To Love and to Lose


If this blog post is a bit scattered, I’m sorry. It simply reflects where I’m at with this life and figuring things out with so much going on.

Life is… Complicated. Always. There is good, there is bad, and there’s a whole lot of in between. I think, for right now, that’s okay. Because I don’t think it’ll ever change and if these past few years have taught me anything, it’s that.

My cousin got married last weekend in Colorado with a beautiful ceremony, surrounded by all the people who love him and his wife. It was lovely, to spend time outside of my day to day life and be with family, fresh air and a bit of distance.

Coming back to my life, however, has been less straightforward. You see, this week is the Week of Welcome, that WOW thing I’ve been preparing for throughout the last year. Well, here it is!

Photo by Leonardo Yip on Unsplash

The Awareness Galleries, they turned out beautifully. All of the content, the tech, the designs, they all came together in a way I couldn’t have imagined. And while some schedules may have been off and people were stressed here and there, I think every single person who went through those galleries got something out of it. Something intangible.

A few students even came up after they walked through and told me how much of an impact it all really had. That was more than enough for me. That, and being able to see my new roommate to preface her group before their walkthrough too. It was a nice surprise and she seems like someone I will be lucky to know this year.

CCE has also been a bit of a wild-card this year. For WOW, I haven’t been in the middle of it the way I have been for the rest of the year because the other two Facilitators who are here for the Week have been responsible for CCE. And they have done wonderfully. It’s a beautiful thing to work really hard on something with other people you trust enough to be apart from the process when it’s time to make it happen while still being able to fully trust them to do it and to do it well.

Because now, I have grand WOWies. And I care so much about every single one of them. There is something about the way I live my life, I need to connect with people and be tethered to a lot of other lives in a positive way, otherwise I feel unfulfilled. With my Orientation leaders and my WOWies who are now leaders themselves, I get that impact and those connections coming back to me tenfold. I would do anything for them and that makes me feel grateful. Grateful that I have people like this to love, that they exist here, and that they have a chance to be positively impacted by this program. 

Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

Because it’s so much bigger than each of us and that means the world to me.

After all, there is only so much control we have over what happens in our lives. Things like getting involved with Orientation and doing my best to positively touch all these lives, I get to do that myself. Other things, not so much.

There’s nothing like being witness to deep loses and tragedy of so many young people over the years to remind me of all of that.

Over the past two weeks, my small hometown of Folsom has lost 4 alum all from the Class of 2017. And I do not know how to comprehend that. I don’t even know how long it will take me to do so.

In the process, I have caught up with and talked to countless old friends this week to check in or just to talk and sometimes I forget what it was like to grow up the way I did in Folsom. I had my hand in so many pots, from countless AP classes and arts to almost every sport and club I could be in, that the amount of people I love and hold connections to sneaks up on me sometimes. With so many connections, it can be hard to keep up. It can also leave me with a higher chance of losing people.

Folsom, it isn’t that small. But the way I know I love people and the way so many of us cared about one another or were teammates with so many others of us, it makes us all pretty tight-knit when it comes down to it. That’s just how things were. So these losses, they have ricochet between all of us and the lives we have lost, holding love stretching between Folsom and almost every corner of the rest of the world.

Photo by Luigi Colonna on Unsplash

It’s beautiful.

And it’s tragic.

Because death is inevitable. But the death of the young, it hits differently. It’s not something I think I will ever get used to or fail to be changed by, even in such a short period of time.

In the way I write, forgive, hope, support, love, live, and breathe, I see changes in myself that I think will change even more as I move forward from here. Each of us have been altered. I’m sure you’ve seen it just through these weekly posts in the past few years.

So I hope you know that I will take it as it comes, whatever happens next. And if you’re someone in my life, I probably appreciate you more than I can express. So thank you, for sticking around and listening. For being here.

As for Austin, Luca, Len (Lemon), and Josh, you are all so so loved. Just like Maddie, Cinnamon, Bryce, Ronin, and too many more of you always will be. I’m sorry I cannot give you more time than you had, though each of you lived so wonderfully in 20 and sometimes less years that it takes my breath away. Just know that your lives are missed and loved and will live on through the rest of us. Always.

This weekend will not be an easy one, but it is through the love that we hurt and we move forward when we can. No matter what it takes, what time it lasts, or what people we need to hold to get us there. This no longer belongs to just one of us anymore. They lived too large for that.

Photo by Gordon Hatusupy from Burst

And we loved them for it.

In good time, we keep moving even when the world never stops. Maybe that’s the hard part, that the world keeps turning while some people’s cannot for some time.

That’s okay.

Sometimes, it’s worth it to slow down for just a little bit and take it all in while we still can. If you’re reading this, don’t forget to breathe in the life you are living and remind the people you love that you love them still today. 


Here’s to the weekend. And to the four we have lost so quickly, rest easy my friends.

For Maddie Elliott

Yesterday I wrote a blog post on the fragility of our human lives, the time limits on all of us that we simply cannot see. I know that I wrote it yesterday, yet I had no idea I was actually writing about one of the most beautiful souls kristina-m-m-158842I have ever known. I was yet to realize a wonderful friend and kind heart had just been lost.

This is for Madeline Elliott.

Though I knew her through classes and crossed paths throughout the years, even I could tell that Maddie was truly one of a kind. She was the kind of girl who could bring a smile to anyone’s face with one of the most infectious laughs I have ever heard. Every time I talked to her, whether it was about something important or simply trivial, we always ended up talking for so much longer than we had planned because she was just that kind of personshe could connect with anyone.

From the moment I met her I knew one thing: this girl is going to touch so many lives. And she has. Because it isn’t about how long you live, but truly how you live. She did it beautifully. From someone who keeps their phone password as her birthday and the best friends whose lives were changed with her in it, to the strangers she passed on the street with a simple smile to lighten their day and the people who knew her, adored her, and she didn’t even know… This girl was incredible. Her presence was a light in so many peoples lives, including mine, and when I said in my post yesterday to tell people you love them, I meant it. Because things like this happen, we lose people, and loved ones are gone before they had a chance to make this life their own. But I know that Maddie did, she lived a beautiful life of faith, impacting so many people with who she was. Her loss is a great one, her love was infectious, and her memory will last forever in each one of us.


I wrote this for you Maddie.

I live for the strangers who smile at me as they pass by and those who always remind me that they care.

I live for the “have a good night”‘s from the elderly because they’ve seen enough of bad ones, they know life can be unfair.

I live for the people who know how to laugh, straight from the belly with their heads tipped back in abandon.sabine-van-straaten-280388

And I live for the people who have changed my life, and they never even knew how many pieces of me came from them.

There’s something about free spirits, the ones who’s hearts beat and it feels like the world is beating along;

Every breath they take, the wind blows a little longer. Every connection they make, their life grows a little stronger.

There is warmth in their smile, their hope, their being— that irreplaceable kind of energy that makes the world keep moving

and time keep changing, as the world around us moves, these are the kind of people who help us to get up and move along too.

But sometimes we have to slow down, we lose something big, someone important, and we forget about the moving,

the loving, the changing, the hoping… We might forget about the living to mourn those who can no longer do so.

So what do you do when the one who embodied the idea of life with their own, with their living and loving and hoping;

aaron-burden-195608The idea of making every breath one of beauty, of light, of changing the world by just being part of it.

What do you do when they’re gone?

You stop, take a moment, maybe two— take as many as you need— and you hold on to the blessing it is to know someone like that.

Take a breath, take a few, and remember what it means to tell someone those three little words, “I love you.”

Remember their heart that beat for the world to beat with them, remember the smiles they offered, the hope that they held.

Remember the moments they changed your life, the laughs they abandoned themselves to, the memories they made.

You hold on to the love they left behind for you.

And you spread that love, that hope, that faith; you spread it until there is no place in this world left untouched.

Make the laughter they held the healing you feel as time jerry-kiesewetter-189034goes on and the wounds of loss begin to close.

Say what you mean, those three little words, as many times as it takes for someone else to hear your voice.

And be there, in this world, be present in the lives of those you love. Because we never know how much time any of us have

to leave something good behind while we can.


My prayers go out to her family and her friends, to all those who knew Maddie, for my heart is with you. If anyone would like to support them in this time, here is the link to the gofundme page for Madeline.

In the words of Helen Keller,

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.”

Expectation vs. Reality

What did I put in my empty bag?

My dad used to do this thing with my siblings and I called What did we put in our empty bags; it was a metaphor. The bag represented our knowledge from the day, what we learned— we were supposed to empty it before going to school every ihor-malytskyi-218817day so we could go to class with an empty bag and fill it up with everything we learned. Cheesy, I know. But considering I still remember all of this and that Nick and still I say it to our friends sometimes, it was definitely effective.

So what did I put in my empty bag this week?

This week I have gotten a firsthand lesson on the idea of ignorance and what it’s true definition is: lack of knowledge or information. To be ignorant of something or to call someone out as such is not an insult, but simply a statement to show someone that they do not have all the facts. As a nineteen year old college student, I am ignorant of a lot of things, some of which I am not even conscious of. That doesn’t mean I’m not learning.

If someone were to ask me five years ago where I thought I would be in life, my guess would have come nowhere close to where I am right now. I probably would have said that I would be studying or sitting in class at Stanford University as some kind of pre-med major. I probably would have also said that I would be on the track team, running and jumping as a student athlete. And hey, I thought I would be 5’10 by now. There were so many aspects of this life that I didn’t understand, far too much to be ignorant of for me to have known where my life would take me. I didn’t know enough. I couldn’t have.

I couldn’t have known that my high school experience would so largely influence where I applied to college. I couldn’t have seen that I would decide on switching into a major to follow my passion instead of my obligations. matteo-catanese-401213 (1)And I wouldn’t have believed that I would be rejected by a school, only to be accepted off an appeal to now attend Cal Poly with Nick for the next three years.

They say knowledge is power— I don’t think this is something you can argue against.

According to Business Insider, at nineteen years old I have lived through the last 4 out of 5 “deadliest mass shootings in modern US history”. All occurring in the past 6 years. I’m not here to talk about the politics of it, the devastation or the unfortunate lack of change despite the increasing number of deaths and those affected.

I’m here to talk about ignorance, about learning instead of simply knowing.

I’m here to talk about Expectation vs. Reality.

You see, I have been raised on the idea of hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst. This applies to taking midterms I’m not completely ready for, long drives that might necessitate a blanket or a jacket, and even job interviews that always seem to be a toss up for me. Throughout elementary school to high school, I was privileged enough to grow up in a place where I wasn’t constantly thinking about my surroundings; who was around me, if I was in a place where I had to filter myself from risk of harm, or the possibility of racial slurs being thrown at me as I walked by. That last one only happened a few times.

But in hoping for the best, I just never expected to live in a world where people could be afraid to go to concerts, to diners, to school. I never expected that sabine-van-straaten-280388the largest fear some of us held would have to do with the capabilities of one another.

Unfortunately, that is the reality we are all at right now. We are having to adjust to the way the world is changing around us as the people in it change too. Whether you swing left or right, you’re heterosexual or not, everyone is having to make changes. Sometimes I think people forget about the morality of this life and get too caught up in what they expected to be happening or where they’re hoping they would be.

You can’t always see a hurricane coming, nor can you ever know for sure how things are going to turn out.

This week I am reminded of a concept that ties us all together— we are all human beings. If there is one thing I used to be ignorant of, stereotypical teenage mindset or not, it was the fragility of my own life.

Because in my empty bag this week, I hold all the chemistry formulas and Iliad lessons, but on top of all that I hold my life: The idea that it can be easy to lose. I used to make five year plans, ten year hopes, and imaginative ideas of what my high school reunions might be like. I used to make promises of seeing people without ever following through, or putting off good plans for tomorrow, staying in to watch Netflix instead. But the thing is, in that bag is my life. The only one I am going to get. And while I need to make plans for a successful future where I don’t move back in with my parents and have no job, I also need to be aware of the situation we are all living in.jerry-kiesewetter-189034.jpg

We only get one life to live. In the past week alone, far too many people lost their own. The reality is that we don’t know how long this will last for us, how much time we have. The most any of us can do is say “I love you” while we can, hold onto every moment we get, and make sure that when we contribute a verse to the world, we leave behind something good. Something worth it. Something people can fill their bags with today.

I know what I put in mine.