writing

Bravery in the Blog

I may not know much, or hell, even that much at all, but at least I know I’m brave.

I’m brave enough to speak my opinions, whether my readers will agree or not.

I’m brave enough to show my humanity through happiness, anger, sadness, bitching, etc. because I won’t pretend to feel a way others deem “acceptable” just to make said folks comfortable.

I’m brave enough to keep going, despite so many people telling me to stop because “nothing will ever come of this space.”

I’m brave enough to disconnect from people, no matter who they are, who don’t get why I would choose a blog over a career that doesn’t accept what the blog has to say.

I’m brave enough to say e.x.a.c.t.l.y. what I’m thinking.

I’m brave enough to come here and write anything–even the uncomfortable stuff–and sign my name to it.

So why, why, why, is one of you hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet, trying to infiltrate my life? Why are you wasting your time? I will always be here whether you want me to be or not. I may change the blog’s interface or subject matter or header 89 times, but I, the author, will still stand behind it, no matter those changes. I will be here, tall and unwavering, no matter what warfare you’re inexplicably trying to start. In fact, many of the things you’ve tried to accomplish over TWO ENTIRE YEARS have never, ever worked. Let it go or stop reading, plain and simple.

I’m brave enough to say without hesitation that you are a coward. You are someone who has some great void in life, and you fill it with hate instead of newfound interests or love. You are someone who has nothing better to do with your time than to type comments or send emails from behind a veil.

I get it. I certainly would be bored if I couldn’t say precisely what I desired to or confront someone face-to-face. But maybe, just maybe, you could try to be brave. Whatever your problem is, you will never solve it behind that curtain of hate, that security blanket of secrecy, that misdirected keyboard thrashing.

I’m even brave enough to forgive you if you ever want to join us in the Land of the Free Thinkers. If not, just stay in your lane, and let the rest of us write and live our lives to the fullest.

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Liebster Award 2014

I cherish when I am running low on creativity and inspiration, and something just drops out of thin air to take care of the problem! This time around, my friend Kerrie over at Snow5Hundred nominated me for the Liebster Award, which makes me feel all kinds of fluffy inside. I adore bloggers promoting other bloggers… ADORE IT! Liebster means lots of lovely things in German (including lovely), and here are the rules for the blogging-based award that have evolved over time.

So without further ado, here’s my mini Q&A for y’all to enjoy, especially if you’re new here!

1. Why do you blog?

Writing isn’t just my passion/craft, it’s in my DNA. My grandma is a writer. My parents are writers. My aunt is a writer. My sister is a writer. It’s in the genes, you know?

I began writing at a small age, often with my friends (a large majority of whom are also writers). We would whip up horror stories, songs for musicals, and even movie scripts, which we would then turn into the real deal with the world’s largest camcorder. I wrote a book every year and won a couple of awards through the Young Writers program.

I jumped on the blogging train very early without realizing it (thanks, Xanga). It started as an outlet solely for me to write down my day-to-day. It evolved over the years, eventually moving to Tumblr where I was able to sort of hone the craft and make it a little more about community and a little less about me. And then, while shooting the shit with my mom, the idea for the Gonnas was born. From there, it was history.

While I could not imagine NOT writing short stories, novels, and screenplays in my spare time, there’s nothing like the interaction between a blogger and her audience. You build a community. You get to use all different mediums and test all sorts of features with immediate feedback. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you find your niche and even more fulfilling, your voice.

I write because I have to. I blog because I love it.

2. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

This is like asking a mother her favorite child. You love mint chocolate chip for its simplicity, but you can’t get over the richness of {insert any type of gelato here}. You obsess over the swirls of magic in Liz Lemon, but dream about trips to Baskin Robbins. I would possibly be able to answer this question under threat of death……….. possibly.

3. Share your favorite quote.

Again, hard to say. Quotes are my lifeblood on a horrific day. How about my favorite aka most inspiring for this present moment in time? Sound good?? Good!

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

4. Describe your perfect date.

“That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold… all you need is a light jacket!”

… ah, I deflect my indecisiveness with humor as usual. I suppose I’m an all-or-nothing girl. Give me a completely relaxed date {camping out inside on the bed with lots of food and movies or a quiet hike on the BRP in crappy clothes} or go all out {5-course meals, spontaneous trips to magical places, camp under the stars and watch the sunrise, etc}. I don’t mind the in-betweens, but it’s those no-effort or all-effort dates that really stick with me. As J will tell you, though, I remember almost everything about my relationships (ere-go date details) with annoying accuracy, so I suppose any date that didn’t involve injury or heartbreak would jive as great in my mind.

5. How do you show love to others?

This truly depends on the person, but I think if a random poll were to be taken by my loved ones, they’d all say I’ve written them notes from the heart and given them a handmade gift at some point or another. I also give lots of unwarranted physical attention to those I love. Sorry for all those boob honks, Mom. You’re just so squeezable. (Just steer clear of my mouth. I also like to bite people I love. How my sister’s adorable, perfect, little nose-tip is still attached to her, I will never know.)

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I now nominate my sisters-in-blogging, Killary Scales, Kaceyamanda, Adrasteia’s Labyrinth, plus my real sis, Worm the Germ. Oh, and Marvelous-Darling if she fits the under-200 subscriber rule… but she gets some pretty heavy traffic over on that fab blog of hers (TEARS OF PRIDE RUNNING ALL OVER MY FACE)!

My questions for you, my beautiful starfish, are:

  1. What’s your favorite part about being a blogger?
  2. If you could only eat three foods for the rest of your life, what dishes would they be and why?
  3. What’s been your most life-changing moment so far?
  4. If you had the chance to write for a full-time job, would you? Why or why not?
  5. Describe the one scene from anything (movie, book, show, etc.) that can always make you laugh, even when you’re feeling like you’re in the bottom of a ghastly pit.

Keep calm and Liebster on, friends.

Bad Romance

One of the things I will whole-heartedly admit Gen Y has radically fucked up is romance. We all want love, but somewhere along the way marketing fed us the idea that it “wasn’t cool” to settle down. Be a rebel, ride the breeze, run away from everything!

Don’t get me wrong: it’s pretty awesome that we actually have the opportunities we do. If we DO want to live a life of random hookups, open relationships, no relationships, or polyamorous relationships, we have the choice in a way not many generations did before us. Sure, there were summers of free love and sexual revolutions past, but the stigma of non-tradition in romance is starting to fade.

That being said, for those of us who do still decide to search for love, who do want to settle down against our animal nature, who maybe still naively believe in some kind of soulmate or fate or destiny, we are doing it all wrong.

We are having these weird relationships that aren’t relationships: “Oh, her? She’s not my girlfriend. Yes, I took her to meet my parents, and we only sleep with each other, but we are NOT. DATING.”

We are all about some friends-with-benefits: “He’s nice to me, we have everything in common, and we have great sex, but I could NEVER date him!”

We have no qualms with the on-again, off-again idea. We run when we’re scared instead of sticking around. We play strange games with each other, but last time I checked, this was a planet and not a massive chess board.

We truly make everything more complicated than it should be. If you’re one of the Gen Y’ers who wants to engage in monogamous romance, stop what you’re doing and listen to me: Just. Be. Happy.

It’s really that simple. Stop letting the hangups in an age of worry keep you from something good, something real, something that might be… dare I say it? TRUE LOVE!

Oh, and because I know I myself have the attention span of a fruit fly thanks to years of information overload, here’s a handy list for navigating the murky romance waters:

How to Know You’re In Love, or “Quit Bullshitting Around & Just Be Happy, Moron”

  1. If you were on a crashing plane and had time for one phone call, and your significant other/ex/f-w-b/on&off again/etc. is the last person you’d want to speak to, YOU ARE IN LOVE.
  2. If you have had a shitty day and your person does special things to make it better, like buys you a DVD of “The Avengers” or yells at someone for you, and that action makes you feel all tingly inside, YOU ARE IN LOVE. (You are also lucky.)
  3. If you look like you just stepped out of a jungle or a Quentin Tarantino film, but your person still thinks you’re smokin’ hot, YOU ARE IN LOVE.
  4. If you can survive a road trip of 5+ hours alone together and still like each other, YOU ARE IN LOVE.
  5. If you can genuinely enjoy watching the same TV shows together, YOU ARE MOST DEFINITELY IN LOVE.

I’m sure there are some more romantic, less neurotic ways of knowing you’re in love, but take that plane crash scenario for example. If you give it the thought it deserves, it has some serious weight to it. I can tell you who my person would be right now without reservation. (I’m lucky he has the bravery to put up with my “if I were dying in a plane” anecdotes without jumping out of the nearest exit.)

If you can tell me your person, too, go Lloyd Dobler them while you still can. It’s never to late to be crazy in love, Gen Y. (And not in a Christian Grey/Anastasia Steele kinda way.)

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Dirge for The Dreamcast

Oh, ye gracious game system, how I will miss you so.

It wasn’t an easy decision to let you go. In fact, I had to ask my sister all the way across the Pacific if she was ready to sell you, our second childhood system. I was reluctant and needed her blessing to go through with the disposal. She, too, found it hard to come to terms with the fact that we have, well… outgrown you.

Nay, this simple fact doesn’t discredit your meaning to us. In fact, it just means we’re ready to pass along the joy you brought us to others because we survived the struggles of life between acquiring you and letting you go.

I remember first playing you. We got you fairly soon after we moved into a new home. I suppose it was supposed to be a cleanse-like purchase, perhaps a consolation for uprooting us from our childhood home. We both sat in C’s bedroom, she on the bed, I on the floor. We played Sonic for hours, never getting past the first level and never caring all the same.

I’m sure we squabbled as young sisters do, debating our hearts out about whose turn it was and why. However, I just remember the sunny days spent playing a game about a blue hedgehog with my baby sibling.

Perhaps you weren’t as great as I remember you being, a fact I quickly noticed when I rescued you from under C’s bed and plugged you up to my first generation plasma TV. Sonic was buggy and only the first two levels were fun. After that, everything was glitchy and weird. Maybe we were never meant to get past those first few levels back then. We weren’t ready for them, just like we weren’t ready for teenagedom.

But now we are. Hell, we WERE; we’ve already made it through the rough sea of teen life and segued into some semblance of early adulthood. Sonic just isn’t fun anymore. Keeping you around is only a reminder of simpler days, but with or without you, those simpler days would still exist.

The memories are with each other, not with you, Dreamcast of yesteryear. And so it is with bittersweet confidence and simultaneous nostalgia that I will be taking bids for you from all around until I find someone who appreciates your worth.

Someone who isn’t yet ready. Someone who needs you.

{Check out my sister’s coinciding post written to our Dreamcast. We wrote them without seeing each other’s first; the sisterly similarities are CREEPY!}

26 Gonnas for 26: Numbers 1 and 7

1. Wake up with the sun at least 180 days over the next year.

I put the cart before the horse on this gonna before realizing what I wanted to gain out of this experience was not necessarily seeing the sun rise every morning (though it would be nice), but merely becoming a morning person; waking up at 8 a.m. gladly on a Saturday, if you will. So while I haven’t woken up with the sun 180 days this year, I have gotten up early for as many of those days, each one closer and closer to the sun rise, spending more of my hours in the faded light of the very early morning than at any other point in my life. And yeah, I can happily say that more than a few doses of sunrise were thrown into the mix. Here’s to not forgetting to see the sunrise every now and again, but here’s to getting what I truly wanted: a sunny morning disposition that has become habit instead of exception.

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Early morning granola!

7. Write one blog every week!

I know it hasn’t been a year yet since I made my 26 Gonnas for 26 list, so you might be wondering how I accomplished this feat. Well, if you remember from the 26 for 26 pulse check, I decided to change the goal a bit: write 52 blog entries period — regardless of when or how often. This allowed me to feel less pressure and have more freedom to post five blog entries one week, then none for the following two.

I’m happy to say, however, that I have surpassed the goal of 52 blog entries in a year with 55, and still have over two months to keep blogging my heart out. I do wonder what the final number of entries will end up being (and will surely update my readers), but it ultimately won’t matter. I’m glad to say that the purpose of this gonna was to get me writing more, and it has done its job. I’m at these keys more than I have been in a long time, and now that I am, I can’t see myself stopping again anytime soon!

Champagne Talk

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by things I can’t even really identify. I had an amazing day at work, and then the further I got away from the parking lot, the more lonely I felt.

I thought maybe it was the idea of coming back to an empty home, but I got here and I was comforted to see my digs and hear my dog whining for me.

I thought then that maybe it was because I’d missed them–my home and my pup, so I spent some time wandering the grounds with him and felt at ease, but still found no relief.

I thought perhaps it was that I missed my other half, but then I talked to him and though my loneliness was alleviated, the emptiness remained.

I thought maybe it could be that I haven’t seen too much of anyone in a while because we’re all growing up, moving out, living life… but then I realized that I don’t want to see some of those people, and those I do, well, I’m happy we’re all making and thriving in our own spots in the world.

I thought it was that my students, who have become family, are graduating in less than a month, leaving me with this vastly empty nest. And while I think that’s most of where this feeling of being a lone island stems from, there’s still this lingering sense of longing I can’t brush away.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m not living my dream, not reaching my full potential. Maybe I’ll never know.

Whatever it is, even the champagne can’t quench the loneliness it brings.

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Bad Day Stream

I thought for a long time there was really something wrong with me, and you know, maybe there still is. But now I’m horrified that is really is everyone else.

When I’m exhausted, I want someone to say “I can see why.”

When I’m angry, I want someone to say “You should be.”

When I’m sad, I want a shoulder.

When I’m in pain, I want relief.

When I’m struggling, I want help.

When I’m happy, I want someone to celebrate with.

When I am anything, I just want to feel understood. Accepted. Loved. Cared for.

All I feel anymore is this immense distance between me and everything.

Lili

I long for things other people can’t see or think about. I seem to be the only one who wants to grow up, who wants to have a home, who wants to make my dreams come true, who wants to have loyal, interesting, conscientious people around me.

I know, I know… if I live as long as the average member in my family, I still have 70 years left… but why does no one else feel this immense urgency to live now? To be good now? To love and tell those we do now? To create lives (and meaningful ones at that) now?

I feel so scared and sad that these people who I love so dearly, who I want to spend my life with, don’t care enough about life in general to spend it living, let alone healthily and with me.

Why do I always end up loving everyone more than they love me? It puts me in this horrible position of being walked over because I don’t know how to stop that love. I don’t know how to not care for the people who are woven into my soul, in the very blood that runs through my body.

I shut down, act mean, get selfish, and do horrid things because those inverted tendencies are the only things that protect me from the pain I feel when the very few people I love just don’t seem to get it, to care.

It’s not that I need perfection, though I suppose it could be mistaken for such… it’s just that I need to know others feel the same I do. About life, about love, about me and them.

Do the dishes because I do them.

Do take care of me because I care for you.

Do be loyal as I am a lion for you.

Do give me space as I give you, but be there for me as I’m there for you.

Do love me the way I love you.

It’s not about trust; it’s about fearlessness and having it when it comes to living well and to loving me back. It’s about bravery.

“Show me how big your brave is.” – SB

26 Gonnas for 26: Number 13

13. Finish writing a book with C.

 

At the end of May, C and I sat down over glasses of (one of) our favorite wine(s), and she asked me one of my favorite questions any one person can ever ask: Will you write with me?

Specifically, she asked me to help her write a particular story she was burning to tell. It was a true story, but she planned to change names and embellish, making it what we dubbed faction (fact + fiction). So with the doors open, candles burning, and our planners wide open, we made a way to find enough hours over enough days to finish a book by the end of 2013.

The deadline, while unrealistic to some, was good for us. We both needed the pressure of a due date, but we didn’t need to feel so pressured that we caved and gave up. Giving the book as a gift for Christmas was a perfect reason to finish, as well as a solid goal to work toward.The process began pretty regularly: Wednesdays after work, there we were, writing and editing. We quickly realized that since it was her story, she should spend the week writing, and our time together would be spent editing and adding whatever I thought would be helpful or funny. We pedaled along pretty quickly with a title and 15 single-spaced pages before life interrupted.

Between our vacations and family get-togethers together (she’s J’s sister), we had events to tend to separately as well. She was embarking on a new journey of competitive running, while I was balancing my work and school. It started to look like someone was conspiring against us and our words, but somehow we still always found a way to meet. In some instances, we had to move the time; others the day. There were even some missed weeks here and there, but somehow we found ourselves in the dead of fall, 30 single-spaced pages in.

At the beginning of November, I was in full-blown new-job mode. On top of that, I had to balance a full load of grad classes. Inconveniently, Thanksgiving found its way into our schedule as well. We saw each other only twice that month, a striking difference from the normal 4-8 times a month we had seen each other since living in the same town. I felt horrible, not only for abandoning C, but for abandoning our book. It was our baby.

December rolled around, and shortly thereafter, I got an email from C: “IT’S FINALLY DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I knew she had been writing, but the last time I’d seen her, our little novella lay in the 30-something range. The piece she had just sent me was 20+ pages longer….. and all that was standing between releasing the book to our friends and family was my editing every single word with the same diligence I’d had in prior months. The only problem was I also had hundreds of papers to grade AND two giant projects due in less than a week. Shit.
In a zombified stupor, I got through all of my work duties and all of my projects. I started editing until my eyes bled, but it still took me three days to finish revising the final pages the way they deserved. I rushed over to C’s house four days before her departure to the Great North where she’d be delving out the first round of the books on flash drives to the family. It was close, but somehow, we did it. And after all was said and done, we ended up with an 83-page novella.

Writing this little book taught me a lot about a lot. I had to learn to be ever-so-reliable because the success of C’s story depended on my editorial skills. I had to learn to be patient because quality work takes time, despite my need for instant results. I had to learn to let go of the reigns because this wasn’t my story, this was C’s story. I had to learn how to work as a true professional team for the first time in my life because no one else has ever treated me as a professional equal before.

Our book might not be Gatsby or War and Peace, but it IS a labor of love (and a little Sedaris-y if I do say so myself). It is one of those gonnas we all talk about doing, and damn if we didn’t actually do it.I am glad I got to help my friend tell her story, but most of all, I am glad to know that with a solid friendship, anything is possible.

If you’re interested in reading our little tale, I have a PDF version ready and raring to go! Email, as always, is reyoncenoels@gmail.com.

 

My Night with George and Neil

via The Unchained Tour (Seester is in this pic!)

Last year, I quit my job. I had been changing for months, as had the company. Those shifts made me unable to give what I should to a job that was no longer mine, nor to a great group of people who cared for me. Early in the morning of September 19, I gave my notice of resignation. It was scary, but necessary. It was freeing in the most exhilarating way, but also incredibly terrifying. What would I do? Where would I go? What did I want to be when I grew up?

I showered and tidied the house, trying to clean slate the whole of everything; of me and of my surroundings. I wanted to clear my head of the rough month I had just barely dragged myself through and the many months of political job shift. My brain felt defogged for the first time in months, and in that moment of clarity, my brain went straight to…. my sister?

My sister? Why was I thinking about my sister? There was static in my brain for a moment as it remembered how to think at all about something other than work and heartbreak warfare. And then, like a lightening bolt, it struck me: my sister was down off the mountain and in my town. I called her immediately.

“ARE YOU IN WINSTON?!”

She laughed and told me she was, that she was about to call me. She had been willingly taken by a traveling hoard of raconteurs on something called The Unchained Tour.

“Want to come? I can put you ON THE LIST!”

Not a girl to turn down a visit with her sister (or a VIP experience), I took up her offer. And not a girl to go anywhere uninformed, I looked up the tour.

It took me about 10 seconds to start squealing like a 14-year-old fangirl when I saw George Dawes Green’s name on the roster. THE CAVEMAN’S VALENTINE, IS LIKE, MY JAAAAAM!, I imagined myself saying to him. Nice. Poised. Eloquent. Rachel.

I didn’t know any of the other names until I got to Neil Gaiman, someone I admired for his stories adapted to screen, but also someone whose work I had never had the chance to read. I figured it wouldn’t matter, as the tour was a not-so-rag-tag rag tag group of storytellers, orally giving the audience a snippet of their lives and pieces of themselves along the way. My body started revving up in the anxious-excited way it does before something new and unexpected, so I decided to head over to the venue and bide my jitters and time ’til the performance.

Showing up to a full parking lot only aided to the anxcitement in my bones, but seeing my baby sis quelled the nerves. She was hard at work, but looked like she had been having the time of her life doing it. I left her to do her cd burning as I went to the auditorium to find an end seat. I always pick the end seats.

What ensued deserves pages and pages of descriptions, but I almost can’t bring myself to write it. The storytellers opened a vein and bled on the stage. They gave us the dark and the light, the heartwarming and the heartbreaking. They made us laugh ’til we cried or just cried. There were stories of love, sexuality, writing, fighting, life in general, and storytelling itself. The whole audience was just as engaged as I was. You could almost feel the room move together like a giant organism. I could have sworn I felt a calm heartbeat all around me. Trying to write about it is like trying to take a photo of a Pacific sunset: it will be beautiful, but no one will understand how it felt. You weren’t there, man! 

When I was done, I hung around and watched the people clamor to meet the storytellers, Neil in particular. It was moving in a way, how much they admired Neil, though I couldn’t help but wonder if if ever got daunting for him to deal with. I hung out at a table alone as my sister ran back and forth from the merch table. The documentary crew came over to film me, but my answer seemed lackluster for the director who soon moved on. Her assistant looked like a kid, then made a release form from a napkin and a marker, perfectly appropriate for the age I imagined him to be. I signed the hell out of it. That kid had moxie.

The room started to buzz less, and I barely had time to relish in it before I realized my sister bringing George around a group of people to meet me. I immediately broke into a sweat and threatened myself silently: DON’T YOU DARE TELL HIM THE CAVEMAN’S VALENTINE IS YOUR JAM, RACHEL! DON’T YOU DO IT!

I took the man in I had earlier seen on stage. He was lithe and handsome, dressed in a green velvet suit. I reached out my hand to shake his as I heard my sister introduce us, though she sounded trapped in a bubble.

“It’s nice to meet, you,” I said. Yes! I CAN DO THIS! “I’m just trying not to throw up on your shoes.” Oh, god dammit.

I thought he would laugh, but instead he asked me to repeat what I’d said. Ever the honest one, I did as he asked. His face was one I will never forget, somewhere between disgust and laughter. I think I awkwardly sat back down and tried to make some kind of intelligible conversation, but it wasn’t long before he slunk away from me. Strike one, Rachel. Strike one.

Sis eventually saved me from myself by introducing me to Neil. At that point, I was dripping in shame, so I had no more pride left. It worked to my advantage, as I managed to get out a couple of meaningful sentences that didn’t involve the words “vomit” or “jam.” He introduced me to his daughter before the two of them went off to gather their things.

That was about as far as I thought the night would go. I would say hello, shake some hands, have some family time, and go home. But then the crew started asking me where they should eat when they couldn’t quite remember the name of the place they had initially intended to go. I managed to sputter out a couple of suggestions before they started to leave. It was that awkward quick exit some people make out of a conversation that leaves you not exactly knowing what you’re supposed to do. I finally just turned around, and George was standing right behind me with my sister.

“You’re coming with us, right?!” he asked, smiling all the while.

“YES! Y…es.”

“Good! Let’s go!”

He cut right, and I just stared at my sister in awe. She did the signature giggle-shrug both her and my dad possess. We geared up – for some reason there was a lot of gear that night – and started walking around downtown with the crew. It was magical, not because some of them were renowned authors, but because the night was cool and the lighting was perfect. This group of amazingly talented people had first taken in my sister and now me with open arms, and they were wandering in my pretty little Southern city beside us. The crew and cast of the tour were seamlessly moving around one another, joking and laughing in the way a family would. It was clear the strangers and friends and strangers who had become friends had all become a fucked up little family, too… in the best way possible.

We wandered around in a noisy, rambunctious pack until we picked a table at the local microbrewery. It was mostly abandoned by that hour on a weeknight, so our party of 15+ was easily accommodated. My sister and I headed straight for the middle of the table so we could sit side by side, and George headed straight to the seat beside me. What ensued was an unbelievable late dinner full of Double IPAs and conversation with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met whose names I can’t remember.

I got to know the people who made up the team of storytellers, even those behind the scenes. They were all so high off the energy of one another, and relished bringing new people into the fold; a rare quality to find in one person, yet alone a group of them. I got to know Neil’s daughter, a fabulous young woman who just radiated happiness. I got to whisper with my sister about how surreal and stellar the night was. And to top it off, I got to share my own story, and the entire table listened. They all drank their libations and ate their pub food, but every one of them was staring at me and hearing every word I had to say. I hadn’t realized how much I needed someone to just pay attention.

After my story, George pulled my shoulder in a signal for me to turn around. He leaned on his elbow on the table, breathed out, and looked me square in the eye.

“Tell me about your writing,” he said.

I almost screamed in his face out of sheer disbelief. Luckily, the Double IPA packs a lot of alcohol, so I had enough liquid courage to play off the freak-out and come up with some sort of savvy reply about majoring in journalism and where I wanted to see this very blog end up. Even though I’m sure in the present that my savvy response of past was probably more bumbling than brilliant, he encouraged me with genuine kindness the entire time. He saved my life with that compassion; all of them did. I had been in a pit, and they had just thrown me my long-awaited rope.

The merrymaking was coming to a close as the bar was. As we signed off on our tabs, George jumped from table to table, telling everyone not to leave, for we had to race the buses! And oh, it would be no ordinary race: whoever’s bus reached the finish line last would win. That was the moment when I started to question whether or not I was living or dreaming, but the realization it was the former was almost overwhelming it was so exciting.

We practically ran back to the venue to prep the buses for race time. George was running like a sprite from each one, assigning roles and reinforcing rules. I watched as he got the two repurposed school buses in prime race position. Before I knew it, he had raised his arms and dropped them in a signal for the buses to start moving. Those of us watching started a chorus of laughter almost immediately; while required to actually move, the buses had no other speed requirements. George had already reached us across the parking lot at the finish line before they had barely moved four feet. I watched his face as he reveled in the idea he had thought of only minutes before come to life before his very eyes.

I turned to one of the storytellers. He, in fact, had been the MC of the show.

“I loved your stories the most, I think. I just quit my job, today, you know?”

He looked at me with kind eyes and smiled.

“Thank you! I heard. What are you going to do now?”

I thought I knew the answer, but I really didn’t. I had to steep in his question for a minute before I could respond.

“To do this. To focus on my writing, and really do something I love. I’m tired of doing things I hate just because I’m supposed to.”

He nodded.

“It’s just… crazy. Today I quit my job, and 12 hours later, here I am with all of you.”

“It’s so cool how that works. It’s definitely fate,” he said.

I nodded and smiled, but had to turn. My eyes were filled with grateful tears. I looked around: at the cast, the crew, my sister, the slow moving buses. All of it was moving beyond measure, and it really was fate. It was fate that I should meet such an inspiring group of strangers. It was fate that I should have people listen to, support, and believe in my dreams. It was fate that I met them that day at that time because it all led me to where I am now, which is on the path to making those dreams come true.

Those buses finally crossed the finish line to the cheers of many. I will cross my own finish line the same way, and I hope when I get there, George and Neil and my darling sister and every single one of those traveling artists know how much of my finish I owe to that night and to them.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Loyalty

Loyalty is one of my top priorities in life. A lot of people don’t get it, especially since I was probably horrible at being loyal in high school (and most likely a touch after) because I was a teenager with a serious case of teenager brain. But loyalty is everything. Without it, you’re an island floating in the middle of the sea. And not some cute little island full of natives who live in beautiful harmony, but a no one can find you because you’re a magical, disappearing, time-traveling “Lost” island in the middle of fucking nowhere. Nobody wants to be the “Lost” island. Nobody. Except maybe Ben.

While my concept of loyalty is most likely the same as the world’s as a whole, my expectations of how others should show it is probably where any differences lie. Those expectations seem reasonable to me, but they often leave me disappointed. But hey, no one can know what I consider an unfathomable breach of loyalty if I don’t first define what I expect. Let’s fix that, shall we?

1. Have my back. You can still disagree with things I do and even tell me you think I’m wrong, but that doesn’t mean you have to rescind your support. Be on my side, even when I’m not there to remind you to do so.

2. Stand up for me. If you love me, like me, or even just respect me, say “Yo bro, back off” if someone is being an ass or saying ass-y things about me.

3. Be honest. I’d rather be mad at you for five minutes every time you tell me the truth than shocked and mad at you forever because you couldn’t speak some facts.

4. If we’re dating, don’t cheat on me. You can just break up with me first. It’ll suck, but it’ll suck a lot less.

5. If we’re friends, don’t try to bone the person I love, whether we’re together or apart. There’s a whole world of other people to date. You can even date anyone else I’ve ever dated. Just don’t make moves on the one I actually give a shit about.

6. Be my dog. Applicable only to members of the canine persuasion.

I’m most likely forgetting a great portion of my Loyalty List. I’ll probably still find myself saying “Man, loyalty these days!” to Cooper as we cuddle on the couch. But then I’ll think “Oh yeah, it’s right here in my arms………………………. god dammit, Coop, FLEAS?!?!”