Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dream On

One of the many things that I've learned from my family, is that dreams have no limitations, if you're willing to put in the work. 

Growing up in a small town, many people feel like they're boxed into the confines of the town limits: they know everyone they grow up with, graduate high school, attend the local community college, move on to get a degree in something they're not passionate about, settle for a job with average pay, then start a family of their own somewhere along the way, and the cycle starts again. Call it "the small town curse." This is not the case for the dreamers, for the wanderers, for those who wish to explore different avenues in larger cities, and will stop at nothing to do so. 

Growing up in a small town, I didn't know of many people who have left. We've had a few (notably one) who left to pursue music, and they will probably be the talk of the town for the next century. So when my sister told me that she was planning to move across to country to California, to a big city to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer, I laughed so hard I cried. 

"Good luck trying to convince mom," I told her. 

My sister does not talk about her feelings a lot, so I remember this day clearly. She looked me in the eyes, and explained her dreams to me, and explained how hard she is working to make it happen. I believed her, and I believed in her. 

Mom was not happy, but was willing to help her if she did her part of getting into a good school, and getting a reasonable amount of scholarship to make the move worthwhile. She did. After she moved, my mom cried for two weeks, maybe more. Sometimes, I would catch her crying holding on to a picture of my sister. 

"What are you mourning for?" I asked her, "She's still alive." 

"I'm just sad," she cried.
"Why did you let her go?" I questioned, although, the first night she was gone, I slept in her bed, missing her more than I thought I ever would. 

"I would never hold my girls back from their dreams, just because I will miss them," she said. "That would be selfish of me, I want the best for the both of you. Always." 

This would not be the first time my mom would remind us that she is always on our team. She is waving the team flag, she would say. We have to trust her, because she only wants the best for us. I wonder if she ever regrets saying that, when we call her at 2 in the morning to tell her a joke that isn't funny, or we call her twelve times a week, crying over the same stupid boy. 

Since I was ten years old, I never had a home. After my parents divorce, I spent half my time at my moms house, and half at my dads house, very careful that each parent was getting enough time and attention. I never felt like I had a place I could call my own. This continued when we moved to Florida, traveling back and forth from New York to Tampa, to see my friends back home, and leaving behind those I never took the time to make in my new "home." I'm unsettled and still roaming. Just like my sister, I want to find my place. After exploring Tampa, and realizing I don't belong in a big city, I have always dreamed of moving my roots permanently to Tennessee. That's my place, I'm sure of it. It is comforting to me that although the dream might sound crazy, my family never laughed at me not once, but is supportive. 

First step is graduation, which I am trying to make happen earlier. My mom on board, said just like she did for my sister, she wants to help me make the move. This touched my heart, because I have never felt more at home and more comfortable in my situation, than I did while I was in Tennessee. I felt a sense of belonging for the first time. I want to pick up my city roots, and settle for the first time in a small town. I want to work at a small town paper, where I can do what I love everyday, comfortably. My only dream in life is to keep going up. I never want someone to look back on all of my accomplishments and say, "oh yeah, that's where she peaked," or "what happened to her? she was doing so well?" I set high standards for myself, and from here, the only place to go is up. Keep challenging my comfort zone, keep putting in the work, keep dreaming, and making those dreams come to life. 

The only limitations on your dreams, are the ones you impose on yourself. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Write Yourself Alive: Day 17: Romance Isn't Dead

Romance Isn’t Dead 

You are a romantic, you say, 
as we walk hand-in-hand 
towards the sunset. 

So romantic, I thought, 
that your girlfriend is at home 
waiting for you to return. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Stop Being Scared of Being Alone

"So what are you doing for Valentine's Day?" my roommate passive aggressively asked me one afternoon. 
"Probably going to watch Nicholas Sparks in my pajamas," I told her. "Same as always."
I'm at a point in my life where I've never felt more comfortable being alone. I'm really proud of my 11 P.M. bedtime. I'm also really proud of the fact that I don't have to share my twin bed with anybody.

The pressure to be in a relationship used to take a toll on me, like it does a lot of college students. I would often stress about it, but I was just never willing to settle for someone my heart just didn't connect with. I was never willing to settle for someone who wasn't everything I dreamed of. I wasn't willing to settle for a love that I wasn't excited about. Love isn't a thing that can be forced, measure in an amount of time, or meet a set of expectations, it just happens. And it should happen naturally, not because outside forces were pushing for it.

I have always been independent, and I have a hard time depending on someone else when I don't need to. My mother raised me to never require validation from another to feel comfortable in my skin, and for that I will always be grateful. My mother raised me to be comfortable on my own, and not feel the need to be waiting around on a man. My mother raised me to never lower my standards, and settle for a man who is sub-par.

It's a basic human need to feel loved. Besides that, everybody wants to be loved. Everybody wants someone to share the journey of life with. Being alone and being lonely are not one in the same. At this time, you may not be sharing your life with someone, but you are never alone. There is so much love in your life that you're not aware of. You just have to open your eyes, and open your heart to allow that love in. Break down the walls, and love will flood in.

It breaks my heart hearing someone I love tell me that they're scared of being alone. I hear it too much. First of all, hello, you're telling someone who loves you beyond belief that no one loves you: that in itself is insulting. Secondly, I just want the people in my life to realize that they're worthy of a love that's great, beautiful, and everything they've ever dreamed of. I never want to see anyone settle for something less than they deserve, simply because they're scared of being alone at a certain point in their life.  I think that's the problem in love: too many people are settling, because they don't think there's anything else out there. If we start sticking to the standards of what we expect from our partners, being honest with them and to ourselves, there will be a lot more happily ever afters and a lot less divorce, I think.

I know a lot of people who are notorious for relationship-hopping. The moment they have a breakup, they're planning dates, and have a new boyfriend or girlfriend the next week. The reason your relationships are failing? You don't know how to be alone! You have to first feel comfortable with yourself, if you ever expect to feel comfortable with another person. If you go through a breakup, you need to give your heart time to heal. If you jump into another relationship too fast, this is when the past sneaks its way into your future. Your old relationship threatens the new one, as you start to put up guards to block issues you had in your old relationship, from making its way into the new one. Solve them first. Don't take out problems you had with an ex, on someone who had nothing to do with it. They are not the same person. Your past should not be their future. If you go through a break up, take your time to heal, but don't be scared to love again. Sure, sometimes things don't work out, but sometimes they do. Sometimes you may get hurt, but sometimes you won't. If you never jump, you'll never fall, but if you never jump, how can you ever feel?

Love more, not less. Love fully, not conditionally. 
I never had a  Valentine for Valentine's Day, but I never felt lonely. I have witnessed so many beautiful loves in my life that have been so inspiring to see first-hand. I have had many of my own beautiful loves. Sometimes they didn't end well, but I wouldn't change the lessons they taught me for anything. I am so grateful for all of the lessons I've learned about love through first and second hand experiences. I have so many beautiful souls in my life that it is impossible for me to ever feel alone. I'm grateful to have family that I can call at midnight to tell a funny story, that isn't actually funny, but they listen anyway. I'm grateful that no matter the miles, states, and time differences that separate us, I never feel distant from any of my family members. I'm grateful for the friends who understand when I've had a bad day, and will turn up the music, and jump on the couch, and dance with me. I'm grateful to have friends where we can fight like sisters, and then get over it once someone wants lunch. Being alone doesn't mean you aren't loved. I feel such an abundance of love in my life, and I couldn't possibly wish for anything more. Once you are comfortable in your skin, and learn to love yourself, all the rest will fall into place.

I never had a Valentine for Valentine's Day, but I want a relationship full of passion 365 days a year, not just 1. And that's what I'm holding out for.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Write Yourself Alive Course Progress

It's day 13 of Tyler Knott and Andrea Balt's 'Write Yourself Alive' course, and I can't believe it. Almost 2 weeks in, and I have quite literally wrote myself dead. These prompts are painful. Often, the prompt of the day left me staring at my computer screen for up to two hours, trapped in my own metaphors, unable to find the precise arrangement of words to properly convey what I was hoping to.

There's pain in honesty, in writing about situations that have scarred you, that you had managed to successfully bury deep for quite some time. There's pain in writing about people that hurt you. To put something in ink means to confront the situation, and accept it. That's painful, and sometimes, a self-induced death sentence. In order to move a matter to ink, you have to pull it out of the great depths of your soul, where it's been hidden for so long.

For Days 1-5 I was committed to honesty. I allowed myself to confront those situations that used to hold so much power over me. I was determined to confront my demons, release them on paper, then stifle them in ink. I felt empowered. I would write my responses to each prompt religiously before I went to bed each night. Writing at night, and writing in the morning is some of the best times, because you have the silence.

By day 5, I grew a sense of arrogance in my words. If I was writing about someone who hurt me, I wanted them to know it. You hurt me, it sucked, I sorted it out in ink. Let's move on. Of course, what's the fun in writing about someone who wronged you, if they don't know you did it? Reed it, and weep. What's the point of apologizing to someone, if they've never read it? You did wrong, and so did I, let's move past it. Each person I wrote about, I sent them the piece they inspired. While I didn't receive any responses, I was never expecting that I would.

While I promised I would open up my wounds, and release the pain, only for a brief moment, and then move past the situation, I submit to the pain. Have mercy. Some things hurt too much to be in ink. I created limits for myself- 'no write zones' so to speak. When you get even the slightest feel of heat when one of your limbs accidentally brushes the oven, you don't hold it there, you move your hand. You're gonna get burned. 

My schedule this semester is hectic, far too much for me, probably. Instead of allowing myself to enjoy 20 minutes a day of doing what I love, I submit to the chaos. I must get as much done as possible, as quickly as possible. I must not rest. I don't have the time to write. The excuses are our comfort blanket for taking action, that we know will change our lives. We are not ready to accept change. I am not ready to accept change.

What I realized is how good I felt after I finally gathered the right words, in the right order to convey what I had to say. I felt powerful. I felt the release. What a relief. I feel no better leaving the words trapped inside me, to flow through my veins, and dance around my brain, than I do cutting open the vein, and letting it all drip out. It may hurt, but all wounds heal. It hurts less to let it out, than it does to fight everyday to keep it in. Like John Mayer said, "say what you need to say."

Two weeks in, I may have tapped out a few times, kicked my feet, and threw my fists in protest, but I am determined to reunite with my keyboard. I owe it to myself to devote the time each day to do what I love. The hardest part is the first glide across the keys, than the hardest part is prying my tight, cramped fingers off the keyboard. If the name of the course is in fact true to the title, two weeks in is the point I should begin to write myself back to life, It only makes sense that in order to 'write yourself alive,' you first have to write yourself to death.

For these final two weeks, I promise to commit the time necessary each day to complete the prompts. I will break down my walls, and release my tongue to say whatever it needs to say the most to feel free again. I will not protect myself with the comfort of excuse after excuse, and let myself bleed as needed. These final two weeks I will be committed, honest, and fearless. These next two weeks I will write myself back to life.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hey Pretty Girl

Hey pretty girl,
don’t worry 
whether or not your thighs don't touch. 

Hours spent snared in your reflection
will serve you no good.

Take a step away from the mirror, 
it’s blurred. 
Take a hiatus until you can see clearly. 

It won’t happen overnight, 
but a lesson learned in time. 
Practice makes perfect,
learning to be fair to yourself. 

Quit your pinching, 
your bones were made 
to hold some meat.

Quit your counting, 
you must nourish your body, 
for it is the only place 
you have to live. 

Quit your counting, 
and hide the scale, 
it will only lie to you. 

Hey pretty girl, 
you are not a number. 

Quit your pulling
and quit your tugging:
can’t you see,
you were made

Hey pretty girl, 
quit your crying-
the beauty inside of you
is something far too great 
to overlook. 

Hey pretty girl, 
I’m trapped inside of you. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

I'll See You on the Other Side

“He doesn’t have much longer,”
the nurses informed us.
They remained a respectable distance,
but somehow, still too close. 
“It’s time to say good-bye,”
they said, 
taking a step back 
to allow more room. 

I clutched on tight 
to my mothers hand, 
hoping if I squeezed tight enough,
and shut my eyes hard- 
the moment we were in
would turn out to be  
a horrible nightmare. 

My pop pop wasn’t sick. 
I had just spoken to him on the phone.
He ensured me everything was fine.
The surgery went well, 
and he was at home, recovering.
We laughed, and I told him 
I knew he was a fighter. 
I told him, even though we were states apart,
if he ever got scared, 
to shut his eyes, and know I was thinking about him.
The school year was coming to an end,
and after my tests were through, 
mom and I were moving south 
to be closer to Nanny and Pop Pop.

I wasn’t there then, but
I was there in spirit. All of the time.
He ensured me everything was fine.
It made perfect sense to me:
the source of my strength was
one hell of a fighter. 

He ensured me everything was fine, 
but I still called everyday.
I kept him on the phone as long as I could,
trying my best to make him laugh. 

He would give me a five minute warning:
Judge Judy was on at four, 
he never missed it. 

Our calls got shorter, 
his responses slower. 
But, I still called everyday.
“I will get on a plane right now,”
I warned him.
“I love you,” he said.
“You have school.”

I got on a plane the next day.

My pop pop lay 
in a hospital bed in the sun room,
light shining on his face 
from every direction.
So fragile, yet still so handsome.
So peaceful, yet still so stubborn.
My pop pop.
What happened?

I sat beside his bed for three days.
I held his hand, and told him stories.
I watched Judge Judy, 
and told her she was out of line, 
just like he would often do.
The nurses would rub my back, 
suggesting it was time for bed.
Angrily, I waved them off. 
I didn’t need sleep, 
but to stay right here. 
I hoped he wasn’t scared.

I waited until everyone had left
the room before I cried.

“He doesn’t have much longer,”
the nurses informed us.
They remained a respectable distance,
but somehow, still too close. 
“It’s time to say good-bye,”
they said, 
taking a step back 
to allow more room. 

I didn’t understand the concept.
I wouldn’t say good-bye.
Saying good-bye meant accepting.
Saying good-bye held a sense of finality.
Saying good-bye meant good-bye.
I was stubborn, too, 
I wouldn’t say good-bye.

I whispered desperately through the tears, 
“Don’t leave me.”
“I need you here.”

As soon as I uttered the words, 
I saw the peace my Pop Pop held. 
He had accepted it, 
I was the only one left.
I was stubborn, 
not selfish.

I grabbed his hand. 
“I promise to take care of mom,”
I started. 
“Nanny will be tough, 
but I will keep her in line, too.”
I kissed him goodnight.
“I’ll see you on the other side.” 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I'm Sorry I Let You Drown

We were wrong for each other in more ways than one. Everyone around us could see it, and I think at some point, we may have even acknowledged it, too. Though, we wouldn't throw in the towel until we destroyed each other, just to be sure. 
We were wrong for each other, but we needed each other. Two broken people hoping two halves would make a 
When a relationship is built off a foundation of desperation, the fall is inevitable. We couldn't see that. We wouldn't accept that. We refused any sense, and tuned out outsiders who were relentless in their attempts to see us understand: we were wrong for each other. 
Circumstance had dropped us in the middle of the ocean, forgetting to provide life preservers, like circumstance often does. Two broken people left to brave the choppy, unforgiving waters of life. I didn't know how to swim. I could have forgotten, but I'm not quite sure I had ever learned. 
We vowed to face the waves together. We would find the shore, if it killed us. I served as the arms, and he was the legs. I would stroke, and he would kick. I would stroke, and he would kick. 
When you start out, the sense of determination, the feeling of endless possibility serves as the sail, the driving force pushing you forward. Who needs sense? We carried on for what felt like a hundred miles, just going through the motions. Stroke, kick, stroke, kick, stroke, kick. We seemed to have developed a pattern. We were getting the hand of the mundane motions we had come so accustomed to. 
The funny thing about life is, when you think you’ve got it all figured out, and convince yourself you can tread water, 
life sends you an honest reminder that you don’t control the direction of the sails. No one possesses that kind of power, the 
inflated ego has only blocked out any better judgment
Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, kick, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, kick.
Eventually the legs grew tired, limbs lazy. The arms were forced to kick it in gear in order to stay afloat. 
The arms got faster, strokes harder, determination stronger. The legs got weaker, descending now. If both forces were to go out, they would both drown. There was no sense behind that logic. The legs gave out, falling under water. 
The arms kept going, pushing forward, trying to gain sight of the shore without use of the legs. 
Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke. 
Without the help of the legs working in conjunction with the arms, the arms too grew tired. One cannot survive without the other. Instead, the parts submit themselves to larger forces of the ocean, giving in to the riptide. The individual forces were pulled further from the shore, further from the temporary bond of each other. The further away these forces became, the closer they got to becoming whole. 
We were no good for each other. I think I knew it from the start, but I couldn’t have made it through the waves, without you working as part of me.
I’m sorry I let you drown, but we were no good for each other. 
I refuse to sink with you. 
I’m sorry I let you drown.