I drove to the beach, parked my Buick Le Sabre next to a Subaru and sat my butt down in the sand. Closing my eyes, I listened to the waves. It was calm. Clear. It took me a minute to relax entirely, but gradually I could feel my breathing pair up with the rhythm of the water. I pressed both hands to the center of my chest in search of a pulse and realized I didn’t have one. Kidding. I did have one, and it felt ok. Warm and consistent. I took a deep breath and felt my stomach turn and my throat lump and my eyes swell. I exhaled and tilted my face up toward the sun.
It feels very weird to finally do something you’ve been dreaming of since you were 13. It’s never really what you imagined it to be, but in some ways it’s better. In others, it’s worse. In general, it’s good. I grabbed an apple out of my grocery bag and took a bite out of it. My journal sat next to me in the sand, but I didn’t write in it—not when I should anyway—only when it was convenient, or when it made me seem insightful, or when it made me look smart. Most of what I did were for those reasons, I realized.
I sat there and fantasized about people reading my journal years after my death and saying, “Wow, she was brilliant.” Only, there was a problem with that because, so far, the only material I had was, “He doesn’t love me!” and, “Life is pain!” and, “Why aren’t I pretty?!” followed by scribbles and scribbles and blah blah blah and drawings and lots of “Fuck!”s. You know, just really deep, real shit. Although, I did say to myself, “I’m my own worst enemy,” once. That was pretty accurate. ‘Cause at 18, I really knew.
Sitting there, I tried to picture what I wanted for my life moving forward. You know, they say you’re supposed to envision it. You imagine it vividly and the more specific you are, the more likely it is that it’ll actually be. Only problem was, mine was incredibly vague, and I wasn’t even sure how to make it more specific. I wanted to be open to every possibility, but then how was I also supposed to know it so vividly that I could draw it? This is bullshit, I thought.
I wish I could relive the year I was 8 years old. I had a cool haircut and sweet “Fit ‘N Flare” jeans that were a little too short. There was a gap where my front right tooth was, and my new adult tooth was just barely showing up. I mean, I was killing. I played on a softball team that lost every single game, and then I quit. That was a good year. I made friends, had fun all the time, and found everything exciting. Everything. I knew who I was and what I liked, and I wasn’t afraid. Things were just what they were. There was no trying for anything other than that.
Since then, I’ve been constantly trying to figure out what things are to me. I’ve been in a constant state of practice, learning what is right for my life and what’s wrong and how to balance it equally. Which is good, I want to be. But it’s not easy. It’s kind of like fine tuning an instrument. I’m trying to get as close as possible to the most honest version of myself.
I took a bite out of a peanut butter sandwich and looked at the water. How can something be so flexible and have so much power? How is that even possible? It can drip through the cracks between your fingers, and it can hit you like a brick wall. And, like, we need it to live, but also it can kill us. Sorry, just not entirely sure how or why that’s just a normal thing, casually. Water is the shit but, like, scary as shit. Like, we don’t know what’s out there in the ocean. But it’s there regardless of whether we appreciate it or not. There’s no vanity or ego about it, it just is. It’s flexible and powerful. Calm and collected and consistent.
Maybe I need to be a little more like water.
Emily Dorsett is on instagram as @coolgirlemily.
Question to think about:
If a caged bird is released into the world,
Will he stay free or return?
You cannot simply unlearn new
Eye opening truth
The farther that I flew
From my trip where I somehow knew
My tiny life, could not be confined
To one place, to one nest
Where it all began, just as my parents have
California, so large, so vast
Realizing how sad I was in the past
To have not explored it sooner
I was a high school junior
Bus traveling up north
Experiencing every college tour
Gliding by every new city
Perching a gander
With my friends, flocking together
Imaging a future, truly rife of possibilities
Turlock, Fresno, Stanislaus
San Francisco, Pismo Beach
Santa Cruz’s god-like tall redwood trees
Reaching high towards the heavens
I must confess the beauty of it all
Simply jaw dropping
Nature in its rawest form
So much green, blue and brown
As I looked around
Roaming, as much as I was allowed
I noticed, compared to my home
The landscape, the calmness, the overall tone,
Northern California is its own little world
Such a slower speed
Farmlands at every corner
The roosters are crowing
As each tractor is mowing
The grain, the feed into the ground
Such sounds are foreign in cities
And the beach; a gorgeous sea
Beyond my reach is a horizon
Wondering if I fly there
How much fun I could have
Would I dare?
To soar into the cool crisp air?
I could not have even fathomed
Such clear blue waters
“Wow”, I whispered
“Was this always beyond my nest?”
My entire life has been one big test
As I sat down on my seat
Finding everything so neat, looking through my pictures
Hoping one day to return
To the memory of those four days
Four days to call my own
Growing up beyond my home
SO I will ask again regarding the caged bird
Will he remain free, or simply return?
The answer is he will return
But the cage is no longer there
His wings have grown
As he was sufficiently shown
The next destination can be anywhere.
This is one of our favorite pieces by Andy Quintana. Andy has been involved in It's Personal for the past two years.
He always shows incredible attention to the details of his pieces and the metaphors within them.
We love Andy and are so lucky to have him. Enjoy!
“Please, just stay in Vegas,” my mom said over the phone. She reserved a hotel room in Las Vegas on a Tuesday night because she didn’t want me up driving until morning. Caesar’s Palace. Thank u, Mom, I love u. I was 23, and Vegas is awesome especially when you’re me, by myself. I drove in late at night in my clunker, everything I owned squished into my backseat. The lights were fluorescent in contrast to the black hole I’d been staring into for the past 7 hours. I squinted, leaning forward to get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower through my windshield. One of my pillows was shoved up against the window, blocking my side view. It looked like a marshmallow. I pulled up to the In & Out drive through and ordered a cheese burger, animal style, and a strawberry shake.
Sitting in my Buick and parked next to the In & Out, I ate my burger alone, in silence, in Las Vegas, Nevada. A little bit of ketchup landed on my shirt. Don’t feel sorry for me, this was my choice. With my back end pointing toward the strip, I looked forward into the darkness. Then, I remembered I read somewhere that the valleys around Vegas are where many people have died or gone missing or have been killed and disposed of. I scrunched up my plastic burger wrapping and stuffed it into my cup holder.
Caesar’s Palace wasn’t hard to find. I pulled into the parking lot and looked for the first open space. I walked around a little, afraid to leave my car because, well, it was everything I owned. I locked the doors, then unlocked them and tried to cover everything with a blanket. I realize I sound like a serial killer, but I promise I did come here to dispose of someone’s body. After repeating these steps three more times, I paused, finally accepted what it was and walked up to the Palace. They greeted me with roses and Champagne and endless applause.
Check in was easy. I grabbed my bag and walked through the slot machines, wandering around until I found the elevator. I thought about how, like, what if I died tonight. Alone in a Vegas hotel room, wearing only socks. What a shitty ending to the story. Before I even do anything cool, I trip and hit my head on the night stand. And as I’m lying there, bleeding out...I realize I’m wearing nothing but socks and a pearl necklace—my hearse full of dead bodies, just chilling in the lot. I fucking hope no one finds my vibrator.
I pressed the button for the 8th floor and pretended I was a rich person wearing better clothes than my Gap sweatshirt. My diamond bracelet was really my hair tie, but the entire scenario seemed so ironic to me that I, an actual grandma, would even be there. I said, “Fuck it. I’m rich.”
Really the whole night was just boring. I got to my room and went to bed almost right away. It’s funny how one minute you’re packing up to leave everything you know in this momentous way, and the next, you’re in a hotel room alone in Vegas for a long enough amount of time that you actually start to look into yourself. Like, you think things in your head. Like, on an existential level. You think things in your head and wonder why you thought them. Then, you realize you just said something out loud, to yourself.
I left early the next morning around 6am and thought, what a waste—that I, of all people, would party that hard in Vegaaaasssss, yeeeeaaaaaa. But, regardless of what you do there, Vegas does something to you. I pulled into Starbucks, got my coffee, buried the bodies and hit the road.
Emily Dorsett has been with It's Personal, LLC since 2017. She has been writing quirky, honest, pieces for the past two years and we are always pleasantly surprised by what she is going to say... Aren't you excited to hear what she has to say?!
I had been warned. People had told me. The internet prophesied it. I had gleaned through anecdotes and yelp reviews and comments on National Park forums that, at the Grand Canyon, “they got big ass deer”.
And yet, when I came face to face with said monstrosity in the middle of a Grand Canyon road last July, it was as if I was the deer in the headlights. For a moment, my brain’s defensive instincts blurred in the background like a Portrait Mode photo, and the only thing left in focus was, “Wow, that really is a big ass deer…and it’s going to kill me and my two best friends. Dang it.”
Last year was my most stable year of existence, objectively. I had a good apartment that I didn’t like. I had a good day job that I didn’t like. I was spending time on men that I didn’t like and that didn’t really like me. You know. A nice, stable, adult existence. I wouldn’t say I was happy, but happy is subjective. And I’m talking objectively. If I wrote down on a piece of paper the facts of my life as they were – devoid of feelings and opinions – and handed that paper to some guy named Dave or Brian or Kevin, those guys would assume I was doing just fine.
Stable is fine, Dave. But happy is better. I wanted happy. I wanted romance. I wanted joy. I wanted my life to catch a spark and light on fire. And travel suddenly seemed the answer. It was the most romantic and reasonably attainable, life-altering thing I could think of doing. I wanted my life to change, and I wanted it to change fast. I decided I needed to get my ass to the Grand Canyon.
The need grew more obsessive and more specific. I had to see the sunrise and the sunset at the Grand Canyon. It became the only thing in focus for me. It was my Portrait Mode muse. I would see the sunrise and the sunset over that big ass hole and I, as a woman and a human, would be forever changed.
Once my two best friends and I decided to go, the whole thing came together fast. Itineraries formed. Flights were purchased. I scoffed at the empty LA sunsets/sunrises that were merely roadblocks in the way of me reaching my #GC2K18 goal.
Of course, a lot of the itinerary flew out of the window when the thing finally happened. Driving 4 hours after a flight on our way to an adventure had honestly sounded romantic when we planned it weeks in advance. But, when you live in that moment, and it’s 3:00AM, and it’s pitch black, and your eyes are so heavy you can barely keep them open, and you know that if you close them even for a moment, you might slam your rental Hyundai Elantra directly into a 400 pound stag and end three lives at once – it loses a bit of the charm. By the time we even got to the hotel, we were exhausted. I knew sunrise wasn’t going to be an option. But we were rolling with the punches! We were being spontaneous! Because travel is spontaneous and spontaneous is romantic, dammit! Instagram told me so!
So we had survived the nighttime deer assault and sunrise was out. Fine. Sunset would just have to be fucking miraculous. The daytime hours were wonderful and we reveled in the glory of the Canyon. Around 4pm, we perched at our favorite looking point to claim the best view of the day’s end.
The sun began its descent. An hour into it, my best friend turned to us and said, “I just keep waiting for something to like…happen.”
We laughed, but she was right. I was so obviously waiting for something to happen too. I had put the responsibility of changing my life entirely on the fucking sun. “Oh, I want to be different? Well, that’s not something I can do, it’s something the sunset will do FOR me!” Had I truly been expecting some Shrek-like transformation? That once that evening light hit me, I’d float into the air like Fiona and spin around in sparkles and transform into my best self? Which preferably wouldn’t be an ogre, but who was I to defy the sun’s plan for me.
I didn’t change. Nothing changed. No sexy ogre metamorphosis occurred. No physical and mental transformation. I was still sweaty and dirty and hungry and crabby. I was the same Anna that I was the day before.
I put a lot of hope into that sunset. And it was a good sunset, don’t get me wrong. Probably a great one. Maybe even a little fucking miraculous. But it wasn’t life-altering in the way that I wanted or expected.
It changed me in a better way. After that weekend, I decided I didn’t want it to be the responsibility of the sun to make my life better. It was on me. And I wanted that. I wanted to be able to make myself happy. And every day was a perfect day to try. When I got home, I ended up watching the same sun set. This time it was out of my little apartment window, accompanied by the sounds of Burbank outbound flights and police helicopters, light peeking through the dingy blinds that had been there much longer than I had. Definitely not a Wonder of the World. But it suddenly felt pretty fucking miraculous to me.
So I don’t put the onus of my happiness on external forces anymore. No more passing the buck. The only time I do that anymore will be at 3:00AM on dark Arizona roads, and only to keep my friends alive.
Anna Snedden has been a writer and performer for It's Personal for a year. This is her first blog and we are excited to read more of her hilarious moments!
I packed my books into banana crates—or boxes, whatever you call them. They’re supposed to be stronger than regular cardboard boxes, you know, cause they’re made to carry a lot of bananas. My college roommate told me this while she sat in our dorm, drinking tea—I don’t know if it’s true. She also was a lesbian without knowing it, but I would never judge her for either thing. We never really connected. Not because she was/is a lesbian, I really do have lots of lesbian friends. It’s because one time, I didn’t have enough quarters to finish my laundry so, I strung my jeans, pajamas and underwear from the post of my bed to the corner of my dresser. I apologized when she came back from class. She said, “Uh…no worries” and left. Nevertheless, from then on, I only moved using banana boxes.
I put all of my books into banana boxes and hurled them into the trunk of my 2000 Buick Le Sabre. I’m a small person, so when I lift things, I have to use my body weight and whatever kind of momentum I can get. Sometimes it works. The boat rocked a little from the weight of the books, and I saw the back end sink down a couple of inches. What a weird kind of car. I bought the barge from my mom’s ex-boyfriend, Tracy. It had never been driven across the state, and I thought, yeah, this’ll get me where I need to go.
All of my books were mostly plays, old scripts, and self-help books. Shakespeare’s Complete Works, Lucky Man: A Memoir by Michael J. Fox, Stella Adler’s book: The Art of Acting, and um, Body for Life, etc. Think and Grow Rich was one. Milk and Honey. I never read the memoir. A few of my journals made it in there, along with a book of inspirational quotes, and a Spanish pocket dictionary.
I’ll admit, I was the kind of person that had way too many books, and also hadn’t read them all. But not like, because my reading list was so long. It was more of an, I’d like to be someone that reads, but I don’t really like it that much, and also will this book make me look smart, kind of a thing. Yes, I did read. But not as much as my bookshelf made it seem like I did.
I don’t know when that started, me wanting to seem smart. I mean, I read The Twilight Saga front to back, so that doesn’t make any sense at all. It could have been when I accidentally said, “Nancy Peloski”, while drunk at a friend’s birthday party. Or, it could have been in 7th grade when I scored a hole in one in mini golf and yelled, “Glory hole!”. Regardless, I had to bring every book I owned. Even if it meant my trunk would sag. I was attached to them, dragging them around—even the ones I hadn’t read, like a dude who says he’s afraid of commitment, fucks you, and keeps telling you he’s afraid of commitment. With every bump in the road, I could hear the books bounce and land and shift and cry. Sorry, baggage is very serious. We all have so much of it.
There were a few special things I also wanted to take with me: letters from friends, old playbills, a necklace, birthday cards, my high school journal, a half-marathon bib, a few old pennies, and a letter from my mom. I put them in a shoe box. It feels very weird to look through everything you own and separate what you’ll need from what you won’t, as if you know what you’re getting into. I mean, it’s not like you can bring everything.
I rolled up my yoga mat and fit it into the corner of my trunk; stuffed in my suitcase, pillows, hangers, bath towels. Once I got all the rest of my sh*T into tubs, I tetris-ed them into the back seat of my car. Like a boss, I was able to fit everything in, giving up the use of my rear window in the process. I hung a new air freshener and put the mixed CD my boyfriend gave me in the glove compartment next to the tape player.
When I turned on the car, it was raining. I sat for a second and closed my eyes. I listened to the rain lightly tap the hood of my car and thought about how I couldn’t look back if I tried. Literally, the rear window was completely blocked. I watched the water collect and wiggle down my windshield like awkward line dancers. After adjusting my mirrors a few times to try to cheat the view, I eventually gave up, chugged a bottle of water, and didn’t cry at all. The passenger seat next to me had three paper bags stuffed with the groceries my mom force-gifted me before I could drive away. I opened a bag of carrots and thought about how they’re supposed to help improve your sight.