twenty-five

Dear Al, 

On your first day of college you will think you are lost - do not panic. You are standing right in front of your dorm without even realizing it. You will never forget what that building looks like again, and, in the future, you will smile when you think back on this memory. 

Those things you sometimes tell yourself are not true - you are not who you think you are, and your personality and image will continue to change every time another layer of yourself is pulled back. It is normal to be unsure. 

You have a habit of wearing your emotions over your sweaters. 

You will think you'll never find anyone who understands you, but I am here to tell you that you will. But not without heartache - there will be days where you will feel like you are dragging your heart behind you while others watch it bounce across the pavement. Most people go through this, so just know that you're not alone. You're surrounded by people who are trying to figure the world out, too. 

You will believe you've found the best friends of your life, so you will be disappointed to find out that you lose them. It will be one of the greatest tragedies you face, because you will spend so many days pining for people who will never allow you back into their lives. You will want to wish bad things upon these people - don't. 

You will halt your healing by hardening yourself to the world. 

Which you do. Of course you do - you will carefully attempt to choose the people you let near you again, and that means you let no one near you again for far too long. 

A girl will come up to you with cupped hands full of the pieces of you that you have never seen before, but she won't put them back for you. Because no one can ever put another person back together, but she will watch you as you slide these pieces into place. You'll soon realize that these pieces fit just as well here as they did there. 

And you'll realize that the friends who understand are the ones who let you be sad around them; the ones who help you fall in love with yourself before you fall in love with them. 

You'll be timid around these new friends because you have jagged pieces. But so does everyone else. You've just been so wrapped up in thinking you were the only one that you forgot everyone has to go through the world in their own way, too. 

And, at the fresh new age of twenty-five, you will finally, finally understand that life is not perfect. You will be good at your job, but you will not be in love with it like you thought you would be. You will be far away from some of your best friends, but best friends come in all fifty states and you'll love the sweetest souls in the cubicles around you. 

You will have a boy who makes you feel like magic even though you're just you, and you will have friends who somehow know what you are saying in-between your words. 

Make sure you find more friends who write you letters, because they are out there even when you can't see them at first. Make sure you write when you are feeling like you have something to say, and don't worry about the times where you go weeks without putting more than ten words on a page. Read the books that make your soul happy - you need books more than anything. Call your friends on your way home from work. Meet them weekly for coffee and laugh so hard your face hurts.

It's okay to cry over happy endings. 

Try to keep that passion you have every morning when you get in the car, and do your best to laugh when you spill your coffee all over your loafers. 

Unfortunately, this happens quite often. 

An Open Letter to My Parents

Dear Mom and Dad, 

Last night I cried into my pillow like the child I was once to the both of you, but this time it was not over a skinned knee or a cruel classmate or a book.

I cried because sixteen years ago you gave me a gift that I will forever be grateful for. 

I want to softly remind you both that I was eight years old when I skipped into our house, tightly squeezing the blue string of the election tie I had colored in myself during art class, and quickly boasted about the man I wanted to vote for in my school's election. 

And who you both should vote for as well. 

It's hard to forget the way you looked at each other, wondering if this moment of my short little life was the moment to explain the difficulty of the world to me.

But, my God, you both opened my eyes with one question.

One question that has guided the way I live my life. 

"Why?"

"What do you mean?" I asked. 

"We want to know why you've decided to vote for this person," you said. I was so unsure of myself in this moment, and I was terrified I had disappointed you both. 

"Are you angry at me?" I asked, my heart pounding. 

"Of course not," you said. "You're allowed to vote for anyone you want."

"Well," I said, "who are you voting for?"

"We have the right to keep that to ourselves," you said. I was angry that you wouldn't tell me. "It is important to know why you are voting for someone, and it is even more important to respect who someone else is voting for."

The only explanation I could muster up to you was that my classmates had snickered at me when I mentioned the other candidate. They had said, that other guy is going to lose. I didn't want to be on the losing side.

I was eight years old, but I still remember the shame I felt for mentioning the other candidate. 

But that will never compare to the shame I felt the next day on the school bus when I realized I carried around a particular political tie because I felt pressured to do so. 

But what if I ever like the other candidate?

This moment of reflection, the first of my eight years, allowed me to now see the path you wanted for me. You wanted me to make my own decisions and make them proudly, even if they were not the decisions you would choose for me. 

You have allowed me to believe that there is inequality in this world. 

You have allowed me to see that I have a better chance of success in this country just because of my skin color and how unfair that is. 

You have allowed me to see that I am a woman and will have to fight for my right to post this online today. 

You have allowed me to question my faith, my friends, my own family so that I can become who I am supposed to be.

You have both allowed me to believe that love is love is love is love is love is love. 

And I am so sorry to you both, because I have not always respected the decisions of others. 

I was three hours away from Orlando on June 12, 2016 when forty-nine people were murdered for being alive. For being a brightness in the world. I was nine years old when I realized women were holding down their skirts as they jumped from a burning tower they were never getting out of. I was twenty-four when I fully realized how little progress our country has made.

I was twenty-four when I realized that women have been allowing one another to throw out words like trash and slut and bimbo and feminist when we should be yelling at every. single. woman. that she is intelligent and magic and tough and soft. We should be telling them to be proud of themselves. Be kind to their bodies and their minds. Be accepting of their right not to get married. Be proud of their successful marriage. See the strength in raising a child as a single mother instead of shame. 

But no one can hold us back better than ourselves.

And I want to be so, so angry at people. I want to point my fingers and fix this, and I want to explain why, why, why I believe the way I do and why other people should too. 

But, at eight years old, you taught me that I must respect the outcome of the situation that would unravel on November 8, 2016. 

He will be your president, I imagined you telling me this morning, and, whether you like it or not, he demands your respect. He will need help. He will need guidance. He does not need hate nor does your neighbor. 

Mom and dad, this country is also full of so, so many good things.

I was twenty-four when I read Antoine Leiris's "You Will Not Have My Hate". I was twenty-three when a woman announced she would run for president and when the Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. I have lived through two terms of a wonderful president. 

I am everything I am because of what you taught that eight-year-old girl. I am a woman who loves words and stories and people who love other people. I am a believer in equality. I am a believer in goodness and faith and magic. I am a woman who makes her own decisions about her body. I am a woman who has made her own decision to love and fight for people who do not have the same rights that I do. Who are afraid they will wake up one day and once again not be able to marry the person they love. Who fear for their safety in their own country. I am a woman who will allow any and every woman to use the same restroom as me; I am a woman who understands that you might not feel that same way. 

I am in love with Jesus and His love for me. I am in love with the strength of my friends today. 

I am in love with a boy who looks at me like I am both precious and fierce. 

I ask why.

I am made up of every moment that has brought me to these words.

We are made up of so much more than just ourselves. 

Your Daughter,

Alex

 

 

 

More Stories. Always More.

I’m twenty-three books into 2016. 

It's been a while since I have thrown myself into stories this way. The last time I felt the way I feel now about books was when I was fifteen and confident and proud of who I was; reading was the most important thing in my life in that quiet brush of time. Then, all of the sudden, I was eighteen and terrified to carry around the books I loved. I lost bits and pieces of myself each time someone whispered through their fingers about me. 

I remember wanting to be more than just the reader. 

I wanted to be a person people admired. A person no one would ever talk badly about. Someone who couldn't help but make people smile. 

I wanted to be popular, and I wanted to be invited more than I wanted my stories. 

I wanted to be more than a reader. 

But I am the reader. 

I look for stories everywhere I wander. I look for them in the people I surround myself with at work. I look for them in the grocery store, in the corners of the Starbucks where I meet my friend Rena on Thursdays to talk about words and characters, and in my head when I'm waiting for my own plot lines to sort themselves out. 

And I can't believe the characters I've met this year. The stories that have swept me away. The books that have made me love reality even though I prefer fantasy. 

I read Midnights by Rainbow Rowell during my Christmas vacation, and I wonder how Noel and Mags are, still. I think about them constantly, and I hope they know how loved they are. 

Vengeance Road took me over rooftops and through mountains, reminding me of how tremendous adventures can be. 

SixofCrows

 

 

I bought Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo on a whim and my entire life changed. I was tossed back to my middle school bedroom where I was obsessed with pirates and creatures and loyal friends. Loyal friends are all you can ever ask for in this life. 

 

 

 

I ended up buying two copies of A Gathering of Shadows because my preorder did not arrive on time, and I didn't want to wait any longer to see Lila and Kell and Prince Rhy. It had been a year since I had surrounded myself with them, but it felt as if they had never left my side. 

 

 

 

 

The Captive Prince trilogy thrilled every part of my skipping heart, and I want all the love stories to be as crazy passionate as this one. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I knew how When Breath Becomes Air ended before I bought it, but I still prayed and prayed and prayed that Paul would still be with me at the end. He helped me fall back in love with my days, and if there is one book you should read in your life then it must be this one. 

 

 

I held myself together all the way through A Monster Calls until Conor understands why his monster has appeared, and I realized the reason he hated himself was the same reason I hated myself before my grandmother died, and I sobbed into my shirt because of how much I miss her and want her back in my life. 

I wasn't going to read A Court of Mist and Fury because I had horrid feelings towards one of the main male characters in the previous book. I wasn't going to read this book. And then I did, and I realized that there are always going to be amazing adventure stories, fulfilling love stories, unbelievable stories of magic, but there are not always going to be stories that have all of those traits in one book.

But when you do come across one you will feel as though you're going to die after every beautiful page. 

A Court of Mist and Fury has every single thing I love about stories. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to get over how much I love Rhysand for loving Feyre enough to let her save his life. To let her grow to be this person she loves. 

The most magical thing that happened to me in the last year is realizing that not everyone gets this gift of loving stories and words the way some of us do. Not everyone feels what a reader feels when they secretly cry soft tears while devouring Neil Gaiman's Newberry acceptance speech under their desk at work.

And I'm not afraid to love all the books anymore.

I will continue to look for stories everywhere and in everyone. 

And, on the corner of the Starbucks where I meet my friend Rena on Thursdays to talk about words and characters, I will continue to wonder about the violinist who plays the same set of songs each week. Somehow he always makes me feel like I'm hearing them for the first time. 

Every time. 

Wild Creatures

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak? 

Wrapped in my purple duvet, I finished A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness this week. 

It had me captivated from the Author's Note: 

I felt-and feel-as if I've been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, "Go. Run with it. Make trouble." So that's what I tried to do. Along the way, I had only a single guideline: to write a book I think Siobhan would have liked. No other criteria could really matter.

And now it's time to hand the baton to you. Stories don't end with the writers, however many started the race. Here's what Siobhan and I had come up with. So go. Run with it. 

Make trouble.

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I think that is a lovely idea; make trouble

Make it with your mind, with your words, with your imagination. 

Mine runs wild each day. Usually when I'm sitting alone under an umbrella with a book gripped tightly between my fingers. 

But also when I'm enjoying dinner and I realize what is possible in this world. What is possible of me. 

I am a feisty pirate who cuts down the forest to find my crew, a King who just wants to save his dragon, a bird-like girl who believes there is much magic in this world and is so determined to be a part of it. 

I read and I read and I read, and I can't imagine what my life would be like without stories filling me up when I need them most. What would my life would be like without these wild creatures following me wherever I go. Stories have given me more of this world than anyone else has ever been able to. 

They have moved me through life when I worried my feet would never take steps again. 

And they have shown me that all some monsters want is to help you be brave. 

Leon for When I Love You

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"Hello, Bertie."  

"Hello, Leon."  

This is how most of my conversations start with John.  

 "Why does he call you 'Bertie'?" asks everyone who has ever seen us together. 

"Well, his sister started calling me 'Al' and then John thought it would be funny to call me 'Albert'," I say. "Then 'Bert' derived from that, and then one day I woke up to a message that said, 'Good morning little Bertie' and that was that."  

"Oh," they say, "do you like it?" 

"Yeah," I say, smiling, "because he only calls me Bertie when he's trying to tell me he loves me."  

And I know this to be true because after two years of dating and three nicknames later he told me so. 

"Oh, hello Trish," he will say. I can always tell he's smiling on the other end of the phone.  

"Stop calling me Trish."  

"Why?" 

"Because I like Bertie." 

"But I call you Bertie when I'm really in love with you."  

I click my tongue against my cheek, "Exactly."  

"But I like to save those moments," he says.  

We have been in Florida for two months now, and I have been working as a Marketing Coordinator for almost as long. I have learned that working a full-time job is exhausting. I have come to realize how much I need stories about pirates and dragons to be functional. I see now that long distance friendships are far more difficult than long distance relationships. I have realized how many words I love with all of my heart, and I have seen how fiercely protective I can get over the sentences I adore. 

I have also realized that I am someone's number one. 

And I never felt like I was anyone's first choice before.

"We love you and you sister the exact same," my parents say. 

"You're one of my best friends," my friends will say.

"I like your writing as much as I like hers."

And I realized that I've been placing myself in hidden spaces in hopes that I could slide up to the first spot on someone's list without realizing I am already there. 

"We are getting our new bedroom furniture this weekend," John said a few weeks ago. "We should probably get a new comforter."

"I want something sophisticated," I said. "Maybe just a solid color?"

"So you want boring," John said, brushing his finger down my nose. 

"Sophisticated. There's a difference." 

I pulled myself out of the car in front of Home Goods and walked to the sliding doors and directly to the back. I was surrounded by standard patterns and the ghost of my freshman dorm room comforter. I quietly slid my eyes up and down the plastic wrap that was lined against the wall. 

"Stop rushing me," I said, whispering. 

"I'm not," John said. He rocked back onto his heels before pressing the toes of the Oxford shoes he was wearing to the floor. "I'm bored."

"We just got here."

"Exactly," he said, smiling down at me. 

"There isn't anything here!" I said, throwing my hands in the air. "Can we go to the mall?" 

I ran my fingertips over the $600 plum duvet at Crate & Barrel before I decided I was angry and wanted to go home to the queen comforter on our king bed. 

"We can buy that comforter if you really like it," he said.

"No," I folded my arms across my chest, stubbornly. "I don't want it."

"Well," he said, turning into our driveway, "one day you'll write a book and you can buy that comforter if it means that much to you."

And John has been saying things like this since I first met him. He has believed in me since the day I told him I loved words and writing and stories more than I love most other things. But I have only recently gained the confidence he has always had in me. 

"Good morning, Bertie," he said, brushing my hair out of my face. I was tucked under the blankets in the spare bedroom at his parents' house.

"Let me sleep," I said, rolling over. 

"Okay," he said without moving, and I could tell he wanted to say something else.

"What?"

"Well, I probably wasn't supposed to do this," he said, shifting around nervously, "but I used the printer upstairs and I found this."

He held up the short story I had finished the night before about a girl who couldn't hear and a lanky boy who wanted to love her but couldn't figure out how. 

"Oh," I said, nervous. "I forgot I printed that out."

"I read it."

"The whole thing?"

"Yeah," he said, running his hands through his hair. "It was really good."

"Yeah?"

"Yes." And he said it like it was the truest thing in the world. 

Lately I have been talking about John less and less, and it's because I don't want to seem like I'm boasting or dependent or frail. But I'm reading Carry On by Rainbow Rowell right now, and I can't help but think back to one of my favorite sentences of hers from Fangirl:

"Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for."

Whether this statement is true for every person in the world is neither here nor there but it's true for me.

"Do you think I'm less because I love YA books?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You know," I said. "I don't like James Joyce or reading non-fiction. Sometimes I think adult fiction is bland."

"Tell me about the book you're reading," he said, sitting across from me on the bed. 

"Oh, it's fantastic!" I said, and I couldn't help how my throat caught. "It's about these magicians who are in love with each other but they don't know it. Simon just fought a dragon and Baz helped him, and I just love dragons, John. I used to be so in love with Charlie Weasley."

"I can tell."

"I love everything about this book," I said, holding back tears. "I love the way it makes me feel, and I think I'm going to be devastated when it's over. Sometimes I feel like there is no one else in the world who loves books the way I do, and occasionally I feel like I'm going to tumble into a million pieces if I don't talk to someone about them."

"There is nothing wrong with the books you love, Al," he said. "You shouldn't feel less because you love something this much." 

And you shouldn't be made to feel less if you love someone this much. 

Falling in love with John is the most courageous thing I've ever done. 

I have all this love for him inside of me just dying to get out. How could I possibly hide that from the world because someone says it makes me sound young and naive. You shouldn't be afraid to show the world how much someone means to you.

And you shouldn't be ashamed to boast about the way someone looks at you from across a room if they are looking at you under deep lashes in a dark blue suit like you're the reason the walls haven't fallen down. 

And I hope, for all those who want it, that you get to be someone's Little Bertie in this life. 

"I just want to be someone's number one," I said earlier today, whispering into the phone. 

I stood still between the bookshelves of the third floor library in my office building, running my knuckles across a frayed maroon spine 

"Bertie, don't you know you are."

And that smile again. 

We Are Moving to Florida!

August 25th was my very last day of work in Williamsburg, VA, because John and I are moving to Boca Raton, Florida! That’s right, people. 

Don’t worry, we refuse to grow up and will forever act like children. Having a home will not change us! We will definitely continue to volunteer the other to do the dishes, and I am sure John will find places to jump out and scare me every chance he gets. 

I don't even know how to fully explain how John and I got to this point; rehashing our conversations would probably make more sense:

"Al, I think we might be moving to Florida!" John said, his eyes alight with humor. 

"Wow!" I said, "I would love to move back to the beach." 

A few weeks later John was in Connecticut interviewing with a different company, and I was thrilled for him. 

"Al, we might be moving to Connecticut. I think they are going to give me the job," John said, his voice muffled through the phone. "I just heard from another company back down in Florida this afternoon, though."

"Well," I said, trying to snatch my emotions before they floated away, "that's really great about Connecticut!"

"Yeah," he said. I could tell he was doing the thing he does when he furrows his brow and sucks in his lips. "Thanks, you're actually the only person who has said that to me today."

"I think everyone was really excited about the beach," I said. 

A week after we had decided we were moving to Connecticut John got a phone call from the company in Florida. 

"Well?" I said, looking up at him in my doorway and knowing the answer that was on his face. 

"We are moving to Florida," he said, quietly smiling. 

"Oh, that's really great!" John turned to stare at me, the humor disappearing. "I'm excited," I said, my forehead creasing. "I just was also really excited about building snowmen with snow instead of sand."

"I'll take you somewhere it snows this winter," he said. I smiled with delight before jumping into his arms. 

Now I am absolutely thrilled to be able to move with my very best friend back to the ocean. I grew up on the beach, and I have been feeling extremely landlocked lately. 

In preparation for our move I have been doing all the necessary freaking out. 

What if our neighbors are serial killers? How long until we have WiFi? What will our WiFi name be; it has to be funny and password protected. Will we have enough money for groceries? Gosh, I really hope we have a lot of windows. ARE THERE BOOKSTORES NEARBY?

However, I have also been daydreaming. 

I even bought this adorable Market List notepad by Rifle Paper Co. for our fridge, and it still surprises me that little things like this make me really excited. It's adorable, right?

It also had John in hysterics:

“I think it’s hilarious that you think you’ll actually use that,” he said. 

“Well,” I said, mumbling, “I will."

“You don’t cook,” he said, raising his brow. 

“A market list isn’t just for food, John.” I said, adamantly. “And I do plan on cooking."

“I’ll believe that when I see it."

This conversation had me on a mission to find an awesome, healthy cookbook that would annoy him (see, still a child). And, thanks to Penguin Random House (you guys rock), I actually have Anna Jones’s A Modern Way to Eat now, and you can find my review of it here.

I'm secretly excited about having my own kitchen; I'm also secretly excited that John will be working in the afternoon and evenings so he won't be able to watch me embarrass myself or burn the house down. But maybe I'll want to burn the house down since he picked out the furniture.

"What kind of shower curtain should I get?" John asked. The Patriots spatula I bought him for Christmas dangled in his left hand. "Should I get a funny one?"

"I don't even know what that means," I said. 

"Like, a funny shower curtain," he said, raising his shoulders like a little boy wanting cake before dinner. 

"Just get a nice one," I said. "Maybe a dark brown one with some accents?"

"So you want me to buy the exact same one you had in Oxford?"

I looked away quickly, "Just don't get anything weird, and don't lose the receipt, please."

A few days later I received a text while on my lunch break at work. John and his dad had driven one of the cars down to Boca Raton with a few of John's personal belongings and 102 pounds of my winter clothes I had shoved in two suitcases before leaving Oxford in December. The Memphis, TN airport was gracious enough to not ask questions and had pity on my recent graduate status; I walked through security wearing the four coats I couldn't manage to fit in my bags. 

"Hey, we-you-tomorrow-" he said, his voice fading in and out. 

"Hey," I said, chewing on my sandwich, "You're breaking up."

"You need a new phone," he said.

"No, you do."

"No, I have all five bars."

I glowered at my phone; I had only one. 

"Anyway," I said, "are you going to pick out furniture?"

It's not even that I feel like we need a lot of furniture; I would rather save money for dog food and books and soap and books. I just wanted to be included in picking it out. 

"I'm going to pick out the ugliest furniture I can find," he texted the next day. 

"Of course," I said, attaching an angry-faced emoji. 

"I'm thinking bright orange," he replied. 

It's really amazing how someone can make you despise and love them all at the same time. 

 

 

(spoiler: John FaceTimed me at work so I could help pick out the furniture)

I am really excited about building sandcastles on the beach with John; I'll let you guys know how that goes over. 

My Most Favorite Places to Read

If you are a lover of stories then I'm sure you have a special place you go to devour them.

If you are like me then I'm sure that special place changes based on how much you love the book you are holding in your hands, the weather, and the genre you are reading. 

I decided to share all of my favorite reading spots with you guys this week. They are usually the background for my Instagram and Twitter posts, and maybe we will even have a few in common! 

 

James River Beach

I grew up in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and I constantly crave the ocean because of this. I spent the last five years of my life feeling landlocked in Oxford, Mississippi; I really loved the quaintness of Oxford, but I really missed the water while I was away.

James River Beach in Virginia isn't the ocean but it's still really pretty to look at! I'm lucky enough to have this view as my backyard for the time being, and when it's not 109º outside I really enjoy sitting in one the chairs pictured above and soaking my toes in the water and my eyes in the words. 

[bed]Room

Obviously this is a given, especially on a rainy day when I don't feel like leaving the house. However, I actually tend to read my most beloved books in my bedroom alone, at night. I think it it has something to do with not being bothered by things and people around me. I usually have the television on (at a very low volume) for background noise, and I shut my door so that I'm not interrupted. There is just something about being by myself in my room with my characters that makes me so happy inside. I also enjoy reading when others are not watching me or reading over my shoulder to see where I am at. 

 

coffee houses

 

Aromas [pictured above] is one of the neatest little coffee shops in Williamsburg, VA (I also adore The Daily Grind), and it's much less crowded now that summer has started and the students have meandered out of town (is this how the locals felt after I left school?). The walls are filled with precious and rich art, and I am particularly fond of the iced coffee they serve. Everything tastes like a cloud, and the brew is reasonably priced for kids like me who spend most of their money on books, unlike other coffee shops who charge $6 for a small cup (that's a paperback!). 

I love reading at Aromas when I can find the time, because it feels like a creative space. No one seems to judge the book you pull out of your purse, and the music is pretty delicious too. Plus, who doesn't love sipping on coffee while flying through a few hundred pages? 

 

patios

It's finally summer again! Not that I don't appreciate being bundled up on the couch and reading while snow flurries drop down behind me, but it really is nice to be able to read outside after six months of wearing Gore-Tex pants. 

I also don't mind reading on the golf course while John is playing; however, I'm beginning to lower my score this season, so I haven't been skipping as many rounds as I did last summer. 

Do you have any special places you read? Tell me about them in the comment section below! 

The Day I Climbed Out the Window

The spring semester of my junior year at Ole Miss brought both fear and hilarity. It was one of those years that made a fool of itself without anyone else's help. I was on the verge of turning twenty-one, and I was climbing back from the edge of a relationship that had broken my confidence into fractured pieces.  

That semester I was storing my books, hairdryer, and bed in a remarkably spacious trailer that had a mild ladybug infestation in a town that didn't believe in cell service.

I spent my Christmas break at home with my parents (who supplied me with food, water, and a hair essentials), and I decided to temporarily move in with my friend Taylor after the break. I had forgotten to bring an extra hair dryer to my new house and, since Taylor is a boy, he didn't have one I could borrow. I didn't have any girlfriends at the time (or money), so the only real option I had was to drive thirty minutes outside of town to get mine. I probably could have used the money I spent on gas to buy a new powder blue hair dryer but it was the idea of spending money on something I already had that bothered me. 

I parked my 1802 Kia Spectra behind the back porch of the trailer and was instantly surrounded by a Labrador and his twelve friends. I was used to fighting through the pack of tamed wolves to get to the back door; I wasn't used to the German Shepherd staring back at me when I walked into the kitchen. 

"Don't worry about Sadie," the homeowner had said when I called her earlier to inform her of my plan. 

"Sadie?" 

"She's our new German Shepherd!" she said. 

I crouched down to meet the puppies that rushed by her to nip and paw at my ankles, because that's what puppies do. They love you unconditionally, and they trust you undeniably. I could have been there to skin them for a fur coat and they would have danced around my legs with their tongues out, helplessly falling over each other. 

I stood up to meet Sadie's wary eyes, and I used my best "goo goo gah gah" voice while congratulating the dog for being a "good girl" and not attacking me. Did you know that telling a dog they are good will not keep them from ripping off your face? 

I ran down the paneled hallway and slammed my door in the dog's face. Through the cheap, unstable and falsely safe wood I heard the rumble from deep in her throat, daring me to escape. I felt hushed curses dive from my lips while my neck turned purple.  

I'm not sure if I was yelling at life or the dog, but I sent out one measly, never-received text to vent my frustration to Taylor: 

Scary dog. Trapped. Going to escape through the window. 

The only issue was my two hundred pound mahogany bed blocking my way to freedom.

It was February and frigid for Mississippi, and I was drenched in sweat. Partly from being out of shape but mainly from fear that I was going to be eaten alive when the dog realized she could slam her body into the door to open it and get to me. 

I hastily pulled and jerked the headboard away from the window with my laughable muscles while cursing at God, my parents, and myself for somehow letting this happen. And then I pulled out my phone to film the entire event. When I did find new friends I wanted them to believe me when I told them about this story. They were going to believe me, dammit. 

I managed to tug my bed far enough away from the window to slide through and push open the glass. And I quickly found that my escape plan didn't leave room for a nylon screen blocking me from the outside world. 

Three thoughts crossed my mind:

1. I HATE German Shepherds. Particularly this one. 

2. I cannot cut through their window! 

3. I am cutting through their window. 

I contemplated my tools: a bobby pin, necklace, and car keys, and then I decided the keys were really the only sane option. If the police were going to find my body then I wanted them to at least have some sort of idea as to what I was doing. I didn't want to look like a psychopath gripping onto a bobby pin. 

I'm sure I looked like a prisoner attempting to escape Alcatraz with a fingernail file, because I sawed and hacked at that screen like I was on death row. I hate to admit the small amount of giddiness that filled me, because I have always followed the rules. I never litter, I try always to say 'please' and 'thank you', I never cheat on tests, and I don't speed. It was nice to be rebellious; I was breaking out. And then, when I could, I punched the screen with my fist and it fluttered to the ground below me and landed on the rosebush right below the sill. The plant couldn't have been more scripted, and neither could the growls from the other side of the door. 

I prepared myself to jump but not before I chucked my mint green hair dryer out the window where it broke into three fixable pieces. I landed in the rosebush quickly after, but I firmly believe it was a mild inconvenience compared to what it probably feels like to have your ears yanked off by a dog. I sent one text to the owner of the dog and the house: 

Tried to eat me. Cut through your window screen. Sorry.

I yanked open my car door, and I shoved myself inside after I scrambled up from the ground.

With dirt road flying behind me and my hair dryer riding shotgun I realized I was going to be just fine that semester. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight Literary Quotes You Might Fall in Love with

I love words, and when you love words you end up loving sentences. Sometimes I find myself desperately searching  Pinterest  for a group of words that make me feel something. Sometimes I read a book and words just jump up and grab at my throat like these. Then I read lists on Facebook that contain "literary" quotes; however, they never are what I'm expecting them to be. They never make me feel what I think I'm going to feel, so here are eight quotes that made me sick with smiling:

1. From Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

"Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that is it inconceivable that you should ever part. Because that is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being "in love", which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident." 

2. From Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

"Each time you happen to me all over again."

3. By Keaton Henson

“If you must die, sweetheart, die knowing your life was my life’s best part.” 

4. From Autobiography by Morrissey

"It was probably nothing but it felt like the world." 

5. From The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"You're beautiful, but you're empty. One couldn't die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she's the one I've watered. Since she's the one I put under glass, since she's the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she's the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she's the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she's my rose."

5. From The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"You are the drawing of the boa constrictor eating an elephant. Misunderstood and forgotten, you have great truths within you if only anyone would bother to look." 

6. From Coraline by Neil Gaiman

"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."

7. By F. Scott Fitzgerald

"You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known—and even that is an understatement." 

8. From Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

"Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”

Diplomas Smell Like Freshman Year

I ripped open the envelope that contained my college diploma this week, and I was surprised at what I felt when I held it in my hand. I felt old, obviously. And I felt so proud of myself, and I know everyone goes to college these days; however, I still couldn't stop the smile that formed. 

And then I spent the remainder of the night thinking about my freshman year and how I never thought I would survive. 

I was thrilled when I got accepted into the University of Mississippi. I thought it would be different than high school, because in high school I felt like I was invisible. I was the reader. I was the teacher's pet. I was every bad connotation for 'good girl'. I loved Harry Potter and love stories and making good grades. But I always wanted to be invited to hang out with the 'popular' kids. I would pretend I didn't care, but I wanted so badly to be cool and fun and to hang out with cute boys. I wanted to be noticed. 

August 2010. I packed up my car and drove to Oxford, MS with my mom and a friend, and when I got there I was petrified. I had no idea how college worked. There was no manual for this; it was nothing like the movies. I had to share a bathroom with thirty other girls. I couldn't do it. I thought I couldn't do it. My bed was just so high off the ground. 

My mom and I went to dinner the first night, and when our waiter asked what I wanted to drink I just fell apart. I told him my bed was too high, and he crouched down, told me not to cry, and explained how to lower it. 

My mom said I could come home; she said I could wait to go to school. I didn't have to leave her and my dad yet. However, I've always been so stubborn. I don't quit unless it's the last option, so I stayed. I cried all the time, and I drove six hours home every weekend. I had to shower with thirty other girls, with flip-flops on. It took everything I had left to make friends of my own. 

And I did end up becoming 'popular'. I was the 'girl-who-didn't-drink-but-hung-out-at-parties'. I was the DD. I was the girl who picked people up at 4:00 a.m. I was the 'she's-pretty-but-won't-do-more-than-kiss' girl. 

I got what I never had in high school; I got invited. And I found the real friends too late. I sacrificed the real friends for the 'cool' friends. It took everything I had to not quit when I had to live on a couch for six months. It took everything I had to get dressed and face my ex-boyfriend around campus. To face my ex-friends who couldn't even look me in the eye when they saw me. To remind myself that my ex broke up with me because of my mom and dad's financial issues. To figure out that I only dated him because I was so, so lonely. Because my friends sucked. Because they broke up with me because of money issues. To go to Young Life and not talk, because I didn't want anyone to know about me not being able to pay for my apartment. To not cry every time Teri hugged me after we prayed. To not tell my new friends my secrets. To not cry when they didn't care about my past and loved me anyway, and to not cry when they took my side and told me they would never let anything bad happen to me again. 

And I tell people that the chain of events in my life is the best chain of events, because had I had a car my junior year then I would have been able to tutor and pay for my apartment. And I would have continued hating my friends for being snotty. I wouldn't have been brave enough to move away from them on my own. I would have never gone to Young Life. I would have never met Teri or Alison or Caitlin or Shelby. I would have never met Taylor. I would have never known how loved I am. I would have kept hanging around materialistic people.  If my mom and dad hadn't gone through financial issues at the time, they wouldn't have moved to Virginia. I wouldn't have met John. No one would have ever called me 'Bertie'. 

And life is so hard. It's even harder when you're trying to be someone you're not. Life is so much better when you just realize that you love writing love stories and when you realize that you love having friends to watch bad movies with more than you like picking up drunk friends and when you find a boy who will wait for marriage instead of trying to force you to do things you don't want to do. 

And all the things I never thought I would get through are in the past. They are written down in a journal to remind me that I can get through the days that suck. It's amazing what we can do when we wake up each day and go to sleep each night. And the days kept going; the world didn't pause for me nor should it have. And thank God, because I wouldn't love such a wonderful group of girls in Oxford, MS today if it had. I wouldn't be able to handle bad news or get over lost friendships. I wouldn't be as happy as I am today, and that's worth all the bad. 

 

"I promise I shall never give up, and that I'll die yelling and laughing." 

Jack Kerouc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction Is like Your Childhood Imaginary Friend

When I was in high school I had a nice handful of wonderfully beautiful friends. We always had fun together, and we always laughed at the same jokes. But they always asked me to go see movies or go to a school function or go to a slumber party with them, and all I ever wanted to do was read. 

I would be in the middle of a sword fight between two pirates when my phone would ring. I would either have to go hang out with the person on the other line or tell them I was reading. I usually chose the latter. 

The first book I remember reading on my own was P.D. Eastman's Go, Dog. Go! It was my baby sister's favorite book, and I read it to her every night before we went to sleep. I started reading C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain and J.K. Rowling in fourth grade, but I never really loved reading until a few years later when I was a teenager and found Kenneth Oppel's AirbornAnd I can't say enough about the writing in this book and the characters and the plot and the adventure. I can't explain how much I love Matt Cruse and the Aurora and the cloud cats. I can't explain how sucked in I felt. It was the first book I never put down; it was the first book that wasn't nearly long enough. 

I can't remember when reading tests began, but I know we all dreaded them. Sometimes I would even contemplate scoring low on purpose so I wouldn't have to read as many books throughout the year; however, I always felt like I was lying by doing that. My reading points felt unobtainable, and I started checking out the biggest books I could find in the library to quickly reach my goals. Reading became a job more than it was fun, and I hated that feeling. I hated having to pick books by their reading level sticker. I wasn't allowed to read what I wanted.

And this is a huge problem, because reading has the potential to change lives. I know that sounds dramatic and silly, but reading has so much to offer children and young adults and adults. And reading for young adults is so, so important, because when you're a young adult you feel like the world is against you. It doesn't matter if you're popular or not, a musician or in the school band, a writer or a dancer. The best thing you can do for someone who is hurting is show them they aren't the only one. There are other people who love them, other people who have been through what they have been through and survived. 

I love reading fiction, because fiction allows you to have an endless amount of imaginary friends. You can never really feel alone when you find a perfect book. I've been so many places through reading. I've met so many characters who feel real. I love pirates and love stories and mysteries and plays. I love what reading can teach me, and I love how I feel when I buy a book. I love the escape. The only part I hate about reading is not reading. 

A year ago I wrote Kenneth Oppel to thank him for giving me one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given. I needed him to know that my life was affected by his words; he needed to know I loved reading because of him. I never imagined I would get a reply:

Dear Alexandria,

Thank you so much for your letter. I’ve received many letters over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever had one as passionate and heartfelt as yours. I’m very flattered that Airborn was such a powerful experience in your reading life. I remember what it was like to read a book that swept me up totally, and it makes me very happy to think I’ve been able to give that experience to someone else. Airborn is a particular favourite of my own books, and thinking of Matt and Kate kept me happily occupied for many, many months, as I wrote the trilogy. So I’m very glad some of that happiness transmitted itself through the pages to my readers.

Keep reading!

All best wishes,
Kenneth Oppel

I think I've always been chasing and searching for another book that made me feel like Airborn did; however, I don't know if you can ever get over your first favorite book. I think I'll spend the rest of my life trying to, and it will be the greatest adventure. 

 

 

Disguising a No with a Lie

I pretend to be a badass; however, people are my weakness. I don't know what it is about the word 'no' that freaks me out, but I'm sure it has to do with a fear of being disliked, and as much as I hate to admit that I care about what people think of me, I do. 

I know I'm not the only person in the world who feels this way, and I also know I'm not the only person who has come up with a scapegoat for saying "nah" while attempting to look like a good person. 

Usually my conversations with people go something like this:

Random Annoying Person: Hey, Alex, can I have some gum? 

Annoyed Me: *shoves all gum in mouth* Oh, I'm so sorry. You should have asked me before I put the whole pack in my mouth. 

Or:

Random Annoying Person: Hey! Do you want to come move around with me?

Annoyed Me: Well, see, I have this infection. 

Oblivious Annoying Person: Really? You looked fine earlier.

Lying Scumbag Me: It's actually in my armpit? Real gross. 

Concerned Friend: Do you need a ride to the Doctor? That sounds awful! 

Scumbag Me: Yeah, it's pretty serious, but I'm going alone. I'll meet up with you next time! 

Or, and this is my favorite one:

Nice Person: Hey, want to make an easy million dollars?

Lazy Me: Oh, gosh, yeah I would, but I can't. See, I have to take my car to get serviced.

Nice Person: You don't have a car.

Lazy Me: Right, I'm going to take someone's car to get serviced for them. 

Super Nice Person: Well, do you want to meet after? I can pick you up!  

Super Lazy Me: No, I can't ask that of you. I'm just going to have to take a raincheck, but thanks. I'm just going to be worthless all day on the couch and then complain about how I have no money. 

But, see, the end of these conversations always end with me saying "Of course I will" or "I would love to" or "See you there!" After all, I'm going to do what I need to do. It feels like something is wrong with me, because there are so many people in the world that can say no but I just power through, and I somehow find a way to make it work. I see that being selfish isn't really a good thing for me, and I understand that sometimes I have to help others. I have to be available for my friends even when I'm on page 345 of 347 of the best book in the world. I understand that I might not start my life with my dream job, and I'm going to have to work my way up. But maybe it will make me appreciate the finish line, and maybe it will fuel my drive or make me a better person, so it really can't be bad if I'm getting all these good qualities out of the deal. 

 

Have you ever disguised a no with a lie? Tell me about it in the comments section below. 

New Years Eve Sounds like Popcorn

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2015 just began, and people are all over their social media platforms exclaiming how much weight they plan on losing, how much better this year will be from last and how much they learned from 2014, and I commend these people for making these goals and posting brave statements on Facebook; however, I feel like we should be learning every year, and each year should be better than the last. I guess we should all be healthy too, but I really just love donuts and ice cream too much to care about that. I've only set two goals for myself this year:

1. Read 50 books for Goodread's Reading Challenge

2. Believe I'm good enough

I am not going to plan to blog more, because if I did that then I would make blogging a job, and I've only kept up with this blog because it's fun. It's so freeing to not be afraid of letting people get to know me (I'm über shy in person), and it's so fun to see people enjoying my writing. I'm not going to plan to save up a certain amount of money, because as long as the bills are paid we are allowed to enjoy our lives. I'm not going to plan to stop drinking soda because that's just ridiculous; I love soda, and maybe I'll change my mind if I get a kidney stone. I'm going to run, but I'm running for my mental health and not to lose weight. I don't want to get on the scale and be disappointed that I haven't lost those ten pounds yet. And why do I need to lose ten pounds anyway? I'm going to write for myself, and I'm not going to worry that I haven't started that New York Times Bestseller yet, because I'm twenty-two years old.

I'm going to read. I'm going to read because I used to read every. single. day; it's the reason I studied English Literature throughout college. I'm going to read because it makes me happy. I'm going to read because I need to read.

I'm not reaching for intangible goals here, because I've tried that. I'm lazy, and I'm forgetful, and I will hate myself if I resolve to start cooking this year, and then I will forget I said I would.

John has always suggested that I look at myself in the mirror each morning and say, "You are beautiful, and you are worthy." I went into his room this morning after I woke up, and I was sad. I was sad, and I had only been awake for ten minutes. I'm stressed about not having a job. I'm stressed about not having my own place to live until he graduates. I'm upset about not having my dog with me. I'm angry about events I have no control over.

And I'm pretty sure this isn't how life is meant to be lived. I'm pretty sure I'm just supposed to roll with it. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to enjoy the idea that John asked me out on our first date a year ago today instead of being flustered that I'm basically a potato. Because that memory of our first date makes me smile when I'm feeling lousy and unworthy. Eating gummy dinosaurs and laughing at all the sprouts in my sandwich will always make me happier than a six-figure salary. His smile makes me feel like his ever-so-reliable sidekick. He makes me feel like I can do anything, and if he believes I can then shouldn't I too? Shouldn't I know that I'm good enough? But it's hard when you've been so difficult on yourself for so long. It's even harder when you've had these dreams in your head for after you graduate for so long that go like this:

1. When I graduate I'm going to be famous.

2. When I go to Fresh Market today an agent will come up to me and I will be famous!

3. That person is my friend + they are famous = I am famous?

4. Food for dayzzzzz

5. Wow, I'm going to be famous!

And then you graduate, and you are a potato. You're no one to these companies that you are applying at. You tutored all year for $8.50 an hour and your baby sister is selling purses for $13.00/hr. You're just this little floppy fish, and Facebook tells you that you are behind. It tells you that everyone around you is exceeding. They are working for the New York Effing Times, and you are applying at Sonic and you can't even effing roller skate.

And I'm not going to allow myself to be so hard on me any longer, because I get to sleep until ten each day for a little while longer. I get to enjoy reading a book. I get to enjoy being a potato. And I get to realize how mean I've been to me. I am good, and I am good enough. Everyone is. I'm going to look at myself in the morning and love myself, and I don't think it's going to be easy at all, but I think it's going to make me feel better than fame, fortune or an unreachable resolution ever could.

****** WARMEST OF WISHES IN YOUR NEW ENDEAVORS******

Little Boxes Prove That You Are Loved

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A few months ago John asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I told him that I wanted something I could wear each day from him. I'm sure there are plenty of beautiful boys out there who can take that statement and venture into the wild world of women's jewelry and purchase a stunning token to show their love; however, my beautiful boy is not one of those. Together, during a FaceTime session, I helped John pick my Christmas present. Now, I've never really had a guy get me a Christmas present. My last boyfriend gave me a blanket, and he only gave it to me because his sister had an extra one. Romance.

I pointed John in the direction of a perfect little Etsy shop, which was extremely difficult, because I'm dating an ex-baseball player who has absolutely no idea how to work Etsy. I think he said something like, "Bertie, this store has over 10,000 items. How will I find the one you want?" And I said something like, "Second row, first necklace on the right."

It was pretty simple after that; however, I was particular about what I wanted engraved on the necklace and what I didn't want engraved, but I didn't tell him that because I knew he wanted to have a little secrecy in the gift. He pretended to not want to buy it for me, and for weeks he acted as if he didn't get it. When I flew into town I sniffed around his room for my gift, but I never could find it.

On Christmas Eve he pulled a little box out of his pocket, and I was so excited that I ripped off the packaging. And I cried. Because John isn't a sappy person, and when he says something he means it. He doesn't constantly flatter me, and it's one thing I appreciate about him, and it's one part of him that drives me crazy, so it was never even a thought that he would have had it engraved with something so magical:

"YOU ARE LOVED"

 

And when you see that staring back at you, from a boy that looks at you like you're the best thing since his Boxer puppy, you believe it. And it's not the fact that he's saying it to you, but it's the fact that you actually know that you are sincerely loved. And most of us have been loved our entire lives but by people who are supposed to love us. I don't think you really know what it is until someone who doesn't have to love you does. Someone who doesn't have to put up with your foul mood or your smelly breath or your road rage. So I cried because I couldn't believe that he would allow himself to be vulnerable for me. Because I couldn't believe that he came up with something so special on his own. And because what I wanted it to say was so silly compared to what John needed to say.

Hiccups Are like Friendships

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I am officially an Ole Miss Alumnae as of this week, and I'm jobless, but last night I went to the Square to celebrate graduating with my roommate. We've known each other for a few years, and most of the time he is a dick, but during the moments that he is nice to me I realize why he's one of my best friends. Taylor is honest, and he's one of those people who you are glad you have around when you're about to walk out of the house wearing a hippie headband, because he will tell you that you look like an idiot.

Once I have a drink I start giggling, and once I start giggling I get the hiccups, and once I get the hiccups people start making fun of me, and there was no exception to this rule last night. And I started thinking, since I'm currently sitting in an airport waiting to check-in to my flight, that friendships are like hiccups; they come and go.

I've written about expecting too much out of my friendships before, and I expect my friends to put forth as much energy keeping up with me as I do with them, and the moment I feel like there is no effort being put in I walk away. And Taylor is a slight exception to this rule, because when we first met I always had to keep up with him, and I hated it, but I loved him so much that I didn't want to lose his friendship. I'm not sure what changed the summer after that because then it was him trying to keep up with me. It was my first summer with John, and I couldn't have cared less about talking with Taylor, but he just kept calling me and annoying me. He's one of the few people who reached out to me last summer.

I don't believe any relationship can last when texting is involved, and I don't believe any relationship can last if one person cares more than the other. I think I  just lost one of my really good friends, and I'm starting to wonder if we were ever really friends in the first place or if he just wanted to be near someone until he found a girl to date. And that's okay, because I didn't keep up with him as much as I should have last summer, but I did try, and he's not trying to keep up with me.

I just said 'goodbye' to one of my best girl friends, Caitlin, but she left me with a three page letter, a devotional, and a picture of us. I can't imagine not having her friendship in my life, and I can tell that we will forever keep in contact, because we both know what it's like to not have friends and to lose them. We know what it's like to care about people more than they care about us. That's my weakness; I care about people more than I should sometimes, and I get my heart broken when they leave me.

So, I won't miss Ole Miss or Oxford, and I don't think I'll miss school or my home for the past five years, but I'll miss the hiccups and the giggles, and I'll miss seeing everyone face-to-face. I'll miss calling up my friends to get a milkshake and waffle fries. I'll miss laughing with Taylor about how lazy we are. I'll miss talking to Caitlin about boys. I'll miss Alison's singing. I'll miss Teri's soothing voice. I'll miss calling Taylor a dick to his face, because it feels better to say it when I can see him. And I'll miss chocolate chip pancakes for dinner. These are the things I'll miss most about school; I'll miss the giggles, and I feel like if that's what I miss the most then my education was worth $40,000.

Because these people are so special, and these memories are worth every day I woke up without coffee.

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