God Friended Me

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. 

My heart stirred. A quiet voice was speaking to me, go to the altar. Let it out. Let it go. 

Please don’t make me do this, I hesitatingly prayed. I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ people—the hurting, the broken. What must it be like to be unafraid to come forward and kneel and ask for healing, for forgiveness? The truth is, I am one of ‘those’ people. I am hurting; I am broken. I don’t know how to be anything else.  

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. 

I made my way down to the altar, body shaking, trying to hold back the tears threatening to fill my eyes: I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to exist. I don’t want to be broken anymore. As I kneeled down at the altar, the dam broke: I started sobbing and shaking. I felt people gather around me, one on either side. And then, the pastor said words I never expected to hear, not at this church: I’m feeling God move in this place; those who are able, please come forward to the altar and gather around your brother and sisters. Step into the aisles as we become a family. 

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide.  

It was in that moment that God moved, that the Holy Spirit moved, as people flooded around those kneeling, I felt one of my other pastor’s place his hand on my shoulder. I heard the voices of some of my biggest supporters whispering prayers behind me. And I felt God move. Sometimes I doubt God. Ok, actually a lot of the time I doubt God. But I always manage to find Him in the doubt, moving through me like the wind. Oh, there He is. 

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide.  

Last week, I relapsed. Hard. I cut myself badly enough that it could’ve killed me, should’ve killed me. And I felt guilty. And I felt dirty. And I felt unforgiveable. But God, God met me where I was, kneeling at the altar, tears streaming down my face, my brokenness and shame on display for everybody to see. And He didn’t judge. And He didn’t leave. And He didn’t call me unlovable. He opened His arms and said, Oh, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you. 

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. 

I felt God move in that place, in the sanctuary with a hundred of my closest friends gathered around me, around us. In that moment, I let it go: the guilt, the anger, the shame. I let the miscarriage go. I handed it over to God, and He whispered, Finally. 

There’s still a lot of work for me to do, things for me to let go of, things for me to hand over to God. I’m codependent. I feel as though my only two choices are self-harm and suicide. There’s so much pain and heartache. But sometimes it’s not about what God’s going to do in your life; it’s about what He’s already done in your life. God trusts you enough to make it through the difficult moments, so He can make beauty out of the ashes. He makes ministry out of misery. He uses broken people to help broken people because we’re all broken in some way.  

He changed my life yesterday. It took five minutes at the altar, kneeling, panicking with, tears streaming down my face. People whispered in my ear, I love you. I’m praying for you. For the first time, I believed them.  

God was felt in that place yesterday.  

As I got up from the altar and started to walk away, I was embraced with so much love by so many people. I have never been more acutely aware of the fact that I’m not doing this alone. We are not doing this alone.  

God friended me yesterday. He’ll friend you too.  

Kneeling at the altar. Crying in your bed. Driving in your car. Walking through the woods. He’ll meet you where you are. He’ll love you as you are. And when you turn your eyes towards Him and surrender your burdens, He’ll say, without judgement, finally.  

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Trying to Lose Weight While Recovering From an Eating Disorder

When I tell people I’m trying to lose weight, they all feel the need to share their own opinions about how they think I should go about doing it: juice cleanses, special diets, cutting out all junk food, going vegetarian, exercising a whole bunch, etc.

It’s not that I’m grateful for their advice–I am. But most of them fail to take into account one detail: I’m a recovering Anorexic.

So what? some might say.

The point is losing weight healthily is hard enough without factoring in the fact that once I lost weight very unhealthily, and it’s so easy to fall back into that destructive pattern of behavior.

As a recovering Anorexic, I am acutely aware of two things:

  1. I cannot want to lose weight because I hate how I look because the last time I tried that, my life spiraled out of control for about 5 years–Being thinner became an obsession; I would be happier if I was Thin.
  2.  I cannot cut foods out of my diet because I want to restrict calories because I remember one summer when I ate nothing but a handful of crackers a day for weeks, subsisting on chewing gum and Mt. Dew.

And because of these two things this weight loss journey has been tough. I’ve started and restarted so many times. I’ve stopped because I’ve become discouraged and have seen myself falling into destructive patterns–skipping meals (never a good idea because it’s so easy to fall back into that habit), hating how I looked (causing me to push myself way harder than I should have).

This time, though, it’s different. After struggling with my self-image and self-worth for so long, I’m finally at that point where I am comfortable enough with who I am as a person that it doesn’t matter to me how I look.  I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a low opinion of myself–it started with bullying, and then got worse after I was raped. I started starving myself because I wanted to acontrol one thing in my life.

I thought my value was based on my weight, that it was inversely proportional: the less I weighed, the more I was worth.

After years of trying to recover my sense of worth and trying to find my identity, I now know that my value lies in who I am as a human being, and not in how much I weigh. I am beautiful because of who I am, and not what I look like.

It is for that reason that I know I am ready for this journey of weight loss because I know I’m doing it for the right reasons–trying to be my best self– and not for the wrong reasons–trying to make myself more valuable.

It’s been a month since I started this journey. It’s been a month of sore muscles, burning lungs, unmotivated mornings, and days where I’d rather do anything else. But, for the most part, (minus a few days I took off for a leg injury), it’s been a month of five-day-workout weeks.

It’s been a month of making healthy choices: choosing salads over microwaved burritos, drinking water over sugary drinks, taking more vegetables and less meat. But it’s also been a month of eating microwaved burritos, drinking sugary drinks, and eating meats. It’s been a month of limiting myself rather than denying myself.

So far, I’ve lost about 12 pounds, which may not seem like a lot, but to me, it’s huge. And it may not look like a lot, but I feel so much more confident than I have in ages. And isn’t that what this is all about anyway?

Tonight for dinner I had a greasy cheeseburger with bacon, fries, and an Oreo Milkshake. And I’m ok with that, not because I had a salad for lunch and yogurt for breakfast.

I’m ok with that because life is too short to deny myself simple pleasures. I’m working on becoming my best self and the road to that is paved with leafy greens, greasy cheeseburgers, and lots of cardio.

I’ve discovered it’s easier to make healthy choices when you love who you are. And I love who I am.

 

 

Letter to My Biggest Bully

This letter has been a long time coming—forgiveness has been a long time coming. And it’s not like I haven’t tried to forgive; I have.

I’ve forgiven others.

I’ve forgiven my rapists for what they did to me, for the years of pain and anguish they caused me, for changing the trajectory of my life.

I’ve forgiven God for the injustices I perceived He let happen to me, even though He did absolutely nothing wrong. But when you’re hurting, you need someone to blame.

I’ve forgiven the friends who walked away when I needed them the most, even though they had every right to, because when you’re depressed, you tend to sabotage relationships.

I’ve forgiven those who bullied me throughout Middle School and High School because someone has to. And in order to move forward, I have to step out of the past, even if that means never going to a High school reunion.

I’ve forgiven those who have caused me harm, who have hurt me mentally and physically. But I haven’t been able to forgive you, yet.

Until now.

I had forgiven everybody else, but I hadn’t been able to forgive my biggest bully: me.

I forgive you—I mean, me. And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for allowing the opinions of others to become the way I defined you. I’m sorry for the way my voice began to echo and mirror what other’s said about you. It’s hard enough to ignore being called ugly, fat, unworthy if it’s someone else’s voice doing the calling, but when it’s your own voice that suddenly becomes your biggest nightmare, it’s next to impossible.

I’m sorry for silencing you. I’m sorry for making you feel like you couldn’t say anything, you couldn’t speak up about what you were going through and struggling with because every time you looked in the mirror, you said something mean about yourself. It’s hard to speak up when every though that sprints (and then trips and hangs around for a while) in your mind is harsh and cruel. You believe in Thumper’s mantra: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all. And you couldn’t, so you didn’t, even if speaking up could’ve saved your life.

I’m sorry for making you hate your reflection. I’m sorry for making you feel unloved and unworthy and how all of that unworthiness translated into not eating. Now you’re stuck learning how to do all of that again, because once upon a time you ate too little, then too much, and now you have to learn how to find the perfect middle. Learning how to love yourself again is so hard, but I promise it will be so worth it.

I’m sorry for making you believe that your whole identity and lovability was definied by your attractiveness.

I’m sorry for allowing you to become some numb and full of hate that the only relief was found in a knife (or a razor, or scissors. Whatever was convenient).

I’m sorry for making you believe that you weren’t beautiful the way you were, and are, and will continue to be.

I’m sorry for becoming your worst enemy when you needed me to be your biggest advocate. I’m sorry for abandoning you, for causing you to lose yourself when you really needed to be found.

I’m sorry for the tears cried, the blood shed, the scars gained, the pounds lost. I’m sorry for trying to die.

I’m sorry for all of it.

But mostly I’m sorry for taking so long to realize how much I hurt you. I’m sorry for taking so long to apologize. I’m sorry for taking so long to forgive you.

It’s hard to forgive others, and it’s even harder to forgive yourself.

But I’m ready now. I’m ready to say: I forgive you. (I forgive myself.)

Most of all, I’m ready to accept your apology. (I’m ready to accept my own apology.)

I’m ready to step into the future together: past me and present me. I’m ready to combine the two to prepare for future me. I’m ready to learn from my past mistakes and apply them to what I will encounter down the road on the journey ahead.

Because I don’t know where this future leads, but I am ready to take that journey—together.

Open Letter to My Cousin and Every Other Young Girl on the Verge of Womanhood

We celebrated your 14th birthday last night, and after dinner had been eaten, presents opened, candles blown out, and cake devoured, you made a few comments that caused me to worry.

I need to lose some of this (referring to your barely existent stomach).

I can’t fit into last year’s jeans.

I feel bloated.

My butt is too big.

I know these phrases. I’ve heard these phrases. I’ve said these phrases. These phrases became my worst enemy. They ate away at my self-image until I refused to eat.

I thought that in order to be beautiful, I had to look a certain way. I knew I never would look this way because it’s not in my DNA, but I tried to anyway.

I tried to make myself smaller to fit in the box labelled ‘Perfection.’

I was willing to give up my individuality, what makes me me, to gain a definition of beauty that I realize now I don’t want to fit.

And I’m not saying you’re going to be like this.

I’m not saying you’ll struggle with an eating disorder. I’m hoping you don’t. But I’m saying to you, watch out. Eating disorders are uncomfortably common in society today, and it’s easier to fall into their trap than you think it is.

I never thought it would happen to me.

Unfortunately, it did. I started to believe the whispers in my head that told me I wasn’t beautiful enough.

It starts with a whisper, and then it escalates to a scream in your head that you’re not beautiful enough.

And not everybody develops eating disorders, but everybody compares themselves to others.

If I had her legs, her face, her hips, her hair, maybe I’d be beautiful.

It starts with comparing, but it can escalate from there, which can be extremely dangerous.

So, when I hear you make comments like this, I have to respond.

I need to lose some of this (referring to your barely existent stomach).

I can’t fit into last year’s jeans (it’s called “growing up”).

I feel bloated (did you know your weight can change from day-to-day?).

My butt is too big (it’s not too big. You’re getting hips. You’re a woman, not a 2×4).

One day, you’re a girl. The next day, you’re on the verge of womanhood. And society is so quick to rush the process along, we forget to teach you that it’s ok to take your time. It’s ok to not look like everybody else.

It starts with that wonderful (but not-so-secretly terrible) gift that Mother Nature gives us every month. Then it moves to developing breasts and hips. Your clothes stop fitting the way they used to. You’re becoming a woman, and it’s terrifying.

You move from child to woman overnight, and suddenly you’re wearing adult clothes. One day, you wake up, look in the mirror, and see your mother. When did this happen?

You see all these magazines and movies with women who don’t look like you. And that’s ok. We can’t all look the same.

You’re beautiful anyway.

You’re beautiful despite your insecurities (and it’s ok to be insecure. We all are at times).

You’re beautiful despite, and because of, your imperfections.

You may have a bigger butt than you like. Your hips may be wider than you like. You may be too tall, too short, too fat, too thin. You may have too many curves or none at all.

That’s ok.

You’re a woman, not a 2×4.

I need you to know this now before you become like me and enter your Freshman year at college and realize you can’t remember the last time you ate a full meal or three times a day.

I need you to know this now before you lose yourself trying to become like other people.

I need you to know this now because it’s harder to unlearn poor body image later. It’s harder to unlearn your insecurities than it is to learn what you like about yourself.

I need you to know this now because you’re beautiful. And maybe looking in the mirrors some days is painful. You don’t have to look. The mirror can’t tell you how other people see you. The mirror can’t tell you how smart you are, how funny you are, how athletic you are, how musical, how bright your future is.

I know society teaches us that beauty is important, but it shouldn’t be the most important thing.

I’m telling you to be more than pretty. Be pretty amazing, pretty smart, pretty kind, pretty funny, pretty eager to change the world.

A five letter word does not describe you.

A Mile is Forever

A little over 4.5 years ago, I attempted suicide. I was young, broken, hopeless. There was a stigma attached to Mental Illness and Suicide. We, as a society, have gotten better at talking about it, on addressing it, on treating it. But this stigma is still prevalent, still attached to depression and suicide the way conjoined twins are joined at the hip. 

This has been a hard week. Robin Williams’ suicide has drawn a lot of attention, spurring media coverage and blog posts fueled with speculation and judgement, fact and fiction, horror and sadness. And for people like me, people who are battling depression and suicidal thoughts, this has been an emotional and triggering time. 

We try so hard to fill our lives with happy things, things that will (hopefully) try to help us forget all the pain, sadness, and despair we are feeling. We have to consciously focus our thoughts and energies on keeping us alive: life is no longer about thriving; it’s about surviving. It becomes a race against time, because we’re all going to die someday. But for some of us, the road to death is filled with shortcuts. Life is no longer “How many more years do I have before I reach the average life expectancy?” LIfe is now “How many more times can I pull myself back from the brink before I’m out of strength?”

And we don’t want life to be this way. I firmly believe that life is a gift, and as such, it’s to be enjoyed. For some of us, that’s harder than for others. I would like nothing more than to believe that all people are good, life is always beautiful, nothing will ever hurt, and love will always win. But, I can’t. I’m not that naive. I’ve seen enough news, been through enough pain, experienced enough of life to know that people aren’t always good, life isn’t always beautiful, things will hurt, and love isn’t always enough.

But I still try to enjoy life. Some people are good, and some people are bad. Life is beautiful, and life is ugly. Things will hurt, but some things can heal. Love is powerful and beautiful, and it can win some battles, but it’s not always enough to win the war. Yet, I still want to fall in love, with life, with a person. I want to enjoy life and put 110% into everything I do with what time I have left. I have hopes and dreams. I have great friends, a great family, and a strong relationship with God.

I had all these things 4.5 years ago, too, and it wasn’t enough to stop me from swallowing pills. The love pulling me to earth wasn’t enough to counter-act the need I felt to be free. Love isn’t a fix-all solution. Boy, do I wish it was. It would solve so many problems, and it would have caused my life to play out so much differently. 

If love were the answer, I would have never gotten to my darkest point. I would have never had to force myself to consciously think about what I was doing: using scissors was dangerous, taking medicine was dangerous, walking to the store was dangerous, going up high was dangerous. I discovered it’s all to easy to not think and put yourself in harm’s way. Which is how I ended up taking pills and slicing my wrist. I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing; it wasn’t a choice I made. I stopped thinking for a moment, I momentarily stopped plugging the holes in the dam, the guards stopped forcing the drawbridge close, and the darkness attacked. The flood-gates opened, and every thought of inadequacy, hopelessness, and fear–the very thoughts I had been trying to surpress–came back all at once. 

I was drowning even though I was standing on solid ground, and all I wanted was to breathe again. So I took the pills, and I sliced my wrist. Time seemed to slow down; it was a race agaisnt the clock, and I was running out of time. You’ll be ok. I got up. Threw up the pills. Bandaged my wrist. And continued on with life as if nothing happened.  But it did happen. And I couldn’t pretend that it didn’t. 

It didn’t kill me. And I was angry. I was angry because fighting every thought that comes into your head is exhausting, and no amount of sleep will help fight the tiredness I feel. I was angry because I felt too weak to fight, and I’ve never liked the idea of being tortured. I was angry, but I was also scared.

I was scared that I’d let my guard down again and be back to that place of inescapable hopelessness and darkness. Fear is a powerful motivator, just like love.

If love were the answer, I would have never gotten to my darkest points. But then I would have never gotten to my heights, either. I would have never felt the joy of leading a child in Guatemala to Christ. I would have never felt the relief of breaking the surface of the waves and coming up for air; I’ve learned that no matter how hopeless I feel now, I won’t feel this way forever. I would have never be able to find happiness in the little things; sometimes the little things are the big things.

 

Next week, I start my Senior year of College. I never thought I would make it this far, and I’m terrified. But that’s ok. Because 4.5 years ago, I had one dream. Today, I have another. I’m still young, still healing, and sometimes I still feel hopeless. But I took that step forward, and now I’m looking behind me at all the shattered dreams, shattered hopes, shattered innocence left scattered in my past’s path, and I feel a sense of hope. 

Because, yes, life is still rough. My soul is still fractured to its deepest corners; depression is still my constant companion. And right now, it hurts more than ever because healing means getting up and moving, and sometimes moving hurts more than just lying there. Life is pain, and I’d rather take it standing up than sitting down, moving forward than lying down. 

And I hope you do the same, whatever’s happened in your life. I hope you take comfort in the fact that even on the darkest night, your eyes can still see the flame of a single candle a mile away. Right now, a mile may seem like forever, but I’ve learned that even the smallest steps are progress. 

 

Normal Day: I attempted suicide 4 years ago

Today’s a normal day: I’m sitting in the library, at my normal table, people watching because that’s how I draw my inspiration, and it may seem counter intuitive, but sometimes watching people and getting caught up in the world I imagine for them is the only way I can get my homework done.

Today’s a normal day. Except, it’s not.

4 years ago, almost to the day, I tried to kill myself. I can remember the time and the place. I can remember it all. And now, I’m sitting in my Campus library, in my normal spot, wondering how on earth I made it this far.

How did I get here?

What am I doing here?

And sometimes I find myself wondering if people make up stories about me like I do them. Do they know who I am? Do they know what I’ve been through? If they do, are they judging me for it?

You see, yesterday, I posted this picture of one of my Facebook statuses on Twitter:

Which is kind of a big deal, because my Facebook friends are people I know, and only people I know can see it. On Twitter, however, that is not the case. It got retweeted by one of my friends, and people who I don’t know favorited it.

I think it’s a good thing, because maybe what I’ve been through can help them even if I haven’t met them?

But are they judging me? Because they don’t know me, and it’s easy to form judgments about people you don’t know.

Because yes, I’ve been sexually assaulted, which has led to me living with depression, attempting suicide, and battling anorexia. And it would be easy for people to judge me.

But what I’ve been through doesn’t define me.

I am so much more than my past.

I’m a Christian whose faith in God has been strengthened by what I’ve been through.

I’m a Survivor who has used what I’ve been through to help others. When I went to Guatemala, I was able to lead a young teenage girl to Christ because I was brave enough to share my story.

I’m a writer and a poet who is writing a book, because I believe in the power of words.

Today is a normal day: I’m sitting at my normal table in the library, studying grammar with my friends, people watching, and making up stories about their lives.

Today is a normal day. 4 years ago, I tried to kill myself. I’ve been waiting for my life to begin, and it’s already begun.

I was living my life when I went to Guatemala, climbed up to the highest floor of a mall parking garage, looked down, and didn’t want to jump.

I was living my life when I wanted to jump to end my life.

I was living my life when I tried to hide my past.

I live my life every day despite how numb I sometimes feel inside, and despite my heart being ripped out of my body through my throat whenever someone says, “You have no reason to be depressed.”

This pain I feel is real, and despite choosing to live after deciding to die, it’s present in my life right now.

So, I’m living my life every day, even though depression sometimes makes my life kind of gray.

Each day is a new shade of gray. 50 shades of gray: depression edition.

Today is a normal day even though big things have happened in my life recently. I’ve found healing and hope and love. The scar on my wrist reminds me of where I’ve been.

Every day, depression threatens to take over my life, because depression doesn’t care that I’m a white teenage girl who lives with her parents, who can afford to go to college. I guess that makes me average.

I just want to be normal. That’s why today is a normal day, despite what happened 4 years ago.

 

An Open Letter to my Readers

To everyone who’s ever read my blog, whether you’ve read one post or all of them or any number in between: Thank you!

In the last few weeks, the number of people reading my blog has increased dramatically. And in the last few weeks more people have thanked me for writing my blog than I ever thought possible.

People have thanked me for my “openness and honesty when it comes to real life issues teenagers struggle with today.” People have thanked me for how I “put feelings and emotions on paper in a way people who don’t understand Depression are able to understand.” People have thanked me because my blog has helped them/someone they know. People have thanked me because they are now able to relate better to people who have Depression.

People are thanking me when I should be thanking them.

I should be thanking you.

This is not the first time I’ve kept a blog, and it probably won’t be the last. But this blog has been the most rewarding. When I started this blog, I was on a journey of healing with the intent to find myself. This journey has been long and hard. There have been many sleepless nights, many internal battles deciding if I should write about “such and such a topic,” and there have been many tears as I relive certain painful memories. This blog tells about what it’s like to struggle with Depression, Eating Disorders, and self-harm. This blog has recounted the memories of my Sexual Assault, and how I dealt with the pain of it all.

But mostly, this blog’s been about hope. I believe no matter how painful life is, it’s also beautiful. And there are many days when I don’t want to write anymore, because it’s all too painful. There are days when I tell myself no one wants to read what I write, no one cares what I have to say, but day-after-day, “thank you” after “thank you,” you prove me wrong.

People like you who read my blog, who tell me your stories, who tell me how my blog has helped you, have made this journey full of sleepless nights and many tears worth it.

And I just want to say, Thank you! I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I hope you will continue to join me on this journey called “life.”

Clock Tower Ministry

“What time is is?”

“I have no idea.”

“Oh, wait… We’re sitting under a clock tower.”

*facepalm*

This past week was my favorite week of the year: Bible Quizzing Nationals! Every year, this is a week where my faith gets tested, my hatred towards high stress situations becomes apparent, and where friendships are made and strengthened. This year was no exception (I regret to inform you I was unable to watch my youngest sister in her Semi-Finals for Individuals, because of stress. And, had she made it to the Finals, I wouldn’t be able to watch her there either. I rather enjoy not being bald and having finger nails. If not being able to watch her makes me a horrible sister, oh well. Persecute me).

However, my experience this year was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in all my previous years of Quizzing. Last year was my last year being involved as a student in Quizzing, and as such, this year was my first year being a Coach. Being a Coach is a completely different than being a Quizzer, and like in every situation, there are goods and bads.

Bad: I miss jumping.

Good: My knees don’t hurt, and the skin on my elbows is intact.

Bad: I miss knowing things.

Good: I don’t have to study, because studying: Ain’t nobody got time for that!  (Study kids! It’s important!)

Good: I can talkasquickly or as s l o w l y as I want to.

Even better: I can still make my point in 20 seconds or less, so don’t get into an argument with me.

Being a Coach this week afforded me the opportunity to get to know some people. And a lot of the conversations I had took place at this clock tower in the center of my College Campus: 17595_10201556207572955_2020817768_n

The thing about this clock tower is I hated it. I hated it when it was being built, because while it was being built, the shortest route from one end of campus to the other was not able to be used. I hated it after it was built, because I kept running into it. I hated it because even though I’m in College, I have a hard time reading analog clocks.

This week, my perspective changed. Every night, I would sit here, and I would talk to anyone who needed a friend. I would talk to the misfits, the lonely, the ones who were struggling, the ones who were metaphorically lost, the socially awkward, the ones who needed someone to cry with, the ones who needed a hug, the introverts who just needed someone to sit with. Basically, I sat and talked with anyone who reminded me of myself. We all had something in common. It provided healing for me, and I hope it started the healing process in them.

Yesterday, my Dad told me he was proud of my “Clock Tower Ministry.” I mean, he’s supposed to say that, because he’s my Dad, but I’m proud of me too. Because there was a time not too long ago when I would have been the one who needed someone to be at the Clock Tower, and I might not have found anyone there. And I would have been too shy and afraid to ask if I did find someone. But this week, I was the person at the metaphorical Clock Tower. I was the one standing in the Harbor with my light glowing, safely guiding people home. And if this is the only worthwhile thing I ever do in my life, then so be it. Because I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

 

This week, I was President of the ACFCL (Assistant Coach and Fanclubing League), which let me say, is fantastic! Because this week, I was able to watch a lot of the teams from my Church quiz, and I was able to cheer them on without the pressure of having to be at this place at this time.

And for that, I am thankful.

Because this week, I learned something about myself. I learned that even though I am insecure, even though I am loud and obnoxious in large groups, even though I have been broken in the past, even though I have no idea what I’m doing ever about anything, even though some days I believe I’m worth nothing, even though I am a misfit, I can help others. I can be their listening ear of understanding. I can be there to share their laughs, to listen to their struggles, to sit there in silence when words just aren’t enough, to be their shoulder to cry on, and I can be their Fan Club when all they need is a little encouragement.

And that is why I am thankful for this ministry and this week, because I was surrounded by fantastic teens from all over the country. I am surrounded by teens who are hungry for the word of God, and who are destined to do great things. I am thankful for the people I meet, the people I talked to and got to know, and I am thankful for all the students who stood at the front of the Auditorium and shared how God has worked in their lives. And I am thankful for the people I didn’t meet, the people who attended, and the people who couldn’t.

Because I left this week more fulfilled than I ever did when I won trophies and accolades. This week reinforced the concept that people are what matter.

Matter of Factual Finiteness

Yesterday, I turned 19. (My Birthday was fan-super-tastic. Thank you for asking.) A common question people ask after one has a birthday is “How does it feel to be a year older?” And I don’t know. Because the thing is, I’m only a day older than I was yesterday, and yesterday I was a day older than I was two days ago. But yesterday was special because the number associated with my age changed. Ergo, yay for me!

(Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful. Really, I am. There was a time when I didn’t think I’d live to see 16, but somehow, I’m still here.)

I’m grateful, but I don’t know what else I feel. Am I supposed to feel different? How quickly do people think it takes change to occur? A day?

Nah, bro. No good.

I believe change happens the way ketchup falls out of the bottle: slowly and then all at once. I am who I am because of who I was. And when you get older, who you were doesn’t just disappear; it becomes a part of you. Inside of you are all these pieces of former yous that help shape who you are today, which is why some people never grow up. When I turned six, I was still five and four and three and two and one, which is why I’m so curious and I learn something new everyday, and why I sometimes forget how to use my legs and trip when I walk.

The same is true today: I’m 19, but I’m also 18 and 17 and 16 and 15, etc.

And life is trying to throw all this responsibility my way, but I can’t hear it screaming my name over the sound of my crayons scribbling furiously. But, I still wonder what these next 365 days have in store for me. I wonder what adventures I’ll have. I wonder what kind of people I’ll meet. I wonder what stories I’ll write. I wonder what kind of person 19 year old me will turn out to be. I wonder if I’ll be able to impact the world at least half as much as it has impacted me. And I wonder if I’ll finally learn what it means to matter, and if I’ll finally matter.

Because popularity and coolness are fluid: they change depending on the container they are placed in. And you spend your whole life trying to achieve a certain level of coolness and popularity, until one day, you won’t remember why you were trying to achieve them in the first place, because they don’t matter.

I believe you matter because of what matters to you. Your level of mattering is directly equivalent to how much what you care about matters to you. I matter because I care about family and friends. I matter because I’m passionate about sharing my stories and about hearing yours. I’m passionate about life and about making beautiful things. And I want to leave this earth a little bit more beautiful than it was when I arrived.

Even though I think I have a lot of time, time is relative, and life is finite. My finite life takes up space on the infinite line of the universe, and even though the space of my line seems rather insignificant, I have enough time and space left to make it significant.

In these periods of 365 days, there’s enough room for me to reinvent myself. I can turn myself into who I want to be. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that you can’t stop the future from coming. And why would you want to? Because life is beautiful and also terrifying. And if you try hard enough, so much is possible. I want to be possible.

So, life, I see your finiteness, and I raise you my hopes and dreams.

Letter to My Grandfather

Dear Grandfather,

I should probably start this letter again, because I never called you “Grandfather.” I called you, “Boppa.” But, I am a firm believer deleting when writing is a bad omen. It’s better to keep the bad sentence and work around it, to make the rest of the piece beautiful. It’s symbolism for the past. I can’t change my past, but I can learn from it, and make my life beautiful. I learned symbolism from my other Grandfather (Boppa). And I believe life is full of symbols, which is why my brain speaks in metaphor, and why I write.

Your death was the event that sparked my writing. The first thing I wrote was a song, which was probably mediocre at best, but I know you would have thought it was beautiful. I found the music score when I was looking through my piano music a few days ago. And then I found the lyrics not too long after. You always did enjoy listening to your family make music. When we would come down and visit, I would play the piano. I heard you tell my Grandmother, “Listen to how beautifully I play the piano,” as if in that moment, your fingers were no longer bent from years of battling Rheumatoid Arthritis, and you could do anything—even do something small like play the piano.

I spent years trying to make myself seem smaller. There came a point in my life when I didn’t think I could stand up, because the weight of the world seemed too heavy for my shoulders to carry, and my spine didn’t seem strong enough. There came a point in my life when I forgot what your voice sounded like, but in that moment when my back was so bent that my stomach met my knees in agony, I heard “listen to how beautifully I play the piano,” and my spine became a little bit straighter.

When you died, I was only in 6th grade, so I didn’t really understand, and some days, I still don’t. But I think about death a lot now. I think about my death and how much easier it would be to die, because then I wouldn’t have to spend every day fighting battles I don’t feel equipped for. I think about the future, and how one day, my cousins and I will be the older generations. And when I’m lying in bed, thinking about that, the world seems so vast, because I don’t know how to exist in a world where my Grandparents and Parents don’t. That’s how I know I won’t handle death well.

I don’t handle life well either. There are many days when I’d rather stay in bed than face the day, because I’m too exhausted to fight any battles. I’d rather walk through life with my fists crossed in front of my face ready to protect myself, than to walk through life with hands open, palms up, ready to catch whatever life drops in my lap. But I’m learning that’s no way to live, so I’m working on changing that mindset.

I’m trying to be a member of society, but right now the future seems so intimidating, which is why sometimes I need quiet. In that quiet I hear, “Listen to how beautifully I play the piano.” My spine straightens up, because I can do anything.

You taught me what true strength is. You taught me with the right attitude, anything is possible.

I can do anything.

I’ve never been good at endings, in life and in my writing, which is why it’s been so hard for me to move on. But here goes nothing. 

I love you. I miss you. I hope Heaven is treating you well. I hope your sense of humor is being put to good use, because if you and God are not telling each other jokes, then I’m disappointed.

I’ll see you someday, but until then, I’ll be listening for your voice.