light prevails.

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“It’s amazing how a little tomorrow can make up for a whole lot of yesterday.”
― John Guare

I’m sitting in a diner, the light brown wood of the tabletop familiar under the standard placemat of bright squares advertising local businesses. No overwhelming feeling of hunger has gripped me, no feeling of anticipation of my order’s arrival has slipped into the corners of my mind. I sit, contentedly, taking in the slight hustle and bustle around me.

I glance to my right, and tilt my head, confused. A familiar face I was not expecting to see meets my gaze steadily, with a smile. I smile back uncertainly.

“Hey,” he says.
“Hey,” I respond hesitantly. “Is it, ah, is it okay for you to be here? Can you be here right now?”
“Yeah don’t worry, I can be here. How are you?”
I relax a little. “I’m great,” I say happily. “How are you?”
“Really good, I’m doing great,” he says, a tone of sincerity backing his words.

This response fills me with joy. We fall into the happy, comfortable conversation of two people with no walls between them. I couldn’t say if it lasted for minutes or for hours. If you ask me what we talked about, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

Something gently warns me our conversation is coming to an end. I look into his eyes, mine suddenly welling with tears. I’m not sure why I’ve just been so overtaken with emotion.

To my surprise, I say, “I’m so scared I won’t remember this. I’m so scared I won’t remember that I talked to you.”

“Don’t worry,” he assures me. “I’ll make sure. I’ll make sure you remember.”
His words comfort me. Everything seems a little fuzzy.

Blackness. I realize my eyes are closed, slowly become aware that I’m laying in my bed, the darkness of night still covering my side of the Earth. I roll over, confused. I realize I’m crying.

It’s been almost five years since I’ve spoken to Chris, five years since any of us have. And yet, I feel it hasn’t even been five minutes. Maybe it hasn’t.

I think about the dream and am overwhelmed with a sense of calm, of comfort. I’ve spent the last five years like my entire family has- keeping my cousin alive in my heart, in my memories. Carrying around the medal of St. Christopher as a token of love, of luck, of protection, of whatever I needed it to be.

Who can say for sure what dreams are? Imaginations run wild? Doors to another reality? Neither of those? Both of them?

I am not sure what I believe about most dreams, but I believe that Chris is doing great. I don’t know why he chose me to share that with, and I don’t know what I think happens to our souls after we leave this world. I don’t think we spend eternity in diners where we never eat, but I’ve come to believe we can meet our friends and family there and tell them how we’re doing.

And although I’m unsure where or when or how or who I’ll be after I die, I very much believe Chris will be there to greet me.

That alone makes me unafraid. That alone makes me hopeful. That alone is enough.

mommying

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“The only love that I really believe in is a mother’s love for her children.” ―Karl Lagerfeld

I never really thought about being a mom too much. I also never thought I’d be a young-ish mom; it wasn’t something I saw for myself for a while.

I definitely never thought I’d be a single mom, but life had other plans for me in that area too. (Hey, next potential boyfriend: I come with an adorable bundle of joy sporting some serious baby blues and an ex that I will never be able to totally ex out of my life… you’ve been warned.)

Although I never thought about these things, here I am – so much for five-year plans, huh? But my daughter has made my life so much fuller and more amazing than I thought it would be at 23.

This happy little girl has taught me more in 6 months than I thought possible. You know when your parents used to say “someday when you’re a mom/dad, you’ll understand”? To a certain extent they just wanted you to stop whining; to an even larger extent, they were totally justified.

Being a parent is kind of weird. You have this little person totally dependent on you, expecting you to know what to do in every situation when in reality, you’re learning just as much about the world as they are.

For your entire life, you’re someone’s daughter. You’re someone’s granddaughter, niece, sister, cousin. These are the relationships that define you as you learn and grow. And then, suddenly, you’re something else entirely. You’re mommy.

You’re suddenly pulled in a million different directions, and you’re conflicted in so many different ways. You want to spend the most time possible with your little one, but you also want to have just a minute to yourself. You want to go to work and have a career but you don’t want to leave the house because you just want to watch them grow. You can’t wait to watch her walk and talk but want her to stay exactly this little forever.

The humbling and sometimes overwhelming part is, just when you get ‘the hang of it’ they’ll hit a new milestone and everything will change. With a new ability comes new dangers, new fears. And although there are a lot of wonderful things to share with them, there will be so many things you can’t protect them from.

All of those concepts made sense to me before but they have a whole new meaning now. It’s equal parts terrifying and exhilarating, and I think most people muddle through by ignoring the terrifying feeling as much as possible.

I’m only 30% sure I know what I’m doing and 100% lucky to have tons of guidance and help. Despite the uncertainties that arise daily, I am so full of joy and love that I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without her.

I never really thought about being a mom, and now it’s one of the few things I think about. I think about diapers and formula and mashed carrots and cute little princess outfits- but much more often, I think about how I was incredibly and amazingly blessed with something I never thought about before.

Sometimes, when life throws you for a loop, it’s the best thing that ever happens to you. My ‘loop’ turned into the love of my life.

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the blame game

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One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”  Sophocles

Don’t blame love.

Love didn’t make you cry, loss did. Being ripped apart from something that meant a lot to you without your consent. Realizing that the things you wanted for the future will not come to pass, even the things you didn’t realize you wanted. The acceptance of living without. That’s what made you cry.

Love didn’t cut you to the bone, cruelty did. Harsh words from someone you held in high regard. The act of dropping you and moving on as if you meant nothing to them. The casual manner in which they continue, pretending that they didn’t just rip through your life like a hurricane. That’s what hurt you to the core.

Love didn’t make you second-guess yourself, the belief that you’re not good enough did. The crazy thought that because you weren’t appreciated in one instance you won’t be in any other. The notion that you can’t possibly measure up to expectation. That’s what stole your confidence.

Love didn’t make you gain weight, or lose weight, or cut your hair or binge-drink, uncertainty did. The feeling that your whole world was rocked because something you thought was so sure turned out to be anything but. The idea that the foundation you stood on is capable of crumbling. That’s what put you in a spiral.

Love didn’t let you down. Love didn’t punch you in the stomach. Love didn’t hurt you, or betray you.

Love made you laugh. It made you feel invincible and safe. It made you feel at home. It lifted you up.

Love is all of the best parts of your life. It’s family and friends and the reassurance that someone else out there knows what you’re going through. It’s inside jokes and glasses of wine and funny voicemails and stupid text messages.

If you never loved anything, you might never truly feel the pain of loss. But don’t blame love for your heartbreak- whether it came by way of breakup, death, rejection or fate. Love didn’t hurt you on purpose. Someone or something may have, but it wasn’t love.

When you give up on love you give up on life. You give up the possibility of everything that is worth having, feeling and doing.

So- love without regret or shame. Realize that when your world is turned upside-down, it’s never love’s fault. When you’re happy, recognize all of the love in your life.

Know that whatever else happens, love is what makes it all worth it.

inventory.

here I sit,
taking inventory of

THE WALLET:
thirty-six dollars,
a card that gives me license
to drink and to drive
(but not together),
another that gives me credit,
pictures of her,
and tickets to a show
that won’t go on.

THE HEAD:
countless passwords,
a bachelor’s degree-worth
of knowledge I rarely use,
friends’ birthdays,
how to drive a car,
and memories of what
life used to be.

THE HEART:
the most beautiful little girl,
the kind of friends
you only hear about,
a family that dulls others
by comparison-

and a stubborn refusal to give up
on the idea that
love
will always win.

to the ones who stick.

here’s to the ones
who stick:

who trick
the odds and statistics

and decide not to quit-
the ones that know when you hit

gold- in friends, in love, in family-
you don’t just ‘wait and see’

what happens. you choose
not to use

people to your advantage, instead
you commit your head

and heart to being there,
no matter where

you’re needed. you answer the call,
you break down the wall

if you have to. the ones you never doubt-
they’re what life’s about

and they deserve your best, your most.
so here’s a toast:

I raise my glass to the profound-
to the ones who stick around.

remember: we’re all just stories, in the end 

  

“Sometimes,” he sighed, “I think the things I remember are more real than the things I see.”  -Arthur Golden

Memories are a tricky thing. They can lift our spirits or knock us flat on our ass. They can be the way we hold loved ones close or the medium through which our demons haunt us. 

Some even say that the continuing culmination of our experiences and memories are the very essence of who we are. We live in the memories of others and they live in ours. 

We all want to be remembered, to make an impact. That’s why people dream of fame, of success, of making a difference. That’s the worry over the perfect first impression and the reason for hours of practice before the grand finale. 

The day comes for all of us where we look at our lives and ask the question: How will you be remembered? What kind of gifts, footprints, and scars have you left in the lives and memories of others? Do you lift them up and make them better for having known you? Do you tear them down in the quest to fulfill your own selfish wants, your own narcissistic desires? 

When other people think of you, what comes to mind first: your love, your loyalty? Your lies? Will you be famous or infamous to the people that matter most? 

Everyone will remember us a little differently, but someone who is true to them self and consistent in their convictions will be remembered by most in the same way, whether that be good or bad. And that memory will live on and continue to affect others for years to come. A quick glance or a careless word spoken out of anger or fear- or love- these are the ways in which we persist. Isn’t it crazy, and terrifying, and wonderfully amazing the power that we have over each other? 

There are many people who exist in my memories, both living and dead. There are those I remember fondly and those I would rather not remember at all. Each of them has affected who I am and, in turn, the way I will be remembered by others. 

And so the question remains, how do you want to be remembered? Far more importantly, how will you live each day, from now until the day you die, in order to become the memory you think you deserve to be?

Just remember: the answer to that question is one of the few things that matters. 

forgive (don’t forget)

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“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
–Mark Twain

 
How do you forgive someone who has hurt you so badly that the mere sight of them actually causes you physical pain?

People hurt each other every day, but for some reason every time we get hurt it stings just as much as that first time. Sometimes it stings worse than the first time. Sometimes the word “sting” comes nowhere close to doing the feeling justice. So when it comes time to forgive the people who hurt you and move forward with your life, where do you even begin?

In my experience the first step is always forgiving yourself for letting them hurt you. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Maybe that’s true, but I don’t know if that same idea applies to love and friendship. Sometimes your feelings don’t listen to your better judgment and you let people in without realizing it. Before you know it, your heart is in pieces and you’re pretty sure you didn’t consent to that. Forgive yourself anyway.

Remember all of the people who are still by your side, the ones that never wavered. Those are the people who deserve your time and energy, and that’s where you should direct your attention now. Those who hurt you don’t deserve your tears or your thoughts, your regrets and your sleepless nights. Be sad if you have to, and then surround yourself with the people who deserve your attention.

Go back to your life, to the things that make you really happy. Find joy in the little moments that make up your day. Take every excuse to smile, every excuse to laugh. Say yes more often than you say no. Get up and get out. Soon enough, those happy moments will turn into happy days, and happy weeks and happy months. Give yourself permission to be happy.

 Finally, realize that holding on to pain and anger will hurt you much more than they hurt anyone else. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. Hating the people that hurt you takes just as much time and energy as loving them. Letting go of as much as possible, of a new little piece of pain every day, is the only way to heal. It’s the only way to forgive the people that have hurt you, and the only way to deprive them from ruling your life from afar. Let go, and keep the past from controlling your future.

 Every time we get hurt, the process of healing is the same. And so is the final conclusion, the lesson we learn time and time again: life is too short to spend it with the people who treat you badly.

So forgive. Don’t forget, because then you won’t have learned anything, and your pain will have been in vain. But as difficult as it is, as much as it hurts- forgive the people who have wronged you, especially the ones who don’t deserve it. Because they’re the people that need it the most.

choosing change

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“Be in love with your life. Every minute of it.” – Jack Kerouac

What do you do when your whole life is about to change from everything comfortable and familiar to everything you never expected?

Sometimes you have the luxury of foresight; the second you stepped onto a school campus, you knew graduation was the inevitable end to your time at that place. Sometimes, you don’t have any warning and life changes more quickly and quite differently than you ever would have thought.

Either way, planned or by surprise, changes can be exciting or scary, positive or negative, simple or complicated. In most cases, all of the above.

The critical question is this- what do you do when nothing will ever be the way it was again?

Ultimately, there are two kinds of people – and two ways to answer the question.

There are those who are paralyzed by change and those who are propelled by it. There are those who embrace their future and those who cling to their useless plans of what they thought the future would hold.

There are those who continue to write the story of their own life, and those who obsess pointlessly about the typos and mistakes they made along the way.

Some people might be hardwired to respond to change in certain ways, but at the end of the day we each choose which of these categories we fall into.

If everything in our lives is predetermined, I guess that’s an easy way to blame fate for our problems. Maybe some things are meant to happen to us.

But I have to believe that, even if that’s true, we can choose how we will respond to what life throws at us.

We can choose whether to meet the challenges head on or to curl up and let them wash over us.

We can choose to respond with love and an embrace of life’s insanity or to respond with defeat, exhaustion and fear.

We can choose to blame the stars and the fates for our difficulties or we can laugh and learn from our mistakes and our past to make them a meaningful part of who we are.

When your whole life’s about to change, there’s only one course of action that makes sense-

Be grateful for where you’ve been, and never forget the things you’ve learned and the people you’ve met on your journey to the tipping point. Even the ones who hurt you played a role in getting you here.

Remember that the best laid plans are wiped clean in an instant for tons of people every day, and that you are not composed solely of your mistakes.

Take courage in the fact that although you can’t control what happens TO you, you control what you’ll do about it.

With a deep breath and the acceptance that you will never truly know where your life will be tomorrow, choose to embrace whatever life brings your way with conviction.

Deny yourself neither happiness nor sorrow, love nor loss.

Most importantly, be in love with your life. Every minute of it.

why you should leave

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“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

 

You should leave your room because the relationships you have with your family, friends and roommates will always be more fulfilling than the relationship you have with your Netflix account.

You should leave your house because the fresh air and sunshine is good for you. So is getting caught in the rain- how else would you learn to take an umbrella?

You should leave your hometown or your city to see what amazing things and people are right around the corner. You’ll come to know that sometimes adventure is only half an hour away.

You should leave your state to discover exactly how beautiful that New York City skyline is, what the big deal is about that Chicago deep-dish pizza, and what they really mean when they talk about ‘southern hospitality.’

You should leave the country and learn that you, and your problems, are small in comparison to the size, wonder and beauty of the world. You’ll learn that those people halfway across the globe, speaking other languages and eating different foods, are the same as you in all of the ways that matter. You will change the way you see the world and the way you see yourself.

You should leave your work at the office so that you don’t make it your identity, and come to know, if you don’t already, that in the end life is not measured in paychecks or promotions.

You should leave your phone at home and find the peace that comes with uninterruption, the sunset that can’t be captured by your camera lens and the sounds of the live music in the air that blow your iPod out of the water.

You should leave your regret, your doubts and your inhibitions behind because they will never help you grow the way acceptance, belief and experience will.

You should leave your family and friends, if only for a little while, to find out how truly lucky you are to know them. Time spent apart will make the sound of their voice sweeter and the feeling of their embrace warmer. It will make the fights and the misunderstandings small and unimportant.

You should get out of here– be it on foot, bike, train, plane, boat or car. You should leave so you can discover other people, other places, other ways to see the world. You should go to learn who you are when you’re not surrounded by the familiar things you lean on and cling to.

You should leave so you can live.