Sunday, December 29, 2013


I really don’t know what expectations I had for 2013 when the year first rolled around. I was sitting in the living room of a Jupiter Island home, watching the ball drop with four kids I was babysitting. I could hear champagne bottles pop open and the inevitable sizzle that would follow the first round of booming fireworks from down the street. All the kids just kind of looked at me like, "Well, here goes, another year, my iPad is not entertaining me anymore and neither are you, goodnight," and went right to sleep. Later on, after I was off work, I went over to my best friend Maddi’s house and ate all of her guacamole as per usual. Yet, not much else comes to mind when it comes to last new years. No champagne, no crazy partying, no New Year’s kiss. Just small, insignificant details like those are what I think of.
  The fact that it’s the end of 2013 and I can’t remember the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year is blasé to some people, but for me it’s worrisome. It means those goals really must have not meant enough to me for me to at least remember them to try to fulfill them throughout the whole year, not just that three week stretch into the beginning of January when everybody is on their A-game with their resolutions and the gym always seems way more crowded than usual. I definitely remember something about getting better grades in the spring semester. Maybe I had a thought or two about hitting the gym more and going to yoga more and getting back in better shape.
The one definitive thing I remember though was being completely lost and terrified of what was coming in the upcoming year. I had no idea what I was going to do for my major anymore; I knew I had declared English and Psych, but I had grown to absolutely despise each of my psychology classes. I liked my English classes, but I always felt subpar compared to everyone else within that major. I never made good enough analogies, I only pointed out beyond obvious observations. Don’t get me started on how awful I was at understanding Beowulf! I felt like I wasn’t even a good writer for a long while. I felt completely unmotivated with school for the first time since probably high school when I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I felt like the only reason I was really still trudging along was because my advisor and a couple of my teachers at Chatham had seen how unhappy I was and how it was affecting my academic performance. They were basically dragging me on my feet, helping a lost soul that wasn’t willing to help herself because she had no idea where to begin.
What people forget to tell you about a new year is that it really is not a new beginning. It’s an excuse for one, sure, but that does not mean that the consequences of things you have done or what people have done to you have all of a sudden vanished. Those scars are still there, and if they need time to heal, they’re going to take whatever time is necessary to move on. These things won’t just automatically disappear from your memory or your life at the stroke of 12, like Cinderella’s beautiful gown and chariot as she was running away from Prince Charming. Scars and all sorts of pain carry on with you into the New Year. It was something I really hadn’t ever thought of before. It was why I felt like I was ready to attack a whole new lifestyle change in 2013, when I wasn’t.
Something really awful had happened to me when I first got back to school last August. I am a bit of a control freak, and control over my body is something I hold close to me. If that is compromised, as I figured out last year, I break.  A lot of people I don’t think understood how much and for how long that one night affected me, mainly because they weren’t there to see me lying on the floor of my room, crying my eyes out. They weren’t sitting in the hospital with me while I was still trying to process everything while having at least 10-15 people inspect every inch of my body, pulling out my hair, cutting off my nails, all while having two police officers intensely questioning me (thank you Paula, Melissa, and Cheyenne for sticking with me that night. We may not speak anymore, but you guys were there when I needed my friends to be. A valiant act of friendship.) I acted relatively fine around people. But it really left a gaping hole within me. I had felt completely violated. I became completely untrusting of men, and I still am. I’m not saying all of them are precocious douchebags, but some of them are and are only looking out for themselves (there are girls like this too). I was unfortunate to come across one of them and not use my better judgment to run. I felt completely numb for a long time, even though I tried to convince myself that there were better people out there. I still had that sunny disposition I was known for at the time around people, but those who knew me knew something was off. Sometimes, though, you can try to tell yourself and convince yourself of something all you want, but at the end of the day your gut knows better and it’s going to call bullsh*t on whatever crap you came up with to make yourself feel better if it’s not actually beneficial to you healing.
That night basically set off a chain reaction for me. I was depressed, so even though I still managed to hold it somewhat together first semester academically, second semester I just gradually stopped going to classes. I was drinking a lot more than I probably should have, blacking out at many points last fall. My friends were starting to notice and worry about my drinking habits. When I got drunk, I got angry too, and it was bad. I had never acted like this before. I was picking fights with people I cared about all first semester because I didn’t know how else to take out my anger (y’all know who you are, and I’m still sorry, even if we have moved past it.) This overly optimistic view I had of the world was completely replaced by the time spring semester came of what I thought was the harsh reality of my life. I just figured that what one guy did to me was a way of showing me that I really was worth shit, and I was useless. I was confused too, because I was going to bible study and all, and still called myself a Christian. Yet.... wasn’t having a relationship with God supposed to save you from these things...this darkness that I had felt inside of me for so long? I felt like nobody cared about having a friendship with me or wanted a relationship with me. Girls wanted to use me for gossip and to manipulate me and make fun of me, and guys just wanted to use me for sex. I didn’t care about my future anymore, because I equated my body to a trash bag essentially that was useless to everyone. I was never good enough. Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not funny enough, not “Christian-like” enough.... just not enough to deserve anything. I may not have acted like this around some, but I was really wrestling with these feelings up until more recently.
Come 2013, I was ready to put everything in the past year and leave it there. I was going on dates again, meeting different guys, which had really halted after that night. I was on the hunt for a new internship and just decided to go back into fashion writing, because that’s what everybody told me I’d be good at (I ended up hating it...plot twist!). However, I didn’t acknowledge the fact that my existence basically was a shattered mirror at this point. I kept trying to run through the daily motions as I would beforehand, but I kept cutting myself on my broken glass pieces. You can’t try to move on past something when you haven’t given yourself the chance to glue your broken pieces back together. Otherwise, you’re just never going to repair.
I met a couple really nice guys that I wasn’t ready to meet though. To say that they liked me and still cared for me to some capacity at my most broken point, really attests to the kind of people they are. Yet, as I learned, you should never commit yourself to things when you are too busy figuring out how to fix yourself first. My big song of 2013 was “In Repair” by John Mayer, my favorite artist. There are a couple of lines in the song that go, “Oh but if I take my hearts advice/I should assume it’s still unsteady/I am in repair, I am in repair.” My heart was trying to tell me that even though these were great things and people around me at the time that I was not ready for them because I didn’t have the capacity to love them and give them the same love in the way they could love me. My mind...that stubborn bitch, however, kept convincing myself that it was okay, that other people are just expenditures to use and they’re not ok to keep around besides that because everybody was just going to leave you and hurt you in the end anyways.
Going to Guatemala for a week started slightly altering my opinion of other people. The unabashed loving nature of the people of Guatemala alone made me feel hopeful. I left Pittsburgh with a huge group of nearly all strangers, a bunch of church folk I didn’t know and surely didn’t trust, with the exception of maybe two or three. I came home with a group of twenty-four other soul mates that are the only people that understand everything I went through on that trip. They were the ones who sang me happy birthday and watched me hit a piñata failingly. They were standing next to be when an orphaned family explained that as much as the fifteen-year-old son of the family wanted to go to school, he couldn’t because he had to schlep wood up and down the side of the volcano in San Lucas because he had to make money for the family to survive. He held out his arms at one point and showed us the long, angry cuts that were made in his hands from working so hard. Only those twenty-five people saw me cry as soon as this boy held his arms out to us. It was really one of those moments when everything was put in perspective for me, and I feel awful to this day that it had to take such a blatant, horrific image and life story to do so. 
I look at that trip as kind of my first step in not recovering my old self, but molding into what I am becoming now. Kind of like how a New Year really in retrospect doesn’t give you a fresh start sometimes, unfortunately a mission trip abroad for a week can’t do the same (it can change your life in other ways, though!) I came back with a clearer head and better perspective of what I wanted to do, but I still didn’t have a straight answer to that awful “What are you going to do with your life?” question you seem to always get from grown-ups (I guess I am one now, but not really) at the worst times. I still had to deal with all the crap I had left behind in Pittsburgh beforehand, because it just doesn’t go away. That’s the problem with growing up, is realizing that. All I really figured out in Guatemala was that I wanted to travel and do mission work in the future. I wanted to keep working on my faith. I also figured out something I already knew; I really love to write, and I really wanted to work in advocating towards making government better or at least something to do with law or politics. But.... you know, that’s NEVER enough. You give a generic answer like that to people and they think you’re unfocused, stupid, a hippie soul, lost, dazed and confused (actual answers I’ve gotten from family members and even some friends, thanks guys). Well, I may have not had the confidence to say this last year at this time to the people who have those thoughts about me, but here it goes: go ahead and think I’m dumb or misguided. I know I’m not anymore. I may not be better than you, but I know I have something great coming up down the road because otherwise, there’d be no point to me being here right now. You realize it’s okay to not have everything figured out at twenty years old, right? Or even at twenty-three, or twenty-seven. We make mistakes. I’m living. You’re living. We all are. Unless you are me and know every single thought that goes through my mind, you have no reason to put me on a pedestal or judge. You cannot belittle something or control something you don’t know. I may be damaged goods to many, but you need to know something: damaged people are the most dangerous and the ones you should be the most scared of. Because they are the ones that know they can survive.
            On a somewhat related note, I feel like there comes that time though in a lot of people’s lives, where you feel like you just keep trying to make things work out but they’re not going your way. You kind of just get to the point where you sit back and kind of want to look up at the sky and ask, “Okay, this has been fun, but seriously, when’s my expiration date for being a complete f^&k up?”...There’s never enough of anything. Never enough money, never enough support from your parents, never enough answers from God...or just anybody in general. That was myself all summer and last spring semester. Something I was reminded of and you should always remember: you are never a complete lost cause if somebody else out there loves you. Because if somebody loves you, even from a distance, there is always somewhat of a burning hope in them that they know you’re going to get better and that there’s something awesome awaiting you in your future. I’ve started to do myself a favor and try to do that for the people that do believe in me, and in the process I think I’ve started to believe in myself. Then, things just naturally start falling together again. Maybe not completely, but they do. 
            There are a lot of angry slurs to maybe be thrown at some people, but there are a lot more “thank-you’s” that need to be said from this year. Just like there are some revelations I have come upon, as anybody should when reflecting back on 2013. I learned a lot this year, and even though I had some tough times, I hope you did too. I hope it made you a better person and I sincerely wish that you experienced the growth I have this year because it means that we’re all one-step closer to being where we’re supposed to. On that note...a list of the things I have learned this year and have taken time to reflect on this year.

1)   No matter how messed up you may think you are, if there’s somebody out there that still loves you and doesn’t give up on you, you’re actually pretty freaking special.
2)   Unhappy people easily recognize one another. Kind of like how    Christians seem to have this unspoken bond with one another. You can’t put it into words, and you really may dislike or get annoyed by the other person sometimes, but you know at least a part of their soul and it makes you feel connected, even if you don’t know the who, what, when, where, or why of what happened to them to make them broken. You accept and maybe even love each other for the broken packages you come in.
3)   Having a mentor will do great things and will keep you on a somewhat solid path. There’s nothing like knowing somebody who is steps ahead of you believes in you and your potential. Thank you, Thumim. “Whenever you are in the zone of comfort, RUN. There is no growth in comfort, and stability is boring and predictable. You can design a leader, but heroes are impossible to craft.”.... Have I mentioned Thumim’s AWESOME?!
4)  Do not ever give a bartender a fake phone number when he asks you out on a date. Because, most likely, he will end up bartending at that one bar in Shadyside you actually enjoy going to and will only death glare you when you ask for a drink order and then laugh and refuse to serve you to this day. I am basically blacklisted at Mario’s twice a week. MOVE ON, BRO.
5)   If you can drink all the time all weekend and still keep up your responsibilities, go for it. Enjoy yourself. But if you know that hangover the next morning is going to be an all-day-in-bed-watching-Netflix-when-you-really-have-things-to-do-the next day kind of ordeal, it’s probably best to just chill out. I’m still learning this balancing act.
6)   Do not try jumping onto a pull-up bar after heavily drinking. I am still hobbling on my right knee after falling and it’s been two weeks. (This applies to most physical activity as well, especially when it involves Jagermeister)
7)   Pirogues: because God loves you.
8)   Beer: because God wants you to be happy.
9)   NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER mix a lot of wine with Moscow Mules. Maybe this just applies for me? I don’t know? Usually there’s whiskey thrown in at some point too I guess? But I’m not going into the stories associated with these jaunts...if I could even remember them in the first place...
10)                 Maybe don’t listen to any of these thoughts. I sound like I have a drinking problem. I promise I don’t. 
11)                   There is no “ideal Christian”.  We are all imperfect. Some of us do have sex before marriage, some of us curse, and some of us drink. It doesn’t mean that we’re any lesser than others or those that choose not to do those things and actually do make it to church every Sunday. The point is to love one another in our own ways, and to not bestow judgment on others for what they do with their lives, as Jesus would. To those who aren’t Christian and feel the need to bash my religion to defend theirs (or lack of), I’m sorry that this image of us has been put out to you guys or if I have acted in that way at all that you feel like I’m judging you for your beliefs. There are a lot of really loud Christian voices in the media right now that have lost a lot of sight as to what our faith is truly about. To those who don’t believe me when I say I’m a Christian, it’s okay, I know I am and God knows that I am and that's all that matters.
12)                 The second you give up on yourself is the second you need to slap yourself in the face, put on your big girl underwear, and buck up. You are meant to do something great in the future, and the more time you spend moping around over how awful your life is are minutes wasted where you could be working towards the next great thing in your life. I still am trying to work on this trait about myself. I have an awful lazy streak and I tend to want to discriminate any outside activities that involve putting pants on many days, especially when it's cold outside.
13)                 What one jackass or really awful girl did to you should not determine how you live the rest of your life. Do not let them control you. Maybe they're not even bad people, but how they handled a certain situation with you was just poorly done. Forgive them. You will come across better things soon.
14)                 We’re all bound to mess up, say some really stupid things, and be really mean to those we care about when we’re hurt. Find those people that still love you anyways and have the power of forgiveness in them. They’re the keepers.
15)        Sometimes, the best way to love somebody is from a distance. When people think of exterminating poisonous relationships, they often think it’s with people they’re already not close with and don’t like, but oftentimes I’ve figured out it’s actually sometimes the people closest to you that are the worst to keep around. No matter what a person tries to do to love you and tries to hold on to your friendship/relationship, sometimes the best way to love somebody is to let go and respect that distance is better. The people that are closest to us are given the most power to destroy us. I hate to say it and had a really hard time coming to terms with it, but it’s true.
16)        There will always be that one kid that tries way too hard to look cool. We all know you don't own a Ferrari, kid, so stop it with the pictures.  
17)        Say sorry when you’re due to. Even if the other person has been a complete b*** or a**hole and doesn’t deserve it in your mind. Be the bigger person, get the last word in on your end, and move on. Maybe great outcomes will come from trying to make up for wrongs, and maybe forgiveness will take a while. What just matters is that you at least let the other person know how you feel and you at least tried. Even if you can't actually say "I'm sorry" to them because the person isn't ready to forgive you yet. That’s something I haven’t done enough of this year. I spent 2012 saying sorry way too much, and not doing it enough in 2013. Hopefully 2014 will be the year of balance.
18)        A lot of people post statuses and things about how bored they are, for people to hit them up to hang out, and ask why nobody wants to do anything anymore. I actually saw this written by my friend Marilyn’s boyfriend Cory, and thought it rang so true. We ask and post things like this, but oftentimes we never reflect within ourselves to see what went wrong; what we might have possibly done to make people stop hanging out with us. As I realized, when we are in isolation or feel lonely, sometimes it’s because it’s unintentionally self-inflicted because of previous words or actions. So to those who have felt the need to cut me out of their lives because of something I may have said or done in the past; I’m deeply sorry. I’m sorry I offended you so awfully that you felt the only thing left to do was to cut me out, probably the worst punishment in many cases. I mess up a lot, and I know it’s not cool. All I can do really do from this is just learn from it, improve on it, and move on. I wish you could've loved me with my flaws and all, but I realize you are not the right people to do that, as you have exemplified by walking away. I hope to be a better friend to those people who deserve it in the future, and at least I can try to learn something from mistakes I may have made with you all. 
19)        It’s a really good thing to feel like you have something to prove.
20)       When I met with Thumim for the first time, she asked me upfront what the three worst things to ever happen to me were. I was completely taken aback and thrown off by the bluntness of her statement (trust me, it was not a question...she wanted to know!) I told her I couldn’t even begin to explain. She then went on to say, “You need to come up with a two minute ‘elevator speech’ that can explain these things. Use your past to your advantage; make your weaker moments your strength now. If you can’t do this, these things still have control over you and you will not progress as well.” (Not her exact words of course, but I listened for the most part! It was great advice.

There y’all go; twenty reflections for twenty years of life. You can now please start praying/sending good vibes/karma that I survive my 21st birthday to write another one of these next year (unless I bored you that badly.... then I guess it’s okay to wish a Hangover-esque situation upon me, minus the getting arrested part and perhaps the pet tiger. I can only hope I will have more interesting stories for next year.)

   Not a reflection, but thanks to those who stuck by me through the rough patches, whether emotional or financial. Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve you guys as friends, but you all are treasures in my life. Special thanks goes out to Josh, Alex, Nikki (my future bridesmaid!) and Kenny, although you all have helped me in your own ways to make me feel like myself again. 

One last thing: you may not agree, or think that I’m all that good, but I am a writer. Although I don’t write my life story, I am ready to be the heroine of it. I wasn't born to be the centerpiece of a tragedy. It's time to stop acting like it. 

Cheers to 2014, and the next chapter in our stories.