26 Weeks– New Quarter, New Perspective

“Tragedy blows through your life like a tornado, uprooting everything. Creating chaos. You wait for the dust to settle and then you choose. You can live in the wreckage and pretend it’s still the mansion you remember. Or you can crawl from the rubble and slowly rebuild.”
– Veronica Mars

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Six months ago I wrote a blog post, quite possibly one of the most important I’ve ever written, and somehow 26 weeks have gone by. Both surprisingly and not at all at the same time, somehow I looked at my views yesterday and realized that not a single week has gone by since it went up without someone looking at that post.
Not because of my writing, not because of my blog itself, and not because of me. No, because of her.
Because her life is something worth remembering.
Six months ago, Maddie Elliot’s death was that tornado Veronica Mars was talking about. Over the past few years, between being lab partners in sophomore biology and laughing in memorable Spanish classes, her presence in my life wasn’t one that demanded attention— always front and center— she was the kind of person who didn’t have to be. The good in her would be there regardless. In the way she lived and loved and cared about others, the hard part was losing someone like her and not knowing how to understand and move on from something like that.
It’s not easy.
Because can that dust really settle in six months?
I’m starting to think that, in some parts of who we are, maybe it can. But in others?
Never.
And that’s okay, because when I reached that choice, to live in the wreckage and to recreate it or be ignorant of the change instead… This was something I couldn’t let go, one I haven’t gone a day without thinking about.
This change in my perspective and my life was everything.

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Have you ever heard of the glass shattering metaphor, namely from the show How I Met Your Mother? The idea is that your reality is held behind a one-way mirror, or a glass so-to-speak. When something happens, maybe someone spoils a movie or the lightbulb in your head finally clicks on in math class, the glass shatters and the mirror is broken. You can’t go back.
Losing someone so young and so incredible, that was my glass shattering moment. And every day, my eyes open just a little bit more in the way I see things or people, in how I act. I feel like I’ve almost redefined my life, what I want and what feels worth it. How to open up. How to live. How to love.
It’s sink or swim in college these days and lately, I’ve been deciding to swim a little harder toward something meaningful every day. To make the most of what Cal Poly is and can be to me.
After change or tragedy, the moments that leave you breathless and lost, you begin to rebuild again and again and again. Just keep doing it. You pick up the pieces of what’s left and rearrange it all until it fits, whether it’s your career, your heart, your relationships, or more times than not, yourself.

You make it work as best you can.
Kind of like college where none of us have this figured out, the idea of what we’re supposed to do or how we do it. Choosing a major to come in with is hard enough, let alone actually

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graduating when you feel like you should, hopefully with a job or some sort of plan lined up once you do. Once I got here, the process never really seemed that simple.
Because in the midst of it all, we fail, we stumble, we hope, and we keep trying to move forward as our minds change and our perspectives open up to figure out just what it is that we’re doing every day.
We take it one day, one class, one step, and one breath at a time. Until it feels like maybe we’re on the right path and those pieces are starting to fit back together again. Not perfectly, of course not, that wouldn’t be life if it did. But maybe in a way, with a little more time, you can adjust to the imperfections just enough to be content with what you’ve become.

That dust begins to settle.
In the past year of my life, I’ve learned to give myself time to let change devastate me if it must, to let it wash over every reality and every hope and every idea I once thought was set in stone. Once it does and it fades, I figure out where to go from there.
Like so many of my friends or my classmates, that’s what it’s like trying to navigate our lives and educations together. There is so much more to understand about the realities of this life in what our futures will be while trying to make the most out of a college career that’s flying by.
So six months later, this is me rebuilding the person I used to be– the life I held a year ago, two months ago, two days ago. I am rebuilding from the wreckage, the kind of process you’ll see in my writing, in my choices, and most importantly, in who I think I am. Who I think I can be.
This is how you let your heart adjust to new burdens before turning them into a beautiful kind of chaos; just the kind I’ve come to love being in the middle of. One that makes sense to you. Because stumbling and falling, losing our way and our balance, it doesn’t mean we are incapable to moving forward or getting it all “right.”
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That just means maybe we will figure it out along the way. Sometime and someday, it will make sense.
As long as you trust that maybe, every change is just a step closer to who we are going to be. And if you’re on this journey with me, then you know, there’s so much more to see through the dust and the chaos. Whether there are more tornados on the horizon or something completely new, I’m excited to take you all with me.

So happy Friday, happy April, and here’s to whatever comes next.

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.”