the amount of grant and scholarship money that the average American student receives, the actual out-of-pocket amount is usually significantly less. It doesn’t work quite that way over here: most students have to pay the entirety of their fees in loan money, and while bursaries are available they are far less prevalent. There’s a misconception that UK students are handed a free education – but this is simply not true (no matter how much Fox News tried to pass it off as the truth in their coverage of the Demo…morons).

And so we marched. 52,000 of us, from all over the United Kingdom, gathered at Horse Guards Avenue, bundled up against the cold and toting a colorful array of signs and a hefty

The guy's pink footie pajamas were the best touch. 😉

helping of anger. We screamed, we chanted, and we fought to make ourselves heard; as the march progressed towards Westminster and the House of Commons students upped the creativity and all manner of instruments could be heard, salsa dancing (from Kent Uni, no less!) could be admired, and a giant carrot, whose significance I still haven’t quite figured out, could be spotted in the crowd. Helicopters idled overhead like overgrown mosquitoes, and cameras and reporters were there in droves – far outnumbering policemen, who were noticeably lacking in numbers – a glaring lack of forethought that would prove problematic later on.

It was impossible not to get into the spirit of things, even as the cold bit at our hands and, occasionally, the march ground to a halt for a while. Breaks in the action allowed for plenty of time to

sign-gaze; some of the best ones included “how the hell am I going to afford to go to Hogwarts now?!” “Is this the line for Justin Bieber tickets?” and of course, “I shaved my balls for this.” The chants ranged in creativity from the simple but effective “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” to detailed lyrics about the Lib Dems being cunts and Nick Clegg liking it in the bum; to which my friend Freddy responded, “NOT necessarily a negative quality in a person!” Unfortunately, since he didn’t shout it in catchy song-form, it didn’t really register.

As we passed the House of Commons a huge amount of people apparently disappeared, and it was possible to actually walk forward at a normal speed. Totally lost, we asked someone where we were supposed to go now, and were directedtowards the Tate Gallery and told that there was a rally in that direction.

Gathered around the fire at Millbank.

The rally – which sounded innocent enough at the time – was in the courtyard of Millbank, and by the time we got there, the police were barricading it off and trying to keep newcomers out. Unfortunately for them, my friends and I are just rebellious enough to get ourselves to the action anyway, and so we made our way into the throngs surrounding the massive fire that had been started in the courtyard. Placards were being thrown in from all sides, and the thick, dirty smoke curled in dark clouds to the roof of Millbank and the clear sky above. Further in, groups of people started trying to smash the glass windows that stretch from floor to ceiling, and in the windows above, people gathered to peer down at the riot that was slowly unfolding below. The police, all outside and being quite useless, were powerless to stop the crowd as their energy and anger rapidly increased – and when someone threw a fire extinguisher into the flames, causing a bomb-like explosion, the palpable panic in the crowd indicated that this had the potential to spiral quickly out of control.

And then, somehow, there were people on the roof. Waving flags and hanging banners, they brought the people below to a frenzy, and the glass smashing efforts were doubled. A smattering of policemen appeared, to no avail – projectiles,

The wall of Millbank...there always has to be a weird looking penis. Always.

including the sticks from placards and glass bottles, were hurled – several making contact. Those on the inside starting using tables and chairs as battering rams, sending shards of glass flying. People with spray-paint scrawled “Tory pigs” and “Tory scum” on the walls. At this point, frozen and directionally-challenged, we decided to leave. Our half-hour walk back to the London School of Economics was thankfully punctuated by a visit to McDonald’s and we arrived at LSE completely knackered and probably borderline hypothermic, but at least full of greasy food. Three hours later(thank you, London traffic), we finally made it home.

And so it was over – this day that I’d been waiting for for so long. It didn’t disappoint; marching with tens of thousands of other students for such a worthy cause was an incredible experience, and I’m so glad I was able to be a part of it. I don’t agree with how far that small percentage of protesters took things – while I agree that sometimes you have to push some boundaries to make yourself heard, acting like a bunch of violent idiots does one thing only, and that is paint the entirety of us withthe same brush. Browsing through news reports today I have yet to see one that isn’t largely about the Millbank riot; hopefully, after a few days have passed, that’ll become old news and the real point of the march will be recollected. I hope we made a difference – and I think we probably did – but if it takes another march to get the point across, then I’ll be there.


I fail at life: v1.0

7 Nov

So I’m already really shit at updating this (hands up if you saw that one coming a mile away) but as my blog has just been linked to on the Matador Network I am going to hurriedly update and absolutely WILL continue to do so at least three times a week! I swear.

My first month-and-a-half in Canterbury have gone quite differently than what I expected – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I’m having the time of my life, but I’d planned on a lot more excursions into continental Europe, and as of right now, my tally is solidly at absolutely none. In fact, the farthest I’ve gone since my mini-adventures in Ireland and London upon arrival is twenty minutes down the road to Dover to watch a football match…so I didn’t even get to see any glorious white cliffs! So I’m doing quite badly at this whole nomadic lifestyle thing, but I plan on stepping up my game the second I actually find a job – and I will definitely be in Germany and hopefully Austria during the Christmas holidays!

In the meantime I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know Canterbury; I really enjoy walking into the city and just poking around (and this is not just because I’m too broke to either ride the bus or go shopping…only partly). As incredibly nerdy as this is, one of my favorite things to do is bring my sketchbook down to the Cathedral and find a good nook in the cloisters, in which I can sit and draw. Every once in a while even I, possibly the loudest, most obnoxious person ever, need some quiet time and I feel so lucky to have such a brilliant selection of beautiful places to which I can escape if need be.

Good & Evil: a major success!

Uni has been going really well too – I’ve managed to get away with doing almost all of my coursework in the wee hours of the morning whilst drunk and have still gotten really good marks – of course, if any of my professors ever read this, that wonderful scenario probably won’t continue, but I’ve enjoyed it so far! The majority of my non-academic time hasbeen devoted to rehearsing for the Musical Theatre Society’s showcase “Good ‘n’ Evil,” which wrapped up last night and was simply fabulous! We had a great cast; not only amazing singers and dancers but great people too; always a plus when you have to spend eight hours straight in each others company! Now that it’s over we’re all dealing with the inevitable come-down – I’ve never seen so many sappy Facebook comments in my life! With auditions for the spring-term musical just around the corner, though, we should all manage to pull through 🙂

Our showcase was (reasonably obviously) dedicated to songs highlighting the heroes and villains of Broadway, West End, and Disney fame, and featured such gems as ‘Be Prepared’ from the Lion King, ‘A Man’s Gotta Do’ from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and ‘For Good’ from Wicked. I was in the chorus for four songs – a new experience for me, but definitely a fun one! It was nice to have the pressure taken off a little bit by virtue of not being a soloist, but at the next round of auditions I plan to be healthy and actually able to sing! Our poor directors had to listen to me attempt to croak out some Les Mis at these auditions, as I struggled through week three or so of illness.

I’ve also been lucky enough to make the university equestrian team, and have been out to Trenley Park Livery weekly for practices. It’s not quite the same as having my wonderful Thoroughbred, Dante, here but I’m happy to feed my

Dante at the fall UMaine IDA competition, with an undisclosed rider from the University of New Hampshire in the irons.

addiction in any way possible! I’ve already managed to fall in love with a gorgeous chestnut Irish horse; he has a canter to die for. Again, nothing compared to the indomitable Dante but it’ll do! Meanwhile I’m attempting to find someone back in Maine to lease D-man, sort of unsuccessfully, but in the meantime he’s been used for an Intercollegiate Dressage Association show for the University of Maine, and my trainer, Bryn, was kind enough to send me a link to the pictures of the show…I really do have the most adorable horse in the world! It’s weird to think of other people riding and showing him, but I’m happy for any extra bit of love and attention that’s bestowed upon him at the moment; after all, he’s used to me spoiling him rotten and I’m sure he’s missing it!

And, of course, there’s NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month (which is actually really international – there are regional groups just about everywhere) was a pretty spur-of-the-moment decision for me, but I enjoy a challenge and the unexpected friendships that form out of a semi-communal endeavor like this, so I decided to give it a shot. Being the big dork that I am, I’ve always nerded out spectacularly over the bohemians in Paris at the end of the 19th century, and in particular the Impressionists. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec is one of my favorites, and he led such a fascinating, sad life – the perfect fuel for a novel. So I’ve been sneaking off to the uni library at odd hours of the night to do research and bring home piles of books – and I think I must have drawn out about ten timelines and life-arcs now, trying to figure out where exactly to start this thing! In the meantime I’ve been writing random scenes as they come to me, or as I pick up on tidbits about his life. Here’s a fun fact: the lesbian prostitutes that he painted in the brothels of Paris used to call him the Coffee Pot, in reference to his overt sexuality – he was known to remark that he “may only be a small coffee pot, but I have a big spout!” Honestly, if that came from anyone other than a five-foot-tall Frenchman it would be repulsive but considering the source, it’s hilarious and may be the basis for several scenes in my story 😉 For those of you who are curious, here’s a little unedited and pretty poorly written sneak-peek of what’s to come…

Montmartre. Henri hesitated, stumbling slightly over his recalcitrant legs, and tried to make sense of this strange new world. It seemed to be made of something different than the rest of Paris; it was as though it had been painted in thick, undiluted oils while the rest of the world was merely a wash of watercolors, transparent to the paper beneath. He saw people, new people, different people, people who seemed somehow like him: people bursting with ideas, wonderful ideas and crippling frustration. Red-lipped girls with dark-ringed eyes eyed him shamelessly, letting their eyes linger on his misshapen legs and then ease back up to meet his gaze. These girls were not like the society ladies who, in vain attempts at subtlety, would steal curious glances and then look away, whispering to their equally highly-strung friends and all the while understanding nothing. These girls were not afraid to cast their calculating eyes upon Henri, and he felt that somehow they could see right through him, right past the deformities to the tangle of color and emotion and longing within him.

Actually, re-reading that now, it’s horribly trite, so please don’t judge the future final product too much! Anyway, I’m managing to rack up the words on this blog post far more quickly than on my ‘novel,’  so perhaps it’s time to wrap this up and attempt some amount of productivity. And, again, I promise…regular blog posts! They will happen!


Welcome to my World.

26 Sep

Hello! This is the first entry in a blog that I hope I can, for once, commit to and continue throughout the extent of my adventures. The majority of the people reading this will know exactly who I am and what I’m doing, but for those of you who perhaps clicked a link out of curiosity (perhaps whilst Facebook-stalking me…it happens), let me introduce myself, my ideals, and the vagabond lifestyle to which I aspire.

This is me. And my Spacebags. Hi!

I’m Tilly. I’m nineteen, and up until recently have been festering away intellectually and culturally in a tiny town in rural Maine. I was born and raised in the UK – in Yorkshire and subsequently Norwich, to be exact – and the transition from castles and cathedrals to blueberry barrens and…well…not a whole lot else was not an easy one. The majority of my life has been dedicated to horses – riding them, competing them, caring for them, and attempting to use them as a vessel to get me the hell out of Maine. After I graduated high school in ’08, I succeeded in doing so, at least temporarily, and began an eight-month tenure as a working student for Olympic eventer Phyllis Dawson. Without boring you all with the details (this is not, after all, a blog aimed at horsey people), I will say that I learned a lot about moving out and moving up. When I returned home I wanted two things – university, and Europe. And so the awfully fun process of applying to colleges began; months later it was still dragging on. I began to consider the idea of university in the UK, at least for a year or two. With that seed planted, I dragged myself away from my Oxford fantasies and started seriously comparing my options. Once I had whittled them down to King’s College London, St. Andrew’s, and Kent, I managed to take these three very different schools and chose the one best suited for me  – and here I am in Canterbury, at the University of Kent, madly missing my wonderful horse, Dante, my amazing boyfriend, Brian, and of course my irreplaceable family and friends – but already having the time of my life!

I ended up choosing Kent partly because it offered a unique major – European Culture and Thought – that fit me to a t, and partly because it is perfectly situated in the UK’s closest city to continental Europe. Perfect for me and my EuroStar ambitions! Paris is about two hours from here, and as I’m the biggest Francophile ever I can’t wait to be fully situated and ready to explore! Toulouse-Lautrec, baby, here I come! My plan for this year is to travel all over the UK and Ireland, and see as much of the rest of Europe as I possibly can. Weekends in Paris and Bruges, Christmas in Germany and Austria, reading weeks in Italy – and this is just scratching the surface of my epic plan to conquer the majority of my bucket list.

Watch this space…