SIMPLY B

yogurt from a measuring cup

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I was spooning vanilla yogurt into a measuring cup today when it dawned upon me that the entire process—container to spoon to measuring cup to spoon to bowl—wasn’t just a waste of dishes, it was a waste of time. It was ridiculous. I was being ridiculous.

Last I checked, yogurt was not a common culprit for weight gain. Chocolate. Cheese. Bagels. McDonald’s. Sure. But yogurt? Not so much. In fact, I’m pretty sure yogurt is advertised as healthy. It has calcium, makes our bones strong, makes us strong.

And I was measuring my consumption!

This isn’t something I do every day. In fact, this isn’t something I do at all. Which, according to my too-tight shorts leftover from last summer, is the problem.

So this morning I redownloaded My Fitness Pal, an app that helps you count calories and encourages you to measure yogurt, back onto my phone.

Two summers ago when I counted calories, it didn’t feel quite so ridiculous. It felt healthy, maybe because I was using it alongside a workout plan that involved lots of running and recipes that turned pancakes healthy. But today, in the kitchen, with a bowl of vanilla yogurt, it felt nothing but ridiculous.

Because I am not fat.

unnamed-3For Lent this past year, I gave up body-shaming thoughts. Maybe not an act quite as holy as the Church was looking for, but I figured if God made me this way and loves me this way, then who am I to not love myself? So I stopped calling myself fat when the button of my jeans dug into my belly and I stopped thinking dresses would look cuter if my legs were just a bit thinner. I also started a 30-day paleo cleanse during this period.

During those thirty days, I ate fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish.

I didn’t begin the cleanse to lose weight. In fact, I wasn’t really thinking about weight. The cleanse was done as an attempt to uncover which foods were causing my face to break out and my stomach to hurt. I became pretty good in the kitchen during the cleanse, finally learning how to cook cod and cauliflower. I also stopped being so hungry for chocolate and cheese as I snacked on carrot sticks and clementines.

Midway through, I stepped on a scale.

I’d lost seven pounds and that changed things. I didn’t suddenly see the cleanse as a way to help the inside of my body, but instead to improve the outside of my body. To make me skinnier.

On Day 28 of the cleanse, I was at a diner with my sister and she was ordering a shrimp burger and I was asking the waitress if there was any way I could order just two eggs and she was looking at me like I had two heads made of eggs, and I thought to myself: Is this worth it? At that point, I was doing it just to do it, to say I ate nothing but fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish for thirty days. It wasn’t about my face or my stomach. Is this worth it?

It wasn’t.

I stopped the cleanse in that diner on Day 28. I ordered a lentil burger and sweet potato fries and I enjoyed every damn chipotle-mayo dipped bite.

Life, I realized, is not meant to be spent in a diner watching your sister enjoy a shrimp burger while you sit on watching, drinking the chemical-tasting lemon water. Maybe it’s also not meant to be spent with Netflix and chocolate peanut butter popcorn, but there has got. to. be. a. balance.

That balance is not yogurt in a measuring cup.

Today, while scooping the yogurt, I reminded myself of my Lenten mantra: you are not fat. And I believed it.

I. AM. NOT. FAT.

I am a sister and a daughter and a reader and a chai tea-drinker.f809dd3e26dfe9f6206538e79fec7af2

I am twenty-three and free and happy and spinning in the wind as sunshine pours down on me.

I am pale and covered in sunscreen and praying as waves crash down.

I am hopeful and sometimes tired and a baker of the greatest oat cakes.

I am cranky during movie interruptions and sad when the rain cancels plans.

I am in debt with library fees and confused by parking garages and a fan of vanilla yogurt.

I am growing.

I am growing.

I am growing.

I am not fat.

So when I try on last summer’s crop tops or a pair of high-waisted shorts I bought when I was nineteen, I remind myself of this.

I AM GROWING.

And then a surge of gratefulness surges through me because this girl  who grows, she is the happiest she’s ever been and she smiles more than she ever has. She spends time with those she loves and she buys birthday presents and makes cards and cookies and flies on swing sets and she throws love around like glitter at a Ke$ha concert. She doesn’t try to measure it.

So this girl, the one who grows, she turns the bathroom scale upside down, and tosses the measuring cup in the sink, leaving the dishes for later, and she scoops as much yogurt into the bowl as she feels hungry for. Because she doesn’t want to look back on such a happy time and remember it as the year she ate calcium from a measuring cup.tumblr_nfeyktAiqk1rk5a9yo1_500

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lifeboats and impossible puzzles

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I love birthdays. Mine. Others’. I love wrapping gifts. I love unwrapping gifts.

I love celebrating the lives of people I love. I love that we live in a world where each person gets a day.

Here’s what I don’t love about birthdays: we dread them because we see them as a sign we’re growing older. And though there’s a Snapple cap floating out there, reminding us that growing older is a privilege denied to many, we still regret them. We wish we were still 21. Or 17. Or 12. Or 5. “Life was easier then.”

And today, at twenty-three, I’ve seen and felt too many tears fall down my face, fall down the faces of people I love.

Because today, at twenty-three, there is a friend reaching out to hug me as she absentmindedly stares out the window. And a cross of confliction hits her features as she’s reminded of the world so beautiful while her own heart breaks in two. Then four. Then Sixteen. Until it’s in too many smithereens for even the mathematical experts to keep up with.

And so I take her into my arms, a lifeboat trying to assure she doesn’t have to drown.

And her body follows her heart’s lead and it, too, breaks. And my arms are no longer a lifeboat but instead glue sticking her pieces back together.

And she falls to the floor, becoming a mish-mashed puzzle and we can all help turn over her pieces—face side up—as she tries to right herself. But one million piece puzzles are too hard to complete, and in the end, the picture is different than when the jigsaw began.

She stands back up. She was a canvas covered in black and blue and tumblr_mgzmr3W1Tr1ro74x3o2_500mixtures of gray that make us sad to see. And she’s picking up the brushes and herself off the ground, and she’s buying yellow, orange, and every shade of pink. And she’s covering the ugly pieces, wanting to make something beautiful.

In that moment though, she is a sad friend and a boy who was supposed to love her forever stopped. And I hate this. More than growing older or cooked mushrooms, I hate this. Because how terrible it is that we live in a world where everything breaks even the people.

How terrible it is that we live in a world where people fall apart on doorsteps and in closets and on bathroom floors. How terrible it is that we live in a world where people forget they have people. People that love them, want them, need them.

How terrible it is that we live in a world where people are breaking people.

That we see each new year as a chance to re-do ourselves, to paint over our ugly bits.

That we drown our sorrows or starve them away. That we regret growing older because we haven’t lived as much as the girl riding elephants on our Instagram feed.

That we spend money on eye pencils and juice cleanses because it seems like the easiest way to keep from being broken, to keep from showing off our brokenness.

And how terrible it is that at the end of falling apart in someone’s arms, we have no choice but to shuffle our pieces back together, to walk to the door, to time travel back to real life, because a new day, then year, is waiting.

Life may be short.

But life is a lot of other things.

It is beautiful.

It is fragile.

It is sometimes so big we get lost.

It is sometimes so small we hold it in the palm of our hands and smile.

It is full of laughter.

Laughter that is matched with tears.

And it is filled with best friends. And boyfriends.

And broken hearts and sticky tack and an unending puzzle of putting yourself together again.

It is family and cranky cats and parents that tell the grocery store clerk, “It’s all together.” It is siblings who call you when you have tears in your voice and stay on the line until you have a headache from laughing.

Happiness-Photography-Tumblr-7It is birthdays.

It is growing older.

It is lifeboats saving us when we think we could drown.

It’s blowing out candles and wishing for better days ahead and being thankful for the beautiful days behind.

Life is everything and anything, but it is not simply short.

Because it’s about squeezing the hands of the people around you, celebrating each other. Birthday or not. New year or not. Face paint and puzzles and glue. Or not.

I keep driving

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When I was six years old and K-Mart was still a blossoming business, I lost my parents in the department store. Likely distracted by my surroundings, I lost the two people who, if parental contracts existed, probably would’ve included some sort of “we promise not to lose you while shopping” clause. What I mean is, I got myself lost. Probably deciding to hide in clothing racks or seek out the toys I’d beg my parents to buy.

Through teary-eyes, I thought I found my dad. So certain it was him, I reached up, took his hand, and started chatting about mommy’s whereabouts. Only when I looked up, I was startled to see an equally shocked face that was definitely not my dad. I quickly let go of his foreign hand and ran away, eventually stumbling into my parents who were scouring the store for me. I was terrified.

I didn’t like getting lost.

But I was so damn good at it.

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Eighteen years later, I still have a reputation amongst my friends and family as Person Most Likely to Lengthen a Journey. The least requested driver on road trips—both short and long. The one whose “sense of direction” isn’t requested on a hike in the middle of the woods. The one who’s kicked out of the driver’s seat, who’s frequently told to pass the phone off to someone else when directions are given. Always told to bring a GPS. Always told to call when I arrive. Always told to pay better attention to my surroundings. Always guided away from following my directional “instinct.”

When I moved to a new city after graduation, I was nervous about driving. It didn’t matter that this city was only one hour from my hometown or that I’d been there a million and one times on class trips or shopping adventures or visits to see my older sister. It didn’t matter that my friends considered this place to be familiar, that they could walk the busy streets without a compass, map, or even eyes probably.

For awhile, I’d managed to talk my sister into accompanying me on driving trips, tempting her with free chai tea lattes or a promise to make her dinner. And for awhile, she came along, serving as a living, breathing GPS.

Like a stray kitten, I was forced out on my own a bit prematurely, which is to say on my first solo driving trip, I got very lost. Not having a cellphone plan meant Siri could not guide me home. This led to some serious in-car panic. Eventually, I was forced to pull into a Tim Horton’s, where I bought a hot chocolate I didn’t want, and stole wifi while I looked up a map. I was supposed to be meeting a friend for dinner at 6:30. I think by 7:15 she thought I was dead.

But I survived.

And I’ve continued to survive, paying attention to right turns, street names, which gas station leads to which road. Restaurants are focal points, Tall hotels have become beacons, my own personal light houses. I’ve continued to survive, but I’ve also continued to be late for dinners and coffee dates and everything else that requires a start time. I get lost going into the city, I get lost going out.

I am in a perpetual state of being lost.

But the panic has started to die down.

Now, when I’m on a strange street with no recognizable places, rather than crying or hyperventilating, I keep driving. I keep driving until something does look familiar, until I’m a little less lost and a little closer to being on my way.

Recently, I went to visit the new library nestled downtown. My sister told me the name of the street it was on. “You can’t miss it,” she said, “It’s huge.”

Obviously, I missed it. The street. The library. The parking garage. Basically everything I was supposed to be on the lookout for. What should’ve been a fifteen minute drive took me forty-five minutes. When I (finally) arrived, however, I didn’t feel annoyed with the delay. I felt accomplished for having made it on my own.

It was the same sense of accomplishment that had filled me this past Christmas break when Igeographically challenged me—had given directions to one of my friends. I recited them easily, like the lyrics to a song I’ve heard eight hundred times. Only it wasn’t like that at all. Because unlike with song lyrics, I got everything right!

And later, when she looked at me with confusion, asking when I got so good at directions, all I could do was smile.

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I’m 23 years old. I have time. So much of it. And with gas prices being as low as they are, detours really don’t matter as much as I once convinced myself they did. In fact, I’m coming to find they’re actually useful. Because with each time I get lost, I’m discovering new ways to arrive at my destination. Sure, these routes are longer, but not unnecessarily so the way I once thought.

Wrong turn after wrong turn eventually leads me to the right street. Now, when I find myself totally lost, I don’t dash to the nearest Tim Horton’s and binge eat a 6-pack of Timbits while I desperately search Google Maps. I keep driving. And with each detour, I learn more about the city whose geography used to scare me. And with each lost moment, I’m ensuring I’ll be a little less lost next time. With each discovery of a new street, there is one less street I don’t know. I keep driving.

I’m trying to apply this logic to my life. To not panic about time, about reaching goals by certain ages, to not care that my journey might be slower than the car next to me, to accept that to be found, you must first be lost. I’m trying to remember that with each detour, I learn more about my surroundings, I become better for the next time around. I try to remember that I know more now than I did six months ago.

Most importantly, I try to remind myself that all roads lead to Rome. Or in this case, the library. Or in the case of real life, exactly where you’re meant to be.

When did I get so good at directions?

When I went out on my own. When I had to learn to get myself home.

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a new goodbye

tumblr_me9oxhykPP1qbma4ko1_500When you’re younger, if you’re lucky, you don’t have to think a lot about loss. At least not in any way that expands beyond an Under Five soccer game, or the video games you’re certain your brother is always cheating in, because how can anyone win that much?

When you’re younger, and loss comes, it hits you in abrupt ways. The absence is so obvious the grieving becomes that way as well. Because, when you’re younger, the people in your life—the ones you don’t think about losing, but sometimes end up losing anyway—are always there. You haven’t yet grown or expanded or travelled the world. You haven’t known people, then left people behind. You haven’t spread far and wide, making connections everywhere you go. Everyone you know is around you. The way they’ve always been. There are brothers, sisters, pet hamsters. Mom, Dad. There are the friends up the street, friends on the bus, friends in your first grade class. There are teachers, EAs, chaperones on class trips and first dates. Everyone you know is around you. Except for maybe the great grandmother who you visit only on Christmas and Easter.

If you lose these constants, you feel it. You see it. And it stings in a way that is hard to forget because they’re no longer there. Not in the way you were used to. Not in a way at all.

When you’re younger, loss hits you in abrupt ways. Life startling ways. To lose a classmate is an empty desk, a quieter room, a loss for always. To lose a Nana is fewer homemade biscuits, it’s a silenced “Come in! Come in!” it’s memories you never got the chance to make.

You stop saying forever, because the idea of forever is suddenly so frightening. You begin to hate goodbyes, even if your mom’s just heading out for a meeting. You don’t like to go upstairs first at night, because you’re afraid of alone.

When you’re younger, you fall a lot. You’re clumsy and fitting into your skin, and growth spurts keep you up at night. You fall a lot. And you feel the pain. Because it’s there. Your skin is marked, maybe torn, it’s red and sometimes blue. And you cry, because it hurts and the pain is there—visible to the eye—so why wouldn’t you cry?

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When you’re older, you learn about a new type of pain. You can’t always see it, and you learn about concealer and cover up so that helps to make your skin always clean, but still, you can feel it. You learn about the type of pain that doesn’t scratch you up, and it hurts more inside, and sometimes it’s so deep and hidden, you wonder if it’s even there.

When you’re older, you learn about a new type of pain. But it’s not because you’re clumsy and trying to fit into your skin. Instead, you’re trying to fit into your life, create your life. Because when you’re older, you’re still growing. In a new type of way. You’re big now, so the world seems too small. So you move away, you travel, you learn new things, and you feel smart when you have on a blazer and high heels. You feel old when you talk about the state of the Middle East and the fate of Apple Inc. You meet new people, and you learn how to love them, and you find you still don’t like some, like maybe they never outgrew cooties.

You get older. And the world is big now, and you feel so small.
You know so many people, but you’re always wondering about who knows the real you.

When you’re older, if you’re lucky, you don’t have to think a lot about loss. Instead, you just feel it.
It’s no longer abrupt, obvious, or scraping at your skin. But like you’ve been tossed around, thrown up and down, and the puzzle inside you is a mess, as you try to figure out where everything belongs.

When you’re older, if you’re lucky, you don’t have to think a lot about loss.
As it turns out, none of us are that lucky.

And so, we start to think about loss, and losing, and loving.

We crave summer, wish the warmth closer, but dread how quickly the years pass. Because we’re growing older. And the people we love—the once constants in our lives, the still constants in our lives—grow older, too.

Your days aren’t spent surrounded by the same group of people and you no longer visit a great grandmother on Christmas or Easter.

You start to say forever again, because the idea that things can’t last is too frightening. You stop hating goodbyes, because you’ve stopped saying goodbyes, because you can’t believe that it could be for the last time.

You’re upstairs first at night, and still, you’re afraid of alone.

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I remember the first long weekend I came home my freshman year of college. I’d been missing home, my high school, the way things were, and so I returned. For the weekend. And I drove around town, looking for indicators of things that were still the same. I didn’t find many.

But I drove to my high school that Friday afternoon to fetch my mom from work, and I waited in the pick-up line outside the band room door. And it hadn’t changed. A black bag hung in the window. And I knew on hot summer days it would be propped open again, maybe with a trombone case.

I knew inside, strangers, friends, classmates, they were coming together—differences aside—to make something that sounded alike, melodic.

It sounded like music.

It would always sound like music.

And my mom came out the door, got in the car, we drove home, I flew away again. And even on the loneliest of days, the most changing of days, I grew comfort in knowing not everything changes.

Some things stay the same.

This past week, the man behind the baton passed away. And as I talked with one of my best friends from high school and now, we reminisced about our days spent in the large room with the vaulted ceilings and a futon couch. We talked about the early mornings in that room when we didn’t want to be awake, let alone make music. We talked about the afternoon practices. Or the med tech class we took in there. We talked about the trips we went on. The adventures we found in new places. The long drives, the fun drives. The musical solace that was always in between. We talked about the uncontained laughter and we talked about him. We talked about the middle of the day breaks. The recesses when we hid away. When we were tired, or behind on homework, or wanting a pause from all the same faces.

We talked about it all. Mostly, about how he was always there. How we knew he’d always be there. The sadness was palpable, even through the screens we were chatting on.

When you’re older, you feel loss in a new way. No longer surrounded by the same people everyday, it’s not such a startling absence. And it doesn’t feel so obvious. There’s no everyday reminder of walking into an empty room with a silenced “hello.”

It doesn’t hit like a slap in the face.
Yet somehow, it stings all the same.

There won’t be an everyday absence reminder for me. But there’s still an everyday absence reminder for someone. A lot of someones. A vaulted room full of students with tired eyes and too-wise mouths. They’re trying to make something of themselves, already at seventeen. And they’ll push and shove, and lose themselves within themselves, and they’ll try to do it all alone.

And I remember the days when that was me. And a man at the front held a baton high, and somehow, that pulled us all together. Somehow, the raise of the arm joined us, united us. And somehow, melodies were made.

We were independent kids on the verge of it all, and we wanted nothing more than to have it all.

So we branched out far and wide, and we made our own lives. We travelled, we grew, we bought shiny black shoes. And everything changed. We distanced ourselves from the lives we knew, and we built new lives in homes with glass walls.

Occasionally, coming home, we’d drive by the old building with walls finally clear of mold, and as everything changed, we grew comfort in knowing someone didn’t. Behind the door with the black bag flapping from the window, there was a man inside. And with a baton held high, he was still bringing kids together, the same way he had once down for us.

This time, dressed in black, we come home again. And we think about loss now the way old people tend to. And we gather and bow our heads. Once strangers, maybe strangers again. And we drive by the old building and our heads fall lower, because something’s changed again, and it stings all the same.

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a belated resolution

fae3d2303be52bcff85673a2161e4dd8My best friend and I are frequent visitors to the land of self-deprecation. We complain about breakouts, bad hair cuts, and love handles. We criticize our bodies—and our maybe unhealthy lifestyles that contribute to our bodies—with the expectation that the other will pick us up, build us back up.

And so, together we discussed New Year’s Resolutions. Naturally, and along with every other girl living in North America, “work out more” found its way to both of our lists. Honestly, I could work out only twice this year and it would be considered “more” than last year, but still, I was setting my expectations higher than that. I didn’t just want to work out, I wanted to lose weight. The weight, specifically, that I most definitely gained when I made the ever-so-wise decision to make five pounds of fudge this Christmas season.

Come New Year’s Eve, I felt myself in a new sort of situation. I was abandoning my resolutions. Three Cheers for the kiddos who stick to them and use the New Year as a chance to implement healthier habits into their lives, but when I found myself spending time with a group of people—people who I didn’t have many shared commonalities, except for maybe the elementary school we attended—I discovered my real resolution for the New Year: be more me.

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I don’t say that in an “I’m the best ever! I should be even more me!” way. I’m not a totally obnoxious human being. But that when I’m in a group of people, I should want to be like me, not like them.

3770415fb9d45e82c36add236d6d8249So I resolve to stop sending out “What are you wearing tonight?” texts.

I resolve to start picking out my own Instagram filters, and requiring the feedback of my best friend or mom a little less.

I resolve to not say “I don’t remember” when people ask me what I’m currently reading out of fear that they may look down upon my choice.

Because I don’t want to speak the truth with hints of irony in my voice. And I don’t want to pretend I’m not a (not-so) starving artist. Because the library is one of my most favorite places in the world, but Target comes in a close second. And as much as I’d like to dedicate my Instagram to #VeganLife, today I ate ice cream cake for breakfast.

Because we live behind screens that protect us and they let us choose the image we portray to the world, and I don’t want to show anything but me.

“Be unapologetically me.”

The final resolution I decided upon.

Because I think there’s a difference between changing and bettering yourself. And I want to better myself. In ways that may include going to the gym, but that may also include harping on myself less when I don’t go to the gym. And I want to send out more birthday cards and bake more birthday cakes. Because I think it’s physically impossible to stop eating carbs altogether.

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Occasionally, in misplaced rants, I hate on my own body when comparing it to Cara Delevigne and every other model wearing clothes from the Size Zero industry, wearing clothes that will never look the same on me. And I hate on my body not because the size it is, but because of the size it is not.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 4.53.15 PMRecently, however, I had this interesting revelation that likely even a fourth grader could’ve told me had I known to ask: my body can never—and will never—be a size zero or two or even four. It’s not something a diet could fix or some more time at the gym. It’s something that is just not written in my cards. Don’t get me wrong, I do not have—and never have had—specific ambitions of becoming that tiny. But I’ve seen plastered in front of me what the “ideal” is, and I’ve noticed that I’m not it. I think we all have.

But I can’t change my body. So it’s senseless to be mad at myself for a body I didn’t choose. And it’s senseless to feel frustrated with myself when my face breaks out, when that, too, isn’t my fault.

You can better yourself.

But maybe changes aren’t as necessary as we think. Perhaps when the New Year rolls around and we’re all scrawling down all the things we need to change, we should perhaps scratch out a few. Because not everything about us, even the things we might consider “flaws” need to be changed.

So I’m trying to better myself. And I’m trying to love the things I cannot change. Or, at the very least, I’m trying to not hate the things I cannot change.

Because I am me. Unapologetically me—except for when I’m late. I will continue to apologize for being late, as at this point it’s part of my DNA.

All I can try to do—all any of us can try to do—is be the best version of ourselves. To better ourselves. To unapologetically resolve to not change ourselves this year, but instead love who we already are, love who we’ve always been.

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the leaver gets left

10723492_10152322468907167_957048483_nI remember the night I said goodbye to my four best friends just four years ago. We sat in one of our driveways, atop a big hill, our stomachs filled with McFlurries and nuggets and sorrow. Goodbye swirled in our mind, touched our hearts.

We’d spent the drive with music loud. Music so loud you couldn’t hear sadness. That kind of music. And we’d danced and sung and our voices were the rhythm to the new drums we were beating.

I was the cause of everyone’s tears. As our McFlurrys turned salty with the taste of tears, I was the cause. I was the one leaving. And one, two, three, four, infinity times I’d wondered aloud about what I was doing moving eight hundred miles away. What was I doing leaving those who loved me?

And so my friends, the loyal ones who love nuggets and loud music and late night drives, they’d given me the simplest of answers: you don’t have to go.

And I didn’t have to. They were right. And for a million and one moments, I didn’t want to go. Starlit sky nights made me not want to go. But I went anyway. Despite my hesitations, despite their reservations, I went.

Fast forward four years, and I’m home again. No longer eating chicken or nuggets and no longer saving happiness in a cup of ice cream.

But I’m back in that same driveway. And I’m saying goodbye again, and as my feet shuffle, heavy like boots finding their way in a snow storm, and I get back into my own car—which for once isn’t stuffed to the brim with moving and packing and moving and packing—I realize that I’m not leaving. I’m being left.

The sense of sadness is familiar, yet it’s different all the same. Because I’m not choosing this. It’s not self inflicted, like a journey to the end of a rainbow with the hopes of finding a pot of gold.

I am here—in a static place—and CNN tells me that the world is moving on around me. I hear that things are happening. That not all paths are congruent as people seek out their pots of gold. And I am here, in a town that often I’ve wondered if it ever moves. Or maybe it’s me. Me that’s not moving. Maybe this town is just like the rest of the world, like this whole earth, and it’s moving, rotating as we find our way around the sun. Maybe it’s me that’s not moving.

Or maybe this is just what it feels like to be left.

For someone else’s arms to be wrapped around mine, as they take the first steps away—light and simple—into a car that’s fuller than the one we’d drive around on Friday nights. Only now the friends that once sat in the backseat have been replaced with suitcases large and full.

As full as we once used to be. Fast food filling our tummies. Friendship alive in our souls.

I wonder if maybe I owe a handwritten apology—a reverse thank you note printed in white and gold—to everyone I’ve ever left. To the swollen red faces with dripping tears. To the people who held my hand and kept me moving in the town that maybe moves, in the town that maybe doesn’t move. Because it was an accident. The sadness that trickled down the ladder, starting with me on the day I decided to leave. And it found its way into the hearts of those I love. It was an accident. But they hurt all the same. And maybe I could learn calligraphy and I could deliver I’m sorrys door to door, but nothing can reverse tears once they fall. Nothing can take away that ache in the back of your throat as a sob arises but you try—in vain—to wish it away.

So now, now I only have whispered thank yous—a reverse I’m sorry note printed in a forever way, held together by the type of hands that keep you moving. Thank you for loving me even though I left you.

tumblr_mmuzb60ABT1r8rc1po1_250Divided or together, we’re all searching for our own pot of gold. But the paths that were once parallel as we sat together in school, played in the forest on weekends, invented dream worlds for skinny little dolls, curved. And no longer are they parallel.

And we remember what they all used to say, the parents and teachers and field trip chaperones: if you’re lost, stay in one place. If you’re lost, someone will find you. And we’ve all been lost, we’ve all been found, we’ve all been lost again and again and again.

And the nice thing about home, about static, about the town that maybe isn’t even moving: it’s easier to be found.

And as we say goodbye, whispering see you soons, we only hope we’ll all end up in the same place. That we’ll all return back to the place where we feel found. That no road gets too windy to separate us forever. That no accidental goodbyes force us apart. That one day we’ll be pulled back like a yo-yo, and the music on the radio will be different and we’ll already be telling our own children about when we were their age, and fast food will probably be forbidden in our houses, but we’ll be back in that car.

We’ll be back and those memories will be back.

Flooding us, the way we once flooded sadness away with ice cream.

They’ll drown us—momentarily—as we grasp for solid ground, slamming on the brakes, hoping that we can stop moving for just a second. As we wonder where life went.

Where did those little girls go who once stood side by side in first grade photos wearing tumblr_ndiay4WTc51s2n35ho1_500matching dresses, shoes, headbands. Personalities different, hearts together.

Where did those girls go, the ones graduating high school with French fry crumbs in their hair and eyes as full with tears as hearts with dreams.

Where did those girls go, the ones hugging goodbye in the same driveway, back to the matching outfits. Plaid shirts and sorrow that mirrored the other’s.

And the flood will recede with the tide and the world will continue to spin, and we’ll be moving again, going forward again in a town that maybe moves, maybe doesn’t move.

And though we’ll hate to leave again—we’ll always hate to leave—we’ll go anyway, because we’re searching for our own gold. At the end of our own rainbow, in our own sky, because oceans now separate us.

And as I stood by, the roles reversed, no longer the leaver, now the one being left, I only wished for the moon to fall, for the sun to rise with rain in its reach, for a darkened sky to once again illuminate, for redorangeyellowgreenblueindigoviolet to appear, for the path that’s not parallel to appear.

It’s hard to leave. I know this. Have known this. Have known this since the day it was me with only twelve inches of space in a backseat packed full of life. But what I’m learning now is it’s even harder to be left. To be the one holding onto memories and moments and a brown bag of trash that smells like French fries and feels like fullness.

Eyes heavy, heart aching, the morning will come, and apart we’ll be. And you, closer to gold. And me, looking for the rainbow, waiting for the rainbow. In a town that maybe moves, maybe doesn’t move, knowing the rainbow will come. Knowing only gold can be waiting.  best-friends-bestfriends-bff-hands

over-analyzing everything, understanding nothing

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I have this thing with ants. This deep-rooted, irrational fear. I had this dream as a child, where I was literally marching one by one with the ants. I was smiling in the dream. I was sobbing when I woke up. I guess the prospect of human-sized ants are enough to frighten any seven-year-old. And apparently enough to still frighten a 22-year-old.

Maybe, if I allowed myself the time to think like Augustus Waters, I would also fear oblivion. Instead, more meaningless fears occupy my times: how exactly do parking garages—floating cement—stay, well, afloat? If I use a period at the end of this sentence will the email recipient think I’m rude? Is the weight of all the ants in the world really greater than the weight of all humans combined?

There really isn’t time to fear oblivion when you’re all busy being anxious about the small stuff.

Recently, one of my friends—likely my most analytical friend—asked me how she could abolish fear from her life. She loved or liked or loved to like a new boy in her life, and she wanted to not be afraid of showing this love or like or loving to like. I really mulled over the question. I desperately wanted to provide her with an answer so profound and life changing she would wake up with everything in life—everything but fear, everything including the boy. So I thought. And I thought some more. And then tonight, while tearing up as Kristina Braverman fought cancer, an ant crawled across my blanket. Naturally, I panicked. And it hit me just how ironic this ‘fear cure’ request was.

I don’t like walking up the street in the dark. I say a prayer before every flight take-off. I’d rather not talk to strangers at the Newark Airport. I color within life’s legal lines. I stay quiet when someone is wrong because I don’t like to offend. I am afraid of offending people. I am afraid of heartbreak and heartache.

How ironic it is that I was being asked advice on conquering fear when
there are still so many things I’m fearful of.

How ironic it is that I was being asked advice on conquering fear when fear has managed to become a part of who I am.

5867965690_b7f886ed50_z_largeAnd there was my profound moment. Only unfortunately, I had no answer that would help a girl to overcome her fears and fall in love with a boy.

I only had an answer for myself: I’m not supposed to learn to not be fearful, because it’s a part of who I am. An integral part.

Because I’m not Eminem. And I’m not not afraid.

John Mayer was right. Fear really is a friend that’s misunderstood.
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Being careful and conscientious and protective aren’t side effects of fear. In fact, it’s the opposite. Fear is the side effect.

I am not afraid of life. And living. And looking down the edge of the Grand Canyon.

I am afraid of slipping on the roads if I drive too fast. Of meeting the one stranger on the street that Criminal Minds would also like to meet. I am careful.

I am afraid of offending someone with my opinions. I am afraid that my casual use of punctuation might offend someone in an email. I am conscientious.

I am afraid of uncontrollable tears and a heart that can’t be mended. I am afraid for my friends when they shake with sadness. I am protective.

These traits are often manifested through fear, but the root is not fear; the root is carefulness, conscientiousness, protectiveness. The root is me.

There are people in this world who jump out of planes and feel the rush of the wind as the world passes them by. There are people in this world who climb mountains in cold, foreign countries, feeling new air melt onto their vulnerable skin. There are people who risk it all—life, love, safety—just to feel alive. And then there are people who risk it all—happiness, love, a future—just to keep their heart alive.

But we’re all afraid of something, some things. We’re afraid we won’t do enough. We’re afraid to do too much. We’re afraid of what our life will be if we don’t skydive. We’re afraid of what our life will be if we do skydive.

We’re all afraid of something, of some things.

And I don’t think there’s a cure for fear. I think there’s just embracing fears. Of deciding which fears are worthwhile, and which should be tossed out the plane never to arrive with us.
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thumbLast week I visited Las Vegas’ replica of the Eiffel Tower. Unlike everything else in Vegas, the mock up is actually smaller than the original. It’s half the size, but still over 45 stories high. I rode an elevator to the top. And I stood out on the viewing deck looking down at the strip below. People were suddenly tiny. They looked like ants. Only I didn’t fear them. I feared nothing up there. Maybe I should’ve feared the elevator that brought me up to such great heights. Because how exactly do elevators work?

I don’t know.

And that seems to be precisely the problem.

Standing 500 feet in the air, and I was finally able to form a semblance of an answer:

Fear comes from what we cannot understand and what we cannot control.

I cannot understand parking garages, elevators, or bridges. And so that leaves room for fear. Fear that hits when you realize your life is on the line and you have absolutely no idea how the machinery holding your precious little life even works. But here’s the greatest news in all of the world: someone does understand it! And because they’re so smart and engineer-y, they build this stuff!

I rode the elevator back down to the bottom. And I marveled at the genius that is behind most things I do not understand: the printing press, cell phones, airplanes, electricity, Nintendo 64s. I marveled. But I didn’t fear. Because someone, somewhere understands. And that’s enough. With a bit of trust, that’s enough.

There’s a myriad of things I cannot control: other people, the future, the unknown, ants. And from 500 feet in the air, let me ask this: what is the point of being anxious about things you cannot control?

And from down on the ground, I will tell you there is no point.

(Except for ants. There is always a point in fearing ants. Just ask the Buzzfeed article that informed me ants kill more people each year than sharks.)
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People are going to break your heart.

If you let them.

And giving someone the chance to break your heart is the best gift you can give yourself. Because it means you’re giving someone the chance to love you. And I suppose you have to trust that it will work out.

There is no cure for the fear that comes with saying I love you for the first time. There’s no cure for the fear that comes with vulnerability, exposure, and heartbreak. There’s no cure, only trust.

And fear is the side effect of kindness and carefulness and conscientiousness. It’s the side effect of love and lust and life.

tumblr_lt4c8lrSi81qkwwgfo1_500There is no cure to fear. And that’s a sad realization for the over-analytical girl looking to put her heart on the line without fearing the risks involved.

But there’s trust. And there’s a boy on the other end of her line who may or may not be worth trusting.

It seems worth the risk, though—worth the facing of the fear—to find out.

(Contradictory to what this post may lead you to believe, I actually do not have a fear of heights.)

delayed planes & teary goodbyes

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I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t missing someone. I don’t remember the last time I sat in an airport Departures Gate without having just said goodbye to someone. I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t thinking and saying and dreaming, I wish you were here, or I wish I was there, or I wish we were together. I wish we were all together. I wish hundreds of miles could break down into a five-minute walk up the street. I wish meeting in the middle meant we were within a walkie talkie range of one another. I wish that I lived in a Wishing World where I never had to miss any yous. But I don’t, and so I am glad for the yous I get to miss. Glad because if missing you means having you, then I will gladly miss you any day. I will gladly think and say and dream, I wish you were here, I wish I was there, I wish we were together. I wish we were all together. I’ll say teary airport goodbyes, and I’ll hurt as I miss you, and you, and you. But I’ll smile, too, because having someone to miss is a privilege. A privilege like I love you.

Home is where the heart is. And my heart hasn’t been broken in a way that could inspire Nicholas Sparks to make millions. Instead, it has been shared. Little pieces given to those I love and to those I root myself to—those who have made anywhere and everywhere home. Because I’ve spent a lot of time waiting in airports. Waiting in busy airports with delayed flights and cancelled hours and teary eyes. And I’ve waited on grounded airplanes to take flight, and I realize that I, too, am in flight. And unlike the freshly cut oak tree trunks with seventy-eighty-maybeninety rings that we’d count as children, I have yet to root myself deep into a Forever Home. Instead, I’ve rooted myself to people. Grounded myself to parents and best friends and a brother and  roommates and a sister and neighbors and kindness and a cat that chases me up carpeted stairs that my childish feet used to trip down. And in the sharing of my heart, I’ve been given pieces in return. Been given love and friendship and generosity from people who are now my home.

Because home is where the heart is.

And my heart is with you.

And you, and you, and you.

And I wish you were here, and I wish I was there, and I wish were together. I wish we were all together.

Maybe there is a Wishing World where home isn’t expansive and spreading, and we are all like the old oak tree, grounded together, rooted together, filling in the rings and not ever having to say, I wish you were here. But, maybe in that world, I wouldn’t be in flight. And I wouldn’t have met you, and you, and you. And I wouldn’t be missing any yous with teary eyes in the airport Departures Gate. But getting to miss you is a privilege and it’s rewarded with giddy smiles in the Arrivals area. Hellos follow goodbyes. Home is always on the other end, no matter where you’re flying. If you let people hold onto pieces of your heart, they will always be waiting with a home and love and kindness.

Home is where the heart is.

Home is where you are. And you, and you, and you.

Home is the smell of brewing coffee and the begging to stay up for just one more movie and then falling asleep five minutes in. It’s the sound of revving dirt bikes and the taste of Taco Bell at one am. It’s cruise control on a stretching highway and a rainy day spent inside with a book and flavored green tea. Home is missing class to go to breakfast with a best friend and it’s the favorite food that awaits your arrival at the front of the stocked cupboard. It’s a kiss good night and it’s a hand holding your hair when you’re kissing the toilet good night. It’s the way you’re recognized at your local farmers market and it’s the sampling of ice cream flavors in new places. It’s tight grasps on hands and memories. It’s slurred iloveyous and it’s the middle of the night macaroni and cheese. It’s a warm pan of brownies and a full carton of milk. Home is the way the rain falls into freshly-cleaned gutters and it’s the way souls and bodies shake when they hold back tears saying goodbye at the airport. Home is giddy smiles and warm hot chocolate waiting to kiss your lips. Home is the Arrivals Gate and the open arms waiting to embrace you.

Home is where the heart is.

And my heart is spread and shared and it’s always wishing you were here, wishing I was there, wishing we were together. Wishing we were all together.

Home is where the heart is.

And even when I’m up in the air—flying and wishing—my heart is always with you.

ending college & infinite remembering

tumblr_mcva7iHbMa1qz4d4bo1_500When I was in the eighth grade, I had a friend who liked to overuse the word forever, and so we made an agreement that every time she said the forbidden ‘f’ word, she owed me a dime. Because forever can be nice when I love you forever. You’re my best friend forever. I’ll be here forever. But it can be overwhelming when it’s Will I feel this sad forever? Will I be broken hearted forever? Is everything changed forever? And so my friend and I avoided the word, and I never got rich off of dimes, because it seemed easier to ignore the nothing lasts forever fact than to acknowledge that change is real and is the only constant, and it’s also the only thing that keeps the good times rolling.

And as I packed up my college apartment for the final time this weekend, I was reminded of all the times when, as a child, I lamented on the moments that were gone forever. That I could never have back. The perfect days and perfect times that were gone forever, and, at the time, I thought I would spend my whole life wanting those days back. As I packed up my room, a certain type of sadness hit me, as I felt this way again. Not a crunching sobbing sadness; instead, the type of sadness where tears fall slowly and unwillingly from your eyes. They’re just there, like your body is trying to eject some of the internal sadness. And you realize that you’ve done everything for the last time. I will never again return to that apartment to be greeted by my roommates. Never again will I set that kitchen oven on fire. Never again will I stay up late watching One Tree Hill with one roommate, or crying with another roommate, or having nearly-middle-of-the-night conversations with another. Never again will I walk down four sets of stairs to be greeted by my best friend. Never again will I live surrounded in this community where I maybe know everyone and they maybe know me, and we’re all happy to just be. And I can’t have that back. And it’s gone. Forever. And so I cry. Because maybe I could go back to grad school and get my PhD, but this year, as I knew it, is finished, and prolonging the ‘college’ thing won’t change the fact that it is, in essence, over. Forever. And so I cried some more.

I am not a creature of change. Instead, I oppose it, like a protester opposing war. Because there are many times in my life when I have wished that things didn’t have to change. That they could stay the same forever. Because I don’t like goodbyes. I don’t like saying goodbye to people, moments, or places. I don’t like moving on and letting go, because when life is so good, I don’t like to risk what might arrive with change.

On the drive home, my mom asked me what the happiest moment of my life was, and I realized something: I don’t have a Happiest Moment Ever. My life is littered with great moments, happy moments, perfect moments. Of course, sad moments, broken moments, and lost moments have found their way in there, too. But my life has been good. Despite the change. Or perhaps, in spite of the change. Because no great thing has ever ended and left me with nothing great to follow. Had I let The End of High School’s tears stop me from spreading my wings and moving forward, I wouldn’t be feeling this new sadness now. Choosing not to move on won’t make time pause. It won’t freeze a perfect moment or help it last forever. It won’t make those around you pause; instead, it halts you. It captures you, like sinking sand on a muddy beach. Everyone around you will move on, and you will be left to watch, as you hold onto a moment of time that no longer exists. 

The realization that something cannot last forever is the commencement of something new. Something beautiful. Because no chapter has ever ended without the turning of a new page, unless it’s the end of the story. And our story isn’t ending. We’re 22 and fresh out of college, and we’re turning a page, and we’re beginning again, and it feels horribly overwhelming as we wonder what exactly our post grad plans entail, but then it also feels good to remember that The Best Day Of Our Life has yet to come. We’ve had great moments. Happy moments. Perfect moments. And the best is still yet to come.

And in the meantime, we have this weird sense of loss filling our souls, as we5d785ebb4ecd8d3dfd28e0610a7279aa miss those we love and those who love us. And though I hope one day I don’t want to cry quite so much as I think back on my college home with longing, I do hope that a small part of me forever misses that life. Because even though it’s sad, it’s important to miss things. To miss people. To miss moments. Because it shows they mattered. And sometimes the anticipation of something (like post grad life) is not as horrible as the reality. I hope this is true. I hope the people who have lived in fear of their 2014 graduation find that it’s not as bad as they envisioned. But I hope to still find myself nostalgic for these days. I hope everyone who’s saying goodbye to something-anything-anyone right now finds that they feel a sense of nostalgia when they look back. Because that means it mattered. And in this world where we’re all trying to extend our story and keep moments forever, missing things is important. Being missed is important. If you cannot physically be with or near a person you love, the next best thing is to miss and be missed by the person you love. Because moving on isn’t the tragedy. Spreading your wings and flying isn’t the heart wrenching problem. Forgetting is.

Because in ten years when someone asks me about The Best Moment of My Life, I hope I still struggle to think of just one moment. I hope I still think back to a life filled with great, happy, and beautifully perfect moments that happened amidst the changing seasons and shifting times. I hope that each time I think nothing lasts forever, I remember that memories can. If only you remember to remember. If only you let yourself feel the sense of missing. If only you move forward, but hold the past and its people in your heart, and maybe in your hand as you text them.

We’re always told to let go of the past. But I say to hold onto it. Because it has shaped us. And these moments are the only thing we can hold onto forever. Holding onto these moments is what makes them infinite, is what keeps them from never ending. It’s what makes us love and fear forever, all at the same time (because maybe sometimes we have to remember the bad to hold onto the good. But the good is always worth holding onto, and it will always make the bad worth going through.) Hold onto these memories moments safely in your heart, and then move. on. It is time to go forward, once again.

I’ve come to realize we shouldn’t fear something not being forever. Because every time something ends, we’re given something new, and that will let us have not one Happiest Moment Ever, instead a life bursting with Great Moments. Happy Moments. Perfect Moments. And I’d take a stream of free-living, beautiful moments over one unending, frozen-forever moment any day. Even a teary post-college day.

in panera on Mother’s Day Eve

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I enjoy the speed of the freeway, because it drowns out the silence that surrounded me as I sat in Panera and watched a father and son sit—not talking—and a father and daughter sit—not talking—and I’m wondering where all the mothers are, and then I remember it’s Mother’s Day Eve, and the Paper Shop is just next door, and they’re probably buying the cards that say I love you to mothers who are actually loved 365 days a year. Because maybe love is like the stop signs and streetlights and everything else we see everyday and we pass by and interpret without understanding. Because maybe I love you. I need you. I miss you. I’m sorry. are things we need to say everyday. Because the rain is falling outside, an767e4790f3d926e96eb6fd8fd88e74b9d it reflects the flurry of emotions we feel on the inside, and all the good feelings should be followed and said, because it shouldn’t take a birthday to say I’m happy you’re alive. And it shouldn’t take a random Sunday in May to say I’m happy you are mine. Because the rain will always fall and it can imitate our tears and echo our thoughts, but it can also wash away what’s done and gone, and we’re left only with the cleared sidewalk, and the ability to write in chalk I love you. Forever and Always, I love you. And the rain will wash it away, and we can wait for a random Sunday in May to pick up the phone and say the words we already know true, or we can just say it today—above the silence in Panera as fathers and daughters eat macaroni and cheese and mozzarella paninis—I love you, and I will never not love you. Because even though times will come and go and life will change and silence will quiet and life will louden, my love for you is like your love for me and your love for me is like the four-way stop signs positioned in a busy intersection—aiding and saving, but more importantly, always there, and always unwavering.