My Happy Place

There is a moment in Chanel Miller’s Know My Name when she reminds herself that a world of beauty and calm exists alongside the everyday chaos. These few sentences describing her scuba diving trip to Indonesia made me think of something my mom tells me. Every time my mom and I travel, particularly to warm places, she’ll tell me to take mental pictures to warm myself up on a cold day. While she means some literal cold day in the upcoming December or January, I find myself most remembering these times during some of the hardest times of my life; times when I feel most cold.

My eyes are clenched tight, shut away from the noises that cloud my peace. My bare feet are imprinting the layers of sand; my toes squishing and pulling the tiny stones. The sand is a pure white, almost like God himself clenched diamonds too tight and let the remnants scatter beneath my soles. I am navigating through teal beach towels and amateur sand castles shaped by plastic drinking cups. My steps are methodical, careful not to step on anyone else’s escape. I pass the voices of other travelers, the speakers spewing a Latin dance, the scattering of green canopy chairs; my brain instructs my hips to keep going, navigating me through obstacles until my feet reach the cool, turquoise blue of Mahogany Bay. My painted fingernails tightly grip my rented yellow float. A breath fills the deepest parts of my lungs as I give myself permission to feel peace.

All at once, I collapse into the bay, plunging myself into the salt-filled blue. I can feel bubbles of expelled, old oxygen purging from my body as I drop to the sandy floor. The shapes filled of air are pushing away from me, finding a new home amongst the algae. I let the salt seep into my skin, letting it fill all the cracks and hurt. My hair swims in the warm water, twisting and dancing from the almost unnoticeable current. I squeeze my eyes tighter, knowing I must come up to breathe soon- but not just yet. I want to savor this moment of stillness. I stick my tongue out slightly, barely separating my pursed, peeling lips. A rich salt consumes my escaped taste buds. Finally, I place my wrinkled fingers on the back of my hair, collecting strands and smoothing them as I pull my head out of the water. I am careful to leave my sun-toasted shoulders immersed.

I inhale Honduran air, almost greedily, like this is the only opportunity I might have to breathe on my own. My eyelids open wide, unafraid of the salt water that is crashing lightly on my chin. My toes dance me in a small circle amongst the sand, my arms loose and expanded, unapologetic of the space I take up. In one simple exchange, I breathe in the Honduras sun and palm trees, while simultaneously breathing out my “me too,” and the heavy words resting quietly in my heart. I pretend my pupils are polaroids, taking mental pictures of everything around me.

To my right, two large Carnival cruise ships eagerly lying in wait for their passengers. Click. To my left, a boy is playfully splashing the ripples of the water, while spinning around on his yellow raft. Click. Towards shore are groups of people radiating in the convivality that Honduran sun and icy drinks invite. Click. Above me is a bright Central American sun, beaming light past my sun kissed scalp and into the darkest corners of my mind. Click. I invite the impending sunburn, as if it might melt the coldness out of me as well. I take another breath, letting it crawl through my abdomen, as I plunge back below the sun-filled surface. Click.

As Chanel suggests, amongst a world of doubts and everyday routine, a world of frustration and me too’s- might I never forget that this world exists too. 



I am Thankful for You

This Thanksgiving, things are different. I am different. A year ago, my life was entirely planned out. Today, my life is entirely planned out in a very opposing direction. I am thankful for change, and I am thankful for those directly (and indirectly) responsible for my rerouting. I am thankful for you.

M. Thank you for fighting with me. I’m thankful I have a woman like you to fight with over curling irons and earrings. I am thankful that in a world with so much chaos, I can hold steadfast faith and love as you’ve raised me to do so. I am thankful for every meal cooked, every ride to friends’ houses (hey, cheers for surviving the chauffeur era, huh?), and every morsel of advice. I am thankful for you.

D. Thank you for the millions of bagels and English muffins. Thank you for the laughs. I am thankful that I am able to introduce you as my best friend. I am thankful for your adamant belief in bike helmets. I am thankful for the hours you take out of your day to teach me tennis (let’s do that again soon). I am thankful for our races up the hill in the Poconos, and I’m thankful you always let me win. I am thankful for you.

K. Thank you for being my other half as we conquered both middle school and high school. Thank you for letting me cry with you; thank you for letting me laugh with you. Thank you for accompanying me to church retreats, Poconos adventures, and everything in between. I am thankful for the permanent bags I have under my eyes from the plethora of all nighters we had in about five years’ span. Thank you for helping me plan my dream wedding when we were ten. Thank you for being you in all that you do. I am thankful for you.

T. Thank you for knowing me better than I know myself. Thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty each and every time I need you. Thank you for laughing extra loud so people don’t hear me snort. Thank you for the endless amounts of coffee you have supplied. Thank you for coming over less than 5 minutes after I told you my cat died. Thank you for letting me cry about boys to you. Thank you for blessing me with your company, and your contagious never-ending politeness. Thank you for being the most steadfast friend I have ever encountered. I am thankful for you.

K. Thank you for teaching me what real love looks like. Thank you for taking the broken pieces and gluing me back together when it wasn’t you who broke me. Thank you for reminding me that God is always there. Thank you for always being there. I am thankful for you.

M. Thank you for being my best friend. I am thankful for our tenth grade class, and I am thankful for your contagious laughter. I am thankful for our advice sessions and your encouragement. I am thankful for your abundant energy and abundant kindness. Thank you for always knowing what to say, and how to say it. Thank you for forcing me to wake up some mornings, and thank you for your support in my vast planning. I am thankful for you.

E. Thank you for being the most caring man I have ever met. Thank you for your friendship, and our adventures. Thank you for never saying no when I need you. Thank you for reading me on a regular basis, and for telling me things I don’t know about myself. Thank you for teaching me not to settle, and thank you for enforcing that. I am thankful for your support in my crafting problem, and I am thankful for the millions of times you have answered your phone. I am thankful for you.

J. Thank you for fighting with me. I know there’s something to fight for, and I am thankful for your smile. I am thankful for your laughs, and for your hand to hold on those cold Wednesday night walks. I am thankful I sat next to you that September night. I am thankful for you.

S. Thank you for taking care of me my first year away from home. Thank you for being my best friend and irresponsible “mother.” Thank you for loving me when I’m not so lovable, and for dropping everything to help me last month. Thank you for the advice you have supplied me with. I am thankful for your hugs, and your protective mommy habits. I am thankful for you.

A. Thank you for teaching me to fight for myself. I am thankful for you.

T. Thank you for paying attention to me when my world came falling down so many years ago. Thank you for taking me seriously, and for listening to me. I am thankful for our phone therapy sessions, and for the endless amount of times you answered my sniffly calls and questions. I am thankful for the time you took out of your life to help me progress in my life. I am thankful for you.

J. I am thankful for that night five years ago. Thank you for teaching me how to reach out to others. Thank you for teaching me that the world is not always warm. I am thankful you showed me the rain, because now I smile in the sun. I am thankful for you.

C. Thank you for being my role model. Thank you for showing me what determination means. Thank you for heading our family sibling support system. Thank you for understanding all my sly Christmas looks when words are not needed. Thank you for being brilliant, and kind. I am thankful for you.

J. Thank you for showing me real love. Thank you for loving him, and for Christmas past and those to come as well. Thank you for being the big sister I never had, and for endless mimosas. I am thankful for you.

M. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for protecting me, and for threatening numerous ex-boyfriends. Thank you for being there that messy year. Thank you for always answering your phone. I am thankful for your endless advice, and the hard work you display in every aspect of life. I am thankful for you.

J. Thank you for teaching me not to settle. I am thankful for you.

Thank you to those both near and far; those both in my life and not. I am thankful for you.



Will I Get Shot if I Go to Class Today?

I am a college student in the city of Philadelphia. I say that with moderate hesitation after Sunday’s threat against Philadelphia higher education. For those who don’t know, a vague threat was posted on the anonymous website 4Chan for 2 pm eastern time Monday regarding universities near the city of Philadelphia.

My Monday classes begin at 1:30 pm. While I saw a few Facebook statuses expressing individual’s concerns about their safety in attending class Monday, I didn’t think much of it. Within the past three years, I’ve been in a lockdown in my high school for a possible weapon, threatened as a member of the Greek community at my previous university, and now threatened as a student in the city of Philadelphia. Excuse me if these empty threats no longer send sweat beads running down my back. 

My 1:30 pm Monday macroeconomics professor began the class with a lighthearted joke, “well, it’s been nice knowing you all.” Some students laughed, while some students shifted in their seats. Her joke made me think of how tragically common threats against higher education, or even the general public, have become within the past few years.

As a college student, my largest daily concerns should consist of “should I pull an all nighter to pass this business law exam tomorrow?” and “how do I bribe the admissions board of my future law school?” (I’m half joking on that one). Instead, lately students’ concerns have escalated to the question “will I got shot for attending my classes today?” Why are we being reprimanded for pursuing a higher degree of education? 

College should be a time of excitement- it is the beginning of the rest of our lives. Instead, Oregon community college students saw the end of their lives just a week ago. Nine lives were tragically cut short that day. Today, I have been sent various links to the alleged gunman at Philadelphia Community College. Where does it end? 

Shootings are not exclusive- they do not discriminate. The victims of these shooters range in age from elementary school students to elders in a church.

The United States is responsible for 31% of global mass shootings between the years of 1966 and 2012, with mass shooting defined as four or more victims. 

Between 2000 and 2014, the United States has seen 133 mass shootings resulting in 487 deaths. 

Generation Z, we are responsible for the future. Do you want our children to experience more intruder drills in school than fire drills? The world is changing, but we have the power and the numbers to fight back on the unnecessary violence we are threatened by daily. We have a voice.

Let’s take back our schools, our churches, our communities.
Let’s take back our lives.


The Greatest (and Worst) Moments of Thursday’s GOP Debate

For those who missed it, Thursday’s GOP debate consisted of more (debatably) than just mudslinging in the direction of Hillary Clinton. The top ten Republican runners took their places behind their podiums a few minutes before 9 pm, staring down the faces of the Fox News team.

Media scrutinized businessman Donald Trump took center stage as the Republican’s front-runner, and the “Special Report” anchor Bret Baier wasted no time singling out the unorthodox man by asking if everyone on stage would support and endorse the winner of the Republican primaries. Naturally, everyone waited for Trump’s response, but they didn’t wait long as the businessman responded with a smirk and a single hand in the air regarding a third party run. Two minutes into the debate, many media outlets had their headlines already. Hook, line, and sinker, Trump.

Megyn Kelly continued the singling out of Trump by addressing the sexist remarks overflowing on his Twitter account, to which he countered was referring to Rosie O’Donnell only. He claimed to always be nice to Megyn- a pattern that maybe he shouldn’t continue.

The Fox News team used aggressive wording such as this through the night to pull honesty and transparency from the candidates.

Jeb Bush was placed in the spotlight numerous times throughout the night, as the he struggled to reiterate “[he] is [his] own man.” Although he shares a family name with two previous presidents, he assured Fox News and viewers that this campaign is all his own, addressing his brother’s war as a “mistake.”

Although Jeb’s brother had a minor moment of acknowledgment in the debate, the younger Bush was sure to re-associate the flaws of the Iraq War with President Barack Obama.

“Barack Obama became president and he abandoned Iraq. He left, and when he left, Alqaeda was done for, ISIS was created because of the void we left,” argued Bush.

I’m sure it comes as a shock that Bush wasn’t alone in mudslinging. Ted Cruz, while responding to Megyn Kelly with his ideas on “destroying ISIS in 90 days,” argued “we will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism so long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.”

Speaking of inappropriate responses to religion, Rand Paul attended the debate as well. While responding to a question regarding gay marriage and Christian private businesses, Paul defended freedom of religion with the uncomforting statement “if people have a religious opinion that is heartfelt, obviously they should be allowed to practice that.”

It seems to me that many actions backed by a religious belief can be justified with your statement, Paul.

John Kasich was also quick to respond regarding gay marriage, but took a very different, and much more liberal, approach than Paul. Megyn Kelly asked Kasich what he would do if a child of his came out as gay, to which Kasich shrugged his shoulders.

“Guess what? I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Because someone doesn’t think the way I do doesn’t mean I can’t care about them or love them,” defended Kasich.

While each candidate had clear ideas on how they would better America, some candidates got those ideas across clearer than others last night and left the viewers with some chilling one liners. If you haven’t watched the debate, I greatly encourage that you do so. Such tests of character divide the men from the boys.

Best of luck with your campaigns, gentlemen.

GOP 2016 Debate_Cham640360

An Open Letter to my Future Partner

To my better half (wherever you may be),

I don’t know you, but I already love the idea of you. I love the sense of adventure I know you will have, and I love the idea of sharing life with you. I don’t only imagine the nights in elegant dresses, but the days in running shorts- my hair a mess, headband falling off, three tiny hands holding my hand as we cross downtown streets. Saturday mornings, you’ll be woken by either the smell of pancakes or my offbeat singing to the radio (here’s hoping the pancakes get to you first, huh?). We’ll dance to our wedding song whenever we hear it on the radio, and our kids will yell about cooties because I will always kiss you in front of them. I want our children to know love, and find anger to be the rarity in our home. Love is not elegance and perfection; it is an overcooked meatloaf that you left in the oven too long because you were busy remembering 6th grade math to help with homework. Love is a red, runny nose after a long snow day of vicious snowball fights. When I tell you that I love you, I love every day, every night of you.

My parents divorced when I was fourteen. It wasn’t a messy divorce, and my Superwoman of a mother kept me in the school district. It didn’t affect my friendships, and had minimal impact on my academics. Emotionally though, I was lost. The relationship I had looked up to most had wilted away. In my devastation and confusion, I confided in my Sunday school teacher- a man happily married with three grown children. When I told him I was afraid love was not a permanent feeling, he thought carefully. After a few minutes of thought, he replied, “many kids think when a toy breaks, the only solution is to replace it. I disagree. Spend the time to glue the pieces back together. You fix what is broken. You don’t replace it.”

With that, I want to warn you (hopefully you know this by now) I am not always easy. I either wake up with the sun and lay restlessly for hours in hopes you will wake up too, or I sleep until noon. I have impatient and irrational bursts of frustration, and sometimes I will say things that I will want to take back ten minutes later. I drink coffee like it’s water, and I am tired a lot. I get excited over small things, and constantly want to be on the move. I like to talk about things, and I will need the occasional reminder that you still love me. If I’m broken, if we’re broken, we’ll fix it. Don’t replace it (or me). I will never replace you, I’m throwing away your receipt the day you tell me you’re mine.

I will remind you that I love you on that sunny Tuesday in May when we play hooky from work to get lunch. I will remind you that I love you on the day in June that our daughter graduates kindergarten. I will remind you that I love you on a rainy Sunday in April when the world seems against you. I will remind you that I love you on the warm Spring day our son gets into college, and our nest begins to feel empty. I will remind you that I love you when we’ve collected smile lines and wrinkles and we are sitting on wooden rocking chairs with our grandchildren.

I’m letting my heart find it’s own path; I’m venturing my way to you, my love.  weddingday.jpg

Caitlyn’s Accomplishment is Coming Out to America- Not Being “Pretty”

Dear Caitlyn,

Your actions and choices within your first public week identifying as Caitlyn have trumped your lifelong achievements as Bruce, and Hollywood has taken your spotlight as their own. Groups of varying religious and political beliefs have claimed your transformation as “progress” or “regress” for their own platforms, and I would like to take a minute to focus on you. You are a strong and independent woman, and you have fought like Hell to become such a woman.

Do not let groups with skewed self-proclaimed “Christian” ideologies tell you that you are wrong. The truth is, while for these groups, your choice is only important for the next advertisement cycle, your choice will affect you for the rest of your life. Do not let these media sources take your accomplishment as their own. While your Time Magazine shoot was beautiful, Bruce’s accomplishments were those of great physical and mental strength. Caitlyn’s accomplishment is that she came out to a nation that may have rejected her, not that she makes a “pretty girl.”

I will not sugarcoat it; you will have bad days. However, the worst days of being a woman will be better than your best days as a man, because this is who you are.

I believe that you are a hero to thousands, if not millions of individuals. To me, a hero is someone who brings hidden or disregarded issues to light, and you have done that for each questioning child who struggles with feeling trapped in a body they shouldn’t have, and for every teenager who has considered “coming out” to their loved ones. You have fought for children and adults across America who didn’t have a voice and felt discriminated against by society. Thank you.

You don’t have to be racist to discriminate, but people often forget there are other exclusionary factors in individuals.

Regarding those who compare you to a soldier to support the argument you are not a hero, quite simply, they are in the wrong. Soldiers are at the top of my list of heroes in this nation, but while every soldier is a hero, you don’t need to be a soldier to fall under the category of a “hero.” You have affirmed thousands of peoples’ beliefs that being transgender is OKAY, and for that, I will always defend your title as a hero.

People’s biggest mistake will be comparing your new accomplishments to those of Bruce, but you are a new person. I loved Bruce Jenner because he was an icon for the American dream, but Caitlyn Jenner’s confidence is the American dream.


Be a Lover and a Fighter

The idea of “being a lover, not a fighter” has always made my eyebrows furrow. To be successful in any form of the word, you need to be able to both love and fight. 

Love does not evolve from a lack of fighting, but rather the progression of passion.

If you know me, you know that some of my past relationships were built more from salt than sugar. Like most of the female population, I grew up with stories of princesses and princes slaying their dragons, so you can imagine I was shocked to discover my knights in shining armor were actually men wrapped in tinfoil.

Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella taught me to wait for a man to slay my demons, but real life experience has taught me that I have my own sword, and I am more than capable of fighting my own battles.

In 2015, I am not encountering dragons of large stature and a green complexion. I am fighting dragons disguised as emotions, and real life burdens. I cannot see them stomping up to me; they creep into the darkest crevices of your mind when you least expect it. Use your sword, princess. Don’t wait for your prince.

When you find your knight in shining armor, make him an addition to your army- not your whole army.

Be reliant on yourself; he’s just an extra piece to the puzzle.

There will come a day that you fight against your knight. It won’t be a “be all, end all” fight, but you will be standing alone. That is when you should balance your loving nature and your fighting nature.

You will have battles in your relationship, but that is expected. He will be on your side in the war, but not for every battle.

Draw your own weapon; fight your own dragons- you’ll be surprised at your own strength, princess. 


How to Get Over That Boy You Liked

Don’t open that next bottle of wine just yet. Whatever you have in your glass, finish it, and listen to a few unavoidable truths I have learned about heartbreak from the unfortunate memorization tactic of repetition.

You’re sad now, I understand. It’s been about ten days since he’s reached out to you last, and maybe two weeks since he’s told you that you’re beautiful. He’s been busy, he said. Finals or whatever, he said.

It’s not that you don’t think you deserve better, but rather that you don’t want anyone better else. Not-awful-looking men have been talking to you, and you’ve thought about a few of them, but none of them say your name in a way that leaves your skin gripping tighter to your bones like he can.

His eyes have, without invitation, imprinted themselves in your mind. But his words, or lack thereof, speak louder than the piercing eyes in the back of your skull. He isn’t there for you, and he has left you unhappy.

Okay, pop the wine; let’s get on with the advice:

  1. Take your happiness back into your own hands; keep it within reach.
  1. It is not his job to remind you that you’re beautiful. While it’s nice, and always encouraged, you won’t believe he finds you beautiful if you cannot honestly agree with him.
  1. Take time for yourself, whether it is 6 hours or 6 weeks. If you are already struggling to keep him around or responding to you, re-dedicate yourself to something that you love. Not someone. Find something you are passionate about, and do it every day. Don’t call him. 
  1. Tell your friends you love them, and focus on your healthy relationships. When you learn to love the people around you, you learn to love yourself. It wasn’t the world that hurt you; the world is still laughing with you.
  1. Laugh. Even if you don’t mean it, laugh. One day you’ll realize that sad forced laugh has evolved into a full-stomach cackle, and you’ll forget how to stop laughing.

You won’t forget the pain you felt, but eventually you will forget the way he held your hand. His piercing eyes will start to fade from your memory. The feeling of his hand around your waist will dissolve into a faint blur. Your heart will hurt less, and you will curl your hair for dates on Saturday nights again.

“Happiness” and “him” will stop being synonyms.

Photo on 5-9-15 at 7.03 PM #2**Author Note: This is a personal topic that’s been close to my heart lately so I’ve attached a webcam (not edited) photo of myself opposed to the usual stock photo. Believe you’re beautiful, ladies. 😉 

How to Date the Sensitive Extrovert This Summer

She will be fragile. Handle her laughter, and her sadness, with care. She’ll tell you that her laughter sounds like rain, when to you it feels like sunshine. She will forget that you think she is beautiful, and you will have to remind her. Tell her that her hair reminds you of the forthcoming summer seas. Her tendrils like salty water, and her eyes like the ocean blue itself. Imagine her on sailboats and buried in the sand.

She will be eager to go out. She will grab you by your wrists and tell you every night is a good night to be out of the house. She will be eager to see your friends, as well as her own. But like sea salt to a wound, every word uttered behind her back will sting her. She will want everyone to love her, both on your arm and alone. She will try on five outfits and call that “a quick outfit choice.” Smile, and confirm her delusional belief- five outfit changes is nothing, she’s tried on at least fifteen in the past.

She will read books, and get lost in a world of fiction. They will probably be romance novels, and she may build up romantic gestures in her mind. Be romantic; sweep her off her feet (if she’s into it). Tell her you’d love to stay home tonight and watch her favorite movie. It will probably be one “based off of her favorite book.” She loves the kissing scenes.

She will drink coffee and tell you about the world, but will also drink beer and tell your friends about partying. She will be two different people; each side to match the situation and the mood. Alone, she might make your head spin and dance on your nerves, but when you are at a party, you will catch yourself checking her out while she befriends all who will listen to her. She has a strange way of catching attention, and you should remind her she is beautiful in her soul.

She will want days of running around in Nikes, and nights of stargazing in the grassy field behind your house. She will want days of pick up trucks and country music festivals, and nights of red Solo cup house parties. She is both sensitive and social. She will smile at you like you’re the reason she knows how to do so. Take her out and let her gallop; keep her in and tame the lion.

Taste the sea salt on her lips, and run your callused fingers through her beach infused waves. Hold her hand when she drops her freckle-filled shoulders with frustration. Maybe she is a tad overly sensitive, but that summer-bonfire-spark in her eyes will keep you coming back.