Friday, March 16, 2018

Joy Attracts Joy

San Francisco is too good to me. 

For you all to fully understand the story that I'm about to tell, I have to give everyone some weird general background on my life. Which means, unfortunately, I have to talk about fandom. 

So here we go!

I get really attached to things. Books. TV shows. Movies. Etc etc etc. I like characters. I like relatable characters that you can root for. I like stories about how good people are, about the inherent goodness of people, about the human experience. I always have. It's kind of how I function.

Fandom, for those who don't know, is like, the group of people who are devoted to the same thing. There's a Star Wars fandom for people who like Star Wars. There's a This Is Us fandom for people who watch the show. There's technically like, a fandom for cheese, because who doesn't love cheese. But fandom is something that you can sort of control how involved you're in. There's a sliding scale. There's like, casual viewers of things (someone who likes Marvel, for example, could go see a Marvel movie and then leave) and then there are people like me. 

Fandom, in general, is really cool. It used to not be. In fact, sometimes it still isn't. To be really devoted to something like a TV show to the point where you're reading articles about the plot and voting on internet polls is a little different than someone who just turns off the TV once they finish an episode and then moves on with their life. The best part about fandom, of course, is the friends that you make. I've said it before, but there's something really pure about meeting people who love the same thing that you love. 

So on the scale of fandom things, I generally lean toward the "it's been three days since the season premiere and I'm still thinking about that One Line That Was Said" type of person, or the "I will see this movie Eight Times and You Can't Stop Me" type of person. In all honesty, I'm not as involved in fandom as I used to be. I work a 9-5 now and I come home and want to immediately crawl into bed, and watching TV shows where anyone could die at any point in time is super anxiety producing so I've switched to mostly feel-good comedies (The Good Place owns my heart), but anyway...

I used to watch this show called The 100. Many of you have probably heard of it. Some of you have probably even watched it. If you knew me in college you might know that I used to switch my RA on duty shifts so I could watch it live every Thursday night, or that I would change my magnet to "out" so my residents wouldn't bother me. I would express my love for characters on Twitter, or vaguely tweet about the show, and sometimes give updates to my friends who didn't watch as to what was happening so they were clued in. 

The 100 is the show that led me to that retreat last year, where I met ~16(?) radical ladies from the internet, who also love the show and the characters quite a bit, where I've met some of my best friends and favorite people.

The season 5 trailer came out this past Wednesday (happy Pi day everyone!) and, even though I didn't watch season 4, I trekked to the back office and plugged in my headphones and watched. The 100 is a show about survival, and in shows about survival, characters die. So I've stopped watching, because I am way too invested in these characters. And it's a good thing, because in season 4, a character that I really love and was really rooting for died, and I didn't have to watch it. Thus, that character is still alive in my head and no one can change my mind. 

But anyway. Season 5 trailer, looking great, yadda yadda. I watched it and moved on with my life, as I've expressed, because I'm not really emotionally involved anymore. Like, I am, but not as bad as it used to be. You know? 

So if we think about this show, The 100, that I love so much, and the characters that I love so much, you will find that I tend to gravitate toward background characters. I really love background characters. Main characters get all of the love, and there's a reason for that, but for some reason I always get really attached to the characters who are most likely going to be written off because they're not Really Involved. Background characters, I feel like, are more fun, because you don't always know their motivations or their thoughts or their backstories, so it's a little more up for interpretation when things happen. Following? 

Anyway, my favorite background character on The 100 is Nathan Miller, the snarky asshole who was sort of in season 1, stepped up in season 2, and finally got a plot with a lot of substance in season 3. (I'm assuming that Miller was also heavily involved in things in s4, but again, I wasn't part of that so who can be sure.) The best part about the background characters, a lot of the time, is that the actors who play them get a little more free reign to do whatever they want. They're not as in the spotlight, they're not as easily recognizable, all of the above. 

Okay so now that we have some background on my life and the context of where all of this is coming from, let's return to Wednesday, where I was not having a great day. 

It's pretty rare that clients get worked up with me. I think that I'm a pretty calm human being in general and good at addressing the feelings of whoever it is that I'm talking to, but every now and then people get angry. I had to deny a client for the time being for various reasons, and they were Not Happy With Me. By this I mean they proceeded to cuss me out, gather their things, and then leave in a huff as I tried to explain everything. While this was happening my co-worker called me because they needed me to look something up, so I had various things going on at the same time and was feeling crummy and distracted and a little bit twitchy, when I got a notification.

One of my very first fandom friends, who has literally seen me grow up from high school to the person that I am now, sent me a message on Twitter. 

"you have probably already seen it," the message read, "but I wanted to make sure" - followed by a tweet from Jarod Joseph that read "San Francisco, I'm inside you."

(Jarod. the wording. seriously why.)

REGARDLESS. San Francisco really is not that big. The city is seven miles by seven miles, okay? Everything is easily accessible via any form of public transit, and there's a lot of public transit. So, still kind of twitchy from everything that just happened related to work, my blood pressure shot through the fucking roof. 

The likelihood of me meeting this actor was not a high one. This was something I had accepted. The guy is like, generally very good to fans and meets up with a lot of them but come on. This is not something that happens to people like me. So I wasted my one tweet trying to be witty and clever while I was actually freaking out at the concept of just being in the same city of this guy. 

I need to stress now that Jarod Joseph (please forgive me if you ever somehow find and read this mortifying blog post) is like, my actual literal celebrity crush. Like 100%. Like, if I ever get married and my spouse is like "pick one celebrity to have a pass with" it would be Jarod Joseph. Literally days before me and my friends were joking around about our celebrity soulmates and Jarod was mine. How did he become my actual literal celebrity crush? I really have no idea. It's not like I know his birthday or middle name or favorite color or anything like that. I don't have photos of him hanging on my wall like I'm in middle school again. Nothing like that. He's just generally very beautiful to look at (his eyelashes are too long it should be illegal) and would actually call out people on Twitter when they weren't being great people and somehow that morphed into my celebrity crush. 

Normal. Totally normal. We all have one, it's fine. Shut up. 

So I tweeted at Jarod Joseph, who then was responding to other fans on Twitter about a potential meet up so people could meet him and get a photo, and somehow I also happened to be one of the people that he responded to, so like, here comes my entire freak out at work over the possibility of meeting this human. That feeling alone, of being in the same city of someone that you admire a lot, is a very overwhelming feeling. My co-workers who are all older than me and don't understand how Twitter works were all very excited about the possibility of a meet up. But like, in general, I didn't think this would happen. 

Jarod's last tweet was "Let me see what I can put together" and if that isn't a write off, I don't know what is. So I immediately fled the city as I was literally going to have an anyuerism from the stress of this entire situation. From the stress of the possibility of something happening.

Hilariously I agreed to help dog-sit for Amanda, so I got on bart and traveled way out of the city. Very far out of the city. The farther the better. I needed to calm down. Really calm down. I took Yolandi the dog for a walk and I turned on the Great British Bake Off and did some deep breathing, because ha ha ha what a funny weird thing that almost happened to me, right?

Anyway, Jarod sends me a DM with an address and a time and ha ha ha ha ha ha HOLY SHIT

I'm way fucking far out of the city now and here is my heart in my goddamn throat again and I literally just set my phone down. I set my phone down and I stared at the table for a really long time and then I called, like, six people because I needed someone to convince me that I needed to get on the train and go BACK into the city so I could meet this fucking actor at a fucking pizza place where he and his mom would just be hanging out.

I'm cussing a lot. Sorry. This was a very overwhelming experience for me.

So OBVIOUSLY I got back on the train and went back into the city. 

I looked up the place and it wasn't too far to get to and I had ample amount of time to get there and like, okay, yeah. Yep. This was happening. This was happening? This happened, this is a thing that happened. Can you tell I still haven't fully recovered? I haven't recovered from this yet. Will I ever recover? Um probably, but give me like a week.

Other fans had been invited, as I'm assuming this was supposed to be like a fun meet up hang out sort of thing where there is also food, and multiple people knew where I was just in case I was like, murdered, so it was cool. It was fine. If you have the chance to meet your fave celebs, you've got to take it, you know? 

I miscalculated train times and ended up like ten minutes late, but like. I just. Am still very overwhelmed. I am sitting here trying to think of the words to type to express how overwhelmed I was and I cannot do that, which should give you a clear enough picture of how overwhelmed I was. 

I was the only fan to go, so it was just me, Jarod Joseph, and his mom at this cute little Italian restaurant in San Francisco. 

Again, San Francisco is too good to me.

Jarod greeted me with a hug when I arrived, invited me to sit, and then made me eat an absurd amount of food. It didn't matter how many times I told this man I wasn't hungry, he literally pulled a menu out of thin air and made me pick something to order. 

I'm not going to go into like, vast details of this experience, because I was very embarrassing like the entire time, but oh man you guys. What in the world. I hope that everyone has the opportunity to meet someone that they admire like that. Jarod was the coolest. He was so nice and kind and leaned into the awkward of it, and his mom was also the best talking about how good he treats her, and I may have zoned out like multiple times because I was literally sitting next to Jarod Joseph for like, an hour. 

When my mom later found out about this experience she asked how long I had to wait in line to meet him and I had to stress, no mom, you do not understand, I had dinner with him and his mom. They made me take the leftovers. They ordered extra bread because it was so good and they wanted me to try it. He asked me about the non-profit I work for. I made a joke about Drake and he laughed. This wasn't like a hey here's a photo okay bye sort of thing this was a sit-down and fully immerse yourself in this experience kind of thing.

I am still so thrown. 

I don't think that he really understood that he's like the celebrity crush that I have. Which, you know, good. That's good. That would've been, I don't know, totally mortifying for the rest of forever. So it was pretty normal and fun and, okay kind of awkward but what else was expected? We FaceTimed one of the girls that couldn't come and she was talking about another one of the actors in the show and it was then that I realized that Jarod must not have realized my love for like, him as a human and the characters that he's brought to life.  

I truly 100% did not give a literal fuck about any other character or actors from that goddamn show that whole night. 

All of the actors from everything I've seen are also wonderful people (who are also beautiful, all of them, how one cast can be so good looking is truly unfair) but like, Jarod was here and who cared about anything else? 

As the trailer had literally come out that day, we did talk about the show a little bit, but like, very minimally. Mostly we just talked. Me him and his mom. Over dinner. Casual. Normal. Totally cool. It's fine. 

We took pictures and I got my video for my One Second Everyday app and he asked if I'd be okay to get back to transit okay and then that was it. I was gone.

My phone died like, the moment I arrived to the station. This entire experience where I met one of my favorite people to ever exist had just happened and my phone was dead. So I rode the train in silence, trying to process my life, trying to convince myself that I wasn't dreaming. 

It's bizarre to make someone like Jarod Joseph into a real person. I mean, he tweets enough that anyone can have a vague sense of who he is, just like most celebs, but what people put out into the internet isn't always a reflection of who they are. But I've met him now, I had dinner with him, and now he's a real person in my head who is funny and kind and well, a bit overwhelming. 

(still my celebrity crush but come on who can blame me!) 

It was just... joyful. It was so freaking awesome. 

While personally my experience in fandom has been great and uplifting and has led me to lifelong friends, fandom can also be kind of weird sometimes. Some people (not everyone! I stress, not everyone!) feel like once they meet the cast (at like, cons for example) that they're sort of... superior. And they have this attitude like they're better than other people who haven't? And I really just cannot understand that mindset. At all. 

I hope everyone has an experience like this. I hope everyone gets to meet their favorite people and feel as special as I felt, as elated, as overwhelmed. It was so good, so solidly good that I would wish that feeling upon literally everyone. Everyone deserves that. Everyone deserves to feel that excitement and happiness and joy

It was funny, because as I was freaking out beforehand, and literally said "I'm a good person and I deserve this!" 

But like, I am a good person. This year of service, of living in community, of dealing with all of my own shit, I have spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that I'm not a good person. That I don't deserve good things. That because of this or that I'm broken and dysfunctional and a mess and etc etc etc. But actually, I am a good person. I care a lot about people. I have more empathy than I really should. I put other people's needs above my own to the point that my own mental health sort of deteriorates so I can make sure that other person is okay. I do good, hard work that I really love. 

I've been trying, as much as I can, to put out as much joy and goodness into the universe. And if I've learned anything, it's that joy attracts joy. 

I know it's not that simple. I know that life is hard and unexpected things happen and somethings things can be bad. But like, the world's a bit of a shit show these days, and all we can do is support and care for one another and try and make it a better place on whatever scale we can. So I do that. At least I really, truly try. I kept my heart open and the universe, in response, led me to the ultimate joy.

Not that I expect him to ever read this random blog post, but to Jarod - thank you so much for allowing me to join you and your mom for your night in the city. It wasn't something that you needed to do and yet you did, and you embraced it, and I am never going to be able to put my gratitude for that weird experience into words. 

The next day at work I told my co-workers that I actually met the guy I'd been freaking out about hours earlier, and they couldn't stop laughing. 

Me: Things like this just don't happen to me!
Ray: Jenn, things like that don't happen to anyone

I know that I'm incredibly lucky to have the opportunities and experiences that have presented themselves to me, and I can only hope that you all have some of the same. 

What did I say, man? 2018 is all about living your truth. Might as well embrace it. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

On Friendship

I've been thinking about friendship a lot lately.

I was going to make a post about this a few weeks ago, on Valentine's Day actually, but then Parkland happened and I couldn't think straight. Then, for a while, I was thinking about making a post about Parkland. But whenever I thought about it I would get anxious, or sad, so I kept not doing that.

And then those kids, those survivors, those brilliant and strong teenagers rose up from the ashes and gave me hope again. Then I was thinking about posting about that and the hope and the joy and the tears that came from the whole March For Our Lives movement, but it was all still overwhelming.

So, mostly I haven't been posting anything.

But I was thinking about friendship again lately, which had me thinking about Valentine's Day, and how important friends really are. After a few weeks I've decided to broach the subject again.

This past weekend my friend Annie came to visit.

Annie and I met last June when I decided to go to North Carolina with a group of strangers from the internet. To be fair, they weren't really strangers. I'd been talking to a few of them online for at least a few months. (My generation has learned to safely navigate the internet and make sure people are Real People, so I wasn't too worried.) We met because all of us watched the same the same TV show and loved the characters more than anything. Thus, friendship happened online, a trip was planned, and then a unification of strangers from across the continental United States took place.

I'm still a bit unsure as to how I got to be part of this group. I wasn't super Devout in the fandom, really kind of uninvolved at this point, but whatever. I was about to graduate college and I wanted to give myself a graduation gift and a week on the beach with a bunch of people I vaguely knew sounded pretty good to me.

Long story short, it was magical. There's something really magical, and really pure, about friendships based in fandom. It's just all of these people who love the same things you do. It was magic! There's no other word to describe something like that.

Anyway, that's where I met Annie, though technically I had met her at some point in time on the internet before that. I hadn't seen Annie since that week in June and part of me was worried that it wouldn't be the same. Internet friends are literally talking all the time, so it's not like we hadn't kept in touch or anything, but there's a worry that lingers about the magic of friendship not carrying over again. It turns out it was a dumb fear, because Annie's still the Annie I know and love, and we had an excellent weekend in the bay.

She left yesterday morning, her train carrying her down the tunnel while I stood on the platform and got ready for work. It was very sad. When we'd been waiting for the bus earlier that morning, I felt myself getting teary, so I kind of ignored it. But then on the train, the two of us standing there, me getting ready to get off while she stayed on, it was awful.

It's always easier to leave than it is to get left.

Friendship is really important to me. Annie was the first person that flew out here to visit me and experience this place with me, and then she was gone. That's sad! I'd rather her be here forever and we can see all of the sights together and experience all of that joy at the same time. It's one thing to see all of these places and do all of these things on your own, it's another to do it with people who mean the world to you.

When I was younger, a whole bunch of shit happened in my life at the same time that kind of left me friendless. I bumbled from "best friend" to "best friend" trying to find myself in the process, but middle school friendships are hard and life was complicated at the time.

I'm older now, and friendship isn't really any easier. It's complicated and can get messy but, getting back to my original point, friendship is full of so much love. On Valentine's Day I'd been thinking about how much I love my friends. I'm not great at opening up and being vulnerable, but I know that even if I share those darker, scary parts with my friends it isn't going to turn them away. If I show them my broken pieces they won't smash them further. In fact, they might offer some glue.

I think I'm at this weird age where everyone has their Thing happening. They're getting engaged or they're graduating or going to grad school or they're moving or having a kid or got promoted or blah blah blah but I rarely, if ever, hear about the big and tremendous things that people do with their friends. Adult friendships are kind of not talked about, but they're so important.

To find someone who understands you for who you are, all grown up as an adult, and accepts all of the trauma and the gunk because they know that there's light inside and love inside, it's just really magical.

So, a love letter to my friends.

Dear friend,

You haven't any idea how much you truly mean to me.

For making a paper phone with me in 7th grade and becoming a Principal. For nearly falling out of your bed dozens of times because you didn't want to climb down from the top bunk. For that time we had maybe three too many sour bombs at Turtle.

For sitting with me in the nurse's cabin because my period cramps were so bad I nearly passed out. For driving me around literally everywhere even though you're younger because I didn't have my license. For spontaneous tattoos and A Christmas Prince.

For raising a group of 9 kids with me and still loving me despite the fact that I can be very stubborn and opinionated. For putting up with my driving and never telling me if you were afraid. For your shitty taste in music and that one time you held your phone up to your ear to drown out our songs.

For answering the phone when I called you after staff worship not knowing if I believe in God. For finding me at the cross and giving me bug spray and reminding me of my worth. For all of the schedules made, but mostly the Charlie schedule.

For reading every book that I gave you, even if you weren't interested it. For celebrating when I finally listened to Hamilton instead of giving me shit that you tried to get me to listen to it months before. For sitting in my room when I needed to clean because it made me feel more productive.

For the Girl's Room.

For the longest Snapchat streak I'm pretty sure either of us have.

For exploring with me. For so much laughter, even when the things are hard. For simply understanding.

For planning futures that are full of mismatched mugs and walls covered in art. For photos of cats and photos of dogs and photos of your faces. For a home in North Carolina, or maybe somewhere else, as long as it's together.

For fandom.

For all of the moments that may have met nothing to any of you, but reminded me that this world is full of love and joy.

I am so, so thankful.

I love you all so much.


Monday, February 5, 2018

Two Hikes One Weekend

I really love nature.

The world is insanely beautiful in so many ways. Valleys and mountains and rivers and oceans and deserts and flats. It's all insane. It's so insane to me that all of these different, beautiful things can exist in the same space. It's insane that the world is so diverse, so colorful, and so different all at once.

The problem with the beauty of this world is simple: much if it takes physical work to get there.

When people hear that I worked at a summer camp (on a mountain!) for five summers, they might wrongly assume that I am someone who is in shape. I am not. I am not a fit person. Taking a flight of stairs exhausts me, and almost always I will choose to ride the escalator instead of heaving myself up the non-mobile stairs.

Once, on a health kick in high school, I texted my dad that I was going on a jog and to not worry when I wasn't home. His response was simple: who is this? 

I'm not an active person. I never have been. Laziness is the way to go. I love doing nothing. In fact, not doing things is often preferred.

Even last weekend, after not leaving the house all day, it took some convincing from Carly to get me to walk around the lake with her. Because, yes, even a walk around the lake can be a bit too much for me.

In the end, the walk around the lake was beautiful. The moment I actually get outside I'm always thankful that I made the effort, it's just the getting there which seems to be a problem. The weather in the Bay Area continues to floor me. It's February and it's in the 70s. The 70s! We've been opening our windows to let in the fresh air. The sun leaves golden shadows on everything. It's absolutely beautiful. It's even nicer now that the sun is staying out even longer.

But still, when my dad called me while I was on that lake walk with Carly and I told him I was outside, his response was shock. Because outside + Jenn =/= a good way to spend my time.

However, back to my first point, the world is insanely beautiful. I want to see it. Who wouldn't?

So, this past weekend, while the weather was bright and warm and beautiful, I went on another hike.

On Saturday, Amanda and I looked up how to get to Twin Peaks. I'm slowly making my way around the different things you should do in the Bay Area, and Twin Peaks is one that we hadn't been to yet. One of the first results via Google was something called an "urban hike" which is where you hike, but it's up back roads and stairwells.

I am here to tell you that urban hiking is probably harder than regular hiking.

To be fair - I've never gone on like, an intense regular hike. The hikes at MLR don't really count. It's like, slight incline, flatness, dip, flatness, slight incline, you made it! But this? This dumbass urban hike? Ohhhh man.

It didn't start all that bad. We stopped for lunch at our regular place (The Melt owns my heart) before taking Muni to the Castro. Muni is weird, it's like a bus, but underground, and small, and really fast. I'm too used to BART. But the Castro is beautiful and full of rainbows and so many dogs everywhere. Most of that part was downhill, which was great.

Then, we made some turns, following our great little article, and then, well.

We started downhill, and were literally going to a place called Twin Peaks. So. Yeah. It was lots of uphill.

Lots of it.

So much uphill.

For a while it was just slightly sloped, but then the angles got steeper and steeper and at the end of every street we would just stand there, catching our breath, cursing urban hikes for all they were worth. Stairs were almost better, even if they were basically straight up. But still. My poor calves. My poor thighs. My poor, un-toned butt.


It was worth it. No matter how lazy I want to be, I know that it's always going to be worth it. The world is overwhelmingly beautiful. The higher we got on our climb, the more of San Francisco that stretched out beneath us. We could see downtown, we could see the ocean, and if we looked hard enough we could see Oakland in the distance.

When we made it, of course it was worth it. To stand on top of the world? Holy shit, everyone. That's a sight to behold.

After I sent some pictures to my mom she asked, "Did it make you feel small?"

The answer is no. It didn't. It made me feel impossible. It made my entire existence feel like a blessing. It made me excited about all of the world out there that I still had left to see and experience. It made me realize that, other than being here and supporting one another, the only reason we could possibly be on this planet is to experience it. Why else would we be here? The beauty of this world is too much for words, too endless. It's surprising and comforting and everything, everything, all at once.

I get it, feeling small at a sight like that, but why feel small when you can feel empowered? There's so much to see out there. So many cities and oceans and views that are different from one another and still so beautiful. So many blues and greens, or oranges and reds.

And it's all for us.

(Unless, like, we continue treating the world like shit and climate change ruins everything and then there's a nuclear war. But that's a conversation for a time when I'm less angry.)

I don't think me or Amanda realized how intense that weird urban hike would be. It was worth it, but again, exhausting. Especially for someone who prefers limited physical movement at all times.

When we got home, we were ready to sleep.

On Sunday, however, I had agreed to go to the Redwoods Regional Park (not Endor, that's the National park) with my roommates as well, and as much as my body would've preferred that I cancel I hadn't been to the Redwoods yet and was looking forward to it.

We took two buses to get there and obviously it was beautiful. It was sort of the opposite peak of the one we were on in San Francisco. From SF, we could see Oakland in the distance. At Redwoods, we could see the city in the distance. (Not as great a view, as it was clouded with trees, but beautiful when we got glimpses anyway.)

I was wearing my Toms (my Chacos the day before weren't used to being used, so I'd gotten some weird blisters) and had asked, again and again, if this hike would be intensive. Everyone agreed no, it'd be fine. Once my mom sends me my hiking boots (hint hint nudge nudge, Mom!) this won't be an issue, but for the time being, Toms were on my feet.

Bad move. Also, not the easiest hike.

The Redwoods were phenomenal (one day I'll get to see Endor, just not yet!) and we'd, for some reason, agreed to hike one of the loops.

Again, I won't deny that it was beautiful! And I won't deny that it was worth it! But after a day of extreme uphill movement, the loop we were walking kept going down and down and down (which meant we'd have to go up and up and up) and my calves hurt.

Danielle took some phenomenal photos and we passed by some adorable dogs and overall, I'd definitely do it again. It was a regular hike, no urban streets involved, and the stillness that settled in the trees was wonderful.

When we reached the bottom of the loop, I was already dreading the upwards, but we powered through it. Amanda kept forcing me to drink water whenever I mentioned feeling lightheaded, and we all sat on a log halfway up the climb talking about childhood illnesses, and it was beautiful. Maybe not full of the same empowerment as the hike the day before, but still beautiful.

Sometimes the sights are the reason you go. Sometimes it's just to be with people who feel the same.

It's Monday and I can feel both of those hikes in my bones in many different ways. I'll joke that I'm finished with physical activity for the month of February, but that's not true.

I just need the push, and then I'll be out there again, at the top of a peak, amazed at the beauty that stretches on before me.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Without Love (You Can Save the World)

I've been having a bit of a brain fart lately when it comes to writing, but I wanted to get something out there, so here we go.

There are some friendships that last a lifetime.

It's kind of that simple. I met Luis Ruuska in the 7th grade and really had no strong opinions of him at the time. (Sorry Luis.) That changed over the course of middle school, into high school, and then in 10th grade, he moved away, never to be seen again.

The thing about Luis is that he's the type of person you don't need to talk to every day to be friends with. Which is good. Over the past 7-8 years (it's been a long day and math is hard) we would text every now and then, even if it was just memes. He became my go-to person about Adult Things, because Luis always seemed to have his life together and be twenty steps ahead of me. I mean, he adopted a dog. A dog!! One day I'll own my own dog.

It might not have been the most consistent friendship, but it was a good one.

In December I received a text from Luis that said something along the lines of:
Hey I'm going to be in the Bay Area in January and we should catch up!

Luis Ruuska!

It was thrilling, honestly. How many people move away in 10th grade never to be seen again until you move to the complete opposite side of the country, have both graduated with degrees, and are just living your life? I think he reads this blog, so this'll probably be weird for him, but whatever (again, Sorry Luis).

At first it was a bit awkward. We'd literally been 15/16 when we'd last seen each other and we're both in our 20s now, and people change. I was expecting things to be a lot different. But, despite growing up, despite life taking us in different directions, we were still Luis and Jenn from 7th grade.

It was raining and hard to pick a place but we found some pizza and had some cider and caught up.

Luis: do I look any different
me: not really
Luis: okay

It's one thing to reconnect via Twitter, it's another to see the person in the flesh. I know, now more than ever, that Luis is going to be one of those forever friendships, whether we're talking every day or not.

Friendship in general, however, is something that I tend to struggle with.

Unless I've known you since basically the beginning of dawn, getting me to open up and connect is worse than pulling teeth. It takes a lot of push for me to become personally invested in other people

(2018 is all about living your truth which involves a lot more self-reflection and self-analysis than I'd originally anticipated, so here we go. My therapist tells me I'm very self-aware. I think she thinks I'm crazy.)

It's not that I don't care about people as a whole. I really do. I'm incredibly empathetic to the point where sometimes I'm not even sure how it is that I'm feeling, I'm just feeling things for other people. I also genuinely believe that people are good. It's easy to look at the world and talk about how awful it is and how negative things are guiding our every day lives, but at the root of it all, I seriously believe that people are good.

But to me, friendship is a two way street. That means while I'm accepting pieces of another person into my heart, they should be accepting those pieces of me into theirs. Which, that's how friendship works, obviously. But at the same time, that's so fucking scary. When I open up to people and give them parts of my story so they can peer into the depths of my thoughts and my history and what makes me who I am, you can't take it back. It's theirs now, and what they do with that information is something that you just have to trust they won't take advantage.

It's more than that, though. When you give pieces of yourself to someone, what happens when they decide they don't want them anymore? It's not like they can give it back to you. Maybe they move away, or maybe they move on, or maybe something awful happens and they're just gone. But there are so many ways in which someone can end up be never to be seen again. And that's scary too. Because in that situation, not only are pieces of yourself also gone, but you have all these pieces of other people that you don't know what to do with anymore.

Friendship is difficult for me at times.

Much like it's said in Harry Potter, there are some things that bond people forever.

Like the entire experience of freshman year (Casey) or raising a group of 9 young adults together (Charlie) or sharing a bed in a house full of near-strangers on the beach (Annie). There are dozens of humans I could list here (and I can already see Robyn calling me out for not getting a name drop seeing as I'll be literally living in her house - I see you) and all of them are so important to me in so many ways.

It's not like I didn't know it before, but I'm really learning to make friendship a central pillar in my life. But not just friendship, and this is going to sound cheesy as hell, but I'm really learning to make love a central pillar.

The thing about love, especially when you're 22, is that it's so easy to want to find a significant other. Like, who doesn't want to be loved? I'm a goddamn hopeless romantic and want to be smothered in attention. It's simple to think of love as something that can only be romantic.

But I love my friends. So much. So much that there aren't enough words for it. And I love animals, small wiggly creatures that exist on this planet to bring joy to us. And I love being a woman, marching with my housemates for recognition and equality. And I love looking at all of the hard things in life and morphing them into something that can help me grow into someone stronger.

The world is hard. The news is stressful. But as we go deeper into January (which literally has just been dragging on forever) I make sure to take time out of my day, every day, to reflect on the things and the people that I love, the things and the people that I'm thankful for.

I hope you have that, too.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Home for the Holidays

Going home for Christmas felt a bit like when I had winter break while I was still in school, only the commute back home was a tad longer.

I never want to travel in the holiday season again if I can help it. 

I flew home on December 22nd with a flight that landed around 10pm. This was probably one of the best parts of my entire holiday because I'd decided to surprise my brother Luke! I told him I was going to be flying home on the 24th into the 25th, that I would be there for Christmas morning but not beforehand, and he totally believed me. To make this happen I had to lie a lot, block him on Snapchat, and convince my entire family to keep it a secret.

It worked! 

He found out that I'd blocked him on Snapchat and texted me confused and kind of upset, he called my mom while I was in the car with her on the ride back from the airport, and he'd been texting me updates on the weather the entire time as I convinced him I was still in Oakland packing.

Unfortunately, the video I filmed is a bit dark, so you couldn't see his face when I arrived. But you could tell that he was happy. It was funny because he'd been using me as an excuse to not do things. 

"Jenn's not coming until Christmas so I don't have to clean my room until then."

"I don't think we should go to the Christmas Eve service - it wouldn't be the same without Jenn."

(He cleaned his room as I arrived and you bet your ass I made him come to the Christmas Eve service with me.)

Unfortunately, right before I left for Maryland, I developed a cold. Everyone in my office had come down with something and so had a few of my housemates, but I'd been spared until the last possible minute. Flying with a stuffy nose is awful, and then because I only had a few days to squeeze in everyone I wanted to see, I didn't even get a day of rest.

(It's January 4th and I'm still sick.)

So, I landed late on the 22nd. On the night of the 23rd I visited my long term friend Robyn and met her new cat Thomas Pierre (as well as his friend named Leo who I've been receiving Snapchats about for like, years, and never dreamed I would ever meet). We did typical things like drive to Burger King and watch lame Netflix movies (A Christmas Prince is amazing) and sit on our computers for hours without really talking. 

I stayed the night and on the afternoon of the 24th I got lunch (God bless Noodles & Company's Wisconsin mac and cheese) with my friend Nicki who I hadn't seen in a while. Afterwards I did some last minute Christmas shopping before driving home.

Christmas was Christmas, brilliant and lazy and full of love. I started at my dad's and then we drove to my mom's and I reiterate that the best part of Christmas is giving gifts. 

The 26th was my only real day off, but mostly I drove around with my mom listening to Hamilton (FOR THE NOTION OF A NATION WE NOW GET TO BUILD) and eating Chipotle. 

On the 27th I drove to Columbia to pick up Charlie so we could drive to Frederick. Staff reunion was from the 27th to the 28th and I got to see all of my favorite people. We stayed up until 4 am discussing Camp Politics and made numerous runs to Sheetz until we felt sick from all of the junk we'd been eating and we hiked to Shock Rock and it was great. I love camp. I will always love camp and the time I get to spend there. 

On the 28th I left my mountain home to pick up my wonderful best friend Casey, where we proceeded to reunite by getting sloshed from taking too many shots. We traded gifts and whined about the broken fire alarm that kept fucking beeping and we slept on an air mattress at my sister's apartment before saying goodbye. 

On the 29th after binge-watching most of Black Mirror I drove from Towson back to Frederick to visit more college friends this time (rather than visiting camp, which is also in Frederick). We went out in Downtown Frederick and... 

This is where I started being a bit of a downer.

Sorry everyone from home. I love you so so much, but holy shit was I tired. 

We went out to a bar which wasn't nearly as fun as our college hangout but getting to spend time with Sydney and Morgan and Melate is always good (missed you Ada!). It got to be around midnight and I just wasn't having it. I was so freaking tired. Who wants to go to a bar and rush to the bathroom so you can blow your nose? Ugh. Also, full disclosure, I was still kind of hungover from my night with Casey. I whined until everyone agreed to go home, and then we ordered/ate pizza while watching Parks and Rec, and honestly it was so much better than being in a loud bar where we couldn't even hear each other. 

I crashed on Morgan's couch and then, on the morning of the 30th after it had snowed(!!!), drove all the way back home so me and my dad could drive all the way to Pennsylvania for my family Christmas party. 

I was surprised at the amount of family members that are reading my blog. (Hi everyone!) People kept mentioning it which was pretty cool. It's also cool to know I can post about things here and then they'll know without me having to tell them. (It's a cop-out way to announce Being Bisexual but whatever, they ran with it. Also - special shout out to my Aunt Gail who was like, "We're setting you up with someone. It's a guy though. Is that okay?" The quiet validation is the best kind of validation.) (Also I messaged that guy on Facebook and he never responded, clearly true love isn't real.)

Anyway, I continued my habit of being Tired and Unengaged and found myself sitting upstairs a lot just soaking in the quiet. Again, still sick, still tired. It was so great to see all of my family and to answer the questions they had about my life but sleeping and laying around and being an introvert was winning over my desire to interact with ... anyone. 

We stayed the night and in the afternoon on the 31st me and my sister drove back to Maryland. (I got her to listen to Hamilton. The whole thing. She made me go to Burger King with her so we could finish listening to the last like, four songs. The whole thing!!! I win this round, losers.) 

From there I drove to Virginia, passing the Washington Monument on the way (she tells my stooorryy) where I was reunited with more camp people at Ginny's apartment for the celebration of the New Year.

Is it New Year? New Year's? New Years? All of them feel wrong. 

Either way, I absolutely love celebrating the New Year. It's my favorite holiday. You cover yourself in glitter and sparkles and get drunk with your friends and then there are fireworks. It's the best holiday in the world. How can people not like New Year's?

I also really love the New Year because, while some people think it's stupid to be like "New Year New Me!" there's something really comforting about being able to have that fresh start if you want it. I've dubbed 2018 the year of "live your truth" which mostly I've just been using as an excuse to buy a donut every morning on my walk to work, but whatever. 2018 is all about self growth and self love and learning to love ourselves. I'm embracing it. 

My other main goal for the year is to finish my book. It's been in the works for too long and I need to finish it! I can do it. Living my truth. Doing it. 

The New Year hilariously started a few times, seeing as our livestream didn't match up with the actual turning of the clock, so we celebrated more than once. After that we (and by we I mean me) put on various YouTube videos of paint mixing or tiny food or giant food or whatever it was to pass the time. I slept on the couch, snoring, as I was still sick, and woke up in the morning to say goodbye to all the camp humans who were there that had been leaving. Then I fell back asleep and woke up in the middle of Moana, which had apparently been on for some time. 

In the afternoon of the 1st I drove back home and slept for like, an hour in a house (my dad's) that didn't have any heat before my dad came home. We said goodbye, I drove to my mom's, and then I slept some more.

On the 2nd I woke up to say goodbye to my brother before climbing into my mom's car with her, heading off toward the airport that would bring me back home to Oakland. (My mom cried a lot. Love you mom!) Because it was the holiday season there were a million people and the luggage bag broke, which sent so many people into a crazy rage, which made no sense to me because it wasn't as though the airport employees weren't trying to fix it. I made sure to say a special thank you to the woman who eventually took my bag because rude people are the worst. From there I flew to New Mexico before a layover that would send me back to Oakland, and finally, finally, finally I was back in California. 

I returned home on the night of the 2nd (8:30 my time, 11:30 EST) to my roommates waiting with open arms for hugs and smiles that made the long day of travel worth it. Everyone was in rare form seeing as most of them had also been traveling (some already had been to work!) and we were sluggish and lazy and just happy to be back in our house. 

I made buttery pasta to sustain me after my long day of travel and sat on the couch with some of my roommates catching up before I stumbled into my room and fell asleep.

This is a pretty standard retelling of what happened. I'll never be able to squeeze in the joy of playing Star Fluxx on my stomach by the fire, or the shock on my family's face as I ate perogie casserole, or the way my eyes grew wet as my mom told me she was proud of me. I won't be able to accurately have you all understand how many times I was asked "so how's California?" only to answer with "well it's warmer than here." I can't express the sadness that grew at the sight of my dear old cat Tuesday, 16 years old now, frail and thin and bony but still nimble as ever. There were so many moments while being home that stay in my heart that will be special to me, but never special to you, dear reader.

Regardless. Those moments exist, and they're mine to keep.  

This is where I would make a comment on how nice it was to be back, blah blah, but then plot twist--this morning at 2:40 in the goddamn morning, a fucking earthquake hit.

A fucking earthquake!

Google tells me that it was a 4.4 but Twitter tells me it was a 4.7, all in Berkeley which is just a bop away from home, and shook our entire house awake. What a way to be welcomed back to California!

I sat up and literally said, "It's happening!" Because I thought it was the big one! If you didn't know, the Bay Area is WAY overdue for a pretty intense earthquake that's going to rock us. So I thought this was it! I yanked out my earplugs and sat up ready to face destruction head on and then--it was over.

Apparently the entire quake was only like, 10 seconds long. 

Other than being a little shaken up (ha ha ha puns) our house was unharmed. Everyone woke up to greet the rumble and then, after a quick Twitter check where I laughed at everyone in the Bay Area tweeting about how of course we were on Twitter to see if other people felt the earthquake, I went back to bed. 

One of my co-workers this morning said, "Oh, I thought that was a dream until I read about it on the news this morning." 

Amanda, who I ended up getting lunch with today had remarked, "It doesn't even feel like an earthquake hit last night."

Life just keeps moving forward, y'all. Whether you've been traveling for 13 hours or you have a cold or an earthquake wants you to start 2018 off with a heart attack, it keeps going.

I'm already back at work (I missed these people so much - it's been two days and I've already received two mugs) and I'm convinced that all the dust from all the paper is making me sneeze more. I keep sneezing. How is there still this much snot in my nose? But regardless, I'm happy to be back.

Unless some unexpected situation occurs, I don't think I'll be back home until July, so I'm really out here for now. Not that I wasn't really out here before, but after the Christmas hump it starts to feel a bit more real. I know that in the days to come I'll start to miss those people even more, because it's so easy to take advantage of the fact that someone is beside you before you're really gone from them, so the missing will be a bit intense. But for now, I'm back in the Bay ready to live my truth. 

Here's wishing you all a Happy New Year!

(live your truth!)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

California Christmas

Living in California has made me a bit of a wimp.

In the daytime, it’s around 60 degrees, and at night it drops to the 40s, and I am constantly cold. I come home from work and I turn the heat on in the house and I wrap myself in blankets as I settle on the couch and I whine about how cold it is. Danielle and I turn on the heater in our room every night and bundle up in pants and socks and continue to whine about the cold.

We’re both from the east coast. It’s snowing there. Snowing. And here were are, somewhere in the 50s, with the heater on.

If I’m cold now, I can’t even imagine how cold I’m going to be when I land at BWI. Someone should bring me a coat seeing as I don’t even need one of those here.

Still, I’m excited to go home. I darted home for a weekend in September (congrats to the Muhlbachs!) but that’s the extent of my travels since I arrived here in August. Honestly, I didn’t even think I’d be excited to go home, but I am. It feels a little bit like winter break at school again, where I take a week or so and just lay around the house with no responsibilities. It’ll be a little different, seeing as I’m not a student anymore and now I have the means to drive (I miss driving - what the heck?!) but it will still be good.

Busy, mostly, but good. I’ve had to start putting everything into my calendar so I don’t confuse all of the plans that I’ve made. My week or so home is very filled.

So, yeah, I’m excited that I can finally start singing I’ll Be Home For Christmas with it actually meaning something.

But also, Christmas in California is weird.

There’s no snow but there also isn’t any rain, and while it still gets dark early like the rest of the world the sunshine is different here. I miss the way the sky would change, indicating gloomy weather. I miss the wind burning off the tip of my nose. I miss the crunch of ice poorly cleaned off the sidewalks beneath my feet. You grow up one way, knowing how the seasons work, and moving somewhere else for a different kind of experience just leaves something feeling a little off balanced.

Regardless, we do what we can to make it feel like Christmas.

This year I did four gift exchanges. I really, really, really love Christmas. There’s something about giving gifts which makes me just feel really happy. I love watching people unwrap things, I love getting to know the person a little better to figure out what it is they’d like, I love gifts. It’s fun. I’m broke, but it’s fun.

The first was my department Secret Santa.

I wasn’t in the office when we drew names for Secret Santa. I think it was all the way back in October, honestly, and I had been on my retreat for LVC at the time, but everyone picked a name and they saved one for me. I found my name when I returned in a cup on my desk, wrapped up so tightly that it was hard to uncover, but the name written was clear.
My go-to for Secret Santa things is to always tell whoever asks me who I have, that I have them.


Maria: Who do you have for Secret Santa
Me: You
Maria: What

I didn’t have Maria though, I had Nick. I’m unsure if I’ve spoken about Nick at all really, but what an interesting fellow he is. He has a habit of calling me “kiddo” like I don’t have a degree and always invites everyone to the office to art shows and just kind of comes and goes as he pleases. At Happy Hour a few weeks ago I remember him sitting there arguing about the benefits of anarchy with his friend, and I literally had to excuse myself from the conversation.

I settled on getting him a book (which originally was going to be about communism or anarchy or something but ended up being about masculinity and men having feelings, because yes) and a candle for his altar and a mug personalized with something I thought he’d like.

The week before:

Me: who do you have for secret santa
Nick: I'm not telling you. who do you have?
Me: you
Nick: cool. really?
Me: yeah
Nick: no you don't

(I bought a mug for everyone in my department, each one different depending on who it was going to. Please do not ask me how much I spent. It was too much money. There was a sale, but whatever. It was too much. I just love mugs. And these people. I was weak, okay?!)

Our SS reveal was on Thursday at our weekly meeting, but Nick was leaving early for vacation or something (again comes and goes) so I gave him his present on Monday. As far as I can tell he liked it, but fast forward to Thursday, and hoo-buddy.

One of my favorite things about gift exchanges is trying to figure out who everyone has. I know that’s not the point, and blah blah blah I’m ruining the fun of it, but that’s part of the fun! It’s like a giant puzzle. It’s all about gathering clues and observing every day interactions and listening carefully to whatever it is that people are talking about. Slowly figuring out the circle (like figuring out who’s trying to kill you when you play Assassin) is the best.

Of course, I never figured out who had me.

That’s because no one had me.

When it came time for us to sit down at the table and everyone had their gifts, my whole department was struck with the realization that none of the gifts were for me.

Aha! you’re thinking. It must have been Nick! Seeing as he wasn’t there, of course it must be Nick who forgot to give me a gift!

Nope. I’d actually helped consult Nick on what to get for his person, and he’d arranged his present to be mailed to the office anyway.

Literally just no one had me.

There must’ve been some crossed wires somewhere, seeing as not everyone was in the office when we drew names, but my name had just never been given out. In fact, Nick’s name had been drawn twice. Now, again, I just really love Christmas, so the best part of our gift exchange was when I passed out the mugs I’d gotten for everyone and they all got to open them, but like, come on! Despite the disappointment that lingered, I was okay.

It happens, it wasn’t intentional, and I got the present that someone had brought in for Nick (seeing as he’d already received the one that I gave him). It was a pretty good present too! It was a beautiful aloe vera plant that is now sitting nice and pretty on my desk and a bottle of wine which I’ll be taking home for the holiday. So, it was okay. (There’s something about someone intentionally buying you a gift though, about the thoughtful process that goes behind selecting a present that makes the present more special, and I was missing it. It’s never really been about the present itself, but rather the fact that it was for me. And… this one wasn’t.)

Again! I’m okay with it. I’m saying I’m okay a lot but thankfully I like wine and I love plants so we’re doing pretty well. Besides, I was in three more gift exchanges so it was bound to be fine.

Side note: I’m feeling really greedy and weird talking about receiving presents, but whatever, this is my blog and sometimes feelings can’t be helped!

Now we’re onto gift exchange number two: the office wide Secret Snowflake. Not only did my department, my sweet lovely RADCo, have a gift exchange just for us, but I wanted to be in the office-wide one as well.

This was a little more fun because the point of it was to sneak the gifts onto the person’s desk without them noticing, and then at the end of the week we were all going to sit in a giant circle and guess. Hilariously, we used an online database (what’s up Elfster) to automatically assign people, so no one would go un-gotten! My name would be drawn, no matter what. But, because of this, I had drawn someone from RADCo again. Which was okay! I knew RADCo people pretty well and was going to get Virginia the best present ever.

(Maria had gotten me a small gift - a mug that says Coffee is Magic and a jewelry holder that says you inspire me trying to trick me that it was my SS, but she's too obvious and I figured it out right away. Maria's the best.)

This was also fun because people were on a hunt throughout the office trying to figure out who had who. It was joyful to watch Virginia guess person after person while knowing, the whole time, that it was me who had her. (She figured it out eventually, stupid handwriting, but I had her going for awhile!) I was doing great at connecting the circle as to who had who had who and had figured out much more of this one than I had of my own department exchange.

Again, still didn’t figure out who had me, but I wasn’t worried. I knew someone did.

But we needed to sneak our gifts by 4 o’clock on Friday to our person, and suddenly it was Friday at 3pm, and then 3:30, and then 3:45, and there was nothing. No hint of a clue, no message saying it would be late. Utter and complete radio silence.

People had been out of the office a lot during the week though because they were sick or family things had come up so I wasn’t going to hold life against anyone. It just… kind of sucked after I had received the runner-up gift of another person and everyone was running around so excited about what they’d gotten. It would’ve been alright if people weren’t asking me every ten minutes if I’d gotten anything yet, but they were and I was sad.

The Karmic Universe - 2
Jenn - 0

I still went to the gift reveal obviously because I wanted to tell Virginia that I had her, and I knew there were a few people who’d been out of the office that most likely had me. At the gathering it was revealed that my person had a Life Thing going on which prevented them from being in, but that my present was going to arrive at my house.

Knowing that something would be arriving was fun, but it still kind of disappointing I didn’t get something while everyone else was holding onto their presents.

Which brings me to gift exchange number 3: the internet friends.

Of course I signed up for one to do with my lovely internet friends. We used Elfster as well, and while my person knows that I had them (I put my name on the note when I sent it because I didn’t know it was supposed to be a secret until a big reveal day whoops) I won’t post here because all of those ladies are nosy and will try and piece together the circle. Still, I sent mine a while ago, and I have been led to believe that said human really enjoyed her present, so we’re all doing well.

Except, in the middle of all of this chaos of office presents, I received a pack of socks.

Let me just tell you right away, I love socks. They’re the best. I’m definitely one of those people who has grown up and is appreciative of the existence of socks and the fact that I can get them for gifts. You can never have too many! And these socks that I got in the mail, they’re super cute. They all have cats on the back that look like they’re peeking out over the heel.

But there wasn’t a name on it, so I assumed it was from my internet exchange, and I was… disappointed. There was a note that said something like “Merry Christmas Jenn! Miss and love you!” and I was like, internet human, of course, thank you. So I marked my gift as received and went on with my life. 

And listen, socks are a great present, and of course I’m grateful. But like I said earlier, there’s something about the intention behind a present and I was like, dang, okay.

But also, the socks are irrelevant to any gift exchange I’m part of.

I got a text from Steph that was something like this (not verbatim I’m too lazy to open my messages):

Steph: your secret santa wants to know what address to send your gift to
Me: what
Steph: well you’re going home for christmas right? so they want to make sure you get it
Me: didn’t they send me socks already?
Steph: ???? no
Steph: no socks
Me: then where did these socks come from?!
Steph: ??? idk santa???

This was followed up, the next day, by another conversation that was (again not verbatim) something like this:

Dani: hey so did you happen to get a pack of socks
Me: ??? yes?????
Dani: ok cool just wanted to make sure they weren’t stolen from your porch
Me: ????? you just sent me socks ????? for fun???
Dani: yeah! I got a lil something for everyone!!

SO long story short, Dani is the best, I’m ungrateful and lame, but socks are cool and I still have a mystery gift exchange human out there who probably feels the pressure now because I’m just being a brat about gifts in this post.

(dear secret santa, if you see this, please feel no pressure, as I already love you so much for simply existing and want to give you a nice smooch. I am a certified baby, and I know whatever it is that arrives on my doorstep in Maryland will be wonderful)

So now we are at our final gift exchange: the house swap.

A few weeks ago Carly decided it would be fun for our house to do a swap. We set a small budget, passed out names, and thought it would be nice for everyone to have something small to unwrap.

As if I don’t seen enough of Carly already (my commute queen, just in case I don’t say it enough I love you a lot) I also drew her name for our house swap. I immediately cut it up into little pieces using scissors so no one could read it.

Carly, watching as I cut up my name: you’re a sociopath
Me: now no one will know who I have


Carly: who do you have for secret santa
Me: you
Carly: shut up

But other than blatantly telling Carly I had her (which she didn’t know until the house had narrowed down) I kept her name a secret. I figured out who Carly had based on one lucky guess and Danielle told me who she had, but other than that I hadn’t really pieced the house circle together. I wasn’t too invested in that one though (no offense Ella Bakers!) because I knew we’d all get something small, and there was really really really no way for that one to go wrong.

Last night we all gathered around our hilariously small Christmas tree that we’d set out for our Holiday Party the night before (which, side note: we had a Holiday Party and while I love to party, I am not a hoster. It hit 5:00 and got dark outside and I was like I am Ready for these people to leave my house so I can go to bed right now. But that was fun! We worked together well as a house to make our space clean and all these people we know showed up and supported us and it was overall really lovely - another great addition to making CA feel Christmas-y). My gift for Carly, which I ordered on December 6th, had yet to arrive, so I wrapped up something small for her so she had something to open when it got to her. (I’d gotten her a mug that says Justice is a Woman with Lady Justice on it because Carly loves coffee and justice and I love her. It still hasn’t arrived, it’s in Kentucky??? But she’ll have it soon enough.)

We went around the circle, everyone gave out their gifts, and I got to see who my house secret santa was.
Honestly? I had no idea who my person was until earlier that evening I walked upstairs to Amanda’s room and she straight up panicked, throwing something behind her and shifting awkwardly in front of what I was assuming to be a present. So I figured out who I had at the very last minute, ruining the surprise two hours before our actual exchange. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew who.

I never would’ve been able to guess what it was.

Let me just remind you, dear readers, that Amanda is my introvert camp wife. We sing songs about Jesus and don’t judge each other when we order too many grilled cheeses for lunch and send each other vegetarian memes to pass the time. I love her a lot. She’s an incredibly supportive friend who honestly just radiates with love and never does anything half-assed.

Amanda had systematically been stalking my friends/family from home and having them write notes/affirmations to me. Amanda then printed them out and filled a book with them. On the pages that didn’t have these lovely affirmations, there were quotes to boost me up. Some of my favorite quotes, some quotes sent in by other friends, some chosen by her, all about being strong and wonderful and great.

At first I just thought it was a journal (as the cover is beautiful and I’ve been looking for a reason to start up again) but then she said, “This might take a bit of explaining.”

I opened it up, saw a familiar name, and closed it immediately. She told me she’d been reaching out to people I know to get these things and I was thrown. No offense, people I know in the world, but y’all aren’t slick. You just aren’t. I had a surprise birthday party thrown for me when I was 15 and someone texted me “SURPRISE!” an hour before I even got there. I literally had no freaking clue.

My siblings had written me notes. My grandparents. My camp friends. People from work. My friends from school.
“I had to go through your Facebook to find these people so I’m sure I missed some,” Amanda said.

Yeah, so, I waited until most of the room left so I could read it or else I was literally going to cry, and if I had started reading it right away I would’ve started to weep, but because I waited a bit I only teared up.

Exchange after exchange had me feeling weirdly uninvolved in my own life, like I’d been living in this body that was just a shell and not even really existing. And then this gift, where Amanda had taken all of these important people to me and had them write something kind? About how they love me? And how I’m a good person?
Dude, what the hell. I’m about to cry just writing about it.

A few people actually reached out to me after I posted about it online earlier and asked if they could write something too, so I don’t think Amanda will mind if I add some other notes I get into this book that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.

There are some gifts that there just aren’t words for, and I really don’t have any words for this one other than thank you.

My office Secret Snowflake finally came in the mail. The woman who had me, Luba from admin, drew me a Love Warrior to hang above my mirror. She also sent me a pair of earrings (I’m becoming an earring girl!) and a stone shaped like a rock along with a letter of affirmations as to how to start the day.

It starts with: Life is tough but there is a way to be free and love is the answer.

There are more things in the middle, but it ends with: Trust!

(It’ll all work out, Jenn. Have a little faith.)

In the end, it really isn’t about the gifts. It’s about the people in my life who make me feel loved whether or not there’s a physical present attached to it.

With my California Christmas nearly wrapped, my next stop is home to spend time with more of those very same people.

See you soon, Maryland. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Joy Attracts Joy

San Francisco is too good to me.  For you all to fully understand the story that I'm about to tell, I have to give everyone some weird...