Friday, April 18, 2014

today.




When I was sixteen, I sat with my arms wrapped around my knees in a field in upstate New York. I sat beneath the stars and the night sky and beside my little sister, and I felt something shift inside of me. I felt this pull, this question, this curious moment of, “This. This is what I’ve been looking for, forever.”
I heard about a God that created the universe and it stole my breath away. I cried, I told Jesus I believed in Him, and I became “saved.”
Saved. A word that now makes me cringe, that makes me quirk an eyebrow and think, what?
My journey as a Christian has been a bumpy, confused, scary, amazing one. I, along with many others, am wary of the term “Christian.” It’s a word I keep at a distance, balancing on my hand far away, one that I peek at through the slits of my fingers, clenched fists and shame. 
I am a believer in Christ, but the term Christian scares me. Which is why I know to let that go, and to focus my eyes on Jesus Christ and what that means to me. 
And on this Good Friday, I reflect on the miracle that is Jesus, and how He has changed my life.
I will stand for Jesus all the days of my life - I will wake up every day and try to love people the way He loved. I will question and learn and pursue a life with the Lord.
Living in Los Angeles has been the most amazing thing for my relationship with God, because it has taught me that things aren’t black and white. That this Christian culture that I was first introduced to IS NOT the foundation of my life - rather God’s love is.
Jesus Christ died because of love. That is the most beautiful thing I can ever imagine. Even writing this it makes my heart clench and draws me to my knees. He hung on a cross because of the fact that he desperately loved. I can’t even fathom that.
Jesus loves me when I curse, when I get angry, when I am impatient. He loves me when I’m not good at loving Him, when I’m not good at loving my friends and family, He loves and loves and loves.
Somewhere along the line, Christianity got jumbled up with judgement and rules and hate and this love seeped into the cracks and was just a side note. I’m not a theologian, but I know that Jesus was radical and wild and amazing. And that’s how I want to live my life. That’s really all I can do, is everyday try and be a little closer to him.
When it’s hard to pray, when it’s hard to open up a bible, when it’s hard to go to church, I remember the foundation of it all. That love. That’s all I want to remember and that’s what is so important. I want to remember that not just on Good Friday, but on a random Monday, on a Thursday, on a late night and early morning, every day of my life.
I am thankful.

Monday, March 17, 2014

four years


Four years ago I stood in Disneyland during my college Spring Break and got the worst phone call of my life. My mom kept saying, “Don’t freak out, don’t freak out” and I immediately thought I was in trouble, or messed up somehow, or someone was angry with me. 
The words she then said didn’t exactly register immediately, you know? Like, especially when you’re standing in Disneyland with your friends - it’s a striking contrast to the news you’re getting. The news that your 18 year old cousin took his own life. 
God. 
I remember crumbling to the ground saying, “No” repeatedly and sobbing. Families looked at me disturbed because I was interrupting their Disney day, and the friends I was with looked confused and shocked. 
Everything was a blur until my sister (who, at the time, was attending college in California) and I flew home the next day to be with our families. 
Suicide is this bizarre, freaky thing that exists and destroys families. My cousin taking his life was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. Especially because I’m from an extremely tight-knit Italian/Puerto Rican family. We all live within 10 minutes of one another and I saw my cousin often. I grew up with him, spent holidays and birthdays and random summer pool days with him - there are memories linked specifically to him, home videos where he’s walking around and you want to just reach through the television and hold him and say “Hey. Hey, please don’t.”
You sit with family and sift through picture after picture - these moments instantly captured that are preserved for years. You trace them with your fingers, looking into the eyes of a person who isn't breathing anymore. They are no longer on the Earth and that's what makes my eyes burn more than anything - how, how can that be? One day they are within reach and the next you can't talk to them.
He left a little brother and a mom and dad and a family and friends and this world. It just sucks because you want to talk about it - you want to know what went through his mind, you want to know why why why and you can’t so you’re left just standing there feeling this deep hole in your chest.
I miss Dominic so much and sometimes it hits me in the strangest way - it’ll hit me just at night and I can’t sleep and I’ll think about him. Grief is strange. 
It’s hard because right now sadness & depression & other things that aren’t fun to talk about are belittled. It’s cool to not have emotions and it’s cool to not talk about real things. But I don’t know, maybe we SHOULD be talking about it. 
I hate today because I miss Dom but also today reminds me to just LOVE everyone I know. LOVE them and let them know and just not care if they don’t want to hear it or deal with it. Life SERIOUSLY IS SO FLEETING AND PRECIOUS. Like, do we all understand that?? Because once we DO understand that we can live freely. We can let go of these stupid anxieties we have about mindless bull and realize HEY! This is the life we have, it is a gift, so can we please do something with it?
You know. 

My faith in God is complicated. Some days I feel it so strongly and others I want to hide and not deal with it and I push it away, farther and farther until it feels like it's not there at all. 

But I know God exists the way I know that I can feel the wind, taste the salt in the ocean air, the way I can hold someone's hand or stay rooted in a hug that is the most comforting thing in the world. Faith is messy and scary and confusing but I will never doubt that God exists. 

So, God. I know lately I haven't been the praying kind. I know I mess up and am selfish and sometimes think too much about me. But I'm asking you to hold my aunt and uncle and Paul so tight - I'm asking you to ease their grief and ease all of our grief. And I don't care if that's a pointless prayer because this pain is so deep - I'm still gonna pray it anyway.



miss you forever, though


Thursday, February 13, 2014

why 'Aliens' made me cry, like, 5 times



Last Friday I saw the 1986 film, ‘Aliens,’ for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew I was probably going to jump, yell, maybe want to throw up a little. I knew it was a thriller and I knew it was a cult classic but I didn’t expect to be so moved I would tear up.
This is why I loved this movie so so much. And it might be cliche to talk about, but whatever - I loved it because of the simple, obvious fact that the women in this movie were so BADASS. Sigourney freakin' Weaver, man. Like, there really aren’t any words. From the second she is on the screen you can literally FEEL her commanding presence. Never once is she an object — even when she’s just in her underwear. Those aren’t moments of sexuality but of reality and by that point you are so invested in her character you don’t care that she has an amazing body, you just want to see her safe. Also Vasquez. Keeping her shit together while everyone around her freaks out. She never once exhibits fear and fights until the very end. That’s a woman I admire.
There was also a lack of romance and a clear picture of the cowardice of man (even though Bill Paxton is one of my favorite parts of this film). While there WERE heroic men in this film (Bishop, Hicks) no one holds a candle to the badassery of Ripley. The sheer will that woman had and how she never, not ONCE, backed down from what she firmly believed in. I loved that so hard. I’m not a movie critic and my words aren’t eloquent but I just NEED to write about how important this film was to me.
Another thing I loved? The maternal aspect of the film. The fact that Ripley morphed into this mother for Newt. I loved this because it was like Ripley was having her cake and eating it too. There’s this age-old stigma in our culture that if you’re a badass, you can’t be a mother either. Like you can either 1. Kick an alien’s ass or 2. Stay at home with babies and root for your husband to kick ass. It’s rare to find a film that meshes the two so flawlessly.
Ripley’s maternal instinct wasn’t her weakness….on the contrary, it proved her strength and made her, without a doubt, the hero of the film. GOD I loved this. So, so much. Because it spoke volumes. Like, “Hey. HEY. You can be strong, opinionated, intellegient. AND you can be a mom too. AND oh my GOD get this — you can actually WANT to be a mom! That’s okay!”
That was so important to me. For so long I was actually ashamed of this desire I have in me to one day have a family and be a mother. I think it might have to do with going to college in New York City where everyone is very career-minded and then moving to Los Angeles where it’s the same. I’m 24 and saying aloud that sure, yes, one day I’d like to be a mom seems kind of scandalous. Just because that is something I want, one day, doesn’t mean it’s the only desire I have inside of me. 
I love Ripley because she just exists as this person - this human - whose identity isn’t wrapped up in motherhood or a career - she is just a person. A human who is fighting for what she believes in and swallows her fear and just GOES FOR IT.
Also she has a cat and that might be the most important thing of it all.








Monday, February 10, 2014

half a pound of horse head meat, please



The scene is clear in all of our minds, yeah? We're sitting in our post-grad glory, a cup of coffee on the bedside table. Our hair is lightly tousled, we're in an over-sized flannel in some simplistic yet just the right amount of lived-in New York City apartment. There's an old record's music floating around the place (where did we get this record player? that's not important) and we're 'writing' and we count this as 'working.' 

And then it happens - we get the email...that beautiful, wild email that says something like:

"Dear _____,

Thank you for your application to your dream job! Guess what? YOU GOT IT! Say goodbye to those student loans cuz you're gonna make it, baby!"

We tear up a little and we feel like we're in some kind of film montage - we light up a cigarette (when did we start smoking? that's not important) and we go out to the fire escape and our hair dances around our face. A stray cat (which isn't dirty) looks at us and we pet it and we smile and think, "Damn."

We celebrate that evening in the East Village with drinks with our friends and we treat everyone because that paycheck is going to be nice. And everything is okay. It's all going to be okay.

* * *

I was certain this is what my life would be after college and it was perhaps the exact opposite. I graduated NYU with a degree, a massive amount of debt, and zero plans of the future. In my last semester I had planned to move to Ireland (spoiler, it didn't work out), go to grad school, and turn into Amy Adams in Leap Year or something. That plan fell away, and I found myself in December of 2010 packing up my NYC apartment and moving back to the suburbs of Philadelphia to live at home.

This wasn't supposed to happen to me. I mean, I heard it happen to other people all the time -- moving home after college, living in their parent's basements or whatever -- but I was different, right? No, I wasn't, and I moved home and gained ten pounds and spent the hours applying to grad school and hanging out with my blind and old cat. 

Months past and I realized I had to do something. I was making no money, living in my high school bedroom, and I was growing more and more miserable everyday. It's pathetic, really. I should have been happy and grateful and eventually I got there -- but that immediate shock of "Oh my gosh. I'm not in school anymore. I'm supposed to be an adult. And I'm not. And I'm alone and I miss my friends and WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?" That shock lasted awhile until my mom finally looked at me and said the dreaded words we all hate to hear - 

"You need a job."

So after several months of bumming it I finally swallowed what tiny ounce of pride I had left and applied for a job.

At a deli.

Where my baby sister worked.

I got the job pretty quickly and was the only girl that worked behind the deli counter. I've worked since I was thirteen and working doesn't scare me but this job terrified me. My co-workers were rough men, I had never used a meat slicer in my life, and I'm already an anxious person. But around this time was when my college roommate and I decided at the end of the summer we were going to move to Los Angeles. We bought one-way tickets and thought, "YUP. What the hell, we're going to move across the country with no plan, no anything and try to make a life."

This little beacon of hope - this light was what helped me be at peace with the fact that my seventeen year old sister was training me at a job. 

What I learned working at 320 Market was that pride is dangerous and you really have to be careful with it. I never would have expected that I would truly fall in love with that job. I loved my time there (I also hated it at times) but overall it was really a great job. I never stopped humiliating myself there, like the one time this lady asked me for Boar's Head meat and I thought she said "horse head" so I announced to the guys behind the counter, "Can I have half a pound of horse head meat, please?" Why didn't I realize how sick it would be if we provided customers with horse head meat?

But I learned a lot. I learned to not cry when I sliced open my thumb so bad I almost threw up. I learned to stand up for myself when the guys tried to make me blush or say crude things. I learned that no one has their shit figured out and that's fine, to be honest.

And when I finally put in my two weeks notice and began packing for LA, I really felt grateful. I carried that with me to LA and I've learned that work is work and you should never be embarrassed if you don't have this idealized "dream job." Because even when we get this "dream job" we're still going to want something else, something bigger. Something better. There will always be this constant want want want. So instead of constantly stressing myself out that I'm not doing as well as other people my age, I just have to remind myself of how lucky I am. I need to practice being grateful because it doesn't come naturally and this moment isn't going to last. We aren't promised tomorrow so why do I freak myself out so badly? It's just pointless.

If I had never taken that job, if I had let my pride swallow me, I would never have made enough money to move out here and I never would have the most amazing friends, an incredible job and I never would have experienced this. I mean, maybe I would have....I don't know. But I love the way I got here and I never want to discredit it. 

Even if it meant having everyone laugh at me for an hour straight because I thought it was normal to serve horse head meat at a deli.

Ya learn, ya know.

* * *






Monday, February 3, 2014

feeling lonely at 13 mattered, ok?



In so many ways loneliness is really, really important.

I was recently flipping through an old journal of mine from when I was thirteen. It is both so sad and so funny and I love reading it because it helps me appreciate where I am right now and how thankful I am that I never, ever, ever, EVER have to go back to middle school. At one point in my journal I write that my sister Rebecca has two of her friends over and I felt "so lonely." 

I had friends growing up and I'm definitely an extrovert. I love parties and people and being the center of attention (definitely to a fault). But I remember this loneliness, this real feeling of "I don't know if I have anyone." Even as young as thirteen we feel these things, right? Loneliness is perhaps the most common human condition, right? Because it's not just like, a feeling or emotion. It's this state we are in. Because we can be around tons of people, we can be in a city with hundreds of bodies all around us and still feel really, truly alone.

But it's important to be alone. And it's important in those moments of loneliness to know that "Okay. This is where I am right now. I'm lonely. But I'm okay." 

I used to fear loneliness. I don't anymore, to be honest. I used to fear loneliness because I was really just afraid to be by myself. I didn't want to have that moment where I'm forced to look at that the person I was because for so long I hated the person I was. But now, with each year that passes, each moment, I'm learning to love myself and accept myself. I'm learning to understand that I'm not always going to be happy and I'm not always going to be okay. But that in and of itself is fine and it's life or whatever.

So now if I feel loneliness, I know it doesn't necessarily mean I'm actually alone. I think it's good to feel it and not immediately shut it out with distractions. I want to feel it and then just let go of it and know like, it's going to be okay. 

It's funny reading that part of my journal now because at this particular moment in my life, I really don't feel very alone. I have amazing friends, a family that lets me know they love me every single day, and I'm....oh my GAWD, dare I say it....happy? Did I just jinx myself? Whatever. Whatever. 

But I know I will feel loneliness again, one day, because that's life and that's what happens. I guess I don't know what I'm trying to say with this blog other than I think it's okay to feel lonely sometimes. I don't think that's wrong at all. I think it's okay and I think it's important, because it helps us appreciate the not-lonely moments a little more. 

Ya know?