I’ll Keep You Locked In My Head, Until We Meet Again.

“Have a nice life,” I whispered, as I pulled away from a final hug goodbye, “good luck with everything in the future.”

An unsettling feeling rattled my bones when I was faced with my first real goodbye. It was the last time I would ever identify as a college student, and somehow I had gone through 22 years of my life without ever being taught how to gracefully leave something behind — without ever learning how to be okay with closing a chapter of my own book. At the time, it seemed ludicrous that we suffered through four years of exams, papers, lectures, presentations, community service hours, sleepless nights, all while accruing an enormous amount of debt in student loans, without ever being taught how to say goodbye to this pivotal part of our lives.

I often think back to that last full day on my beautiful alma mater’s campus and that very moment — standing on the basketball court near my freshman dorm surrounded by a sea of people filled to the brim with the same nostalgia that was bursting right out of me. I think back to those final goodbyes. To pushing myself to stutter those words, “have a nice life.” It all seemed too surreal. I spent that last day roaming campus with my roommates — four girls I had grown to love as sisters over the course of those four years. Together, we participated in our schools “senior sendoff” — our final farewell to four years of memories, of nights out, of heart aches, of parties in the Village, of Late Night dining, and of the quiet notion that no one could ever have what we had. No one could ever love as fiercely or laugh as hard or live as carefree as we did.

I was fully aware of the palpable pang of nostalgia in saying goodbye to friends I’d grown close with. Despite knowing we’d see each other again, we knew that that was where it ended. That this — whatever this was at that very moment, would never be the same. We knew we would never see each other in the same way again. But there was a deeper, and perhaps more bittersweet sting in saying goodbye to our acquaintances. Saying have a nice life was so final. The people we saw twice a week in class, did group projects with, had an occasional beer with, or awkwardly shared a bathroom stall at the bar with – the people who were equally as much a part of our college history as our roommates. There was something so profound in saying goodbye to acquaintances — in saying thanks for being a part of this journey with me, when I think back on these four years, I’ll think fondly of you. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the people we meet and the lives that we touch.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about relationships and the various connections and links we have with people. I’ve been thinking about the way people weave themselves in and out of our lives. And how rarely we notice the subtle impact they have on us until they leave.

We don’t meet people on accident. I am a firm believer in that. I think people come into our lives exactly when we need them to. Like the boy who broke my heart and taught me to stop placing all my happiness on one person. My neighbor who played the role of the grandfather I never had, who taught me to be relentless in the pursuit of my goals, and taught me to laugh in the face of all pain. Even down to his last breath, he was always laughing. A college professor who taught me empathy and understanding when she was in her final days of battling terminal cancer, but still managed to write me a glowing recommendation letter for graduate school just days before she passed. The woman in front of me at the grocery store with tired eyes and two kids that taught me patience and wonder as I watched her let her toddler individually place each item on the belt.

I’ve been thinking about endings. And goodbyes. And letting go. And how people come into our lives at different parts of our story — how they come in and stay for a scene, a chapter, or the majority of our book. I’ve been ruminating over the short-lived relationships and how we establish all of these invisible connections with people, just to see them go. It doesn’t seem fair. If given any wish in the world, I’d wish for the ability to wrap my arms around every single person I care about, around every single life that’s touched me, and keep them right here with me. But as far as selfishness goes, I don’t even come close. One of life’s biggest, suckiest, truths, is that we are never given a timeline. People come and go all the time — some relationships are short lived, some last far longer than they should, some stay for a good portion of our lives, while others cruise in and out faster than we could have anticipated. Some people come in into our lives for what feels like a moment, but we are forever changed by their presence, no matter how fleeting.

I believe our lives are inextricably bound by the people we meet.

If life lately has taught me anything, it’s that people will never stay long enough. And I’m not sure we will ever know why. It’s times like these I desperately wish life was as simple as a geometry text book where the answers were conveniently located in the back. Why do people come into our lives and leave before we are ready to let them go? All I know is that goodbyes are inevitable. And we can’t control how people leave or when — whether it be a death, a breakup, a misunderstanding, a move, or the slow and steady transition from one life to the next. But the inkling of solace that I’ve found is that we get to choose what pieces we cling to. I choose to remember with warmth in my heart the boy who told me to never stop writing. I choose to remember the 8th grade Algebra teacher who stayed with me after school every single day for extra help, and knew without ever saying, that I needed less extra help more than I needed someone to just be there. I choose to remember the stranger in front of me at the Dunkin Donuts drive thru who paid for my Monday morning coffee and turned my entire day around. I choose to remember my first kiss who showed up at my doorstep, years later, on my 19th birthday and left me a rose and a card just as a reminder. I choose to remember my closest friend in middle school who cried with me and helped me sort out the mess that was my life back then. I choose to remember the friendships I’ve made over the course of my lifetime, the people I’ve worked with, the acquaintances who’ve been passerby’s in my life. And I choose to remember all of these people, despite having to say goodbye.

Instead of mourning the losses, and in spite of the heartache that inevitably comes from death, and breakups, and goodbyes, and endings that come far too soon, I want you to remember this – you are forever changed by the connections you make. Regardless of length of stay in each other’s lives, we are all bound by the stories we tell, the lessons we learn, and the moments we share. Your life is a tapestry stitched together by the people you meet along this winding journey; you are who you are because of the people who’ve woven themselves into your life’s work of art. And I think that’s pretty incredible.

“You ever look at a picture of yourself, and see a stranger in the background? It makes you wonder how many strangers have pictures of you. How many moments of other peoples lives have we been in? Were we a part of someone’s life when their dream came true? Or were we there when their dreams died. Did we keep trying to get in? As if we were somehow destined to be there or did the shot take us by surprise. Just think, you could be a big part of someone else’s life, and not even know it.” -One Tree Hill

The title of this post comes from lyrics of the song ‘Who Knew‘ by Pink

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Sew this up with threads of reason and regret, so I will not forget; I will not forget.

Everything in life is temporary.

It was the end of March when I first tasted those words with full understanding of the weight they carried. I was 22 at the time, and naively thought I was making one more stop on my last drive back up to school before graduation. The air was in its final stage of transitioning into spring — somehow still cool, but in recollection, not nearly as cold as the ice that froze my heart. In what could only be described as the most wearing walk of my life, I felt those words rattling my bones as I willed my legs to move. Please, just let me get to my car before my knees give out. Just let me get to my car. With painfully vivid recall, I remember the sinking feeling with each step I took. “Don’t be a stranger, kiddo,” his voice echoed in my head. I remember asking myself when I missed it. How could I look away for one second and miss that we somehow became strangers? When I finally got to my car, I stood with my hand gripping the door, as if somehow begging to hang on. Begging for things to stay the same. There weren’t big flashing lights and signs to let either of us know it was over. There were no words signifying the end, but I knew it. I think we both knew it, didn’t we? Somehow, things changed. Somehow, we became strangers. Fighting back tears, I timidly whispered goodbye and reminded him of the promise to keep in touch. Those words held as little promise as a middle schooler signing the yearbooks of all their classmates with “HAGS. KIT.” Empty promises fell on deaf ears. But as his house faded in the background and out of my periphery, I started to understand the transience of life — how even the prominent buildings simply fade away in the dark, and how quickly things change. Nothing lasts forever. Not even love. Not even life.

That was nearly four years ago.

I’ve been on a roller coaster of change in that time, but the lesson didn’t come back to hit me directly on the face until a brisk October morning two months ago. I was sitting in bed, coffee in one hand and phone in the other, scrolling through Instagram, all while ruminating over my ongoing existential crisis, future ‘goodbyes’ and ‘see you laters,’ and desperately searching for some tangible evidence that this too, shall pass. Wrapped up in the warmth of my covers, I whispered it to myself. I said it out loud. I texted it to a friend. I repeated it over and over again to justify the palpable sting of feeling left behind — of people leaving, relationships ending abruptly, business being left unfinished, friendships left hanging before they could ever really get started, and life hanging on such a fragile thread.

I let it consume me all day. For my own self-validation with my issues with abandonment, I made myself push it aside. On one hand, you can acknowledge that change is inevitable and that nothing lasts forever, but on the other hand, you can beg and cry and kick and scream to just hang on. For things to stay the same. For nothing to ever change. No amount of vacillating between being accepting of change and battling intrepid fear because of impending change would have made a difference, so I tucked those words away. I locked them up and told myself to only revisit them when I really needed reassurance — when my inner Peyton Sawyer  comes knocking on my door, reminding me that people always leave. 

I forgot about those words for nearly two months. I haven’t needed them. I didn’t need to justify loss or life or moving on until two times this week — one, when I was faced with eventual loss and life ending, and two, when I caught myself saying those very words out loud and sharing my own thoughts with someone else.

“It’s not permanent,” I said, “everything in life is temporary.”

I rationalized to the person sitting in front of me. If you don’t like where you’re going, or what you’re doing, you can always change it. It’s not permanent. 

The truth is, we need these sentiments. We need these little reminders tucked somewhere in our souls that nothing lasts forever. We need to be reminded that just like physical rain storms never last for too long, neither do the metaphorical ones. And it’s sometimes hard to believe. You can justify pain and heartache from a breakup as temporary. Somehow, that can be enough. The pieces of your heart slowly find their way back together and things eventually start to make sense. The world starts to feel a little less cruel and love starts to feel like a magical possibility again. But when you’re faced with people leaving — moving away for jobs, for love, for a fresh start, or passing away slowly with each last breath, the change can be too much to justify. Even the most level headed rationalizers will want to grab onto whatever pieces of the person and will them to stay — I need you, don’t leave me. 

But no matter how we slice and dice it, the truth is in the ephemerality of our existence. Nothing is ever permanent. 

“Everything in life is temporary.” The sound of my own voice has been echoing in my mind all week.

With all of this impending change, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about regret — regret on a profound level. Not ordering a cheesy, glutenous pasta dish instead of a salad, or not going to the gym when I promised myself three days in a row that I would, or not doing my laundry until the next weekend, leaving me with only a small selection of clothes to wear. These are minor in comparison to the vast picture.

When things change, when people change, when life changes, regret hits me on a profound level. I often find myself filled with words left unsaid, things I never got around to doing, people I haven’t made it a point to see, apologies never uttered, promises never fulfilled, friendships left hanging. I tell myself it’s because I’m busy. I tell myself that once I graduate with my Master’s, I’ll make more time. I tell myself I’ll be more social, I’ll make time for old friends, I’ll take a vacation, I’ll finally dedicate some time to writing something worth reading. I’ll fulfill promises. I’ll mend old relationships. I’ll say sorry. 

I’ll do better next time,” or “I’ll do it later,” or “another day” are all bullshit because next time is right now. Later is right now. Another day is right here and right now. And shouldn’t we recognize this? Shouldn’t we look at life and realize how fleeting moments are? A lot of people say that life is short. For some, that may be the case, but life is not meant to be short. It’s meant to be rocky, and bumpy, and challenging — and long. It’s only when we are faced with the end of the road do we gather up the pieces of our relationships with people and say life is short. But here is the reality: life is long; it just goes by fast.

Of all the important lessons I’ve learned throughout my life it’s this: in life, everything is temporary. You get a small window of opportunity to seize the moments, to tell someone you love them, to make the most of the time you have with them before they’re gone. Before life takes them away, or love changes, or careers move.

I think we all know this. Somewhere, beneath all of our excuses and reasons why we’re holding off, we know that life is temporary. I know it, no matter how hard I fight it. I knew it that March night when he and I walked away from each other. I knew it when I graduated from college and made wishes into the sea of people to be friends forever. To hang onto those moments forever. I knew it when I got the news, at 20 years old, that a friend passed away suddenly in a tragic car accident. I knew it when I got a C in statistics, and thought the world was ending. I knew it when someone I love dearly was diagnosed with cancer. I knew it when I visited him last week and realized that I never did watch the movie Groundhogs Day with him 11 years ago, or Against All Odds with him over the summer. And I knew it that day earlier this week, talking with the person sitting in front of me about her fears surrounding her own big life changes, when my own words echoed in my mind.

We don’t need anyone to tell us this. We are fully aware of the transience of life, yet we wait for the perfect moment. We rely on timing.

I say: screw timing. Screw making excuses. Screw being too busy. Screw finding the perfect moment for your mind to agree with your heart. One day, you will be sitting at the end of someone’s hospital bed looking on as they fight for their last breath, and you’re going to beat yourself up over telling them you were too busy to come over, too busy to watch a movie, too busy to make time. All that you’ll be left with are words that you never said, and regret so debilitating that it eats at you every day. One day, the person you love with every ounce of your soul is going to stop looking at you the way they used to. They’re going to forget the fire that once warmed both your hearts. They’re going to walk away. And you’re going to kick yourself over not having told them everything you wanted. That you loved them, that you appreciated them, that despite how things ended, you are grateful and thankful they were a part of your life, even if just for a short amount of time. One day, your best friend might realize that she hates complacency and the small town you grew up in together. When she moves, that lump in your throat is going to wish you said it when you had the chance. I love you. Thank you for being my other half for so many years. 

We always think we’ll have time, so we wait. But the truth is, we don’t. The existentialist in me deeply believes that people come into our lives and are meant to teach us something, but we often don’t realize it until it’s too late. Don’t let it be too late. Today, I dare you to call up that old friend you haven’t spoken to in a year, reach out to family, make amends. Do it now. Today. This very moment.

Everything in life is temporary. Don’t wait.

“Change. We don’t like it, we fear it. But we can’t stop it from coming. We either adapt to change, or we get left behind. It hurts to grow. Anybody who tells you it doesn’t, is lying. But here’s the truth: Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And sometimes, oh, sometimes, change is good. Sometimes, change is… everything.” -Grey’s Anatomy

The title of this post comes from lyrics of the song ‘One Year, Six Months‘ by Yellowcard

We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.

A lifetime ago, or so it seems, long before I ever walked into my twenties, or felt the gut-wrenching heartache of failure, or tasted even a real glimpse of life-affirming success, or cried over the loss of a good friend, or watched love fade away, I spent most of my time with my head in the clouds, ruminating on what my future would be like. Would I be successful? Would I keep all of my childhood friends? Would I get married? The vision I had was built on bits and pieces of what the future looked like through the scope of books, movies, and TV shows. I relied on fictional things to formulate a reality in my mind. I clung to the story lines, the friendships, the love. I was the girl who, every Thursday night at 8 pm, tuned into NBC to watch her Friends navigate through life together, and planned her future vicariously through their present.

When you’re young and naive and unhealthily obsessed with whether or not Ross and Rachel were going to end up together, you have a certain image of how your life is going to turn out. The pretty picture you paint looks like the inside of a 90s sitcom. You imagine stumbling into a new city with all of your childhood friends and growing up with them. Growing old with them. Making mistakes, falling over, and picking yourselves back up with them. You imagine that life after college isn’t all that hard. That even during the most difficult of times, it’ll never be that bad. You’ll have the support and the love of the people who’ve known you since before you knew yourself. And how could life ever be painful, or dark, or lonely, with that kind of love?

But then we get there. We graduate high school, some of us go off to college, and some of us don’t; and somehow, we cannonball into our next adventures. We’re thrown into the middle of nowhere and are forced to come to terms with the reality of our lives. We’re forced to come to terms with the fact that perhaps the vision we had when we were younger was a distortion of what reality really is. We realize that life in our twenties doesn’t consist of hanging out at Central Perk, listening to your slightly erratic friend singing a jingle dedicated to a cat, or coming up with a New Year’s Eve dance routine to be aired on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve with your brother, or getting a Thanksgiving turkey stuck on your head, or building a giant poking device to see if the man in the apartment across the alley is alive.

And that’s what they don’t tell you. They don’t tell you that life in your twenties is often sticky and messy and heavy and confusing and wonderful. That you will, in fact, be happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. 

They don’t tell you this, but I will.

You’ll wake up one day and feel like you’re falling down a rabbit hole. You’ll look at yourself, you’ll look at your friends, you’ll look at acquaintances, you’ll look at enemies even. You’ll find that you’re barely getting by in graduate school, or being a stay-at-home mom, or starting up a small business, or pounding the pavement at a job you’re sure you’ll never advance at, all the while wondering if this life belongs to you. You’ll wonder if this is where your story ends or where it begins. You’ll feel stuck inside someone else’s story. You’ll beat yourself up over not having done it differently. What would be different if I went left instead of right? If I followed my heart instead of my head? If I took that job when it was offered to me? And on the days when you feel a little too defeated by the what ifs, you’ll look at what you have and wonder if it’s enough. You’ll ask yourself if you’ll be okay and content and full for the rest of your life if you don’t ever achieve anything else. You’ll try to be okay with it. You’ll try to quiet the incessant voice that says, ‘no, I need more. I cannot settle.’ But the voice will still be there, and it’ll rattle your bones until you do something to silence it.

You’ll start fresh and you’ll start new, and it can come in waves; the change can be welcome, or it can be sudden and uninvited. You’ll bounce from different careers. You’ll decide that you really don’t love what you have a degree in. You’ll leave a job that you never had any intention in leaving and you’ll wonder what the hell you can do differently. You’ll walk away from financial security and open doors to possibilities, only to find that the door you walked through wasn’t the one with the winning lottery ticket, but you’ll still try. You’ll still fight, despite the sinking feeling of walking into the office every single morning. You’ll make an effort and establish a routine. You’ll talk yourself out of bitterness and resentment. You’ll wonder if you have the strength and the courage to start over just one more time, and you’ll forget how brave you are for starting over in the first place.

One day, you’ll scroll through your Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram feeds and realize that your friends somehow figured it out and you’ll ask yourself how you missed it. You’ll go back to the summer nights spent on the beach, Wawa milkshake in hand, coming up with a list of goals and dreams for the future, and wonder where the hell it all went. You’ll wonder what happened to the plans you made together. To the dream of getting your first apartment with your childhood friends and dating twin brothers and having kids at the same time and raising them together. You’ll go in different directions. They’ll move on, and part of you will feel like you’re sinking in quick sand, while the other half of you is elated. You’ll be happy for them. You’ll celebrate their engagements. You’ll organize a cocktail hour when they get their first promotion. You’ll be the first one at their housewarming party. And in the midst of all this growing up stuff, you’ll feel selfish for feeling anything other than ecstatic. You’ll wonder when it’ll be your turn. When you’ll settle into a career and relationship and new apartment. You’ll stop yourself and wonder how on earth you can be so happy for their gains and successes, yet so heartbroken at not quite being there, all at the same time.

Sometimes, while you’re sitting next to the people who know you the best, you’ll feel at a loss for words. You’ll feel small next to them. You’ll feel like the conversation you bring to the table is nothing like the success they bring. And you’ll kick yourself afterwards for being so selfish. For wallowing in self-pity. For letting your feelings win.

You’ll get a taste of what love is, only to have it walk away from you. You’ll see the love of your life fall in love with someone else. You’ll watch in envy at how easily it is for them to move on. You’ll pray, every night, that you will never get the notification on Facebook telling you they got engaged. You’ll date people who are bad for you, and you’ll be bad for other people. You’ll wonder what’s stopping you from your own happy-ever-after. You’ll make a mental list of the reasons you’re alone. You’ll guard your heart with everything you have and you’ll wonder when someone will come and permanently knock your walls down. You’ll decide for yourself that it’s okay to be single, but you’ll grow frustrated at hearing your friends and family ask ‘when are you getting married, when are you having kids, you know your time is slowly running out.’  

They don’t tell you about the isolation. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and if you don’t grab onto your dreams, someone else will take them right out of your hands. So, you put in the work. You stay later at the office to finish a project. You take on overtime hours at the hospital. You choose to go for your Master’s. You start building a family. You’ll feel comforted by your friends when they embark on the journey to reaching their goals, too. You’ll have the same ideals for the future, but different paths to walk to get there. You’ll sacrifice sleep, you’ll sacrifice a social life, you’ll dedicate your all into what you want, and it will be lonely as hell. You won’t be the person who runs to her best friend crying about an argument you had with your parents. You won’t be the person who calls someone up in the middle of the night to go grab half price appetizers at Applebees.  You’ll ask your friends to hang out only to hear that they’re all busy. And then you’ll be busy when they want to hang out. You’ll spend nights going through old pictures of drunken college nights out and reminisce over the simplicity of life back then. You’ll cling onto your youth and life before the transition into this in-between stage of adulthood. You’ll bargain with whatever higher power you believe in just to feel forever young with your friends one more time. 

They don’t tell you that despite your best efforts to keep your emotions stifled, hidden under layers of bravery and strength, and a shield of armor, you will cry. You will cry when you realize that your planner is overflowing with due dates and test dates. You will cry when you scroll through Instagram and see your group of friends hanging out without you. You will cry when you clock out after your 17th day working in a row without so much as a consecutive 8 hours of sleep in one night. You will cry when you realize that you can’t split yourself apart and be in two places at once. You’ll cry on your way to school because you don’t know how much more you can take. You will cry because you’ll feel misunderstood. Because you are a master’s student, an employee, an intern, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and you will be made to feel like what you’re doing is not enough. You. Will. Cry. You will cry when your friends confront you for drifting from them. You’ll cry when they call you a stranger. You will cry because they don’t get it. You will cry because you feel all alone in a world that shouldn’t be this cruel. You’ll cry because you are so profoundly happy that there are still people in your life who decided to stick around. You’ll cry when you share in their successes. You’ll cry because you can’t imagine what life would be like without the friends that turn into family. You’ll cry and you won’t know why or how to stop the tears from falling.

They don’t tell you that sometimes, you will feel everything and nothing all at once. You’ll feel your heart exploding from happiness and your brain drowning in misery. They don’t talk about the influx of emotions and the roller coaster we ride just to fight through them. They don’t talk about the brokenness and the bitterness. They don’t talk about how confusing it is to be in your twenties. How life can be incredible and heartbreaking at the same time, and how it makes perfect sense to feel like you’re unraveling from time to time.

They won’t tell you it’s okay. They won’t tell you that it’s normal. That despite the broken pieces, your twenties are a time to feel everything. To get a taste of both highs and lows. To fight for what you want. To really learn what it’s like to love and to lose. They don’t ever tell you that. But today, I did. 

“You’ll be fine. You’re 25. Feeling [unsure] and lost is part of your path. Don’t avoid it. See what those feelings are showing you and use it. Take a breath. You’ll be okay. Even if you don’t feel okay all the time.” -Louis C.K

The title of this post comes from lyrics of the song ‘22‘ by Taylor Swift

Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place.

The juxtaposition of summer and fall in New Jersey is my favorite time of year. I’m a sucker for the transition, because that’s what Fall has always been, right? The subtle transition between piercing heat and long nights spent outside with friends, to crisp air, warm cozy sweaters, and a change in coffee orders from frappucinos to warm maple latte’s. There’s something beautiful about how summer quietly washes away the blues of the sky and greens of the leaves, giving birth to a new, even more vibrant season. The change happens slowly, then all at once. The temperature drops, leaving the air crisper, cooler. Few things are more magical than waking up to a world that seems to explode into an array of colors overnight.

The quiet moments between summer and fall mark the beginning of the season of rebirth. There’s something so motivating about the way the world around us seems to change so drastically, suddenly, and beautifully. Even the world outside our window is inspiring; the leaves change color day after day, and eventually, the trees shed their leaves. I’m a fall baby. Every fall marks another calendar year in my life – another chance to, like the trees who shed their leaves, shed my skin and transition into a new year and new version of myself.

Two weeks ago, I turned 26. I spent my last weekend as a 25-year-old with the most important people in my life. I saw one of the last beach bonfires of the season, enjoyed Oktoberfest on the boardwalk, had beers at local bars, and ended my 26th birthday at a spa with my best friend, followed by dinner with my family. I ended what was one of the most challenging years of my life thus far happy, and full, and whole.

I don’t have the same pearls of wisdom as I did last year, when I boldly compiled a list of 25 things I learned before I hit a quarter of a century. But of all the years of my life, the last has been the most defining. 25 challenged me, 25 pushed me, 25 destroyed me, 25 made me; most importantly, 25 was a year of growth, of learning, always learning. I am who I am today because of the events, the lessons, and the obstacles that were presented to me in my 25th year.

And here I am today, with what 25 taught me.

25 was the year of embracing change.

It was a year of learning not to tip-toe around life and be paralyzed by insidious fear that inevitably comes from sudden change. Familiarity brings a sense of contentment and peace. Walking away from what we know produces fear. And sometimes, it’s gut-wrenching. I walked away from a job that I never knew meant so much to me this year. I watched as all of the people I grew to love as family bravely and gracefully transitioned into new careers and a new life outside of our old job, while I floundered and succumbed, only briefly, to a darkness that nearly swallowed me whole. I never knew how agonizing change can be. Slowly, I learned to embrace it all. I dug myself out, dusted off the dirt, and took a leap head-first into that transition. I learned to let go of the picture-perfect image I had of my life and to be accepting of change. To be open to the idea that change is beautiful. That change is magical. That change is the only constant we will ever have. Things change, people change, circumstances change, life changes. I learned to be okay with that. I learned that in order to ultimately get what you want, you have to change. You have to step out of your comfort zone. You have to do what you’ve never done before. And that’s exactly what I did.

25 was the year of giving myself permission to be me.

I learned that being confident doesn’t mean they’ll like me. Being confident means if they don’t like me, I’ll be okay. It was a year I learned to let my hair down, to knock down my walls, and to be completely myself and be unapologetic about it. It was the year I stopped saying sorry for who I am. Someone I look up to recently told me that it’s endearing how I don’t shy from who I am; that it’s admirable seeing me be myself. That I’m okay with letting others see me for who I am. It took 25 years to get here. It took 25 years for me stop assuming the role that everyone else wants me to fill. It took 25 years for me to own up to the person I am. I learned to stop being timid. I learned to stand up and say so what? So what if I snort when I laugh a little too hard? So what if my attention span is short-lived, my stories are fragmented, and I jump from one thought to the next without so much as a transition or warning? So what if I am quirky and weird? I learned that people only know who you let them know. And how the hell can anyone ever know me if I don’t show the world who I really am?

25 was the year of friendships.

I realized this year that not all friendships are meant to be saved. That some people are only meant to be a part of your life for a certain period of time, and that it’s okay to let them go when their presence no longer serves you. It was the year of cutting out the extra fat in my life and really focusing on what was important. Who was important. I took a step back and looked at my life and at the people I call my friends. I realized this year how much time has changed us. How much life has changed us. We’ve all grown up, grown wiser, grown stronger. We’ve all evolved into better versions of who we used to be. Somewhere along the way, we said goodbye to late nights spent gossiping under the stars about our latest guy conquests, to crying on each others’ shoulders about our parents who just didn’t get us, to lying on each others’ floors trying to make sense of our lives. We traded all those memories in for girls nights filled with too much sushi, wine, and laughter. To sharing in each others’ successes and learning how to be friends as adults – learning what being a friend really means. It means showing up. The most important part of friendship as an adult is simply showing up. We’re no longer the people who hang out every day, who call or text 24/7, who go shopping on a whim or get half-price appetizers late on a Tuesday night. We have to make an effort. We have to show up. Jobs and school and internships and family commitments change us. We’re all busy doing what we need to do to continue to advance in life. But we still show up. We show up for the big things – for graduations, new job opportunities, engagements, pregnancies, birthdays, house-warmings. But we also show up for the not-so-big things. We show up when it matters. When the tears won’t stop falling because of a ridiculous fight with a parent. When boyfriends or fiances or husbands threaten to break up over something minor. When a job abandons you. When life seems to kick your ass. When you feel stuck. No matter how busy we find ourselves, we still show up.

25 was one hell of a fight.

It was the year of digging out and dusting off an old pair of red boxing gloves, only to realize they were there all along. They fit all along. I came in swinging this year. Always swinging. It was the year of fighting for balance, fighting for structure, fighting for peace of mind. It was the year of fighting the isolation that comes with being in graduate school. With being in your 20s. With being at an in-between stage of adulthood. No longer a college student looking for the next Thursday night out, but not yet quite settled into adulthood. And no one tells you that. There’s no one standing at the entrance of your 20s with neon lights and blow up signs that scream, ‘slow down, take it easy, enjoy the ride, enjoy the company, because it gets lonely.’ It gets lonely as hell. And it happens in a heartbeat. Suddenly, and all at once, you go from being seemingly on the same path as everyone around you. Young, naive, and floundering in an unforgiving world, to the girl surrounded by friends who somehow figured it out. Somehow became real adults, with real jobs, with fiances and husbands and wives and children. And somewhere in the midst of all the real adult stuff, there you are. Lost in the middle, immersed in the isolation, and learning to fight through it. To be comfortable in it. To embrace it. But the fight was over when I realized that despite the isolation, despite the loneliness, I was, never have been, and never will be, alone. And I am so thankful for that.

26 will be one hell of a year.

The next year will be one to relish in the strength that 25 gifted me – to live with the lessons that 25 taught me. It will be the year I graduate with my masters, get licensed as Mental Health professional, and work towards employment in the field. Each birthday brings with it endless possibilities. Maybe 26 is the year I witness a miracle. Maybe 26 is the year I realize that maybe I wasn’t so sure of myself as a 25 year old. Maybe it’s the year I settle down, or maybe it’s the year I don’t. All I know is I’ve lived a lot of life in the last year, but I’ve got plenty more in front of me. So here’s to me walking away from 25 and embracing all that the next year has to offer. I intend on making 26 one hell of a year. Just you wait.

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

The title of this post comes from lyrics of the song ‘All Too Well‘ by Taylor Swift

I’m running down the road, trying to loosen my load.

If you had a magical power, what would it be?

If you asked me when I was younger, when I was tangled up in a love that swallowed me up like quicksand, I would’ve answered differently. When I was wrapped up in a boy who was never good for me, a boy who kept his heart buried under layers of cement, a boy who let me in only far enough to kick me back out, a boy whose cold, hard love left me frigid, and broken, and alone, I would’ve asked for the ability to read minds. If it were a different time, I would wish to have the ability to jump off a diving board head-first into his head and crawl into his thoughts and light them up in the night sky. If you asked me on the days when I misjudge just how many times I can hit the snooze button, on the days I’m running late for work and hit every single red light, or in the beginning of May when summer starts making her sweet way onto the Jersey shore and I’m stuck in unforgiving traffic miles away from where I’m supposed to be, I would ask for the ability to teleport. I would ask to close my eyes, choose my destination, and be there immediately. But today, I want neither. Today, I’m untangled from that messy love and today, I wasn’t running late; today, I wasn’t stuck in traffic.

Today, I would ask for the ability to cut myself into pieces and be present, truly present, in every part of my life. I wish I could be here, a writer’s cliche, in the corner of my local Starbucks looking out at the busy highway and cars passing by, getting my words out. I wish I could be at the library, pounding out a paper I waited a little too long to get started on. I wish I could be at school, at work, at the gym, catching up with my friends; I wish I could do it all, and do it well.

But, I’m no magician. I’m only one girl, wearing eight different hats, and somehow, that has to be enough.

Shonda Rhimes said something in her commencement speech to the Dartmouth College graduating class of 2014 that’s been rattling my bones for months. She said, “Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life. If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the trade-off.”

I’ve spent the last nine months struggling with balance. I’ve struggled with putting all of my energy into certain parts of my life, but not in others. I’ve struggled with the realization that even though I made time for everything, I couldn’t make time to do everything well. The perfectionist in me was pissed off. The perfectionist in me shut down. The perfectionist in me has always prided on the fact that I could juggle so much – that all eight of my legs were always working. When I realized that I couldn’t put my heart and soul into all of my responsibilities, I walked away from the weight that I couldn’t carry. I walked away from responsibilities that I thought I had to cut – little things that made the weight too difficult to juggle. I made room for the heavier things. I made more room for work and for school, but left little room for myself.

What I’ve found in the absence of the extra weight was how much Shonda’s words resonated with me. Just like Shonda, if I am succeeding at one aspect of my life, I am failing at another. But, in spite of that, that’s why I’m back. I’m still learning how to be a student, an employee, an intern, a daughter, a friend – and do it all well, but I’m learning also that it’s okay to fall short sometimes. It’s okay to fail, so long as you try. I’m learning how to make time for myself, for the things that fill my heart – for the things that make me whole. And I’m learning how to do the best I can at everything without driving myself crazy when it doesn’t turn out perfect. I’m learning to relinquish the perfectionist in me and accept that I can only do so much – to accept that, like John Green said in The Fault in Our Stars, “the world is not a wish-granting factory.” I’m learning that I don’t get wishes. I don’t get magical powers. I am one person, wearing eight different hats, and I will make sure that’s enough. I will make sure that I am enough.

So, with that, I’m back. Thanks for stickin’ around.

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices, and enjoying those choices.” -Anonymous

The title of this post comes from lyrics of the song ‘Take it Easy‘ by The Eagles

It Was The End Of A Decade, But The Start Of An Age

As much as we try to resist it, the only constant in life is change. Seasons change. People change. Feelings change. Life changes. So, in a lifetime that is so full of change, very few things remain the same. In my lifetime, I’ve experienced changes from all different angles – from devastating loss, to heartbreak, to shifts in friendships, to ups and downs in familial relationships, to the goals and dreams I had for myself. And while I experienced all of these highs and lows of life, only one thing remained a constant. While the world around me never ceased to stop changing, the one thing that stayed the same, my one constant, has been my job. I never knew then that what was supposed to start out as a summer job when I was a teenager would turn into something that holds so many memories, so much meaning and so much of me for so long. I never knew all those years ago, the impact that it would have on my life and how bittersweet it would be to say goodbye – nearly a decade later.

To many, Auntie Anne’s was just a pretzel place and a way to demean and degrade not only myself, but my coworkers as well. It was often a way for outsiders to make us feel like less than human for where we worked. I’ve never understood how having a long-term job, working for great people, and working with incredible friends could ever be a negative enough thing to make fun of us for. To outsiders, it was a place they often frequented for a snack. It was the store that you could smell from a mile away. It was a childhood favorite that manifested itself into adulthood. But for me, Auntie Anne’s was my job – my first job.

It was where I learned customer service and people skills – where I learned how to talk to people, where I learned how to listen to rules, where I learned leadership, and where I gained a strong sense of self and a great work ethic. But it was so much more than that. Auntie Anne’s was a place that harbors so many memories and was, essentially, where I grew up. It was here that I learned what friendship is – and I mean real, raw, true friendship. Here I learned how to pick and choose which people I wanted in my life and how to read a person from a mile away. It was here I learned to build a back-bone and let some of the nasty things customers said to me roll off my shoulder. It was here I learned to work hard – to put in the hours, the work, and the time and see that hard work, no matter where you work, gets you places. It was here I learned to balance a job, extra-curricular activities and school and still make good grades. It was here that I gained a life-long, incredible, and supportive best friend, whom I genuinely do not know where I would be without. It was here that I had the chance to work with my brother and to work with a girl whom I have known since before she was born. It was here that I forged close friendships with, now college-bound girls, who remind me of myself at their age. I was, and still am, so emotionally invested in their lives, their well-being, and their success. I’ve watched these kids blossom into young adults and learned that I could be proud of them, even if I have only known them for two or three years.

Proud of S, for going into the city, despite the challenges that it took her to get there – for following her heart and making her big dreams a reality. But also, for being level-headed and humble, even when she recently was inches away from George Clooney, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. Proud of G, for leaving high-school where she hated it – to going off to college, loving it, and growing into this mature young lady. You are far better than I was at your age and as I have always told you, college is really where you will shine. No matter what, I will always be your ‘mentor’ :). Proud of S & D, for going off to the schools of their dreams and making these dreams an eventual reality. For coming from a small high school to jumping into these giant universities, but finding your niche and group of friends and for really having the time of your lives. I am so excited for both of your futures and we all  know that we will see your names in lights. For A, who is already changing lives, in only your second semester of college. I don’t need to tell you how proud I am of you for going after these crazy dreams of yours, because you and I both know that your dedication to becoming a doctor is what will get you there, no matter how difficult that road may be. And for C, who will forever remind me of myself. For really being a friend and for going after those journalism dreams – even after you had a minor setback with schools. Being proud of every single one of you girls doesn’t even cover it.

It was within those four walls that we all felt every emotion – we laughed, cried, joked, and fought. My God, did we fight. No one has seen me in the same way that my coworkers have. Good, bad, ugly – they saw it all. Our job was our safe haven – no matter how many negative things were going on in our personal lives outside of work, we always had a place to go. Even on the most stressful days, there was always  some element of fun. We laughed every single day and most importantly, it was here that I gained an extended family with whom I was able to share the bulk of my fondest memories, both inside and outside of work, for the last nine years.

Tuesday night was my last shift – the end of such an epic saga. Never again will I work with my best friend or my brother. Never again will I work with teenagers – unless, of course, they are my clients. Never again will I work for those same incredible people. Never again will I look at an Auntie Anne’s, or even a mall, the same. I said goodbye to the biggest part of me this week. The biggest part of my life, the only constant. And while I closed this chapter of my book and said goodbye to a job that I never knew would mean so much to me, I am also opening the door to the future and to endless possibilities. The unknown future should terrify me, but at the same time, it’s the not knowing that excites me. I have the utmost confidence in myself and in my coworkers and know that no matter what direction we take and where we are headed, we are all going to do something great.

So sure, it was just a pretzel place. It was my first job. It was food retail. But, it was the biggest part of my life thus far. I am a better person today because of it and I have the best stories and relationships that will genuinely last far beyond those four walls.

To every single one of my coworkers and anyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with, whether it be now or at any point in the last 9 years, thank you for being the biggest part of my life, thank you for being my backbone and being part of the place that kept me together when things outside of work fell apart, thank you for being my family – near or far, you’ll always hold a piece of my heart.

I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn and we are led to those to help us most to grow if we let them, and we help them in return. Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today, because I knew you.” ‘For Good,’ Wicked

The title of this post is from the song, “Long Live” by Taylor Swift
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