10 Years

(I wrote this on September 27, 2016, and I liked it enough to share here. =3)

Ten years ago today, I woke up and decided whether or not I would play hookie from school. Yes, it was only September…yes, I was already feeling lazy about going to school. It was my senior year, give me a break. xD But even though we were going to do a bunch of lame stuff, I did want to participate in Drama class and see my boyfriend. So, I decided to go to school after all.

The sun was blazing in the sky that morning; it was a bright blood-red. I had never seen the sun be so beautiful before. I decided in that moment that if nothing else, I’d be glad I went to school and not back to sleep just because I got to see that gorgeous sunrise.

I didn’t know that this day would change my life until sometime during my morning English class, when a haggard-looking stranger whispered something to my teacher, sent her out, and closed the door. I won’t give a lot of details, but I will say two things: it was the first time in my life that I ever heard a gunshot, and later on, it was the first time that I really thought about the possibility of death.

When you’re 17, you think you’re invincible, but it was a very sobering day. I was weirdly calm through most of the day, and acutely aware that I was resigning myself to whatever would happen in the moments to come, accepting it and coming to terms with it. I did not cry a single drop thinking of my own mortality, but what I did think was “I wonder if my parents know how much I love them? I wonder if my friends know?” I regretted not sharing my feelings more. I regretted being so moody and aloof all the time like teenagers were. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit of a douche when I was a teenager, and I thought about myself (read: agonized about myself) constantly. I rarely ever told my parents or my close friends how appreciative I was that they were in my life; I just kind of assumed that they knew it, and that I didn’t have to try very hard to remind them of that. But when I made it out of there, something profound had changed in me.

I didn’t cry at all that day–not as we waited in the ambulance in trepidation for updates on what was happening in the building nearby, not when I finally got to call my mom and have her pick me up, hearing her start to lose it as I told her what had happened (I do tear up thinking about it now though)–not until I watched the evening news and saw that Emily didn’t make it. I was at my boyfriend’s house for a little while (it seemed like he needed me the most at the time), but after that, I lost it. It was soul-crushing; it wasn’t fair. I remember that I kept repeating, “It’s not fair.” I went home and hugged my parents, and it was the first time I’d seen my dad look scared.

Even to this day, remembering those events and the ones that followed makes it feel like it just happened. For years, I avoided talking about it, mostly because my boyfriend at the time seemed more unnerved about bringing it up than I did, and I didn’t want to cause him pain. Unfortunately, this made it take a lot longer for me to actually start talking to people about it and start to move past it. To this day, I sometimes curse the side effects of this particular event–mild PTSD and anxiety (I never had panic attacks until after this happened), and occasionally I feel guilty about it. That’s right–because as tough as that experience was, I didn’t have to lose a sibling, or a best friend, or a daughter. Millions of people in this country, and millions more across the world, experience heartache and trauma on a much larger scale, and sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve for it to still affect me, ten years later.

Last year, I met a beautiful man who I shared some of this experience with, and he told me that I should never be ashamed of struggles I’ve faced or how they affect me, because good or bad, these experiences shaped me into who I am today (and according to him, I was pretty great). Most of the time, I still try not to talk about it. I feel mad at myself sometimes and ask myself why I can’t just get over it, why I can’t just talk about it without my throat tightening and my voice shaking. I remind myself again that other people (such as the one who gave me this advice) have experienced war, watched people die firsthand…but you can’t really compare things like that. We each face our own struggles, and they affect us profoundly.

And he’s right–that experience is now part of who I am; I can’t imagine what I might be like if I had decided to stay home. And there is always a silver lining; that day, I started being more open with my feelings. I watched a community reach out to each other, and strangers gave me all sorts of things–many bibles, a scarf, an envious collection of blankets, handwritten notes of well-wishes–out of the kindness of their hearts, caring about me when I had never even met most of them. And that was dumfounding to me. I began to be more empathetic to people’s situations. I didn’t make fun of people as much (in my mind I mean–I was never a bully. xD), and instead I try to imagine what they might be facing in their own lives. I try to find a good quality in everybody, even if I can’t stand them.

I have come face to face with my mortality, and I realized that life is extremely short, and it should be lived to the fullest, without fear of the future or messing up. Just go for it, do what you think is right, and always allow kindness to be in your heart.

If you made it through this whole thing, thank you for reading! I love you guys.

Embracing the Future

So a couple days ago, I found out that the I Love U Guys Foundation will no longer be doing Emily’s Parade. For my -very- few followers or anyone reading who might be interested, the parade was a very significant event for me, and the realization that it was coming to an end made me think about a few things, things which I’d like to get out here for…you know, thinking and shit. xD

To review: Last September was the 10th anniversary of the parade, and was on the 9th anniversary of the shooting at my high school. It couldn’t have been a better day for it; it was 85 degrees (there were MANY applications of sunscreen), and I got to go with my best friend. I’d never gone with her on any of the rides–and actually, I had been thinking of not going this year. I didn’t know of anyone who wanted to go with me, it was on a Sunday, which meant I had to take time off work, and also half the fun was being able to ride up there on a motorcycle. Since my ex and I had broken up, I didn’t know anyone who had a working motorcycle that might want to accompany me. However, as I was telling all this to said best friend, she said, “I’ll go with you!”

“Really?”

“Sure, it’ll be fun! I don’t think I’ve gone since the first one, and I bet the kids would enjoy going too.”

So we made a day of it and went back to our old stompin’ grounds: Platte Canyon High School. I’ll admit, it was pretty cool, as we stood on the bridge overlooking the highway, to remember crossing it over to the football field for the Homecoming game to watch her perform as a cheerleader, or to watch a couple of my other friends in the band do their routine.For half a second, I saw us as we were ten years ago, and then in the blink of an eye, it was gone, and in that same moment I looked at my friend’s kids and realize dhow far we’ve come and how awesome it is that we’re still best friends.

On the other hand…

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the shooting…it seems weird to think about that because 10 years is such a long time! One of my good friends is having his 10 year high school reunion in a couple months! WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING. And yet, on that day in that month, and even just around early fall every year, it feels like it just happened. I wonder, is it going to feel like that for the rest of my life? Every year, the memory becomes more of just a solidified moment of my life, kind of like “Well, that did in fact happen.” It gets a little easier to talk about it to most people (though sometimes I still act super weird about it, which is a question in itself), but around that time of year, it’s still a nagging little feeling that tugs on me just a little, just to make sure that I know it’s there, and I’m sure that will last for quite some time. Maybe not forever, but maybe–who knows?

But the thing is…sometimes, I like remembering. I like to honor the event with my thoughts and my acknowledgement, and I also like the parade because of the solidarity that it brings to the community. I love seeing the people of my home town band together like one big family to honor an event that deeply touched everyone; it’s a really cool feeling. But now I won’t get to experience that anymore. In fact, I now have no reason to ever see or step foot into my high school again, and it’s unlikely that I ever will, honestly.

It feels like, knowing this, I’m leaving behind a part of my past and continuing forward. We’ve all got to let go sometime, right, to make way for what’s to come? I’m excited to do so, but I’m also afraid to. I’m afraid because moving forward means to accept that what once was will never be again.

I am not a teenage girl, with my seemingly very significant teenage girl problems. I’m not the girl who let people walk all over her because she was afraid of what they thought of her. I’m not living in my awesome, small town, in my awesome house that I grew up in, looking outside my bedroom window and watching the sun set behind the trees and the mountains as I talk for hours to my friends on the phone, waiting for my parents to call me into the living room for dinner. I’m not the teenage girl who writes depressing poetry directly related to her low self-esteem, who constantly second guesses herself and who doodles away during every class with no idea as to where the future will take her.

I am, in fact, so much better than that now. I’ve leveled up! I’ve achieved a state of confidence and happiness that exists because of my own perseverance, choices, and the people I have chosen to participate in my life. I am not that girl. Even so, that teenage girl, and the preteen girl, and the little girl I was before that, are still responsible for me being the person that I am today, and I don’t want to forget any of that or what brought me to this place.  I don’t want to forget what my house looks like on the inside, or how my school looked, or the experiences I had there, both good and bad. I like the direction that my life is going–in fact, most days I’m just ecstatic and I wonder how I ended up so lucky! But that doesn’t make it any less scary for me; I don’t want to lose myself as I continue along this path.

And yes. I realize that is dumb, because it’s been 26 years and I’m still me. xD I’ve gone through a shit ton of things, and they have only shaped me into a stronger person and not into a douchebag or a weenie, thankfully. And this is comforting, but I think that the fear of this will always exist for me, simply because change is the only thing we can consistently count on in this world, and who the fuck knows what life is going to throw our way? The fear does, however, motivate me to keep my values and morals regardless of circumstance, because I’m too stubborn to let the world take me by surprise.

The whole realization feels weird, to feel the moment where you understand that your life is moving forward and to actually be able to see evidence of it…to see the moment where you know that it’s time to embrace the future and to understand the scope of everything that brought you to this point in time to be the person that you now, and to know that you can only keep going from there. Is this what adulting is?

September 27: Random Acts of Kindness

Well, I kind of disappeared for a bit while I tried to find some creative motivation. xD You know how it goes, especially if you work in a creative profession like I do…creating “brilliant works of art” on the fly, while simultaneously pretending to be a mindreader so you can get your finished product to be exactly what someone ELSE wants, can be very taxing on the creative juices.

Anywho, today I wanted to write about random acts of kindness. Two posts ago, I wrote about how I’ve lost a lot of faith in humanity…but every now and then, a few people restore my belief that people can in fact be kind, moral creatures. The phrase “random acts of kindness” is very significant for me, however, in more than just the simple way which I’ve just described.

Yesterday marks the seventh anniversary of the shooting at my high school, Platte Canyon High School, where seven girls were taken hostage in their English classroom by a random gunman, and one of those girls, Emily Keyes, was killed. Her parents, Ellen and John-Michael, are wonderfully strong and inspiring people: instead of allowing the horrible event surrounding the death of their child to cause them to live in fear or despair, they retaliated with kindness and love. Not long after, they created the “I Love U Guys Foundation”. The name was inspired by a text that they received from their daughter earlier that day, and was the last thing she had said to them. Their goal was to combat the random acts of violence that occur every single day by creating random acts of kindness.

The day and its subsequent message were very profound for me, in more ways than I will say here…but it changed my life. I had just turned 17 when it happened and was a senior in high school. I was like most teenagers: entitled, annoying, and whiny. My life had the WORST problems, and no one else understood. You know. September 27, 2006 was the first day since my grandpa had died when I was 11 that I saw my mom cry, and the first time EVER that I had seen my dad afraid. Ever. My boyfriend at the time was bawling with relief that I was okay, my friends were so thankful and supportive…and I realized that I had a lot of people who really cared about me. And I was thankful. I was guilty. I felt horrible that I had not shown these people in my life that I cared about them as well. I mean, it’s REALLY tough for me to say “I love you,” especially to my parents…I’m not sure why. I’ve just never been that kind of person. But what if it were me that day? I wanted to make sure that my support group knew I loved them too.

That day, my perspective changed from “Ugh, I hate my life” to “It could always be worse, and I should be happy that I have so much, a lot more than many other people have.” I wanted to commit random acts of kindness too, and even just thinking about it made me a better person!

The event was traumatizing, scary, sad, and never should have happened. But it did, and I was blessed to have people around me that could take this tragedy and turn it into something beautiful that united the entire community. I’m thankful that Emily’s spirit can live on through the strength of those that knew her, and in turn, through the rest of us as the strength and love spreads.

So next time you want to make a snide comment about someone’s weight, what they’re wearing, their attitude, or their lifestyle…remember instead to create kindness, not violence or isolation. Even if it’s just for one day, give it a try! You might make a person’s day, or save a life. Your words could be the thing to pull someone off the path to suicide, or you could inspire someone to take that leap in their life that they weren’t sure about. Bring back some of my faith in humanity!

I Love U Guys Foundation: www.iloveuguys.org