no more kool-aid.

“It’s a wonder either of us still believe in God,” I said into the phone, softly, hesitantly, as if speaking them were releasing a terrible truth.

How dare we, after all?  Yes, Jacob wrestled with God, but we weren’t allowed to.  We’d grown up in the same subculture, drinking batch after batch of Kool-Aid, trying not to let it influence us but knowing that it was slowly poisoning us anyway.

He didn’t say anything for a while.  When he did, it was soft and reluctant and surprised and awed.  “Yeah.”

I never thought the way I grew up was any different than anyone else.  Sure, I knew we wore skirts and homeschooled, but that was the majority of my friends, so I didn’t feel too much like a fish out of water.

It wasn’t until I got out, took a dozen steps back, and put my hands on my hips as I analyzed the situation that I realized… wow, that was interesting.

Over the last year, I’ve been doing a crap ton of research, studying the influences that were so prevalent during my formative years – Joshua Harris, Bill Gothard, the Botkin Sisters.  I knew them, sure, but only from years of blindly following them in a haze, too confused to question but too understanding of my place to rebel in the slightest.

It was easiest to just go with the flow.  To wear the skirts.  To go to the purity book studies.  To agree to sign the purity pact with my dad.  But I knew it wasn’t what I truly believed.  What I believed needed to make sense, and everything I’d heard made about as much sense as wearing a skirt to play football with the guys after church.  So I wore shorts under my skirt.  I questioned the courtship mindset.  I took home the paper that I was told I should sign that would essentially put my heart (my purity) into my father’s hands for safe keeping until the man I would marry would approach him for his approval… but I never signed it.

Looking back, I can see the cracks in the glass – the places where the truth was twisted so intensely that it barely resembled the original intent.

That’s the crazy thing about lies.  Cornelia Funke says in her novel Reckless that “the best lies stay close to the truth,” and I completely agree.  The poison goes down much easier with a glassful of Kool-Aid, after all.

I’m still trying to piece together that original intent, by the way.  I’d been fed so many lies over the last decade that the truth was barely visible anymore – and what I knew of the truth, I didn’t want.  If God was as vindictive and conditional and demanding as I’d always been told He was, I didn’t want anything to do with Him.  So I went back to the basics of what I knew, reading the Gospels and trying to figure out Who Jesus was completely on my own, with no outside influence.  I needed to figure out what I believed and if it looked like everything I’d always said I believed.

Instrumental in this was the fact that after my family left the church that had hurt us so badly, I spent a while just cycling through the Psalms.  I read them over and over and over until I could almost recite them.  It felt as if David’s struggle with God echoed mine, constantly asking “Why?” but always coming back to merely accepting and leaving the rest up to Him.  I also started reading through the entire Bible for the first time.  I’d read through the majority of the books before, but this was my first time going through the whole thing for myself.

Doing all of this changed my perspective completely, and I began to realize that exactly what Jesus told the Pharisees was right – it all boils down to love.  If you didn’t have love, you had nothing.  (No wonder I always felt so ostracized in my old church.)  I started trying to just love God and love people, and, so far, it’s worked pretty well.  (This song also impacted me like an anvil to the head and I might’ve played it loudly in my car towards a member of that old church in a weak attempt to get him to listen.)

All that to say, I’m working out my salvation.  I’m a bad Christian.  I cuss sometimes, I don’t go to church every week, and I’ve fallen asleep during almost every single video in a Francis Chan devotional that I’m going through.  But if God truly loves me and thinks I’m worth it, trying is the best that I can do.  And He’s okay with that.

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sometimes bravery is putting on a skirt {a follow-up post}

I wrote a post a few months back about the first time I actually felt totally comfortable in a dress (gosh, it’s been a year already?!).  Since then, a lot has happened, namely that I’ve changed a ton.  Moving out of my parents’ house has forced me to take a deep look at myself and really figure out who I am.

One of the things I’ve been assessing has been my church trauma that I’ve talked about a little.  Since I’ve been thinking a lot about it and am especially heated about skirts this morning (and because my blog needs an update and the posts I’ve written since moving will likely stay in my drafts folder), I thought, “WHAT BETTER PLACE TO RANT ABOUT THIS THAN MY OLD BLOG?!”

So here I am.

A few days ago, I was talking about skirts with my best friend.  I’d remembered a skirt I’d sewn by myself (to get out of a multiple-week sewing class my mom wanted me to go to) and fished it out of my closet to show her.  It had been years since I’d tried it on, mostly because I wasn’t comfortable wearing skirts at all, and couldn’t pull the zipper up the last time I’d tried.  This time, it fit like a glove.

Looking at myself in the mirror brought back a ton of memories.  Times when I’d worn that skirt and others, little and big things happening in my life, the way I’d felt, things that were said to me.  I wouldn’t call it being triggered, but it definitely wasn’t normal.  My friend looked at a few of my other skirts, gently suggested that I start wearing them again, and then left me to have “a moment.”

The moment happened the next day, when I put on a skirt to wear for work.  Pleated and beige, with an antique print of light stripes and purplish pink flowers.  Paired with a belt, sandals I’d worn to the beach, and a dark blue top.  After that, I just stared at myself in the mirror for a while.  I’d worn skirts since, but this was the first time I did it intentionally and then just let myself sit in the feeling for a while.  I still felt wary, but I stood there and actually let myself feel everything – all of the emotions and thoughts and repressed memories that came with it.

For the first time, I realized why I was so against wearing skirts.  After so many years of wearing skirts and only skirts, actually choosing to wear one was a big deal.  But it wasn’t just that – it was also allowing myself to somewhat go back to that time.

Putting on that skirt came with a unique sense of vulnerability – as if, for the first time since those years, I had just willingly placed myself in an uniquely hard position.  To open myself up again to everything that came with those years – the things people said about me, the way I was treated, the view I had of myself.

It was like I’d found the box that people had put me in and was able to finally examine all of it’s edges and creases and dark spots in all its raw, confining, twisted form.  Feelings of being lesser, unimportant, and not valued or valid came rushing back, and the weight of them nearly crushed me, like they did back then.

To me, that skirt wasn’t “just a piece of fabric.”  It was something that, in a way, symbolized an entire almost-decade of my life.  The seven years from when my dad told my sisters and mom that we’d be wearing skirts outside of the house from now on until the day my skirt flew up (in front of three men I didn’t know) when I was nannying and I finally told myself that enough was enough – smack dab over the majority of my formative years and all of my teen years.

It brought back everything that dragged on the coattails of those years – the move that ripped my entire life and all of my friends away from me, my cult-church trauma that left me spiritually dry for the better part of about four years, the lack of friendship and sense of complete and utter disconnection with the place I’d landed after freefalling.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I know it could’ve been a lot worse.  This isn’t sexual trauma.  This isn’t physical abuse.

But it’s not nothing, either.  It’s something that happened and shaped me into who I am today, and I’m still working through it.  I’m not going to play the victim and try to blow it out of proportion, but I’m also not going to try to dismiss it with a forced “It’s not as bad as it could’ve been.”

“You know it’s in the past, right?” a friend asked me when I started venting to him about it.

“I know, but it still impacts my present,” I told him.  “And I’m trying to make sure it’s worked through so it doesn’t affect my future, too.”

Moving out has impacted me a lot more than I thought it would.  Because I’m alone so much, I’ve had more time than literally ever before to focus on myself.  Sometimes this is a bad thing and I’ve spiraled a few times because I’ve gotten too deep inside my head.

But sometimes, like now, it’s a good thing.  It’s hard and it’s raw and it’s painful, but after so many years of repressing and minimizing and trying to tell myself that everything I’ve been through isn’t “that bad,” I’m tired of staying stuck in these same bad habits and mindsets.  I’m finally figuring out how to work through my issues and slowly discovering bits of myself that had been shoved aside and told were unimportant.

The best part has been picking apart those years and finding the gold in the midst of the muck.  Everything that happened in those years shaped me.  I’m not mad about or regret anything because it wouldn’t have made me into who I am today.  Because of it, I have a lower tolerance for BS, a greater appreciation for those who are stronger than me, and a deeper love for myself and my Savior.

I’m letting go of the things that harmed me in those years but still clinging to the things I still appreciate about my teenage self – her tenacity, her bravery, her clear sense of right and wrong (even if she couldn’t voice it).

Having so much time alone in my apartment has rekindled my love for reading and I’m finding myself going back to all of the old fantasy stories I fell in love with during those years.  Now that I think about it, I’m fairly certain everything I was going through caused me to become so passionate about fantasy – the idea that, despite everything the heroine was going through, she was going to be okay.

{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

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.

f46915b62c7cda57a1e78164371267c2.jpg

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

jan 18

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

apr 18

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

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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.

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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

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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