Such a cold morning to wake up to; another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and my three-day visit with my parents was just about coming to an end. We had a specific plan on how the day would turn out. We definitely did not see the hurt that was coming our way.
I awoke from my bed; the box of ashes of my dear departed, Precious, right at my nightstand. Never has there been a time where she was not at my side wherever I slept. She is my partner in crime, even beyond this lifetime. I always felt her presence nearby, wherever I would go. I truly miss that cat.
My parents and I left home to drop off my car at our usual car dealership for an oil change. We wanted to make the most of the time we had left before I returned home to LA. We went to get some breakfast and catch up on some good times. We talked about the sudden cold weather and how amazing it was to see all the snow on the mountains. It was a bit bittersweet to say the least; my brother was absent so it felt out of place to laugh when he wasn’t around. His girlfriend had to work Thanksgiving so he didn’t want her to be alone. I then received a call from the dealership that my Chevy Cruze was ready for pickup so we decided to leave.
As we got in our car and left the parking lot, my mother noticed a car stopping abruptly as it was making a right turn. We stopped to see what was up. To our shock, the man in the car hit some unknown animal, dragged it off the road, and proceeded to speed off. Worried, we drove by and saw that it was this black kitten leering at passing cars. We couldn’t tell how bad the inflicted injury was, and as we parked our car, we kept asking each other what we should do. My mom didn’t hesitate with her decision.
We both walked over and noticed the kitten lying on the ground. The kitten was trying to protect its right thigh, with a large gaping bloody wound. Horrified, we decided best to take the stray kitten to a nearby emergency clinic and see if we could save it. My mother picks the kitten up with a small towel, and it tries to fight back, eventually accepting its fate letting us help it. We carry it off the ground and drive off in a hurry. We had just met this young little life, yet as many meows of agony it could muster, we attempted to calm it down like we would with one of our own.
We reach the emergency clinic, filled with concern and hope, only to be brought down hard with honest realization. We were given two choices from the nurses: if we save it we would be financially responsible for the kittens’ recovery, or, animal control would be called and the animal would most likely be euthanized. The look my mother’s face, the hope, the faith that it would all work out, flushed all the way down to her feet, and only tears followed. We both knew our family was in no position to treat the kitten, but we didn’t realize how swift a life can be taken. The nurses accepted the kitten, sullenly apologized to us, and I hugged my mother as we both exited, defeated. Nobody ever likes to see a family member cry when they get hurt. You always want to make them feel better, and console them that everything will be okay. But how could you, when it is beyond your power to do so? My dad and I said not one word. The silence was deafening, as my mother attempted to recover on our way to the dealership.
I drove my mom home, and she carefully began to open up. “I just don’t understand, Andy. I just don’t understand how anybody could hit somebody, and then just drive off like it’s nothing. Why Andy? Why do people do that?” I took a moment to craft my words carefully. I shared her hurt of what went down, but I knew deep down, as much as mom puts up a strong front, she has the biggest heart of the family. “There’s a special place in hell for people like that. I wish I had an answer for you, Ma.” She wipes her tears, “the kitten didn’t even have a chance. Poor thing, the kitten didn’t do anything to deserve that. Do you think I should’ve done more?” I grabbed her hand, and said, “you did enough, Ma. For as short as that kitten’s life was, that kitten experienced love and compassion. If it wasn’t for you, the kitten would still be on that corner, probably the worst place it could be. Nobody would’ve batted an eye but you did. You did good, Ma.” She squeezed my hand, and the rest of the car ride was in silence.
Growing up, Thanksgiving was just another holiday that my giant polish family got together to eat. Like most families I guess, we’d go around the table and say what we were thankful for in a hurry because staring at the feast in front of us was torture. One person at the table was never in a hurry. My Grandmother: Charlotte Nieliwocki (I told you, we are very Polish). Her favorite thing in the whole world was her family. Nothing was ever small. Holidays, birthdays, graduations, picnics, etc. would always be at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We would fill that colonial style home in New Jersey wall to wall as we got older and had to filter to the backyard when it got too crowded. Thanksgiving was her favorite. Why exactly I’m not too sure, but the smile that was on her face every year as she looked around at each of our impatient faces is etched in my mind forever.
77 years old seems like an age accompanied by wheelchairs, cataracts, broken femurs and assisted living. Charlotte was an exception to this fate. My grandma was a ball of fire; nothing slowed her down. She was also quite the lady. She loved tea, to read novels and eat Oreos at midnight and kept quiet when it came to anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking to your priest about. Catholics.
She was also a badass. She was an avid traveler filling her passport like a scrapbook. She not only traveled the country but the world. She had a special needs daughter in the 60’s and fought like hell for Patty to have the best education and quality of life and she nailed it. Through all the ups and downs in her life, she stayed warm.
My grandmother loved all of her grandchildren endlessly, but she had a special place in her heart for her girls. She had collected teacups from her world travels and when we reached an age when breaking things was no longer a usual occurrence, she would set up extravagant tea parties. We would dress to the nines stumbling over silky dresses from her closet and fluffy feather boas. She would have every inch of the supper table covered in miniature cucumber sandwiches, scones, delicate cups, and the fresh cookies from the Polish bakery down the road. The hours would fly by as we would giggle and sip tea with our pinkies up. I could tell, even at such a young age, these moments with us are what she cherished. I now have one of those teacups forever inked on my ribcage. It is my most precious memory I had with her.
The world stopped spinning for a while on January 11th, 2015. I got a call from my tough as nails mother choking on tears.
“Grandma gave blood at church this morning and passed out at the 7/11. She’s being rushed to the hospital, but they are saying she suffered a traumatic brain injury.”
Once I had the naive feeling that this woman would live on forever never aging never changing and now her whole world was ripped from her hands.
Grandma went on another one of her trips but is not returning this time.
She calls me her daughter.
Her husband, my witty grandfather, is reduced to a broken man losing 15 pounds he can’t afford to lose as he watches the love of his life forget him.
She puts baked beans on a slice of bread, raises it to her ear and says “Hello”.
Everything changes and then nothing does.
Change can suck. The fear of no change when something is so monumentally altered is torture. Life is not fair and why these things happen to people I will never understand.
My grandma passed away a year ago on November 24th 2018.
Grief is weird.
It hits you when you least expect it. I’ve been so angry. Angry at the church for letting someone her age give blood. Angry at the universe for letting this happen. Angry for seeing the call come in from her the week before and ignoring it because I was “too busy”. Just angry. I am ashamed of myself because I’ll be at the grocery store and I’ll see an elderly person I’ll think “Why? Why are you still here and she isn’t? That’s not fair.” But that isn’t what she would want at all.
I’m not sure what I believe there is after this life but if there is a heaven or a “good place”, I know for a fact she’s there and that brings me peace. I talk to her a lot, especially as we approach the anniversary and her favorite holiday. It often happens when I am taking a shower or am on the toilet, which is strange, and I always apologize to her first, but I never want to be too busy for her again. Or too busy for anyone for that matter. Tell the ones you love that you love them. It’s 2019 and the world we live in right now is a scary place. No moment is guaranteed. So talk. Hug. Love. Be kind.
When I get angry or anxious and I fear the future and the change that may or may not come, I think of the crimson color that would cover my grandma’s cheeks as she smiled at us, her family and the memories she created.
And I smile.
And I cherish.
I was an early comedian but a late bloomer. And when I reached puberty, it happened somewhere between my 13th birthday and the 2007 NBC Thursday night comedy lineup. TV changed my DNA and I’m telling you: I became my very own sitcom.
When I recount particularly sitcom-y moments in my life – the response I get is often “It could only happen to you!” (Whether that’s an insult or not – I remain unconvinced.) But I don’t blame people for that. They’re not wrong. I live in absurdism, the kind that feels like a mid-season episode. Where you can tell that the writers are getting haggard and zany, and weird shit makes it in the script. And, much like a sitcom, the bungles of my life are funny for an audience and end nicely, with a bow on top, and a moral to boot. Many of these stories took place in the rich comedy fountain that is school. Cue flashback.
Senioritis was in full swing when I was voted to give the speech at my high school graduation. I was funny enough, well-liked enough, and inoffensive enough to be an easy choice. Writing came easy to me, performance more so. But behind the jokes and my awkward teen body, I was sensitive and earnest, and I saw this as my moment to prove to my classmates that I was ~deep~, more than the goofy sidekick. So I wrote a good speech. Quotes from my favorite band, jokes about the school nun, sentiments of nostalgia and optimism for the future. It was good, yo. I was ready to present what I saw as the Thesis of Me.
On the way to the ceremony, I was unencumbered. Literally. My parents looked at me in the rearview mirror and asked if I had a copy of my speech. I scoffed.
“I don’t need it. Mr. G said he would have it up there for me.”
Ah, hubris – my occasional companion. How readily you wrong me.
I remained unencumbered throughout family photo ops, gabs with friends, and the about-to-boil-over energy that only high school seniors have on the cusp of adulthood. We robed, we processed, we sat as the thing began.
I locked eyes with Mr. G, the cherished English teacher who had mentored me through my speech. He gestured his head to the podium, and mouthed to me:
Do you have your speech?
Deer-in-headlights, I mouthed back at him:
No…you have it.
His eyes equally wide as he mouthed:
I don’t have it.
Gut sinking, I responded:
I don’t have it.
At that point, I swear, we actually shit each other’s pants.
He stood up and snuck off-stage. I stood up and scooted my way out of a narrow row full of high school boys I had never talked to. We met in a hallway as we unpacked the situation even more: no, I didn’t have a copy of it with me. No, I didn’t have it fully memorized. Yes, I’m an idiot!
The clock was ticking. I had no choice but to give Mr. G my Hotmail (shudder) username and password and tell him to scrub through my inbox to find the email that had my draft. I didn’t have time to worry about the dumb high school email shit he would see in there. He looked me deep in the eyes and promised me he would have it for me before I went up to the stage. I believed him.
Hubris, dark mistress, again ye wrongs me!
I sat down and told myself he would make it. My heartbeat marched to the beat of my own demise.
And then – bam. There it was. My intro. I stood up, passing by a good friend of mine, and in a desperate whisper, I told him “I don’t have my speech,” as if there was anything he could do but confusedly shrug. I eyed the doors, hoping Mr. G would burst through them. They stood, unmoved.
A temporary blackout must have occurred on my walk up, because all I remember is standing at the mic. The only part of my speech my brain could materialize was the first sentence, and so those are the words that poured out of my mouth: “My fellow students, teachers, mentors, family and friends – hi.”
It took me a long time to believe in honesty. It takes a leap of faith. Honesty is what has carried me through my mid-20s, emotional trauma, alcohol problems, fights, failings, and friendships. And at that podium, in a hideous yellow robe, literally speech-less…is one of the first times I took the leap.
“Full disclosure, I uh, forgot to bring my speech. So I’m just going to…wing it!”
They laughed. And from there, I had them.
I went on for 3 long minutes, weaving the bits of my speech I remembered with improvisation. I had a mic and a hungry audience and I had never felt more confident. And, in a magnificent climax, Mr. G burst through the gym doors and ran down the aisle toward me, waving the pages of my speech in hand, while the audience erupted. I could elaborate on the way I felt, but it feels a bit too much like an ego-stroke. Suffice it to say it felt pretty motherfucking good.
Post-ceremony was an equally satisfying dénouement: I floated through a slo-mo montage, through a crowd with jocks high-fiving me, teachers patting me on the back me, people hugging me. My dad, beaming, told me that he would support me going to LA to live my dream.
In the show of my life, this was my Very Special Episode.
The moral of this story isn’t my god, it’s actually really easy to follow your dreams and be fucking cool and have everyone like you. Because it’s not. I am anything but chill. I try very hard. I did end up moving to LA. It was very hard and eventually it was very good. 4 years in, I still feel like I’m falling a lot. But like me, you might find that sometimes, when you take a breath, trust yourself, and take the leap…you see that you aren’t falling. You’re flying.
Maybe that’s cheesy. But it’s a pretty way to end a graduation speech…or an episode of TV. Roll credits.
Have you ever played the game with your friends where someone picks out a snack for someone else based on their personality? Like Sour Patch Kids because first they were sour, but then they’re sweet. Or maybe a Tootsie Pop because it took some work to really get to know them deep down.
I think people are like candy.
When we were younger, my siblings and I we were taught to love all types of candy.I think as children we all were. It didn’t matter what kind, we craved it and we would enjoy it in any form. On a stick, in a tube, in the shape of a baby’s bottle or being flung out of a mutilated colorful animal hanging from the ceiling. We loved that shit! Then as we got older we began to get more selective and form opinions.
I loved Reece’s peanut butter cups and despised Mounds and Almond Joys. I still don’t care what anyone has to say, they are the same horrible candy just with a different name and equally as gross.
I love peeps (unpopular opinion, I know) and I hate gum. Hate it. With a passion. The taste. The texture. THE. SOUND. Like the taste of betrayal by someone I thought was my best friend. Or the texture of the knife being twisted in my back by someone I trusted enough to pour my deepest secrets into. Or the sound of my ex-boyfriend lying to me about countless other girls.
I don’t enjoy gum because I’ve had horrible experiences with it. No matter where I was or what I was doing, the gum would find me and try to destroy me.
It would get in my hair. How?
It would stick to my knee. Again, how?
Listening to someone chomping away on the slimy thing while trying to concentrate on the math portion of the SAT drove me absolutely mad to the point that I didn’t finish.
So gum is triggering to me. It makes me sad. Therefore, I stay away from gum.
One day in the future, could I learn to like gum? Yeah, maybe. I’m not ruling anything out and people can absolutely change. Maybe one day I will learn to love gum, but right now, I will keep a healthy distance.
Some candy is exactly what it is selling. When you get a Hershey bar you know you are getting a smooth, chocolatey, milky, rich bar of heaven right of the bat. The wrapper is straightforward and you can trust it. Some other candy wrappers are deceiving. You think that you are about to indulge in a delicious magical truffle filled with ribbons of caramel but actually it’s the strawberry cream one or better yet, the gross one with a cherry in it. It is terribly misleading. Dots: Cute packaging. It’s colorful. It seems fun. Reality: It tastes like nothing and gets stuck in your teeth for days. But we don’t realize any of this until we try it.
Kind of like people.
We go through life trying so many types of candy, meeting tons of different people who come from different walks of life. There’s no way we are going to like every piece of candy or click with every single person. Based on our tastes (and our allergies), there are some we are going to like, some we aren’t, some that cause us harm, some that we will grow out of and some we learn to love. Some are bitter and some are sweet and I think that’s okay.
If I don’t enjoy gum, I’m not going to have any in my candy bowl right now. Maybe I‘ll throw in a few later on to try to learn to like them, but for now, if they don’t make me smile or challenge me to be a better me, I’ll keep them out of the bowl. It’s all trial and error. My goal is to introduce myself to as many types of candy as I can, and although I’ll be cautious, I will try not to judge them by their wrappers. Because that’s all I can do. Try.
I asked a friend to bring me a snack that reminded her of me to a movie once. She brought me chocolate covered pretzels.
What the hell does that mean?
My favorite holiday has always been Halloween. When picking out or making pieces for a costume, getting dolled up in said costume, and transforming into someone entirely new, my confidence, self-love, and tenacity soar. The last few Halloweens have been a blast; I’ve killed with my renditions of Poison Ivy, Eleven, Zelda, and Margot Tenenbaum. Last year, a man I dated revealed the wonderful experiences Los Angeles’ spooky season has to offer. I am so grateful for him showing me Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, haunted mazes (being from the midwest, I never knew those were a thing!), and watching The Nightmare Before Christmas at the Hollywood Bowl. These experiences sparked something wonderful inside me and gave me confidence regarding my favorite holiday during the upcoming years in the great city of Los Angeles to come.
When I was in sixth grade, Catwoman starring Halle Berry came out. After watching her inspiring performance in a not-so-amazing movie, I found pleasure in pretending to be the badass antihero. I accumulated and hid a black leather skirt, a vest, and a toy whip under my mattress all summer. I spent those summer days secretly dressed as Catwoman, prepping for Halloween in the fall. It was the first time I showed self expression by going out of my way to find clothing and items to craft into a costume; it was the first time I felt so confident in something I created. When my mom found the leather and whip, she became furious. I think that Halloween I ended up in my room crying because she told me sixth graders were too old to go out and trick or treat. My spirit shrank.
In high school, no one dressed up for the holiday. It wasn’t cool unless you were at a party. Even then, there were unspoken rules. When I was sixteen, I showed up to one of these parties wearing footie pajamas and a giant, decorated cardboard box. I was a “Jackie in the Box.” I felt clever, funny, unique, completely in my element, and totally myself. To this day, I’m still proud of that creation. When I arrived, my fellow peers gave me indescribable looks. That was the second time I felt insecure about attire I worked extremely hard on. Initially being incredibly confident and happy with my choice, it came as a shock when comments were made. I looked unlike others and truly felt like an outsider. That evening I realized the only costumes high school girls were supposed to wear were sexy _______ (insert animals, superheroes, witches, nurses, etc.).
During the last seven months, there were several times I felt my confidence drop like it did those previous Halloween nights. At times, we all try on costumes we are never meant to wear. When you put something on that doesn’t quite fit, it’s hard to feel confident wearing it, even if you love the idea of it or thought it looked great when you first tried it on.
The secret girlfriend did not, nor will it ever, fit me. The longer I wore this outfit, the more it came as a shock when friends, coworkers, family, and castmates verbalized their worries. Then I started looking and feeling unlike myself: I lost over twenty pounds, I obtained an ulcer, and I started to dissociate constantly. I lost myself so much that, at one point, I became suicidal. My confidence was gone; I was gone. I bent over backwards and completely busted my ass, causing me to unintentionally hurt myself, all to try to get the costume to fit a little better. No matter what I did, nothing worked. I didn’t know how to be confident in any aspect of my life while hiding something I was proud of and wanted to share with the world. I thought the secret girlfriend was the most well-fit, amazing costume of mine to date. Now that I’ve taken it off, it’s easy to see how wrong I was. And although the metaphorical outfit didn’t work for me, it left a very literal and permanent scar on the left side of my chest as I was pulling it off. Some [wardrobe] choices stay with you forever, even if you want to forget them.
It seems obvious both my ranging Halloween experiences and the last seven months consisted of a large array of emotions: happy, torn down, ecstatic, anxious, proud, unsure, passionate, sad, confident, frustrated, the life of the party, insignificant, excited, depressed, inspired, terrified, in love, obsessive, goofy, furious, euphoric, insecure, etc. During the midst of that recently difficult time, HBO’s Euphoria made a big impression in my life. One scene that stuck out to me had a high school Halloween party where a female side character shows up dressed as Bob Ross. Despite her absolutely nailing the costume, the show highlighted all the looks and comments her peers made. Even through their scrutiny, her confidence exuded. As a 26-year-old woman at one of the lowest points in her life, I realized I wanted my confidence back after watching Maude Apatow play a brave teenager draped in a Bob Ross getup. I wanted the confidence of a 16-year-old who just wants to live life uninfluenced by people’s expectations.
Now I want that more than ever. I’m struggling to love the Halloween season this year; although that costume I wore for months didn’t fit, I grew to love it. Despite all the lows, I was supposed to celebrate Halloween with someone I loved; we were going to go to haunted houses together. I wanted to share with this person all I was shown the year prior, disclose how much fun a Los Angeles Halloween could be. I no longer have that plan. Instead, I’ve decided to gain back the confidence that both my 16-year-old self and Maude Apatow’s character portrayed. I am terrifying myself with haunted houses and mazes, taking myself to the Hollywood Bowl, going to a pumpkin patch with my girlfriends, and dressing however damn well I please.
Continuing to positively move forward through the season, I started hand-picking my favorite emotions from the jumble I felt during my previous Halloweens and the last seven months, piecing together my favorite costume to date: the confident bitch. My loved ones and I all happily agree: it fits perfectly.
As for my Halloween attire? I’m going to be Bob Ross.
If you roll your eyes when someone orders a pumpkin spice latte, then fuck you, dude. Yeah, what are you gonna order, big guy? I assure you whatever you’re ordering isn’t superior to a Pumpkin Spice Latte. That beverage is delicious and it brings joy to everyone who drinks it! It’s packed with sugar and comes around once a year, so this is a special occasion for some people. I swear, if I hear another judgemental customer scoff after a pumpkin spice order, I’m gonna scream some select words into their ugly visage.
Just because something is popular doesn't mean it's bad!
For example, those Avengers movies make billions and billions of dollars and at worst they are OK. I’m thrilled to see kids loving superheroes! That was pretty niche about a decade ago, now you have kids knowing what a “Thanos” is. Spongebob Squarepants memes are all over my Twitter and Facebook timeline, but just because it’s oversaturated doesn’t mean the core material has less value.
Of course, you’ll always have someone taking their passion too far. Things like following actors to their home or harming yourself in the name of your passion are obviously not okay. Don’t be a celebrity stalker or “Cut Yourself for Zayn”.
Now, I’m not a Pumpkin Spice man myself. Usually I order a black coffee because I’m trying to lose weight, but I think this is indicative of a bigger problem in our society.
People are too judgmental. Yes, I know that statement in itself is judgmental, but hear me out.
Everyone seems to want to be on the moral high ground to the point where they are determined to ruin other people’s career by digging through their tweets. I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold people accountable, but we shouldn’t totally disregard emotional growth and maturity. Some people are so desperate to feel superior to others that they criticize their caffeine choices! I believe at this point, we should take a step back and really think about what actions are worth judging. I understand there’s a lotta tension, but ask yourself, “Is this worth my energy?”
The world definitely isn’t perfect, but there’s definitely more healthy ways to vent your frustrations than shouting at people on social media.
And this is from a guy who loves being right. My job is mostly quality control which is telling people this product is too wrong and not enough right.
But you have to choose your battles. Don’t argue with that guy with a different political view than you online. You aren’t gonna change his or her mind. TRUST ME!!! You aren’t gonna convince people that Maroon 5 aren’t sellout garbage (I recommend a healthy dose of Ben Folds instead). And you definitely aren’t gonna shame someone into picking out a different coffee product.
Have a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Have a shot of espresso.
Get a Venti.
I’m gonna enjoy a cup of black coffee.
Get whatever you want.
"Darker than a moonless night. Hotter and more bitter than hell itself, that is coffee." -Godot from Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations, 2004
Looking out the window, you can see the air changing. The crisp autumn air is blowing through the leaves of the trees, dragging down several leaves to the cool ground. The rain makes the pavement sparkle, with the colored trees reflected in the water. The breeze blowing your hair in your face calls for scarves and sweaters, boots and jeans. You start wearing your hair down to keep your ears warm and to pull your look all together. Your cheeks turn rosy and your eyes water a little from the cool wind, but the smile on your face welcomes the weather with joy.
The nearby farm turns from a fun playground to an apple orchard and pumpkin patch and the weekends bring the haunted barn and corn maze. You pick out your pumpkin for carving, some apples for baking and maybe some decorative gourds for the front steps. The decorations that have been packed away get placed all over your front yard, which you had to rake earlier to get the fallen leaves into the pumpkin colored trash bags. Before you put them in the bag, you had to jump in them a few times, take a few pictures laying in the pile of leaves.
The comfort foods you eat change from ice cream to homemade apple crisp and scotcheroos. The candy corn at the store sits stale while you grab the bags of candy to hand out to the children come the end of the month. Some like to dress up in scary costumes for the children, others like to wear their own favorite character, but very few don’t dress up at all. Not because they don’t believe in it, but simply so they can tell the kids how wonderful their costume is without expecting them to say something about theirs.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are in many women’s hands, while I usually go for a salted caramel mocha because it mixes the fall with what comes after Halloween, Christmas time. The hot chocolate flavor sits on your tongue and you smile warmly, knowing the hot drinks will keep you warm come the freezing weather in a few months. You hold the cup with both hands and pull your shoulders up to your ears in delight with that first sip of what tastes like fall.
After work, you curl up on the couch with a warm blanket and some soup, turning on your favorite spooky time movie. The windows are open and you can smell the wet leaves through the breeze that comes through the window. The fresh apple pie you made is baking in the oven, filling the house with the smell of fall. You listen to the rain hit the leaves outside the window as you fall asleep that night, the natural ambiance so soothing in your ears.
Fall is the one season that I miss seeing since moving to California. I would take drives out of town to find the biggest forested area and see the orange, yellow, red and purple trees. For me, there wasn’t any point in taking pictures, I just sat and admired the beauty that was there in front of me. There isn’t much of that here in LA, but I make sure to find it somewhere whenever I can. Fall is my favorite season and October is my favorite month in Iowa. Someday I’ll get married in October, keeping the scenery of the fall trees in my wedding pictures for life.
I’m not a beach girl. I don’t like wet swimsuits, finding trash in the sand, gross bathrooms. I live an hour from the beach and rarely go.
The ocean however…
I could sit and stare at forever. The waves crashing in the distance. My hair smelling like salt. The way I like to believe it makes my skin softer.
When I was 13, I saw a photo of Giant’s Causeway in Ireland in National Geographic. I’d never seen anything so strange and unique looking. These octagonal lava formations stacked and stacked upon each other in odd varying patterns. Standing in my 7th grade geography classroom, I vowed to make it there one day.
I finally made it to Ireland. I was 32, divorced, heartbroken seemingly beyond repair. Not where I thought I would be when I was 13. I rented a car and taught myself how to drive on the opposite side of the road, specifically so I could eventually get to the Causeway. I’ve done a lot of scary things in my life, but those first few hours on the road were terrifying.
Ireland is a magical place filled with the loveliest people on the planet. Everywhere you go, they want to know everything about you. Where you’re from, what you do, what have you done so far, and where are you going. Every time I mentioned the Causeway, everyone said it was disappointing, small, and not worth my time. Essentially how I had been feeling the entire trip. Nevertheless, I had a non-refundable hotel so I was going.
It took me five hours to drive up to the Causeway, far longer than I’m willing to drive to get to Santa Monica in LA. But I got to the hotel, and checked in at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Determined, I rushed to make it there before sundown. As I walked along the trail, the soothing feel of the tides began to wash over me. I turned the corner and there it was. The photo on the cover of National Geographic. It looked exactly as I imagined it.
I broke down before I even stepped foot on the Causeway. I cried for the strength that I had to make it all the way there. For the courage to dissolve my broken marriage. For all of the decisions I had made along the way that had gotten me to that very moment.
My feet felt like sand as I walked closer to what is now my favorite place in the whole world. No one else was there. It was a travel miracle. When I reached the edge, I finally felt free.
I sat in my solitude and watched the sun go down with serenade of the waves crashing in the distance. Being alone is a power that very few people can handle. That day I saw myself for who I truly am. Whole. I have never been happier in any moment in my life. I knew that 13 year old me was beaming inside.
It’s a humbling feeling to feel so small and so seen by the universe at the same time.
Beaches are lovely. But give me an ocean with depths and a jagged shoreline. This girl? She’s gonna be just fine.
Funny how 10 years can fly by. How appropriate it is to reminisce about days gone by; to look back at all the possible what-ifs.
It was the summer of 2009, and I was just in between my second and third year of community college. I was still feeling the sting of being denied my transfer to Cal Poly Pomona. It would be my first of three attempts in pursuing a potential career in Civil Engineering; I would never end up attending.
Every summer since high school, I enrolled in extra classes when I should’ve had fun and relaxed. Every summer, my skin would kiss the sun in a never-ending sweaty embrace. Every summer, I wished for something to happen to me; anything out of the ordinary for that matter. I never had time for myself for those summers, every summer living the same basic life.
I met Jessica in my chemistry lab. I initially didn’t take notice of her since my main concern was my studies and bearing with the searing summer sun. We both were paired up to experiment on the acidity of hydrochloric acids. We both were 20 years old at the time; so attempting to maintain our focus on balancing equations was about as easy as learning to play a piccolo. I can recall our casual banter ranging from the heat outside, to the death of Michael Jackson, to just getting to know what makes us tick. What we found was that we both followed the same tick.
Andy, at 20 years old, was a timid, sheltered, unconfident, anxiety filled wreck; the anxiety is still a bit there. Jessica was a near perfect match to lower then-Andy’s steel-enforced walls; she was more willing to be vulnerable. There was a healthy boundary between us; when we exchanged numbers, we would talk about academics, when we met up we would discuss our aspirations, and when class was dismissed, we made it a point to walk together out of the lab and straight to the parking garage. We kept it low key, we kept it from change, we kept it nerdy; for the first month.
We slowly began to dip our toes into our personal thoughts and opinions. When we texted, we began to slowly share funny photos and funny glimpses into our family lives. When we met up, we began to schedule times to grab food. When we would leave lab, we would lightly flirt which brought my double thinking anxiety into overdrive.
I believe this was the first instance where I began to learn how to get close to somebody. It was confirmed only when we both peered into our elongated flasks bubbling with chemicals, we leaned our bodies together against the table, shoulders touching, hips placed in sync. I blushed Mars red as I turned my head to her; her eyes laser focused to mine. Her expression was indescribable. We both were thinking the same thought: are these chemicals on the table about to explode?
It was a daunting task to fall asleep those nights. Who cares about studying for the midterm when there is a need to not fail at a potential, let’s call it, extra credit opportunity. The human mind is truly a cruel place for the imagination; so many scenarios, so many probable futures. Who is to say that any of them could possibly come true? One Friday August afternoon, I found my answer.
I realized as we continued to talk, something was off, something was missing. Let me put it to you this way: when a guy who has never felt the feeling of being wanted by a girl all his young life, his pathetic mind attempts to explain it as “I wish somebody would love me”, “why can’t I find anybody”, or “I’ll never find anybody who wants me for me”. Said-guy is desperate, he doesn’t believe in himself or that he deserves to be happy. In relationships, when you know somebody is the one, there is usually a confirming feeling, a spark if you will. In this particular instance, said-guy learned self-respect, he learned he doesn’t have to take the first treasure available to him, he learned there was no spark, despite all that has transpired.
I felt an overwhelming feeling of shame. It felt like I lead this person to believe in an idea, and an emotion. I began to distance myself from her; slowly, then gradually climbing out of the hole I created. The chemistry class eventually concluded, we both said we would continue to keep in touch. This was before the term ghosting became a huge thing, but that’s bullshit since ghosting has always been a thing.
If I want to leave you with anything, it would be on how not a day goes by that I don’t revisit the memory. If given the chance, I would probably apologize to her for what could’ve been, on the time lost and for ghosting her. What I wouldn’t apologize for is in finding myself during those days in the summer sun. I learned love is reciprocal. Love has to be shared between two people. You are worthy, you are beautiful, and you don’t have to settle for somebody who isn’t meant for you. Shoot for the stars; make mistakes because it’s how we grow. It’s how we drown out the what-ifs.
"I don’t really see anything romantic between us."
This is what her text said in April after having spent a Saturday together. Well, to be honest, I don’t remember the words exactly, and I can’t fathom going back through the mountain of texts we’ve exchanged since.
That would seem to be the end of that. We met from a dating app in January, talked occasionally through March before going out once more and then, I got that text. She said she wanted to be friends, which is what you say to soften the blow and you’re supposed to take it for what it is: a nice sentiment. I mean, how often do you keep up with people you've met from a dating app that you DIDN’T end up dating. We weren’t in any of the same social circles and we lived in different parts of town. In LA, that’s enough to separate you from someone entirely. A simple, “Happy birthday!” text two weeks later started off a text conversation that continues to this day.
At first, a lot of it was pop culture based. We had lots of thoughts to exchange about the last season of Game of Thrones, not to mention Endgame. These weren’t just casual exchanges of thought. These were chains that were fifty texts long with in depth thoughts, analyses, and speculations.
Soon the scope of the conversation expanded. I told her I needed to talk to someone on a late night drive and we had a Friday night phone call that lasted over an hour. The second, third, and fourth time it was even longer. We talked about everything from family, to school, to traveling, and more. I tried not to fall deeper into it, but I couldn’t help it. She’s the funniest person I’ve ever met and so engaging to talk to- I can and have talked to her for hours.
Like a ticking time bomb, I kept waiting for something to mark the end.
Maybe the conversation would start to bore her?
Maybe we run out of things to talk about?
Maybe one of us would meet someone and there wouldn’t need to be a conversation?
But it’s been
We texted when I went to a wedding out of state. We texted when I went to the east coast for two weeks. It may be spread out over a few hours, but it’s everyday. No matter what we both come back to it. We have had at least three more phone calls all over and hour, one over two and a half.... I don’t get it.
What we are has not come up in the past, (hang on let me count)
FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS.
Some of my friends (and my therapist) recommend having a conversation with her about
“It’s not fair to either of you to waste each others’ time!”
Any friend I explain it to can’t comprehend it.
“Why is she keeping this up if she’s not interested?”
And I shrug, because... again, I don’t know.
Phone calls that go past one in the morning, competitions against each other to write more, actual rap battles (over text) that went on for a week. I didn’t know that’s what I would have wanted out of anyone ever, but here we are. I sent her a picture of a hideous Hawaiian shirt asking if I should buy it and got thirty of the most creative insults peaking
"THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF BEING QUEER EYED. LIKE STRAIGHT
(She put it in all caps...)
Last month the two of us went to a movie together. It was the first time we had hung out since April. About time to bring up what’s going on, right? That’s what I though despite some resistance. We saw the movie and got dessert after. We talked and talked but not about us. We talked about our families, we talked about our jobs, we talked about the ridiculous names she wants to name twin boys (but I’ve been sworn to secrecy), but not about us. You can say I was scared, but it didn’t feel right to bring it up. The night ended with us going separate ways and our texting resumed as usual when I got home. So where do she and I go from here? Does this go anywhere? What is it between us? She
"I don’t see anything romantic."
How many two hour phone calls have you had with someone you met on a dating app this summer? In some sense it plagues me. This state of denial? Or limbo? Or being just friends? But more than that, she’s the person I want to talk to the most.
And right now that’s enough.