A part but also apart

One of the most difficult things for me as an au pair is that you are a part of a family, but you are also apart from a family. You are going to spend birthdays, holidays, and vacations with them. When they look back on that part of their child’s life you will be there in their memories always. You will be in family pictures. You will see children learn to walk or read or ride a bike. You will be there for it all for an entire year. You are living with them and spending the majority of your time with them, there’s no way you won’t become a part of the family.

But you are also not a member of the family. You haven’t always been there, and after this year you will be gone. Maybe you will stay in touch and visit once a year but maybe not. There most likely have been other au pairs before you and there will be other au pairs after you. It is a weird feeling. To be so completely with people, to love them and cherish them, but know you can never really be with them. Even if you only take into account the visa and immigration laws of the country, you can only be with them for a year maybe two.

It is kind of depressing. I know my family really likes me. I may even be their favorite au pair, but I am an au pair, not a sister. When they cuddle on the couch together, or stand in the driveway and wave goodbye to each other, when you take their picture is when I really feel it. These small simple every day things, that highlight your separateness from them. You see this family that you love, but will never truly be a part of.

For me it doesn’t really matter how much they love you or how much you love them or how comfortable you are with each other. Because I know my family loves me and I love them. I have hit the jackpot with them. But there is an invisible barrier that is still felt. I’ve only been here 3 months, so maybe I will change my mind as we continue to live and coexist with each other. But this is still a job. The parents are still your boss and it is a working relationship. A very unique working relationship, but still. And if you can’t go a year without being cuddled, maybe you shouldn’t be an au pair. You’ll still probably be cuddled by the kids. But when you watch TV with the family it will most likely be them and you.

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5 Things to think about before choosing your Aupair home

The most important thing when looking for an Aupair home is of course the family you’ll be living with. It doesn’t matter if they live in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower and your own private balcony. If you don’t like the kids or don’t get along with the parents it’s not going to work. So first pick your family and then think about these 5 items before committing.

The Weather:

Some people hate the snow, others hate humidity, others hate the rain. Seasonal Affectedness Disorder is real and can greatly influence how happy you are during your year abroad. Find a weather pattern you can live with. Yes you can buy warmer clothes or rain gear but if it’s going to depress you for an entire year maybe you should look somewhere else.

City Size:

Do crowds bother you? Do you hate running into people you know in the supermarket? Do you need green space or are you happy in the concrete jungle? This question is VERY important. I live in a decent sized city, it isn’t huge, but it’s isn’t a village with 4,000 inhabitants. Personally I never would have been happy in Vienna. I know that because I lived in NYC and hated it. For me that city is too big. But I know a lot of people that would not be happy in the city I’m in now. They would be bored. For me it’s perfect though. Decide what will make you happy. I would not recommend living anywhere super small though. Personally I think it should have an airport and a train station.

Public transportation:

How does the public transportation in the town work? Are there busses, trams, and the Straßenbahn? How close is the nearest stop to your host family’s house? I am lucky and I have access to a car, but most au pairs don’t. You could be completely reliant on the bus schedule to get anywhere. If it’s going to take 45 minutes to get into the city maybe that isn’t something you want to do every day. Or 45 minutes to get the kids to school and back at 7:30 in the morning.

How easy will it be to travel to other locations?

I never really pictured myself on the Eastern side of Europe. I think I more saw myself in the Netherlands, or Ireland, or the UK. And I wanted to see Paris, Rome, London, and Amsterdam. So when a family from Austria contacted me I had to really think about it. It’s more eastern than I expected but I realized it’s pretty close to a lot of places. I looked up train and bus trips to different locations across Europe and made sure I’d be able to go for the weekend and see what I wanted to see. I’m actually very thankful I didn’t end up in the UK because it would have been much more difficult to get around. For me Austria is perfect because it’s close enough to the big cities I’ve always wanted to see but it also opens up a new area I hadn’t thought about. I probably never would have gone to Prague or Budapest on my own. But they are so close to me now I thought why not?

Language:

I never in a million years thought I would be learning German. Even when I knew I was moving to Austria it was only a vague afterthought that they speak German here. I figured I could get by with English. And for the most part you can. Almost everyone speaks English, but when you go to a store or eat in a restaurant having to tell the workers you speak English is kind of annoying… for everyone. Also standing around 5 people speaking another language and having no idea what they are saying isn’t fun either. So you will learn the language even if you don’t really intend to. Most countries require at least one class once you arrive so you’ll learn at least some basics, but if you really want to be happy you’ll learn more. So once you find your host family and know what language the speak do a couple of lessons on Duolingo. See if you can handle it. It’s not mandatory to love the language but if you have no interest or desire to learn a different language you shouldn’t be an au pair.

Living up to “the best” Au pair

If your host family is like mine they will have had previous au pairs. I am the sixth au pair for my family. So they have a lot to compare me to. I know they don’t intentionally compare me to their other au pairs, but there’s no way not to. This is a new experience for me, but for them they’ve gone through all of this before.

THE CHILD:

The child or children that have had another au pair will be used to the way that au pair did something. I am lucky in that I could reach out to the au pair before me with any questions. I talked to her about my first couple of weeks and the issues I was having and she explained how she did things and I knew that’s where my issues were arising from. I was doing things differently from how she did them. The little girl was testing me, seeing if I would allow her to do things that she knew she wasn’t allowed to do. Or even possibly she had been allowed to do things and I wasn’t allowing her to.

What you need to remember is you are the new au pair, and you’ll have different rules than the others and even possibly her parents. Often times I would ask her do your parents let you do this, did the other au pair let you do this if I wasn’t sure. But in the end it’s up to you to set your rules. Don’t feel pressured to do exactly what the other au pair did. You are in charge now and if you don’t feel comfortable letting the child do something don’t let them. This may make you a little unpopular at first but you have to feel comfortable in the situation as well.

THE PARENTS:

I think some people forget that the parents are a huge part of an au pair experience. It doesn’t matter how much the kid like you or you like the kid if you aren’t meshing well with the parents. And a lot of times if the child can feel that its parents don’t like you he or she won’t like you either. The parents are the ones that have the power as well. They can control your life, your free time, your spending money, everything about your au pair experience.

My first goal was to create a relationship with the parents. I made sure to ask about their day when they got home from work. I learned what to do if they were in a bad mood. I didn’t just assume I was loading the dishwasher the correct way, but specifically asked if this is how she liked it. I made an effort to get to know them. Asked about their education, their childhood, their likes and dislikes. I have quickly become fast friends with them. Enjoy spending time with them as much as I do my own friends. I never feel like I am being forced to do anything because I genuinely enjoy them as people. I also like coming out of my room and sitting on the couch together or on the patio and talking about life. I believe this is going to help me enjoy my experience here.

THE OTHER AU PAIR:

If your family has had multiple au pairs you will soon learn who the ‘favorite’ one is. Something about the way they talk about her or they tell more stories about her than the others. You will just know, she’s the favorite. She’s the one you will have to live up to. For my family the favorite was their first au pair. It’s not that they haven’t loved and enjoyed all the other au pairs since then, but this one stands out. I am very competitive. For me it’s very hard not to try to make this a competition. I also have to realize I am different, and their time with me is different. The mother no longer works from home, the little girl is 6 instead of 2, I don’t speak German while she did. There’s no way I can be exactly like her. I have to remind myself that I am my own person. The best I can do is try to form a lasting relationship with them. I may never live up to that first au pair, but I can have my own relationship my own experience with them. And it can be just as great for all of us.

Why I decided to Au Pair…

About one year into New York, and probably sooner, I realized that I wasn’t going to live in New York forever. It’s an amazing city, but not really for me. The cost alone is reason enough to leave and then add sweaty public transportation, tiny apartments, and no family it was a no brainer. Even though I loved my job, I soon realized that alone wasn’t enough to sustain me. I decided to leave at the end of my second year.

My initial plan was to go to Nashville. I wasn’t positive what type of job I’d look for be it marketing, event planning, public relations, or a combination so I just began to look into it all. There was something pulling on my mind though…. travel.

I’m not sure when the ‘travel bug’ bit me. But all of a sudden, I couldn’t imagine not going to all these amazing places I’d seen in photographs. And the more I saw my peers traveling abroad the more I wanted to go myself. But I knew it would take me forever to see all the places I wanted to see using only my measly 2 weeks of vacation a year, not to mention expensive. I knew my best opportunity to check off as many places as possible would be to live abroad for a time. And so because there wasn’t a job in Nashville that was pulling at my heart as much as seeing the world was I decided to explore becoming an au pair.

While I was interviewing families, I was also continuing to apply to jobs in Nashville. I continued to do this right up until I confirmed with a family. I could have easily ended up in Nashville this year, but instead I ended up in Austria, and I’m so glad I did. I know without a doubt I would have loved to be home, but I would have deeply regretted not having this experience.

 

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Goodbye never feels real…

I’ve said goodbye to my job, to NYC, to my apartment, to my best friends, and soon I will say goodbye to my cats and my family.

It’s much easier to do the leaving than it is to be left. I’m the leaver. I left Tennessee and moved to NYC, leaving everyone behind. Leading up to the big day, everyone was sad. But me? I was filled with anxious excitement. Talking to my new roommates and figuring out my new life. I never realized what I would be leaving behind.

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of something new. A new place, a new life, new adventures, new people, the possibilities are endless and yours for the taking. Everyone else? They are staying where they are. Nothing is new, nothing is exciting. Someone they love is leaving. Something is ending for them, and for me it’s only just beginning.

When I say goodbye, I probably won’t cry. I won’t get emotional and it may seem like I don’t care. It may seem like I’m leaving you behind for something bigger and better. And while I’m leaving this place, I’m not leaving you. The second I’m alone, I will cry. When my bags are unpacked and I’m in the new place the tears will fall. When the excitement ends and there’s nobody around, I will cry.

That’s also why I’ve learned to love leaving. I finally realize what I have. I never would have realized how much I loved Tennessee if I hadn’t left it. Or how much I valued my friends if I hadn’t spent the last 2 years missing them.

So for me goodbyes never seem real. It isn’t until I’m already gone, that it really sets in. So right now I seem happy and fine, soon I’ll be missing everyone and everything I hold so dear.

Goodbye for now!

Music Festival 101: Firefly

I had never really considered going to a music festival. I love music, but I’m not a die hard fan of any bands in particular. I am a fan of fun, new experiences with my friends. So when my best friend told me she was going, I was a little hesitant to tag along. But I’m always down for a new adventure, so I decided to go for it.  That’s how I decided to attend Firefly in Dover, Delaware, and I’m so happy I did.

I didn’t really know what to expect. I read blogs, I asked around, but in the end I relied heavily on my friends’ insider knowledge. Now, though, I’d like to impart some of my wisdom onto others considering heading to a music festival this summer.

Bring a backpack with LOTS of pockets.

This was our lifesaver. I have a backpack with a weird secret compartment in the back. The zipper is on the bottom of the bag, so it’s hard to see. We were able to stuff food and alcohol into the back and when looking through it there’s no way you can see anything. It saved us so much money. Some people choose fanny packs, but having somewhere to keep a towel, snacks, water bottle, sun screen, money, and other miscellaneous supplies was really helpful. But be warned, don’t bring in too much stuff because you’ll be stuck carrying it all day.

Decide what your “must sees” and “must dos” are

What do you want to happen at this festival? And don’t just answer have fun. That’s not very helpful.

  • See X band
  • See as many bands as possible
  • Relax
  • Be with friends
  • Party
  • Be front row

You have a limited amount of time, so you can’t do it all. A lot of bands overlap or end right as another begins, and it’s across the festival. You’ve got to have a priority. Some of your friends will want to see one band, while you want to see another. Is it more important for you to see the band or be with your friend? Decide which bands you’re willing to skip and which ones you HAVE to see.

Pick a meeting spot

On the first day stake out a good spot you can all meet if you decide to go off on your own. But if you aren’t comfortable being completely on your own you probably shouldn’t separate at all because there’s no guarantee you’ll find them later. Cell signal isn’t the best. If you’re the type that wants to bring a totem pole, do it. Our group didn’t want to carry it around all weekend, but we could for sure see the benefits. We even used other peoples to find each other. *Go to the Scottish flag*

Secure your valuables

If you are prone to loosing your phone bring an arm strap or something where it’s hard to get lost. Loosing your phone puts a damper on the entire weekend, trust me. Same goes with keys, wallet, or anything irreplaceable. You’ll most likely be intoxicated at some point, and it’s so easy to put something down walk away, and forget about it.

Be wary of gifts

Don’t accept anything from strangers, unless you are 100% okay taking drugs. Alcohol, brownies, chocolate, gum, whatever it is, it could have drugs in it. Most people probably have good intentions and it’s probably just weed. But you never know. Be prepared for anything when you take something from a stranger, even if it looks harmless.

But the most important piece of advice is…

just relax. You’re going to be tired, sweaty, and dirty. You’ll get separated from friends, you’ll miss your favorite band, you’ll lose your phone, your car batter will die. Bad things may happen, and probably will, but try not to let it ruin your weekend. Embrace the hippie lifestyle and go with the flow. Just enjoy the trip….

And get to packing!

FOOD:

On the food front it’s important to bring food that once your ice melts and it gets hot it’ll still be good.

Food ideas:

  • Granola bars
  • Chex Mix
  • Cheese
  • Fruit
  • PB&Js
  • Burritos (no sour cream)
  • Protein bars
  • Pasta salad (not mayonnaise based)
  • Veggies like celery and carrots
  • Hummus
  • Tuna packets
  • Crackers
  • Overnight oats

The campsite is usually a good walk from the campsite, so it’s not really feasible to go back and forth. Once you’re inside you’ll probably stay there. Don’t bring a crap ton of food that will go to waste, but you’ll want enough food to to snack on while you’re hanging out at the campsite, before you head in for the day, and at night after the shows.

PACKING LIST:
  • Tent
  • Tarps (the more the better, we brought 5 and could have used more!)
  • E-Z Pop up tent (lifesaver in the heat)
  • Scissors
  • Flashlights/Headlights/ Lantern (multiple sources of light)
  • Cooler
  • Camping Chairs
  • Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Air mattress and battery powered pump
  • Batteries
  • Camping table (not necessary, but much appreciated)
  • Towels
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Battery powered fan
  • Water bottle or Camelbak backpack
  • Portable cell phone charger (if you don’t want to wait at the charging stations bring one for every night)
  • Jumper cables for your car (it probably will die)
  • Toilet paper (porta potties will run out)
  • Trash bags
  • Paper Towels
  • Shower tent (too expensive for casual campers or festival goers but if you can get one bring it)
  • Tapestries (for decor)
  • Cups, plates, cutlery
  • Watch (besides your phone which may die)
  • Baby wipes
  • Water (jugs or bottles)
  • Dry Shampoo
  • Anything you need to get ready in the AM.
  • Rain boots
  • Poncho
  • Clothes
    • Bring clothes you feel comfortable in. It’s going to be a long day and if you’re pulling at your clothes all day it’ll be hard to relax. Light, airy, and easy to walk in are key. Yes, festival fashion, is a thing, but so is chub rub….
    • It can get cold at night though, so throw in some sweatpants and sweatshirt!

All of that will get your through the trip feeling pretty good. You’ll be dry, shaded, and hydrated.

 

 

Take me back to… Edinburgh

Oh how my heart aches for Edinburgh. I did absolutely no research on Edinburgh before going there. The one tidbit of information I knew was that J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter in The Elephant House. Very important information, but still not much to go on.

My first trip abroad was a two week trip to Dublin (for St. Patrick’s Day) and then a hop across the Irish Sea to Scotland. I was so excited about Dublin. I researched. I made a map. I chose restaurants. I knew everything I wanted to do in Ireland and was willing to venture off by myself to do what I wanted.

In Edinburgh I was happy to be lead, to walk, discover, and wander about. There was no plan, no agenda, no list of things I HAD to do (except of course The Elephant House). And what I found in Edinburgh was beauty, warmth, history, and happiness.

I learned something really valuable on this trip. Sometimes it’s important to research, to figure out what you want to do. But it’s also really important to just relax. Let life take you where it wants. Pick three things you really want to do. And let the rest take care of itself. That way you won’t be worried about not getting to do everything on your list and you’ll actually get to enjoy yourself. You’ll walk away feeling fulfilled instead of disappointed you didn’t get to do everything.

We had a rough list of things we’d like to do. Between the three of us we each picked something we HAD to do. Otherwise we asked people where we should go, what they recommended, and decided then if it was something we’d enjoy. If it wasn’t we asked somebody else.

So what’d we end up doing?

  1. The Elephant House: The birthplace of Harry Potter. We went at night and there was no line. I love that it is still an authentic coffee house and not a Harry Potter gift shop. We each ordered different types of specialty hot chocolate. Mine was minty and tasted like a Girl Scout Thin Mint and was heaven. We then took a stroll through the cemetery where J.K. was said to have pulled some of her characters names. Unfortunately it started to get dark and we couldn’t find Tom Riddle.
  2. Edinburgh Castle: You can see this beautiful castle from almost everywhere in the city. It’s a very good navigation point when wandering around. It’s about $20, and will take you a few hours, depending on how much you want to read. It’s really amazing to see a castle and how it’s basically a town within a city. It gives you great views of the city too.
  3. Edinburgh Underground: There are many companies that give ‘ghost tours’ of the Edinburgh Underground. I didn’t even know this was a thing before I went. There’s an entire system of tunnels where the poor used to live. There are lots of little booths set up on the Royal Mile, just pick one and go. I loved ours. It was the perfect mix of history and creepiness that I wanted. I didn’t want anything jumping out at me or chasing me. It’s about $10 and takes an hour or so. I learned so much about the city.
  4. The Royal Mile: Just walk it. It’s absolutely beautiful. Go into all the stores, buy a cashmere scarf or some other cheesy souvenir. I’m not sure about the schedule of the fair but try to catch it. During the day their are vendors that set up and sell hand-made gifts.
  5. Grassmarket Square: More shops, more restaurants, but with a little more authentic flair. Get a bear at The Last Drop, sight of the last hanging in Edinburgh. Buy a candle at Isle of Skye candle shop. And then hop next door to get a pastry from La Barantine Victoria, so good.
  6. If you want to go out, head to Cowgate street. We were exhausted after a week and a half of traveling so didn’t make it out but that’s where we were told to go and while walking around it was definitely lively.
  7. Try haggis. Literally anywhere! Don’t wait to the last day like we did, and ended up only being able to eat it once because we waited. We totally would have eaten it every day. Loved it.
  8. Edinburgh Botanical Garden: We had originally wanted to go to the Royal Palace, but because it was Easter Weekend, it was closed. Instead we headed to the botanical garden and had a lovely time looking at flowers. It really is pretty impressive. You should definitely pay the extra to go into the greenhouse, the grounds are free. 12970980_10206136542601649_2784252141155841209_o

We had a lovely time. Looking at the pictures makes me nostalgic and I want to start planning a trip back. But I have other cities to discover. Edinburgh holds a special place in my heart though, and I’ll be back one day.

 

The pros and cons of NYC

I can’t even remember what I expected when I moved to NYC. I don’t think I really processed that part. I wanted to work in publishing. I wanted to help put books into people’s hands, and that meant working and living in NYC.

Why wouldn’t I want to live in NYC? Everyone wants to live in NYC! Maybe I did, I can’t remember. But three weeks in and I was already missing everything about home. I’m not the type to get homesick. I never crave my bed when I travel; I can sleep anywhere. I don’t even call back home. I live fully in the moment of experiencing a new place and new people.

NYC is grinding. There is no peace and quiet moment. There is no moment to pause and reflect. There is no easy. EVERYTHING you do is hard. People that have always lived here don’t realize how grueling it is. Yes, they joke, NYC is tough. But I don’t think they realize how easy they could have it if they lived anywhere else.

I do. I know that carrying your groceries three blocks home is not normal. I know that walking 2 miles everyday in rain, snow, freezing, or scorching temperatures is not normal. I know not being able to do laundry in your apartment is not normal. I know $15 for a sandwich is ridiculous. I know how easy it is everywhere else, and so to move here and have everything be so hard, took a while to get used to.

Yes, NYC has so much to offer. Concerts, plays, museums, art, culture, restaurants, shopping are all a subway ride away. It is exhilarating and exciting to live where IT all happens.

A lot of times though, people who live here don’t get to experience these amazing things. They are working, living their life, and unable to take advantage of what surrounds them.

I have not loved my time in NYC. I had to work really hard to stay afloat. And to be able to enjoy the city I had to work even harder. Making friends as an adult is hard, making friends as an adult in NYC is harder. A lot of times I was lonely, tired, and broke.

But there are some things about NYC that I will never forget. In the future when I look back on NYC I will remember it fondly for these reasons.

  • Sitting on the MET steps drinking coffee and watching the city come alive
  • Seamless (food delivery)
  • Crown’s Fried Chicken
  • Tulip Trees
  • The roof of the Flatiron Building
  • That skyline
  • NYC Public Library
  • Volunteering for the Hillary campaign
  • Crossing the bridge on the subway and looking at the skyline
  • The beautiful Episcopal churches
  • Seeing a Katy Perry concert… by myself
  • Seeing a NASHVILLE show concert… by myself
  • Early morning strolls down 5th avenue on the way to babysit
  • Christmas decorations
  • The Rockettes
  • Union Square farmer’s market
  • Christmas villages
  • Waffles and Dinges
  • Central Park
    • The Alice Statue
    • The Boathouse
    • Bethesda Fountain
    • The Mall
    • Ladies Pavilion
  • The Natural History Museum
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • New York Botanical Garden
  • Beauty and Essex Brunch
  • The Hair of the Dog
  • Meeting Emelia Clarke at Me Before You signing
  • Meeting Tobias Menzies on the street
  • Mister Softee
  • Broadway
    • The King and I
    • The Phantom of the Opera
    • Wicked
  • Central Park in the largest snow storm of the year
  • Halloween festival in the West Village
  • Seeing things in movies and saying I’ve been there
  • Reading an article and understanding the NYC reference
  • Seeing famous people (Jessica Capshaw, Jason Alexander, Billy on the Street, Scott Adsit)
  • The Chelsea Market
  • Smorgasburg
  • Window decorations
  • Flowers at corner streets
  • Ellen’s Stardust Diner
  • Shake Shack
  • The moment the weather changes, from hot to cold or from cold to hot. Those precious weeks when you don’t need a coat and you aren’t dripping with sweat. Fall and Spring in NYC are perfect.

I’m leaving New York in three weeks. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be back. I’m not sure if it’s somewhere I can call home long-term. Maybe I’ll be back. Maybe a year away will make the heart grow fonder and pull me back in.

For now though, I’m saying goodbye, to a city I don’t love, but has definitely grown on me.

NYC is now a part of me whether I like it or not.

 

Life will keep going without you…

I’m not sure what I thought would happen when I moved away. The whole world would stop spinning? Everyone would freeze in time or melt into a puddle without me? What’s happening is that life is going on without me. People are making plans beyond the date of my departure. Nobody is putting their life on hold so I can have this adventure and come back right where I left off.

I didn’t expect them to, of course, but it’s still surprising that everyone is adjusting so well. All I can think is aren’t I important? Isn’t my presence here, in your life, worth something?

Maybe it is, but I’ve learned something. I am replaceable. I am one of a million people that can do this job. I am not some special shiny person nobody can live without. This seems childish and something I probably should have known. I’m not saying I didn’t know it, but to see it in action, is another thing. Maybe it’s a symptom of my generation. Millennials have been brought up to believe we are super special. But we are just people, like all others.

And while this revelation is a slap in the face, it’s also a relief.

I do not hold the world in place. It will continue to spin without me.

Yes my team at work will struggle a little at first but eventually they will replace me. And that new person might even bring them something I couldn’t provide. I can relax, everything, and everybody will be fine without me.

I am 24 years old and the weight of the world does not rest on my shoulders. I am free. At this moment in my life I am free to do what I want when I want and the only person deeply affected by my choices is me. And that is the most comforting thing in the world.

I’m Proud Of You

Something I wrote a while ago, but it’s still so true.

Ready, Set, Leap

I’ve lived in NYC for a little over a year now. I have a great job in a top 5 publishing house. And for all intents and purposes I’m living my dream. But sometimes I don’t feel that way. I look around and think is this really it? Is this what I’m meant to do forever? I have almost no money, I’m almost constantly homesick and I’ve made about 5 casual friends in the past year. So when people tell me “I’m proud of you” I want to ask them why? People see my highlight reel, and when your highlights are in NYC they look pretty glamorous. Fun nights out with my best friends, receiving a book before anyone else has access, sitting on the beach in the Hamptons, casually seeing celebrities. Take a snapshot of these moments, string them together on an Instagram feed and I look like I…

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