An American PRIDE Story: How Burger King Saved My Homosexuality and Other News

PRIDE

I have no idea how this is my first Pride Month post ever. Better gay than never, right?

I’ll start out by admitting, for the first time in my entire life, that Burger King saved my gay life.

Back in 2009, at the heat of major personal conflict between my religion and my homosexuality, I used to go to Sunday night youth group at a local church out in rural Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This church was a little different than others I attended before. There were no strongly preached agendas against being any part of LGBT. They didn’t damn you, seclude you, or tell you that you needed healed. They did what most churches do and ignored our people.

A longtime friend of mine took me to Burger King prior to youth group for dinner. I hadn’t eaten yet and her and her parents liked to feed me a lot since my mom and I barely got by between visits at the local food pantry. Most of the time I stayed safe with their chicken fries but this time I ordered a Whopper. It was the first Whopper I had ever tried, and it went down quick and easy with the amount of grease soaked into the patty. I should’ve known when the lukewarm patty felt especially squishy while I chewed it that I should have stuck to the chicken. Always chicken. Still thankful, I scarfed down the fast food as they drove us to youth group in their fancy Toyota Avalon.

Once her parents dropped us off, her mother went in for a kiss but my friend groaned and settled on a hug instead. I waved at them and smiled as we funneled into the church like cattle.

I kept my head low, feeling exceptionally unworthy and awful as the burger uneasily settled into my stomach.

To put things into perspective for you all, this day followed only a week after being caught indecent in a car by the police with my 19-year-old boyfriend when I was only sixteen years of age. It was a mess. 100% consensual, but an absolute mess with the police, detectives, and my close family getting involved. That’s a different story for a different day that I will tell you how you can read about it in a moment. Back to that fateful Sunday night…

We took our regular seats in the back of a modest church room, darkened and lit up with colorful lights to keep the ‘youthful’ facade of the service. My body burned up in my seat as I fought internal dialogue that rang inside my ear as the electric guitar strummed loud and raspy. Being gay is sinful, I told myself. You’re a disgrace. What is wrong with you? Do you really want to shame everyone you know? Why are you like this? Where did you give up on yourself and let these feelings in? 

It went on as the tears welled in my eyes, seated in that uncomfortably padded church chair that interconnected with the line of chairs we sat in. I wasn’t literally alone but I felt the most alone. Isn’t this where God said he’d meet me? At my lowest of lows? That’s at least what all the grown-ups told me. Everyone else had it so easy. Where was God for me, now? Maybe you’re not good enough to be a Christian? Maybe you’re not good enough to be a human.

I sat there on that chair as the service continued for an hour. By the end, between my stomach sporadically rumbling and cold chills that scattered across my skin like lightning across the sky, the room spun as I felt a scream building up behind my teeth.

“With our heads bowed and eyes closed, I’d like to invite anyone up to the cross who would like to lay whatever is burdening you at His feet.” The youth pastor set the invitation. Stomach in knots, blood feeling frozen through my veins and saliva building up in my mouth, I had to move or else I felt I’d literally explode. I was the first one to walk up to the cross, knelt down with my arm over my stomach from the pain boiling inside of me, and I left my identity there. This was it. This was where I went to get fixed and started my new “cleansed” life. I did what everyone else had done before.

I left youth group not only with this “new light of mine” but an overwhelmingly ill feeling that now reverberated through my bones in violent waves.

At this point, I assumed I was dying and going into diabetic shock or heart failure (two things I never experienced before but only imagined I knew what it felt like). I ran from their car, ignoring their farewells, and burst through the door. As I ugly cried from the pain surging throughout my body, my mom waved at me from the kitchen as she spoke to her mother on the phone.

“Hey, Vaughn just got home, can I call you back in like fifteen minutes? O-okay, mother. Okay, alright. I’m getting off the phone now, goodbye!” She tossed her cell phone onto the couch and walked down the hallway to the bathroom door. “You okay, sweetie?” She asked.

Knelt down as I was twenty minutes ago at church, my head rested against the toilet seat as my hands gripped the sides of the toilet and blew chunks of Whopper. I sobbed  and felt the sudden urge to go to the bathroom at the same time which is an absolutely horrifying feeling.

It was at that moment, sixteen-years-old, gripping the side of the toilet, vomiting rotten fast food at the end of the worst week of my life, after trying to pray the gay away and cleanse myself into straight-culture, that I realized there was nothing wrong with me. It was the first time I accepted myself for who I was. I knew that the God I believed in would be okay if I was gay. As I threw up my dinner, I mentally expectorated all the awful things I said and damned about myself only minutes beforehand.

As much as that sickness was simply food poisoning from an undercooked Whopper, being gay was simply who I was. There was no praying away or changing that.

The most important thing? Wildly love yourself and others. Whether it’s your first PRIDE Celebration or one-hundredth, love everything that makes up every piece of your identity. Wear it with courage and strength, wear it loud, and welcome every color on our beautiful spectrum as you’d welcome family or a friend. At one point in time, we’ve been at our lowest. Whether that time is now or it already happened or it hasn’t happened yet. Be kind, love everyone, and cheer each other on with unfiltered PRIDE.

As Mesadorm wrote in one of my new favorite songs (you can listen below)..

“We’re all living day to day, trying to get along together”.

OTHER NEWS:

Remember how I said I’d tell you all how to read more of my story? SURPISE! I wrote a memoir! Here’s a little blurb about the book…

PRISAMTIC is the transparent memoir of Camarda’s struggle to reconcile both the death of his father and his independence as a gay man, and explores both the vibrant and darkest parts of the years he spent suppressing his identity. An empowering exploration of dysfunctional family ties, toxic love, mental illness, and debilitating grief, Camarda embarks on a journey to rebuild his identity and come to terms with his new, refracted normalcy.

PRISMATIC is now available for pre-sale at the link below.

The Official Wesbite for PRISMATIC.

As always, I’ll leave you with a song. I love all of you beautiful people, and Happy PRIDE Month <3.

Song: Easy by Mesadorm

Anxiety Has a Gun

unnamed

And I am always unarmed.

2017 was the hardest recovery year of my life.

2018 doesn’t seem like it’s being any less hostile than last.

I’ve always known something was wrong way back when I was a little kid, before I even knew what anxiety was. I knew my mom went through heavy breathing spells and she’d always clamp down on her chest, sit on the couch or a chair, and close her eyes to breathe it out. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Those were the most terrifying to watch.

It wasn’t until my family was split did I start to really feel the curse poison the space inside my chest. It hit in my new school like a blow to the chest and I could suddenly feel every single heartbeat and feel the blood flow through my veins. My head screamed run but my heart begged not to move a muscle otherwise it’d explode out into a million, unfixable pieces. But I persevered because I was only a little kid and knew this would pass eventually, right? I sat down, slowed my breathing, held tight my chest and breathed it out.

Dad never had our anxiety hex.

Well, he never revealed signs to me if he did. He had his own curse that controlled him but never defined him—that’s a different mental illness for a different story.

He was always there to help me before, to bail me out because he never wanted to see me struggle no matter how many times I failed to learn my lesson. Every time I would screw up and get myself into a panicked, anxiety-ridden pickle he would tell me that this was practice and a good lesson learned for next time. Most of my adult life was spent frivolously and I’m severely paying for that now. When he unexpectedly died, though, it sent everything I took for granted into one great big implosion that would level me to barren nothingness, weakness, and self-reflection.

Who I was and the remnants of that persona was very ugly.

In my abundant time for self-reflection and in small conversations with the closest friends of mine, I’ve admitted more than once that I didn’t like who I was. Let me rephrase that… I asked a question that was super nonchalant and neutral about if they ever felt like they didn’t like who they were. I would switch it up, too, and ask if it was normal to not like the person you’ve become. It was a question that haunts me to this very day while I keep on keeping on with these gaping wounds made by anxiety. To my unfortunate surprise, they looked at me like I was crazy and, with an uneasy laugh, they confirmed my fear; It was weird to not like the person you are because we spend our lives making decisions to get us to where we are today. 

Their unintentionally laughable answer only reaffirms the anxiety though and then it hangs in a quietness I submerge myself in because I start to accept that truth—whether it’s real or not. Because I don’t have the strength that I should and actively search for validation because I struggle with finding value others see in me. More so nowadays than I had before.

I fear being alone, so I surround myself with people who can fill that void. I fill it with people who don’t necessarily need to fill a void themselves, so it’s this one massive imbalance that makes me question whether they want to be around me or if it’s out of convenience or gain.

I fear being selfish even if its out of necessity. I’ve preached a million and one times to others that self-care is sometimes being a little selfish. It’s healthy as long as it doesn’t consume you or come to the helm in the expense of others. It’s a fine balance between destructive selfish acts and self-care selfish acts. One is wicked and the other inherently good. At the end of the day we are granted one body, one mind, and one life. If others are persevering around us while we decay and self-destruct, we have failed obligations we hold to ourselves.

Those were the things I filled my invisible wounds with.

And there is never a warning shot when more come—when my life gets flipped upside down and pushed out into the open. So I fall into the routines of my past and try to excise the ugly curse out of my body with faith and luck.

There is something to be said, though, about the truth spoken by others I consider inside my radius. We may live our lives and make the decisions that get us to where we are today, but what we pay for doesn’t always mean we’ll like the finished product and that’s okay. 

We don’t need to like it and we can change that. How? I don’t know yet, I’m still working on it as my anxiety is in high tide. I won’t stop trying, though, and that’s enough for me.

Song: Midnight by Coldplay

The First Year Without You

LITTLE LIGHT

It will be one year since my dad passed, tonight, December 3rd at 12:03am.

The night it happened I didn’t sleep for the following 48 hours. After the initial shock, there was a lot of legalities with Dad’s estate and drama with certain members of the family and the others Dad was close with. It’s not the most significant thing, though, that I remember from those dark times, but a small rust spot.

Overwhelming love and an abundance of help from family and friends flooded the void that got ripped from inside me when he died, leaving no time for loneliness and the vacuum of depression that would’ve left me high, dry, and empty. I’ve talked about the night that he died before in previous blog posts, in small bits and pieces that I took out of my mental drawer and closed when I felt it’s too much; it’s my emotional dam that I can dry at the sudden feeling of too much pain and ache. It’s how I’ve learned to manage through this past year.

Loss is the most powerful and indiscriminate force we encounter in all of humanity.

Which is why I wanted to take this post to reflect on my identity in loss and how it’s changed me in the past year—for the better or the utmost worst.

Selfishness comes in hard after a loved one passes. I saw this first hand with someone Dad didn’t necessarily trust, but kept around because he was a lonely individual. Everyone wants a piece of something, anything, valuable from the dead whether emotionally or monetarily valuable. I don’t want to say I think this happened within the family, because it didn’t at all. My family and the close friends were incredibly graceful and I made sure everyone got a piece of Dad in some aspect that wanted one.

One of my many demons, however, is struggling with this personal selfishness when I knew I emotionally and logistically needed to be. Even before Dad passed I worried about being obliviously selfish and viewed by others as selfish. It’s such a negative hue of the human psyche, to be selfish, but also important in times of distress in an incredibly small dose.

But even in the end of one year without Dad, I’ve failed to manage my selfishness to not hurt others.

My immediate family was much more together when he passed. We lived very separate lives before, but when it was time we surged together in one emotional ball of energy. It wasn’t always a strong-family force in those times. It was messy and high-strung and tense between my mom, sister, and brother. There was fighting, drinking, heartache, and total imbalance. We all were dealing with loss in our own way and the energy didn’t mesh well in one house.

We are all so separated one year later. My mom moved out of state, sister and I sort of kept contact, and my brother and I do not talk anymore. It’s nothing I’m proud of admitting, but it’s just a fact of life. I think Dad was a little pissed about it to be honest, though, because the day I decided to cut things off I was at a stoplight in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh and something told me to turn my head to the left over by a busy sidewalk and my brother stood there at the corner staring at me. We didn’t say anything, but he simply pointed to the stoplight that had since turned green and I drove off.

While I’m on the topic of family…

I want to admit a quality I inherited from living with my dad for so many years. I am the utmost trash at reaching out to family members and friends. It’s something that I find people take so personally, when it’s just a flaw of my personality and I have a hard time explaining to those that take offense by it or think it insensitive. I don’t want the common misconception of me not wanting to talk to them or caring to reach out even be a thought further. It’s just how I operate. I think of my family and close friends daily and would love to talk to them, I’m just bad at making the first step—which is something that I’m trying to improve with even my own mother. It’s not personal, it’s just a part of who I am unfortunately. It’s something that has become stronger since he passed. It was something that I was terrible at even with Dad.

I read our text conversations sometimes when I especially miss him (more than the average every day) and have to face the incredibly heavy guilt of all the text messages I have from him where I didn’t answer. It’s something I wish I could change but it’s not something I’ll let paralyze me.

Self-doubt and deprecation slipped in the later months of this year.

It’s something that I find the most difficult to struggle with in this chipped and obscured mirror I see myself in. It comes with an incredibly amount of questions only Dad could answer and others could help talk me off a ledge.

Some days I don’t like the person I’ve become or see in the mirror. Beyond the small, bright lights that I see circling around my head of the great parts of me that I’m blessed with, the really dark spots that cast the deepest shadows against my skin are greater. Not all days, only some days.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard my dad say “You’ll always have this house to come home to”. One year later it’s on the verge of being foreclosed on and I have no way of stopping it. Before recently, I wanted to let it go and forget about it. But a growing part of me, with all the troubles I’ve had selling it, thinks that isn’t the right choice. It almost sold three times now and each time the buyer’s backed out around the two-week mark prior to closing date.

I think about all the help I was given and how my decisions kind of stifled that help. I know how much help I was given, and still am given to this day with Dad’s things, but I keep seeing any decision I make to help fix the situation almost erase the progress made by that help.

What I’m trying to explain, really, is that no one wins with loss.

I’m still beyond a mess, but I play an incredible part in faking most of my togetherness. I also don’t want it to seem like I’m all mess and no success. Great things have happened for me in the past year as well. My self-critical parts come out a lot more these days but I make a point to remind myself of the little lights that make up myself just as much as the dark parts.

There’s an image I can’t get out of my head, thinking back on this year without Dad. After 12:03am tonight there won’t be a minute following that he occupied. He was alive this time last year, but after tonight it won’t be like that anymore. He wouldn’t of been coming home from a week away with work this time next year, he would’ve been gone already.

This metaphorical cassette tape that’s overwriting as it records haunts me and I’m fearful of whatever comes after. Fearful but hopeful.

If there’s one thing that I see in myself after this incredibly hard year, is that I have the undying desire to survive.

Self-preservation is a light that hangs right in front of my eyes, blinding me yet enticing me further. It allows me to not get sucked into the darkness and fixate on the sadness.

I prefer to recognize loss as an acquaintance, turning up out of the blue (uninvited). There are two options when it comes: 1. I let it push me down and keep me underneath it, or 2. I can validate it’s existence with a strong nod, talk to it, drink tea with it, and simply live with it but firmly ask it to leave when I’ve had enough. Every time I choose the latter, for Dad.

Here’s to you, Dad, for all of us missing you in this life.

I love you.

Song: Bones of Ribbon by London Grammar

 

The Quarter-Life Crisis of Anxiety

YOU DONT GET TO KEEP ME

I think I’m past the point of simply wondering if I have anxiety.

It’s definitely a thing that I can confidently swallow the medicine and say that I have this unfortunate bully in the back of my mind that haunts me. It will most likely haunt me for the rest of my life. It’s almost like my own personal and super-fucking-unhelpful assistant I never asked for that follows me everywhere I go to tell me what I’m doing wrong or spitting ideas out like sick rap beats in the barbed wire tumbleweed that is my heavy brain. Do you think I let that asshole win and beat me down?

Absolutely.

Sometimes*

Let me elaborate on those sick rapper beats Lil’ Anxiety throws down because there is common misconception when it comes to anxiety I would happily clear the air. When I say ideas, I mean a wide range of good things to very bad things. No, it’s not telling me to go dig myself in a hole and hide from the world or go attack people. It’s not a little voice in my head that whispers terrible-somethings day in and day out. It’s more of a feeling that solidifies into incredibly terrible scenarios that, yes, may be happening but most likely are not occurring. And it’s different for everybody that has this terrible misunderstood sickness called Anxiety.

For me, it’s a wild but silent screaming or chanting idea that tells me that this greatness happening in my life will not last long. It tells me that these good times are a tease and that things are not good and will never be for me. It tells me that it will be around forever and it tells me it will be the only one that will ever stick around. Excuse me for the vastly overused analogy but, sometimes I believe that devil on my shoulder. It’s not quite wrong, either, and that’s what I hate most.

It’s not wrong because good things don’t last forever. Like everything on this planet: events, people, and emotions there is one thing in common. It all eventually passes. 

It’s how we deal with the acceptance and understanding of the permanency of that indiscriminate fact of our lives. Personally? I don’t deal well with permanent things that I have no power to change. It fuels the anxiety to a breaking point and then I collapse a little inside, thankfully realize where the fault in my emotional infrastructure lies, and find the strength and ability in rebuilding it back up with the things I can count on that is not my anxiety.

Anxiety is just as indiscriminate to it’s victim, but it definitely favors  targeting their peace and happiness.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain how anxiety works to some who haven’t experienced it in their own lives. It’s even harder to understand, and even frustrating at times, to try and understand it from someone an unaffected person is close with that houses that ghost.

For instance, there are at least six things I can name right off the top of my head that my anxiety ghost manifests itself inside and everyday life through me. I won’t bore you with all of them, but maybe at least two of them will suffice, for now.

1. Writing.

It’s been months since I’ve written anything. Even writing this post, I feel my brain straining to pull through the weeds and sort the endless cyclone that is my brain overthinking destructive scenarios and under-appreciating the scintillate parts that are my lifelines when things become dark.

Truthfully, I’ve been putting off writing this blog for a while because I was fearful. Fearful from not being a good writer. How about that shit? I psyche myself out from doing the one thing that defeats my anxiety. That sickness recognized its kryptonite and persisted in making sure to extinguish it. Like I said earlier, my anxiety was successful in making me believe in the hurtful words I told myself. What did it use as the weapon? The one thing I am most proud of in accomplishing; writing my first book, Cancel. Is it published? No. Will it be? Fuck yeah it will be. When? Who knows. And there’s where it stabbed first and let it mull over in my head until I was dizzy and exhausted fighting with it.

But here we are in this shiny silver-lining that is this blog, writing again for the first time in months even though I feel my anxiety curdling inside and screaming at me that none of this makes sense and it’s not good writing. The funny thing is that this blog was created by advice given to me before a close friend of mine passed and that’s what I forget about the most, unfortunately; what’s the worst thing that could happen? I could be the only one to read and the only one it would help. What’s the harm in self-help, though?

It’s not selfish and, if you are here today reading this, you need to know that the biggest weapon to help stifling your endless battle with this wicked sickness is accepting and realizing self-help and doing things for you is incredible medicine. Exercise it and incorporate it into your everyday life.

2. Love.

This piece of my anxiety is the darkest part. Its heavily rooted into the scars on my soul that I will never and could never forget.

I’ve briefly explained my love lives in past blog posts and how they each left their designated scars on me in some weight or another, but what I continuously fail to remind myself is that what is happening in the present isn’t what was.

And to admit it out in the open, that’s what I fail to remind myself of sometimes. When all the shitty things I’ve been through in my past tribulations in love and living, it comes to haunt me in my present happiness. It’s not fair, no, but it’s unfortunately something that comes with swift and stifling doubt and unlimited amounts of speculation that makes me ask questions that were only warranted by one thing; nothing that my current love life warrants, but the battles I’ve been through and the haunting scars I carry from it.

Anxiety eats this up the most. It’s like pre-workout for it, hyping its power up to the umpteenth degree, and letting it burn down my home on the inside of everything that makes me, me.

I don’t really think there is an appropriate ending to this post, because it’s something I will probably live with for the rest of my life. This is more of a warning to my personal demon, Anxiety.

I see you and I hear you, but know one thing;

You don’t get to keep me forever.

Song: So Here We Are by Gordi.

The Quarter-Life Crisis of Normality

BEATING HEART

Normality (n).

The condition of being normal, the state of being usual, typical, or expected.

Isn’t that the universal dream? Our lives becoming existentially predictable that we almost expect things to be a certain way? I mean, I don’t know about you, but I wish I could sometimes expect when I’ll get a flat tire, speeding ticket, jury duty, that last phone call at work one minute before closing time, unexpected traffic jams on my way to work, or the like. The list is endless, really. But if everything had this overwhelming sense of normality, what would it mean for our sanity? I don’t know about you, but I’ve always favored the “I prefer a workplace to be spontaneous” rather than the “I prefer to know what’s going to happen at all times” answer during one of those application quizzes when applying for a job.

Normality is something of the American Dream. Actually, I’ll correct myself on that; I think all humanity wants pieces of normality in our lives. It’s exhausting to the soul having a steady bombardment of inconsistencies over and over again. Why do you think we buy homes? Start families? Get a job in the hopes we stay there for a couple years or more and move up? Our knowledge that life, by nature, is horrifically unpredictable makes us all minor (or major) control freaks.

I will admit openly that in my wildly unpredictable life, I scramble at times to find some piece of normalcy.

More and more, though, I find myself looking for a new normalcy; a fresh start, new “home base”, new experiences that differ from the past ones because they feel all too painful. I resent going to certain parts of Pittsburgh, my home for the past twenty-three years, because they remind me of people or times where happiness was free-flowing and careless. It’s a struggle, especially after hardships, to readjust and reform to a rapidly changing normal. Sometimes it feels like one massive responsibility that I never wanted.

I go to places a past love and I went to and find myself looking at the same spot we sat in/talked at/enjoyed while in the company of friends and others, feeling the gravity of that moment in time where I felt nothing but explicit happiness and love. I find myself stuck in the present moment where I’m struggling to juggle three knives: mourning, expectation, and happiness. While I mourn the memories and past happiness, I hold heavy expectation on myself to not always be caught in the riptide of sadness around people that bring me current happiness.

At the same time, if I didn’t have those memories and experiences, I wouldn’t be here writing this out into the great void of the Internet for all to have access to—to let you into my mind and release-share these pressuring feels.

Sometimes the reminder of abnormality hits me in unexpected places, as it did last night while I enjoyed fireworks with three friends of mine in downtown Pittsburgh.

We were close enough that I felt every explosion in my chest and reverberate throughout my rib cage. With each explosion, I was reminded of the past where things felt ‘normal’ and reminded me of this ‘new normal’ that I seek presently. That’s where my responsibility of reminding myself to be present in the happiness and company of others is so important. It’s something I’m working on, but it’s a slow process for me. Some of you might have this down a little sturdier than myself and I appreciate that. Others might not have this down at all, and I want to let you know I’m here for you every step of the way because the road is hard with a lot of speed bumps and road blocks—each unique to the next with their own set of rules to get past them.

There’s so much good music out right now and even though I’m looking to stay present in the small, scintillate pieces of happiness I come across, I’m listening to music that reminds me of past happiness. It’s not the sad-rip-your-heart-out-and-shut-the-world-out kind, but the kind where I’d travel alone to different cities, write adventurous stories, and think about the life-changing future I want for myself and the ones I love/know.

So, I’ll quote a song that is all about being wildly unsure of the future; whether it’s normal or abnormal, predictable or unpredictable, filled with happiness or struck with hardships. No matter what the future holds, stay in your present normality and feel the change around or accept the staleness of the present.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I know it’s going to be a long time. Cause I’ll be leaving in the morning with the white wine, bitter sunlight. I want to hear your Beating Heart, tonight. Before the bleeding sun comes to life. I want to make the best of what is left, hold tight. And hear my Beating Heart one last time. 

Song: Beating Heart by Ellie Goulding.

The Quarter-Life Crisis of Change: Part II

REPRISE

Sometimes I regret the things that I write.

But only because when I do, it feels damning.

Three weeks ago I wrote something that I penned “The most important blog post I’ve ever written.” The Quarter-Life Crisis of Change. It was the most important blog post, but the change that I swore I saw with incredible conviction was thwarted from my line of view. I have changed in a different way in the past three weeks, for the better I hope but could definitely be for the worst.

The change that I spoke of in that blog post was big change. I think, though, there were important parts that I vastly missed in writing and exploring when speaking of change. With a greater openness to these three aspects of change and my tail in between my legs, I want to humbly explore the part I naively missed.

Openness.

I mentioned this a little above, about my greater openness to these three aspects. It was something that I didn’t expect that I could do, assuming I was open to just about everything and receptive to it. Sadly and personally embarrassingly, my heart and soul was nowhere near as open three weeks ago as it is now.

This realization is incredibly hard to swallow like grape or cherry flavored cold medicine. Put it into terms you can understand; What is one thing you would be absolutely and undoubtedly terrified to learn about yourself? Something that everyone else can recognize about you that you are numbed to self-realizing. Would it be unknown selfishness? Oblivious judgement?

At my Monday-Friday 9-5 that barely pays the bills, we do call reviews since we talk to the outside world when they decide to call in. It’s work that I’m not used to, but I really don’t mind it at all. Maybe I would mind it if it was my forever job but Change tells me that this is only temporary. Anyways, during this call review one of my supervisors that carries out the reviews cracked a joke about how I have a slight Pittsburghese accent. For obvious reasons to me, my retort was quick and strong denial about this ‘incredible’ accusation. Why did I deny this? I don’t really know. Maybe it’s because I really don’t like the accent all that much—it’s crass and lazy. Not that I feel Pittsburghers that have the accent are crass and lazy, simply that it’s unique to our small existence here in and around the city and I just don’t favor the accent itself. But there you go, something I found out I’m oblivious to yet posses, and something others can see about myself (even if it’s just one person).

The biggest challenge in Openness to Change is doing so when you are hurting or struggling. At least for myself, I find this the hardest thing to obtain as I discover more about myself and look for the bigger picture. It’s human to want to guard yourself from others and the world around you. It’s comfortable that way because it feels as if we have some control over something, if anything, in our vastly shifting lives. But it’s also isolating and decomposes our soul from the willingness to help and reach out to others. Isolating yourself is okay to an extent. I prefer to become isolated but as long as I promise myself to keep major checks and balances to not lose grasp of the world and people around me. Which segues into the next major necessity of Change…

Responsibility.

If it didn’t feel like I had enough responsibility already in my rapidly unraveling life. Sometimes I find myself scrolling through Facebook and becoming envious of old high school classmates who finish college and are getting married, who really don’t seem to have anywhere near the amount of hardship as I had/have. Granted, I make sure to talk myself down off that exclamatory pedestal because I don’t know everything about anyone’s life just as no one knows everything about mine.

It plays into kindness, I think. How nobody knows every single aspect that goes on in anyone’s life. We all fight loud battles that others can hear all the while waging silent war with the pressures of our truths.

It’s our responsibility to remind ourselves of the importance of kindness to others, of making sure we help those who are visibly and invisibly in need. Keeping ourselves in one constant check and balance but not become consumed by the weight of that responsibility.

How can we do both?

Look around you. Look at what makes you happy. Look how you make someone else happy. Hike in the woods or in the city. Listen to your favorite music. Better yet, share your favorite music with someone that is important to you in your life. It’s principal to remind ourselves of the things that make us happy. Even more than that, though, it’s the best kind of responsibility of happiness when you focus a little of your energy every day in making someone else happy—stranger, friend, enemy, family, or love.

One last thing to talk about with Change which is the shortest section I’ll speak about.

Acceptance.

This is my greatest enemy out of the three. I can handle the pain of being open when I don’t want to be, I can add on layer after layer of heavy responsibility until I can’t breathe. I’ve done all those things before and I’ve survived. The biggest threat and greatest challenge with change is the Acceptance.

If there is anything that I admire/loathe about myself is my stubbornness.

I admire it because when I am stubborn in the things that I’m passionate about, the energy is clear, strong, and unprecedented. When everything else is so unsure in my life, I relish in the fact that my heart, soul, and mind create one direct line of light. This is how I pursue the things I love. Maybe to a fault, maybe to my advantage, I don’t really know.

I loathe this about myself because I can be overbearing and strong, but only because I’m overwhelmingly passionate about that one moment in my haphazard life. I’m overbearing in views of hope and promise—of love and greater purpose—of showing both ugly and beautiful sides of my soul to what or whom I’m passionate for.

I think this is why this blog is so liberating. I can be completely honest about the ugliest parts of me but also celebrate the beautiful scintillate pieces.

I’m still battling these two intense existences in my life: my stubbornness and the acceptance needed for change. The good thing, I guess, is that I’ve seen how allowing both Openness and Responsibility of Change into my life has demolished false shells and moved mountains for me. All that’s missing to become exactly what I feel I was made to be is the one thing I’m resenting most. Accept the things I cannot change.

Still, I have changed even without fully allowing acceptance in.

The permanent absence of two very important people in my life. One, my dad, I have began to accept a life without, and the other, Trey, who helped me get through that acceptance of a life without my dad and who also taught me to let love in again.

I think permanence is acceptance in disguise. If we can’t accept the idea of permanency then we will never fully change into the people who we’re supposed to be. So I guess I need to sit down in front of a mirror and really ask myself—

Do you want change or not? 

Song: Hell to the Liars by London Grammar

An Open Letter: Loss & Memories

 

TREY

I’m going to tell you a story this week.

My biggest struggle with this blog post was thinking about how I’d actually write it. Granted, I didn’t expect to be writing about you. 

Ten days ago, I lost someone who brought incredible light at my darkest. He inspired me to start this blog, to scream my feelings into this great open void where he said two things could happen and two things only:

  1. No one else, other than myself, would read it.
  2. It could touch an umpteen number of people and change their lives in some small/big aspect.

Let me start at the beginning and go back into our flash-in-a-pan moment of life.

Trey and I became Facebook friends, somehow, about a year or so ago. We didn’t speak much, but I lazily followed his posts and journeys, genuinely laughing at a few of his sarcastic, incredibly bright or straight up goofy posts. Our relationship really picked up pace after my dad passed this past December.

It was a softly written message…

“I know you’re going through a lot right now, and you don’t know me, but I wanted to say I saw about your Dad’s passing and I’m here if you need anything.”

The most surprising comfort in the entire world is when you are absolutely destroyed, at your lowest of lows, and the most random people reach out to you with their thoughts of kindness and warmth. Trey was that surprising comfort. He was the comfort I never knew I needed until he was sitting right in front of me, eyes flashing up from his phone and big smile on his face on the night we finally met up in person.

It was at a gay dive-bar called P-Town. Smokey, played obnoxiously loud show tunes (which I’m all for, but it was really just the volume that got to me) and the beer was cheap. He asked if I liked Yeungling and I said yes, even though I ate a big dinner before we met up on this extremely frigid February night. Although our attempts were strong at best, we failed to pull away from our pensively-driven conversation topics about coping, love, life, and loss. With a few beers in our system, full hearts from laughter, and heavy-to-light conversation, we parted ways. We parked near each other so he walked me to my car first, and turned towards me just as we reached it. He smiled with a sweet look of “Well?” on his face, arms wide open and pulled me into him. It was safe to say my heart felt like it was beating a million miles a minute and all I could do was awkwardly cackle when we both let go. We parted ways for the night and planned on him coming over the following week.

So Trey accidentally met my mom the first and only time he visited my house.

And although I preached for the entire day that it was totally accidental he still teased with a raised eyebrow and some soulful “mhmmmm”s. I mean, truth be told, it was totally accidental but I was nowhere near mad about it. The hard part was silencing my phone from how much my mom blew it up,gushing about him to me once she left. After I shared photos of my dad I had on a poster board I made for Dad’s Celebration of Life, we ended up trucking through half of Netflix’s “The OA” and passing out for at least four hours too long. Since the nap was unexpected, he woke up in a panic wondering what time it was and what was happening. It made me jump awake too, just as dazed, but once we realized how long we fell asleep for we both laughed it off and re-admitted that we were both literal trash cans. LOL/not LOL.

Afterwards, we met up with two of his friends at the Shady Grove in Shadyside, shared a pizza with I don’t even remember what was on it, and had a genuinely great time together. Without hesitation, his hand crept over to mine and we interlocked fingers. My fondness for him that I so desperately tried to stifle broke through the haphazardly-built emotional dam and flooded into my body that forced the muscles around my face to curl into the most honest smile. And that was where I admitted to myself that I liked him more than I wanted to admit, and although I was nowhere near looking to be with someone, this felt normal and mutual.

Our relationship grew stronger as the weeks passed, sprouting from winks to texts of “Do you want me to pick up anything before I come over?” And he’d reply “No, I just want you home :)”. I let myself get sucked into the riptide of him, completely engrossed in this airy feeling when everything felt heavy and dark over my dad’s unexpected passing. The brightest moment I can recall, since Dad passed, was the both of us in his kitchen cooking dinner. He played me some Spanish instrumental music with occasional vocals settling in the background.

“What do you usually listen to when you cook?” He asked me.

“Old-timey French music.” I said struggling to cut the vegetables he assigned me to chop for the roast.

“Put something on.”

So I put on J’ai Deux Amours by Madeleine Peyroux and continued to cut the vegetables completely the wrong way. He didn’t care, though. Trey’s hand met my back, pulling me away from prepping and we stood there in the middle of his kitchen, music playing in the background, and he pulled me closer into him. My head rested on his chest, because he was significantly taller than I, and we swayed gently back in forth to the music. His heart beat pulsated in my ear, warming my chest and it emanated what felt like way beyond the walls of his home.

Honestly? That’s all I want to share of our time together. I hope that’s okay…

I always wanted to get a photo of us together… but both of us were so engrossed in our time together, we didn’t care much about the outside world. To me, he was this incredible light. To him, I don’t really know… If anything at all, he made me feel that I was enough for him. Reading stories friends of his post on his wall, now that he’s passed, it warms my heart how much of an influence he was to others. He made so many other people, in country, out of country, right next door, three cities over, simply wherever his light touched—he made them feel enough. 

The last time that I saw him, we met for dinner before my birthday get-together down at Diamond Market in Market Square. We sat and caught up; it was a couple weeks since we saw each other but neither of us missed a beat of our energy and presence together. It was like no time had passed at all. I still remembered the sound of his heartbeat in his kitchen, and he still reached for my hand from across the table while he shared his adventures from the past couple days. We walked around the city, simply talking about everything and anything. About each other, while letting ourselves be fully engrossed in our togetherness. Before we parted ways, since he had a certification test the following morning, he gave me one thing; the rock pictured above.

“I remembered it was your birthday this week while I was on my hike the past weekend, I saw this rock and thought of you.”

Trey handed me the only tangible thing I have left of him, to ground me when the feelings become overwhelming and all I want to do is run away from everything and everyone. He taught me how to find peace when all I feel is chaos. He taught me to, even though it hurts and everything is always so unsure, let your light out so you can let people in.

Hell, I even remember lying next to him and tracing the bones on his hand one night after we watched a movie from the Criterion Collection, saying how he made me want to be a better person. He made everyone strive to be a better person, to be open, and love effortlessly and incredibly.

Trey selflessly made us all feel the vast importance of our existence.

And that is something all of us can only hope to forward to others around us. We are all hurting in different concentrations and levels—it reaches beyond the footprint of Trey’s light. It’s the world; we all are hurting. If there is one thing I will promise, for the rest of my life, I will follow in Trey’s extraordinary life and lead in selfless love to everyone. To reach beyond your own pain and touch the others around you.

Part of me doesn’t want this blog post to end. The other part needs it to end to begin the continuation of whatever my life will hold—to continue grieving the loss of such an incredible human being. So, as always, I will leave you with a song (one of Trey’s favorites, of course).

 

Your “Terrible-Movie Partner” will miss you. Till we see each other again.

And most importantly, more than anything…

Thank you.

Song: Heartbeats by José González