Day 8: Selfie

ImageI believe in the potential of the North Korean people. I believe that North Korea will open up in our life time. I believe that North Korea is changing and we ALL have a place in continuing that.

But if you asked me 4 years ago what I thought about North Korea, I wouldn’t have said a thing. Because I knew NOTHING. I don’t mean like oh I kinda knew some stuff but couldn’t talk about it. I mean, I hadn’t even seen Team America nothing. But after following a boy I thought I like to the first meeting of new school club my first year of college, my life forever changed. One random weeknight, I avoided a paper (I’m sure) and headed to a film screening. I was introduced to Liberty in North Korea but I didn’t know what that meant. A few more screenings and a realization that I had nothing to do that summer, I found myself on a flight to California (first time to the state and first time flying alone) to spend my summer interning.

The summer of 2010 I was a Southeast nomad, traveling in a van for 7 weeks with three other people, sharing the stories of the NK people and raising funds for our programs. Looking back I realize I decided to work for LiNK because I saw them as the organization where I could make more impact. I’d looked into some other programs, but to go from knowing nothing about NK to understanding the truth of what is going on there makes it hard to say no to working with LiNK.

One day though, everything came together and I realized there was no way I could ever let go of this issue. I watched the video of one refugee reuiniting with his mom after something like 4 years. They embraced each other, crying, flowers in hand, seeing each other for the first time ever in freedom and safety.

I don’t know if many of you reading know… if anyone’s reading … But my mom passed away just before I turned 16. She was diagnosed with cancer when I was 12 and fought it actively until just about a month before she passed.

This is when I realized I needed to work for this cause. I miss my mom every single day, but I have the peace of knowing she is gone and having had the chance to say proper goodbyes. But to imagine living in this world, knowing she was out there somewhere, just not able to talk to me, constantly wondering if she was safe and what she was up to, would break my heart in a way I don’t think I can ever understand. Daughters aren’t meant to say goodbye to mothers before even their first kiss. No boy should graduate high school and not have his father there to say congratulations.

So after my summer program, I flew home, knowing I would be back with LiNK no matter what. I signed up for 20+ credit hours that fall and spring. Worked 20 hours a week. And applied for a job with no shame. Now, here I am, over two years later, running LiNK’s national tours program.

I’m not someone who believes in fate but I do know that I happened to be at the right place at the right time to get me to where I am right now. I can’t imagine doing anything else and appreciate my job more than most.

And to think it all started with a crush on a dumb boy!

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Day 7: Skyline

Image8-year-old Summer: Red ant pants, playing in the pool until your eyes sting and your fingers look like prunes, family weekend trips to Naples, coconut popsicles from the ice cream man, sleep overs any night of the week, hours at City Furniture for the air conditioning and free cookies, day camps, new friends, sun burns, cousin hang outs, water parks, running in the sprinkles, new swim suits.

16-year-old Summer: Staying up til the sun came out, kisses at the park, drinking, drinking, drinking, TV marathons, week-long best friend sleepovers, falling in love, early morning beach trips, snoballs, Publix subs, family hangs, midnight movies, sneaky parties, concerts, mosquito bites, pool volleyball, pedicures.

23-year-old Summer: Catching up on work you can’t do during the busy season, beach days, finding new restaurants, cooking, Otter pops, endless cuddling, late mornings spent in bed, the OC fair, staff retreats, family visits, shameless reading, baking, discovering hidden gems, tanning days at the lagoon, confidence building, sun sets, long drives down PCH, love line.

I’m a fall girl. There’s nothing quite like the crispness of the air, the confidence I feel when I can layer and show off my boots, pumpkin spiced treats, and just overall the excitement leading up to the holidays. Autumn makes me feel like a little kid. But this summer I realized summer does the same thing. Spending morning to night in the sun, coming home exhausted in only the way a summer day can make you feel, the smells of sunscreen and ocean water, weekends that last forever, the sense of adventure that exists even when you have to work every day. For the first time in a long time I think I took advantage of the summer and though I’m counting down the days til I can bust out my leather jacket, I definitely have a few more beach days in me.

Day 6: Diagonals

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Not many would assume I grew up a dancer. From ages 3-15, I took ballet and jazz classes. I also danced competitively and performed with my school dance team. It’s weird. I get it. I don’t have a dancers body (never did), I’m crazy short, I’m extremely clumsy, and if you see my bobbing my head to the music, well, let’s just say my rhythm is sub par.

But aside from all of that, I grew up a ballerina. I closely linked my identity to that of a dancer and a performer. No, I was never the best technically speaking but without fail I was complimented after every performance because of my energy and excitement on stage.

Not having the ideal body type may lead you to assume I was insecure when involved in dance. But, quite the opposite happened. I watched girls stress about everything they did. Watched them practice. And watched them cry when they didnt win. But I didn’t feel those things. There were days I had my feelings hurt because I felt left out sometime but (maybe wrongly) my mom assured me they would go nowhere and end up dancing for Disney shows. Overall though, I loved myself and loved what I did.

The smooth feel of the wooden dance floor, the familiar smell of new ballet shoes, and the burn to push harder and harder was something I craved.

When I was 15 I broke my ankle in a haunted house (yep, I’ll write it out sometime) and I had to stop dancing. It was before one of the biggest performances I ever had the chance to do. And my heart broke. And with that, a lot of my body confidence fell by the wayside. High school was not the ideal time for this to happen and looking back, I wish I had pushed through the broken ankle and gotten back to dancing.

One day I hope I find my way to a wooden dance floor again. It scares the absolute shit out of me, but it’s something I know I have to do.

Day 5: Close up

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Today I arrived at Lake Arrowhead for a 5 day global staff retreat for work. This means I probably won’t be updating in as much length as I have for the last few days but I will do my damnedest to not let this fall through the cracks.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had journals. In my childhood bedroom there are diaries strewn about only a few pages every scribbled on, my 5-year-old, 10-year-old, and 16-year-old self screaming for someone to hear their complaints. And I’ve always apologized for not writing more consistently. I’m not doing that anymore though.

Writing is something I have to do. It’s something I need to do. I’m tired of saying I want to be a better version of myself and not following through with it. This is the first step. And there are more. I know who I want to be and it’s time to make it happen.

Hope someone out there is reading this. Please hold me accountable!

Day 4: Love

Image(hanging at the orange county fair with this handsome fella)

I wrote this as I was falling in love almost exactly one year ago. I’ve never shared it before but here’s to being vulnerable… Keep in mind, it was never really finished or polished but going back will change it. This is where I was at the time. Here it is: 

There we layed… The boy who I had met months ago and always had a strange, secret curiosity about and I tangled on a couch I now think is infested with fleas. We talked about what it meant to be “dating” how it works for us to be seeing other people and each other at the same time. I lied, saying it didn’t bother me when he told me about the other girls. Really, just about the one. The one he’s wanted since high school. The one who would get in the way. The one he needed to move beyond before diving into anything. But he could tell, I watched him watch my eyes turn from windows of happiness, to sad holsters for the tears I wouldn’t let spill. After only a week he knew what it meant, he could see my heart close off and my walls build themselves back up – brick by brick.

I explained I had to leave. It was time for me to go. An arbitrary time I explained, saying I wanted to sleep in my bed. Knowing if I stayed in his arms for even a second more I would never be able to turn back. Knowing the dangerous line I was toeing. Knowing this wasn’t supposed to happen but it was moving full steam ahead and even with an emergency break there was no stopping it. I needed to get out of there and it needed to happen immediately. I went to the door, bag in hands, shoes in the other because to take the time to tie my laces was not an option. I needed out before I fell any further. He hugged me and gave me a kiss, and I realized how strange it was that no touch had ever felt as comfortable as his. He asked why I was leaving, why I made an arbitrary rule. “If you want me to stay, tell me.” I’d never talked to a casual date that way, someone who could easily discard me then and there. “I told you that you can stay the night.” “Well, yes, I know I can but do you want me to?” “I do. You’re such a girl.” And with that, in I went, shoes and purse strewn on the floor they seem to be calling home these days. We melted into each others bodies, our short, stout limbs entwined like they’d never known another partner. Days have felt like months. The comfort is inexplicable.

“Your eyes are familiar,” he said the first time we met, sleeping in a bed belonging to neither of us. In three days we’ve laughed and serenaded and talked and talked and talked. What does it mean? I think I like you. A lot. More than I’ve liked anyone in a long time. “But why me?” Of course, this is the place where you should explain. “Well you’ve swept me off my feet with your perfect balance of pervert and poet. A man who sings to me and picks on me and also grabs my ass can have my heart in an instant. When you tell me about your life I can’t help but imagine all the pain you’ve suffered sitting inside your stomach, weighing you down every day but feeling a lightness when we’re together.” Instead I find myself making silly faces, squeezing my eyes shut because maybe I will disappear and he wont be able to see how vulnerable I’ve become. Making jokes about how we’re so cheesy and gross so I don’t have to truly explain myself.

 

 

Day 3: Yellow

ImageFive Spells I Wish Were Real:

1) Expecto Parkingnum – Living in Long Beach has been wonderful. I live walking distance from the beach, wonderful dive bars, thrift stores galore, delicious food, coffee shops, and so much more. But the worst part is that I spend at least 20-30 minutes a day looking for a place to park. I get it, I chose to live on a very popular intersection BUT HOLY BALLS, I PAY RENT HERE, THERE’S NO WORLD WHERE IT’S ACCEPTABLE FOR ME TO NOT HAVING A PLACE TO LEAVE MY VEHICLE. So this spell would create parking spots, be that by shrinking cars that are annoyingly large, moving two cars closer that have an inconvenient amount of space between them, or removing red paint from curbs!

2) Cloneium Monium – It seems like there’s always something I wish I could be doing that I can’t be because of time. I understand, our time is a limited resource and we choose to spend it in certain ways and that’s fine. But when it comes down to it, even when being intentional about how I spend my time, there still is never quite enough. If there were two of me, one could be at work, while the other could be catching up on reading I’ve been wanting to get done. Or one could be sleeping and cooking healthy meals, while the other was out hanging with friends and drinking. I’m tired of having to choose between being responsible or being carefree, so ya know, two of me would make it better. 

3) Adios Middleofthecountry-otus – I love Kansas. I really do. It’s one of my favorite places to visit (mostly because of the biscuits and gravy) but also because the people are cool and mid-western life is such a novelty to me. But as much as I love visiting and hanging out, the middle of the country has gots to go. My favorite people on the planet and basically everything I love and need are on either coast of this country and if I could just pick up the whole middle of the country I’d be so much happier. I don’t need my family in my city exactly, but I’d surely love them to be less than 3,000 miles away. So sorry Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio, but you all are gonna need to find a new home so I’m not homesick no matter what ocean I’m looking at.

4) Abra Ka-NeverEndingSweetTeaButYouGetNoCavities – I think I speak for most of us when I say I love food. If you don’t love food, I don’t think we can be friends and I also think you have some serious problems. Seek medical attention immediately. This spell would allow for an iced cold glass of sweet tea (or whatever delicious treat I want at the time – I’m thinking sushi, and baked brie, and eggplant pizza) to appear in my hand at just the twitch of my nose. And the best part? No bad health effects. In this world, a full glass of sweet tea not only can’t give you cavities, it also provides all the vitamins and minerals you need for the day! Who needs kale anymore? 😉

5) P!NKoppause – The only thing I hate more than my period is P!NK, so every month instead of having to deal with cramps and mood swings and back pain and those poops we get but don’t talk about, P!NK gets a second period. For the pain you put me through with Just Like A Pill, the least you can do is hang out with Aunt Flo twice a month.

 

If anyone’s reading — what spells would you want?

Day 2: Circles

Image(painting an accent wall in my office)

The first time I ever saw my parents fight was over a can of paint. We had been living in our new house for a year, but were just getting around to painting and decorating thanks to a water heater flood throwing off our timeline (that’s a story for another day).

My mom had decided she wanted the living room to be burgundy with a textured finish that required white glaze and cheese cloth. We all stood in the living room nervous to start painting. Not sure why we were too scared, before the flood our wall was adorned with a 3D mural of Spain, courtesy of the previous owners. So anything we could do would only be a step up from there. Finally, after much reservation from my mom, my dad dove right in and started applying the glaze to the wall. But it looked weird.

What you need to know is my dad is the kind of guy who does things a certain way. He leaves his shoes on all day, sits down every Sunday to pay the week’s bills, and doesn’t necessarily have an eye for creativity. So, as you might imagine, he started to apply the glaze in perfect circles in straight lines. But my mom was not pleased with that one bit, and she was totally justified. It looked horrible. But instead of just taking the project on her own (which she should have done in the first place – I got my controlling stubborn nature from someone!) she freaked out and after much yelling, awkward looks from me, and cheese cloth hitting the fan, she stormed out of the house.

Remember when I said this was the first time I ever saw my parents fight? Well, I wasn’t kidding and this ROCKED MY WORLD. Standing in the kitchen, watching my dad fume, wondering where my mom went and if she was ever coming back, contemplating taking over the whole project in attempt to make everything better. But instead I think I cried and sat on the couch, looking out the window, praying (or I guess something that) to see her headlights pull into the driveway.

Of course my mom came home, she finished painting the living room, and everything was fine. But looking back, this was a defining moment in my life. It was the first time I realized my parents were just normal people who can make mistakes and fight and cry and be irrational. Seeing that facade fall apart happens in everyone’s life, and this is the day it happened for me.

Looking back on this story now I also realize watching this fight has shaped the way I am now. Shaped the way I fight. Shaped the relationships I’ve had since then. Watching my parents fight but then move on and be totally okay meant I learned it was okay to fight. Yelling and screaming doesn’t mean relationships are falling apart. Being irrational and mean doesn’t mean whoever it was directed at will stop loving you. It means you need to find people who will accept that and move on.

So here’s to the decorating breakdown I know I will have one day and to the fact that I’ve found a fella to stand by my side who wont leave me when I freak out about the color of the paint or the fact that something isn’t perfectly straight on the wall (but will definitely make fun of me for it later, and rightfully so, because seriously that shit does not matter).