Go back to high school, sweetheart

I probably shouldn’t roll my eyes at relationships that extended original roots whilst in high school, but I just can’t help it. I’ve seen so many young women with short leashes too often to sit back and shut up. Especially since I too once had a useless, constraining leash.

Christian and me at 15 and 14
Christian and me at 15 and 14

I talked to my friend Christian on the phone for over an hour the other night. He was my first boyfriend, first kiss; now we’re just very good friends. We talked about our self-diagnosed psychological problems and I, of course, blame a lot of mine on the controlling relationship I’d been in after Christian and I broke up. I couldn’t hang out with anyone but the boyfriend, forcing other friendships to fade and often igniting arguments.

“I remember you saying that you couldn’t tell him I was there when you hung out with Kevin,” Christian said, referring to our other good friend. “Shouldn’t that have been a red flag?”

Yeah. I definitely should have realized that was wrong.

When my two best girlfriends stopped contacting me to hang out, I should have realized something was up. Everyone else did. Nobody told me.

When my friend died last October, I really didn’t want to see everyone from high school again. My boyfriend-shrouded brain thought nobody from high school liked me.

Quite the contrary, actually.

We sat around the fire exchanging stories about our friend. My former classmates laughed at things I said and several of them told me sincerely they’d missed me and wanted to see me around more. I don’t think they realized how much those comments truly meant to me.

My high school-rooted relationship made me hate college my freshman year. I had fun when he visited me, but I also lost out on plenty of potential friendships because he always wanted it to be just the two of us.

Here are five things for you high school sweethearts to keep in mind:

1.) Can you really see the relationship going anywhere?
I don’t care how long you’ve been dating or how easy everything is, if the two of you are going in completely different directions, it’s probably not worth it.

2.) Will your significant other hold you back?
Maybe he or she isn’t as motivated as you are. If that person doesn’t support you in reaching your full potential, better think twice.

3.) How far away are you from each other? 
It’s one thing to go to the same school, it’s another to be left at home, or vice versa. If you’ve answered “no” and “yes” so far respectively, driving two hours to see him/her every weekend isn’t worth it. Maybe you can work things out if you go to the same school, but read on to number four.

4.) Does he/she support your friendships/trust you?
If your only friend is him or her because you’re not allowed to spend time with anyone else, see ya. If you do end up attending the same school, you still need to branch out. What happens if it really doesn’t work out and you had invested all of your time and energy for friendships into him/her? That sucks.

5.) Are you happy?
The most important one. If the person who is supposed to make you happy is failing, you need to really think about your relationship. The constant Snap Chatting and texting is obnoxious if he/she doesn’t even satisfy your happiness. You should be happy to see him/her, not dreading the sight of him/her. You should enjoy one another’s company. Once that excitement stops, your relationship probably should, too.

 

I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I’ve been there. Two years ago, I would have answered each of those questions negatively. Clearly something was wrong, it just took me a while to realize it.

Life, sans explosion

It would be so easy to die.

To stumble into something you shouldn’t have, cross the street in front of a driver who either doesn’t respect pedestrians in a crosswalk or just didn’t see you, firmly grip the wheel yourself and slowly inch into the other lane…

That’s what I thought on Tuesday while driving. Turn the steering wheel a bit, Emily, and everything you’re looking forward to, all your plans… they’re gone.

Let me be clear: I am by no means suicidal. I may have been back during early teenage years, but I never would have had the nerve to actually do something really harmful to myself. These thoughts merely cross my mind from time to time.

While filling up at the pump on the same day, I spilled a little gasoline on my hands and onto my car keys. I had the brief thought of, What if my car blows up when I put the key into the ignition? 

Silly, I know. But it made me pause and reflect as I hit a perfect $36 on the meter. What if?

Would that be okay?

How would the people around me react, namely the creepy old guy checking me out right now?

What would my family do?

What would my friends do? 

I squirted hand sanitizer onto my key and my hands and scrubbed a little bit. I closed my eyes when I turned the key, but Bubbles merely sprang to life, sans explosion. I sighed, opened my eyes, pressed the brake with my right foot and shifted into “Drive.”

Seeing lights in my rearview mirror scares me more than death does. I’d have to deal with the consequences of getting a speeding ticket; if I were to die, that’d be it. Only those I leave behind have to deal with the grief and suffering.

I’m not ready to swerve into the other lane, I’m not ready for this to end… but would it be okay if, by chance, it did? Yeah. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t have a choice; it would have to be okay.

I’ve been on a lot of adventures, I’ve seen a lot of things, I’ve learned more lessons than I can count. I’ve stumbled into love, been forced out of it by my own ambition and life plans and then obsessed over people and ideas I thought were real. I’ve been struck down, tossed around, taken advantage of and then, through careful character rebuilding, been able to bounce back.

The girl who once tried to control everything and fought everything has become a woman who knows her limits, knows when there is no use, knows when to let it be.

A lot can happen in a day. So let it –– whatever it is –– happen. The end could happen at any second.

The trigger for tears. Thanks, Mom.

It’s been six months.

Six months and I didn’t even realize it. Logging in to Facebook yesterday morning brought this post made by my mother to my attention:

Screenshot 2014-02-05 00.12.01

…followed by some silent tears because Emily, of course, tries to hold back emotions when she’s in public places. She’d rather be overwhelmed by them late at night when she can pull the flower-shaped capsule containing her grandparents’ ashes up to her mouth to kiss.

I had never seen that photo before, the one on the left where my mother clasped her mother’s worn, battered hands shortly after life escaped her.

Grandma always had messed-up knuckles. She used to scold me for cracking my knuckles as often as I do (who knew her loss of hearing would actually be a blessing in disguise? No more scolding!). “Do you want your hands to look like these?” she’d say, holding up her tired-looking hands to taunt me. If I’m not mistaken, her brother or someone in her family had shut the car door on her hand as a child, creating some funky-looking joints and misshapen fingernails.

Yep. Me. Grandma. Braces. Papa in the background a year before his death.
Yep. Me. Grandma. Braces. Papa in the background a year before his death.

Her sun-spotted hands combed my hair, poured water over my head in the bathtub and kneaded apple pie crust just enough without overworking the dough. She taught me how to do needlepoint, played Go Fish! with me and played the piano for me back when she took lessons in her 70s. Those hands did a lot. She was quite the lady.

We moved what I call my “Big-Girl Bed” into my room over this past winter break from my grandparents’ house. I went into the house ahead of my dad to collect the sheets and prep the mattress and box spring.

Big mistake.

“Emmie?” Dad asked when he walked in through the garage door, but I didn’t answer. My sobs had forced me to sink into myself as a headache crept over my brain from all the scrunching and frowning. He found me, blinked back tears himself and just held me. “I know… this sucks,” he said. That only made me sob harder.

Yeah. Emily got her Big-Girl Bed. But she lost her grandma.

I don’t think about her as often as I did. She’s on my ankle, she’s around my neck, she’s on the walls, she’s everywhere, but I don’t break down as often as I used to. It takes certain triggers to set me off. My mom’s Facebook post did the trick.

____________________________________________

Below is my poem from the 2013 Poetry Slam at St. Bonaventure University. I sat down afterward, put my head between my knees and sobbed. Hope you do the same…?

For those significant ripples…

Every person who crosses your path ends up making a difference in your life, no matter what.

It could be something minuscule, but there are no meaningless encounters, acquaintances or relationships.

You could model your behavior after someone else’s, or you could decide you want to be nothing like someone in particular. But, despite what you may think, that person you dislike made an impact on you in some way, shape or form.

Because of this, there is absolutely no point in regretting things. Failed relationships provide you with a way to go. You discover what you like and what you don’t like in a friend or romantic interest. And as soon as that unlikeable attribute appears in someone you’re interested in, you know you can either nip it in the bud or ride it out, hoping it goes away.

But enough of my preaching. Let’s make this a little more personal.

I think about Robby sometimes and wonder how he’s doing. I feel like I’m stocking up on life experiences and relationships and taking notes so I’m ready when the time comes to fill him in. I imagine we’ll be friends again someday and genuinely look forward to it. Pretending someone doesn’t exist is stupid; he exists and we existed together. And we loved each other. And we helped build each other. Regretting my relationship with him would be pointless because he made me who I am.

And I love who I am. I love who I’ve become. I found things I love in a man and things I despise. And I’ve carried those preferences into other relationships. He was an essential building block and the mere first step into the world of adulthood (I once thought he would be the entire staircase).

I’m Emily. Independent, focused and constantly trying to improve myself and the way I think.

And now I’ve found another man who keeps making me into a better person.

Some people will make tiny, insignificant ripples in your pond. For the larger ones, make sure you come out with a positive attitude. The people you associate yourself with make you/have made you into who you are, like it or not.

On a shelf

This is where you should be.

Not in a bag in a box on a shelf,

But in the ground.

Where you can feed the soil

you were born on and fell

in love on.

Soil you fought to preserve,

even though you never talked

about that.

 

I want your ashes to feed the ground

I walk on every day and bring forth new

life.

 

But, most of all, I just wish

you were still here.

So I could hear your voice

softly say my name again.

 

To kiss your sandpaper

cheek one more time

and hear you say “Oh, that’s nice”

and memorize that vibration

of your vocal cords.

 

Vocal cords that don’t even

exist anymore…

 

You’re dust in a bag

in a box

on a shelf.

 

 

~EMS

6/25/13

8:22 p.m.

 

My new golden heart

I have wanted a locket of my own ever since I saw my grandmother’s (which is home to a picture of my grandfather in his military uniform, if I recall correctly). My mom also owns one that my daddy gave her. It seems like every woman who has a loving significant other owns at least one locket. Well, I wanted to be that woman who has a loving significant other. Turns out I became one.

I got Robby a winter jacket for Christmas (which I have been wanting to write on this blog for weeks!). On top of that, I (with my mom’s help) made him a fleece Yankee blanket to keep him warm – sense the theme going on here? A winter jacket sounds like a weird gift, you might be thinking. But, you’d have to know Robby to understand. He is someone who wore two hoodies and a hat hoping they could replace the warmth a winter coat could provide. I was sick of seeing him cold, so I bought him the nice coat you’ll see him wearing from now on (since he loves it so much).

I opened my gift from him and found a delicate, gray pouch. When I opened it carefully, a beautiful gold locket made its way into my eyesight. My jaw dropped. The front of the heart locket says “I Love You” and has a fancy flower design. I could not believe that he remembered that I wanted one badly since I didn’t really remember mentioning my longing for one very often. I opened it and found that it was empty, but then was happy thinking that he could help me choose the pictures to go inside of it. And boy, were there plenty of pictures to choose from. The next package I unwrapped was just as special: a beautiful oak jewelry box where I can keep the locket safe from harm. Just tonight, before the clock struck midnight and brought 2011, we picked and filled the locket with two very special pictures.

“Let’s see if you can keep that for sixty years like your grandma has,” said Papa after I showed the locket to him on Christmas Day.

“I plan to,” I said with a determined smile (at least, I hope it looked like I was determined)!

The pictures I have placed inside of the heart-shape will remain forever. I don’t plan on ever removing them from their new home.

The next day, mom told me that for my dad’s and her first Christmas together, he got her a gold locket (the one I mentioned earlier) and a jewelry box to keep it in. What a wonderful coincidence.

Who’d Have Known?

Five months ago from the 21st of July (which was five minutes ago; I’m a little late), I had just gotten home after a trip to Disney World. My soon-to-be boyfriend was waiting at my house for me (which was a huge surprise!) with my family and was both eager and nervous to meet my three older brothers.

He’s been over nearly everyday since. He asked me to be his that night and I said yes. I have been his for five months now and the butterflies never fail to flutter whenever he’s around. I’m his princess; his baby; his girl. He spoils me completely rotten. He randomly buys me little gifts and always has a surprise for me that he’s cooking up (which my mother is always informed of but NEVER tells me). He’ll remember something I said I liked while we were out shopping and will then go back and purchase it for me (ex: The Beatles “Abbey Road” vinyl that I saw at Hot Topic and said that I wanted). His other obsession is Mrs. Fields, the cookie place. He has ordered me several giant cookies and the 21st of July was no exception. He takes me out to lunch and dinner and has taken me to the movies three times. I told you that he spoils me. But, I spoil him in return, don’t worry.

So, when I went out to the kitchen today, he and his mom were both there and there were two different food item boxes open for the world to see their contents. Inside one was a pizza. Inside the other was yet another giant heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie. The pizza had M&Ms on top (YUM!) that spelled out “THANK U 4 A” and then the cookie said “Happy 5 Months”. “THANK U 4 A Happy 5 Months.” Yeah, it took me awhile, too. But I loved it. He also bought a 12-pack of Loganberry (MY FAVORITE!) and we (as in my family and Robby) devoured the pizza and drank can after can of the sweet drink.

We’re going to be together for a long time. It just feels right. Next year at this time, I’ll be getting ready for whatever college I choose (I have three I’m serious about), but Robby and I can survive. Scratch that. We will survive.

Love, to a middle school student (and some high schoolers)

He asks her out via phone call (but it’s more likely that it was just a text). She says yes. She takes a quick break to open up Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, types in “www.facebook.com” and types in her email address (which she only has so that she can take part in social networking sites). She types in her password (the name of her teddy bear) and then clicks on her profile. She takes a minute to look at her Music interests (Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber, and OMG JUSTIN BIEBER) and then clicks “Edit”. Suddenly, she’s in a beautiful relationship with that boy that just asked “will you go out with me”? Sometimes they’re even “married” or “engaged” depending on who it is.

She waits a couple of minutes to see if any of her online friends will noticed her changed relationship status. Soon, her fellow 10-year-olds are busy saying “congradulashiens!” and “im sooooo happy 4 u 2!” and “awwwww u 2 r so cuteeeee!” Everyone is just so happy that they’re finally together.

In the hallways, they walk hand-in-hand, staring straight ahead. They don’t even look at each other and their arms are stiffly at their sides with just their hands clasped. Soon she breathes a sigh of relief as her friend comes up behind her and walks in step with them. She giggles and talks to her and ignores the boy to her left.

They get to her classroom, and he drops her hand. smiles at her and walks away.

The next day is a big one for our little lovebirds. It’s the first time ever in the history of their 2-day relationship that he’s dropped the bomb containing three little words: “I,” “Love,” and “You”. She shifts awkwardly from one foot to the other and looks him in his eyes (or tries to, anyway, his extremely long and greasy hair covers up his eyes pretty well) and says it back to him. “I love you, too,” she says. He kisses her on the cheek quickly and then walks away to make it to his English class before the bell rings.

That night, she changes her relationship status to “married” and receives more “congradulashiens!” comments upon changing it.

The next day at school, she snaps a picture of them with her camera phone (her parents finally let her get rid of her Tracfone!) and then can’t wait to get home so she can upload it on her computer and then edit it to make it say something cool in pink writing on the picture. Something like “I love you” or “E + R 4Ever”; she can’t quite decide. When she gets home, she changes her profile picture (her other one had been of she and her best friend sticking their cute little tongues out at the camera) and the “congradulashiens!” comments start up all over again.

The next day, he sends her a text that says: “u no i luv u babe, but this relashunship is ovr 4 me.”

She breaks down and cries in the bathroom and her fellow makeup-plastered friends comfort her. One of them explains to a teacher what happened. The nice lady teacher understands and lets them stay in the bathroom while she cries and smears her mascara.

Yep, sounds like love to me.

Everything

This Sunday night thing seems to be a trend for me lately. I guess it’s the thought of facing a full week of school that just scares me out of sleeping. Going to sleep means that the morning comes sooner, and what fun is that? Not much fun at all. I’m a night owl; always have been. I probably always will be.

We just this past week off from school. It didn’t really feel like a vacation to me, though. Maybe it’s because during our last vacation I was in Florida enjoying and exploring different parts of Disney World every day. My iHome blared a song to me every morning this week at 8:02 AM (because I’m weird and am not okay with waking up on a more regular number). 8:02 isn’t sleeping in for me. Sleeping in means rolling out of bed sporting a beautiful bedhead at around 11 and reaching for luncheon fixings rather than the cereal, bowl, milk and spoon. It was a beautiful week, just the same. The reason why falls onto the shoulders of one person in particular. I bet you’re sick of hearing about him. : )

There, of course, wasn’t a day where we weren’t together for at least a few hours. On a few days, we were together ALL day. To celebrate two happy months together, I surprised him with a picnic lunch that we ate in a meadow he had told me about way back when. After that, I went home. Then, I made dinner for him (everything I made was his favorite) and he showed up with a record I had told him I wanted a month ago when we were at the mall after my All-County concert. He remembered the littlest thing, and that alone made everything perfect. After supper, we went up to my room, popped the record into my record player, and got lost in conversations we had while we were in the Octopus’s Garden (the record was The Beatles’ Abbey Road, in case you didn’t recognize the hint I just gave).

Everything seems too good to be true. Everything is falling right into place. Every morning this past week, I thought about what Robby and I would do later that day and that alone made me happy. Imagine how happy I became as soon as I was in his presence and his embrace. It’s the strongest feeling of happiness I’ve ever felt wash over me all at once. It’s a beautiful thing, this happiness. I never want it to go away.

Tomorrow, I return to a school that finally noticed me for a different talent after the performance I gave the Friday before we left for vacation. But, more on that the next time I get around to writing on this thing, I promise.

Real Love

It’s the best book I’ve ever read. I feel so stupid for shoving it aside before. Every time I’m reminded of my former self that committed that stupid act, I groan outwardly. I can’t believe that I overlooked everything before.

It’s love; I’m sure of it. Don’t tell me that I’m a stupid teenager that doesn’t know what love is. I’m not that stupid. But, the truth is, I had no idea what love was until recently.

We always seem to wait to do things until they are done in the most perfect situation you could ever imagine. Seriously; everything is that perfect. Our first kiss was so incredibly special (which was over two months ago!) and I feel fuzzy whenever I think about it. The “I love yous” were no exception.

We were watching the stars. We found the constellations in the sky, then settled for the fake shooting stars darting every which way across the indigo sky. And, he said it. It left me speechless. Then I spoke. What I whispered was something I knew I really and truly meant. This is the first time I have ever felt anything this strong. I know that it must be love. Never in my life have I felt such extreme comfort for a member of the opposite sex that is not a family member. I know it’s real.

I will forever be reading this book. It’s not going back onto the shelf to gather dust any time soon.