I’m Back!

Long time, no write.

Sitting here on a beautiful Wednesday morning with some time to catch up, though, I wanted to get a post out.

I’m in Little Silver, New Jersey, where I stayed the night at my aunt and uncle’s house and will spend the day with my cousins, hitting some of our favorite local spots around Monmouth County. This house has been a sanctuary over the past 4-5 years. I’ve watched both of my cousins go off to college, spent time relaxing at the Shore, and like every family they’ve helped pick me up through some challenging times.

The past few days have been a whirlwind, driving from Virginia to Massachusetts and back down here to Jersey. I was fortunate enough to have my first opportunity to present in front of peers at a professional conference in Atlantic City yesterday. Sharing best practices and receiving feedback from colleagues is so valuable — it’s easy to get complacent in the way you approach work, but there’s always room for growth. The travels will continue for the rest of the week, as I’m off to Philadelphia tonight and Allentown, PA tomorrow.

This past weekend was special, and spent with someone who is becoming that to me. Julie and I have been getting to know each other through texts and phone calls for a little while, since way back in April, but hadn’t been able to meet in person yet. I was very nervous, of course — all the nets in the world couldn’t catch the butterflies she’d given me in the time we’ve been talking — but that feeling of excitement is so unbelievably rare and worth pursuing.

After a 10.5-hour drive on Friday, I made it just in time for a sunset stroll around Harvard and dinner at a local restaurant in Cambridge. From the first minute I saw Julie I could feel the electricity surging through my veins. We have this banter that’s intoxicating; it’s simultaneously frustrating and endearing. She is so witty and challenges me and has just drawn me in. Julie got a burger — little did I know she knew what she was going to order before we even got there, and even littler did I know (is that a phrase??) that she would attempt to use a fork and knife to eat it. I got to meet a couple of her roommates, Kelly and Cammie, who I’d heard a lot about and it was nice to be able to match faces with names.

We had originally planned to spend Saturday in Boston, but with the weather not being ideal and me having just been in town for work a month or so ago we called an audible and headed down to Rhode Island for the day, but not without two coffees for the road first.

Our first stop was the Cliff Walk in Newport, home to some of the most beautiful Gilded Age mansions in the United States. In the late 19th-century, the who’s who of wealthy American families — the Vanderbilts, the Astors, the Wideners, etc. — constructed massive summer “cottages” overlooking Easton Bay. Many of these homes are now open to the public as museums, and the Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile National Recreation Trail at the edge of these properties. The trail takes you along the shore, down to the rocky beaches, and through tunnels. During summer the Cliff Walk is unbearably busy, but on this day we had much of it to ourselves.

Cliff Walk

We then drove into the Newport Historic District, with its intact colonial buildings and wharves on the waterfront thriving as the Volvo Ocean Race brought sailors and their families from across the country to town. Live music, busy shops, boats in the background — even with a bit of drizzle it was so nice to walk around and soak in the atmosphere.

Bannister’s Wharf in Newport

I was hoping to see the Goat Island Lighthouse before leaving Newport, but after driving there and discovering it was very underwhelming to say the least, Julie and I stopped at a neighborhood basketball court and played horse and a game of 1-on-1. Neither of us were dressed for anything athletic and it was a total accident that we stumbled on the court, but I had a basketball in the car and we went out there. That spontaneity is something I value tremendously — planning is great, but to just live in the moment and have fun is the best feeling. Julie was a great sport about it, and it helped me loosen up so much.

We then drove onto Providence and walked quickly around the state capitol building before heading up to Benefit Street and College Hill to see the “Mile of History” where some of the city’s elite lived in the 18th-century. It’s still an absolutely stunning neighborhood overlooking the skyscrapers of Providence, as well as being home to what I believe is the prettiest Ivy League campus: Brown University.

By that point we’d walked just over 7 miles and were too tired to go out for dinner in Cambridge, so we decided to just get two pizzas to go from another local place and spend the night in watching New Girl. Schmidt and Nick always keep me laughing but my God, I’d stop writing this blog right now and marry Cece if I could. What a woman.

Sunday morning we went to a small place in nearby Somerville for breakfast. The nicest older gentlemen was the only cook, and there was only one waitress. It’s hard to go wrong with eggs Benny, so even though these weren’t the best there were no complaints. After breakfast and saying goodbye to Julie I headed onto Hartford, CT for a baseball game later that afternoon before continuing down to Atlantic City for my conference.

Hartford Yard Goats vs. Akron RubberDucks

She makes me so happy, happier than I can remember being in a long time. The distance isn’t ideal but I’d love to see where this goes — it’s so, so difficult to find a person that excites you, that makes you feel utterly alive, that you feel invincible with. My biggest test is being comfortable enough to sing in a car with someone, and I found myself trying to hit an Ingrid Michaelson high note on our drive back from Rhode Island. Spoiler alert, I nailed it. OK, that’s not even the least bit true. But Julie inspired me to try, just like she’s inspired me in so many ways already.

I hope it’s not too much longer before I write again. Until then!