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.

Miss Me?

Photo by Aaron Burden

Did you all miss me last week?

Well here’s the thing, I missed me too. I’ve been moving constantly and doing so many different things at full speed that I can’t believe there are only 24 hours in a day. Between evaluating the 23 student leaders I oversee and chairing practicals for them to analyzing literature in the classroom and classic customer service work at the store, life has been busy.

I started this blog three years ago and since then, last week was the single time I have ever not written a post on Friday. The only time. Ever.

There’s a reason for that.

Have you noticed my posts have been getting later and later to the point where if I posted thirty minutes later it would technically be Saturday? Well if you didn’t, trust me when I say that I noticed. And I apologize. At a certain point it got a little hard to keep up. For someone who doesn’t have class on Fridays, it’s impressive what my calendar always ends up looking like.

Photo by Kristopher Roller

But you know sometimes, a girl just runs out of steam. It’s the end of week 10, prep week for finals, in what has simultaneously been an incredibly long and unbearably quick year. Honestly, I have no idea how we got here already but part of my mind and the whole of my body sure as hell seem to know something I don’t. Because all I hear, with every slap of my rubber soles on slick pavement and quick zip of my backpack before we move on to the next thing, is that I am tired.

So I took a break. A single post, one week without me, did you notice? I did.

Little do you know, by not posting on Friday, I got to go meet two of my best friends from home and my brother downtown for all if their bar crawls since all of our birthdays are close together. These are two of my favorite people I haven’t seen in SO long and I missed them; I missed what it was like to have part of our squad back together again.

So we danced, we bar crawled, and danced some more, a bartender smiled at me as if I was the sweetest thing when I asked for a glass of water because I was genuinely thirsty (sorry, don’t drink), and I let the clock hit midnight as we joined in on the nightlife for a while. I didn’t even know we had nightlife here.

I worked the ache out of my bones and the rust off my body by letting go of thinking for a while and instead, I put all my worries on hold. I decided to just let the memories happen while I happened with it and enjoyed the company of the people I love.

I’m lucky to have them in my life, but sometimes I forget that. By making the choice to go out with them the one night they were in town, I got to spend their birthday celebration with my best friends and also see them for the last time as just another boy and girl in love. Maybe to me, with us, it’ll always be senior year. Causing almost as much trouble on the track as we did around a bonfire. Because less than 24 hours later, they were engaged. And suddenly, we’re growing up.

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Time really does fly by, if you blink, you just might miss it. But there’s something about loving people as individuals and understanding how wonderful it is to watch them love each other, to choose to spend the rest of their lives together. Call it idealistic, but I’m happy for them.

Especially because I know exactly what I wouldn’t have known had I not gone out on Friday. I wouldn’t have gotten to my step goal for the day, I wouldn’t have made a bartender smile at me for a simple question he probably doesn’t get a lot, and I wouldn’t have remembered the genuine appreciation I hold for some people in my life.

All that, and well, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post early today. Because in the process of missing that one blog last week, of making the conscious decision to tell myself it was okay to go, I also managed to find something I had been missing for a little while.

Myself.

Sure, going out doesn’t mean I’m refreshed and ready to go. We’re heading into finals week after all. But it gave me a chance to let go of the bar I hold so high for myself and remember that I’m 21, that not everything holds the weight I believe it to. My shoulders can’t always bear that burden. I needed to put it down for a few hours.

So I’m sorry if you missed me last week; thing is, I missed me too. I miss feeling the life around me and getting lost in things without a plan. I miss breaking routines and dancing shamelessly even if everyone is watching. I miss that good feeling you get when you’re with the people you love and you just know that you are fully and 100% present in the moment with them.

I needed that back, even just for a night. Maybe it’s called self care, I don’t really know exactly what that looks like for me. But I’m willing to find out, if you’ll give me grace for a change in style and some honesty while I do so. After all, maybe just a few of you missed me last week.

Trust me, I missed me too. I miss me. Just know that I’m trying to figure out how to find a new normal, so maybe I don’t have to anymore.

Happy Friday to every one of you. And thanks for sticking with me.

Maddloverocks– The Concept of Kindness and Remembrance

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Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

There’s this painted rock sitting on my bookshelf, ready to be placed somewhere here in San Luis Obispo: a beautiful rock, in a beautiful place, to remember kindness and love in a beautiful girl. I just have to figure out where to put it.

For those of you who don’t know the concept behind the title of this post, it’s idea of “kindness rocks.” To commemorate the life of Madeline Elliott who has somehow been gone a week and a year now, I still can’t believe it, and these rocks have been spread not only throughout the country but across the globe for people to find— all of this done with the #maddloverocks and Maddie in mind.

Because who doesn’t need a little extra kindness every day. So let’s talk about that.

Two days ago was World Mental Health Day and yesterday was National Coming Out Day, both large ideas within people’s identities that can either hold them back or give them the wings they need to fly. As long as they take care of themselves. Whether you identify with one day, both, or neither, I think you should keep in mind that they each should matter to you. 

Here’s why:

It’s about how you treat and see and love yourself as you are. That’s it, that’s what these days come down to. While yes, we shouldn’t just save one day a year to remember these things, I think it is just as important to have one day where people can come together about something and celebrate it or support it together. Kind of like these kindness rocks.

Sometimes it helps just to have a tangible representation of your worth, that you deserve a little kindness today. These rocks, some with beautiful designs or simply a handwritten word, are there to spread positivity and light in a place where sometimes it can be hard to see.

I know I tend to forget that even as college students, everyone is going through their own things and figuring it all out for themselves. Once we leave this college bubble, out into the real world, it’s amazing to think about the amount of people we’ll have in our lives. Even now I look around campus and realize how many connections I’ve truly made— maybe not so far as friends, but connections nonetheless. And those make a difference.

Because there are days when I catch myself thinking about these connections and realize that the more I make, the more people I have to lose.

It makes me hesitate. I mean, I love loving people, don’t get me wrong. The issue here isn’t the people, it’s simply risking losing those people. This past year has reminded me how easily that can happen. After all, we are still little mortal human beings in a very large world.

So why spend any of the time we have doing anything but being kind, and loving, and hopeful, and ready to live in a way that’s worth it?

 

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Photo by Suresh Kumar on Unsplash

To me, that’s part of what these kindness rocks are. When I place mine, I hope someone finds it who needs it, and I hope they pass it along. Young, “old” (whatever that means), happy, sad, struggling, thriving… Anyone who finds it deserves what it means to them and owes it to themselves to pass it on. Because I’m sure there’s someone else who could use it too.

So as you go into your weekend, I hope you remember that this world around you needs your kindness and the good you have to offer. Whether you’re working or taking classes, or serving in the military, or prepping for something new, you are where you need to be. We all are. And I hope this is a reminder that you deserve a little kindness today; this last photo is just for you, for I know someone in your life who means it. 

So pass it on. And keep spreading the kindness.

Robert Frost and an Original– Two Poems

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Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

As I head back to SLO today, I’m thinking that sometimes transparency can be a good thing. I wrote the second poem here a little bit ago to play with a new style and in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day which is September 10th; for the love of poetry, I’ve included one of my favorite Robert Frost poems too.

Remember to treat yourself like someone you love this week, happy Tuesday everyone. Here’s what I’ve got for you.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening– Robert Frost

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Photo by Lilian Velet on Unsplash

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Transparency

The sadness can’t even
ache anymore;
it just sits
and stays
and holds
and hurts.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

It leaves me empty and desperate
for someone
to help me up
or out
or away
or through
or within.

For the loneliness, it’s cruel
to want ignorance
so soon
so badly
so achingly…
So please.

Tell me why broken
dreams make a home
out of me,
leave me lonely
and too tired
to keep this up
on my own;

I can’t bear
this weight
any longer–
The ache,
it never stopped,
did it?


If there’s anything you like or anything you would like to see more of from me, feel free to hop over to the Contact Me section; I would love to hear from you. See you all on Friday.

 

Poetry in Modern Antiquity

aaron-burden-272517-unsplash.jpgHappy Poetry Place day! Sorry again for missing the last one due to technical difficulties, if you want to know the poem I was going to share with you, take a look at Tyler Ford’s “Too Much” here. In my AP Lit class senior year, we had a poetry unit where we wrote one poem and chose to perform another. For the performance, I was torn between this poem and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.”

Though in the end, I chose Angelou, this poem still holds a special place in my heart. So go ahead and check it out and if you’re interested, Ford’s Twitter is here too! Otherwise, just to make up for last month, I have two of my own works to share with you today.

I’ll keep it short and sweet, but these two are a new style I’ve been playing with.

My English class has been getting into a lot of sonnets and Renaissance poetry lately so I wanted to see how I could use that influence in my own writing. Though I may have steered clear of true sonnet forms, as I have a major midterm to focus on rather than counting syllables and rhyme patterns, take a look at these and tell me what you think— they’re a little different, the question is if that’s a good thing or not.


One

barby-dalbosco-20629-unsplash.jpgTell me how long our voices lie

too quiet, for we no longer see

the truth behind these actions, I

see nothing changing, for we long to be

stronger in the stances we take

and louder in solidarity.

We are breaking down the walls you make;

Now hath our voices set us free.

As a poem of power, this one comes from not only the issues I see on my own campus but those around the world. People are beginning to really stand up and say what they need to say. That’s what this is. And it’s never been more important.

Two

‘Tis no less of poetry, but

spilled feeling that you make of me;

in time, in youth, in chastes unknown,

here be love I hath not been shown.

eli-defaria-124757-unsplashFor I suppose if maybe we

may come upon a day when we

hath break our chains and all restraint

our lusts and hopes not far or faint

but strong and loud, power in divine

love, to leave our cold bondage behind.

Now this one was a real experiment, to play with the words we have left behind in a concept that will never really fade from poetry and art— love. I wanted to see what I could do with it and, though I may be biased, I kind of like how it sounds. Short and sweet just like I promised, but I’d appreciate some feedback and commentary, so let me know what you thought of these in the comments below!


That’s all I’ve got for you today 🙂 Have a great rest of your week, see you Friday.

Before and After– As the Glass Breaks

aaron-burden-185993Have you ever heard that metaphor about the breaking glass? I heard it on How I Met Your Mother, it goes something like this: There are a lot of little things about life that we don’t notice or don’t really see until someone tells us. We don’t see it until we have nowhere else to look. Once that happens, the glass breaks— we can’t unsee it, we can’t go back. Your reality changes.

This week, that glass in front of my perspective on life has been breaking, little by little. And once it’s finished, there is no going back.

If anyone else has been feeling the way I’ve been feeling, things might be a little bit lost right now. You might be questioning things, the purpose and the point, the love and the loss… I’ve been wondering one thing:

Now what?

The phrase carpe diem comes to mind, something I’ve been trying to embody over the years in a lot of different ways. I got a tattoo on Christmas Eve last year because it was something I needed to do for me, I self-published a book after graduating high school because it was an accomplishment I wanted for life, and I am pursuing something I am passionate about because I cannot imagine living my life any other way.

Because life is too short.

The idea of losing friends at this age, an incredible person who lived a life worth living— that terrifies me. Not in the way that it is a possibility, but that it happens. It happened. And there is nothing any of us can really do to change it.

seth-macey-410725Two weeks ago, that was before— if someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I would have told them that I wanted to be a writer. I want to make a difference in people’s lives, I want to make change for the better, and I want to do it through my passion and my love for both writing and the people I care about. I’ve had that answer down for years, that’s what I wanted. Make change, spread love, and write obsessively.

But if you asked me now, I don’t quite know what I want.

I mean of course I still want to write and make change, but how? Maybe I want to live this life without regrets, without lost moments. Yet, maybe I want to live a life appreciating what a blessing it is to have woken up to see another day today.

That’s the hard part, that I’m not confident in what I want out of this life anymore. But I’m learning to be okay with that. 

Because there are a lot of times when we’re going to lose our way, our perspective change, and maybe we just need a little help. So ask for it, put a claim on the love you deserve— you are allowed to not be great all the time.

You are allowed to be lost.

These past two years of my life have forced me to grow up, to understand, and to become so much more than I ever thought I would have ever been by now. My path has changed, my heart has been redirected, and my faith has been tested time and time again. Yet that’s what it means to grow up. I have learned to weather the hard times, appreciate the good ones, and never forget the people who have been by my side through it all.

I’m starting to understand more about who we are as human beings as time goes on, as I meet more people and reconnect with old friends. We are the ones that keep each other going. This week I have seen such an outpouring of support from friends and family and even strangers to comfort one another in a time of need… In the midst of chaos, that has been incredibly comforting to me. Not just in a way of knowing that people can be good, but knowing that this life can be too.

This life still holds beauty.

That’s the point of seeing the forest for the trees, it is still good. Bad things happen, fires rage on through our lives, we lose people, and sometimes we lose ourselves.

In the end, we are still here, to live and to lose and to breathe.

We are still here to support one another and to love, to hope, to believe in something more.

The days are still passing, one right after another, and it takes time to remember, this day is yours. The time is now and it’s all right to not know what you want to do with that time. As long as you do something anyway.

I’m not saying go get a tattoo, or write a book, or change your life’s plan. But I am saying to remember what it means to still be here, to seize every day that we get, and to do everything you can to make worth of the moments you get.bright-lights-string

I’m getting used to the control we don’t have, accepting that this life isn’t completely in my hands. I’m finding my way to being okay with that, with the uncertainty of it all. And in time, I hope you can all find a way to go after what you want this life to be.

So here’s to getting lost, to asking for help and finding our way amongst the broken glass. Here’s to loving hard and loving lots before we run out of time to do it all for ourselves.

And here’s to making the “After” something worth living in.

If not now, when?

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.”