One Year

One year ago I remember clearly.

I had my guitar on my shoulder, leaving the warm dorms to trek across the chilly campus to my weekly music lesson, but the air was different than usual.

Everyone was huddled outside, talking as they saw smoke in the distance and hues of red burning in the sky that felt so distant at that moment.

“Are you really going to your lesson right now? There’s a fire,” my friend asked me.

Of course I would go to my lesson. It was my favorite part of Monday nights. Plus, the fire was nowhere near us, nothing would happen, and nothing would change.

Oh, how I was wrong.

Everything changed.

Photo Credit: pbs.org

Yet, so many things stayed the same.

One year later, I’m getting ready to go to my Monday night guitar lesson.

I have a new guitar, but it means so much more now. I appreciate it more now.

I’m still in a dorm room, wondering what I’ll be getting for secret snowflake tomorrow.

But I’m in a new dorm room, with a new roommate, on a new part of campus.

I don’t have the same clothes I had a year ago. The same photos, yearbooks, or blankets.

But, I have the photos I’ve taken since then.

My stuffed animal and All Time Low pillow I saved from the fire.

I still have the memories of the fire.

The ones that haunt me.

The ones that bring me to tears thinking about what I lost, what my friends lost, and what the whole school lost.

But, the memories remind me of how I became a stronger person since.

How my friends became stronger.

How the school became stronger.

How the county’s stronger.

More united.

More appreciated.

I still remember the day I returned from Christmas break and stepped on to campus and moved into the new dorms.

Being welcomed by overwhelming support, welcome back goodie bags, and hugs from my friends.

Seeing my horse for the first time since the fire and knowing he was safe and healthy. That all the other horses were safe.

The fire was so destructive, so horrible, but so many things came out of it that I’m more thankful now for than ever.

It’s been one year and I’m still sensitive to the scent of smoke and fire, to the sound of news about other California fires on the TV.

But, one year later, the mountains are a little greener.

My home is still stronger than ever.

And that’s the most beautiful thing of all.

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Hindsight 20/20

Photo Credit: favim.com

My parents tell me that I broke your heart… but I deny it.

Sometimes, I think about how we used to be. I remember that one night when I texted you asking if you knew any good places to get my guitar fixed. We hadn’t really ever talked that much before this so I was shocked by your answer. “I can fix it for you, what’s your address,” you replied. You drove half an hour to my house to come pick up my guitar. You didn’t just pick up my guitar; you played my piano, talked to me, made me laugh, and told me I had a beautiful voice and you would love to play music with me.

From that night we became closer. I remember how excited I got when you would text me, how nervous I was when you would come over, and how happy I would be when we played music together.

Weeks went by and, even though you lived half an hour away, we’d hang out almost every night after swim practice. I remember my best friend saying how perfect you were for me. At that moment, I agreed. You were an amazing guitarist who was looking for a singer in your band. You were funny and entertaining. You were an amazing swimmer. And, you actually paid attention to me, something I had never really experienced from a guy.

One night, I heard a knock on my door. There you were with a guitar case, my guitar case. I opened it to find my guitar clean, polished, and fixed. I thought you were just going to replace the string that I had snapped. I was shocked. I offered you money, but you wouldn’t take it.

That night, you kissed me. I had kissed people before in dares, spin the bottle, or other stupid party games, but this was my first real kiss. My heart beat a million times a minute, my cheeks were probably bright red, and I remember thinking how perfect that moment was. It’s crazy how much things have changed since then.

I remember how you would surprise me with flowers; how we would sneak into your guest house when your parents were home, so we wouldn’t get caught; the guitar lessons you gave me; and the food you would buy me. I met your whole family. We did a triathlon together. You finished way before me, but as soon as you crossed the finish line, you ran back to do the final stretch with me. When I ran my marathon, you woke up at five am to drive to the starting line and cheer for me and you were their when I crossed the finish line. Then, there was the time you told me you loved me, I said it too.

It seems like everything happened so fast. I had so many firsts with you. I had so many good memories with you. Before this, guys always ignored me, wanted nothing to do with me, and would never want to be part of any relationship with me.  I never thought I would be the one hurting you.

I was happy in the beginning, for the first couple months, but as time went on, something changed. You didn’t change though, you continued to so many nice things for me and be the amazing person you are. You wrote me a song, comforted me when I was down, wrote me letters when I went to sleep away camp, went on hikes with me, and told me I was beautiful. You didn’t change at all, but my feelings did.

I started acting weird. I became a bit distant. I don’t know why I stopped feeling the same for you, it just happened. The day I told my parents I wanted to break up with you they said not to. “He’s so perfect, stick with him,” they said. My mom would get mad when ever I asked her how I could break up with you.

I tried to feel the same way about you again, I really did, but I just couldn’t. The day I broke up with you, you cried. You said you were okay and that it wouldn’t change our friendship, but we both knew that was a lie.

I cried too. I felt like such an awful person. My mom would tell me I deserved to feel that way, because of what I did to you. My best friend would say it too.

It’s been over half a year since we dated, yet its almost like whenever you look at me, you seem sad.  We’re in the same friend group, so I see you sometimes when I’m with my friends. A couple weeks ago, I asked you what was wrong. “Whenever I see you, I just get sad. I get so jealous when I see you with other guys. I still love you,” you said.

Now, we barley talk. It’s awkward when people say your name.

Sometimes I think about how we used to be. My parents tell me that I broke your heart… I don’t deny it.

 

Polaroids

On the center of the granite countertop of the mini bar in my grandparents’ house, a home I spent the majority of my childhood in, sits a single polaroid. In that polaroid is a picture of me as a little girl, food all over my face with my dog right in front of me.

That is the only photo I have from my childhood and I can barely remember the story behind the photo. Now, it makes me wonder how many memories I’m missing out on because I can’t remember. This is also because I have no photos to revamp my memory.

I have no photos of myself with long hair, with my parents, or pictures of my dogs. All I have are my memories; the ones blurred between the lines of trauma and bliss that was my childhood, the ones I desperately want to forget and remember all at once.

Photo Credit: theverge.com

It’s terrifying that I have such a clear memory of the smallest details nowadays, but I can’t even remember the details of my parents’ faces. The little things in life that were defining aspects of my day to day life as a kid are blurred images in my mind today.

All I would have are these photos, but I don’t even have those.

Now, I have an abundance of videos and photos piling up in my Snapchat memories and phones new and old holding numbers of concert videos that I barely look at anymore. Videos that I refuse to give up, in case I want to look back on them and smile. I have photo albums filled with developed photos, polaroids from prom and random nights with friends, lining the shelves of the desk in my dorm room.

Some people say you need to live in the moment, to put your phone away and let your mind keep the images. But, I can’t. I don’t take photos and shaky videos to post them on my social media; I take them so I can hold on to the memories forever in the literal palm of my hand.

I have no photos from my childhood. Not a single one. Not in a photo album, on my phone, but I wish I did. As much as I try to forget everything from my life before I was ten, I wish the memories weren’t becoming just memories. I wish I could hold on to a photograph and relive the moment all over again.

But, that’s why I take photos all the time through the lens of three different cameras. So in thirty years, I can look back with a clear image and not just rely on the one in my head.

the things we don’t talk about- holiday edition

The holiday season is coming up, which means a lot of happiness and posts about “holiday spirit” which is great, but this is about the things we don’t talk about.

We don’t talk about the peoples whose families don’t have enough money for Christmas presents, halloween decorations, or a turkey dinner.

We don’t talk about the kids whose families are split into two or more homes, forced painfully back together for the holidays, nor do we talk about the kids whose families are split and don’t see each other at all.

We don’t talk about the families who yearn for someone who is no longer with them or who yearn for someone who never has been with them.

We don’t talk about a lot of things, especially around the holiday season, because we want to distract ourselves with presents and lights and candy.

Which, don’t get me wrong, is fun, but this is for the people who’s holidays aren’t the most wonderful time of the year. You’re not alone.

This is what the holiday season looks like to me, starting in October.

Halloween: Not very exciting and kind of awkward, as I’m old enough to not go trick-or-treating, but I still could go if I wanted to. It’s sad, because you realize it’s not as exciting as it was when you were a little kid.

Thanksgiving- Me, my mom, and step-dad sit at a fancy restaurant in Las Vegas, eating the turkey dinner on the menu. I wish I was home, with the rest of my family, like how it used to be. When grandma could still cook for us all and we could still all be ok sitting at one table. I’m definitely not as thankful as I should be on this day.

Photo credit: Nycinsiderguide.com 

Christmas- Awkward because my dad and step-dad are both at my house and it’s “rude” to pay more attention to one than the other. Normally, I do it anyway. Even more awkward because my two sisters are in the same house and they hate each other. Probably worse because my brother comes. Sucks because I’m the youngest and the people I want to pay attention to me don’t and the people I don’t want to pay attention to me pay too much.

New years Eve/ New Years day- Depressing, unless you’ve been invited to a party. Full of a lot of stupid phrases like “New year, new me” or “On the first page of a 365 page book.” Reality is, nothing ever changes.

Valentine’s Day- Cool if you’re dating someone; super lame if you’re not.

April Fool’s Day- Usually not funny. I probably end up forgetting what day it is and get pranked.

Mother’s Day- Celebrating mamas, trying really hard to make everything special, usually involves waking up earlier than my mom. Probably impossible, because I don’t think my mom ever sleeps. Normally ends up with a fight I feel terribly about.

Father’s Day- Another Mother’s Day, celebrating mom for being my mother and father. Forced to wish my step-dad a “Happy Fathers day! <3.” Normally, I don’t really mean it. I wish my sister’s dad a Happy Father’s day… I mean it.

Independence Day (AKA 4th of July)- Nothing super exciting. Missing the time I used to watch the fireworks on a big hill with my sister’s dad. Probably with my friends watching fireworks, but kinda scary because I don’t like the noise fireworks make.

REPEAT.

The point of this blog wasn’t for me to bag on the holidays. There is super fun stuff going on during the holidays and I appreciate and enjoy every single one (for the most part) for a different reason… I’m sure you hear a million things a year about why every holiday is great. This is about the things we DON’T talk about.

The point of this blog is to say: the holidays are coming up and with as much love and gratitude this brings, it can also be a rough time for some.

With that said, take care of yourself; be gentle with other people; be thankful for what you do have; focus less on what you don’t, but don’t ignore it; check up on your friends; and talk to someone if your Christmas was shitty! Some are better than others.

A Stuffed Animal

When I was in third grade, I wanted to go see Kung Fu Panda. All my friends were excited about it, but, when my mom broke the news to me that we couldn’t afford to go, I was heartbroken.

For weeks and months, I was upset about it. Until one day after school, when my mom made enough money, she showed up with the DVD and a stuffed panda bear in hand.

I’ve kept that panda bear ever since. Its name is Bob, and it’s a she. I don’t remember why I decided to give a girl panda one of the most boy names I knew at that time, but I do remember the countless questions I was asked, and the countless times I didn’t care to give an exact answer I didn’t even know myself.

What I did know was that I loved that panda. I brought it everywhere. I brought it to my dad’s home on the weekends, to the occasional family dinners, and to the sunset Malibu car rides.

It was around me when I was happy and when I was sad. I held onto it during the silent nights. I held onto it with the grip of my small, but tight hand while trying desperately not to feel alone with my family in the other room.

In a time of darkness, that stuffed animal was the last dwindling light source. It held every bit of my fighting innocence that diminished within me as I grew up, but, as I carried it with me through my life’s adventures, I carried bits of my childhood along with it.

When I moved in with my dad, I brought that stuffed animal with me.

When I went to Argentina for the first time, I brought that animal with me to the hotel, on the plane, and in my backpack on tourist trips.

Every trip I took to Mexico, I’d bring it with me.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

When I went to boarding school for the first time, it stayed on my bed. When I went home for weekends, it came with me in my suitcase. When I went to OVS for the first time, it came with me.

After I got back surgery before sophomore year, with all of my emotions ridiculously heightened from the the extreme pain meds that put me under, I had a mental breakdown for hours because I thought I had left this panda at OVS. It didn’t stop until my uncle lifted up my blankets and handed it to me.

I was fifteen then.

Then the Thomas Fire came. In a panic, I only had thirty minutes to pack anything valuable to me. Without hesitation, I grabbed my panda and threw it into the bottom of my bag. The dorm parents told us we would only be gone for the night, but I couldn’t risk it. I cried when I thought I left it at school, I couldn’t imagine what would happen if it burned. I had to bring it with me.

It seems ridiculous how emotionally attached I am to an inanimate object now that I’ve grown up, but it’s still important to me. It stays on my bed and it no longer goes on trips with me; I no longer rely on it. I don’t hold it when I fall asleep. In fact, it sometimes slips onto the floor guiltily in the middle of the night. But, whenever I’m distraught or alone, I grab onto it and hold it as tight as I can.

It may still be a stuffed animal, but it’s so much more.

It’s the last thing I have from my mother. I no longer have photos in my possession or objects from her and, despite all the tragic, dark times, this bear represents one of the few good memories I have of her. It symbolizes the goodness in her which faded away over time, but is still kept as a stored memory I hold onto – literally.

It holds my innocence. My ruined, diminished childhood innocence still stays safe inside that stuffed animal I look at every time I make my bed and I still smile about it.

The panda symbolizes my childhood. Without it, the last remnants of it would vanish.

The Beginning of the End

When I stepped into my first class at the beginning of freshman year, senior year seemed so far away.

Now, I just survived my first week of being a senior and too many realizations hit me at once.

That, at the end of the year, I won’t be sitting on the bleachers watching my friends from higher grades graduate. This time, I’ll be the one walking on the stage to receive my diploma that I worked so hard to get over my high school years.

But, it’s only the beginning of the year. There’s still so much to anticipate. So much to go through.

The countless college applications and dreadful Saturday mornings I’ll spend doing the SAT until I get the perfect score so I can get into the perfect college. The ideas for my senior project that I still can’t choose, because I don’t even have one in mind. What my prom dress will look like, or even my graduation dress.

Photo Credit: The Odyssey Online

It’s only the beginning of my final year at OVS. It’s the beginning of the end of my high school experience.

It hurts knowing at the end of the year I’ll have to say goodbye to everything I’ve known. To my friends and teachers, to my horse, and to the small town and smaller school that has been my second home.

But, I’m still hopeful that this will be an amazing year, and maybe my days at OVS will only be in my memories and I’ll be living a completely different life, but I’ll still remember them as the most important times in my life.

A Letter To My Younger Self

You’d be surprised how often I write letters to people I can’t send them to. I write them to mom, dad, past friends, future friends, animals, and now I’m writing one to you, my younger self.

I could just see your face reading this. You’d scoff, then toss it aside not wanting to read it. You were never a fan of reading; now you read all the time.

You’d be surprised how much has changed.

I no longer want to be a movie star, nor is UCLA my top choice. In fact, I want to be a lawyer, and I want to go all the way to the other side of the country and pursue law in New York City.

Hannah Montana isn’t my favorite artist anymore, and Wizards of Waverly Place is shockingly not my favorite TV show anymore.

Instead, you went through the embarrassing seventh grade emo phase you shamed Rachel for going through.

If I’m honest with you, younger self, I’m so much different than I thought I’d be.

Some things stayed the same. Logan is still alive, I still love horses, and I still love to sing- though the older I get the worse I seem to become.

But, oh boy, I am definitely not the person I thought I’d become.

I no longer have hair that goes down to my hips, instead it’s right below my shoulders.

I dont have beach blonde hair or sun-kissed, clear skin. I have glasses, and I have freckles, and I have scars.

I don’t go to a big public school where I’m the most popular girl. I don’t go to beach parties on the weekends or sneak out of my bedroom window at night time. Instead, I go to a small boarding school. Instead, I spend weekends going to the movies and riding horses.

I haven’t had a boyfriend yet, but I really could care less. It was something I dreamed of, but now all I dream about is getting into college or passing my math test.

This may not sound appealing to you. You always dreamed of the crazy nights, city lights, and the “celebrity” life, and maybe a glimpse of that dream will come true in NYC, but trust me when I say what’s happened after mom and dad is quite possibly the best thing that could’ve ever happened to us.

Life has gotten so much better. I’m writing this letter contently from the warmth of my bed, music through my headphones. Summer begins in five days, and I’ll be going to Disneyland, one of your favorite places, a week from today. You used to be obsessed with Maroon 5, and I finally see them next Tuesday.

Though you had all these dreams when you were younger, none of them seemed possible due to our circumstances. They were all just dreams in arms reach, yet they seemed so far away.

Well, I’m glad to say that I’ll be a senior in just a few days. That while my dreams weren’t the same as they were when I was younger, they’re coming true, and I hope you’re proud of me.

Photo Credit: takemygist.com