The Blooming Heather

The first time that my parents visited Scotland, they brought me home a necklace. It is a very special kind of necklace. It’s called a heather gem. It is made from heather, that beautiful, purple plant that grows all over in that magical part of the world, and as such, each piece of jewelry is completely unique and individual.

all gems.jpgI was 14 years old.

It also happened that at that time in my life I was also in a very, very dark place. It was the first time I can remember feeling completely and utterly broken.

To make a long story short, my best friend decided one day that I wasn’t worth it. One day she was my best friend in the world. More of a sister to me than my own sisters. Closer to me than anybody in the world. In a way, she was my entire life. And then very quickly it was over. She was gone.

The story is long and not very complicated, but honestly, it was just hard. Plain and simple, it was so hard. I had to rethink my whole life in so many ways. We had been friends for so long and our lives were so tied together that I didn’t really know how to exist without her. To add to it, I didn’t really get any explanation. I didn’t get any discussion. She just turned off.

I remember my parents taking this trip to Scotland, and how excited our whole family was. Many of you will remember that my family is Scottish. It is something we’re very proud of. So when my parents finally took this trip, it was almost like the completion of something for our entire family. Even though we didn’t all get to go, we were all so happy about it.

I remember holding the necklace in it’s purple and white box. I looked at the shiny stone that had once been a plant. It was beautiful.

I wore that necklace every single day for years. It came to symbolize a lot of things for me. Mostly it helped me remember that I was more than the black moments. It helped me remember that there is something inside me that reaches further back and further forward than so many shattered pieces. It helped me remember every day that I didn’t need to be a different version of myself than I was. I only had to be me. And that was enough. heather in highlands

Years later, I got the amazing opportunity to visit England. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go to Scotland on my visit. But it was beautiful. If it were a poem, I’d say that my soul recognized the land.

And for some reason, I’ve had all of these thoughts on my mind tonight. I remembered the first time I learned what it feels like to be completely broken by the one person you thought you could trust. I remembered when I first got that necklace and the way it was somehow able to bring me back to life with all it symbolized.

Even though that time in my life was hard, I honestly don’t remember much of the hurt.

I just remember this incredible feeling of emerging. Of becoming somebody I could be proud of. I found dreams and let myself bask in the hope of them. I think that was the moment when I really started to become who I truly am.

And it was beautiful.

 

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Religion, Macklemore, & Wine

Today I did something completely insane.

I scrolled all the way to the end of my blog. All the way to the very first post. Published on November 12, 2013, and titled “Fear No More” this post was about how it’s okay to love Shakespeare. To embrace the wonderful things he gave us and not shy away from his work, even in this day and age.

shakespeare loveWhy did I do this, you may ask?

Because I have been thinking about this blog incessantly lately. If I posted for the very first time in November of 2013, that means that we hit our five year anniversary this year.

What?

And I’ll be the very first to say it: this blog has been through SO many ups and downs. One of the great things about reaching my very first post, which took a lot longer than I’ll here record, is that I got to see how I’ve evolved in my writing in the last four and a half years. I got to see the things that I used to blog about. The things that used to excite me.

I used to be a very exuberant writer.

The number of exclamation marks. The language. Oh, glory. What a ride we’ve been through to develop the writing style that I know pose on this blog of mine. If you think it’s a little crazy now, scroll back a few years. I dare you.

My blog has been struggling recently.

I won’t deny that. In fact, I’ll be even more honest and admit that my blog has been dead for about a year now. I have blogging friends that I haven’t heard from in a million years. Do you suppose they’re still alive? hello neon

The reasons behind the death of the vitality of my blog are probably many and various, and to be honest I’m not sure if this post is the correct way to go about fixing it. I’ve admitted before how dead this blog has been for a while, and none of that seemed to do much.

Not that I’m complaining.

I love blogging and I always have. My blog has often been a great place for me to go to in order to create and express myself. It’s been invaluable to me for so many reasons.

When I first started blogging, one thing that I loved to do was write posts about specific things about myself. I’d tell people fun facts about me, or overall just try to be funny, in order to attract more followers and feel a little bit more validated.

So I thought I’d do that again today. Just for old time’s sake.

  1. I love God. I love Him so much. It’s not enough to say that my religion is important to me. It’s everything to me. It influences most of my decisions, if not all. My relationship with God is central to my life. I’d be completely lost without it. I love it that I know He is always there. That He loves me unconditionally and knows me perfectly. There is no greater comfort than that. I know that He has a plan for my life. And when I am following Him and doing the things I know I need to be doing to very best of my abilities, there is such a safety and comfort to life. God is so good. He is so, so good.
  2. I am a huge Macklemore fan. I am. Most people would never, ever guess that about geminime in a million years. But Macklemore is one of my most favorite people who has ever lived on this planet. I not only love his music, but I think he’s a great person. If you don’t follow him on Instagram, you should. It’s a treat. I love Macklemore.
  3. I love wine. I have never had wine. In fact, I’ve never drunk at all. No joke. Not a lie. 100% honesty. For religious reasons, I have never drank and I never will. It’s a belief that I hold very close to me, no matter how ridiculous it might sound to the outside world. But all of that being said, you will have a very hard time finding anybody in this world who loves wine more than me. I’m absolutely fascinated by it. If it were in any way possible, I’d be a key figure in the wine industry. I’m fairly certain it’s impossible to do that and also keep my religious standards, so that will have to remain a dream. But I think wine is totally amazing and incredible. I study it whenever I can. I have books about wine that I’ve read a million times. I study every wine menu I ever come in contact with. I love wine. I think it’s beautiful.

You’ll Bring Me Home

For the entirety of my university career, I have lived either three hours away from home or 30 minutes away from home. Neither of which is an exceedingly monstrous distance.

Interestingly enough, I actually went home much more often when I was three hours away than I do now when I’m 30 minutes away. I think that has to do with a combination of factors, age most likely being one of them.

It’s strange because as the black sheep of my family, I have most definitely spent a lot of time feeling like I don’t belong as a member of it. (Don’t tell anyone, but my family is so large that I usually refer to them as “the nation”, rather than “my family”.) Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of similarities with many of my siblings. I am very close with most of them. But I also happen to possess a lot of differences from the rest of my family. I won’t get into them here, because at the end of the day they really don’t matter. I am a member of my family and that is that.

Today I want to talk about home. And reality. And how they relate. I was going to do the thing where I write a huge post and make my point at the end, like always, but I’ll just tell you the point now:

Reality can be a very strange thing. And sometimes we have to realize that reality is different than we think it is.

I don’t have this experience every time I go visit my family, but it happens often enough that this observation has hit me again and again and again. So many times when I take a break from my crazy college life to return home and see my family, everything slows down. Everything stops to take a breath. And I realize something very important: that is REAL life.

The house a bit dusty at the end of the day because we live off a gravel road. My nieces and nephews raiding the pantry or begging for chocolate chip cookies because they know my mom always keeps them in a bag by the fruit. My younger sister playing with her dog before she makes him settle down for the evening. There is a stability and flow to the way things happen at home, no matter what different paths life takes us on.

And so often I get jolted out of my mindset. And I realize that so often the life I live at college isn’t real life. It isn’t what really matters. The acquaintances that come and go, the friends I may or may not know in years to come. So much of what makes up my life isn’t really real life. It isn’t the reality I’ll be living for the rest of my life.

And in many ways, that is what makes college special. It is a time for you to embrace that not-so-real reality you experience for a few years and see if you can get life a little figured out. It’s a chance for you to shake things up and see where you land.

But when all is said and done, and when all the dust settles, you’ll find yourself in real life. Experiencing what truly matters and what truly lasts.

Reputation: Themes in Taylor Swift’s New Album That Changed Everything

coverI am a Taylor Swift fan. I will neither deny it nor apologize for it, and there was a time when I might have done both. But I have been on the Swift team since the beginning. Since the “Teardrops on My Guitar” days. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

A few years ago I wrote a post about Taylor’s last album, 1989, and how it was just what I needed in my life at that time. I wrote about how it helped me start over and heal and begin again. Today I want to do something similar with Taylor’s most recent album, Reputation.

Reputation is definitely Taylor’s edgiest album. It brings to light a lot of her struggles and highlights a lot of things that she’s usually very private about. It lets us into the darker sides of her, and the darker sides of what she experiences as a result of who she is. But like the true artist that she is, Taylor somehow manages to turn that darkness into light.

From beginning to end, Reputation is a journey: each song taking us through a different phase and highlighting different themes. As I’ve thought about this, I’ve settled upon seven major themes throughout the album that have come to mean everything to me. Themes that have changed the way I look at life and helped me see my own experiences in a different light.

Theme #1: The Fall From Grace

Even if you aren’t a T Swift fan, or don’t know much about her either way, it is pretty much common knowledge that she went through the ringer for a while there. As an ardent fan, I feel like I should know all of the details and have a very strong opinion, but honestly, I don’t know all the details. I really don’t know a lot about what happened. What I do know is that it hurt her, and she disappeared for a long time. I do know that it was a very hard fall for her.

Haven’t we all been there? I know I have.

We’ve all been through that point in life when we fall from grace and become very familiar with the feeling of a cold floor against our cheek. And quite frankly there is nothing worse than this kind of brokenness.flowers as thorns

This theme is highlighted in a couple of different songs on the album. “Call it What You Want” and “Delicate” are a few. Lyrics like: “My castle crumbled overnight, I brought a knife to a gun fight”, and “my reputation’s never been worse” whisper a little bit of this feeling.

Theme #2: Because You Break Them

Sometimes the people in our lives do stupid things. They do things that hurt us deeply. Things that confuse us. And while that isn’t fair, it is a part of life. What is interesting about this theme is that it is something we’ve all seen, and it can usually lead us down a couple of different paths.

If we have been deeply hurt by others, sometimes the healthiest thing to do is just move on. Leave it behind and start over. And other times we have to acknowledge that the pain changed us, and maybe not completely positively. Pain can do dark things to you. Again, that’s just the way it is sometimes.

“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Look What You Made Me Do” talk about this idea.

Theme #3: I Did Something Bad

Obviously, I can’t speak for everybody, but I think that most often the theme/phase that follows is usually the rebellious one. It was for me, at least. If we’ve been hurt sometimes we lash out. Sometimes we have to go through a moment in our lives when we do things we might regret later.

bikeThe song “I Did Something Bad” is the poster child for this phase. The lyrics say, “You say I did something bad, then why’s it feel so good?” This is an entirely accurate summary of how it feels to do something bad. It is an interesting look at the difference between good and bad or right and wrong. But the cold, hard truth is that sometimes doing bad things is fun.

But I will be the first person to say that staying in this phase really isn’t good. It’s not healthy. At some point, you have to realize that sticking your middle finger to the world is hurting you more in the long run.

Theme #4: In The Middle Of The Night, In My Dreams

One of the things I love most about this album is that while there are heavy themes of brokenness and rebellion, there are also very strong currents of hope and rebirth throughout everything. I love the words, “In the middle of the night, in my dreams,” from “…Ready For It?” because they start off the album with this idea of hope and dreams. The kind of dreams that you saw break into a million pieces against the floor. The kind of dreams that you slowly begin to dream again, piece by piece. The kind of dreams that are so precious you only dare dream them in the middle of the night, when the world can’t reach them.

Theme #5: I Know That It’s Delicate

When you start to begin to dream again, that is when it gets scary.

Picking yourself up off the floor, or letting people pick you up, is one of the hardest, scariest things you will ever do in your life. Because there is a certain comfort in being that broken. When you’re that broken you may be completely miserable, you may be in so much pain and darkness that it is unfathomable, but at least it can’t get any worse. At least you’re there now, not fighting to stay afloat. is it cool

So the process of standing up and walking back into the light is slow and scary, and very delicate. It’s very piece by piece, moment by moment. And somehow it can be the most reckless thing in the world to even fathom the idea of hoping for something again. But you do it anyway.

“Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate … isn’t it?”

Theme #6: My Broken Bones Are Mending

“King Of My Heart” is one of my favorite songs on the album, because it is such a blatant celebration of healing. It talks about how bad things happen, and we do find ourselves on the floor sometimes, and it is the absolute worst. But then healing can happen, and it does happen. We just have to believe in it. Even a little bit.

“Is this the end of all the endings? My broken bones are mending.”

I don’t care who you are, these lyrics are iconic. There is a bit of mystery to it. Like she can’t fathom that she’s healing. As if she’s watching it happen in disbelief. Another song has a line which says, “I woke up just in time.”

your midnightsAs if she emerged from her brokenness just in time. As if she threw the darkness aside in an act of wild faith and hope and passion and it was the best thing she ever did. Because now she is mending.

Theme #7: But I Stay

I love the song “New Year’s Day” more than I love many things on this earth. It ends the journey of Reputation on an incredibly beautiful note. It is a foundation song. A remembering who you are song. A grounding song.

I love this song because it is very simple. It talks about standing beside somebody through thick and thin. It talks about a very deep and abiding love. Something very powerful. But also very real and human. The kind of love that holds you through a dark night or helps you clean up after a party.

It is the song that says, “I know I’ve been through a lot of darkness. But somehow I’m still me. I’m better and stronger. I didn’t stay broken. I rose.”

Reputation is an incredible album about rebirth. There is so much to it. I could write a million more words about it, and extract countless other themes, I’m sure. These are only a few. Just some very powerful things that have changed my life and helped me in my own journey.

Forever is Stronger

Have you ever had an experience where the darkness seems so much stronger than the light?

I have had this thought on my mind quite a bit lately.

candleThis post is a hard one for me to write. It is one of those posts where I have the thoughts and feelings rolling around in my head for a very long time. And for whatever reason, I then decide that it is okay for me to pour out my soul to whatever human decides to stumble upon my internet space.

When I write these posts, there is usually one thought that ends up pulling it all together. One thing that brings it home and helps me make sense of it all. And maybe that’s the real point of posts like these. That I somehow make sense of it all.

When I was fifteen years old, my older sister Jamie had her first baby boy: Barrett. He wasn’t the first grandchild, and so obviously being an aunt wasn’t new to me. But for some reason, it was different. Maybe it was because it was my sister’s baby this time instead of my brothers’. I’m not really sure. But from the moment he came into the world my nephew Barrett has been one of my best friends. He used to call me when I was in my first year of college and say things like, “Hey, Jordan. Where’s you at?” or, “When you coming to see me?”

But today I remembered something that I had forgotten about. A memory with Barrett that was actually one of the most precious moments in my life.

One day, only a few months after Barrett was born, I got to rock him to sleep. I was sitting in a chair in my bedroom. It was slightly cloudy outside, a light rain falling against the window. I remember looking down at him: so tiny, and so completely perfect. And I suddenly felt the most overwhelming peace and love. A feeling unlike anything I’d ever felt in my life. And I was struck with the powerful realization that this baby, this little life, was the most sacred, precious thing in the world.

It didn’t take long for tears to start streaming down my face. door

I wish I could say that this moment turned a dark night into a bright day. That it changed everything and that nothing was ever the same again. But this wasn’t the case. It was, however, a moment that lit a candle in a dark room and gave me hope for the day when the drapes would be cast aside to let the sunlight stream in.

Let me explain: for as long as I can remember, physical touch has been very hard for me. I’ve never been an overly touchy person. It takes me quite a while to be comfortable with touching people, even just hugs. Even with my family, many of whom are very touchy, I sometimes have to put up some physical barriers. What is hard about this quirk of mine is that as far as love languages go, physical touch is probably my first language for both giving and receiving love. So you see the paradox I’ve lived in my whole life.

It was never really an issue until I got older, and started thinking about boys and relationships. I had a lot of guy friends, but when it came to the thought of anything romantic I never felt good about it. Not with anyone. To make a long story short, I eventually had to face the reality that the thought of holding hands with somebody or kissing somebody actually made me physically ill. It made me shaky and scared. I couldn’t do it.

What followed all of this was an extremely long process that took years.

All spelled out like this, it really isn’t surprising that it was eventually revealed that I experienced sexual abuse in my past. I say “revealed” because it wasn’t something that I remembered. It took some extensive therapy and a lot of really hard moments. And believe me, coming to the discovery wasn’t easy. You see, it happened when I was very young. Probably about the age of 6, which is why I don’t really remember anything.

What makes this hard is that I still had to live with the consequences of the experience. That years later I was still haunted by it. That it kept me from living my life and doing things that normal people are excited to do.

tunnelAnd it wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair that as a child I experienced something that horrific. And it wasn’t fair that it made something that’s supposed to be exciting and good horrible and terrifying. When I came home from my very first date I went into my room and cried. And the worst part is that it was a lovely date with one of my best friends. He was a perfect gentleman the entire time. Nothing bad happened at all. But the very thought that I’d been on a date, that I’d been in a setting where romance could’ve been possible completely sent me over the edge.

And that wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair that I was stuck with these fears. It wasn’t fair that I had had this thing happen to me and I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t have protected myself. I couldn’t have stopped it. I was the victim of something absolutely horrendous. And not even just as a child, but for the rest of my life after that.

That wasn’t fair.

And it was so overwhelming, so horrific, so terrible, that for years I just convinced myself that I was better off alone. That I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t ever even try to be in a relationship. I wasn’t capable of breaking down walls that dark. And for years I was content with that understanding. I simply accepted the fact that this was my lot in life. It wasn’t fair, but it was the way it had to be. Because I couldn’t be anything else.

Obviously, this is no longer how I feel. And there is an even longer story mountainwrapped up in that. I can’t say that I’m 100% cured of every fear and insecurity that comes with having this in my life. To this day, there are moments that it overwhelms me. Where it brings me to tears. Where I am struck once again with just how horrible it is. And that it isn’t fair.

But back to this moment with my nephew Barrett: it was the beginning of the healing process for me. Because I was able to see, for the first time, how a physical relationship between two people created the most precious thing in the world. And I understood, even just a little, how sacred it is that a man and a woman can love each other that much. That they can literally create life. The beauty in that is indescribable.

It also taught me the incredible nature of the human soul. I looked down at that baby and knew how precious he was. I looked at him and knew how amazing he was. That he was going to move mountains.

It was a moment that taught me that even though I was surrounded in darkness about the most important things in life, love and a family of my own, that one day it wouldn’t be that way.

There are moments in life so dark that light is nothing but a vague concept.

sunThere are moments when darkness is so, so much stronger than light.

But they are just that: moments. Brief shadows.

But that experience with my nephew, that moment, was a glimpse into eternity. A perspective so much wider than the darkness I was facing in the moment. A promise that my forever was so much stronger than the horrible things that I had experienced in a brief shadow.

So I guess the point is this:

Forever is stronger.

 

 

No Control

Becoming a part of the One Direction fandom is a little bit like I imagine falling down a mountain would be. You get a little bit too close to the edge just to peek at the view, and before you know it you are plummeting into a place from which there is no escape. The only difference, I think, is that once you get to the point of no return there’s absolutely nothing you regret.

Actual footage of me entering the 1D fandom

You’re broken a lot, there are a lot of feelings, and you may even be dead in some ways. But you do not regret it. In fact, you’d do it all again.

I have been a serious blogger for four years now. Some of the biggest pride in my blog comes from my very well thought out and deeply emotional posts. I’ve spilled my soul to all of you a lot of times.

Imagine my shock then, when I found myself pulled rather roughly in the One Direction world last summer, and with that was pulled into a world stereotypically labeled as that of fifteen-year-old girls.  And it is not only the fact that I was pulled into the fandom, it is the fact that I am more than happy to be here now.

I regret nothing.

Here’s the deal: I’m 22 years old. And One Direction is currently on hiatus.

midnight memoriesSo there are a few problems with me joining the One Direction family when I did. Namely, I have to make my way through their whole library of songs as well as enjoy their solo music as it comes out. That is a lot of phases to navigate through all at once, people. Another problem is that I feel like such a proud mom…even though I’m basically the same age as all of them. I’m not sure why that is, but that is the way it is. The final problem is that I find myself missing One Direction so much. Very much, even though I wasn’t around when they were making music together.

You can think or say anything you want about One Direction, obviously, though I respectfully submit that if you don’t like them you didn’t have to read this far. One thing that I would like to say about One Direction, or maybe just about music in general, is that they helped me in a time when very little else could. Call it what you want, but the boys helped me through some very, very dark times. I think that is the true beauty of the music we love, or whatever it might be. The power these important things have to help us through the dark times. explain why

It obviously isn’t a secret that I love One Direction, I have blogged about them before. But I guess that the difference in this post is that I just wanted to highlight the beauty of loving something. The One Direction fandom is huge and extensive, and there are moments when I find myself simultaneously terrified of the lengths my fandom will go to to get information about the boys or proud of the lengths we will go to to protect them. But in the end, there is a very real, if sometimes strange, connection that binds us all together as One Direction fans.

I think one of the greatest things about being human is that we have the opportunity to find things like this that we love: music, movies, sports, art, or whatever it is. Whatever it is that brings you this joy or helps you through the dark moments. It could be one thing or many things, but whatever it is it’s beautiful.

Like We’re All Gonna Make It

There are a handful of memories in my life that I look back on as the best ones. I think you know what kind I’m talking about. They are the kind of memories that you look back on and the beauty almost hurts. There is a sort of golden sheen over the picture as you sunrelive it. Sometimes when we’re in the midst of these moments we understand it, and we think to ourselves, “I’m going to remember this forever. This moment is about to join the foundation of who I am.” And other times we don’t know that, we only have to discover it later.

These moments are happiness.

I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of happiness for a very long time. Mostly because I think that happiness means something different to all of us, but yet we are all scrambling to find it. Amidst the countless directions that life pulls all of us in, I believe that at the end of the day all of us are working towards a moment when we feel like we’ve “made it”.

“Making it” is an interesting phrase, but I think it is what we modern people say in place of happiness. We want to be financially stable, emotionally stable, stable in relationships, or just able to watch our favorite show every now and again and not feel ragingly guilty about wasting time. We are all working towards this moment when we’ll finally be there; when we’ll finally arrive at the sight of happiness. When we’ve “made it”.

Now before you jump to conclusions, please understand that I am not going to sit here and tell you any of the following cliches: Happiness is in the journey [and/or] Happiness is a choice. While I believe that these cliches hold truth and exist for a reason, I also just hate cliches. Just so much. So I’m not going to take that route on this happiness post. flowers

I think nobody has found the perfect formula for happiness because it doesn’t really exist. And I think it doesn’t exist because happiness is different for everybody. And there are different kinds of happiness. For example, I received several vinyl records for Christmas. My family knows me very well that way, and that gives me happiness. Each time I pull them out and listen to them, I feel that happiness all over again. My records make me happy. But that isn’t the kind of deep, long-lasting, “making it” type of happiness that we are all looking for. I think it’s a piece of happiness.

So what is happiness, really? Is it one big “I’ve finally made it” or is it just the little pieces of happiness all added up? Or both? Or something different altogether?

I think that the answer is very simple but also a little complicated: whatever happiness means to you is what it means. I wish that happiness wasn’t such an elusive thing. Are we really meant to just search for it for forever before finally realizing that the journey was the happy part? Or are we actually supposed to get there?

My personal belief is that we’re supposed to get there. We’re supposed to make it.

light and darkI think that happiness evolves over the course of a lifetime. And there are definitely going to be times in our lives that are anything but happy. And no matter what inspirational quote dares show its face in those times, sometimes life is just darkness. Sometimes you can’t choose happiness no matter how hard you try. But I think that in those times the important thing is to remember that it did exist once and that it can again. And in that way happiness is very closely linked with hope. And that is one of the ways in which it lasts.

It is interesting to me that happiness creates so many problems.

If I look at it from the spiritual perspective that I tend to apply to most things, it makes sense. I mean, why would Satan (or whatever you believe in as far as the kind of realm goes) want us to be happy? I personally believe that God wants us to be happy. He wants us to have joy. He thinks we deserve everything good. God thinks we deserve happiness.

So whatever happiness means to you, remember that. If you find yourself surrounded bybridge darkness, remember those golden moments and have hope that there will be more. If you are in a moment of happiness in your life, cherish it. Be grateful for it. Love every second. We’re all navigating our personal road, and that’s okay. But just remember that 100%, totally, completely, you belong in the light and not the dark. You deserve the gold moments.

Happy travels.