Quick cartoon-ish sketch of one of my favorite quotes by John Green from the book Looking for Alaska. These words are a really good reminder that we aren’t as fragile and permanently breakable as we may seem to be.
I am probably your average, broken New Yorker. Not only is it weird to make physical contact with other people, but it scares me too. I don’t like making myself vulnerable enough to get close to strangers.
But of course, Jon asks the crowd to put an arm around the person to either side, to be connected. And although I was hesitant to, I did and it was okay. Because I knew we were all there for the same purpose and we all shared one thing - we were all broken. But a lot of broken people coming together like a family make a whole.
I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. That’s what it felt like. I wasn’t just a scared New Yorker. I was the whole crowd, singing along…
I decided that I would try writing a personalized post-it for a different student each day this week. This student is one of the most unique people I’ve ever met. He has shared about some of the “darkness” inside him that he feels many people can’t understand. I’ve tried to reassure him that I’ve dealt with the same thing for most of my life and that it’s possible to let the good shine through. I hope he keeps looking at the world from his unique perspective and sharing it with the world.
Looking for Alaska is a novel by John Green that I’ve somehow not read until very recently. That being said, I do not own my own copy of it yet, as I went to an actual library and checked it out. Yes. Libraries. They still exist.
Anyway - I immediately wanted to reread it the moment I finished the last chapter, and I can’t remember the last time I actually wanted to reread a book so soon. Not even Harry Potter.
That being said, I haven’t been touched by a book in this way in quite a long time. John Green is able to so eloquently not just touch on, but dive into what it is to grow up. What it is to find your place - and “to seek a Great Perhaps”. What it is to live, and to grieve, and to forgive. And how people change us without us really realizing it.
But the part that hit me the hardest was a simple quote about how incredibly complex we are:
“When adults say, ‘Teenagers think they are invincible’ with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But the part of us that is greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”
“The part of us that is greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”
It’s the idea that there is a part of us that is more than our DNA. It’s more than our memories and more than everything we’ve ever seen or heard or experienced. And that thing is what ultimately makes us who we are. And that thing has already outlived us, and will into eternity.
It’s nice to know that we are invincible. Because recognizing that most essential part of us is a reminder that there is hope - That we will be the hopeful.
My absolute favorite book is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky.
I have so many favorite lines: “And I wonder if anyone is really happy. I hope they are. I really hope they are.”
“We accept the love we think we deserve”
“It’s great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn’t need a shoulder. What if they need the arms or something like that? You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.”
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
Honestly, I could keep going. The whole book is rich with life, wonder, thoughts, community, love. It’s the most raw, realistic book I’ve ever read, and I will never get tired of it.
Heavy and Light fell in the perfect moment. Four friends I got tickets for Christmas and counted down to our trip from Chattanooga to Nashville. Six days before the show, I got news that my aunt had three stage IV, inoperable brain tumors. The night of the Nashville show, family flew in from across the country back home to Ohio and spent time together, some praying for the first time in years. My heart was torn between returning to my family in the first time I ever truly missed them and going to this show I was so excited about. After much internal debate, it was decided that the idea of Heavy and Light could not have been a more perfect theme and the setting was what my heart needed. We skipped our last classes on Friday and headed to Nashville, even getting a speeding ticket on the way. We waited outside in the cold for well over and hour and eventually the show started. Songs and honesty and questions met with grace followed. The feeling of being in a room of people with a common desire for honesty in the midst of confusion and community in the midst of pain did more for my heart than I expected. Heavy and Light was amazing, but the effect it had the in days to come carried much more weight. We spent the next days exploring Nashville and Franklin. Something about being in a new city with people I deeply love brought my heart joy. We didn’t all know each other too well before we left, but we returned as friends. Walking through downtown Franklin, I began to feel a release. In the midst, of the confusion and fear of this situation with my aunt, this weekend was a simple reminder that life goes on and there is beauty in the darkest of times. That was the first time I felt alive again in quite some time. The drive home was filled with a much deeper level of conversation. We talked about why we love TWLOHA and what it means to truly love Jesus radically and how that radicalism is simply an exaggeration of grace and love in all situations. We talked about our stories and our struggles and what makes us come alive.
Heavy and Light was an amazing night, but the freedom to struggle and be honest that followed the next day was, by far, the greatest take away.
I will never forget the first time I heard “Fix You” by Coldplay.
It was the day that my first boyfriend broke up with me. My older sister and I were driving in her car and she said she had a song for me, that she would sing to me through this band. She played it loud - just the way I like it…because I can feel the music resonating in my chest…in my heart.
I remember how the tears came suddenly and I thought my heart would explode.
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
When the song finished, we both sat stunned, my face streaked with tears. Chelsea apologized, and said, “I never realized how perfect those words were.”
And I don’t remember what my response was…but I remember the pain and hope I felt as we drove through Melbourne that day. And I remember agreeing that those lyrics really were perfect.
For a long time, I couldn’t listen to that song without crying. But seven years later, I hear it and I feel something stronger than the pain I felt that day. I feel hope.
I hear my sister calling out to me, letting me know I am not alone.
I hear the boy who broke my heart telling me I taught him about God.
I remember the nights my friends spent with me showing me how much they loved me.
I remember all the pain and all the mistakes and all of the struggles I’ve been through in my lifetime.
A film that has impacted me greatly is Into the Wild (2007). This film weaves a story of a young man who gives up all his possessions and donates his money to charity. He then begins to hitchhike to Alaska to live in the wilderness. This movie was inspiring and tragic, thought-provoking and heartbreaking.
There is a line in the film that seemed to grab hold of me an shake me, and I have never forgotten it. In a dramatic epiphany, the main character states “Happpiness is only real when shared”. I was living in a dark time and had pulled myself away from friends and family, for fear of being hurt or hurting them. And then this line resonated in me, and I realized that though I may spare myself pain by retreating from relationships, I will never experience joy. “Happpiness is only real when shared”. That night, while the credits rolled, I made a decision to risk relationships for a chance to find joy. And in time, that was exactly what I found.
Not only did the iconic words of character John Keating, “Carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary,” remain in my memory, but I continue to live by the phrases that were spoken in this film. I live them through my writing, my actions, my every day speech is laced with the words that have changed my life. The shy character Todd Anderson evolved into such a dynamic character as he is faced with losing his best friend to suicide, understanding he is merely a shadow to his parents, and to finally standing up for what was right and what he believed in. His character inspires me to continue to believe in myself, my writing, and the world around me. He taught me we all have this confident and present “YAWP” that is living inside of us just waiting to be set free. If it wasn’t for this movie I’d be a very different person. I owe my life to this movie.
And to this movie I say thank you, “Oh captain, my captain."
This quote is a simple reminder to love today. Today is new. It’s never happened before, and it will never happen again. And with that comes the ability to start over. To make the best of whatever is handed to us. To never stop living.
Today is my favorite day. It’s the most important one, and it’s the only one that will share its time with me. Love today. Live today. Breathe today. It’s the only one you’ll ever have.
Today is my husband’s 28th birthday. In addition to some small gifts and dinner out at his favorite restaurant later, I wrote 28 reasons why I love him and put them up on our wardrobe mirror so he could see them when he got up (and blew up some cheesy balloons). The only other time I saw him cry was when we had to leave each other at the airport (he lived in England while I lived in the US before we got married) and it touched me to see that what I wrote meant so much to him. I made him his favorite dessert and he had it for breakfast! I love making him happy and his birthday is a day where everything revolves around him. It’s my way of thanking him for being such a wonderful man and making him feel special.
I actually am not very good with tumblr and cannot say I tumble very often other than for our University Chapter page at LMU. However, when I saw the prompt this week for the Here We Collide Collective, I felt compelled to dig up my personal tumblr account info and post this.
I just recently got both of these tattoos together about 4 weeks ago. The first is the quote, which is from the TWLOHA “Fears vs. Dreams” campaign.
I am living a story. I will not give up.
This quote has always stuck with me since the start of “Fears Vs Dreams.” It really hits home with a lot of my passions, my struggles, my doubts, and my sense of perseverance. I strongly believe in the power of story. It takes a lot to accept our own self-worth, and I am no exception to this. But it hasn’t been until recently that I have been able to truly own my whole story, even the parts and chapters I have for so long kept hidden, maybe not to others but definitely to myself. Turns out these parts of who I am are valuable and do contribute to my overall worth. I guess you could say, I’ve been stubborn to accept this for most of my life. Haha.
The second part of the quote, “I will not give up,” has two facets for me. The first one being in reference to Jason Mraz’s single “I Won’t Give Up.” The song itself is a masterpiece and I believe it is so because of his ability to be just excruciatingly raw and vulnerable in it, in admitting and reifying that notion TWLOHA speaks so much of, the wild idea that it’s actually okay to not be okay. The second reason this means so much to me is because of that very hard-to-explain power in hearing someone own their story and express such perseverence. It makes you wanna just high-five, right?! This is why I had the quote placed where it is. I hope to inspire others with this expression of ownership and worth when they see it. But also I hope to continue to inspire myself when I see it, on days when it’s not so easy.
The bigger piece on my forearm is a version of the Jerusalem Cross. It is often used with the Kairos Retreat that is a peer-led retreat led at select high schools and Catholic-Jesuit universities. Going on this retreat in February of 2012 was an experience I will never forget. (Especially now that I have this tattoo, haha!) The retreat really brought me to recognize, own, and embrace the brokenness in my story. We all have some sort of brokenness in our stories and often times this brokenness is what really allows for us to relate to each other. This retreat inspired me to begin sharing my story, in its fullness, for the right reasons with the right people, in hopes that it will inspire others want to share theirs. When I told the tattoo artist I wanted to make the cross appear as something beautiful out of many broken pieces, a mosaic so to speak, this is what we came up with.
This is a song I wrote in November 2011. I had the opportunity to record it in December 2011, and it was another step in a direction I’ve wanted to go in for a very long time.
At the time I wrote it, I wasn’t very sure what the inspiration was for me to write it. I just had a feeling that looked like the images I saw in my head…images I wanted to capture. So I begun with some piano strokes and sang some lines from a poem I had written in Fall 2011.
Snowflakes were falling in my head…well…in a memory I have in my head.
In Milwaukee, there is a house surrounded by trees, with a nice backyard between the trees and the back patio. I’ve been fortunate to spend many breaks from school in this home. I’ve slept on its floors and couches and played its piano and have laughed a lot here.
One of the times I was in that house, flurries of snow scurried, but not too quickly and with an ease of gentleness, to the ground. It was a beautiful sight.
And in November 2011, a few days before I would depart there once again for a Thanksgiving getaway, this image came into my mind.
Usually, Thanksgiving is the first and last time of Autumn I go to Milwaukee, but November 2011 was different, as Thanksgiving would be the second time.
I’m still not quite sure how much of an inspiration for “Winterlude” the beginning of November was, but that first week of November in Wisconsin was cold and sad and bittersweet.
I wish I had known my cousin better.
I wish I had gotten to know my cousin better when he was here.
I think we could have gotten along quite well.
But the whole experience made me appreciate my family so much more and also made music more important to me.
He passed away while listening to his music.
The music he wrote.
I guess it was in my system…
to write a song
that could help his brothers, sisters, parents, friends cope…
“I wanted to let you guys know that I am the original creator of the Take What You Need sign. It’s truly amazing how this has reached so many people. I made it in response to learning that one of my friends tried to commit suicide. He’s okay now, and for that I’ll always be thankful. I made six copies of that poster, using Sharpie and computer paper, and put them up in random places on my campus. I did it because these are the things he needed to know existed. They are the things I needed to know existed. And I felt like other people needed to know, too…”