Friday, July 20, 2018

Goodbye Bay

When the last day of your program comes, you won't be ready.

You'll have put off packing for forever. It's Thursday night and you're a little bit drunk and a whole lot of sad and there will be piles of clothes on your floor that you meant to pack on Wednesday, but on Wednesday you were also sad, and on Tuesday, and on Monday, and the clothes are still there. You will have to pack them tomorrow (which is what you've been saying for days, but you're really out of time).

You'll have a list of things that you wish you would've done, things you thought you'd have forever to do. You arrived here in August, fresh out of college, fresh out of camp. You didn't know who you were or who you were going to be. You had never traveled on your own. You had never taken a risk like this. But you did, you boarded a plane and went to Chicago and then boarded another plane for Oakland and you did it. But you had a list. And it's mostly checked, but there are still things left undone.

(A reason to come back.)

There are things on your list that have been crossed off, even though you didn't know you wanted to do them. To volunteer at an art show and drunkenly wrap art for people who paid a high price. To elbow your way through Dolores Park during Pride to make sure you and your friends don't separate. To climb the steps to Twin Peaks without any idea of how steep they would be. To stand, facing the Pacific, and feel unstoppable.

You didn't know you wanted these things, or needed them, but you did.

And now it's the last day of your program, and you can only remember glimpses. The nerves of your first day, in which you spilled coffee and got on the wrong train and were late. The laughter of your co-workers over a meeting in which you should be discussing something more important. The first time you climbed out onto the roof, the tiles rough beneath your heels. The mountains of Holden. The colors of Myrtlewood. The first time you listened to Hamilton, the first time you heard it. The night you all removed the carpets and sat in the living room together one last time. The small gray cat who used to try to dart into your house every time you would open the door.

It's all glimpses.

Not making eye contact over the dining room table when things got tense. Forgetting to dump in chili powder in the crock pot when it was your turn to cook. Unscrewing the hinges of the door when Danielle accidentally locked you out. Always promising to clean your side of the room next week, next week. The sharp voice of a client demanding to see you. The sound of the elevator dinging open.

What will you remember?

Will you remember the first time you and Nico and Maria decided, yes, we are friends, and we will hang out on a Saturday? When you forgot your wallet? When Nico went to the wrong station? When you hiked through the trails, wishing you had brought more water, taking photos like you were on a shoot?

Will you remember the first time you walked the lake all the way around? How you just needed an excuse to get out of the house? How you talked about a TV show that you don't even watch anymore to fill the silence, tiptoeing past dogs and small kids riding bikes?

Will you remember crowded Ubers or Lyfts? The small girl on the bus who sat beside you and kept your mornings lively? The joy when you discovered a new food you tried? The tears you shed during spirituality night? The choices you made to be intentional in what you gave away? The morning the trains kept changing platforms? The first time you called it Introvert Saturday?

When was your last Introvert Saturday?

Will you remember the last time you walked into Walden, where the air smelled like paper and the floors creaked with every step? When's the last time you got fro-yo from the place down the street? Will they wonder what happened to the three girls who always came in right before closing?

You've shared a lifetime with these people, a story that no one else will ever fully be able to understand. No one else walked beside you through the fights over both small and big things, through the conversations over needs. No one else marched beside you in the streets and helped you hold your signs. No one else held you when you cried, confused and afraid of everything that life had given us.

This is your family, these are your people. You have climbed mountains together, literally, and they have your name in their bones just as you have theirs.

And this is your home, even though you are leaving. You have walked the streets of Oakland and strided through San Francisco. You have claimed the coffee shop on the corner as your own. You prefer the fries from All Star over any you've had before. They know to load the jukebox with money when you arrive at the local bar so you can pick the songs.

This is your home. You know which way the key turns in the lock. You always say thank you to bus drivers. Your best friends are in rooms just down the hall, waiting to laugh with you about whatever it is you've done that day.

This is your home and this is your family and you're leaving them. How cruel is it to love something so completely, and have to say goodbye? To know that you might never come back?

(Of course you'll come back.)

Do you think you'll remember how you felt the first time you saw the Golden Gate?

Do you think you'll be able to carry it with you?

I hope so. God, I hope so.

Thank you, Bay Area, for everything I'll remember and everything that I'll forget.

Thank you for the magic.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mahalo Mother Earth

I've been doing a lot of traveling lately.

I know, I know, a service year is not really the best time to get in your exploring. It can be expensive and time consuming and when you do a year of service, you commit to being in this one place for a year and being part of that community, whether it be your home or your job or what have you.

But, I've been traveling, and I've had to reconcile the discomfort that's settled inside of me at the thought of all the trips I've taken in this year.

I've mentioned it a million times before and I will continue to do so for forever: I never thought that I'd get away from the east coast. Like, at all. And I've been learning that a lot of that wasn't just because of you know, general lack of funds and experience, but also because of a deep seeded fear that maybe I didn't deserve to see the world.

When you're a kid you kind of get caught up in dreams of Getting Away and Seeing The World and somehow for me, any sort of traveling turned into this weird fantasy realm that wasn't allowed to exist in the current world that I live in.

I never had the opportunities before, the money, the ability, the bravery to travel. It was always sort of a joke. "Let's go to XYZ!" or what have you. You know. Like when you plan trips with your friends, and you look up Airbnbs, and you pick a date, but it's all kind of a joke. Or for later. When you're older and have more money and have more time and blah blah blah blah blah.

So I made a choice, and I talked to my boss, and she said something along the line of, "Jenn, you're young and you have your whole life ahead of you. Go out there and see what you need to see!"

(I must stress, again, how thankful I am for my boss and my placement site and my department.)

So, yes. The traveling.

First, Hawaii (Oahu, specifically) with my sister.

We went as a birthday trip to me (what's up 23!) and because living in California was the closest the Tapler girls were ever going to get to Hawaii. I could literally write multiple novels about the beauty of Oahu. You always knew that you were on an island, whether it be for the mountains or the ocean or the salamanders (?) always darting past your feet.

It was constant beauty. Humid as hell, but worth it. I was incredibly anxious the entire time, but whatever! Rocks stood tall in the middle of the ocean. The waves were either too rough or nonexistent. We snorkeled with sea turtles! We lived in a cabin on a mountain! Oahu had me constantly stunned.

When we returned, my sister was there for a day, and then when she left (Wednesday morning), Ginny flew in (Wednesday night). From there Ginny was around, and we did some weekend coastal driving.

It's bizarre to think that I live in California. It's, like, temporary I guess. But it's so freaking beautiful I just struggle to believe that it's even a real place we can exist. We drove down the coast, along the shoreline, watching big blue waves crash into the cliffs. Then we drove through the mountains, tall and windy and unreal. Then we stayed in a hut in the desert where the sky stretched on for forever.

I even finally got to Muir Woods with those tall, insane trees that disappeared into the sky.

And now here I am, in North Carolina, writing this post from the comfort of the RDU airport.

I traveled to NC last Friday because last year, when I went on a weird trip to the beach with like 15 girls from the internet I had never met, they became some of my favorite people, and it was reunion time. We stayed in a cabin in the mountains of Boone and, after a lot of weird and anxious traveling on my own, it was so nice to be able to sit and deflate for a bit.

Like with Oahu, or the coast of California, I could ramble on and on forever about not only the beauty of the mountains that we found ourselves nestled in, but also the joy of authentic and genuine friendship. Y'all, we don't love our friends enough. We need to normalize radical love with our best friends. I'm serious. There's nothing better.

Multiple family members of mine keep making the "do you ever work" joke, har har har. But I do work! I work very hard, and I love my job very much, and I am incredibly grateful that they've given me all of these opportunities to go out and live my best life while I have the ability to.

I have developed a cold (which I blame on the east coast, as it is WAY too humid here, why) which is rather unfortunate, but I'll be in bright and early on Monday morning ready to finish off my year of LVC.

As of today, there are 33 days until my final day of work. That's about a month. I have about one month left of this program until I leave the Bay Area, my new found family, the home I've stitched together for myself, and have to start anew once more.

I have vague plans. I tell basically anyone and everyone that I have been winging my life since I came out of the womb, and seem to be doing okay, so we're just rolling with it.

But as long as I get to keep making these connections with people (where 11 of us cross a continent to see one another) and seeing the beauty of what it is that's out there (like laying on the beach in Ventura and watching the sky dissolve into a soft rainbow) and forcing myself out of my comfort zone (like unbuckling my life-vest in the waters of Electric Beach so I could dive down and see the sea turtles), then I think I'll be okay.

I'm so blessed, all the time, to have these things in my life. I hope you have these things too.

(ps - happy father's day! unrelated whatsoever but my favorite conversation that I've ever been part of is this one from a few years ago:

spread some love! from jar jar binks) 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Death Foreshadowed

I'm a pretty anxious person.

I used to think I wasn't, but there's no use in beating around the bush. I'm paranoid. I worry. I fret about things that cannot possibly happen. I would like to blame this on the state of the country that I live in, what with mass shootings and idiots in charge, but it's probably some actual mental imbalance too.

And that's fine. I cope. I do what I have to do to get through the day. I mean, no one's immune to being afraid of the unknown. Sometimes the unknown can bring great things, and joy, and growth. But it can also bring darkness, and my brain likes to get caught up in the possible bad things that could happen.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a person who I love very deeply, who admitted that they think I have an old soul. Or, in translation, will not live a long life. Further translation in Jenn's head, whether or not it's what was intended, was: You Are Going To Die Young.

At the time, it was something to laugh off. I immediately told every person I know about this, because it was absurd, but it didn't really sit with me. Until I woke up one day and realized, oh, it totally did sit with me. Not that I generally put a lot of stock in things like that. But somehow that lingered, and it ate at me, and despite the fact that I tried to play it off as a joke there has been a part of me that is afraid. 

Like I said, that was months ago, back when I was planning this trip to Hawaii with my sister that I am currently on. Since then there have been a lot of things. Airplane malfunctions. Volcanic eruptions. I even met one of my favorite celebrities, which is something so joyous and out of place it felt fake.

In any TV show or movie, me dying would have been properly foreshadowed. Anyone watching the stretch that is my life would be able to rewind, say oh yeah, and then move on. Jenn's dead. She got her life high (thanks Jarod Joseph) and now it's over. Goodbye forever.

Good news, though. Life is not a movie!

Just because I am looking at my life through these particular lenses does not mean that my life is going to follow narrative sense. Which, in ways, could be scarier. But whatever.

I told all of this to my therapist at our last session last Tuesday. Her name is Allison and she's one of the coolest people I have ever met.

When I said, "I kind of feel like I'm about to die."

She said, "Well, you kind of are. Aren't you?"

Allison then went on to talk about how my life is in transition. How these old pieces of myself are going to die and I'm going to have to rebuild them. How this generalized anxiety that I had about traveling was anxiety people always have when they go on new trips, but was likely only furthered by the fact that my life here with LVC is about to end too.

When most people go through their young adult life crisis, it's right after they graduate. They're out of school, they have to find a job, etc. They don't know what's next and that brings about a certain time of fear. Mine's just hitting me a little later.

Growing up I always had the next step of my life planned, for the most part. Once I graduated high school, I was going to work at camp. Once I finished my freshman year, I was going to be an RA. Once I graduated college, I was going to do a year of service.

After that? Fuck if I know.

I am finally, after 5ish years, reaching the end of the plan that I set. There were some other things that I'd hoped for, other opportunities that flamed out for one reason or another. So more or less, I've been floundering.

I'm not ever going to return to Mar-Lu-Ridge as a staff member. Never again will I don my RA name tag and circle the halls of Tower D. And soon, the doors will close on the Ella Baker house, never to be opened by another Lutheran volunteer again. The final community in my hierarchy of communities is coming to a close.

And it's not that I'm not still part of these communities. I have a hilarious amount of group Snapchats with camp people, and various group texts. I still keep in contact with a few RAs that I worked with, as well as many residents. And just because I leave Oakland doesn't mean I'm never going to see or talk to this mismatched family again.

But that's it. I'm finally at the end. And... yeah. It feels like a death in so many ways I can't even begin to explain.

This version of Jenn that I have spent 22 long years crafting has to take pieces from everything she's been through and move on. And that's fucking terrifying.

It's not like I don't know some of what's next. I have vague plans. But it's nothing as structured as the past five years of my life has been.

Today is my 23rd birthday.

There are 61 days left of the LVC program.

After that? Well, I'm not on my own, but I'm certainly going to be out of my depths for a little bit. And that's okay. It's scary, but it's okay. It definitely doesn't mean I'm going to die, but Allison was right.

I have to say goodbye to so many things and so many people and so many layers of comfort that I've been carrying for so long. Part of me is dying.

And as cliche as it is, because it's really freaking cliche, part of me is being reborn. Every end is a new beginning. Every time a door closes, another one opens. From the ashes a phoenix rises. Insert cliche analogy here. You get what I'm saying.

So, on this wonderful birthday of mine where I hiked to an old WWII bunker with my sister, and drank a lycheetini, and laid on the beaches of Oahu one last time (for now), I've been reflecting a lot on the pieces of myself that I want to take with me into my next year of life - and the pieces that I need to let die.

That being said, life is a mystery and we never really know what's next. But there's still so much left to see and do, so many new people to meet and new communities to join - and death foreshadowed or not, I'm sticking around to see what comes next.

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Making My Bed

I've never really been much of a routine person.

In fact, if I'm anything, it's an efficiency person. I like to get things done quickly. This is not for lack of quality, necessarily, but the timeliness of things allows more time to do other things. Like, I am really bad at leisurely walks. I move too quickly for it to be enjoyable and am often told to slow down.

So that pretty much directly translates to my routines. For example, I don't really wear a lot of make-up, because if I did I'd have to wake up earlier to put it on my face. And I really value sleep. Thus, I've also never been much of a bed-maker, as that takes time that I generally don't have when I'm running to catch the bus, and if I'm just going to climb into later that night anyway then there's no point.

I mean, that's how I used to think.

I've started making my bed. I'm an adult now and that feels like an adult thing that I should be doing. And it is, easily, one of the best decisions I've made in my life.

I started making my bed around a month ago. The first time I did it was mostly on a whim. I wasn't doing so well in the brain and was down in a lot of ways. But one morning I was awake before I normally am, so I had extra time, and I made my bed.

It takes like, a minute.

I just stand up, transfer all of the things on my bed (like my phone, or books, or clothes I decided not to wear) to my side table, and then shake out my sheets. First is my top sheet (which I have decided I am VERY pro-top sheet, and if you don't have one you need to be washing your other blankets regularly. so many germs, people!!), and then the green blanket I stole from the closet on the first night we moved into our house, and then the cheap but warm Amazon blanket I bought that I pretend is a comforter.

After that if I have to transfer stuff back to my bed, I do. If I don't, though, my bed is nice and made and waiting for me to return to after a long day. A few weeks ago we were out doing something (a baseball game, maybe?) and I'd forgotten that I made my bed and the literal physical joy that I felt upon returning home to see it made was overwhelming. Never in my life did I think making my bed would make me feel so good.

I started doing a lot of little self-care things, actually, so that was just the start.

Sometimes if I'm up early enough I'll read my tarot cards. I know there's a lot of opinions out there regarding the use of tarot cards, but I'm not using them to predict my future or anything. Instead I use them as a meditative and reflective tool to look within myself and see what it is I need to be focusing on. My go-to question when I read my own cards is "What is it I need to be thinking about today?" and then I go from there.

I also have started waking up earlier in general. While I no longer get to silently commute with Carly (once we were on the bus and it was barely 8am and she tried to ask me my opinion on the US prison systems, like I could form a response???), I kind of enjoy commuting by myself. That way if I want to change seats I don't feel bad about it, and I get to wake up and listen to music without the pressure to communicate. Along with that there are WAY less people on the 7:45 bart than on the 8:15 bart. So waking up earlier and commuting earlier gets me in the office earlier, closer to 8am, which gives me a lot of silence to get some early work done. Which is helpful, because my brain starts to give out in the afternoon, so it's nice to have that chance to be in the office alone and be focused.

I've also taken another crack at my novel. My New Year's resolution was to finish it before the end of the year, which is still my goal, but I also would like to have the first draft complete by the end of my service year. Which may not happen, as July is apparently quickly approaching, but I'm trying. I don't know if I've in depth talked about it but my novel's about a summer camp (shocker) and I really love the characters a lot. They've been in my head for literally years after I wrote a short-story for one of my creative writing classes Sophomore year about a prank war and they continue to linger. It makes me feel warm when I return to my writing and see these characters that I love, that are full of pieces of real people that I know and love. I just sent my mom the first chapter for Mother's Day and she immediately started bothering me for more, so I take it that she likes it. And I like when people like it! I created this thing and other people who exist outside of my own head look at the thing I created and are like, neat. And it is neat! So that's been good.

And, like mentioned in a previous post, I'm trying to work on myself spiritually as well.

The good news is that I have a great support system, and the better news is that spirituality is something that is always shifting and changing and growing.

AKA - a lot of the small acts of self-love that I've been participating in have been really good for me in a spiritual sense. You can make anything spiritual. I think a lot of my own personal spiritual struggles have been because I don't really have a spiritual self. So without going into a lot of detail, I'm working on it. And I think I feel more grounded than I have in a while.

Not like, roots in grounded. But at least I can feel it beneath my feet.

I also tend to be a big believer in how your thoughts shape the world around you. This means when I put a lot of good energy into making my bed or reading my cards or writing my book, I feel good. I've framed my thoughts about these things to be encouraging and rewarding, and so I am encouraged and feel rewarded once I partake in them.

Another thing I'm working hard to shape good thoughts around is my community.

Last night as spirituality night I got a little emotional. To be fair I'd had some wine and also a bit of a long day, but those feelings were genuine and sincere. There's a path in my life that I could've been on that would've led me away from this place, and as devastating as it was then (and sometimes remains to be), I wouldn't be where I am now had life not happened the way it happened.

The Ella Baker house, God bless us, can be a bit of a mess sometimes. While we all have connections that we can make and have made with one another, we're Vastly Different People. I mean, that's what happens when you throw seven strangers in a house together. But last night when I was thinking about our house and talking about our house I started tearing up, because I really do think we're in a good space right now. I know maybe not everyone in my house feels that way, and that's okay! Maybe they're reading this shaking their head at me for being oblivious or something.

But the bottom line in all of this is that I live in a community where I feel like I can express my needs and my values and my concerns and feel heard. And even if others in the house don't understand or relate, I trust that they will give me that space anyway. But the thing that makes this important is how hard we've worked for it. We have our bumps now, and I hope I don't upset anyone by saying this, but the house used to be tense. We were all coming at things from our own lens, including myself. But I really truly genuinely believe that we all own a pair of glasses now that contains lens from everyone, and while maybe we get frustrated at X Y or Z, it's nothing like it used to be.

I like our messy, eclectic house filled with people who make me laugh when I least expect it. I like coming home to a bed that's been made. I like browsing Pinterest for hours to create character boards for these things that live inside my head.

I never thought I'd be a routine kind of person. But I think I really like it.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Give Us Good Courage

It's been nearly a week since I've been home from Holden Village for our LVC Spring Retreat and I'm still kind of reeling from the experience.

For those of you who don't know, Holden Village is a bit of a Lutheran dream. It's this tiny, beautiful village tucked away in a very remote part of Washington state which more or less exists as a place to help people in their journey of faith. It's one of those places that I'd always heard about but never dreamed that I'd actually get to see in person. Even now that I've seen it, that I've been there, it still feels a little like a dream, the only proof of its existence being the millions of photos I made people take of me while I was there.

Our journey to get to Holden started late Thursday night, after work. The trek to Holden was an event in itself. First we drove to the airport (20 mins?), then we flew to the Sea-Tac airport (1.5 hour flight?) before driving to Jack, our host and the Puget Sound PM's, house (45 min?) before we all passed out. We got to his and his wife Cinny's place at maybe 1:30 in the morning, and we needed to wake up at... what was it, 4 am? I don't remember. I kind of blacked all of this out because of how exhausted I was. Anyway, we got our minimal sleep before climbing back into the cars, and driving ~3.5 hours (? I once thought it was 5 hours whoops) to a ferry. Once we got to the ferry, it was a 45 minute ride to the doc. Then we climbed on some buses and took a ~45 min drive up into the mountains.

And then we were there.

Like I said, the traveling itself was a lot.

Most people say the ferry ride into Holden is so overwhelming and beautiful and I'd been super excited to experience it, but it was snowing, so... we didn't really get that view. The clouds blocked the mountains and the wind was wet and cold so we stayed inside the boat, wiping at the damp windows every now and then to see if it had cleared up. It never did, but even the remnants of the mountains in the clouds was still a bit much. Honestly? I don't even know how to talk about Holden. I've been pushing this blog post back for days because I just don't have the words to express how literally awe-inspiring that place is on scenery alone. Even these pictures are not enough to properly encapsulate the way that those tall mountains actually looked, how they made me feel. I feel like I stopped at least once an hour just to say holy shit! 

They were fake mountains. Had to be. No way could such wonderful, beautiful mountains actually exist.

It was a much needed weekend.

 The first day we had some scheduled stuff, talking about non-violent communication, and it was really good. Jack and Cinny listened to us, and as an LV I actually felt heard. It was wonderful seeing the volunteers from the Washington houses, and also super bittersweet because we knew it would be the last time we saw them. Those connections were only enhanced by the fact that there was literally no service or signal anywhere in the village.

(I did have the ability to log onto a tiny old computer that had WiFi if I really wanted to, and while the thought of tweeting from one of the most remote spaces in the US was really appealing I embraced my social media fast instead.)

Not having access to Twitter or Facebook was... annoying at first. I like knowing things that are happening, and the March For Our Lives was happening that weekend so I was worried something might happen. But by the second day I found myself checking my phone less, because I knew nothing would be there, and that was freeing in a different way. Maybe I'll start turning on airplane mode to get myself through the sludge of negative news that happens every week. Or maybe not.

Still, to not have access to the outside world was really good. I think it helped us have deeper conversations on a 1:1 level, as well as as a house.

We had a "free day" where I ended up snow-shoeing around with some other folks, and gosh, again there are no words for the beauty that was there. Impossible, awesome beauty. Those mountains are insane. We even got to sing Holden Evening Prayer, which was a real dream come true if we're being honest.

But as incredible as Holden was, there was a sense of unease that kind of lingered with me the whole time I was there.

For Lent, instead of removing something from my life, I decided to add something instead. If we're being honest, I haven't been too big into the spirituality part of LVC for a long time, so I wanted to do something intentional, every day, to maybe try and find my focus again.

I started off pretty strong. You see, I wanted to write one letter a day to someone that I care about. At the beginning I made a list, 40 names, and would cross off a name when I wrote a letter. The letters actually devolved into emails, which was nice. I'm much more articulate when I can go back and edit the things I want to say, and as someone who spends 90% of her time on the computer it made more sense. I had to sleuth around for some email addresses, but in general it wasn't too bad.

Eventually, I fell behind. I completed over half, which was great! But not all 40. (Sorry to the names that I didn't reach!) For me, though, my Lenten practice wasn't about rigidity. It was about reaching out to the people I care about most and keeping them in my life, somehow. Emails are really nice. If anyone wants to start up an email correspondence, let me know, because while I love handwritten letters there's a certain kind of joy that comes from receiving an email as well.


But... it was for the best that I fell behind. Part of the reason I made the list of 40 people that I did was because I had something that I wanted to say to each of those people. I thought I could dredge up some of my own shit, confront some issues, etc etc. It would be a good way to express how I was feeling while also being a daily practice.

At Holden, though, I realized a lot of stuff. Or well--I realized one pretty big thing that I need to figure out how to carry with me and address now that I'm home.

You see, I joined LVC because it's Lutheran. It's the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. They put that on the shirts, but the organization itself tends to stomp down on the actual Lutheran-ness of the program. My roommate Amanda talks about it a lot, how even though this is a Lutheran organization LVC tries so hard to be accepting that it kind of forgets about this part of it. Which--is okay, I guess. It's nice to be accepting and open to everyone's experiences. I mean, Lutheranism in general is pretty accepting and open. But a big part of why I joined LVC was because I thought it would help me reconnect with my faith. With being a Lutheran.

Part of the reason I haven't is my own fault, of course. I could go to church if I wanted to. I could reach out to Bible study groups if I thought that was what I wanted. But part of it is because I sort of thought being here, with LVC, I would have those things just sort of... here for me. And they're not. It's not.

When I talk about my faith I often try to frame it as needing a boost. Or needing to be recharged. Or restarted. Or reawakened. Etc. etc. etc. But the truth of it is...

God, the truth of it sucks. The truth is I have really no fucking idea where to even start anymore.

My faith doesn't need restarted or reawakened. If anything, it needs reborn. It's just--gone.

I realized that at Holden. I've had some pretty big hits when it comes to life, and in so many ways, all of those big hits have been kind of directly related to my faith. It's like every time I figure out how to stand on my own two feet again, life comes around with a bat to smash my kneecaps.

And that's where I am now. On the floor, by myself, the baseball bat sitting steps away.

I've been talking about faith like this for years. That I just need a revival. That I need some sort of support and I'll be there. But that's bullshit. It's bullshit, and it's important that I address that. To keep pretending like I'm this girl who's So In Tune With Her Faith and Religion is just crap. I'm not that person. I haven't been that person for a long time.

I desperately want to be that girl. But I'm not. There's nothing here.

I've looked for connection in prayer, and I can't find it. Maybe I'm praying wrong. There are a billion ways to pray, though, and people tell me that none of them are wrong. And I've looked for connection in nature. Which--it's there. The world is so beautiful. But it's missing some bigger component I can't put words to. And I've looked for connection in people, which might be the closest I've gotten, but that divine shift just doesn't exist.

Sometimes it feels like I'm throwing myself at something that just... doesn't want me.

And that's bullshit too. If God exists, which I'm leaning towards a Yes for the time being, of course He wouldn't not want me. Right? That's a whole different ethical dilemma I'd have to face. But still I have made the effort, again and again, to find this God and I feel like I don't get anything back. I literally have sat outside the chapel and wept over the fear of losing this faith. I've opened my arms, I've listened to stories, I've read and I've prayed, I've sung the songs, I've made the effort. But every time I push, I get the push back that leaves me sprawled out on the ground again instead of the hand to hold.

So I've been thinking, maybe I just need to give up for a bit.

Which sounds awful, I know, but I think that's what I need. If I keep giving myself to a God who keeps politely raising His hand at me to say, no no, not now, then I'm going to give up for good. It's exhausting to want to be so involved in something that seems like it doesn't want me. So a break from trying might be good. I don't want to give up for good. I want God in my life, and faith in my life, and that spiritual community in my life. So a break might be good.

It's just--I don't know where to start. Maybe that's the biggest issue. It all seems so daunting, starting over. Or maybe not even starting over, but starting from somewhere closer to the beginning than I'm used to.

I don't know. It's all a bit of a mess. All I know for sure is that I've got to try something different, because whatever it is I have now isn't working.

Hopefully by the end of this year, I'll at least know where to start.

(He is risen, indeed.)

Happy Easter, everyone.

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.

Goodbye Bay

When the last day of your program comes, you won't be ready. You'll have put off packing for forever. It's Thursday night and ...