I’m a fighter, a problem solver, and stubborn, I mean persistent, persistent AF. None of that was helping me here. My willingness to do anything was useless when there was nothing to do. 

Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country. 

Anais Nin

I have the attention span of an underslept goldfish and the ambition of, well, I don’t know what animal has the most FOMO, but I want to do ALL the things. I am an overthinker, an over-planner. I make lists of all the lists I need to make. I plan contingencies for my contingency plans. I like to be over-prepared for when things inevitably go sideways. 

My favorite SME (pronounced Smee, like the pirate) taught me about SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) because she knows about stuff like that. I think everybody I know is a SME; it just depends on the Subject Matter. My SME for all things travel is a former travel agent with a great sense of adventure. He gave me a ranking of preferred airlines and airports. I couldn’t afford the top of the list, but British Airways was ranked fairly high, and I remembered that they made a very nice cup of tea on my honeymoon flight. I also narrowed my airports down to Heathrow and Madrid. He had other recommendations on his list, but I was keen on changing planes where I was functional in the native language.

I was feeling very good at the adulting, jumping through the hoops the school had given me: flights booked, travel insurance confirmed, orientation module complete, vaccine and medical requirements cleared, textbooks and funding secured, passport renewal… well begun. I was handling all of that and working and prepping for finals. Total boss mode. And the universe laughed.

Let’s go back to that passport thing. My previous passport expired in August 2020. August 2020 wasn’t a good time for handling non-essential government business in person, and I couldn’t do a straightforward renewal because I had my married name on my previous passport. Legally changing my name back to Torres has been a major pain in the neck. Doing it on my passport was no exception. 

As soon as in-person appointments were available at the campus passport office, I made an appointment for early April. Then I discovered that I could handle it faster by mail. I canceled my appointment, and on March 25, I paid for Express Shipping for my passport renewal application and what I thought were all the necessary supporting documents (including payment for expedited processing). It wasn’t received until April 1st.

On Saturday, they contacted me, saying that the court order restoring my maiden name was inadequate for the name change. On Monday, I spoke to someone at the National Passport Center and confirmed that they needed all nine pages of the court order granting my divorce, not just the page relevant to the name change. That same day I mailed the original nine-page document (because I didn’t have time to go to FedEx and pay for copies and still make it to class, and I didn’t want to delay it to the next day, having already waited all weekend for things to be open) to the address given, One-Day Express, again. 

The tracking number said the label had been created, but the package did not show up in the system. Persistence is my superpower. I mean, some people call me stubborn, but whatevs. I just know that I can move mountains when I need to. I couldn’t figure out how to move this one, though. The Study Abroad website said that I had to report to Ponta Delgada in Portugal on June 1, 2022, or I could lose my spot in the program. I could not stubborn my way onto an international flight without a valid passport. I didn’t even have my expired passport anymore because it was one of the many documents I’d sent in with my renewal application. I’m a fighter, a problem solver, and stubborn, I mean persistent, persistent AF. None of that was helping me here. My willingness to do anything was useless when there was nothing to do. 

Getting a new copy of my official court order required going to the court that had issued it in person. On April 23, I reached out to my divorce lawyer. I had moved roughly four hundred miles away from that court and was preparing for finals and a summer abroad, and trying to get to the court in Barstow on a weekday myself seemed like a nightmare. My lawyer, on the other hand, frequents the place. Unfortunately, he was out of the country then, so that wouldn’t be a quick solution, and I was running out of time. My advisor from Berkeley Study Abroad was sympathetic, but of course, he had no sway with the Passport Center or USPS.

This was my last summer as an undergraduate. Studying abroad was a now-or-never proposition, and I had worked so hard to get so close, and it was slipping away, and there was nothing I could do about it. On May 13, my lawyer was finally back in his office, but the day before (just two weeks before I had to be in Portugal), the National Passport Center had confirmed that they had all the necessary documentation. The post office never did figure out what had happened to my envelope, but despite it all, I got my passport in time. I was going to Portugal!

Opportunity knocks once let’s reach out and grab it (yeah!)
Together we’ll nab it
We’ll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it!
(Cab it?)
Movin’ right along

The Muppets
Movin’ Right Along

An Adventure

One foot in front of the other has gotten me through assorted crises and chaos. It got me the world’s slowest associate’s degree and into a fancy university with many study-abroad opportunities. I set my sights on a five-week program in Mexico City.

The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.

Oprah Winfrey

I was into tarot cards in junior high. My card was The Fool. This card can be first or last, the alpha and the omega, like an ace. The Fool’s superpower, not that tarot cards actually have superpowers, is just to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes circumstances are favorable; sometimes, everything’s a mess. Either way, just keep going. 

One foot in front of the other has gotten me through assorted crises and chaos. It got me the world’s slowest associate’s degree and into a fancy university with many study-abroad opportunities. I set my sights on a five-week program in Mexico City. 

I feel like I’ve spent my whole life almost learning Spanish. I understand a lot, but there are usually words that I don’t get, and sometimes they aren’t the words that matter, but sometimes they are. It seems that five weeks of studying the Spanish language and Mexican culture while submersed in both ought to push me over the edge into fluency.

I have a cousin in Mexico who I miss dearly and I’m sure I could include a visit with him and his wife while I’m there. I also have a tía in central California who intends to speak to me in English, but whenever she gets excited, she starts speaking to me in rapid-fire fluent Spanish. She’s older, and if I interrupt her to ask her to switch back to English, she loses her train of thought. She is my only hope for learning the stories of that side of my family, and I don’t want my language shortcomings to be the barrier that prevents that. 

Also, the Work Bestie teaches in Spanish sometimes, in Spain, in Mexico, and soon in California. My favorite teaching experience was something I didn’t even want to do. I was just administrative support for that workshop. I had not psyched myself up to public speaking at all. He’d taught me how to teach that module years before, but I don’t think I’d ever taught it in front of him before, let alone with him. Honestly, I was kinda sick of teaching that module, but his voice was going out on him.

I brought all the goofy dad jokes to the lesson plan. I love that I can make him laugh with the cheesiest nonsense. He’s so much better at the whiteboard than I am. But I brought in handouts to make up for that. He also has field experience that I don’t, though. The point is, I think that we teach really well together. We are alike enough to set a shared goal, and our differences are complementary.

If I can get myself fluent in Spanish and competent in the rest of what we teach, I can coteach with him more, here and abroad. So, I was fully committed to pursuing this five-week study abroad opportunity in Mexico City. I didn’t know how I’d fund it, but I can work miracles when there’s a fire under me. 

And then there was Portugal. Portugal had a later deadline to apply and also a $5000 scholarship. It was a two-month program instead of five weeks. It was in a very different time zone. It wasn’t going to help me speak Spanish, not even a little bit, but it was funded. Funded makes a huge difference. 

He denies it, but I tried to talk the Work Bestie into joining the Peace Corps after I graduate. He said he was tired of going to foreign countries just to work his butt off. He would rather go with free time and comfy accommodations. I reckoned if I spent two months on a different continent, in a country where I did not know the language, studying my butt off, it would probably scratch the same itch I’ve had for the Peace Corps for all these years. Yeah, going to Portugal felt like a good step toward becoming the best version of myself. 

And do you feel scared? I do
But I won’t stop and falter
And if we threw it all away
Things can only get better

Howard Jones
Things Can Only Get Better
Howard Jones – Things Can Only Get Better

Never Say Never

I took one class a semester for eight years to get my associate’s degree. It was painfully slow, but in the end, it actually worked. I was ready to transfer to a university when my youngest turned eighteen.

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable. 

Christopher Reeve

I was a terrible student growing up. I ditched much of middle school. I had a bus pass, an annual membership to the L.A. Zoo, one to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a library card. I learned so much ditching school. I love learning; I’m just bad at being a student. 

By high school, I was already determined to be a housewife someday. Two different career paths offered themselves when I was on the cusp of adulthood. One was an apprenticeship to an auto mechanic (though I would have to get some official education at the community college level to make a career out of it), and the other was working with developmentally disabled adults in a day program. They both appealed to me, but I picked the latter because it would do more to prepare me for motherhood. 

In the end, I am quite good with kids and in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the job market for housewives doesn’t allow for much career mobility. If I live the rest of my life on my own, I need to get my ish together because no one else will take care of my business for me. If I’m going to live the rest of my life with a partner, I still need to get my ish together because anyone worth being in a relationship with deserves the best version of me I can be. 

I went back to school in my 30s. It wasn’t easy. Thank goodness for Google and Starbucks. One answered my questions like, “how do people study?” and the other gave me a place to follow that advice without the man who was becoming my ex-husband being able to sabotage me. I took one class a semester for eight years to get my associate’s degree. It was painfully slow, but in the end, it actually worked. I was ready to transfer to a university when my youngest turned eighteen. Of the eight universities I applied to, only the CSU and UC in San Diego turned me down. That would be the two schools in the city where my Work Bestie lives. 

When we were both completely single, I would write him long, rambling emails, explicitly telling him how I wanted him and why and telling him to “just take the compliment” and move on. I don’t date younger, or colleagues, and I wasn’t ready for anything serious with so much trauma to process from my marriage, and I don’t want anything superficial either. I’m all or nothing; in this case, it would be best to stick to nothing. I told him we were never going to be a thing, and I told him why I never ever wanted to be a thing. I also told him to visit me and go on adventures with me. After all, he was my Work Bestie; visits and adventures are what besties do. 

After years of being the first person I told any news to, he was the last person I told when I accepted the admission offer from my dream school. There really was no choice even close to the benefits of going to Berkeley for me. It was the right thing to do if I was going to stick to my guns about becoming the best version of myself. It also meant moving 400 miles further away from my Work Bestie when the 100 miles between us was already almost too much to bear. I knew that if I moved away, we would meet other people and drift apart, but I was just as sure that if I didn’t, I would never be the partner I wanted to be someday, let alone the independent woman I needed to be. 

Berkeley had been the last school to give me an answer. I was sure that they had rejected me so hard that they weren’t even going to be bothered with telling me so. I was never getting into my dream school. The night before they accepted me, I had gotten drunk and depressed and sent something despairing to the Work Bestie. He called me, and I cried and cried and cried, but he talked me off the ledge. He soothes me as no one else can. Not even he knows it, but I cried just as hard when I realized I was going to Berkeley. I wasn’t ready to move away from him. 

There’s the way we may appear
But that will change from day to night
Would you ever see within?
Underneath the skin?
Could I believe you had that sight?
And so you go
No girl could say no
To you

Suzanne Vega
I’ll Never Be Your Maggie May
Suzanne Vega Montreux 2004 06 I’ll Never Be Your Maggie May


So I returned to the dreams I’d had before I started dreaming of being kissed passionately. If I couldn’t have love, I would have the world.

Seek not water; seek thirst


When I was a little girl, I tried to learn American Sign Language. I loved putting my face and sometimes my entire body into a word. More than that, I believed that if I became fluent in sign language, I could travel the whole world, going from one deaf community to another. Then when I was about ten years old, I learned that signed languages are as diverse and varied as spoken languages. Just like that, my globe-trotting plan was gone. A decade later, I was settling down but hadn’t given up on seeing the world. I just wanted someone to see the world with. Adventures are more fun with an accomplice. My marriage didn’t work out that way, or any other way. 

It’s probably the most universal human desire to love and be loved. I think it’s something we want as newborns and still on our deathbeds, this thread weaving through our lives as other desires bloom and die and disappear. I wanted to love, be loved, and devote myself to a lasting partnership. But if that’s not an option, then there has to be something else to look forward to. I am addicted to silver linings. There always has to be something exciting enough to make getting out of bed tomorrow feel worth it. 

So I returned to the dreams I’d had before I started dreaming of being kissed passionately. If I couldn’t have love, I would have the world. I pinned all my hopes on traveling. As soon as my youngest child turned eighteen, I would go to ALL the places! Of course, the part where that happened in 2020 didn’t help, but that wasn’t the only change of plans. This isn’t the same economy I came of age in. My kids need more support as young adults, and I’m less adept at providing it. I’m a broke, divorced, middle-aged undergraduate with family responsibilities. It’s not exactly a great recipe for jet setting. 

Still, I’ve researched a dozen different routes to walk El Camino de Santiago and a handful for the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve fantasized about getting an RV, a dog, and an as-of-yet elusive comfort behind the wheel. Or riding all the best trains without a dog. I could take the Southwest Chief from L.A. to Chicago and the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul. I could even go on a nine-month cruise  around the world. I’ve daydreamed about crashing on couches in every city where I have a friend or an acquaintance or the ability to convince myself that kind strangers probably won’t murder me. I want to volunteer anywhere where volunteers aren’t a problem unto themselves. 

It is my nature to be curious about everyone and everything. Adventure is just another word for finding out. To love and be loved would be the sweetest adventure, but to travel could be pretty exciting, too. Maybe I’ll do both or nearly neither. Whatever happens, I’ll live; perhaps that could be adventure enough.

Nothing much to say, I guess
just the same as all the rest
Been tryin’ to throw your arms ‘round the world
And a woman needs a man
like a fish needs a bicycle
when you’re tryin’ to throw your arms around the world

Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World
U2 Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World