Sunday, June 14, 2015

Being Alone

Have you ever been forced to sit by yourself in public amongst your thoughts for a period of time? It sounds pretty intimidating, especially when all you see walking by you are droves of people walking in pairs, or talking on their phone, or interacting with another human being in some way. Whenever I was forced to sit by myself for any length of time, every time a friend would approach me to end said period of Steve Glansberg-ing they would always say, "Wow, Alex, you just lonely." 

I feel like I've spent a lot of time alone. Yet, it took me almost 22 years to actually learn how to enjoy it. 

For someone who had always been very independently minded, I was extremely reliant on the presence of others for a good portion of my life. I always had to have friends around me when I could. I always had to have a crush on a boy or be talking to a boy when I could. Despite having a hard time making friends at my high school, whenever I did make a friend, I clung onto them and did not fathom the idea of solitude.  It was a terrifying concept to my socially stressed-ridden mind. Freshman year of college, the idea of sitting in the dining hall by myself during a meal gave me anxiety. I never would want to go out to a coffee shop to even do homework by myself. I specifically remember a situation freshman year at Chatham where I had asked my friend Hannah if she could come along with me to go to the doctors. Hannah being Hannah looked at me and said, "You're a fucking adult, Alex. Take yourself to the doctors." To me, being alone and appearing alone to others meant I had failed at socially adopting to situations and being able to constantly interact with others. In high school, I worried about this; in college, where making friends was as easy for me as grabbing a $5 pizza with ranch from Sorrento's? I reveled in the fact that I was not having a difficult time socially making new friends anymore, because I was constantly surrounded by new ones. Here's the thing, though; I still always felt pretty damn lonely. 

This anxiety only grew after I was assaulted at a party the beginning of my sophomore year. This was when I really didn't know how to handle my own thought process; I still would constantly feel the need to be surrounded by people. Always. I hated even having my own room because being by myself scared me at this point. Being by myself meant having to confront my feelings on what had happened to me. Being by myself meant allowing the feelings and emotions I had tried so hard to silence come out in my mind. It wasn't until the spring of 2014 that I started realizing this was an issue beyond what had happened to me the year before. The feelings of loneliness that I had always had began to fester; I felt like I wasn't always present within my interactions with people, I was putting up with shitty relationships with people who treated me like shit, and ugh, God, the ever-present cry of the millennial population: "People just don't get me," became my reasoning for why I felt so unsatisfied with my relationships and friendships. Despite coming to terms with my assault, and learning to forgive myself for putting the blame on myself, I still felt that there was something off in my life. I was extremely closed off emotionally, still, despite needing peoples presence near me. I was making a lot more progress than I had the year before; but it wasn't even close to enough. What was wrong?

Then it happened again.

A week before my 21st birthday, I was waiting for a guy I had a date with one night. I was 15 minutes early, something I had hated being, because that meant I had to be in public by myself and wait, and most of all, watch people give me the pitying, "Awww, did you get stood up?" glance. He showed up on time and came up to the table and automatically said, "Hey. Sorry you had to wait. Oh, Alex, you just looked so lonely."

I got home that night and thought about that sentence and how many times it had been said to me before, how everyone had the same brief sad look on their face when they said it to me. Then I thought about how I always had to ask someone to go get dinner with me, or go shopping with me, or go anywhere with me in public. The only time I could really stand to be by myself and amongst my thoughts was when I went on long runs and had music blasting in my ears. I thought about all the times I would sit awkwardly and twiddle my thumbs when I was by myself in public because people were running late and how I felt in every single one of those situations. Hell, I was living in an apartment by myself and absolutely loathed it. Was there a way to be alone without being lonely? 

I got my answer to that question at work one night. I was serving a table at the restaurant I used to  work at in Pittsburgh. It was a popular Shadyside destination, and usually the crowd I catered to was the happy hour seeking, very drunk young professionals that would show up in masses of three or more. So it was a very welcome, yet odd surprise to me when I had a young guy seated at a table by himself in my section on a Friday night. I approached him and asked if he was waiting on someone, and he said no. I went back to the server station to grab his drink and my friend/coworker Francart (nickname) was there. I looked at him and said, "I feel so bad for people that are dining alone. It just makes me feel so sad for them. I want to sit with them and converse with them and make them feel not so lonely." Francart immediately looked at me and did not share my sentiments as I had figured he would, but rather said, "Why? Do you just assume they don't choose to do that? Why do you assume he's lonely? Sure, he's alone, but he's not lonely. I do it all the time. Once you learn to get used to it, there's something really beautiful about being able to enjoy your own company." Surely enough, I peeked from around the corner of the server station and watched the man study his menu. The look on his face was not one ridden of social anxiety, or fear, or sadness; but rather, a face that personified what the word content meant. It was that night that I realized that I wanted to become that comfortable with myself. I wanted to be alone without being lonely.

Last summer, I would take my LSAT practice book or a book I was reading at the time, walk down my street to a nearby coffee shop, and sit by myself for an hour every couple of days. I knew I needed to teach myself to not only be alone, but to enjoy it. Putting myself on a schedule to do so just made it easier for me to accept that it was happening, especially with how busy my schedule was last summer. Being alone and sifting through my thoughts meant getting closer to fully understanding myself, and appreciating myself. It gave me time to think about all the toxic friendships and relationships I had let into my life just because I was afraid of being alone. How much I had put up with to keep people around who shouldn't have been around in the first place. How I was so quick to forgive people treating me terribly because I didn't want to lose them. If anything, starting to be on my own started to give me the time to think about the "what went wrongs?" of my life and reflect on them. Then, it turned into me not so much reflecting, but thinking, "How do I make this better the next time?" I realized being by myself gave me time to listen to my own thoughts and finally teach myself that they are of value. That the right people will find them of value as well. That it's okay to not always be surrounded by other people, because really, the only person you need to be okay with being around constantly is yourself. The approval of others really starts becoming something so trivial and irrelevant when you begin to come to terms with the idea that solitude is not an isolating, awful thing when you don't let it be that way. Giving yourself time alone means you are giving yourself time to reflect and grow. Learning to be by yourself in public means you are practicing appreciating your own company, so that you don't always have to rely on the presence of others. One of the best realizations I came to in the past two years is that you don't need other people all the time. To quote a TV show all basic white girls who still order Cosmos at the bar and their mothers who put ice cubes in their white wine like to watch, (hint: Carrie Bradshaw) "Don't forget to fall in love with yourself first. The most important relationship is the one that you have with yourself." I've always read that quote, and agreed, but never knew what the ingredients to having a great relationship with yourself entailed. I still am learning, constantly. However, I think it (partially) has something to do with these things:

1) Learning to be alone and not lonely.
2) Appreciating silence, and understanding that silence is sometimes super fucking loud.

"I got fascinated by silence; by what happens to the human spirit, to identity and personality when the talking stops, when you press the off button, when you venture out into that enormous emptiness. I was interested in silence as a lost cultural phenomenon, as a thing of beauty and as a space that had been explored and used over and over again by different individuals, for different reasons and with wildly differing results. I began to use my own life as a sort of laboratory to test some ideas and to find out what it felt like. Almost to my surprise, I found I loved silence. It suited me. I got greedy for more. In my hunt for more silence, I found this valley and built a house here, on the ruins of an old shepherd’s cottage."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

the girl who leaves before she is left

"I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I'm arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me." - Meryl Streep 

There are always going to be people in your life, my life, anyone's life that are characterized as the walkers, the abandoners, the people who walk away. Sometimes they do it with such a silence that you can't even hear a pinch of the soles of their shoes stepping away from you on a creaking wood floor, and sometimes, there's a huge lead up to the inevitable silence and awkwardness that follows, a supernova of miscommunication, receding effort, and hurt. I never really pictured myself as the type of person to do that; I always thought I cared too much about the people I love, and from personal experience, did not believe that if you truly loved someone, you just....stopped talking to them. Stopped seeing them. Stopped being a physical and emotional presence in their life. No matter what, the motto to me was aways, "Never give up on the things you love." 

College made me realize though that the relationships that really end up leaving marks on you are always the ones stuck in the grey areas. Oftentimes you wonder in these relationships how you got to these feelings of discontent and even anger towards this person that you love, while you still love them, and it becomes really confusing all of a sudden. Especially when it gets to the point where all of a sudden, you're not friends anymore, or you're not dating anymore. How did you go from not being able to stop talking to each other to....eternal silence? Coming from the girl who was always left, I never understood, and I always would stay up and question everything I did wrong, how I could've changed myself and molded myself to get the person to want to stay, how I could fix this and get them back in my life. 

This was me when I first went away to college. Now, I don't really care when another person and I grow away from each other. Maybe its some sick narcicissm instilled in me from being hurt, or maybe I've just grown enough to pick out and separate between the people who are going to make an effort, the people who are my friends but probably won't be around forever, and the people I don't really care if I talk to again or not. 

You know when people tell you "people in your life that don't help you grow or improve, you can cut them out because you don't need them"? And how usually you have at least one person on your mind when someone is giving you these kinds of anecdotes? (unless you're at a really great point in life where you don't feel the need to do that, in which case, serious kudos to you, you've got something figured out that I don't or you must probably be entering your late twenties.) Throughout college, I've had two people that came to mind when being repeatedly told this. One was a poisionous friendship, and one was a stagnant one. The first one was probably the hardest to let go of because not only did I love her dearly and wanted to disprove her pessimistic view of people always leaving, but I also lived with her. However, we also fought all the time; she was never happy with me, and even though some of the best times I had in college were with her....some of the worst were with her too. It was becoming a cycle of building up to a fight, fighting, the fight getting really nasty, making up through several tears and "I love you, let's not do this again"'s, and then maybe three great days where we'd get along perfectly. Then the cycle would start all over again. I did probably contribute an issue or two, in fact I definitiely did, but honestly, even if you love someone, some people are just not meant to be together, and some people are just not meant to be friends. She was a beautiful person, rough around the edges, but our ways of displaying love did not match up with each other. I still love her and hope the best for her...but, there just gets to be a point where there is too much damage and not enough energy to repair from both sides. The cycle was wearing out, and I was unhappy and exhausted. Tired, I prayed continuously, and an answer eventually came to me. Finally I had to cut ties, and it wasn't pretty. There was something beyond a supernova that happened, it was like an atomic bomb went off in a black hole (if that was even possible.) I was expecting it, but it didn't make it easier to deal with. 

Even after all of that though, I still never really understood why people would cut me out of their lives, especially if we didn't have a cycle of fighting, or anger, or such. Then friend number two came around, the stagnant one. This one is the true biter of all friendships, because half the time you don't even know if you should cut them out or not, but you know there's always been something "off." I realized a few months into this friendship that this was probably why people cut me off or distanced themselves from me, because I was the stagnant friend in those friendships. I realized I didn't really care about this friend after a while, I just kept her around because of a sheer need to have someone close by, which was selfish on my part. Someone can have a beautiful soul, but that doesn't mean its meant to be shared with you. I didn't feel like she exuded enough of a personality to bounce off of my weirdness, and it got to the point earlier on this year when I felt bored hanging out with her, I didn't feel challenged or convicted or encouraged to do more with my life after seeing her, like I did with most of my other friends. If anything, hanging out with her felt like an endless chore, as awful as that sounds. However, as much as I debated cutting her out, toying with the idea for months on end, I kept stopping myself. "But she did this for me..." "She was here for me when.." it seemed like I had a huge cesspool of excuses ridden from guilt that kept me from doing it. Then it hit me one day after reconnecting with someone I had had a falling out with....all of those excuses and statements? Past tense. To simply put it, I'm going to look like a huge bitch for doing this, and maybe I am a huge bitch, but I'm not happy when I'm around her. 

Before distancing myself from that friend, I had held a little bit of dissapointment towards the people who left, the people who never said goodbye, the people who walked out of my life. Yet, after distancing myself this time, not only did I feel relief, but I also finally understood the people that walked away. Most of the time, it really doesn't have to do with you (sometimes it does, and I will admit I have been a shithead to certain people and that they probably reached their breaking point with me. It happens.) Sometimes people let you go because they're actually trying to not be selfish, the opposite of what I thought all along. They let go because they realize they can't return the insurmountable love you give them, and they want you to find someone who not only returns it, but matches it. 

So yes, the past year or so, I've become the girl who leaves before she is left.
I've joined the ranks of the people I despised most in my teenage years.

And you know what? I don't handle it well sometimes, but I accept it. You're probably going to think I'm a huge bitch after reading this, and I accept the backlash. It's fine. I'm getting too old and impatient to spend time around those who I don't want to give 100 percent of my love to. I have nothing left to give to the empty souls of this world.

So, in conclusion, sometimes people don't leave out of hatred or selfishness. But out of love. It's a cliche, but life really is too short to be spending time with those who don't want to be around. I've come to realize, despite my earlier thoughts, I don't cut people out because I want to be cold hearted, but because my heart is tired and wrung from giving out too much or too still from giving out so little. When people leave from now on, I'll let them walk out the door in peace. 

It may hurt for a while, like a Band-Aid being ripped off the surface of my skin, but at least now I understand. 

"It's hard to watch the game we make of love, like everyone's playing checkers
Saying 'checkmate'
Whenever they get out without a broken heart
Just to be clear
I don't want to get out 
without a broken heart
I intend to leave this life 
So shattered
there's gonna have to be 
A thousand separate heavens 
For all of my flying parts"
- Andrea Gibson 

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

Dear Alex:

Pittsburgh. College.

One of the wildest, wonderful, most whimsical chapters of your life so far is about to begin. You've been waiting, wishing to get out of the bubble that is Stuart, Florida for the past four/five years you have been here….yet...for the first time since you've moved here, from Miami to Stuart, you get that feeling. That feeling that signifies that something is about to end, you don’t know what’s going to happen beyond the point where you close a door on a particular chapter of your life, and it’s freeing, but it’s also beyond terrifying. You will move past this feeling quickly as you drive away with Aunt Kathy, rental SUV all packed to the brim with your personal belonging and clothes that are left over from your days in Florida, finally headed up to Pittsburgh for college, after giving your mom your last hug at 6 am until Thanksgiving break, turning your back towards Florida for the first time in your life for longer than three weeks.

Let me just go ahead and say that like most things in life, college is not going to work out the way you expected it to or wanted it to. I’m sorry to have to say that. You are going to base some of the most amazing memories of your life here; you will discover yourself and find different corners of your mind that you never explored before. Yet, you are also going to let yourself down more times than you can imagine, you are going to fuck up a lot, and you are going to be the biggest disappointment to your friends, your family, your professors and advisors. You’re going to have a ton of friends freshman year, only to lose a lot of them. You will meet some really shitty people that are going to hurt you. Sometimes you are going to be that shitty person that hurts others. You are not going to meet the love of your life here, at least not right now. You are not going to succeed and get straight A’s your first year. You’re going to put a lot more into some relationships that end up not working out, and you’re going to feel completely destroyed from handing your heart out so freely.  You’re not all of a sudden going to turn from the spoiled, irresponsible child that you are into a full functioning, responsible, accountable adult. That takes time, something you need to remember. There will be heartbreak. There will be lots of tears. Unfortunately, part of discovering the unexplored corners of your mind means that you are going to discover some really dark matter that you never thought existed before in your head. These next three years in Pittsburgh are going to be the most trying times of your life, yet also somehow the most rewarding.

You will finally start to act like a fucking adult somewhat, which is long overdue. You no longer have mom around to do your laundry or remind you to schedule your doctors appointments or remind you to drop off this and that paperwork to this place, or pay your bills on time, or coddle you in general. You’re going to be late on paying your bills a few times, you’re going to piss off your roommates more than once because of your naturally selfish nature, you’re going to get too drunk some nights when you really need to be up at 8 am and not in shambles the next morning, but it’s okay, despite this at least you’re moving a few steps forward into becoming accountable for yourself and becoming a better person. That doesn't mean you’re not going to have those friendships and relationships and days in general when you’re not a complete asshole. Because you are going to. You’re not perfect. You’re not always going to be a nice person that makes the best decisions, you’re not going to respond to emails on time like you are supposed to, you’re not always going to own up to your mistakes, and you need to learn to forgive yourself for that. Definitely work on improving upon it, but also don’t hate yourself because you mess up. You’re going to feel frustrated that you are not as put together as some of the people around you. But keep in mind, they had to journey down a path to get to the point that they are at now. You just started your road a lot later than some other people did, and to this day you are still traveling down it. It’s never going to be a perfectly narrow path either without any curves or edges or road bumps. You will hit your hard times. You are in repair….your not fully together, but you are getting there. Be happy that you are moving forward and not backwards anymore.

You are going to realize sometime during the summer before your junior year just how reliant you are on the men in your life and how much you have depended on your relationships to define you. You will then realize that you don’t want a guy or his career to define you, you don’t want to be a paper doll that is looked at as a delicate play-thing that is not taken seriously anymore. You can’t dwell a home in another human being, or entrust your heart with them. They will always drop it. Always. You can’t wait to have kids and take care of a home someday, but you will want to be something more than a housewife whose excitement for the day caps at when her husband comes home (because honestly, especially after being a nanny for a family of three children under the age of 5 for over a year, you’re going to realize that if you’re just at home all day with three children you are going to go insane. Yep, you’re going to babysit three little rascals and it’s going to be crazy but so rewarding.) You want to define yourself.  You always dreamed of having a conventional “Once Upon a time….” story with a Prince Charming and a beautiful ball gown and a happily ever after. Yet, what about your life has ever been conventional? You are a calm sea and a hurricane all in one. A living contradiction at times.

Even though it seems like a stretch and like no one believes in you, you’re going to finally decide that you are going to pursue your lifelong dream of attending law school. You will get incredulous looks and people saying behind your turned away shoulder that you are not smart enough, don’t have what it takes to be a lawyer, don’t have the right personality for it. Don’t solely pursue it to prove them wrong, do it because its what you want for yourself and you want to prove to yourself that you can reach your highest potential. Their eventual words of encouragement will come once they see progress, see that you believe in yourself. That might take a while. It will not be easy. Keep going though, because you know in your heart that it’s destined to happen. You will have people that do believe in you from the start though, and don’t forget to let them know how much you love them and appreciate their encouragement. God gave you life for a reason. He instilled you on this planet to complete a small portion of the work he wants done before he calls you back to His kingdom. There is a girl being sold into sex trafficking somewhere in the world, sitting, wanting an end to her misery and torture.Think of all those children that are put through so many atrocities not just worldwide, but also domestically when pushing through your schoolwork, thinking that it won’t all add up someday. You want to help them. That girl in that brothel, or that boy that is being raped every night by his father, or that girl that, like you, was sexually assaulted and drugged at a party is waiting for you to finish your degree, pass your bar exam, join the workforce and help save them so they can eventually save themselves. Sometimes people need a guiding force to save them that is a little bit more physical and concrete than faith and God’s presence. Give those justice that can’t quite pursue it themselves. The harder you work, the more you can make it happen.

That’s another thing we need to talk about. At the beginning of your sophomore year, you are going to be drugged at a party. A boy is going to force himself on you, rip your clothes off, hurt you, touch you when you are trying to scream the word, “No,” yet the drugs won’t let you. For a long time afterwards, you will feel violated, broken, destroyed, everything you never wanted to feel. What is left of your innocence has been compromised and there’s nothing you can do about that last part of it that you were trying to hold onto and protect for so long, that ultimately was ripped away. You are going to mentally write lists of things you did wrong, things you could have done to protect yourself more against the shadow of evil that was cast upon you that night. You will hate yourself for months afterwards, drinking too often and too excessively, lashing out at your ex-boyfriend, your roommates, your friends. Remember that none of it was your fault (the fights afterwards were, and honestly, you were acting like a freaking crazy moron because you refused to talk about and acknowledge what happened to you. Apologize.) You were intoxicated against your own will that night. Regardless, that did not give him the right to touch you. Girls do need to learn how to protect themselves, but some boys also need to learn how to stop raping and violating other human beings.

You know what though? I’m proud of you. You moved past it. You will come close to letting it consume you and swallow you whole, the guilt and frustration and anger you feel. Yet, you will come to a day where you forgive yourself. You’re going to feel free from the crutches you latched yourself on to. You are going to realize that one person’s act of violence does not define who you are as it never should.

Perhaps the most important thing that is going to happen to you over these next three years is that you are going to start calling yourself a Christian again. Yeah, I know. You spent a good deal of high school saying you believed in God, sort of, but didn’t really want to do anything about it because you were lazy and discouraged. You’re going to be confused by it a lot of times too, because you drink, you say “fuck” way too often, and you have definitely more than once shown up to church in the clothes you went out in the night before (seriously, be thankful that God hasn’t struck down a lightning bolt on us for being so awful sometimes.) Your faith is going to be the light that guides you through your dark times up here. That being said, your faith itself will never be easy. You’re going to find yourself questioning things a lot, slipping back into old habits that consumed your life before you let Christ back in it, and some days you’re going to feel like you’re taking ten steps backwards instead of ten steps forward. Your trip to Guatemala sophomore year (yes, you’re going to go to Guatemala and it’s going to be a life changing experience) will help you define where you want to go. You’re currently on a lot of roads. Your career road, your personal development road, your faith road. Katherine is going to be a huge guiding point of your faith road. Thumim will be a huge part of your personal development road. Listen to them. On all of your pathways though, most importantly, listen for God’s voice. He won’t abandon you, He’ll always listen to you, and He’ll always be here to guide you. Don’t abandon God despite circumstance and what may come up in the future, because, I repeat: He will never abandon you.

After three years here, you’re going to realize that the way you are trying to approach pursuing your career and the rest of your goals in life is simply not working right now. For the first time in your life, you actually feel homesick. You still love Pittsburgh and feel like you have some special connection to the city that will never go away, but you hate being so far away from your family. Dad and Karin will get divorced in the beginning of your third year of college, leaving you with no real family members in Pennsylvania. You’re going to get really lonely. You’ll hate that John Patrick is growing up seemingly so quickly before your eyes, and you are missing out on so much of his childhood. It’s okay to feel this way, and it’s okay to make the decision to move back home. Don’t think of it as starting over, because starting over sometimes means forgetting what happened before your new beginning. Forgetting a place like Pittsburgh? Impossible. Darling, you will find yourself here. I don’t know where she was hiding; maybe it was somewhere near the pool table in Belvedere’s or in the upper tier of PNC Park during a baseball game, or in the pews of Shadyside Presbyterian or one of the nationality rooms in the Cathedral of Learning, or amongst the law tomes in Pitt’s law library, or in 419 Atwood’s basement dancing. The important thing is that you found her, and now you can make sure you grow. Just think of this all as moving forward. This isn’t taking a step back, it’s simply just taking a step in a different direction than you had originally thought. Hey, think about it this way. Right now, you think you’re going to go to college, will meet your future husband some point after your first year, go into fashion public relations and writing, and then move to New York City and become a huge PR magnate taking the fashion world by storm, because someone told you you weren’t smart enough to become a lawyer, that you had a writer’s soul and liked clothes so you should do something with that. Two years ago, statements like these would have paralyzed me, as I’m sure you are feeling now. However, now, as you will learn to do eventually, I scoff at statements like that. You and you alone are the author of your story, the life you pursue, the story you come to share with others. What do you want your story to be? You are going to swap out all your fashion magazine prints on your freshman dorm room walls for a Bible verse chalked onto your brick back wall. You will trade your fashion statement coffee mug for one that lists landmark Supreme Court cases. And you know what, that makes me happy, because that means you have taken the steps necessary to define yourself, what you want for your life. For once, you’re calling the shots somewhat and it feels good to do things for yourself. You’re going to finally learn how to become financially independent from your family, your savings, and it’s going to be a really satisfying feeling when you do. You’re going to hold a few jobs, and it’s going to be really difficult but you’re also going to feel so happy that you can trust yourself to do the grunt work, to labor through arduous tasks that seem unimportant but add up to a bigger picture. Consistency and hard work are key, my dear, and you will learn that here better than anywhere else, in a city itself that has risen and fallen so many times and has had to pick up its broken pieces to reconstruct and succeed eventually.

By the time you are getting ready to leave here, you’re going to look at a lot of the same places you used to go to a lot freshman year, or even sophomore year, and you’re going to look at these places in the present and sadly, in a way, think to yourself, “Wow. What a different person I am now than when I was first in this place. Different mind. Different thoughts. I am a different person now.” There is a bit of melancholy attached to these thoughts, but try to move past that and think of how far you've come, how much you will grow up in these three years. You’ve certainly grown more than you did in high school, that’s for sure. The skyline of this city will always be your first love, yet, every time you come back to this place and look at the magnanimous buildings that light up downtown once more, you are going to be a different person, occupied by different thoughts and feelings. This is good because it means you are evolving into the person you need to be to complete the things you were meant to do with your precious time here. In high school and during my freshman year of college, I used to look at myself as meek, somewhat quiet, awkward, weird, friendly, not hard working, lazy, messy, afraid to stand up for myself. Now though? I look at myself and I see a girl who has gained a few curves and edges alongside herself while here. I look into a face of not beauty or innocence, but hard work and experience, two great teachers. A girl that is not afraid to argue back when her dignity is compromised or at risk anymore. A girl who is stronger than she had ever thought capable before. I’m still quite messy sometimes, but this summer I have become really happy that I don’t sleep in past 8 am anymore most days (exceptions of course are handed out for those nights I'm at work until 2 am), because nowadays  I would rather wake up and chase my dreams than merely live them out in my head. I think I've become a pretty hard worker, even though there’s always room for improvement. I’m still awkward and weird, but who said those always had to be bad things? I am nowadays much more concerned with having a personality rather than being a pretty face (God forbid I continue to be a basic white girl ever. Lord help me.) A lot of people would probably disagree with the way I look at myself and describe myself now, and I can’t blame them. They are probably among the people I have let down countless times or at one point or another. I look forward to showing them my continuous growth so that they can believe in me again in their own time, as you should too. Your journey won’t be easy, but it hopefully is going to be worth it.

Last but not least, I need you to ask yourself these things every day from now on.

1) Are you taking care of yourself?
2) Seriously.
3) Did you pray today?
4) What did you learn today?
5) Did you make another person smile?
7) Did you help or hurt someone?
and most importantly,
8) Does it make you happy?

You are going to slip under the wagon sometimes and you have a long road ahead of you. Just keep faith in the fact that there is light at the end of the tunnel and you’re going to reach it sooner rather than later. Most people have a prayer of contentment, something they always ask for and wish upon. Yours will always be a line taken from your favorite artist, John Mayer:  “Just keep me where the light is.” You’ll be asking God that a lot these next few years, but also remember that you’re going to learn, and always will learn, how to search for that light in the darkness and to hold onto it on your own too.

Whatever dark corners you encounter, know that you and your faith are strong enough to pull yourself out of them.

21 year old Alex

P.S.: I am proud to say you will get over your stupid flavored vodka phase and move onto liking whiskey/scotch, like a real woman should. Good job.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Cultivating Gardens

I believe in the strength and power of music and written word.

I believe that all of us have that one song that got us through that awful breakup, or your parents divorce, or that leaves a bittersweet aftertaste in your mouth while listening to it because it reminds you of a memory you miss that you can never get back. All of a sudden, the beginning chords strike, and you are immediately pulled back to that moment that continues to stick in your mind when you first heard that song. You are overcome with the emotions you felt while listening to said song. You remember the landscape of where you were, who you were with, what you were doing, what people were saying. Sometimes music sets a reminder to us that the past never goes away.

I also believe a lot of us have that one book that you always go back to because sometimes you feel discouraged by people leaving so often, but then this book reminds you that it is always here and is always beckoning you to open and explore its pages once again, or that book that is your escape from reality, the place where you go whenever you feel upset, fed up, or angry--whether it be to Westeros, or Narnia, or Hogwarts, or 19th century England….it's probably really weird to say that you "connect" with a book, but for those who have had it happen to them, I'm sure you get it too. You are completely transported to that world, those characters seem like for those brief days you are leafing through its pages that they are almost real. It's kind of like you have this humongous book hangover whenever you are done reading--you're still pulled into that other world of the book, however now the pages have run out, the characters stories are over, yet here you are, still breathing, still….existing. When a book really hits home for you and changes your way of thinking, or a particular set of poems, all of these things just seem completely unfathomable to you. You're still writing your story. And it doesn't abruptly end with "and they all lived happily ever after."

Books and music have the power to transform, to change this world for the better. You think you're so disconnected from certain people, that they're way too different from you, and then you find out that they also listen to Dave Matthews Band and swoon when Stefan Lessard tears it up on bass, or have also read The Catcher in the Rye and Holden Caulfield just also spoke to them so damn much. Literature and songs are written in so many different languages, yet emotions scream off the page as one united form of communication. I constantly find myself connecting to complete strangers because they took the risk of pouring out their feelings and publishing it into a book or putting a melody to their words and putting it out there online in the hopes that other people who have felt the same way will feel connected to the way they felt when creating those stories, and that maybe after all they won't feel so alone. I think one of my favorite days this past semester was when I walked to the Carnegie Library on a Friday afternoon when I didn't have to work, I walked in hoping to look up and read part of a biography on Margaret Thatcher, or re-read one of Gloria Naylor's works. Instead, I saw a book display on the first floor that read: "Afghan Women's Poetry." Intrigued, I walked over and started browsing through the books they had propped up for people to pick up and browse through. I picked up a book that was a collection of poems written by women in traditional Pashto, translated. All I had to do was open to the first page, and there was a short poem written by a young woman who was assaulted one day while walking home from town and how she felt deemed worthless because of her "impurity." The next 160 or so pages were filled with words of hope, depression, worry, anger, frustration, injustice….you know, the United States is not a war zone. However, it is amazing to me that it is possible to still relate to someone who is halfway around the world who was raised and continues to  live in a completely different world than your own. However, our words, when translated, and our emotions unite as one.

These are just a few reasons why I get a little saddened when people tell me they hate to read. I can promise you something: you don't. I think there are a lot of correlations between music and writing besides just song lyrics, and if you don't hate music, I can assure you, you don't hate reading. You just haven't found that one book that speaks to you yet, that one author that pens sentences that seem to sum up your existence and everything you feel onto a page, which you never thought previously was possible. Just wait for it. Because it is going to be one of the most relieving, comforting things ever when you do.

You know how you're always told growing up that someday you are going to meet and marry your soulmate and everything's going to be all cupcakes and rainbows and happy times? I think a lot of people neglect to tell us when we're young that it's possible to find our soul mates through writing, through songs, through reading different books. Soul mates aren't just found in fellow human beings. Sometimes you can find fragmented parts of your soul in things other humans create, especially when they exert passion into something. Yeah, they also forgot to mention to us that everything isn't all cupcakes and rainbows and sunshine when you do meet your soulmate, but that's okay. Having a soulmate makes it all better because it means you have someone there to sit with you and love you when things aren't perfect. You find appreciation in imperfect things and love them anyways.

Great literature is waiting for you to fall in love with it. So are songs. If you don't believe me, be patient. Just like that "right" person is going to come along for you, I can guarantee you that "right" book and that "right" song will be coming along sometime soon too.

One of my most distinct memories from when I was younger was the summer eve that the sixth Harry Potter book was supposed to come out. There was going to be a huge party to celebrate the launch of the book. I had mentioned to my parents the week before that I wanted to go so badly, that I knew it was way past when 12-year-old-me was supposed to be out, especially in Miami, but I really just wanted them to make an exception this one time (on another note, what a huge effing dork I was. Yeah, I was twelve, but whatever.) They briskly told me they would "think about it," before turning away and getting back to whatever it was they were doing that day. The mood around my house was tense at this point; my parents had been fighting for weeks, my mom having came home several weekend nights at 3 am that were turning into week days. I felt like my parents were slipping away from me. I knew something was wrong, as I had snooped through my mom's phone at the wrong time and saw several explicit text messages between her and another guy, another guy that was definitely not my dad. I knew better than to say anything. I didn't realize at the time that I could try to glue back together my broken family all I wanted, but it wasn't going to stop the cracks from coming out again and continuing to fragment and decay. I thought every time my mom came home in the wee early hours, drunk, without her wedding ring on, and I would hear my parents screaming at each other, that me making them aware to the fact that I was awake by making noise and turning my bedroom light on was going to stop the fighting. It didn't. It only continued to store up the anger and hurt that they felt towards each other. My parents weren't each others soul mates, and I had a hard time accepting that….because really, isn't that all you want besides from your parents besides for them to love you and support you?

Finally one night, the cap blew off on all that pent up anger and hatred and everything was out. My dad had caught my mom in a lie and found out that she had been having an affair. The fight got so bad that I remember in blurs there being several broken kitchen appliances and tableware scattered all over our dining room and kitchen, and a police car blaring its lights outside our front door, a sheriff aggressively pounding on the wood to let himself into our broken household that was beyond repair at this point. Despite my awful track record with dating, I think love can fix everything. It's just how much you have of it that really is the determining factor of whether two people are going to get through something or not. My parents just did not love each other enough to make it work out. I was put in a car and next thing I knew I was at a friend's house for the night. An hour later, my dad showed up at my friends front door. I was sad I had missed that stupid launch party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, reiterating to my friend Sarah that I couldn't wait to read the book. In actuality, I knew that it didn't really freaking matter. I just wanted something light to keep my mind off of the mindfuckery that just happened. My dad came into Sarah's house with a small bag. He handed it over to me before kissing me on the forehead and heading out for the evening. I opened the bag and saw a brand spankin' new copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Oh my god. I finally had it! I stayed up all night and the whole next day reading it, throwing myself into the non-Muggle world, trying in every way shape and form to escape the reality that was my looming parent's divorce. Hogwarts was there to welcome me to a landscape that was completely different from all the anger I was surrounded by constantly. I always credit the support of my friends, and books and music to getting me through the first difficult period of my life.

Another memory I recall was shortly following the divorce and a prompt move up to Stuart, a small, sleepy beach town about an hour away from Miami. My dad and I were taking a drive up the coastline to Vero Beach, just the two of us. It was our "thing". You know how you probably have some distinct memory with your parents that either just your mom or just your dad do with you and you guys always bond over it? Maybe your dad runs into your room and sings along to a stupid song to cheer you up when you're sad, or your mom holds you close to her heart when you feel like the world around you is falling apart. My dad and I's thing (since I had outgrown being able to fall asleep on his chest to listen to his heartbeat every night as I did when I was a baby, apparently) besides making mix tapes is that we like to get in the car on random weekend afternoons and go for drives close to the shoreline and just talk and listen to music. One day, my dad opened up to me about things that had happened to him before him and my mom had met, my mom's past, and secrets that I had felt were kept from me for the past few years. He was an open book that day, and as we were listening to music, the acoustic version of "Times Like These" by the Foo Fighters came on one of several mix tapes we had made for each other. A line of the lyrics lines go, "It's times like these you learn to live again."

My dad turned it up right at that line, looked at me, and said, "This is our new beginning, kiddo. Listen to this whenever you feel like you're starting to slip back."

I do. I do every time, Dad.

I've never owned a garden myself, but I do know that you have to water your plants and tend to it, in other words cultivate it, for it to stay alive and to flourish. It's challenging, but with work, it grows and is more open and beautiful than ever. Gardens require weed whackers, and water, and soil and strong hands to continue for it to flourish.

Your mind is a garden too, in a sense. And it requires cultivating. Our tools to cultivate are a little different though than your standard garden. I think books and music are two of the most important. They grow us. They comfort us. They expand our minds. They remind us that we're living.

 And sometimes, they might even save you a little and remind you that everything's gonna be okay.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"I go to seek a Great 'Perhaps'"

I've never been much of a stand out student, or stand out person for that matter.

To this day, one of the most paralyzing moments of my life was during my high school graduation. It was a windy day, I was focusing on not letting my cap fly off of my head while trying to sit and look pretty for the event photographer who was taking snaps at the most random moments when Alec, our male class speaker, went up to the podium. He went on to make a great speech, as was expected of Alec, and during one portion of his speech he started pointing out our classmates and what made them "special", what they were good at. It seemed as though basically everyone was named off in my class except for me. "Oh, Kat's great with animals.....!  Myrthe's going to be great in the sciences!" On and on the list went, and I kept hoping that there was a distinguishable quality about me that was worth pointing out. These people had been going to school with me for three years, maybe they would find something special. Apparently there wasn't, as Alec continued to move on from speaking about my class and delved into the cliche portion of every graduation speech that goes a little something like "Things are gonna change when we move away from here and move on with our lives..." Everyone else moved on like it wasn't a big deal, and in retrospect it shouldn't have been. Alec's manner in which he brought it up was meant to be encouraging and positive in the way he was directly addressing my fellow classmates, but I was sitting in my seat for the rest of the ceremony, too enthralled with the fact that I had been spending most of every day of 9 months for three years with these people, and they couldn't find a distinguishing quality about me. It scared me. Oblivion wasn't just inevitable for me, as Augustus Waters was so worried about in The Fault in Our was already happening. I hadn't even officially left the halls of my high school as a graduated senior, and I was already forgotten about.

I know for a fact most people would not associate the word "perfectionist" with me, but the truth is, I have a very strong perfectionist streak that runs through me. I didn't even notice it until recently when one of my professors pulled me aside after class one day and pointed it out to me. "Alex," he stated as he sat at his desk with his feet propped up and beckoned me over, "I know you have probably spent your whole life being told that you have amazing potential. Really though, I think you would be more satisfied and less continuously frustrated if you applied yourself more. I've seen you do it at this point now, and have noticed you're almost obsessive about doing whatever it is that you're setting your mind to perfectly. Do you ever think that you so often just give up before you even try a first time because of this overarching fear of failure if you don't have control over the situation completely or simply because you shrink at the slightest sign of discouragement? You don't apply yourself most of the time because you don't believe in yourself."

Well, it would certainly in a sense explain most of the nightmares I've been having--nightmares that have included a guy breaking up with me because I wasn't the best or prettiest girlfriend, nightmares of me getting back my LSAT score and finding out I had failed, nightmares of my first day in law school, my classroom filled to the brim with people from my past who were ever discouraging or mean to me, nightmares where I got dropped from my modeling agency because I had gained too much weight. 

It all suddenly hit me like a swift slap to the face, and all I could think to myself was, "I guess he's right, but dammit, this asshole barely knows me and he just psychoanalyzed me. Cool, now I'm going to be his signature 'work in progress/pet project' for the semester and he's not going to lay off my case at all. Great. Just great." This isn't the first professor or teacher that's taken an invested interest in me. I understand it is a teacher's job to go out of their way to help develop their students, even if it means chipping in more hours off the clock. I just really don't think I'm someone worth spending extra time on. 

I really have never thought I was anything special. People say my writing and my eye for fashion are two of my strongest attributes, but I think my writing is especially mediocre. I get sidetracked extremely quickly and often have a case of going over something someone else wrote, and when they make a great point or have that one strong defining sentence that really hits a nail on the head,  thinking to myself, "Why couldn't I have written that myself? I wish I had." My blog is merely one out of millions of others written by enlightened people with strong epiphanies that were worth sharing, or were traveling the world and needed to share the details of their growth while abroad. What makes my blog so special, what makes my writing so special? I'm just a beyond confused 21 year old girl trying to figure out my greater purpose in life is while trying to tackle my day-to-day tasks and relationships. Which sounds a lot like the plot of a John Hughes movie, minus the invested love interest I end up with in the end and the awesome 80's soundtrack. 

My taste in fashion is something I find fun but also very shallow, at least in my approach towards it. I don't feel I give other people joy by dressing nicely. It doesn't give me much of a personality, it doesn't give me the depth that makes me someone worth knowing. People spent years telling me to go into fashion journalism because I'd be "good at it." A part of me was extremely flattered, as fashion writing and fashion magazines have provided much solace and temporary happiness and have proven to be a great pick-me-up on bad days. They were my form of escapism growing up, when I couldn't leave the house or travel. However, a much greater part of me strongly thought to myself, "That's it? That's all you see me doing with the rest of my life, other than supposedly being a great mom? You don't expect something greater of me?" I realized if I had continued to follow down this path in life that I would quickly develop a strong case of Betty Draper housewife syndrome. Which just sounds sad. I knew my heart wouldn't be into fashion 100% had I continued to pursue it, and I would've been miserable.

To those boys and girls that grow up getting told they'd make great doctors, or lawyers, or engineers, or well....anything that's considered a "respectable career" by traditional standards, you are so lucky. So lucky.  I am jealous of you. I get told I'd be a great writer. You know what most great writers do? They write, go crazy isolating themselves physically and trying to mentally isolate themselves from all the crazy thoughts running through their minds constantly, and then about eight times out of ten, they kill themselves in some theatrical manner. This is what career life I get told I should run into. Cool! Life is a treat! Either way (see that whole "getting sidetracked" thing I was talking about?!)  I'm jealous that someone has that much faith in you to put the highest of expectations in you. I hope you find encouragement in the standards people expect from you. It must be nice. 

Despite the fact that I had at six years old written in my diary (then full of pages about how someday I was going to get married to the kid that played Draco in the Harry Potter movies and how I hated Hilary Duff SO MUCH for being able to kiss Aaron Carter on the Lizzie McGuire Christmas special--my first recorded incident of jealousy) that I wanted to be a lawyer so I could help fix people's fights, and my parents saying that I could do whatever I set my mind to.....that didn't stop all the incredulous looks and strongly defined smirks when I began telling people I wanted to go to law school. Conventionally, I guess, only super standout star students really are considered for that path. In other words, not me. I still remember my old roommate rolling her eyes at me and telling me I was "too nice" to be a lawyer. I even more so vividly remember the time she accidentally butt-dialed me while telling our other mutual friend at the time that I was so very stupid, I had no brain cells, and was too dumb to be anything more than a housewife that bends over for her husband whenever he wants, because at least I still had the pretty thing going for me. You may not realize it, but when you are discouraging and condescending and mean towards others, it sticks with them forever. They will never forget your smirks, your cruel words, your discouragements. They will never forget because it's what's going to fuel them to continue to work for something better for themselves.

I had started to tell my friends that were declaring pre-med, pre-vet, biomedical engineering, etc. as their majors that I wanted to become a human rights lawyer when they asked what I finally decided to do with my life. As I was declaring the news to them, I found my voice constantly cracking in to a high-pitched tone, scared of the response I'd get in return. I still can't bring myself to tell a kid I used to talk to last year, who is currently in law school, that I too want to be a lawyer for fear of being judged even more harshly than everyone else since he's currently the only one actually experiencing it. 

I can sadly name off over a dozen isolated moments where I have been told to my face or behind my back that I was dumb, not capable, inconceivably stupid, and only a pretty face with a nice set of legs and hundreds of sundresses, and that was all I was meant to be. (For the record, aspiring to be only a housewife is not "lowly"  or should be looked down upon. I can't wait to raise kids and help take care of a home someday. I just know I would never be happy only doing that.) 

But you know what? I'm tired of people only knowing me that way. So what if YOU think I'm not good enough for something or am too dumb to be a certain type of person?

Some things you have to freaking do for yourself.

My path isn't by any means straight and narrow, but at least I'm the one paving it with God. I'M paving it. Not you. Not your opinions. Just me, my hands, God's will, and my hard work. 

The other day, over Bible study and some coffee,  Katherine, my campus minister, and I were discussing what it means to glorify and praise God. Conventionally I had thought about singing worship songs and making speeches in favor of God and all the wonderful things He's done for us, but then it got brought up that many a time,  it means doing something and working towards something that you know will make Him happy and praise Him, because it makes you happy too. I know for sure that going into fashion would not be MY way of glorifying Him, at least. I just remember at the Jubilee Conference back in February, meeting a lawyer for the Department of Defense (one of my dream jobs), stating that he found he could practice his faith in his line of work by helping not only those who had been abused, but also by providing help to those who perpetrated the abuse. Even though they're overlooked and did something evil, that doesn't mean they don't need help, as I was reminded surely that day.

I want to be a lawyer so I can help better prosecute sexual assault and rape cases and provide the counseling and help needed to survivors to help them move on and fight back, as I have tried from my case for the past almost two years now. I don't want assault and rape cases to be given a case number, I want them to be given a story, I want them to have the happy ending of justice for those who have been hurt and those who need help to keep from hurting others again. I want to make sure that in war zones, refugees are given human rights to travel safely without fear of being abducted and raped. I want to stop sex trafficking domestically as well as abroad. I want to be a lawyer because I know it is my way of glorifying the person I believe in, who most believes in me, because He created me. I want to help other people because I want to remind them, that despite these awful things happening in the world and the awful things that have happened to them, there is a reason to keep believing in something, whether it be God, yourself, your potential.....just, anything.

Don't you dare ever tell me I'm too stupid to help other people.
Don't let anyone tell YOU that you're not enough of something to do what you are passionate about. Your passion is enough. You are enough. 

I was re-reading one of my favorite John Green books yesterday, Looking for Alaska. The book centers around a fictional boarding school in the South and a student who was, especially regarded at his old school, to be a nothing, someone not worth remembering. The story is molded around finding himself and realizing he is someone worth remembering, famous last words said by people who are now deceased, and a torrid love for the rambunctious Alaska Young. 

There was one part of the book that particularly struck me (well, one of's a great book, and I highly recommend reading it.) At one point, the narrator, Miles, who has an obsession with memorizing famous people's last words before they passed on, said, "Francois Rabelais. He was a poet. And his last words were "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." That's why I'm going. So I don't have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.” 

My "great perhaps" is law school, my path to becoming a lawyer and continuing to fully develop myself. My "great perhaps" is becoming someone who is able to help repair others so that they can eventually continue to repair themselves, and perhaps becoming someone worth remembering in that time lapse. Like Miles in the book, I too do not want to wait until I am passed on to seek this "great perhaps." Notice it is not worded as "my great guarantee", because nothing in life is guaranteed. Who knows, law school may not work out, whatever you, person reading this, is working towards may change. Professor, you may have been right that I have a perfectionist streak that stops me most of the time before I even start trying. I think most people are like that actually, not just myself. We all have a little bit of a control freak in each of us, and all of us wants to know our future and a solid path to get there. However, I'm going to not stop myself anymore and just keep pushing forward, despite the inevitable bumps in the road, despite self-doubt, despite other distractions and discouragements. It may not work out for us in the end as we intended it to, but things will most surely work out. At least we can say in the end that we tried.

Which, in my opinion, is always something worth remembering. 

Monday, April 21, 2014


Whilst growing up, "Categories" was always one of my favorite games to play.

Books, movies, cars, cereal brands, clothing brand names, cities, gum flavors--it's always easy to categorize things.

We also love pointing out labels--Gucci. Fendi. Prada. Jason Wu. Abercrombie. American Eagle. J. Crew. Hurley. Billabong. 

Does anyone ever notice as much as I do though that we tend to do the exact same thing with people, too?

Bitch. Slut. Manwhore. Christian. Jewish. Hispanic. Canadian. French. Scottish. Irish. Catholic. Geek. Pretty. Popular. Cool. Sweet.

People--you know, not inanimate objects.

Living, breathing, thinking, complex souls. We try to categorize people all the freaking time. In high school it was that you were popular, a partier, or a nerd, or an athlete, or a stoner, or a whore, or a weird kid.  We factioned ourselves into these cliques because we were basically told by social stigma and by other people that these were the classmates that we were supposed to get along with, because outwardly we seemed similar.

Key word: seemed.

In high school, I was at such a small school that cliques did exist, but there weren't really so many categories to fit into. I was well into my awkward phase by my sophomore year (braces, poorly shaped eyebrows and absolutely no self confidence will do that to a girl), so I was definitely not clumped with the party crowd. I wasn't even really among the ranks of the "other" group in my grade that seemed to like to do their own thing more yet still all hung out with each other. I may have not been one of the overachievers of my class, but I definitely was still involved. I was super quiet when I first started at my new school, so I think people were super surprised when two weeks in, I ran for SGA secretary…and somehow won? I wasn't exactly sporty, but I worked my ass off in lacrosse and turned out to be a pretty decent player by the time I graduated. I wasn't a brainiac, but I wrote a lot and basically almost had an out-of-body experience the first time my AP English teacher complimented one of my papers and gave me an "A." I most definitely was not a partier at first……which is why people were so shocked I guess when I threw a huge house party that got way too out of control my junior year, and would show up at parties sometimes after that.

I just was kind of a wanderer, a person that really didn't belong in one particular place, one particular group.

I used to have such a hard time accepting this. All I wanted was a place to belong in middle and high school, a social ranking, a way to simplify my existence so that people could understand me and stop calling me "weird" or "awkward" or "odd" or "different" or even just stop asking the simple yet somehow still paralyzing, "Who's Alexia?"

After all…..who the hell was I? Who the hell am I? 

It was because of this sense of not belonging and feeling like I was constantly forging an unmarked path alone that it would get to the point where I was constantly always trying to categorize and label myself, making changes and molding myself invariably to cater to the needs of other people that incessantly label to understand their peers, yours truly included. It seemed easier to do that. It made people feel less intimidated and more comfortable around me, or just less perplexed in general. However…I actually really started hating what people were labeling me as soon as I did feel a need to change.

To this day, I still get all the time from people that they "can't ever seem to figure me out." That I "intrigue" them with my mysteriousness. It's what keeps people drawn in, others tell me. I still get so confused by this. I don't like being told it to an extent because it feels as though you are treating me like a puzzle that needs to be solved, a novel that needs to be broken down into themes and reasoning for writing it in the first place. However…..I'm a human. I'm not a novel, or a puzzle, or anything else other than a lost, complicated damn soul, just like the rest of you. I'm not meant to be "solved." Neither are you. Authors don't always need an excuse to write something, puzzle makers don't need a reason to make a puzzle as freaking complicated as it is, just like you shouldn't need to justify being yourself or have a reason for doing so. You just….are you. I am me. That's it.
I know for a fact you can't fully figure me out or break me down. I'm essentially a living contradiction.

I'm a writer, yet oftentimes I find myself at a loss for words.

I love sundresses and beautiful shoes and vintage clothes and J. Crew, but a huge part of my wardrobe is also Urban Outfitters and off-kilter skate and surf brands. I find myself wearing a lot more black than the bright colors that my normally peppy wardrobe would suggest.

Looks-wise I'm pretty straight-edged to the point where you wouldn't know I'm planning on getting two tattoos done within the next couple of months.

I'm a Christian, but often I do things that show I am nothing but a sinner. I still go out, I still go to a lot of parties, and a lot of things I have done would make any normal person question my relationship with Christ.

I seem like I have a one-track mind and am pretty simple to some and that I'm pretty much only motivated by pizza and/or whiskey, but I read a lot, I over think more than many of you realize, and so many of the books that I have read over the years have put too many ideas in my head. So many to the point where I have a very difficult time verbally expressing them to others.

I was raised Republican but am socially liberal.

Everyone spent so many years telling me I'd be great as a fashion writer or PR magnate or teacher or school psychologist.Guess what? I love kids, I love fashion, I love working with people. I switched my major around a bunch between these things while I was very lost and confused with what I wanted to do with my life, and I hated all these majors for the most part.

Maybe some perceive me as too air-headed and dumb to go to law school, but I was never one who was okay with getting told I can't do something. If I told people my average practice LSAT score, I think they'd be pretty shocked.

I'm a girl, I'm white, yet I do not have a yoga instructor "that has changed my life", I don't have yoga pants that state "kiss me" on the back, I've grown to hate Marilyn Monroe quotes because they're actually cliche as f***, and I hate tequila.

I seem easy going to many at first, but I'm probably one of the most competitive people you will ever meet.

I'm a Political Science and English double major, yet….I still love my philosophy classes. I loved my biology class. Astronomy always fascinated me as a child and still does. And you know what? Some of my English classes make me feel like ripping my hair out. Sometimes I don't feel like writing. Sometimes I don't feel like discussing the polarization of Congress and arguing over Scalia's opinion on a recent Supreme Court ruling. Sometimes I want to sit back, enjoy a beer, and read up on where we we are in the sciences, why climate change is an issue,  how black holes grow and how we are going to continue to explore the vast empty spaces of our never-ending universe.

Sometimes I say "fuck" way too much. Yeah, I go to Bible study pretty regularly too.

I'm a pretty bubbly and happy person, but I have battled with depression.

I'm half Cuban, but I get told all the time I don't look or act Hispanic…however a Hispanic person is supposed to act or look like.

Normally I'm sweet, but those who know me well also know I have a beyond fiery temper. If I don't like you… will know it. Those who have been at the forefront of it know that it is a very odd place that is borderline frightening and they do not want to go back there, ever.

Sometimes I get scared and act like an asshole because of it.

I have a very hard time caring or getting attached, I always need to be constantly moving around because I hate staying in one place….but there have been a few times when it's been difficult to let go.

I can go one minute from listening to John Mayer and Jack Johnson, to Jack White and Foo Fighters, to Nirvana and then completely change my mood around and start listening to Purity Ring, Cults, The xx, Muse, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Ke$ha, or a country song. My love for music knows no boundaries, and neither does my love for learning or exploring.

Like I said, a living contradiction. Hey, it's okay, I bet you have sides of you that are this hard to explain as well, and you don't really have a summary to give others--nor should you ever feel like you need to give an explanation. I spent so many years trying to shorten these sentences and descriptions of myself to make myself more simple, more manageable, more….understandable. Now though I've realized that I was never meant to be that simple. No one is, whether they are showing you all their sides or not. Most people have some pretty far off corners of their mind that take a lot of time to get to know, but are so worth it once you do.

Don't limit someones abilities of how they are able to change this world, impact your life, touch your soul, by the constraints of categories or labels. Sometimes people will surprise you, and most of the time  it's a good thing. I think one of the things that truly holds us back is our inability to understand how complicated all of us are. We think it's all as simple as defining a person by using ten adjectives and then that's that, when it never is. Perfect people are never as perfect as they seem. Sometimes Christians sin. We're not robots, we're not supposed to be simplified and predictable.

No matter how complicated or different or whatever you may be, just know that every part of you is enough. Not just the parts that people have chosen to label, or the categories they have decided to stick you in. You are enough, including the surprising sides of you people don't normally get to know. Despite what others may put to label on you, do yourself the favor of not listening to whatever they think and defining yourself, even if being yourself doesn't carry an exact definition. No one knows you better than you, after all.

You are who you are and what you are is enough.

No categorization needed.