Posted in Changes, Current Events, Dating, Lessons from the Church, NaNoWriMo, People, Stories, Time

play the game (for “Rochelle”)

How am I supposed to live without you
How am I supposed to carry on
When all that I’ve been livin’ for is gone

Rochelle angrily pounded the space bar, forcing the YouTube clip to stop Michael Bolton’s crooning. Finding the music popular from when she was born was supposed to be a distraction, not something to force her back into melancholy.

She let her head fall back on the lovesac and watched the fan blades spin lazily. One glow in the dark star that had held on defiantly to a wobbly blade for over a year traced a white streak in her vision. She wondered what had brought her to this moment.

You need everyone’s eyes just to feel seen behind your make up. Nobody knows who you even are. Who do you think that you are?

She pursed her lips ironically and bounced her head in time to Mike Posner’s slightly more modern tune. She thought back to her early college years, dancing with her roommate around their apartment with cats darting between their feet and candles glowing all around the kitchen. “It’s probably because you think you’re COOLER THAN ME!” They’d sing at the top of their lungs.

I’m gonna drop some cash, only got twenty dollas in my pocket

Macklemore’s boom resonated through her chest. Was that the time when things started to change? Was that when she started to get angry at everyone she had called friend for the last four years?

Hellooooooo, it’s me…

She couldn’t do it. She slammed her laptop closed on Adele’s sepia gas stovetop.

The boy. So brief, so wild, so beautiful. He was the one that got too close when she was about to shatter. He was the one that found her right as all the years of hiding who she was, what she really believed, came bubbling to the surface. He was the one who stepped into her world right at the wrong moment.

She hated him.

She loved him.

He wasn’t enough for her, she was too much for him. These opposites pulled each other into a circle of gravity, whirling around each other, the attraction becoming too much until they collided with cosmic power.

And now all she had left was a black hole.

She was cold.

The new men who filled her bed were placeholders. She pushed them out her door at three a.m. and collapsed in a drunken stupor. When morning came, she would brew herself a full pot of Folgers and debate pouring Bailey’s in each cup. She would sit at her table, slouching over the steam and inhale the scent of coffee while she waited for it to cool. She would delete the texts from the night before, praying that by deleting the electronic record she could delete the memories.

She’d drag herself to class, hair clipped back, make up on point, a tasteful scarf wrapped to cover the hickey her latest lover had left. She’d make small talk with coworkers, and beg forgiveness for not joining them after shift for a drink. Rochelle would return home, pulling her cat into her lap.

“Love me,” she’d tell it, stroking it’s soft fur. The cat would glower and struggle away from her grasp, finding a ball of paper on the floor to bat around. She’d pull out her phone and find the app, the orange flame tempting her. Left, left, left, right, left, left, left, right, MATCH. Keep swiping. Left, left, right, left, James has sent you a message. James it was.

Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
‘Cause you know I love the players
And you love the game

Taylor, Taylor, Rochelle sighed to herself. I’m dying to see how this one ends, too.

She wondered where it had all gone wrong – or had it always been wrong? She thought of her sister. The one who had always come into her room, stolen her things, touched her… Rochelle shuddered at the memory of her sister. Their mother had never believed Rochelle, and even now couldn’t understand why she refused to be in the same room, why she refused to forgive her sister.

She thought of the church she’d found herself a part of. She thought of how she’d changed for them, dying her hair back to it’s natural color after the black started to grow out instead of keeping it rebellious. She thought of how she moved in with them, reading her bible and striving to learn the lingo, to say all the right things and volunteer with them and be at the church every time the doors were open. She thought about how when she tried to open up, to share what was really going on, how Emily would shift uncomfortably and offer to pray for Rochelle, or how Miranda would go off on some Christianese rant. One day she called her out on that. “What does that even MEAN, Miranda? Do you even know what that MEANS?”

She’d run away, moving into an apartment in another city with Emily’s sister. Rochelle learned very quickly that Amy was even worse, and when they tried to have conversations about current events, it would quickly devolve into nonsense, and Rochelle would storm away trying desperately not to scream about how stupid she found her roommate.

All her friends were getting married. The three-three-nine method, Rochelle thought wryly. Single for 23 years, then “court” for three months, engaged for three months, and nine months later… hello family. Was there no such thing as a healthy friendship one-on-one with boys? Apparently not, she muttered. It’s marriage or running away and doing exactly what I’m doing. That’s it.

She lived alone now. After an entire lease of fighting and anger, and oh that stupid election, how could Amy actually believe that godawful candidate was genuinely a good human being? She’d finally escaped. She was alone. Was it better? Was she going to be free?

They say I’ll never be the poster type, but they don’t make posters of my kind of life.

She picked back up her phone, Elle King demanding freedom in the background, and kept swiping, pushing the thoughts of That Boy further and further into the abyss.


“Write a story for me?” My friend texted me. “I don’t care if it’s real or fictional.”

This is for you, love.

Posted in Home, Lessons, NaNoWriMo, Travel, Wishes

you let go

I didn’t think I owned much. After I’d left my apartment in Iowa, giving away my table and chairs, my dresser and couch, I’d moved to Denver by myself in a minivan. That was my standard: I can’t have much if that’s how I started, can I?

I’m falling into a point of my life where I want own nothing but what I can fit in my Sentra. A few changes of clothes, a few dishes, a book or two. As I’ve started pushing my earthly possessions into the storage closet in my parent’s basement (sorry, Mom) I’ve realized how even with moving frequently and often from one bedroom into another basement room, I’ve managed to accumulate quite the collection of useless items.

There’s so much stuff. A pair of pants I never wear because they fit me funny. Mismatched socks, some with holes in them I keep meaning to throw out. Mugs with chips in them because I’m too sentimental about where they came from to throw them out. A mini ironing board that I use once a year when I’m in a hurry and forgot to pull my shirt out of the dryer right away. An old college textbook that I thought might be useful someday. A stack of papers from a volunteer program I did three years ago.

Somehow I keep carting them around, address to address, state to state.

I now have in my possession less than a dozen outfits, a few blankets, and my computer. That’s about it.

I now have the ability to pack up my life in a heartbeat. Ten minutes, and I can be on the road with no trace that I even existed. I don’t own pets, merely adopting my roommates’ or friends’ animals for the brief moments we share space.

I think I expected owning next to nothing to be more freeing than it actually feels.

I’m a nomad, so my heart has always been ready to go. While I had more of a physical attachment than I was aware of, the emotional connection has always been held with loose fingers. It’s something I’ve encountered with many travelers: we’re quick to befriend, but just as quick to move on. People will ask you how long you’ve been traveling together, and you’ll admit that you just met twelve hours before when you joined in the same walking tour.

You become accustomed to living out of a suitcase for a few weeks or months at a time. Your four shirts are quickly melded to the exact contours of your body, no matter how often you’re able to find a washing machine and soap. But it doesn’t matter, because those four shirts see so many sights and absorb so many smells of so many cultures. The more you absorb, the less rigid you become.

You learn that you’re not always right. You hear how other countries, other religions, other families operate. You adopt some of their world, and they adopt some of yours. Or you toast each other and your differences, knowing some things won’t change. But it doesn’t matter, because you realize on the other side of the table is a human being, not the enemy.

You start holding on to less.

You hold on to fewer strict opinions, more open to discussion and ability to change.

You hold on to fewer languages, realizing the fluidity body language and how your brain won’t recall the right word at the right time.

You loosen your grip on time, allowing for change and fluctuation, last minute ideas and new companions.

You let go of the determination that something you know is the best or the worst, as you come to appreciate the nuances of home and away.

You start demanding that others speak with respect and facts before making blanket statements.

You let go of the concept of home, because there are people and places that hold your heart all across the globe, scattered like dust in the wind.

I own so little. I hold on to so little.

Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is it just fine in this precise moment?

It is so easy to accumulate. It is so easy to continue to carry things around that have no worth, whether it’s a broken lamp (I just need to find a new pull string!) or a relationship (we’re not that bad for each other), a job (but what would I do if I left?), an apartment (yeah, everything’s gross and it’s really expensive, but it takes so much work!).

I’m so young, but I’m learning the weight of value. Who do I value? What do I value? When I live in a six foot by four foot space, what is worth so much that I am willing to sacrifice those inches? When friends are a dime a dozen, which relationships do I value enough to fight to maintain when I’m “out of sight, out of mind” and have to make an intentional effort?

My external environment now matches my inner self. Perhaps now my inner self will do some spring cleaning as well. Perhaps I can let go of the past, both the good parts and bad. Perhaps I can begin each day in peace and fresh beginnings. Perhaps I can empty myself and go in to each morning in each city with eyes wide open. Perhaps the past can remain there, and only the lessons follow me into the future.

I have no possessions.

I have nothing holding me down.

Defying gravity.

It’s time to find color in the earth instead of my wardrobe, vibrancy in real relationships instead of the fleeting. Hold on to what has value, release what holds you back, create beauty in each moment.

I didn’t think I owned much. But now I want to own even less.

Now I just want to own myself, to take accountability for my words and actions, and then to move on in freedom.

Live simply.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Current Events, Growing Up, Lessons, NaNoWriMo, People, Wishes

Beauty and the Ballot

“That’s it!” I’ve seen friend after friend exclaim. “I’m not going to vote in this election. I can’t support either candidate!”

I get it, I do. Two of the most unpopular candidates in history are running for the highest office in the land. I understand your resentment, your confusion, the distaste and distrust. Heck, I unfollowed half a dozen of my Facebook friends because their incessant posting about both candidates had me riled up every time I was online. (I wish I would have done that ages ago – my stress level has dropped drastically in the last two weeks.)

This cycle has nearly doubled the amount of negative voters than were in the 2008 election – that is, voting against one candidate rather than for another. Everyone is angry and tired and in disbelief at the circus we’ve been dragged into. Both sides of the aisle are astounded that the other candidate is even vaguely considered viable. “She’s a liar! A security risk! The emails!” “He’s got paper-thin skin! A racist/sexist/every-ist! Tax returns!” “She’s too embedded in the system!” “He’s been bankrupt four times!”

So far, we’re on the same page, right?

I’m still going to vote. And you need to, too.

If you want to leave the presidential part of the ballot empty, feel free. I genuinely won’t fault you.

But…

You are given a big ballot. A ballot that includes Representatives, Senators, amendments, propositions, and local issues. It’s difficult to believe in such a heated election cycle with all the media attention focused on the top ticket level, but those down-ballot choices will make more of a difference in your every day life than the President.

The President will most definitely matter on an international stage, but unless s/he has the same party as the majority in Congress, doing anything domestically is going to be like pulling teeth. (A member of Congress has to introduce a bill, so whatever your candidate is promising, s/he still has to have allies in Congress that can push through opposition in both houses. Hence the desperate need for bipartisanship… and a realization that you can socially be on one side and fiscally on another, so even having a majority party doesn’t mean they’ll always support you.)

So it’s back to you, dear citizen. It’s time to remember to look local.

Vote down-ballot.

In Colorado, one of the issues that is near and dear to me is Prop 107 and 108. I’m an unaffiliated voter, which means that unless I change my party affiliation sixty days before the caucus, I am not allowed to participate. Millennials are more and more falling into this category: one that doesn’t identify completely with one party or another. In the state I’ve called home for two years, this means that unless I know which side I’m leaning more towards a full two months in advance, I’m not allowed to participate in selecting who will go on to the general election.

This year of all years should prove why that’s a headache to a humanist. Also, I’m from Iowa, where you can walk in the night of, register to vote at the door, and participate in the caucus. I was more than a little bitter that I didn’t realize this rule was different in Colorado until 7 weeks before the caucus here… a week too late to do anything.

Oh, and the other part is voting to change the Colorado caucus into a primary. Just FYI.

See what I mean, though? This is something that matters. To me. On the ground level. You know what else is on the Colorado ballot? A right-to-die amendment, like in Oregon. Renewing a tax that funds everything from the Denver Arts Museum to local theater troops. An adjustment to the requirements for amendments to the Colorado constitution. Introducing a first-in-the-nation single-payer healthcare system. Raising the minimum wage.

Oh, look. The state is attempting to put some pretty hot-button issues to the vote. Did you know about that? Are you really that upset at the political madness going on at the national level that you don’t want your voice to matter at the state level, which is going to affect you more immediately and intimately?

And there’s another thing:

You can be anti-Hillary. You can be anti-Trump. You can be pro-democracy.

Did you know that after only 5% of the popular vote, third parties are eligible for funds from the Federal Election Commission? Take a peek at these other parties, see if there’s one that you actually do agree with. Your vote could bring funds for 2020, and bring more parties into lower positions (even the mayor of your own town!) simply by bringing attention to the fact that they are there.

Now, I’m of the personal opinion that we need two drastic changes to our election process. I think we need to tweak the electoral college, and I would adore introducing ranked voting.

Ranked voting would allow for voters to escape the “lesser of two evil” conundrum we find ourselves in every election. Yes, it would cost more money to implement ballot counters to read these results, but in the end, you can vote in good conscience for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein and not feel that a vote for someone you like is actually a vote for the Republican or Democrat that you hate. It would make it more likely that someday a third party could take the position of Commander-in-Chief.

Since that isn’t likely to be implemented anytime in the near future, my other plea is for the Electoral College to have one slight adjustment. Again, I’m from Iowa: a state with a relatively small population. The Electoral College is something that makes sense to me, because it forces presidential candidates to care about my state after they’ve won our first-in-the-nation caucus. What I hate about it is the “winner-take-all” requirement of all but two states. Remember how Al Gore won the popular vote and lost the election in 2000? That’s why. Maine and Nebraska are much closer to accuracy, although allocating by congressional district still allows for gerrymandering. Proportional allocation though? To both have the winner of the election accurately reflect the will of the people and give the smaller states a voice? What a wild concept! (Forgive the sarcasm… it’s been a draining year.)

I’m not going to deny that this is by far my most involved election cycle, watching every debate and actively seeking out economists and political scientists and people smarter than me to give me their viewpoints.

But as I look around at my compatriots, I think the reason why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders soared to the forefront of media attention is exactly what the rumors stated: we’re tired of the same-ole, same-ole. We’re a generation of communication, of the internet, of the ability to have answers at our fingertips while still choosing to remain locked into Facebook’s algorithms of feeding us more of the same until we live in an echo chamber. We’re bored of being told that how it has always been is how it must always be.

We’re tired of the establishment. So let’s make a change, even if that means that we vote for a future a bit further away than January, and a result a bit closer to home than Washington.

 

Posted in NaNoWriMo

Space

She hunches her shoulders, desperately trying to minimize her height. She always finds the window seat on the bus and makes sure nothing spills out from her bag which she has tucked beneath her legs. On the airplane, she never uses the armrest, squishing herself uncomfortably as she carefully uses her thumb, to turn the page of her book, passing it from one to the other instead of reaching to the top of the book for a more efficient movement.

In her apartment with roommates, she organizes all her belongings in stacks so as to take up as little room as possible. She uses just one shelf for her food in the kitchen, one half a shelf in the bathroom for her toiletries. She was grateful to finally have her own bedroom, meaning she didn’t have to rearrange her bookshelf and dresser to take up as little room as possible in a shared space. Sometimes she parks several blocks away so that she doesn’t have to parallel park and risk being too close to other vehicles. And the laundromat, she finds a corner chair during a quiet hour and prays that no one needs to use the rest of the machines while she’s in there.

When she goes into work, she carefully arranges her purse and lunch together, hiding them as much as possible. When it gets too cold, she tries to find the most unobtrusive place for her winter coat – one selected because it wasn’t as poofy as the others. She often stands with her arms folded, trying to wrap herself into a tinier package.

When renting a room for a weekend, she slips in and out of the bathroom at odd hours so as not to disturb others. She cooks simple meals to spend as little time as possible in the main rooms, and if someone comes home while she’s sitting on the couch, she’ll disappear into her quarters.

She’s so desperate not to take up space. She’s so desperate to slip by unnoticed. She’s so desperate to not be a bother. Even her words are captured by her tongue before they slip past her lips. Silence, she whispers to herself, don’t get in the way. Other people are more important, you don’t deserve to be here, you don’t deserve to take up space.

When there’s pain, when there’s anger, when there’s loss, she won’t speak. She traps them inside herself and feeds the monster inside her. But no one must know, she reminds herself. No one must know the bitterness that grows. I must be silent. I must not take up space.

Oh, she says words, certainly. She laughs, she joins in storytelling, she drinks coffee and Moscow Mules with her friends. On the outside, no one would ever know. No one sees how desperate she is to not take up space. She says “yes” just often enough that no one realizes how often she says “no”, withdrawing from the world and hiding behind the curtains, beneath the bedspread, breathing in the sour scent of her unwashed body, the oils from her hair causing breakouts on her forehead and cheeks while she binges on yet another Netflix original series.

She becomes denser, each time she pulls herself inward. Her soul becomes harder. Do not take up space, she admonishes herself, and packs her spirit closer and tighter. Do not be a bother, she lectures herself and she pulls in the anguish and tears. The blackness, the drowning, no one must see. She withdraws her true self, and paints on a beautiful façade, one that won’t draw questions because it takes up so little space and is just bubbly enough to be ignored.

Sometimes, someone tries to reach inside, to see beyond the mask. But her soul is packed into such a tiny space that it’s a fruitless endeavor even if they do manage to scrape off a tiny piece of truth. Desperate for validation, she’ll even give just a bit of herself. But it’s so minuscule, so little reward for so much work. So time and time again, they give up. See, she whispers bitterly to herself, no one cares. You take up too much space. Hide it, make it all disappear.

She feeds on the loneliness, and it in turn consumes her. She wonders how others do it. How are others allowed to take up space? How are others free to do as they please? Why are others vibrant and larger than life? Why not her? Why is she the one who is too much, too big? Why must she rein herself in? The darkness cascades over her, even on the brightest of days. She reads stories and watches movies where the protagonist finds peace, and a happy ending. Why not her? Why are things always falling apart around her? She tries so hard not to take up space as to minimize the damage, but time and time again the shrapnel seems to find her.

Years pass in a cycle of better and worse, times when she feels happy, and times when she drowns in her own mind. She’s suffocating. She needs space. She needs to give herself permission to take up space, to say that it’s okay to use her own kitchen, to not confine her life to a twelve inch by twelve inch space of floor. But it’s so hard. Years of compounding her thoughts and feelings have spilled out to the physical manifestation, and she whispers to herself, “I’m too much. I take up too much space.”

She feels alone, and despite feeling like she’s too big, finds there’s no one around her because she’s pushed them all away. She has the space, but is too afraid to let go and fill it. She doesn’t remember what it’s like to join space with others, to feel alive together and be more together. She’s all alone, and yet she cries, “I take up too much space!” The echoes bounce off the empty room.


If you or someone you love are thinking about suicide, please reach out. This wiki has a list of many resources that are available for phone calls, emails, texting, or online chats.

This piece was written for NaNoWriMo and is a combination of experiences from dear friends of mine, along with some of my own. I couldn’t bring myself to finish it with a happy ending, because for many people battling depression, they can’t see the ending at all, let alone one being happy. Some are able to fight their way out through therapy, others through medication, and some struggle their entire lives. All I can ask if you feel like you are losing a friend to depression is to not lose hope. And to those of you that are there right now: I love you. Please, take up space with me.

 

 

Posted in Changes, Family, Home, Travel

there’s no place like home

“Are you sure you don’t need another cup of coffee?” Nick asked as we hugged goodbye.

I shook my head with embarrassment. “I’m actually gonna grab something at Casey’s. I really want to get some breakfast pizza.”

My friend stared at me in astonishment. “Wait,” he asked me from his Omaha front stoop, “You don’t have Casey’s in Colorado?”

I laughed at my friend, and crossed the border into culture shock.

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I’m from Iowa. I’ve spent 22 of my almost 26 years in this state. Yet for the first time, I felt like a stranger.

I haven’t used a GPS in Des Moines in years, but I found my heart skipping a beat as 235 weaved. Is this how I get to my sister’s place? I thought the road split here… maybe not?

Feeling disoriented, I called my mom to ask her if she needed me to pick anything up before heading back to our farm. List in hand, I stepped into Hy-Vee and gasped at how high the ceilings soared and far the grocery aisles sprawled. I next went into Walmart – good, old, familiar Walmart, just like in Colorado – and nearly toppled over a beer display. It took me several seconds to remember that alcohol can be sold outside of liquor stores in this state.

The longest that I’d been away from home prior to this stretch was the 10 months I lived in Slovakia. This time, it’s been 17 months. Much can change, much can stay the same.

I’m now curled up in the farmhouse where I grew up – the farmhouse that I haven’t lived in for a decade. My parents are out in the fields, and I’ll join my dad in the combine soon. Right now, I’m just enjoying the silence.

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When I left Iowa almost two years ago, I was heartbroken. My dream job had been ripped from my fingers by city politics, and I was fleeing to the mountains. Perhaps my unrequited love affair with Denver was my rebound – I fell head over heels for the city in the blink of an eye. So now it’s time to leave Colorado, to seek my fortune in the great, wide world.

While my deepest self is a nomad, a city-dweller, a wanderer, I can never shake those deep roots: I am a farmer’s daughter.

It’s funny now. Wherever I travel, this is home. Brands that I grew up with that I can’t find anywhere else in the world. Endless, uninterrupted horizons for incredible sunrises and sunsets. The refreshing scent of corn husks being harvested, sometimes interspersed with the not-nearly-as-pleasant scent of manure from the chicken and hog confinements. The furniture has changed, but my mom still lines the walls with cards and pictures from the friends she writes on every birthday. It’s several generations of kittens later, but they still mew on the front stoop, begging for attention – and I can guarantee our family’s four-note whistle will still bring them running for food.

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It’s a much slower pace than I’m used to. Driving through Des Moines felt like going through a one-stoplight town – I became the Texas driver that we grumble about in Denver. But it’s refreshing, clean, and beautiful.

I know it’s not forever, being back.

But right now, as confusing, as wild, as different as it is? There’s no place like home.

 

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Bonnie and Clyde, Changes, Stories, Time, Vagabonding

independence day

The United States celebrates Independence Day on July 4. As of this year, I have my own Independence Day: July 3.

That was the day Ben told me he was moving back to Michigan. My favorite colleague, my trainer, my friend. I told him he wasn’t allowed to drop off the face of the earth, and we started sharing our plans for the future. Me, leaving Denver in a year to start buying one-way tickets and doing seasonal work. Him, live in Michigan for a year and start a business.

We should take a road trip, we decided. A week of wandering.

Erick, our mutual friend, joined the conversation.

No, we decided. It’ll be longer than that. Let’s make it the “Great American Road Trip”!

It was all still humor. All still a half formed dream that would never come to fruition.

I don’t remember who said it first, but someone suggested, “Let’s buy a bus!”

We started looking it up.

The joking stopped.

“Wait, are we really doing this?”

We awkwardly shook hands as a trio. Yes, yes I think we are.

The last two months have flown by. We incorporated Ben’s business, got a joint phone plan, talked to insurance agents, bought an RV, and drank a lot of tea.

Today, I hugged Ben tightly as he climbed into our Breaking Bad-eque RV and began his nomadic trek to Michigan.

I’m not sharing this article with my ten followers on Facebook. I’m allowing it to be open, published. The world can see it if they look hard enough. But my soul is quiet right now as preparations begin in earnest for me to begin vagabonding.

The story will be here. Someday in the future, I want to be able to look back and see what I was thinking. See the journey. But keep it quiet from my audience, while the trepidation still lingers in the shadows.

I will go. I will nomad. I will vagabond.

But while those plans form, while states separate us, I will remember it here in the silence.

Because I know it’s real: I have my independence day.

Posted in Changes, Lessons, Love, Snapshot, The Barista, Time, Travel, Wishes, Work

Life out of season

I loved Denver – she was just my type.

In appearances, the mountains glistened, the city sprawled, the old became new. In personality, there were a thousand places to go, craft scenes to explore, people to meet. In soul, she was vibrant and alive and six hours from everywhere.

No wonder it was so easy to fall in love – Denver was just my type.

But something was never quite right. Long timers warned me. She’s changed, they said. I didn’t care.

But Denver didn’t love me back. Oh, we were friends, certainly. She took me along for the ride. But the lust was never reciprocated. I was one of many to court her, but in the end she chose another.

She was the heartbeat of Europe with the familiar shoes of Iowa and an exotic note all her own.

She fought me. Threw housing problems, ill-fitting jobs, broken relationships, car theft and exorbitant prices my way. I ignored these signs. I had friends! I had adventures! Surely, we were meant to be, Denver and me.

I loved Denver. She was just my type.

But then, one day, as dreams began to form again, I looked at the dart I’d thrown on a map. I looked at Denver. And I realized with sadness that she didn’t love me back. She’d never given herself to me as I had to her.

The suffocation of the unrequited love affair began. I felt our connection crumbling. I was a barnacle clinging to her rather than a lobster paired for life with this beloved city. Trapped, I felt the urge to flee. What now? Where do I go from here?

I loved Denver. She was just my type.

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Career, Current Events, Dating, feminism, Love, Snapshot, The Barista, Travel

The Serenity of Singlehood

Although statistically the median age of marriage has skyrocketed since the early 90s after remaining static for a hundred years, there’s still a stigma associated with being without a partner.

Don’t believe me, city dwellers?

When was the last time that you read an article that genuinely celebrated the author’s singleness, instead of making-do until the next relationship came along?

I’ve struggled with this mindset.

I have always warned potential mates, “I’m really good at being single,” as a way to prepare them for the fact that I’m going to continue to live my own life with my friends, dreams, and aspirations. If I’m choosing to include you as a significant other, it’s because I want you around as a part of it, not because I’m going to replace everything else in my day with you.

Unsurprisingly, most guys aren’t a huge fan of this.

No worries for me. Like I told them, I’m really good at being single.

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I’m currently reading the book All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. I was on the waiting list at my local library for six months, and it is well worth waiting for. Allow me to share a couple of excepts that resonated with me.

On life after a breakup:

Suddenly, my life was so much richer and so much more full of people to depend on and relate to and connect with. I never felt more fundamentally lonely…than when I was in a relationship. And I’ve never felt more supported and connected and fully appreciated than when I was single!

And on marrying later in life after living in a big city:

It’s not such a bad thing to always have something to do, someone to meet, work to complete, trains to catch, beers to drink, marathons to run, classes to attend. By the time some women find someone to whom they’d like to commit and who’d like to commit to them, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that they will have, if they were lucky, soaked in their cities and been wrung dry by them, that those who marry later, after a life lived single, may experience it as the relief of slipping between cool sheets after having been out all night. These same women might have greeted entry into the same institution, had they been pressured to enter it earlier, with the indignation of a child being made to go to bed early as the party raged on downstairs.

Many of my small town friends are married. I danced at their weddings and coo over their children. They tell me of their domestic lives, and I cheer for them while inwardly shrinking back in horror from the entrapment of even a long term relationship. There are so many mountains to climb, cities to get lost in, men to flirt with, wines to sample, nights to wane with conversation. For me, singlehood offers the best of all there is. With some recent developments, I’ve realized I’ll be single for at least the next two years, and that concept doesn’t frighten me at all. Oops, I might not date until I’m 27? Meaning at the absolute earliest I’ll be married at 29, if then? Ah, well. Did you hear about that new taco place on Tennyson?

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Last night, I borrowed a sleeping bag from a friend (as mine was lent out to someone else), and headed out into the mountains. With the fire ban in effect, I decided to just car camp near the base of Mt. Bierstadt. I’d hoped to hike it in the morning, but as I rolled by the parking lot, the cars overflowed onto the roadside even at 6:30 in the morning. Anxiety welled up in me, and I realized that I needed solitude. I kept driving down winding roads, occasionally turning and barely keeping track of how to get home. Eventually I found a place to walk around. I spent a good hour strolling, encountering only one other soul as I listened to the river beside me and rejoiced in the gray skies relieving Colorado from the relentless heat.

There was silence. There was solitude. There was no one to call and check in with, no one to text that I’d changed my mind. It was simply the delight of following the open road, following what my body and soul so desperately needed.

Certainly, there are moments of loneliness. But at the end of the day, I crave freedom more than warm arms. I prefer to forge a family out of the friends and city around me than to create one by law. Thanks to the generations of women before me, I’m able to be wild and nomadic and make my own rules. I’m able to be alone or surrounded by people on a whim. It is here, in this self-made world, that I am truly able to find serenity in singlehood.

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Posted in Backyard Tourism, Growing Up, Languages, People, Snapshot, Stories, The Barista, Time, Travel, Wishes, Work

Soul Wide Awake

I know you don’t mean to insult me when you call it a vacation. But I don’t think you realize how wrong that word is.

A vacation is an escape from reality – relaxation, scheduled time to recharge. A vacation has hotels booked, tours planned, beaches chosen.

This is not a vacation.

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I am not escaping from reality – I’m finding it. My soul, at rest in the world of money and responsibilities, stretches and swells here. It fits my body perfectly instead of wearing my skin like a hand-me-down coat: not uncomfortable, but ill-fitting and not my style.

My plans are but a vague outline, often changing on a whim as a passerby says, “We’re going here, want to come?” I stay in a 12-bunk dorm, forgoing privacy and pray the locks hold on the cabinet where I’ve stashed my passport. I dine on street food and cook pasta leftover from a long departed traveler – that is, if the whirlwind of the day reminds me to eat at all.

I wear blisters on my feet with pride as my legs ache from getting lost all day in an unfamiliar city. I sneak into quiet streets to consult my map and compass as to not draw attention to my foreigner status, and curse my body’s need for sleep.

I listen to the cadence of a new language swirl around me and stare at signs, struggling to decipher their meaning. I cringe in shame when a hostel worker or airline employee glances at my American passport and immediately switches to English for my benefit.

You think this is a vacation?

No.

This is travel.

For now, I become she who has been hidden since my last journey into the unknown.

I become she who feels more intensely, sees in brighter colors, and smells the universe each morning. I live with abandon and belong exactly where I am.

I am she who is confident, beautiful, fearless, strong, and fierce. I am she who is curious, radiant, defiant, wild, laughing, and free. I am she who holds her arms open to the world and says, “Here I am! Give me the best you have!”

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My soul is wide awake, and every moment is a precious gift.

And then I return.

Back to the world of routine. Of bills and schedules and putting gas in my car. Of small talk and appointments and wearing a path in the sidewalk I tread each day.

In the traditional world, a groove becomes a rut, and I soon look up from the bottom with fear and trepidation building.

“I can’t leave this,” I tell myself. “I’m too afraid. This isn’t fun, but it’s comfortable. This isn’t right, but at least I know where I’m sleeping and how to get around. I’m afraid to go again. I should stay where it’s safe.”

But that tiny spark that can’t be put out whispers to me, “You must go.”

You think I’m going on vacation?

No.

This is breathing.

This is living the best version of me.

This is seeing my soul wide awake.

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Posted in Dating, Growing Up, Lessons, Love, People, Wishes

To the girl who will replace me

I wish that I could say that I was above the pettiness of social media stalking.

But I’m not.

I casually spotted, then intentionally searched. And I had a few thoughts.

I don’t know if you even know it yet.

But I think you will be The One.

The One for Him.

I see the same characteristics, how you’re a blend of features of myself and his other serious ex.

You’re his type.

I see what you study, what your few public pictures show. And I can tell that your interests align with his even more closely than mine did. That conversation with him won’t be a teaching moment, but something of excitement as you weave through a world you both adore.

A part of me wants to hate you. Selfishly wants him to always love me from afar, even though we should never be together again. I want him to always ache for the fact that he screwed up, to feel guilty because it was his fault that our relationship ended.

But mostly, I’m just watching.

I want to tell you how to understand his mood swings. I want to compare stories with you about his quirks and favorites. I want to gush over his son with you.

Even more, though…

I want to know that he’ll take care of you. That he learned from his mistakes. That you will have a partnership. That he’ll love you, and for once, he’ll move you up on the priority list. I want you to be cherished, to be treated with dignity.

I don’t know you from Eve. But, dear girl who will replace me, my fingers are crossed for you. That the boy I loved will turn into the man who loves you.

You’re beautiful. He’ll tell you that.

But always remember – you’re worth it, too.