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I’ve lived in the same place my whole life, but I’ve never realized how beautiful it is until recently.

Maybe I just didn’t notice it before or I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it, but lately I catch myself staring up at the mountains.

It has been raining a lot lately. On my drive home, I noticed that the north-facing slopes are so much greener than the south-facing ones.

But Dad says this isn’t supposed to happen. South and west-facing slopes are usually the greenest, at least where we are, because of sunlight and rainwater, he explained. The south-facing Topa Topas are just dry because of their rocky terrain.

I’m not sure why even still I think of the fire when I’m admiring the mountains. Maybe it made me appreciate them more.

The trees still seem like skeletons to me. They are black and withered and don’t really fit in with the bright grass that’s growing in. They used to be so much greener. But at least they are still standing. I’m thankful for that.

There isn’t really much to do in this sleepy town, especially after having been here for sixteen years. But despite that, I can’t think of a better place to have grown up.

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Here’s to Strong Women

She’s strong, she’s talented, she’s smart. My friend is headed towards great things.

Soon we’ll be in college, I know I won’t be going to the same school as her anymore, but I know I’ll never forget her.

You know someone is extraordinary when they have so many amazing goals that they don’t know what to pursue.

Sometimes I think, what will she be doing in four years?

Will she be a influential member in race and resistance studies, standing up to oppression and persecution?

Will she be a rising scholar in gender and feminism studies, striving to create a more equal world?

Will she be a social justice worker?

Will she be a photo journalist, not only using her power with words to inspire, but her talent with captured memories, also?

Will she be filmmaker and editor, creating barrier-breaking and revolutionary films?

Will she be a gender sexuality savant, fighting for the LGBTQ+ community?

Will she be a sociologist, endeavoring  to generate social polyphony?

Will she be a lawyer fighting for human rights?

I don’t think she’s just going to chose one of these. I think she’s going to do all of them, because if she sets her mind to something, there’s no stopping her.

I know sometimes you get nervous. You wonder how you’ll accomplish everything you hope to. You occasionally struggle to understand your identity, what path to take. You get down some times. You make wrong decisions and question your worth.

I know you are strong, but I know we all have our doubts and struggles. But never forget, I’m here for you. I’m rooting for you. I love you.

You are an inspiration, an amazing friend, and you are going to make such a big difference in the world.

Never forget your goals, for I know, you can and you will achieve them all.

Photo Credit: edgefunders.com

we make our own waves.

photo credit: images.fineartamerica.com

He told me this:
“I make my own waves.

I make my own waves when
I don’t need to.
I make myself angry when I don’t need to be!
And it’s not good for me,
not good for my health.

I see you do the same thing to yourself.
I think it’s something you inherited,
like it’s genetic, maybe. And I’m sorry.

It has taken me my whole life,
fifty-some years to realize that
I am the only one who can control how I feel,
that it is me, and not other people, who changes
the way I feel.

I see you do this to yourself,
you expect people to think the same way,
and to care and to try the same way that you do.

It’s taken me my whole life
to realize that, and I still
don’t know how to fix it.

If you could learn this now,
so early on in your life,
you’ll be so much better for it.

You’ll be just fine.”

I make my own waves too, sometimes.

But the thing about waves, is that even though they can be destructive, they can also be spectacular.

So, I think that it’s okay to make waves in our lives, but we have to decide which kind they will be.

 

One Day Older

At 11:59 p.m., Friday, January 18th in Santa Barbara, I was still seventeen years old.

I spent the last sixty seconds of my childhood in a Lyft with all my best friends going back to my aunt’s house after just watching Escape Room and I was truly happy.

But, as the clock struck 12, I was no longer a minor. I was eighteen years old and officially an adult.

During every single birthday, my family always asks me if I feel older at all. Usually, I don’t, because there usually aren’t any changes that happen that make me feel older. I know that as a sixteen year old I was legally allowed to get a driver’s license, but I didn’t get one and I still don’t have one because I haven’t found any reason for it. At seventeen, I was able to go to a rated R movie, but I always went to those anyways.

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

However, when I turned 18, I truly, finally felt older right away than ever before.

I know I’m a year older, but it happened only in a day. From 11:59 to 12:00, it suddenly hit me that I was a legal adult.

On my 18th birthday, I went and got a cartilage piercing and I didn’t need my parents to sign my release form. I was old enough to do it by myself. Then, I went and bought a scratcher ticket, and when they asked for my ID, I was able to satisfyingly show it to them and buy it. I didn’t win any money and I don’t plan on buying one again, but it was the experience that made me so happy because I finally can buy one if I wanted to. For the first time on my birthday, I finally felt older.

My birthday itself was amazing too. I remembered last year I was on a train up to Santa Barbara, breaking down because the mudslides kept me from having a birthday celebration with my friends. This year, I spent the whole weekend with my best friends in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. My two worlds came together and my friends from OVS and my friend from my old school finally met for the first time. We were out until midnight laughing crazily on all the rides at Santa Monica Pier without a care in the world. My birthday weekend was also full of delicious meals, amazing desserts, and all my family and friends. My cousin was even able to come to the brunch celebration on the Sunday afterwards, she usually is never to come to those events because she’s so busy, but it was amazing.

I know my eighteenth birthday will always be one I remember and though I’m horrified about the fact that I’m no longer a minor and that I actually feel older, I’m happy about it.

Not if, but When

Loralee was born on April 28, 1970. Loralee died on June 3rd 1970.

My mom never met her sister; I never met my aunt. She spent her thirty-six days in a hospital. Loralee wasn’t born lucky.

Due to her cleft pallet, she was unable to swallow. The hospital put a tube down her throat to feed her. Instead of going into her esophagus, the tube was misplaced and put into her lungs. After a month and three days, her lungs were filled from the tube’s givings and she died from suffocation.

Loralee Myra French never came home. My mom never got to see her sister. My mother was less than two years old. I wonder what my grandmother told her. How could you explain that to an innocent child?

My mom learned the full story when she was older.

I learned the full story a week ago.

Recently, my great aunt died. I wasn’t close to her. She was an awful person. She put her son through absolute shit, abused my grandmother, and put my mom’s side of the family through living hell.

Even though she was a cruel human being, it hit me hard when she died. As bad as it sounds, it wasn’t hard for me because I cared about her a lot, it was harder for another reason.

As I’m getting older, death is so much more real. I understand it and am effected by it more and it takes place more in my life.  There are so many people who are going to die in my lifetime: my parents, my grandparents, my kindergarten teacher, the owners of my favorite place in the world… There are so many people who have died in my lifetime: my grandfather, my aunt, my favorite artist, my dad’s best friend.

I’m still young, but I’m old enough to understand how abruptly life can end.

I was doing driver’s ed a couple days ago. I read a story about a man who got in a car crash and killed his best friend.

One mistake, one wrong turn, one bad decision, and your life could be done.

We all know we will die one day. It’s not “if;” it’s a “when?”

When am I going to die? When are you going to die? It’s inevitable, unescapable, and, in my opinion, scary. So scary.

On the news, I read about a girl who traveled in Costa Rica, met a man at an Airbnb, and went missing. Later, she was found dead.

One misgiving of trust, one ignorant move, one second of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you could be found lifeless too.

And, then, there’s so many undeserving people who die cruel, miserable deaths. Cancer, suffering, abuse, rape. So many innocent people whose lives get taken away. Just like the young rape victim who was found dead in a suitcase behind a dumpster, just like orphan who starved to death, just like the 13,000 people who died in shootings this year, just like the young baby who only got to spend thirty six days on this earth; my aunt Loralee Mya French.

Tattoo

Recently I got a tattoo and everyone has been wondering what it is or why I got it.  I haven’t explained it to many people because I just haven’t had time to fully explain it.  There are so many things someone must know to understand why I got that tattoo.  It is not something simple to me.  I mean I planned it for 8 years, so what can you expect?

When I was very young, around the age of 4, I took father and daughter guitar lessons with my dad.  I don’t really remember the classes, but one day has always stood out to me more than others.  My dad and I went to the class, then went to the fair after.  We got mint chocolate chip ice cream and I just loved spending the day with my dad.  The main focus of the day was music, but that was most days for us.

Another really strong memory I have with my dad is painting with watercolors.  We painted together so many times that I don’t have just one day I can recall.  All I remember is painting with him.

He was very artistic. In fact, I think that I got my artistic side from him.  We used to always jam out to “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath in his car and look at nature together.  We always talked about how beautiful nature was.  Our favorite colors were green and blue because they were always in nature and we both had beautiful blue eyes.

In 2011, God decided that it was time for my dad to go home.  I tried to follow him multiple times, but luckily I failed.

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Now that I got the background information out of the way, I think I can actually explain my tattoo.

My tattoo is a black bass and treble clef that resemble a heart with blue, green, and purple watercolors behind it on my forearm.  It sounds simple, but it really isn’t.

I have known since I was 10 I wanted a heart for my dad but I did not know what kind.  I decided that when I saw the music heart that I knew it was perfect.  I feel most connected to him through any sort of art.

The bass clef has low notes in music while the treble has high notes.  This is to remind me that there are lows in life, but there are also highs.

The bass clef normally has a colon at the end, but I decided to make it a semicolon because there is a very famous project known as The Semicolon Project, which raises awareness for suicide victims and survivors.  After my father passed, I thought I could not handle life without him, but I can and the semicolon is a reminder that I can.

The watercolors in the back are not just cool colors to me.  Whenever I see blue and green together, I always think of my dad so I thought they were the only fitting colors to have.  I added purple as a sort of transition color.

The reason I am calling them watercolors is because they look like splashes of watercolors.  The reason I added them was not just for a pop of color.  It was because some of the best memories I have of him are when we were painting together and most the time we used watercolors.

The placement is not random either.  I know to some people it is dumb to have a tattoo so visible, but I do not care.  It is visible in most dresses, but I want it that way.  My father cannot walk me down the aisle so having the tattoo on my arm out in the open is the closest I will ever get.

Happy Burnday

Today I am turning 17. Living at boarding school, birthdays are honestly the best. Not only do I get a birthday party and a cake at night, but I also get to spend all day with my friends.

Today has been amazing and I’m so thankful for the people around me that make every birthday so special. But exactly one year ago, my day looked a lot different.

Photo Credit: guideposts.com

I had just found out that my dorm had burnt down. I was just packing to leave again, to get away from the smoke. I had none of my own clothes to wear, none of my belongings with me. My then-boyfriend had just ditched me to hang out with his friend on possibly the worst day of my life. My family was trying so hard to make my sweet sixteen as good and peaceful as possible, but there wasn’t much they could do. My life had just been turned upside down.

I can’t believe that was already a year ago. The hills and trees still look burnt, we still live in mobile homes, and the pictures of the fire still make me sick. It seems like yesterday that I was screaming at the orange skies that were burying the sun behind smoke to go away, to go back to normal, to turn back the time and make this all go away. But there was no turning back, there was nothing left to do. Nothing left to do, besides trying to forget about everything for a day. Trying to imagine that we were going on vacation and not evacuating from a wildfire. Trying to imagine that my friend and I were watching Riverdale in the girls lounge, not on my sofa at home with amber alerts going off next to us. Trying to imagine that everything was like it had been 48 hours earlier.

Now, a year later, I know that nothing is really still the same. We don’t live in the same rooms anymore, we don’t have the same buildings anymore. I know that, and I’m finally beginning to accept that. I know that there is nothing left but to move on.