{poetry} | back burner.

I wrote some free verse during the sad boi hours yesterday. I had to wait a while to post it ’til I wasn’t feeling it quite as hard anymore.

Lately, I’ve been working on letting people in and asking for help. This has never been easy for me. (I’m my enneagram 2 self loooooves giving help but hates asking for it because I. hate. to. be. a. bother!!!) A friend called me out on it today, asking me if that’s how I like living my life. Of course it’s not, but I’m still trying to figure out how to stop waving through this window and actually asking for help. The world is so much bigger than my problems, but that doesn’t make them completely invalid. (So when do I bug others with them?)

Anyway. Here’s a peek inside my brain.

///

back burner.

i’m the girl behind the glass

watching people laugh as they skip

from stepping stone to stepping stone

myself simply standing

i’m the girl in the wings

waiting for a cue that never comes

others saying lines that elicit reactions and applause

myself simply silent

faces turned up in wonder at the

bright balloons of their aspirations

clutched tightly in their perfect fingers

mine deflated, popped at my feet

“i need them more than they need me,”

the reason i can’t just rid them of myself like

my aching, torn heart demands

i don’t know how to pour from an empty cup

and i don’t want to

but i don’t know how to ask to be filled

i have a one-way radio

that occasionally crackles to life without my doing

but mostly remains void

myself simply aching

so here i stand

on the back burner of my own life

others always before me

and i don’t know how to move

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on moving out.

It should come as no surprise to any of you that I’m a sentimental piece of crap. You should all know me well enough by now to have guessed that. (I mean, just look at my Year in Review posts, how many years running?)

So it figures that this week has been hard.

I’m moving out. Have I talked about that here yet? I know I’ve written two posts hinting at it that will probably stay in my drafts, but if I haven’t mentioned it yet in a post that was actually published, there you go.

It snuck up on me, to be completely honest. I said something at the beginning of the year about having no clue whatsoever about what 2019 would hold. Then, literally eleven days into the year, a Facebook post summoned a series of events that can only be God’s orchestration.

Now here we are, four days away from when I’ll leave my parents’ house. (Finally.)

To say it’s been scary is the understatement of the year. I can’t even begin to add up the amount of conversations I’ve had, articles I’ve read, and panic attacks I’ve suffered through to get here. I’ve swallowed every bit of advice from friends, mentors, and family members about how to take the plunge and what to do as I free-fall.

The thing keeping me grounded is this immense feeling of peace surrounding the whole thing (which, again, is only God). I knew from the second I stepped into the apartment that it was the right decision. I’ve totally lost it several times since then, but I keep coming back to the peace.

Maybe it’s the peace that’s gotten me through the last few weeks. The last family meals, the last hugs from my crying baby sister, the last movie nights, the last daily pre- and post-work rituals. I’m going to miss every inch of my life here in my little basement apartment in my parents’ house.

However, I keep telling my sentimental self that these aren’t true “lasts.” I’ll watch movies with my family again. I’ll have dinner with them again. We’ll set up for parties together again. It just won’t look the same. And that freaks the living daylights out of me because I’ve never been one for change. If I had my way, I’d stay here forever.

But I know that’s not healthy and I know I’ll be unhappy and I know it’s not even remotely possible. I know this is right and I know this is the next step. No matter how hard it gets or how broke I become or how quickly I ask to move back in once my lease is up, this, right now, is the right decision.

Because I’ll be moving out by myself (and my cat!!!), you may see less or you may see more of me. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like. (I’m not sure about what anything is going to look like.) All I ask is that you bear with me over the next few months as I strike out on my own and figure out what it means to be independent.

Thanks for sticking with me this far. Onward.

a short note on relationships.

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for le blog aesthetic. // {not mine}

The original title of this blog post was “Obligatory Valentine’s Day Post.”  I realized earlier this week that I always do a post on Valentine’s Day, dating back to who knows when.  (Below are the posts for your convenience – a rollercoaster of a ride for me!)

2018 – The Problem with Purity Books
2017 – Fictional Guys I’d Totally Marry
2016 – Twelve Couples I’ll Always Be In Love With (still true!)
2015 – Actively Waiting
2014 – Single and Proud of It! (warning: contains the most amount of cringe)

After looking through my blog for these posts, I’m sitting in this coffee shop on my day off, trying not to laugh as I think of how far I’ve come since writing these posts.  (I can guarantee I’ll look back at this post in a few years and cringe as well!)

I’ve come so far since writing even last year’s post.  Last year, I was in a relationship.  Last year, I had a boyfriend who surprised me at work with flowers and chocolate and then took me to get coffee and sat with me for hours as we talked about everything under the sun.

And let me tell you, being alone on Valentine’s Day after being in a very good relationship the year before is not my cup of tea.  (I just audibly sighed while staring into my coffee cup and the guy next to me won’t stop staring at me now good gosh what have I done.)

I know I’ve come far since that Valentine’s Day banquet I think I mention in every single post.  Y’know, the one that ruined me so badly because all of these couples were in fantastic relationships and I was single?  Yeah, that one.  Like, get over yourself, 2013 Ashley.  You were EIGHTEEN!  HOLY COW!  What I wouldn’t give to just smack that Ashley upside the head – and then give her a hug because honestly she had no idea what was coming for her.

So many years of feeling alone and loveless when, really, all those years of being single shaped me in ways I can’t even begin to know.  I didn’t need anyone, but I felt like I did.  I wanted what I saw in the movies when, in reality, being in a relationship is nothing like Elizabeth and Darcy, or Lydia and Stiles, or even Emma and Knightley.  Relationships, while beautiful and amazing, take so much work on both sides.  And it’s so, so easy to settle.  I can think of so many real-life relationships I know about personally right now off the top of my head, but can only count on one hand the number that I think are truly healthy and good.

It’s so easy to want what we see in the movies or on our social media feeds or with our friends.  It looks so perfect – so effortless – so easy.  The truth is, there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes.  Arguments, bitterness, jealousy, miscommunication… that’s what relationships are made out of.  Sure, there are other good things as well, but it’s not a real relationship if it doesn’t include all the hard stuff, too.  Real relationships are worth the hard stuff, but if there’s more hard than good, it’s probably not healthy.  (On second thought, maybe I am a little more cynical than I was last year.  #yikes)

While I would love to be going out with someone tonight, I can truly say that I’m grateful for where God has me.  My last relationship ended well and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’ve grown so much since then and learned so much about myself that I honestly don’t think I’d want to be with somebody tonight.

Instead, my plans tonight are to write a little, then put on a face mask, drink some wine, and watch About Time by myself (then make chocolate-covered strawberries with my sister and watch a little John Mulaney).

in all those days of crying myself to sleep, i felt as if i needed someone there to hold me – to help me piece myself back together.  it wasn’t until later that i realized that although the want was still there, the need was gone.  i had stitched myself back together all by myself.”

– the boy and the theatre girl

UPDATE: So, turns out my plans got changed. I wrote this post on the 13th and scheduled it for the morning of the 14th. Soon after, I smashed my phone in a car door, shattering the screen and visibly bending it (only the first in a series of very bad things that I couldn’t control and culminated in me sobbing on the phone to my mom early the next morning on my way to work). I spent the early parts of the evening getting a new phone and setting it up, but it ended up being better. My sister came home from rehearsal and told me stories of how they were blocking her show (the Little Women musical, which is FABULOUS), and one of my very best friends dropped by with flowers from my brother in college and we chatted for a while. Just goes to show that we’re never truly in charge of our lives and God can change our plans in an instant!

“i’m not like other girls.”

picI watched Bohemian Rhapsody with a good friend a few weeks ago (10/10 recommend; we stopped trying to pretend we weren’t crying halfway through).  The first chance I got to listen to the soundtrack happened a few days ago, and I finished it today on the way to work.  After it finished, it reminded me of another classic album, so I switched to Abbey Road by The Beatles.  As the first song played, I couldn’t help but smile as it reminded me of a time a few years ago where I listened to it almost obsessively.

It makes me laugh to think that the reason why I listened to it obsessively is because of a guy.  Sure, I liked the album, but I wouldn’t have listened to it half as much if this guy hadn’t raved about it.  I also knew it was a Quality album because duh.

For a while, it gave me a sort of haughty air – a snobbish attitude to accompany the ability to tell people that I’d listened to Abbey Road and knew the lyrics to such classic songs.  Sure, I listened to Taylor Swift and even some Katy Perry, but that didn’t give me as much street cred as “Octopus’s Garden” and “Oh, Darling.”

It definitely occurred to me that I was falling prey to the whole “I’m not like other girls” mentality – the idea that you should distance yourself from the stereotypical Basic White Girl.  (And I’ve already talked about this, so I won’t get into it even though I want to.)

However, I didn’t lean into this idea as much as a girl my age should’ve (and probably would have, by the time she was eighteen).  I didn’t do it because, solely due to my unique upbringing, I already knew I wasn’t like other girls.

And all I wanted was to blend in – to be like these Other Girls that girls on Tumblr try so hard to distance themselves from.

I was reminded of this again today when I read a Facebook post that was making the rounds.  (I helped it along by reposting, obviously.)  In it, the author presents a case for looking a little deeper into the church body instead of making assumptions.  She talked about girls who were held hostage at home, who taught piano lessons to contribute to the family bank account, and who were told that their feelings don’t matter, all in the name of “Biblical womanhood.”

While this wasn’t entirely my experience, it rang true enough that it got me thinking.  Thinking about those days when I went to Bible study, knowing full that I didn’t want my dad to know if a guy was interested in me before I did.  Days when I put on a skirt for church and knew I wouldn’t be able to play football with the guys afterwards.  Days when I wished I could have some semblance of a “normal” teenage life, instead of the conservative, Duggar-esque one I’d somehow stumbled into.

Of course, I couldn’t voice any of those feelings aloud.  So I kept them to myself, hoping that maybe, hopefully, someday I could figure out how to escape.

When it was all said and done, it wasn’t as much as an escape as it was a simple growing out of the mindset.  And I’m still growing, praise God.

In the years since, I’ve learned how to heal and find healthy ways to express myself without the confines of church-imposed rules and regulations while still holding to what was good about my upbringing.  Because of this, I don’t have any regrets about how I grew up.  How could I, knowing that it shaped me into who I am today and gave me the empathy to help people who are still stuck in that destructive mindset?

Today, I wore black skinny jeans and a cute business jacket to go along with my new cute, short haircut (that in and of itself being the first of my outward “rebellions” a few years ago against the cultish church that dragged me down).  I know I look more like those Other Girls than the awkward, skirt-wearing teen I was only a few years ago, and I couldn’t be happier.

year in review: 2018.

Ahh, 2018, you absurd, slightly terrifying year.

No preface.  Let’s just dive right into the insanity.  (Once again, quick disclaimer that I mostly do these posts for myself and not to brag or anything yadiyadiyada okay let’s go.)

JANUARY

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me at the beginning of the year. | 01.04

The year started off with a good friend leaving for an extended period of time.  I was slightly devastated.  I didn’t know how to cope, so I just threw myself into my work and theatre.  I auditioned for my first musical, Singin’ in the Rain, and paced in the bathroom at work while waiting for the cast list to be released.  During this month, I also got into critiquing conservative books from my teenage years – mostly because of a little blog that I’m still addicted to – and started re-reading said books.  (I still need to do a long, ranty post about Before You Meet Prince Charming.  Whew.  The insanity.)

I didn’t get a lead in Singin’, but I did get a very minor role and ensemble, and rehearsals twice a week would be my saving grace during the next few months.  My younger sister got into the ensemble as well – her first show! – and we bonded because of it, quoting the show to each other more than we had when we were just fans of the musical.  I also got to stage manage for another show, which meant sitting backstage in front of a monitor with a headset on my head and a script in my lap and making sure everybody was where they needed to be, props were set, and sound cues were made.  I realized I liked being backstage almost as much as being onstage (no lines?! heck yeah!), and everyone in the cast loved me.

FEBRUARY

feb 18

once upon a december… | 02.24

My favorite Aussie and her younger sister (my second-favorite Aussie) visited, sparking my very first solo trip to Atlanta that almost got all three of us murdered, but it was definitely an adventure!  I was barely able to spend time with them because of my hectic work schedule, but I did get to introduce them to my small town, my theatre family, and Chick-fil-A fries (which, let’s be honest, was probably the best thing I could have introduced them to).  I had a very nice Valentine’s Day surprise from my boyfriend after expecting to just spend it the way I always did – chocolate and rom-com in bed and listing all the reasons why I was happy to be single.

I was able to go to about a third of my church’s DNOW conference with the girls that I still co-lead in small group at church, which was nice (although I would’ve liked to have gone to the whole thing – again, working on Saturday sucks).  I crashed a Valentine’s Day dance full of people from my old church and it was so freeing and invigorating and honestly made that entire month for me.  (Long, long, long story.)  I also hosted a Galentine’s Day party with my sisters and two of my very best friends, which was mostly just eating bruschetta and watching the Galentine’s Day episode of Parks and Recreation and dishing on relationship drama.  (All in all, I’d say my Valentine’s Day season was infinitely better than all years previous.  13/10 would recommend.)

I also went to my first con and cosplayed for the first time and it. was. incredible.  If I could go back and do it all over again just to relive it, I wouldn’t change a thing, even the hard bits and the part where I had an allergic reaction to my friend’s cat the night before we left.  Over the next two and a half days, I cosplayed as Anastasia, Belle, Jyn Erso, and Wendy Darling.  My friend cosplayed as Dimitri and Peter, so taking pictures together was definitely a highlight.  We went to the con as volunteers, so I still haven’t technically been to a con as an attendee, although we browsed the vendor hall as much as we could.  One of my favorite things was eating pizza in my golden Anastasia ballgown and also watching people recognize us.  Definitely a highlight of 2018!

MARCH

In the beginning of this month, one of my best friends had a sweet sixteen that was poppin’.  My friends and I gave her an afternoon with us, and we explored our little town by doing a scavenger hunt and sending pictures of all of our stops to her mom, who sent us clues for things to find.  I also continued to babysit at my local Classical Conversations chapter every Tuesday on my day off, now far enough into the school year that it was routine.  I’d made so many mom friends that I continue to keep up with, and I really miss hanging out with a bunch of toddlers as an extra little break from my adult job.

And speaking of, I mainly just worked this month.  I don’t know what it was about March that was so routine, but with Singin’ in the Rain rehearsals two nights a week, co-leading my small group every Sunday, plus random things every few nights, sometimes all I could do was go to work and come home and sleep.  It ended up being a good thing that I’d somehow stuck my head in the sand and stayed in my lane because the next month was full of personal drama that I didn’t know I needed to be prepared to handle.

APRIL

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post-show pics. (not featured: post-show tears.) | 04.28

This month started off with a bang because I experienced my first breakup.  It wasn’t as heartbreakingly earth-shattering as it probably could have been, mostly because he’s an angel and we ended on great terms.  It was really hard for a while.  I didn’t want to be single again, since experiencing all of the major holidays and my birthday with a significant other was pretty darn great.  But I made it, and now I’m back to my regular self-deprecating, single self.  (Although I’m trying to follow Hannah Gadsby‘s lead and cut it out.)  I also experienced some slightly more personal things involving friendships that opened my eyes a lot, which was greatly needed and has definitely radically changed who I am and how I relate to people.

On a slightly more serious note, I did taxes for the first time.  Ugh, and boy, was it boring.  Definitely wasn’t as hard as people make it out to be, just annoying.  But I solved that by watching The Greatest Showman and drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade while I did it.  I also made it through tech week for Singin’ and our lone show weekend.  It was such an incredible experience and even though I wasn’t able to be in it as much as I’d hoped (the choreo rehearsals were on Saturday afternoons while I was at work an hour away), I will forever think of it as one of my favorite shows.  I also got to costume a show starting in April, and it was later nominated for Best Costumes in our annual awards event.  Pretty neat!

MAY

May started with an ill-fated beach trip that turned out to be one of my favorite things I did all year.  Long story short, I missed most of it because of work and had to change my plans at the very last minute, culminating in several tearful phone calls to friends and crying alone in my basement on the floor at almost midnight.  However, I got up the next morning before five and drove down in record time, listening to music and watching John Mulaney comedy specials and painting my nails.  (Hey, those roads are straight and boring!)  I pulled onto 30-A with “From Now On” from The Greatest Showman blasting from my speakers out the open windows and crying as the “and we will come back home” lyrics hit me hard.  I met my mom at a swanky coffee shop that I’d been wanting to try for years but never got the chance to, and it was almost like coming home again.  I spent the next day and a half doing all the beachy things and falling asleep at 9pm both nights on the couch.

My siblings and I did The Last Great B Team Road Trip in my car on the way home, pit stopping for two days in Tampa for a friend’s wedding and to visit more friends.  James and I got to finish the second season of Stranger Things in the back while my sister drove (no idea why I hadn’t finished it sooner), so that was fun.  Speaking of James, he graduated high school later that month.  We threw a big party for him and filled our house with his friends even though I only recognized a handful of them.  (#foreshadowing)

Later in June, I started rehearsals for my theatre company’s annual Summersplosion program.  It was unlike any production I’d ever done because we had to build the show from scratch, from concept to performance, with only one rule: that it fit in a theatre in the round (audience on all sides of the stage).  My team included myself, five kids between seven and fifteen, and our director (a freshman in college).  We ended up coming up with our show idea by the end of the first “rehearsal,” and were able to pull it off in August with flying colors.

JUNE

In the beginning of June, I took two days off to play in a wedding with two of my siblings at one of the most gorgeous locations I’ve ever seen.  The wedding involved a lot more prep work than we thought it would, but it paid off so well that we didn’t mind.  The couple met while doing theatre, so everything had musical aspects, especially influenced by Peter Pan and Finding Neverland (um, let me go sob in a corner, please).  Their wedding favor was either a keychain, bracelet, or necklace that featured a thimble charm and an acorn charm.  Swoon.  Totally stealing that idea.

The rest of the month was mostly full of rehearsals and writing the script for our show at work.  I think I ended up writing half the script, with the other sections going to two of the other kids on our team. The play was set in a post-apocalyptic society where all forms of creativity have been banned, especially music.  Five kids find a box of musical instruments and I got to play the teacher/government baddie who tried to make them stop (but also had secrets of her own).  Writing the thing was so hard, but we ended up finishing before the deadline.

Later in the month, I surprised one of my best friends on his birthday and hung out with him all day, taking him to lunch and going with him to rehearsal for a production of Newsies, in which he played Jack Kelly.  (Just when I thought I couldn’t love him any more…)  It was really, really fun to watch the show come together just at that one rehearsal, and I’ve even become friends with some of the cast (mostly because I ended up going to another rehearsal, seeing the show twice, and hanging out with the cast a few times).  After leaving his rehearsal, I went straight to my grandparents’ house, where we had our annual cousin camp.  I had to work that entire week, so I didn’t get to spend as much time with my cousins and my grandparents as I would’ve liked, but I still enjoyed it.

JULY

july 18.jpg

happiest place, best people. | 07.08

JULY WAS PROBABLY THE BEST MONTH OF THE ENTIRE YEAR.  (Which was great, because the last few months were pretty bad.)  It started off with one of the best trips I’ve ever done – Disney with two of my bestest friends.  It was the perfect length, with just the right amount of fun, late-night talks, musical karaoke, morning coffee sessions… oh, and wine.  First time at Disney as “a child with a liquor license” and it was pretty great.  Doing Disney with my family was awesome because I got to see my younger siblings experience Disney, but doing it with friends was incredible.  We all had a few things we really wanted to do, but we were also super flexible so we’d just do stuff at the drop of a hat, which meant that I actually got to experience more with my friends in their twenties than I did with my family.  We went home with so many amazing stories and memories that we’ll probably keep just between the three of us ’til we die.  It was an amazingly special time and I’m so blessed to have experienced it.

I also sung in my first cabaret – A SOLO!  It was a miscast cabaret (basically gender-swapping songs), and I sang “Santa Fe” from Newsies.  Nobody really knew I could sing, so to hear people rant and rave about how well I did afterwards was pretty great.  I also started to go through the grieving process of my little bro (and favorite sibling thERE I SAID IT) leaving to go to college.  (Lots of grieving in the latter half of 2018 what the heck.)  My friend peer pressured me into getting the Pokemon Go app and we subsequently got stuck outside in a massive thunderstorm and almost died.  I went on an all-day bro/sis date with my little bro, to a musical with my younger sister, and saw my best friend absolutely crush it as Jack in Newsies… twice.  I took myself on a date (something I’ve started doing more now – nights where I work late one night and early the next morning, I’ll do something with myself and it’s been really fun), I went on another date w my bro (gotta get in that favorite sib time), and I saw some of my younger friends kill it in a local production of Grease, also twice.  (What can I say?  I love supporting my friends.)

AUGUST

Ahh, August.  Seriously, the entire rest of this year was so emotional.  I’m surprised I have any emotional stamina – or hair – left.  Anyway.

The month started off with a pretty big amount of work drama.  After a particularly hard day (won’t bore you with the details), I told myself I had to stop saying that I’d hit “the worst day” because another one will eventually come along that’s worse.  My best work friend also started interviewing for jobs and I remember crying on the way home from work multiple times.  I also got to go to a Braves game with almost the entire company, so that was fun.

On the theatre front, we finalized the script, costumes, sound effects, lighting, etc for our Summersplosion show, which we’d entitled Modulating the Machine.  (Get it?  It’s post-apocalyptic and has a fun nod to music.  I was so proud.)  I slept over at my theatre mom’s house and saw Mamma Mia 2 with her and her daughter.  My theatre’s annual awards ceremony happened one night after work at a local science museum, so it was fun to dress up and go, even if I didn’t win anything.  My little bro and yes I repeat favorite sibling left for college and I cried on the way to and from work a few more times.  Another bright moment was being asked to be on the marketing team for my local theatre, specifically working on the social media and managing the Instagram entirely.  (And the follow count has since doubled in size, thankyouverymuch.)  I also got to have an impromptu sleepover with two of my very best friends after their college going-away party, mostly just because I really, really didn’t want to leave.  (It had been a super hard weekend and I didn’t want to say goodbye to them and I also just didn’t want to go home.)

I got to see another show with three guy friends – a local production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame that made all of us cry, so that was fun.  We hung out in a coffee shop afterwards talking about literally everything and anything, then got dinner afterwards because we just didn’t want to leave.  I also got invited to a party thrown by all of my older theatre friends who I think are astonishingly cool, so that was fun.  (I brought flowers and played with a kitten half the time, but that is neither here nor there.)  I had an impromptu “coffee hang” with three friends on my day off that ended up turning into an almost weekly thing that we still do (we actually just did it today).  Those people have since turned into three of my closest friends.  I also spent the night with my little bro at his college and nearly cried because how the h*ck could he be so old?!  It was so much fun touring his campus and meeting a few of his friends, especially since I’d been working when my family drove him down and got him settled.

SEPTEMBER

During this month, I basically just put my head down and tried to work the best I could.  I bought a car after a year of stressing and saving and finding wrong cars until I finally – FINALLY – found the right one.  My work bestie sold it to me about a week before he left, so I obviously cried in it a lot.

*takes a break to sip hot chocolate and read an article about the benefits of crying*

I also saw some friends in The Great Gatsby – two different casts on two different weekends and I had friends playing in both, so obviously I had to go to a performance on both weekends.  I also saw Daddy Long Legs with my sister and one of my best friends, and to say it was a dream come true would be an understatement.  I’ve been high-key obsessed with that show for over a decade and even considered auditioning for this particular production.  I’m so glad I didn’t, though, because the young woman who played Jerusha knocked it out of the park in ways I can only dream of.  (It’s still one of my bucket list roles, however.  Fingers crossed it can happen sometime!)

OCTOBER

This month started off with some pretty exciting yet hard work stuff.  With the completion of some renovation, the dealership where I work split into two different stores – New and Pre-Owned – effectively splitting my coworkers in half.  I’ve gotten to work in both places and definitely miss the others when I’m gone.  This split happened the same week that I petsit for my theatre parents and their thirteen pets.  (It was kind of chaotic, but I enjoyed living in a zoo with my sister for a week!)  I have in my notes that Trench also came out, which is a huge deal because twenty øne piløts is one of my favorite bands of all time.  I was able to go to Jeni’s and try their ice cream for the first time and then walk around the shopping center with my friend for a while.  It was a nice, chill night (especially after all that chaos).

I also petsit for a coworker for a week; only two dogs this time.  She lives five minutes from work, which was a nice change of pace from my hour and a half drive one way.  It was fun to pretend like I was a successful young businesswoman with my own fancy place, but I missed my basement kitchenette and den.  I also got to visit with the two friends who’d recently gone off to college, and hearing their stories made me wish I’d gone.  Some of my friends were in a local production of Seussical, so I obviously had to go see that, too.  (Dang, I’m losing track of how many shows I went to see!  It’s gonna happen again in 2019, I know, because I’ve already bought tickets to several Broadway tours and friends’ shows.)

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jyn & christine. | 10.26

I also took myself on a date to the movies for the very first time!  I don’t go to the movie theater often because I don’t like going by myself, but I couldn’t find anybody to go see this movie with me.  Since I still really wanted to see it, I just decided to do it.  And dang, it was so much fun.  (Mental note: Go to the movies by myself more often in 2019!)  The movie was a recording of the National Theatre Live’s production of Frankenstein, starring Jonny Lee Miller as Dr. Frankenstein and Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature.  So, duh, I had to go.  (The next weekend, the showing was the same except the roles were switched and I totally would’ve gone if I didn’t have a sales dinner that night.  I got to dress up super fancy and completely shock everybody there with how fabulous I looked.  It was great.)  My younger sister and I started watching a very famous, kinda adult, historical show that we’d been wanting to see for a while, and suffice it to say we’re hooked.  It’s become Our Thing and we watch a few episodes together every week.  We also went to a friend’s Halloween party as Jyn Erso (reusing cosplay ftw) and Christine Daae.  My sister made her “Masquerade” dress from scratch – no pattern – and won third place!

NOVEMBER

The last weekend of October and beginning of November was another highlight of the year.  It felt like all of my favorite bands were coming in town… and yes, I got tickets to see three of them (and planned a Friendsgiving party for the day after, no shame).  I met my younger sister downtown and saw AJR on Halloween night.  We dressed up as Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, and my little bro drove up with his girlfriend as Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein.  My best friend and one of her friends came, and we had so much fun.  It was such a good concert!  We bonded with a few people there who we’re actually still talking to, so that was neat.  The next night, NF was in town but I made myself adult and not buy tickets.

nov 18

the few, the proud, & the emotional. | 11.02

Friday night we saw twenty øne piløts and holy cow, it was amazing.  So, so, so incredible.  To see my boys live with my little bro and two good friends was indescribable.  They played songs from the entire discography, even some from their self-titled album, and I sang along with very dang word.  The next day, I got up early, worked 8am-6pm, then drove down to the venue of the first concert with my friend to see The Band Camino and Ben Rector.  (Ben headlined and Camino opened but I’d be lying if I said I bought the tickets to see Ben.)  Camino was incredible and Ben was so, so, so funny.  I even got to meet The Band Camino afterwards, which was a highlight of the weekend.

The next morning, Sunday, we slept in a little, then talked over coffee.  After a while, we turned on the old 1992 Newsies and started prepping for my Friendsgiving party.  My friends started showing up in the afternoon and it was a wonderful time of eating and catching up and singing and eating some more.  I’d always wanted to host a Friendsgiving, and I think it’s going to become a tradition.  (Fingers crossed that the next one can be in my own place!)  I definitely had too many people there, but it was only overwhelming for a little while, and I overcame it by sitting in a corner and eating chips straight out of the bag.  Then, we had an after-party with a few friends who were going to spend the night, complete with a boozy game of Cards Against Humanity.

So, suffice it to say that weekend was probably a highlight of my life.

I also attempted NaNo for the fourth time AND WONNNN.  (For the third time!)  It was really hard with a full-time job (and a part-time job of just getting there and back), but I managed.  The entire last week of the month, I didn’t do anything after work, instead going straight home and writing ’til my eyes burned.  I can’t wait to share this story with you guys.  Honestly, it’s one of the most special things I’ve ever written and I think it’ll go far.  (Or at least I hope it does!)

I was also asked to be in the premiere reading of a local playwright’s play, which was super duper fun.  I petsat for my coworker again – just for a weekend this time – decorated my grandma’s tree with my siblings for the third year in a row, did a social experiment that I learned a lot from, got a Christmas tree for my downstairs apartment, found out that my car can fit a five-foot inflated dinosaur (don’t ask).  Oh, and finished NaNo, all by myself in my favorite coffee shop.  (Seriously, there wasn’t anyone there.  I freaked out for a hot second because I thought they’d closed early without telling me.)

DECEMBER

dec 18

my bestie & me. | 12.16

December.  Ohhhhh, December.

I normally don’t put too many expectations on my birthday because it just tends to get lost by the wayside of Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and end-of-year recitals and concerts and Christmas and New Year’s and everything else in between.  A good friend flew up for my birthday this year, which made it better than I thought it was going to be, even though all of our plans got cancelled or rained out – after I worked 8am-6pm that day.  (Saturdays at the dealership are brutal.)  The day after my birthday, we baked with a friend and then watched a movie with another friend, which was definitely my favorite part.

The week after my birthday was honestly pretty bad, though – personal drama, work drama, theatre drama… lots of tears.  After taking a break from theatre to focus on work, hoping to get my dream role of Jo in Little Women… I didn’t get in.  I cried myself to sleep two nights in a row that week.  At the very end of the week, I got to go to a dance with some of my very best friends.  We got Taco Bell afterwards and ate it on the carpet in my dad’s office and I think I enjoyed trying not to laugh so loudly that it woke my parents up almost more than the dance.  (Funny how it’s the little things about this past year that I remember or enjoyed the most…)

I was able to fit in some Christmasy stuff as well – a movie and Christmas party with my small group girls (plus looking at some breathtaking Christmas lights), a night with my best friend that we made Christmasy by looking at more lights, and I even changed my lock screen on my phone to a Harry Potter-themed Christmas picture (which is a big deal because I’ve had the same picture since I got the phone in 2015).  The day before my birthday, I revived my blog by posting a review of Joshua Harris’s documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye and it kind of blew up.  (I’m glad to be back, guys.)  I had two sleepovers with a friend (we started two Christmas movies and fell asleep before they were done both times), I missed my baby sister’s first ballet recital because of work (she was the lead sheep in the Nativity ballet), I was asked to be in another reading of a good friend’s play in January, and I moved to a different building at work for two weeks.

All things considered, I had an okay Christmas season (even if I worked during most of it).  I also worked New Year’s Eve and spent it with my best friend.  We got pizza and got a little further in our re-watch of Teen Wolf and she was asleep by ten.  I ended up going outside in the rain to watch the fireworks go off at midnight by myself, a glass of wine in one hand and my phone with a streaming video of the ball dropping in Times Square in the other.  Doing New Year’s Eve by myself sounds kind of pathetic or lame or sad, but it really wasn’t.  It was freeing and almost invigorating, in a way.  To know that I made it to the end of the year and to be able to celebrate that all by myself was… empowering.

Of course, I didn’t do it all by myself.  I did it with the help of my family and friends and  my amazing Creator.

If you’ve made it this far, I just want to thank you.  Thank you for reading, thank you for caring, and thank you for sticking with me.  I write these posts mainly to look back at what God has carried me through and how much I’ve changed in the space of 525,600  minutes, and it’s always incredibly jarring and inspiring.

2018 was one of the hardest, but most fulfilling years of my life and I grew more than I ever have before.  I thought 2019 was going to be a weird in-between year but it’s already shaping up to be a pretty good blend of crazy and insane and chaotic and fun.  Can’t wait to see what’s in store!

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traditional bathroom selfie. | 01.23.19

the boy and the theatre girl: an excerpt.

As per the norm, I can’t really get you guys anything for Christmas… except my writing.  Seemed fitting, especially since you stayed with me after I spent almost a year in hibernation.  So here you go – the beginning of ‘The Boy and the Theatre Girl,’ my NaNo18 novel.  Thank you so much for your friendship, and Merry Christmas!

keaton henson // the pugilist

I’d always thought it incredibly sexy whenever someone correctly used a semicolon. Honestly, it should be called a sexicolon. Comma splices are used way too often now. It’s like there’s a widespread panic to use them up, even incorrectly, before they’re gone. As if there are a finite amount of commas in the world. Please. Just switch it out with a semicolon and, barring any other grammatical errors, I’d be yours forever.

Now, granted, being “yours forever” would provide that I actually talk to the person. I’d always heard that fluent communication is the key to relationships, even if I’d never really seen it played out in my own life. But maybe this communication could occur via the written word instead of verbal.

Another assumed factor in this fairy tale scenario is that someone would actually take the time to try to communicate with me. This is the most fantastical of the factors in this scenario.

It wasn’t that I was a hard person to talk to. I’d always thought of myself as a very approachable person. Shorter than the average twelve-year-old, I didn’t really look like a kid anymore. Honestly, it was the part about talking with me that tripped people up.

I could spend a long time explaining my reasons why, but the short and sweet answer was that I didn’t talk. The shorter and slightly more bittersweet reason was that I couldn’t. I used to, but for the last four years, I haven’t said a word.

The last family I stayed with only lasted a week. They were convinced I couldn’t actually talk – that I had been born a mute – and that my “special needs” and “disabilities” were, to quote the file Sheri had unsuccessfully tried to hide from me, “more than they could handle at the time.”

I was surprised; I thought they’d only last three days tops. That’s how long the previous family had kept me, but the reason I was taken away from them after such a short time had more to do with the fact that they had beaten me repeatedly. They’d claimed my inability to speak was due to rebellion and that, if they just showed me who was really in charge, they could “break my will.” But what they didn’t know – what nobody seems to understand – is that I was willing to feel a little temporary pain. It was better than the alternative.

I had learned the hard way that sometimes it’s just best to keep your mouth shut. I’d kept it shut ever since.

All of this lazily tumbled through my head as I sat on the bed, my tattered and dog-eared notebook in my lap and my worn backpack beside me as I mulled over how to word something I’d been trying to write in the notebook for the last hour. I had inserted a semicolon between two phrases and it had rounded out the stanza so nicely that I had to take a moment to admire it.

A knock sounded on my door, and I looked up as Mr. Jackson poked his head in. “Ten minutes, Zach.”

I nodded.

Mr. Jackson glanced around the room, looking anywhere except at me before finally fixing his gaze on me. “You ready?”

Again, I nodded.

After a moment, he nodded back, knocked twice on the door, then stepped back, closing it in front of him.

I looked down at my notebook, but none of the words would focus.

This always happened. I was always, constantly, endlessly in a cycle of hellos, attempts at adapting, not fitting in, and goodbyes. It would never end. Not until I aged out.

I blinked a few times, then frowned and rubbed my nose.

Six more years.

Closing my eyes and shaking my head as if to clear the cobwebs inside seemed to help a little. After a moment, the words became less blurry. I clicked my pen and continued.

Twenty-one minutes later, I sat in the back seat of Sheri’s car, my arms around my backpack and my head leaning against the window. I didn’t watch the Jackson’s house fade in the distance. It had been a while since I’d done that with any of the houses I’d left. It was better that way.

“You just had a birthday, didn’t you?”

I opened my eyes and caught Sheri’s gaze in the rearview mirror. I nodded, feeling the tension slowly start to ease out of my shoulders.

“I think there’s such a big gap between eleven and twelve. Obviously not in age, but in mentality. Twelve just seems so much older. Right?” She looked back at me and I nodded back. I knew what she meant. “And don’t even get me started on thirteen. You can never turn thirteen, okay?”

I didn’t smile, but my face softened and I felt my the knots in my insides slowly release a little. Only Sheri knew how to do that.

“Remind me before we get to the Keller’s that I have a present for you in the trunk, okay? I got it the other day and was going to bring it to the Jackson’s, but then there was this situation with two sets of triplets – triplets, Zachary, and two sets of them – and the time just got away from me. You should’ve seen them. So cute. Both sets were identical, so that made for a very interesting weekend…”

I listened to Sheri ramble as I stared out the window. It was easy between us. It’d always been that way. Even when I’d leave a house and everything was awful and it didn’t feel like it would ever get better, I knew I’d see Sheri and, for at least a few hours, everything would be okay.

As my social worker, she knew everything about me, so she was the only person who never pressured me to talk or asked any awkward questions about my past. She was the only person in the world who understood me, but knowing there was at least one person out there who could help me, even on my very worst days… it just helped.

“So this family has a cat – did I tell you that?”

She glanced over her shoulder and I shook my head, letting go of my train of thought.

“An orange tabby,” she told me, flicking on her blinker as she pulled onto an exit ramp. “You know I despise cats, but I hope you can be friends with him. I think his name’s something Shakespearean – Hamlet? Macbeth? I don’t know. Anyway, I think he’s sweet. They said he was. But that’s an oxymoron. A sweet cat? Are you kidding me?”

I pursed my lips, but knew that my dimple had made an appearance. After all these years, she’d been the only one who’d consistently been able to make it appear. Of course, she was the only consistent factor in my life over the course of those years.

“Now, they’re a little farther away than I like for you to be,” Sheri continued, briefly glancing back at me again, “so you’ll be in a different school. I’ve already talked to some of your new teachers, though, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be ahead in some subjects. The best thing about staying with the Jacksons was definitely the school. Good decision on everyone’s part.”

She cleared her throat and I stared at the rearview mirror, noticing how she looked everywhere except at me.

“However,” she said, her grip tightening on the wheel for a split second, “Mrs. Keller has tossed around the idea of homeschool. It’d be mostly cyberschool, with some textbook learning. No co-op, no tutors, nothing with physical interaction.” She braked at a stoplight and turned back to me. “How does that sound? Something you’d be interested in?”

I held her gaze for a moment, then looked at the center console. Thoughts rushed around my head in chaotic swirls like money in a money machine, and I, its confused occupant, was unable to grasp at any of them.

“Want to at least try?” she asked softly.

Homeschool was something I’d heard of and almost wanted to do since before I got into the system, but it always seemed more like a pipe dream. It scared me, but the thought of pushing through bodies and standing awkwardly in front of teachers as they tried to make me talk scared me even more.

After a while, I nodded.

Sheri smiled. “You’re a good kid, Zach. You know that?”

I felt my face grow slightly red and my gaze flickered up to Sheri’s as I tried not to smile too widely.

Suddenly, a car behind us honked their horn, making Sheri jump and spin around.

“Gosh, can’t they wait a second?!” she shouted, accelerating. “Trying to have a moment with my favorite boy here!”

I snorted in my attempt to conceal my laughter. Sheri glanced at me in the rear-view mirror, beaming with glistening eyes.

“Sappiness aside, I really think you’re gonna like this family.”

I leaned my head against the window and closed my eyes, just listening.

“I know I don’t say that about every family, because it sure as hell isn’t true for every family.” She turned on her blinker, tapping her finger against the wheel as she waited for a chance to merge. Sheri’s language usually grew a little flowery whenever she was in a stressful driving situation, and it appeared that today was no exception. “But I’m serious about this one. Their daughter Emilie is seventeen and an only child, so you don’t have to worry about little ones invading your personal space. And they’ve all obviously been made aware of your situation, so you shouldn’t have a problem with that, either.” She glanced back at me for a second before merging. “Sorry about the Jackson’s kids, by the way. I didn’t know it was going to be an issue.”

I opened my mouth slightly, feeling the words “It’s okay” pushing against the edge of my lips. But, as always, I couldn’t say it. I swallowed and just smiled up at her a little.

I’d never been closer to speaking to anyone than I’d been with Sheri. I felt so at ease around her that I knew if I could talk around her, I would. But every time I seemed to make it to that point – to maybe, almost, possibly saying a word or two – she’d drop me off and drive away for who knows how long.

I understood why, and it wasn’t like I was mad at her or anything. After all, it was her job. I just always wished we could have a little more time together. Then maybe I could finally talk to somebody. Maybe.

it’s okay if it isn’t the best time of the year.

This past week was one of the toughest weeks of my life. And I hate saying that, because the universe is always like “You thought that was bad?! Check this out!!!”

It’s never a good idea.

However, seeing as I cried myself to sleep twice this past week, I think I can say that.

I called my best friend about halfway through the week and vented to her, then listened to her vent about her own rough week. Not gonna lie – she definitely had it worse, and I felt bad for complaining when all of that was going on and I didn’t even know it.

I found myself telling her that it didn’t even feel like Christmas. We don’t get too much snow here in Georgia, so I’ve only had a few white Christmases since moving here. We had Christmas music going at my work, but only for about a week because some of my coworkers complained. I haven’t watched many Christmas movies because I’ve been so tired from working eight-plus hours a day & driving almost three. With all that – plus all the drama going on in my life (it’s been kind of a nightmare) – it’s hard to get into the holly jolly mood.

On the phone that night, we ended up making plans to see one another that weekend because it had been way too long. The next Sunday, I went to church donned in a Christmas sweater and Santa hat (the youth building was having a Christmas outfit contest and, as a leader, there was no way I wasn’t going to participate) and blasted Josh Groban in my car. I did some Christmas shopping and got lost looking at Christmas lights before picking my best friend up from work, getting coffee and two pizzas to split in the car, and driving almost thirty minutes to see a massive Christmas light display that another friend told me about.

Because of that – those hours where I actively chose to go find some Christmas spirit – I definitely think that this week will be better. (Knock on wood.)

However, in those hours of driving around getting lost, before picking up my friend, I heard some bad family news and got into an argument with my sister that could have ruined the evening. It did for a while, as I ranted to my bestie, but then I tried to put it past me for at least a little while.

All that to say, I’ve gotten so caught up in the messiness and drama of everyday life that I’ve totally missed the actual spirit of Christmas. It’s so easy to get stuck in the ruts, isn’t it? To just lose yourself in the everyday routine and only see what’s directly in front of you instead of zooming out and seeing the bigger picture?

Something I’ve learned this season is that it’s okay if all the Christmas songs don’t actually ring true. If it’s not the best time of the year. If it’s not holly or jolly or if your heart can’t be light or if your troubles aren’t miles away.

It’s hard to say, but maybe all the awfulness brings us closer to Christ in this season?

I had a moment in my car on the way to church where I was just overwhelmed for a while, mostly with God’s goodness and grace. I don’t deserve anything He did, especially right now. But all this mess – this garbage we either choose or don’t choose to bring into our lives – is what He died for, isn’t it? He knew we’d have messy, beautiful, chaotic, passionate lives, and He still chose to make that decision.

This turned a lot more preachy than I wanted it to be and I apologize, but these are just some things that I’ve had on my mind lately. I am by no means someone to look up to, but I just thought I’d share a little of what I’ve been thinking and experiencing in hopes that maybe you guys could learn it without making the same mistakes I do.

Christmas is just around the corner, and I hope and pray that you all have a good one, regardless of whatever is going on in your lives.

Love you all, and Merry Christmas!