Friday, June 20, 2014

Letter To My Little Self

Dear Little Me,

You are not an asshole. I know that you think that about yourself often, and I know I've been dismissive of your complexity in calling you that, but in hindsight I couldn't be more wrong. You had to deal with more in your small life than you were equipped to deal with gracefully, but that you dealt with it at all means that you are courageous.

I'm writing to tell you that I am so proud of you. I'm proud of all of the things that you learned to overcome. I'm proud of your ability to accept, grow, and change in spite of so much resistance. Not only resistance from many of the ignorant adults around you, but also the resistance of yourself. I am proud of your depth and your fearless navigation of it. I'm proud that you climbed out of the deep, dark trench you found yourself in and managed to come out on the other side better for it.

I'm also writing to tell you that you don't have to be so ashamed of your story, and you don't need to take on guilt for other people. That's a heavy load for such a tiny person.

I know that your parents' divorce feels like the end of your world, but it's not. It is the beginning of a challenging time fueled by a pain-induced rebellion. You will be more independent and introspective for it all. Your parents will learn how to love better and healthier, which will be good for all of you.

Your mom is dating a woman, and that doesn't define you. It will, however, shape you in some way to become a more accepting, tolerant, and patient person. You'll understand it more when you're fifteen and first learn how to love someone that is not your family. When you're twenty-two she'll start dating a man for the first time since your dad, and it will still take getting used to. So long as she's treated right, and happy, so are you for her.

I know you feel as if the world is against you and ending all at once. Your self-sabatoge is your only sense of normalcy, but it doesn't have to be. The cocktail of anti-depressants you've been prescribed will be short-lived. You will live free from reliance on medications or substances to find stability.

But first, you will descend further than you ever thought possible. You spend a week in a psychiatric hospital. It will feel like some cruel, brutal hell as punishment for being angry and so desperately sad that every aspect of your life uprooted. It will feel awful; like a fluke that you would be sent to some place with people like this. You are not a monster, or crazy - just hurt. You won't realize until you're twenty-four the value of this experience. It shows you what you could become if you continue down the path of self-destruction. It also teaches you to have gratitude for the life that you were given. The life that allows you to be present in the world you have the privilege of experiencing. Gratitude will become a driving force of your life. When you are twenty-three, you will finally not be ashamed of this part of your story. You will be talking to a friend, and he will share the story of his sister going to a psychiatric hospital. He will explain with such compassion how he felt sad to see her in such an awful place. Right then, that will be the first time you will ever feel like you could talk about it without feeling shameful. You won't, because it won't be an appropriate time to make the conversation about you, but you will feel the capacity to do so, and that will be enough.

You'll be less selfish and more aware of others. You'll realize that you don't have to carry such a tremendous weight all the time. I know that you feel so much shame for your story, but none of these things define you. You don't have to deal with struggles in secret; that's what friends and family are for.

Your family will forgive you for all the times you treated them unfairly, and you will forgive them for the same. Your parents will be some of the most supportive people in your life, and for that, you are lucky. You will make friends that feel like family, and you will continue to grow friendships with some of your current friends. Your brothers will become your best friends, your mom: your confidant, and your dad will swoop in during times of despair. You will find love and you will lose it too. When that happens it will feel unbearable at times, but you will find so much strength in being alone. You will be catapulted into a web of self-discovery, gratitude, and friendship. Do not fear the valleys of life, for you are still ascending upward. You are in a valley, but it will not descend forever, and it will not be the last that you come upon. You will learn how to navigate them with less heartache as you get older.

Finally, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for being the last to forgive you. You will grow into someone who knows more about openness, healing, acceptance, love, and gratitude, but for now you are right where you need to be.

Future You

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I Dreamt That All My Old Friends Got Together Again, At A Potluck Or Something Somewhere That We'd Never Been

Well, here I am, breaking the silence once again. It felt so overwhelming for a while to try to juggle a blog while going to school full time and working, so I took a long break. Lately, I have missed blogging so much. It's nice to write, and get feelings out onto a page and documented to be able to revisit them. This last month has been difficult in a lot of ways, and I felt all sorts of down on myself. Today life is finally taking a turn for the better. I was flooded with gratitude out of the blue, for a beautiful time in my life that I'd managed to forget about for a long while. I think that keeps it safer in a way.

Today I walked to my lab partner's house in Geneseo. It felt all too familiar, and when we got closer I asked which one she lived in. She said it was the one with the red door. The one I had been to many times before, and I never thought I'd visit again. A place where blurry memories were created, and forgotten. Today I remembered what it was like to be nineteen, sitting on that porch, waiting for a house show, eating a potluck, and meeting new people who turned into great friends. Most importantly I was reminded where I've been, and who I was, and who I am, and how it's all led me to right here. I feel so lucky for all that I've experienced, and all that I have yet to experience. This life is so strange, yet so wonderful.

Friday, July 19, 2013

We Will Sing To Everything The Stories Of Where We Have Been

This Monday I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this past weekend. It was not out of the ordinary, but that's what made it so special, and I always want to remember these times. Lately weekends have been full, in the best way. My friends are some of my favorite people in the world, and to able to spend time with them every weekend is one of the best things. We have formed little traditions that have become what I look forward to the most throughout the week.

The weekend started by running errands with Cheryl for a Friday cocktail & crafting night. It was so much fun. We spent too much time making delicious blueberry/lavender/gin cocktails. We attempted making fruit leather, which didn't work out so well, but was pretty amusing. We mod-podged pretty paper to Cheryl's light switch covers (which turned out beautifully) while watching season 6 of Buffy. So, pretty much the perfect Friday night.

We woke up and walked to Voula's to meet our friends for friend breakfast, which has been a tradition since this Winter. It makes Saturday mornings really great. After breakfast, I traveled with my mom, two brothers, and my brother's new girlfriend to see family that I hadn't seen in 5+ years. I was a little nervous about it, but it was a wonderful get together. My aunt made a whole spread of traditional Philippine foods, which were incredible, and she also made the best "that's what she said" joke that' I'll never remember. I tried out my little brother's longboard, which was pretty amusing. On the way home we listened to RadioLab and all geeked out about the incredible sunset together.

On Sunday I had a small pool party, which really just ended up being Dan, Cheryl, and me, but it was so much fun. I made lavender lemonade in my new giant mason jar dispenser. We grilled, we swam, we made s'mores, we played boggle, and it was the greatest.

I never want to forget this season of my life and all of things that have brought so much happiness to it. The Saturday morning friend breakfasts, Saturday afternoon band practices, Friday night bowling, Sunday pool parties, Tuesday night trivia, taking myself on solo dates, Friday afternoons at the coffee shop with my brother, Saturday night Catan club, photo adventures with my little brother, Dr. Mario competitions, Saturday night sleepovers on my brother's couch followed by Sunday morning hangouts, listening to podcasts on my commute to work, writing music with some of my best friends/favorite musicians, grilling potlucks, and just plain hanging out with the best people on the planet.

*all photos in this post were taken with my iPhone

Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm Stronger Than The Picture That You Took Before You Left

It has been quite a while since I have been here. Before I go into anything I would just like to direct your attention to the incredibly beautiful blog design that the super talented Bri of The Secret Life of Bee put together for me. I am beside myself with how fantastic it is and would highly recommend her design services, as well as her blog (it's one of my favorites). I feel like the design perfectly suits me and this space and am so happy about it.

Lately life has been all sorts of wonderful. I feel so thankful all the time for the great people that I get to spend it with. I have been documenting less and living more. There are a lot of things that I haven't shared on here, that I have meant to. So here are some photos from last summer that were taken to share on this space.

They never made it here last year, just like a lot of things have failed to arrive, but here they are now. They are special in a way that is hard to explain. In these photos, I was unaware of how my life would so quickly uproot and shift to one so unrecognizable, and I mean that in the best way. There is a strong, confident woman inside of the person in these photos just waiting to be triggered. This was the end and the beginning all at once. 

Skirt: Modcloth
Blouse: Forever 21
Tote: Vanilla & Lace
Sunglasses: Target
Flats: Journeys

Friday, March 1, 2013

In Your Heart There's A Spark That Just Screams

I've always liked Valentine's Day, but it's definitely a tough day if you're single. Instead of being bitter about the holiday, I decided to celebrate this year by being my own date. I had a really great time. I planned it all out earlier in the week, so I was actually looking forward to it!
This is really the first time that I've been single since I was fifteen. I've been in two long-term relationships, and I really enjoy being in a committed relationship. I like having someone who wants to hang out all the time, someone to talk to about anything, and someone to do life with. So, this single life has been strange, but I've actually been enjoying it thus far. It's nice to get to know myself, and figure things out alone, spend a lot of time with great friends, and get a chance to work on that sense of gratitude and self love that was in need of attention. I feel like it's really important to focus on ourselves sometimes. A relationship will suffer if one or both parties are coming into it expecting to be completed by the other. So right now I'm focusing on making myself whole, and I feel really great about being alone. That being said, I decided to go on a solo date with myself!
The day before Valentine's my brothers and I drove to Ithaca to see Jeff Mangum play with The Music Tapes and Tall Firs. I bought the tickets months ago, and gave them to my brothers as Christmas gifts, so the anticipation had been building for a while! 
It was more than I could have ever imagined. It was nice just spending quality time with my best friends and having great conversation. Then we got to see Jeff Mangum. He was incredible. I can't even put into words how wonderful it was to see and hear him play. Everyone was singing along and it felt like there was respect and gratitude just hanging in the air of the State Theatre. I was in awe of his talent and courage, and felt so lucky to be given the opportunity to see him. When he played my favorite of his songs, (Two Headed Boy Pt. 2) I was overcome by emotion and spent the rest of the song unsuccessfully holding back tears. So far, I still can't listen to it without tearing up. Seeing Jeff Mangum was probably my favorite concert experience that I've ever had. Since there was no photographing/recording allowed, my brother Josh drew his recollection of him. It's perfect.
On Valentine's Day I did a bunch of my favorite things to treat myself (and all the purchases I made were kept local too - score!). I started off by getting myself sesame chocolate bark and the cutest stuffed dino from Hedonist
Then I went to take these outfit photos. It was a little frustrating because it was raining and I had to use a tripod, but I powered through, and ended up having a good time with the challenge of self-portraits. I am so happy I got to document this special day. 
Next I went to my favorite Rochester restaurant, Open Face, to have my favorite soft brie and pear sandwich, pickled beets, and a hot rose matcha.
 After that, I went to my favorite theatre, The Little, to see the live action and animated Oscar nominated shorts. They were really great, as always.
 My favorite live action short was Henry, which had me fighting back tears, and my favorite animated short was Paperman, which made me smile the whole way through. It's actually nice to go to the movies alone. I think I'll make it a more regular thing. 
This Valentine's Day was really wonderful. I'm glad I chose to celebrate rather than be cynical.
Skirt: Forever 21
Top: H&M
Tights: Target
Shoes: Vintage, thrifted
Coat: H&M
Umbrella: Thrifted
Stuffed Dino: Charging Hearts

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Seasons Have Changed From The Present To Past

This morning I had one of those grounding moments. 
It was the kind of moment when you realize that something, that has overwhelmed your thoughts and drained your energy for months on end, is finally no longer doing so. We are all faced with those situations that seem to grab hold of us and shake our foundations. We can either let them crumble or build them stronger, but either way, they are shaken. So the mending becomes a process of indefinite length. Sometimes this process seems never-ending, but we persist. Until, to our surprise, it's over as quickly as it began. This morning I finally felt that no longer was my particular situation happening to me, but rather it was something that had happened to me. I no longer feel consumed by a seemingly repetitive cycle of thought. It just is. I just am. I feel at peace with this struggle. I feel at peace with the idea of struggle in general. It seems like a simple concept, but just getting to the place of realizing that there will always be struggle throughout this journey, makes me feel prepared for future encounters. It is also important to note that although we will never have power over the actions of others, we will always have power over our mindset. We control our own perception, actions, and reactions, and just knowing that is a huge comfort to me. 
It is so easy for us to default to looking back at the past or toward the future to "find happiness". For a long time, I always thought that it was something you had to find, and now I realize that it's something you must create. The whole idea that happiness is not a destination, but a way of travel, has given me a lot of pause lately. Until recently, I was the biggest offender of trying to pursue happiness. It always felt just out of reach. I thought that if I just finished school, or if I just got a new job, or if I just moved to a different state, etc., that then I could start living the way I had always hoped, and then I would reach this ultimate fulfillment. Even writing this now, it seems like such a strange concept. I think as humans, we have a hard time focusing on the present. It's understandable. The future holds the unknown. It is exciting. It is scary. It is forgiving. It is anything we want it to be. The present is an acquired taste. It takes a while to decide that, "Hey, it's not so bad" and, "maybe I'll get that next time", but really the present is the best tasting thing that life offers (just not everyone realizes it). The future is an old favorite. It's the flavor you order because you know you like it, so why would you get anything else? I think the past is more one of those things on the menu that if it's gone, you're definitely not going to get anything else in place of it. That's the only one you like. It's so familiar, predictable, preserved. This is a strange analogy, but it definitely makes sense to me, and it's nice to think about as ice cream flavors or something. 
Anyway, for me, I've been trying to focus on the present. It's always easier to go back to that familiar future focus, but I've been pushing myself to find the beauty in the here and now. That's all we have anyway, so why not dive in? The trick is that the beauty is always there, but sometimes you have to use all your energy to seek it out, and other times it is undeniably surrounding you. Sometimes we get so used to it staring us in the face, that we forget we must make an effort to find it when it's not. Personally, I've adjusted my way of thinking from, "When I'm out of school I'll have so much fun" to, "this weekend is going to make this entire week awesome". Instead of looking four months out, I'm only looking four days ahead. I still have a ways to go, but I'm making progress. It's a constant perspective shift, and I often find myself slowing down and reevaluating.
I am striving for gratitude. 
Gratitude for this world, and this day, and this moment, and my reality, and my friends, and my family, and myself, and my talents, and the talents of my friends and family, and my body, and my senses, and my feelings, and the ability to work toward what I want for myself. I will never stop reaching for it, and as long as I don't lose focus, that is what matters.

*This actually happened on February 3rd, after a grounding talk with my brother Ben. I've been having a lot of conversations with my family lately, that have brought me a greater sense of clarity, and for them I am thankful.
**All photos taken by me in 2010 and 2011. All quotes from the book I'm currently reading: Attitudes of Gratitude by M.J. Ryan.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

So Goes Another Winter Slowly, Hands In The Pockets Of My Coat

Well, before we get on to the next holiday, I'm going to reflect on Christmas first, and I feel pretty okay with that. I had a really great holiday season this year spent with wonderful family. The photos below were taken on a very cold day during the one week of the year that I will wear red and green together. 
My mom suggested that I spend my holidays doing things that aren't traditional to make sure that I didn't get too wrapped up in sad feelings. So, that's exactly what I did! 
We had a family Christmas party this year with my grandparents, who usually spend the holiday in Colorado. There were lots of homemade, heartfelt gifts shared (the best kind). On Christmas Eve, my big brother came to spend the night with me at our dad's house, and we watched Moonrise Kingdom together.
 I got up and got ready, put on a fresh pair of pajamas, and left to spend the morning at our Mom's with our little brother, mom, grandma, and her dog Emily. We listened to the White Stripes, because we were both sick of Christmas music, and had a beautiful drive out to the country. My mom had a great brunch spread and too much candy to enjoy while we were silly and exchanged gifts. It's nice to spend time with my grandma. I always wish I saw her more often. 
After that, us siblings were off to go spend Christmas evening at our dad's house. We listened to Neutral Milk Hotel, stopped at Canandaigua Lake to admire her beauty along the way, and ate Harry & David pears in the car (which is really difficult/messy, but worth it). 
We got really wonderful gifts from our stepmom Linda and our dad. I got a pair of beautiful Frye boots! Eep! Then we had a wonderful dinner and shared music with each other. We went to see This Is 40 later that evening, and were all exhausted after that. It was a really special holiday spent with truly wonderful people.
Dress: Modcloth
Cardigan: H&M
Tights: Target
Coat: H&M
Shoes: Vintage, Etsy
Hair Bow: Belle & Whistle
Pin: Cecelia Hayes

Also, I bought this dress because it reminded me of the first couch I've ever owned. Totally not the first time I've bought clothing that reminded me of couches from my past either.
All outfit photos taken by my rad brother Josh. All other photos taken by me on my iPhone, (except the one of my old couch).