Category: From old blog

Burning Bridges

April 19, 2014

Liz and I became friends when I was about 19 years old. I’d briefly met her and to be perfectly honest was intimidated by her. She was a pastor’s daughter at the church I attended at the time and was, in my opinion, a bit of a celebrity. All of my friends talked about her: oh, Elizabeth might come to DMACC, Elizabeth is so great, Elizabeth this, Elizabeth that… How was I ever going to measure up and have this slightly younger all-star be a part of the world I was carving out for myself?

Well, easy. Because Elizabeth actually was great. She wound up in my small group and spent many evenings hanging out in our cat-dominated apartment. As she struggled with the transition between high school and college, and I struggled with feeling suffocated in Des Moines and wanting to flee without it actually looking like that, we formed a strange bond. It wasn’t difficult to soon call her “friend”.

A year or so passed. I moved to Iowa City, then on again to Berlin. Liz and I didn’t stay in super close contact, but she was always a delight to run into when I passed through home, and even once came to visit me at my parents’ farm.

It’s a funny thing, time. It’s a funny thing, growth. Over time, we grow and change. Generally, if we are with people – be it physically or just have strong, regular emotional bonds, we can grow together. But with distance, two people who were once very close will change differently. Not that its necessarily a bad thing, but they will never be able to meet at the same point again, never be able to connect on quite the same level. Maybe it’s better, maybe it’s worse, but never the same.

More time passed. The changes in my life put me at odds with many people who I loved deeply and missed dearly. I was terrified to move back to Des Moines for a summer, fearing being ostracized for how I’d changed. Conversation after conversation proved that these fears weren’t entirely unjustified. I made mistakes, putting up walls and daring my friends to break them down, blaming them when they avoided the walls altogether. Mistakes were also made on others’ behalf – the emotional turmoil of being ignored rather than embraced wrecked havoc on me.

Bridges were burned, friendships so sweet turned sour. Memories brought sorrow instead of joy, bitterness instead of nostalgia. It broke my heart to see friend after friend disappear from my life, even as I saw them across the street.

Fast forward about four months. I’m back to my home in Iowa City, happily graduated and coffee-shopping. I travel back to Des Moines for a wedding and find myself talking with Liz. Tired from the day, tired from a semester of battling depression, tired from the weight of unforgiveness, as we catch up, I confess that one of our conversations from summer had scarred me deeply. Liz, dear, sweet, gentle Liz, ponders this for a couple of months.

And then she begins to fight back.

Bridges had been burnt.

Trust had been lost.

Lives had been changed.

A few weeks ago, Facebook excitedly proclaimed with a red notification that I have a message. Liz asks me if she can come visit me in Iowa City. Not long after, I find myself strolling through downtown Des Moines and almost stumble over Liz. She again asks when would be a good time to come visit.

Do you want to know the funny thing about moving? Shifting friendships. The ones from Des Moines whom I consider friends are those who came and visited me. Laurie fought for my friendship from the day I moved – choosing to remain by my side despite changes in geography and purpose. Stephanie and Matt became my friends as they for one reason or another found themselves in my vicinity on repeated occasions. Mariah made it a point to stop in as she would pass through town on her way home.

When Liz offered to drive two hours out of her way just to hang out with me… Well, that meant a lot. When she met me in the city I call home, I was able to show her my life. We strolled around campus, and I pointed out buildings where I had wiled away the hours. We paced downtown, and I elaborated on funny stories and historical events. We people-watched on the ped mall, basked in the sun on the Old Capitol steps, and curled up in my apartment beneath my paintings.

And through it all, we talked. Frankly. We talked about burned bridges. We talked about growing up. We talked about questions and answers and being in our twenties. We talked about hurt and healing and acknowledged that we’d made mistakes. When time drew short and Liz climbed back in her car to drive off into the sunset, she asked what she could do to show that she cared about me. “This,” I said. “Come see me, or if six months down the road you think of me, text me. Show that you remember I’m alive. That’s all.”

Bridges may catch fire, after all. But not all rivers need one. Sometimes, all you need is to step in the water and wade across. Don’t worry, though, friend. I’ll meet you halfway.

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Behind the counter, or blogging again

March 27, 2014

It’s been almost a year since I’ve touched this blog – ironic, since part of the reason I started it was to chronicle the changes and travel in my life. While there have been lots of both, particularly recently, that’s not my goal this round.

Instead, I’m going to use this as a story dump of sorts. Several friends have jokingly said I should write a book about my life, and with graduation bringing all sorts of unknowable free time, perhaps this is where I shall (re)begin instead.

If you have spent any time around me in the last two years, you know that I work in a coffee shop and am pretty much in heaven. Hence, many of my stories revolve around this place – especially now that I manage there and more or less live behind the counter.

I like people quite a bit, and the line between “regulars” and “friends” often blurs to the point where I can’t remember which is which. Today I watched that line blur – as I was walking downtown for my shift, a silver-haired ‘medium house’ reached an intersection at the same moment as me. We continued towards the law library together, sharing brief histories and parting amiably. I know that next time he comes into work, the interaction will be more than surface level. Something about being outside the box, you know?

I remember the first time I saw one of my regulars in the real world. A freshman decided that our coffee shop was his, simply because after a week we recognized him as a regular and figured out his name and order. While sitting in Old Capitol Mall one day, I looked up to see him striding past me. “Jarad!” I called. Startled, he looked at me. “What are you doing here?” he accused. Slightly insulted, I shot back, “I don’t LIVE in Capanna, you know.” “Well, yeah,” he agreed, “but you’re not supposed to exist outside the coffee shop!”

I suppose it is a bit like seeing a teacher outside of school, but still, just because I’m your barista doesn’t mean I never hang up my apron (yes – I used to wear one every day) and do things like, you know, be a full-time student!

The reverse situation has happened as well, though. I started spotting “large caramel latte” all over town, usually carrying a cup from a competing coffee shop. When she would notice me, she had the dignity to look slightly ashamed, and so began quips and jokes. One day I was early for work and spotted her sitting in our dining room. I, being my natural, awkward self, pulled up a chair and sat down. Nikki and I started chatting, and I found myself meeting several of her coworkers. A few weeks later, this regular came to my birthday party, and thus was the beginning of a beautiful friendship… And far longer conversations as I would make her latte every morning for the rest of the year!

The things I see and the people I meet behind the counter are kind of incredible. Brace yourselves 🙂

to be a twenty-something

April 6, 2013

I’m a twenty-something.

Well, probably not yet. I’m still in school, so socially it is probably still okay to state my age. But still.

A little girl wandered up to me the other day, grandfather trailing close behind, and told me excitedly, “Guess what! I am four-and-three-quarters!” She was rather unimpressed when I told her I was 22, and regarded me suspiciously until I added “and a quarter”.

I don’t remember how old I was when I stopped adding those qualifiers. Probably somewhere in elementary school where “quarter years” stopped being important, then middle school (oh dear, did I stretch it into high school?) when “half years” faded away. (Oh, don’t judge! I know exactly when my half birthday is– being so close to Christmas, my parents definitely let me celebrate something in June to make up for it!)

Now, as the culmination of my education creeps closer, I find that even the whole year is becoming irrelevant. I am a 20-something: approaching the age when the college bubble bursts and reality begins. I’ll become a young professional, working 40+ hours a week, being stable enough to get a business card, likely moving into an apartment and knowing I’ll be there for more than a year.

I overheard someone relating how they knew they were growing up:

When I was a kid, if glass broke, my daddy was always there. “Stay back,” he told me. “I’ve got this. You’re safe.” But now, if glass shatters, I’m alone. There’s no one beside me to protect me from the shards. I sweep it up myself, and if I cut myself, I clean up the blood and try fix myself best I can.

We’re growing up.

I’m a twenty-something.

What does that even mean?

It means I’m afraid.

It means I’m excited.

It means I’m about to be lonely– again.

It means I’m about to make new friends– again.

I can’t say that I’ve ever super related to a Taylor Swift song. But I finally heard one that wove itself into my mantra.

It seems like one of those nights
This place is too crowded too many cool kids
It seems like one of those nights
We ditch the whole scene and end up dreaming instead of sleeping
We’re happy free confused and lonely in the best way
It’s miserable and magical

Tonight’s the night when we forget about the heartbreaks, it’s time

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling twenty-two

22- Taylor Swift

I feel like I’m at a point in my life when everything is wide open.

When I’m alive and accepting of the fact that I’m weird. When I make friends in coffee shops, run into strangers on the street and walk away with stories, when street musicians play the soundtracks of our lives. It’s a time of transition– finally accepting that I’m letting go of childhood, but unsure about how to embrace adulthood.

It’s a time of late nights and early mornings. Long conversations and lots of chocolate. Deep questions and belly-bursting laughter. What is this crazy thing called “today”? Can I grasp that instead of fearing the future or mourning the past? Can I salsa dance and karaoke, serve coffee and write lab reports? What world is my own?

So many questions.

But I guess that’s the point of being a twenty-something: learning answers one mistake at a time. So raise your glass, fellow wanderers. Take solace that we’re all making this up as we go along. And in the meantime, anyone down for an adventure while it’s still socially acceptable?

To love at all is to be vulnerable -C.S. Lewis

March 8, 2013

My roommate is one of the most profound people I know.

One of our ongoing conversations is the idea that we live in a fanfiction.

You see, neither of us are what you would call “Main Character” material. People aren’t innately drawn to us. We pass quite peacefully under the radar and can be entirely invisible in the midst of a conversation. Perhaps we don’t even register as “supporting characters”. We’re simply the wandering minstrel, or the wise hermit, or even the local baker. (For pity’s sake, I’m a barista! It’s essentially the same character in modern worlds: everyone knows of me and depends on my craft to survive the day.) Our lives give depth and reality to the Main Character, but even the author doesn’t really care about our history.

Enter angsty teenager.

Perhaps in canon, the author mentioned us briefly. This teenager extracts us from our epic novel and plops us into the 21st century. Bewildered, we look around and try to figure out what’s going on.

She writes in adventures and impossible happenings, connections and unreal similarities. (Am I presenting too much of a stereotype, assuming that our fanfiction writer is female?) For a brief, wild moment, these side characters are thrust into the limelight. Seen. With dimension. With purpose.

And just as suddenly, as Angsty Teenager discovers a new topic, the fanfiction comes to a screeching halt.

Where does that leave these characters? Scrambling desperately. Fighting to keep striving in the direction they were headed. But that’s what it becomes. Every friendship is a fight: pursuing, initiating, trying. Reality weighs heavily. And the souls grow wearier and wearier.

Is it worth it? I just want to hide, says one, looking for a comfortable hole. I just want to flee, says the other, searching for a way to escape. “It’s all my fault,” they both sigh. “Not worth fighting for. Not worth protecting. Not worth chasing.”

The weary soul. Lonely. Afraid. Bitter. Angry at this Angsty Teenager for giving them false hope. The scars, so carefully disguised as beautiful tattoos, are ripped open. Not nearly as healed as we gave them credit for. The wounds, still infected, are so painful to clean out that we pretend they don’t need to be.

“What if we could build a time machine? Go back before it all began.”

Well, what if you could? Would those scars really go away? Or would your demons just bare another name?

It is at this point in our conversation that we look at one another. And the fear creeps in. Realizing that this, right here, is vulnerability. That without meaning to, we let someone in, past those walls. Those paper thin walls, painted to look so strong, but no one ever drew near enough to put them to the test. And that right here, if we had that time machine, we would give it away. For our own scars, painful welts smarting with new attacks, are nothing. But you… you don’t deserve this. Take this magical machine, go back, and be free. I’ll be fine: you, though, you need to be free.

If you dive in your hole, I’ll dig one next to you. For what it’s worth: don’t run. For you see, I don’t need you. But I want you to stay. I want you to come. I can survive without you. But that doesn’t mean I want to.

Maybe we are in the wrong story. Maybe it hurts, and we are weary. Maybe we’re tired of fighting for others when no one ever fights for us. Maybe it’s okay to cry. Maybe it’s okay to be weak. Maybe it’s okay to be lonely. Maybe it’s okay that this story has no plot. Maybe it’s okay that the embers are fading. Maybe it’s okay that Gaston really thinks he’s doing what’s best.

Maybe it’s okay. Because someday our angsty teenager will try again. She’ll scrape away all the stupidity and her pen will be fresh with new experiences, new skills, and new perspectives. A more mature writer, she’ll bring us back on track. And we won’t have to try so hard. We won’t have to die to feel alive. We can just be. We can be alive.

Friendships– relationships– are painful.

But maybe, just maybe… they are worth it.

 

We’re Still Here!

December 21, 2012

Back when the rapture was set to occur, a couple of my friends happily informed themselves throughout the day that they were still there, despite the fact that if the rapture were to occur, they’d both be gone.

If the Mayans knew any better than your average Oreo cookie, the world should be in utter turmoil right now.

Oops?

Along THAT line of thought, have you ever pondered the difference between “uh oh” and “oops”? “Oops” is the far more serious of the two. If someone says “uh oh,” the situation is probably bad, but not necessarily. If they say “oops,” it’s a gonner. 

Anyway. All this end of the world talk, combined with the end of the year, my birthday drawing close, etc…  It’s a good time to think. It’s a good time to remember. It’s a good time to forgive.

Not that there is necessarily a bad time to do that.

But as I’m curled up in my sister’s residence, gearing up to see Mannheim Steamroller tomorrow, I smile.

It’s been a great semester. Ruined GPA, healed soul. New friendships, new experiences. Peace and contentment.

We even get a white Christmas this year!

…provided that the apocalypse doesn’t happen and melt it all. Just hold out until after Christmas, giant volcanos!

Toska

January 18, 2013

One form of loneliness is to have a memory and no one to share it with. -Phyllis Rose

As I was watching a clip satirizing experiences on public transit, I was struck by a sudden sense of sadness… because I was entertained by the video. In my wanderings around Europe, I have lived through many similar situations, but nearly all of them have been alone.

I have shared some of my more dramatic mishaps with friends and family, and on occasion will share a less exciting one that relates to my current situation.

But this second hand experience does not compete.

When I first went abroad, I was with a girl named Jordyn. Now, we hadn’t interacted much prior to our trip to Poland, and after a few months, our paths diverged again. But one of the most beautiful things that Jordyn and I had was that a year, two years later, we were able to sit down and talk. We shared memories, dusted off old jokes, looked at pictures and reminisced.

A similar situation happened this last spring break, when my fellow RYE student Amanda and I were back in Nitra, four years after we had lived there. We retraced our steps, visited our old haunts, made new memories in this place we’d once called home.

Every movement we make leaves a trace of ourselves.

I have no problems traveling alone.

But it does leave one… lonely.

No one with whom to recollect the Munich train station when we made a fifteen minute change to go to Rome.

No one with whom to share the excitement of the Parisian train station when it appears in Hugo.

No one with whom to laugh about accidentally riding to the end of the line in Amsterdam and being kindly mocked  (and then helped) by the tram drivers.

No one that strolled through airports all over Europe, getting stamps in passports, buying a beer simply because that was the only word you KNEW was the same so that you could use wifi at a pub in Croatia, begrudgingly taking a taxi, then realizing how impossible it would have been to walk this time.

Memories litter my soul.

My words, written across emails and journals, scraps of paper and facebook posts. Sometimes I am afraid that those words are the only thing convincing me that it was all real.

So as my retro suitcase sits unused in my closet, I shrug my shoulders.

It is rather lonely, but I still wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Smartphones and Saturdays

December 1, 2012

Two 20-somethings guys came into my coffee shop this morning looking slightly bewildered.
“Um…” said the one closest to the register. “I’d like a cup of coffee.”
“Sure!” I responded, and then proceeded to query which size and roast he wanted. Finally, filling up the cup, I asked if he wanted me to leave any room for cream. “That’s the last question on this, I promise!”
“That’s fine… but now I have a question for you!”
As I brought his coffee over and finished the transaction, he continued.
“We’re from England.” (At this point, I had to stop myself from saying, ‘Well, obviously.’) “And we’re in Iowa City.” I couldn’t help myself– I did have to laugh at that statement. This bewildered gent continued. “We’re in a band on tour… and our band left without us last night.”

As I handed him his change and he promptly dropped it back in the tip jar, he finally sheepishly asked his question. “We need to get in touch with our manager. Or our agent. Or somebody. And we were wondering if we could use a phone to make a quick phone call.”

I pulled out my cell phone and handed it over. “Here, go ahead.” Now, I do not have a smartphone. As these British gents found the number on their Iphone 5, they puzzled over how to dial it (a problem I can relate to– the joys of traveling!). Then came the brilliant moment: when technology surpasses skills. Looking at me in a panic, they asked, “Now, how do we call it?” I pushed the send button and went back to my work.

Ten minutes later, my coworker had lent them his smartphone and I had my Verizon LG back.