206.6 Miles

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I had a lot of hopes while entering 2016. A lot of high hopes that I rested way too much of my happiness upon. I had recently left my previous job after almost five and a half years there and was eagerly awaiting pursuing other opportunities. Opportunities that would afford me the kind of work I wanted to do, the kind of freedom to enjoy life in a certain way I wanted to, and to enjoy a level of happiness I hadn’t felt in a long time. This year ended up being drastically different than what I was expecting it to be. So, here’s my story and it’s super long and I’m being really dramatic through the whole thing but I don’t care. Regardless, I hope you enjoy what I have to say. If you’re reading this, you likely had a part of some kind in making this year what it was to me. Enjoy!

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In the middle of January, I made a trip out to Albuquerque to see a singer/comedian/podcaster/all-around awesome guy, Jamie Kilstein, perform. He had a show set in Denver but I guess some issues came up so he had to cancel and, knowing he still had a performance in Albuquerque, I figured this was a perfect chance to take a fun little road trip hours away and enjoy a weekend to myself.

I can’t even remember how I came across his podcast, Citizen Radio, who he co-hosts with Allison Kilkenny. But the first time I listened to them, I instantly fell in love. I had just started to question my previously held shitty beliefs and views on a lot of things and Citizen Radio was a perfect gateway to a level of leftism that I felt was the best way to view and live life, along with never quitting on continuing to expand and learn. But it was also leftism that forced me to hold my own self accountable on many, many things which I am so grateful for. I’ve been listening for a few years now and, in many ways, Citizen Radio really changed my life for the better and I am forever thankful for the random chance I had to stumble upon their podcast. So, that is why I was willing to drive more than six hours to see Jamie perform. Also, I got to rent the cutest little place in downtown Albuquerque via Airbnb and the host was just wonderful.

Anyway! Doing that trip alone was incredibly revealing to myself. Listening to my favorite fiction and non-fiction podcasts, playing really fucking good music, and making a few phone calls here and there while traversing through the sprawling desert was quite an experience. Just so you know, I absolutely love driving long distances alone. It’s something I accidentally discovered about myself a long time ago and this won’t be the only time I bring this love up in this post. The desert is also probably the best type of place to go on long drives in. In the harshest environment, immense beauty can be found. Guess what? I WILL WRITE MORE ABOUT THIS WHOLE DRIVING THROUGH A DESERT THING later on in this post.

I said that trip was revealing to myself because it was when the first inklings of issues I have started coming up. Not new issues, but stuff I have unintentionally, unconsciously, whatever, kept down and suppressed for a long, long time. I ignored those thoughts, though, and drove on through the desert to see one of my favorite performers and to explore a beautiful city. Seriously, Albuquerque is a gem of a place and I highly recommend it to all of you to visit. Oh, and I drove by a really unique looking mountain outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico that I really want to hike. Anyone want to join me?

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After more weeks of being unemployed slowly turning into months and having a ton of extra time on my hands, after many discussions I had with my girlfriend at the time, after lots of moments of thinking, I realized I had a big problem that has been around for a long time and I really needed to address it. I sat down for hours and wrote this short blog post about, what I think, is a form of depression I suffer from.

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The response I got from it was very overwhelming. I posted the piece and, within minutes, my phone was blowing up with insurmountable love and support that I somehow fooled myself into thinking I wouldn’t have.

I cried really fucking hard the night after I posted that piece because of the love you all gave me.

Real quick, I want to thank all of you who read that piece and reached out to me. Your texts, comments, phone calls, hugs, coffee meetings, etc. really truly honestly meant the fucking world to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your words and actions are things I will never, ever forget. And now I need to move on before I get emotional again just thinking about.

A really special thanks goes out to my mom. She is the reason I was able to get help in the first place because therapy of any kind is ridiculously expensive to do on a regular basis, especially since I was unemployed at the time. Without her love, support, and help, I would absolutely not have made the personal progress I accomplished this year in regards to my mental health and outlook. I wouldn’t have had the genuinely good times and happy moments I experienced if it weren’t for my mom stepping in and helping me out. I love you so much, mom, and every day I am planning on ways I can eventually repay you for all the love you’ve shown me.

Also, without my mom, I would’ve never experience my life change the way it did during my travels in Utah this summer. But, I’ll talk about that more at a later time.

After a lot of hesitation, I finally started seeing a therapist and she is incredibly wonderful. Spent many sessions just allowing me to talk and get things off my chest that have been weighing me down for many years. Then she helped me start to unpack little things here and there which lead to me fully unboxing giant sleeping dragons that I’ve kept hidden out of sight for so long. She helped me get some tools and trained me how to use them when those moments come up.

Those moments.

Usually the ocean is nice and calm and the sun is brightly shining gloriously but, off in the distance, is a thunderstorm that persistently lingers at the edge of the world. I can sit in my 924-foot yacht and wear those dumb small pink shorts that young, rich, white Republicans love to wear and feel like everything is going just fine while sunbathing. Once in a while, that storm makes its way across the entire ocean and really fucks shit up pretty hard. Monstrous waves come through and nothing is stable or still. This storm comes out of nowhere and will stay however long it feels like. When it goes away, though, everything feels back to normal. It’s never been a permanent state of mind for me and I am so thankful for that. I am just so grateful I now have these tools and what feels like a lifeboat to grab onto for when the storm comes rolling through.

Since I made that post and started seeing a therapist, I’ve been better. A lot better, actually. Those moments still roll through occasionally but they seem much more infrequent and the storm takes a lot less time to get over with. What used to be something that would hit me for months at a time seems to now last maybe a couple weeks at a time. And those in-between moments where I feel fine are lasting longer and longer. I cherish those moments so much more now.

I don’t think this thing will ever quite go away, though. That scares me sometimes but I’m aware of it now. I can see it, I can address it, and I know I have the love and support around me to deal with it properly. I’m done with stashing it away and putting a mask on pretending I’m totally fine all the time. Well, not quite done but I’m working on it. Baby steps, you know?

And I am so glad I was able to figure this out because this year took a sharp downturn soon after all this.

53.6 Miles

After my dad died, I was able to continue life just fine. Mostly. It’s like I was able to see the way I was sort of supposed to but suddenly couldn’t view the color blue anymore. Everything was fine but a fundamental aspect of my vision had changed.

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Something like that happened after Laurie.

I’ll never forget when she came home. When she opened the door. When I looked over from my desk and looked at her. When I got up and walked to her. When I gave her a hug and she hugged me back. When she stopped me and said, “I need to talk to you about something.” When I didn’t expect anything so I just nodded along. When I sat down with her and she held my hands. When my heart suddenly started beating really, really fucking fast.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

She kept her eyes locked onto mine. Within this moment, I knew it was real. It was happening. A feeling overcame me that I would not be able to change what was happening before my eyes. So, I didn’t fight it. We talked for a while then I went out to be with friends so I could have some time to process what was happening.

We had first met and started talking almost two and a half years before that night, been in a relationship for nearly two years before that night, and, that night, I was about to watch all of that crash down into an invisible void forming before me. The longer the relationship, the more flesh we give. The more of ourselves. We don’t really get that back, and that’s why relationships are a sacrifice of sorts, you’re literally depending on that person to be there for you and you for them.

I was able to return to a normal routine fairly quickly. A few months later, I felt I could be happy and enjoy company again. Alone. But that lingering pain was always there. It felt like there was just something hiding inside waiting to creep out. And, at random times, it did and I felt like I was literally breaking. Like my body was separating. It would usually only last a few moments then recede again.

It happened less often as time went on, but the residual feeling is still there. I don’t think it will go away for a long time. I do not believe that any two people experience anything in exactly the same way, and knowing the story we wrote together is truly and honestly one of kind that will never be experienced by anyone else is something I’ll always appreciate and never forget. It’s been hard letting go but, as each day goes by, my grip loosens.

I legitimately do not believe we move on from those kinds of experiences, but rather we lay down those bricks into and on top of our foundation as we never really stop building upon it in our lives. We continuously build and build because, if you stop, then that house you’re building will crumble under the next flash flood.

It’s been seven months now and I’m doing and feeling a lot better since that night. I’m learning how to be alone again and it’s really not so bad. I still have my moments where I really miss her, though, and wish I could unwind time and fix what probably couldn’t be fixed.

Laurie will always have a part within the foundation of my life. My time with her was wonderful, frustrating, happy, maddening, exhilarating, life-changing, sad, and every kind of feeling one experiences in a relationship. We went on so many adventures, we laughed so hard, we cried together, we had our occasional fights, we farted around each other, we had our own language where we could look at each other in a public setting and know exactly what the other one is thinking, we had countless plans for the future, we made so many new friends through each other, we experienced pain together, we grew together, and we saw the raw beauty within each other.

I will always be grateful for my time with Laurie. She has so much going for her and so many huge goals that could change the landscape of this community and beyond. I am so excited to see what she will accomplish with her story and how it will change the lives of many people. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience of the two years I was with her and, after all the heartbreak that is normal after a breakup, I will still always have an admiration, respect, and fondness for her.

That picture above is us having our last drink together. We finished watching all of Parks and Recreation and then talked a lot that night and I still have the little note she wrote me that evening. I’ll always keep that note.

Thank you, Laurie.

113.1 Miles

At this point, a few months have gone by since the breakup that fundamentally changed the path my life was on. The summer that soon followed was something out of a fictional book because it still feels like it was too good to be true. After May, things slowly started falling together with all the pieces of my life linking back together and I was realizing that everything would be okay.

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I find it interesting that the woman who basically introduced me to the wonderful community here in Colorado Springs and had a major hand in helping me realize the steps I wanted and needed to take to change my life was now leaving during another pivotal time in my life. This year, she found an opportunity to move to California and she took it. In case if you couldn’t figure it out, I’m talking about Wendy and the photo above is from her going-away party. She’s the one on the far right.

I accidentally “met” her on Twitter in 2012 due to the Waldo Canyon Fire. I wrote about that fire, Twitter, and everything that resulted from it in this post. Except this time, four years later, I had the tools and resources I needed to know which steps I have to take now. It almost felt like she was waving goodbye and saying, “My time here is done! Go, Kevin! Fly! Fly like a peacock!” And, boy, I fucking flew. 

This was one of the best summers I’ve ever had and it involved so many different things.

So, I’ll start with Utah.

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What an incredible and completely unexpected weekend I spent in Utah. It accidentally became a major turning point for me after the last few months of my life being really downward-spiraling and facing a lot of unknowns. I am going to remember this trip for the rest of my life.

This trip, at its core, was for a family reunion in a small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town. I originally had a big trip planned around it with Laurie in the picture but, since that had changed, I was going to just carpool with my mom. After a lot of thinking, I had this idea that I just shouldn’t care if I was alone and do the originally-planned big trip anyway, with some modifications of course. I was terrified of going alone because I was worried about spending so much time by myself and having too much to think about the sad stuff happening in my head.

I left town around 9PM on a Thursday night so I could get to Moab, Utah before the sunrise. I wanted to see the sunrise at the famous Delicate Arch. While hiking up the trail in the darkness, I was suddenly reminded and pleasantly surprised that I was out there in a perfect setting to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. I was hiking below a sky of exploding fragments and trails of stardust. My goodness. Every time I saw the sparkles spreading streaks into the sky, I could imagine hearing them. I could imagine what it would be like up there to witness that up close. If you’ve never seen an exploding shooting star, then I sincerely hope you will someday soon because, to me, it just looks fucking magical. It looks like something you’re only supposed to see in a movie with overdone CGI effects. It’s a small example of how truly fantastical the world can be.

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When I finally reached my destination, what really surprised me after all the research I did telling me that National Parks at this time of the year, especially at Arches, are overwhelmingly crowded is that I was the only one at the Delicate Arch for about an hour. I had an entire hour all to myself while waiting for the land around me to light up. It was so quiet and serene, which those words don’t do the feelings I experienced any justice. Just sitting there feeling no wind and being deafened by the quietness while watching the sun reach it’s way over the horizon was just… Ugh, I can’t find the right words to convey that feeling.

It was while I was sitting down that a feeling overcame me telling me that everything would be okay. I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely.

I got to watch the entire world around me slowly light up. Going from a dull yellow, to vivid red, and then to the vibrant orange of the dirt all over. It was something I can’t wait to witness again. It showed me, once again, that the desert, despite being such a harsh environment that barely anything is able to survive in it, is also a place of insurmountable beauty. There is nothing else like it.

After this, I explored Arches a bit before leaving to get some holy-shit-this-is-so-good-it-should-be-illegal breakfast at a little place called Love Muffin Cafe. Go check it out whenever you’re in the area!

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At this point, after a three hour nap home before starting the trip and a 15 minute power nap in a parking lot at Arches National Park, I had basically been awake for at least 12 hours. My mom was having car problems thanks to a battery dying so my plan to meet up with her was greatly delayed. I figured I’d just go ahead and start on down to the town where my hotel was and relax there so I did! It was a little over two hours away from Moab but I was really enjoying the time of solitude in my car so I didn’t mind doing even more driving.

This is when I remembered that the town we were staying in happened to be right next to another National Park! After checking into the hotel room and getting lunch at a cute little diner, I went on to Capitol Reef National Park and, after consulting with my good friend, Bob, I did an intense hike in 110º weather that brought me 728 feet above the canyon floor for some scary but awe-inspiring views of the Fremont River and the rest of the area.

And I am feeling fucking GREAT right now. I’m sure a large part of that was due to adrenaline, lack of sleep, very hot weather, and maybe a touch of delirium from what I just described. But, anyway, I’m feeling great and I’m practically bouncing off the canyon walls on my way down and passing miserable tourists who look like they’ve greatly underestimated the difficulty of the hike, lack of shade, and how hot it would be. To remind you of what I said earlier, this trip proved to be a major turning point for me. My time at Arches told me that but my time in Capitol Reef cemented that for me. My relationship with nature was proving to be something that is continuing to be essential to my life.

Oh, and the nearly hour-long bath I took at the end of the day was pure bliss.

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The next day, I went to my family reunion and it was so much fun to reconnect with my cousins and my aunt along with meeting my new cousins who I never got a chance to meet after they were born. One of them is a teenager and the last time I saw him, he was just a big ol’ bump in his mom’s belly! It was a fantastic time relaxing and catching up and I even went with a relative to go up a hill a couple miles away that was littered with actual Native American arrowheads. We collected a bunch of them and it was fascinating to hear about the history of the area and the process the Native Americans used to create arrowheads and to learn why there were so many scattered in this particular area. It never occurred to me to learn about this particular aspect of Native American history but this random chance opportunity sparked me later spending hours reading about the tribes and people in that area of Utah.

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Afterward, we went up to Fish Lake where my uncle’s ashes were spread 17 years ago. So wonderful to be in that place again and create new memories, plus realizing that how I remember the area is still pretty accurate was pretty cool to me. I could still pinpoint the spot I was sitting down on the shore fishing while playing Pokemon on my Gameboy all those years ago.

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On my final day, I barely avoided a rock slide that happened right after I left Capitol Reef National Park to go home. Timing is everything because if I had been a few seconds earlier, I would’ve been caught in it. If I had been a few seconds later, I would’ve crashed into the boulders since it happened right after a blind curve. It was quite a really scary moment that I won’t ever forget because that was easily one the biggest, “OH! SHIT!” moments I have ever had.

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After that experience, I drove to Aspen and pretended to be a rich person for a moment until I took on Independence Pass. Independence Pass is INCREDIBLE! The winding and narrow road is a little worrying at times but the views along the way and the summit is something everyone should experience at least once. Especially since you can just easily drive up there!

So, that concludes the Utah trip where I can honestly say I feel like it changed my life. Not in a dramatic way, but more so in the sense that it was the first big experience that told me I can still go forward, I can still move on, I can still be excited about the future after the previous months being such a major bummer to me.

Everything will be okay.

The other reason this was one of the best summers I’ve ever had?

My friends.

Holy hell good God Almighty. My friends fucking made this year for me. First, I’m going to share a bunch of my favorite photos of all of us from this year.

These photos above are just a small snapshot of not just this summer, but what this whole year was with them.

My friends. You guys consistently showed me, consistently reminded me, what real love and friendship is. I sound so cliched and like a repeating record when saying this but, goddamn, I am so incredibly, absolutely, and beyond without a doubt grateful and thankful for your presence in my life. If I could, I would write each of you a long goddamn letter because of the deep impact each of you had on my life in different ways. I felt disappointed and let down by a few people this year but you guys helped me maintain my faith in other people around me.

Earlier in the year, I was experiencing many realizations and a big one was how I was slowly neglecting my friendships more and more. It was all my fault. I was allowing my own issues and struggles to consume myself and cloud my vision enough to where I could no longer see the people right there in front of me. I felt alone even though so many people were so quick and willing to help me at a moment’s notice. Once I snapped out of it, I was afraid I’d be alone due to the obvious distance I put between myself and my friends. But, no, you all jumped in immediately when I needed you. Thank you for that.

I am sorry for pulling myself away from you guys. I hope I was able to make up for that this past summer but I know I still have a lot of catching up to do. There were a few people who I feel, despite knowing them for a long while by now, I was finally able to use my newfound energy and openness to become much closer friends with them. And these people legitimately fucking rule. I really am incapable of envisioning how my life would be right now if I had never met them. If I tried really hard to imagine such a life, I just see a lot of emptiness.

After all my personal shit I was going through, you guys saved me. Seriously. This year had some really low moments, really low moments, and it would’ve been so much worse without you. You know who you are.

Thank you.

And the last thing that made this summer so fucking incredible?

Hiking.

I was introduced to hiking by my great friend, Bob, back in 2013. After witnessing the destruction of Colorado nature by the Waldo Canyon Fire, I felt heartbroken that areas I had never visited were now forever changed. Heartbroken, too, because I never saw the lands before destruction. Thanks to Wendy, who I mentioned earlier, I eventually came to know Bob, as in Hiking Bob. He’s a wonderful guy that, if you don’t know him by now, you need to get out and meet him because he’ll be an important, caring, and valuable friend to have. I will always have him to thank for being the catalyst that I needed to find something to become passionate about. It’s pretty easy to meet him because he’s likely up in the mountains nearby taking pretty pictures so get those shoes on start hiking on a nearby trail.

He hosted a group hike up in North Cheyenne Cañon in the summer of 2013 and I decided to join. Wasn’t too sure how I would feel about going on a real hike for the first time ever (sorry, but a walk through Garden of the Gods doesn’t count as a real hike like I previously thought it did before this point). It was an adventure to a group of old cabins and a campground of some kind deep in the woods pretty much on a completely hidden trail somewhere in the Cañon.

And I fell in love.

Hiking eventually took on a huge role in my life, if that isn’t obvious enough at this point, but I realized there were other larger, more personal components to it that really enhanced my life. Of course, I wrote a lot about that here in this post. Every hike I went on this past year further continued to strengthen my conviction that hiking and the outdoors in general are so goddamn good for the soul.

Williams Canyon, Dome Rock, Section 16, Raspberry Mountain, The Crags, Mount Elbert, Pikes Peak, Delicate Arch, Cohab Canyon, Zapata Falls, Catamount Falls, Sunset Loop, Saint Mary’s Falls, Pancake Rocks, Palmer Park, Mount Buckhorn, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and so, so, so, so many other hikes. I got lost, I explored, I discovered, I tripped, I found peace, and I fell in love in so many different ways out there.

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I’m still trying to figure out what my top three or top five hikes were but it’s a tough choice to make. I’ll say this, though, being able to do two Fourteeners this summer was an unexpected goal I met. I half-heartedly told myself, “Hey, I should do a 14er this summer sometime!” with no real goal or plan in mind. After my Utah trip causing me to become way too invigorated and excited about life, I suddenly decided on Mount Elbert just for the bragging rights. It’s the tallest mountain in Colorado, the tallest in the Rockies, and second tallest in the United States if you don’t count Alaska. At the last minute, I invited two friends and then on we went. I was reminded, quickly, that climbing a Fourteener isn’t fun, but it is so entirely worth it. Every single moment is so worth it.

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Less than a month later, I went with three of my closest friends to the top of America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak. Once again, as I oft do on a regular basis, I fell in love all over again with the mountain I practically grew up next to. I had been on Pikes Peak before, as you can read all about here. That time, I went up on the western slope of the mountain via the Crags Trail and Devil’s Playground route. We did it roundtrip and, back in 2014, I was not nearly in the hiking shape I am now so it was a miserable hike that I really just didn’t enjoy all that much despite loving the time I was spending with the people I got to trek up with. This time, I climbed it on the famous Barr Trail. It’s over 26 miles round trip so, thankfully, we got a ride down to home from Jacen’s brother after we reached the top. Going on Barr Trail was a new experience for me and I was in awe every bit of the way. It’s an incredible path with many varying landscapes and I got to spend it with people I’ve grown to love and admire so much.

Another cool thing about Barr Trail and Pikes Peak and pretty much all of hiking ever? Is how no matter the familiarity of the place you’re in, it looks entirely different when viewed from a different perspective. You can see Pikes Peak from Colorado Springs, but it feels like you can see the world from Pikes Peak. Goddamn, I can already feel my blood pumping and the adrenaline being released at just the thought of all the hiking I’ll be doing next year and the new experiences I’ll gain. One of my biggest goals for next year is to do a backpacking trip of some kind. I’m still figuring out the details. I can’t wait.

Some things can only be seen by the results they cause. Winter is a world covered in cold. Ice releases water, to nourish spring. It’s a time for creation and hoping for what is to come. This summer was the time I took it all in, and it was the time I let it all out.

206.6 Miles

Back in May, I decided to set a personal goal to hike 200 miles. After starting the year off with disappointment after disappointment until the summer, I really need to set a goal and force myself to have something to look forward to that I knew I was capable of accomplishing because, at that point in time, everything felt so uncertain and I just couldn’t even fathom what the near future would like for me.

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206.6 miles. Or 363,616 yards. Or 1,090,848 feet. Or I can even measure it by how much elevation I gained which is at 48,526 feet. Which is 19,497 feet taller than Mount Everest! Anyway. I met my goal I had set for myself. I was beyond happy when I hit that goal and had to have a friend take a picture of me in that moment. I was with a group of friends and I felt the need to simmer myself down and hide my pure happiness otherwise Hiking Bob would’ve had to put a horse tranquilizer in me. It was a really special moment to me and it’s one I won’t ever forget. Next year, my new hiking mileage goal will be way more and I am giddy about getting it done. As cliched as it sounds, it’s not just the destination, but the journey, too.

206.6 miles. That’s how much distance I’ve hiked this year. I continuously changed elevations and paths my own two feet were on, I had to face many uncomfortable truths about myself, I started a new job (which I absolutely love), I was broken up with, I got to witness a few of my best and closest friends get married, I made new friends, I reconnected with old friends, strengthened my bonds with the people I love, I tried out new local places for drinks, I ate new food, I had to move out of my old place and into my mom’s place, I moved out of my mom’s house and into a great friend’s home, I went to New Mexico, I went to Arkansas, I went to Utah, I had to get a new car, I cried, I laughed, I got angry, I got sad, I smiled when life showed me moments of beauty, and I kept hiking. I kept fucking hiking. 206.6 miles.

2016 was most definitely not the best year I could’ve had, but I made it a great year anyway. Appreciate every fucking moment. Good or bad. Because our time is limited and death will quickly come and it’ll be as if you never existed in an instant. If I die tomorrow, I’m glad I did the best I could and made this past year something to remember, something absolutely worth it.

I won’t go into 2017 with high hopes, but rather a glimmer of hope. I want to take that glimmer and gently work to turn it into a fiery inferno of light. Wish me luck.

And thank you.

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This Is Sherri Moore

Sherri Moore

This is Sherri Moore.

I am finishing this blog post very late but I had started this about a year ago but life had simply gotten in the way and I never had a proper chance to come back to it and actually finish this piece. Anyway. 

I had simply forgotten about her until about a year ago but, thanks to an app I use called Timehop, I was reminded of her and decided to see what she was up to. It was around 1AM, I remember, and I got the answer I was looking for then learned why she had been so silent lately. She had passed away in March of 2015. One year and four months ago. And I can’t help but feel immense heartbreak for her and intense self-guilt because I had simply forgotten about someone, at the time, for four months, not even knowing she had passed on.

I was laying in bed, unable to sleep so I was mindlessly scrolling about in various apps on my phone. Opened up my social networking folder of apps and checked out Timehop. Timehop is an app that digs through your history on social media and shows what you posted on the day you check it, only just a year prior, or two years prior, or further back in your life. It showed me something I had retweeted of hers. She had somehow come across a bulldog puppy and trying to find a home for him. I immediately thought, “Hey, I haven’t seen anything from her in a while on Twitter,” and didn’t think much more than that while I worked my way over to my Twitter app to see what she has been up to. Although, a feeling also hit me at the same time but I tend to ignore those more dire feelings when they initially hit. I saw the last tweet from her Twitter account:

If you haven’t hears [sic], Sherri has passed away in her sleep on March 14 at 9:30 pm. She is finally at peace

My heart sank in immediate sadness and grief for her. A whirlwind of emotions soon hit me and the emotional storm didn’t calm down until a few days later.

Okay, let me back up a bit and give some details that may clarify this a bit more.

When I was younger, I went to Skyview Middle School with a girl named Laura. We weren’t really friends at this point as she was more of a classmate that I barely talked to or acknowledged and that usually only happened during a group project. We continued on into Sand Creek High School and I got to know her a bit better and we became friends. Not close or great friends, but just simple “Hello!” in the hallway type of friends. Laura was always really nice to me even though we had completely different sets of friends, or cliques, in high school. I still can’t remember the exact date but I do know it was either immediately before graduation or immediately after graduation, I received news that Laura had passed away due to a drug overdose. I still, to this day, don’t even know if that’s exactly what happened but the narrative surrounding her passing never seemed to change since then. Sherri was Laura’s mom.

Years later, I would come to find Twitter and, after a bit more time, I got really engaged with the local scene on Twitter as you’ll know from my previous blog post on this very topic. I eventually came across Sherri and immediately messaged her. We had several conversations in that time and it was cool to interact with someone like her. She seemed to have such a sharp wit and funny sense of humor! But, a few things always seemed to stick out.

She was lonely and didn’t have much help available around her. She talked a lot about about how she needed work done around the house, or that her car had broken down again, that she really needed someone to come hang out with her because she felt alone, and that no one would give her a listening ear. I don’t know enough about her own family to comment on that situation but my heart always broke every time I saw a tweet from her that was clearly made during distress and I was especially bothered because there never seemed to be anyone available to help her out. Simply, she was a lonely little ol’ lady that had no one around her. To this day, that whole situation still breaks my fucking heart.

So, I started asking around and talking to my own friends about maybe starting some kind of fundraiser for her. Or what about doing a surprise Thanksgiving dinner for her in 2014? Maybe even just get her a bunch of gift cards? I even thought about just offering her rides to and from any places she needed to get to.

But, life got in the way.

I allowed life to get in the way. In retrospect, I realize I couldn’t predict this sort of outcome but, damn, I wish I would’ve kept her in the forefront of my mind just a little longer. I had a million other things to keep me occupied. These were her last series of tweets before she passed away.

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And this all absolutely fucking shatters my heart.

The whole point of this post is to tell you to not make the same mistake I did. If you see someone in need like this, do what you can to help them. Take a moment and stop to think about how you can take a tiny portion of your free time to make someone else’s life better. I will always live with this guilt that I never followed through on my plans to have a surprise special dinner for her or to do yard work for her or to give her a ride to her doctor’s place or to provide her a listening ear for her to vent and rant.

Or to just be a reminder that she is loved.

I’m not sure of what else to say but it’s been a year since I found out she passed away and a part of her existence is still very much alive within my mind. I plan to use that as a motivation and, again, reminder, to be aware of those in need around me and to make sure I carve out a little time to fulfill whatever need they have. Because, if there’s anything I know for sure, it is so important to feel loved and to love others. Regardless. No excuses. No one should have to die feeling alone and unloved. Let’s do what we can to make sure this doesn’t happen with the best of our abilities.

So, to Sherri Moore, you were and are loved. You experienced major tragedies during your life but please know your memory will motivate me to help others when I can and be a constant reminder to not allow frivolous life stuff to get on the way anymore.

Thank you for this impact you had on my life.

Depression is a Capricious Creature

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As I’m sitting here writing these very words, I am realizing how much a post like this has been a long time coming. I really mean it when I say a long time. 18 years. Is 18 years a long time? Yeah, I guess. There is no doubt that it’s been 18 years because a very vivid memory still exists within my mind of when I was just a 10 year old kid who tried to kill himself.

My memory is fuzzy behind the actual momentum I had with wanting to kill myself so, naturally, I question how hard I really tried or how serious I was actually being. Was I just a melodramatic child? I just remember deciding that I would go in my mom’s bathroom and take as many pills as I could from whatever bottle that was easily accessible. At 10 years old, labels on the bottles didn’t really matter to me as I equated “1 pill = good for you and 20 pills = bad for you” in my adorable little head. After grabbing the first bottle I found and ingesting at least half of the pills, I waited in the bathroom with the door locked. After however long it was, maybe two minutes or maybe 20 minutes, I decided it didn’t work and went back to playing video games or doing homework out of frustration. I thought it would work out like it does in the movies when someone drinks poison. I thought I would animatedly grab my chest and scream, “Oh, no! Ouch! Oooooh!” then fall the ground and quietly whisper, “Goodbye, world!” as my eyes closed.

I repeated this process a few more times and nothing ever happened. I am incredibly lucky that it turned out I was actually just trying to overdose on vitamins. What finally stopped me from constantly trying to overdose on something was when I took a bunch of some kind of off-brand laxative. Yep, it was a miserable couple days but, hey, at least I got to miss a couple days of school!

Anyway, now that I have that initial story out of the way, I can continue on with the whole point of this post. Obviously, I don’t want to bore you to tears with every little story and event in my life that I feel might be relevant to this post. Plus, I want to save my experiences, thoughts, and feelings about, for lack of a better term, my “daddy issues” that I know have contributed greatly to what I’m writing about here. Oh! Bonus! I’ll also even have another post about my struggles with gender role conformity (and related topics) that I also happen to feel contributes to what I discuss in this post.

Dang, my future therapist is going to make a lot of money off of me. 

Ever since I was 10 years old, I’ve experienced a very consistent pattern of floating and sinking through my life. There are periods where I am feeling great and things are going well and I have unmatched energy along with optimism that would annoy most people. Then the times come where I feel so low, so invalid within my own existence, and nothing brings me up out of the bed aside from obligations that I must adhere to. It’s not always a feeling of sadness or worthlessness, but just a feeling of being held down. I still have a hard time explaining these feelings but I can say that they’ve come back full force in my life. Again.

It started as a trickle slowly making its way into my soul probably around the summer of 2014, became a roaring river during the summer of 2015, and now it’s a massive but quiet lake weighing on top of me. It’s this huge, immovable thing bearing down on me. Sure, I had many factors that caused these feelings to overcome my former happy and content self but, through all the thick messiness of it, it’s a very familiar presence.

The best way I can describe it is to imagine my life is a giant maze. Most of the time, I am making progress through this maze and I’m feeling fine, I’m feeling GREAT! Even if it’s just baby steps I’m taking, I can feel myself moving forward and doing something substantial. I take a turn and suddenly a massive brick wall is in front of me. I have to stop and try to retrace my steps in an attempt to take a different route to continue my progress but then nothing looks familiar and I start feeling like the walls are closing in and the air starts feeling tainted and oxygen is running out and I start running but I can’t go anywhere as I just keep going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Then a new path randomly becomes visible to me and I take it. The feelings of confusion and panic immediately strip away and I can breathe again!

Right now, I’m panicking and feeling suffocation. Like I said before, this started in 2014 and got noticeably worse over time. It was a factor in me leaving my long-time job. I still don’t regret leaving it but opportunities not working out since then and having too much time on my hands have caused me to focus too much inward, thus causing me to entrench myself into this thing far more than it ever has before. Basically, I was feeling this way then leaving my job caused a giant window to shatter and open up to feel like I got punched right in the dick with this overwhelming thing.

I’ve been holding off on being around people much more often, been turning down many opportunities that would be helpful to my mental health, been canceling on plans, drinking more than I should, gaining weight, and the one thing I’ve been most disappointed in myself for is that I’ve basically stopped hiking. Nature is my church and I’ve even turned that down.

A special gift I have is that I’ve mastered the ability to shove all this away, to act like it’s not present. It’s not a mask I put on, but more of a way I can keep finding extra storage space for these feelings so it’s super easy to pretend I am just a-okay! Lately I’ve been forced to recognize what all of this is and what all of this means. There’s no more storage room and I need to do something with all of this junk. I used to distract myself by helping other people but all it did was drain myself of energy to help myself. I took on everyone else’s burdens instead of my own.

I’m so incredibly exhausted from everything.

I don’t want to self-diagnose myself with anything so please understand I’m not throwing around this term loosely but I think I’m depressed. Not, “Oh, Donald Trump might have a legitimate chance of becoming President which will cause all his racist and sexist supporters to feel validation thus starting the end of anything good this country once stood for,” type of sadness, but more like a full-on, “My own entire complete existence is against myself,” depression.

If you’re surprised at any of this, then I know my ability to hide this stuff away has been extra effective!

Honestly? I’m not entirely sure what my ultimate goal is of writing this post. To hold myself accountable to get better? To force myself to recognize I’ve had a problem for years? To be more honest to the people important in my life? Because if you’re making the effort to read this, then you’re probably very important to me. I mean that.

I’ve decided to make an appointment with a therapist by the end of the week but if any of you have any advice, insight, or experience with any of what I mentioned above, I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. To all of my family and friends, I love you and thanks for being there for me when I needed it and thanks for tolerating me whenever I’ve been weird or illogical. Just know that I’m starting to make an active effort to deal with this and hopefully become a more genuine person rather than hiding away half of myself. Thank you.

And, damn, this is my first post of 2016! Haha! Hopefully my last post of this year is much more cheerful!

America’s Mountain And Me

Lately, I’ve been experiencing some serious writer’s block when it comes to blogging. I have a few long posts waiting in the drafts folder that I really want to finish up and publish but, for some reason, my brain just can’t come up with the last few sentences and edits for them to feel complete to me. But! I did something pretty cool (to me, at least) and I have several thoughts I’d like to discuss.

Pikespeak

On Sunday, September 7, 2014, I finally did it. I hiked up to the summit of Pikes Peak. And it was miserable. 

After about nearly 16 years that I’ve lived here in Colorado Springs, I’ve seen Pikes Peak nearly daily and admired the dominant presence it took over the western landscape. Along with that admiration, there was always a nagging thought in the back of my head of, “I need to go to the top,” or, “Someday I’ll summit that peak!” or, “I just want to see what the views are like up there!” and so on. Then, nothing. I never really made a serious attempt at plans to reach the summit. Regardless if it were by vehicle, cog railway, or hiking, I just always had this last minute rash decision to never follow through on actual plans to reach the top of America’s Mountain. 

Then, last year happened. My newly-found love and passion for hiking was finally discovered within myself and, WOW! An entirely new world was opened up to me and, surprisingly, to my own self, a different and more varied understanding of life and spirituality surfaced within me. I would hike and hike, discovering amazing new views of the scenery around me and constantly being amazed at the utter beauty in something as simple as an aspen tree or the sound of a small creek rippling through a quiet forest. Still, though, despite having this new appreciation for hiking, mother nature, Colorado, and so on, I still had this fear of Pikes Peak. 

The fear just lingered on

For a long time, I’ve wanted to reach the top of this mountain. Last year, I decided I would refuse making my first time to the top be via driving or the cog railway. I wanted to CONQUER this mountain by my own feet! Yet, I just couldn’t bring myself to actually make plans and prepare for the attempt. That all changed thanks to my friend Becca and her husband, Justin, one night in January. We were all at a potluck hosted by the wonderful Laura and got onto the topic of hiking Pikes Peak. Becca’s enthusiasm and Justin’s awesome positive personality convinced me to finally do a hike with them up to the summit. Since it was January, we obviously decided to wait until the warmer months to do this feat. 

Then, the months went by, eventually traipsing into summer, and they kept reminding me that we had plans to hike up Pikes Peak. At times, I had a legitimate excuse of why I couldn’t do it this weekend or that weekend but, others, I just simply forgot. To be honest, I can’t tell if I really did forget or just allowing the fear to put the plans in the back of my head, purposely giving it a last priority in my life.

Finally, yes, FINALLY! At the tail end of August, we finally made plans to hike Pikes Peak at the tail end of summer. September 7th would be the day. Also, I got to include my wonderful girlfriend, Laurie, on this experience! THAT is when the nerves came up. 

Holy shit! I’m actually going to do this. Literally finally actually going to hike to the top of Pikes Peak and even hike back down! WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO!? 

The two weeks that followed had me in my own ups and downs of how I felt about this endeavor we were all about to take. Becca, Justin, and Laurie had all already been to the summit. I would be the newcomer, the baby, to the experience. I was afraid and nervous but still excited at the same time. This would be a new adventure for me and a story I knew I’d love telling others. 

The day for the hike came and, yes, I was freaking out. I had gotten pretty good at hiking and covering rough terrain while keeping a good speed and so on (I hiked straight up Cheyenne Mountain with no issues just a few months prior!), but, I just knew this would be something else and a new, true challenge for me. We started the hike and it was all great. Good pace, nothing too steep or challenging, until we passed the tree-line and the trail took a literal upward turn towards the blue sky. For those of you that are familiar with the Manitou Incline, that is exactly how this sudden turn of the trail felt. It was thanks to the group I was with, along with the extra motivation from Laurie, that I was able to somewhat keep a consistent step upwards the steep mountainside. During this journey, my feet started screaming at me, my legs started threatening to quit their day job at me, cramps started invading my body, and my mind was beginning a battle over matter. 

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We reached the first ridge of the mountain and the trail evened out. I was finally able to catch my “second wind” and suddenly felt energized. Everything was good and jolly and, gosh, I could finally see the summit and the building atop it! YES! We were finally within a reasonable distance of the goal! Looks can be deceiving, though. This was one of a few false summits. We walked on, and on, and on. Through a field of massive rocks then to an even larger field of jagged-edged boulders. Finally, the last leg of the hike. YES! The last leg but, this field of boulders? Many of them had as thin layer of ice which made stepping over them a tad more difficult with just an extra dash of terrifying as I suddenly became aware that one small slip meant a sudden smack of my skull against a sharp rock or, worse, tumbling down the steep side. 

After careful consideration of each step I took, I finally made it to the top. Finally made it to flat land of dirt! YES! I was finally at an elevation of 14,115 feet and could rejoice at the achievement I just made! We all slowed down and caught our breaths, which I was finding difficult due to the lack of oxygen, and relaxed for a bit. I walked around a bit to enjoy the literal 360 degree views admiring not only what I was seeing, but trying to comprehend the millions, if not billions, of years it took to form the view of what I was currently seeing at the time. After seeing the tectonic shape-shifting and volcanic geographic formation before my eyes, I felt proud.

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After years of fear and intimidation, I finally did this. I finally conquered what is also known as America’s Mountain. This massive and utterly beautiful peak that I’ve admired for so long now has a new meaning to me knowing that I reached the very top of it with my own two feet. 

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It wasn’t over, though. We still had to trek our way back down. It was rough, watching our steps over the icy boulders, dealing with the pain of my toes smashing against my hiking boots, and, well, another six-plus miles back down is quite a long ways to go, especially when trying to beat an upcoming storm. 

We finally made it back to my car at 3:00PM after beginning our hike at 6:30AM. But I felt SO GOOD. At the time, I was still comprehending what I had just done. I previously believed I had become “good” at hiking until this but, during the way up, I was challenged, I was weakened, I felt regret at agreeing to this journey. There were a few times I wanted to give up and just walk back down with my shoulders shrugging, “Well, maybe I’ll do this another day!” But I am so unbelievably happy that I did this and wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the people I was with. The mild and slight motivations to keep going actually pumped me up to keep me going. I am so happy, so glad, so thrilled that I did keep going. Hiking Pikes Peak, hiking my first fourteener, is a barrier I needed to break because it’s a broken barrier I needed. Not only physically speaking, but for my mental self. 

Now here’s the point I realized I needed this physical experience to remind me of my skills and ability to conquer my mental and emotional fears from here on out.

Last year, I experienced incredible changes. Took on some social fears I had and was rewarded with exponential benefits and improvements to my life that I would have never guessed would’ve happened. I have truly been lucky to meet and get to know so many new, wonderful people in my life. But, recently, I’ve experienced that feeling of “hitting a brick wall” like I mentioned in one of my past posts. Except, this time, it’s not related to my social life or spiritual awakening but, more so, in regards to other aspects of my life. 

Other aspects of my life that I’ve been afraid to take on, afraid to tackle and conquer, afraid to summit and proudly yell, “I HAVE DONE THIS!” These things, and I’m being vague on purpose for good reasons, are things I’ve let sit in the back of my mind which has accidentally been allowed to fester and grow. And it’s all bringing me down. Really down, feeling sick to my stomach, stress levels reaching higher than before, sadness I haven’t felt in a while, making me feel more anxious, more frustrated, and much less able to focus on the good and more important things in life that I already experience and the goals I need to reach to feel the even better things in life! I have a few “summiting Pikes Peak” feelings and goals within me right now and I realize now that I absolutely must make plans, solid goals, to conquer these so, at the end of the day, I can scream, “I DID IT! YES! I CONQUERED THIS WITH MY OWN FEET!”

I did Pikes Peak with the help of people I admire and love but it was also due to my own last-minute desire to overcome that fear and hesitance. I get so much inspiration from my own friends and family members but I also know I need a hefty supply of my own self to conquer these more internal journeys I have planned. 

I am absolutely inspired and excited to do many more fourteeners in the near and far future, but I am also more so excited to summit the personal goals I have, regardless of the fear I’ve felt to accomplish them. It’ll be hard, and lots of steps will need to taken to reach the summit of my soul, but I am so ready right now. Wow, I am ready and so excited now. 

2013 was just one major step for me. I really, sincerely hope 2014 is at least the first foot forward towards another major step for me. 

Thank you, Pikes Peak.

Constellations

My girlfriend, Laurie, wrote this wonderful, beautiful, and honest post about us, our relationship, and how the Universe brought us together. Please read and share your thoughts.

Laurie Works

“It seems we struggle for a lifetime to become whole. Few of us ever do … Most of us end up going out the same way we came in — kicking and screaming. Most of us don’t have the strength — or the conviction. Most of us don’t want to face our fears.”
― Darren Aronofsky; Kent WilliamsThe Fountain

Sometimes, something shows up in your life with the force of divinity behind it. It’s as if the very cosmos aligned with your gravity to pull something to your life. It’s a huge dot to dot and constellations are connected and created by the lines.

The picture becomes clearer and clearer and as it does, it’s like looking at the night sky.

It’s so much bigger than you and the immensity of it matches the immensity of your soul. And of theirs, too.

Yes, theirs.

Because sometimes a constellation is drawn…

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Convergence

This is something I’ve touched on, barely, with just a single index finger, before and recently my feelings and thoughts have been swirling around so heavily in my head that I need to pour them out.

As many of you know, I call myself an atheist. As some of you who have known me for many years, I used to be that asshole atheist. That guy who, despite being white, straight, and male, felt like he was truly persecuted and restricted in our society. Yep, I was that guy for a few years. Ever wish so hard you could come across a time machine, or a TARDIS, transport yourself back just a few years to your younger self writing some post on Facebook, and smack him upside the head? Yep, that’s what I wish to do every single day.

I know I was young. I honestly, truly, felt I could somehow see through the veil that the rest of society couldn’t even begin to grasp. I felt overpowered after reading works by authors such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and many others about how utterly stupid anyone could be to believe in God or especially to claim a religion. I was even more empowered by “edgy” celebrities such as Bill Maher to further receive affirmation on my atheism and my vocal support for it. My dad’s passing even helped to further fuel my atheism because, why, why would some all-powerful being allow my father to pass away so young before he could experience being a grandfather and growing old with my mom?

Yep, I was this guy.

Yep, I was this guy.

But, didn’t you understand what I was trying to do? I was educating! I was telling you, step-by-step, how you are wrong! I was explaining as if you were five years old on how your belief in God or a god is silly! Ugh, you people and your beliefs in magic and sky fairies! Don’t you get it? You could be so much smarter if you thought just like me! Oh, nice try trying to pray for help! Not going to get help unless if you DO something!

I was really an insufferable child during that time. I may have been at the age of 18 through 21, but I was a child about many of my then-beliefs and views.

I really wish I could narrow it down to one specific event that caused my mindset to take that left turn on the road of life during the journey of my existence. It was a bit of a ride from that turn to where I am now, but I am so entirely and completely thankful it happened. For all of you religious and spiritual people, I finally get it. And I am sorry.

I can at least narrow down this period of transformation to the past two years. I wrote about it a bit here. Meeting so many new people, getting to genuinely know them and understand their lives and the paths they are on, is what really, really opened up my eyes to people of faith. I finally learned that religion and spirituality is so complex, diverse, and seemingly infinite in possibilities within existence. Just like everything else in life, every group will have their diversity of how things are to be done and I focused way too much on one specific mindset of people when it came to religion.

Want to know a huge factor in my change of attitude towards those of faith and spirituality? Hiking.

Nature Is My Church

Nature Is My Church

I got really serious about hiking only just last summer and I am so happy I did. I think that was the first time I had a moment that I recognized as being spiritual and not just a good time with pretty views. It soon became a way for me to feel at peace. To calm down from the rush of life. To put my worries and fears on hold at the bottom of a mountain and to allow myself an escape from them as I rose above high into the clouds. There is something about the silence of nature, only interrupted by the sounds of animals living their own lives, the sights before my eyes being of indescribable beauty, and the spiritual contentedness I feel. Some people find that feeling in a building and I find it out in nature. I can’t blame them, it’s a beautiful thing to feel and one I am having a really hard time describing here to you. So, I love it whenever and wherever you can feel it, regardless if it’s on a certain day of the week or within a specific location of some kind.

Thanks to some new friends I had made, I started learning and focusing on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and, despite the stories of him being written by men, despite the era of time his life took place in, he really was such a perfect example of a who to be when leading your life. I figured out I had been too focused on all the destruction, the hate, the contradictions, and the insane arbitrary rules that are spread throughout the Bible ad nauseum. In the end, the Bible was written by many men, thus allowing almost an infinite amount of interpretations which many use to force their own agendas on others. I learned it’s so much easier to focus on what Jesus said and nothing more.

Does this mean I believe in God now? No. I just have an appreciation for what I still believe was man’s best effort to explain humanity, the emotions we experience, the feelings we are overwhelmed with, the lives we live. I’m no theologian, and I’m sure I will never be, so I’m sure many, many of you will disagree with this still-forming take I have on religion, spirituality, and faith. But I really, deep down inside of me, believe that if we quit trying to twist things into our own agendas and just look at what Jesus said and the examples he set, this world would be so much better. This world would be healthier, happier, and much more in love. That’s all we need. More love for each other.

I now love and practice spirituality in my own way that many Christians would with theirs.

Life is a flowing river, clear at times but murky during others, yet always still moving. Always allow yourself to move and grow at the same time. Carve out an ever-changing mark in the riverbed below you so you can always look back and see where you were at one point. This applies to everything in life. Always allow yourself to change and grow as a person. Quit setting up a foundation and deciding that it is unmovable, because someday a flood could come and take it all down.

Convergence

Convergence

Like what happens when two different rivers from two vastly different sources eventually meet, a convergence is created and, from it, a much more powerful body of water gushes through to effect an even greater change to its eventual path. This is what my atheism and newly recognized spirituality is now. And it will be ever-changing into, hopefully, something better and better over time.

Thank you for reading.

I Got To Hang Out With My Dad The Other Night

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The other night, Saturday night to be exact, I fell asleep and had the usual uneventful night of dreams that I can’t remember, as what happens most nights. I then woke up around seven o’clock in the morning due to some loud bang I heard from outside. I assumed it was my two neighbors that have started recently fighting on a regular basis and ignored it but was quite awake at this moment since I was jolted up out of my bed. I decided to text my good friend that I knew would be up at that hour on a Sunday morning and she responded with, “Why are you awake??” and I had to laugh because I am rarely ever awake that early on a day off from work. I responded and told her I’d probably be dozing off again soon.

She responded with, “Sweet dreams x2”.

And how right she was that I would have sweet dreams after falling back into dreamland.

For some reason, I was in my mom’s house. I walk into her room and she is sitting on her bed and, to my right, is Liam Neeson. Not kidding. I say hello to him and talk to my mom and, while talking to her, I discover she has hung up posters in her room of various films such as ‘Taken’, ‘Batman Begins’, ‘Star Wars’, and ‘The Grey’. All of which are films that Liam Neeson has starred in. I learn from talking to my mom, while Liam Neeson is standing idly by in the corner of her room, that they are now dating. For some reason, in this dream, it doesn’t phase me that my mom is now dating one of the best actors of all time. I just casually shrug my shoulders and say something to the effect, “Well, that’s cool!” and walk out of her bedroom.

I walk through her living room and enter the kitchen and see my dad standing there with a plate of tortillas in his hand. Seeing him doesn’t surprise me, seeing him doesn’t make me lose my breath, seeing him doesn’t make me take a step back. I see him as if he never left my life before and it just felt normal and ordinary to see him again.

He tells me the tortillas are handmade by him and gives me one to taste. It’s delicious and fresh and, for some reason, I can feel the warmth of it so realistically in my dream. I eat the entire thing and he talks about how it’s his first time making tortillas and then phrased an old family inside joke of how, “They’re not the best, but they’re not the worst!” and he laughs.

His laugh in my dream is exactly what his laugh was in real life, even though I haven’t heard it with my own ears in four and a half years now. After he laughs, I see his face settle and he looks at me in silence. A tear rolls down his right cheek and he asks, “She’s moving on without me, isn’t she?”

Everything about his face, the features that lined his face, the expression and emotion showing in his face, is exactly what I remember of his face. Even after so many years, I can still vividly remember every little detail about my father and I am so forever thankful for that.

I don’t remember exactly what I said in response to him but I do know I tried to comfort him. Tried to explain that my mom moving on is just what happens. For some reason, it’s indirectly understood that my mom in my dream is completely unaware of my dad being in her house. We walk over to the couch in the living room and sit. He looks at me and says, “I know what’s happening and I’m happy for her. She deserves to move on.”

Then, we just talk. And talk. And talk. I can’t recall every detail but I remember excitedly telling him about my various adventures in Indiana, then about my move back to Colorado and, sadly, telling him about the Waldo Canyon Fire. I moved on from there and told him everything, I mean everything, that I have had stored up inside of me all these years and have been excitedly waiting to tell him. There were moments where we laughed and there were moments where we got serious and discussed the finer points of my updates on my life. I told him about how I finally learned how to drive a manual shift car, about how I went out to Long Beach, about my coworker that passed away of something similar that my dad did, of when my best friend lived with me for nearly six months, of making so many new friends and finally discovering who I am, about all the dates I’ve been on, and so much more. So much more.

It was wonderful, truly so wonderful and beautiful, and I already really miss that moment. I can’t remember how the dream ended but I do remember waking up smiling, not sad for once, because it felt like I finally got to hang out with my dad and tell him everything I’ve wanted to for so long. I finally felt like I got all these things off my chest that I’ve wanted to tell him for years and that he is aware, knows, and understands everything I told him.

My dad’s death is approaching the five year anniversary which will be in August. I can’t wait to go to his site out in Iowa and talk to him again. I miss my dad so much but it’s nice to occasionally visit him and hang out with him in my dreams. I hope to be half the man he was when I am a father.

Thank you for reading.

I Can’t Wait To Be A Dad

I really can’t wait to be a dad. I don’t even know when or even if it’ll ever happen for me but being a father has been a goal of mine for a long time. I spent the majority of my childhood without a father and it was a very confusing and frustrating experience. I remember once when I was hanging out with a friend of mine and I was, maybe, 11 or 12 years old, and we were playing catch and my throwing abilities were quite pathetic. With no intent of offense, my friend said, “Oh, yeah, you don’t have a dad so that’s why you don’t know how to throw a baseball.”

That stung really deep. I immediately felt jealous that he was lucky enough to have a dad because I never had that experience. Then, my mom eventually met a guy that would eventually become the man I consider my dad when I was 13 years old. He was amazing and, of course, we had our issues because I was not used to taking instruction from a father figure. We fought often and I had my moments where I thought he was the worst person ever. But, which teenager hasn’t felt they knew everything and were smarter than his or her parents?

My dad and I didn’t get close until I was 19 years old. We became really close. I finally felt like I had a legitimate father and I could finally, really finally, tell him anything and everything about me and go to him for advice as I needed so much of that at that age. Then, the news hit that he had cancer.

He fought hard, really hard, for two years but he finally succumbed to cancer in 2009. Selfishly, I was really angry. Not because he had cancer, but because he was finally the father I wanted and needed but then, through life’s unknown destinations, he would be taken away from me. I still think about him daily and strive to live my life through his examples.

All of that leads to how I can’t wait to be father. I want to be a dad so bad and make up for what I didn’t have. I want to be what I was cheated out of in life. I want to raise a child or more and be anything and everything possible to that person. I want to love someone unconditionally and I am confident that will happen.

I know I will be the best dad ever and I just can’t wait.

2013 and Twitter

I am already looking at the title of this post and it just looks funny. Why would I want to write about the year of 2013 and include Twitter with it? I understand fully why, but seeing it typed down just kind of still looks silly to me. I want to tell you about how my life changed for the better in so many aspects starting in January of 2013 and, in a really surprising manner, Twitter played a huge part of it. I never, ever once thought I would say a social-networking service that only allows you to post tiny blurbs that are limited to 140 characters would actually be the catalyst and, in a way, the guide to changing my life for the better and for getting me on this path I am on now where I only see up.

Let’s go back a bit, though. I started using Twitter in 2008 when it was still this new “thing” that many people, including me, just didn’t understand the point of it. It resulted in my tweeting maybe a handful of times a month. Oh, and those tweets were mainly filled with me whining or talking about very mundane tasks I had performed. I used Twitter that way because I thought it was just a “status update”-only service. I never once used it as a way to engage other people and actively create connections of varying degrees.

I didn’t “get” Twitter until the Waldo Canyon Fire happened here in Colorado Springs, Colorado last year in 2012.

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Shortly before the fire wreaked havoc on this city, I had started following a local “celebrity” due to drama being splayed out on all the local news channels between him and the Colorado Springs’ Gazette (our largest local newspaper). It was a normal story about an employer and employee not being on the same page (see what I did there? I am so funny! Hilarious!) about an issue but I found his Twitter account and found it to be hilarious (it was Barrett Tryon, by the way, and he can be found on Twitter as @btryn).

Within weeks after following him on Twitter, this city experienced the wildfire. It was incredible to me. I had never been a witness to a natural disaster like this and was blown away by the destructive force of it and, for lack of a better way to describe this, I was in awe at the sight I saw every day the fire was raging on and slowly consuming more and more of the beauty the background of this city possessed. Thanks to my action of following this local “celebrity”, I was shown retweets he was doing of dozens, if not hundreds, of other locals tweeting about their experiences and the developing news of what was happening and the subsequent efforts of volunteer work and for donations to relief funds, helping out those who lost their homes, charities and churches to provide clothing and food, and so on. One of these people that I started to follow thanks to him, Wendy, also known as @SpringsAlliance on Twitter, proved to be a valuable resource for all things relating to this disaster along with just general news and happenings within this city. She turned out to be quite the amazing individual with an awesome family and I consider her one of the best people I’ve met this year. Anyway, I was glued to the television, whether at home or at work, and soon realized that Twitter was a far more valuable resource for getting up-to-the-minute updates on this disaster. This proved to be true time and time again for other major events that followed.

Due to the ugly destruction of this fire, I saw the beauty of this community and, after about 15 years of living here, I finally fell in love with this city. It was now MY city.

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I started following many of these people that were local Twitter users and actually talking (or tweeting) to them and, slowly, once the wild ride of the Waldo Canyon Fire subsided, I began to learn more about these people and started to view them as actual individuals that lived in my city, rather than just a source for news or funny tweets. Still, at this point, they were still just Twitter profiles to me in the end.

Me finally falling in love with this place is when I decided I was going to live in the heart of the city and made it my absolute goal to be living somewhere downtown by the end of 2012. I achieved that goal but I was a few days late as I ended up moving downtown on January 8th, 2013.

The first three months living downtown weren’t anything special. I very slowly started exploring downtown and the west side of the city, which were areas I largely ignored as I didn’t really know what was going on in those parts. I found some cool bars and shops to go to. That’s basically the extent of what it went to during those months.

Then, my former manager (he eventually moved to a different position at my work so we still “work together”) and I got into a very long discussion one day at work about the best way for me to meet people. The conversation started due to him asking if I had found a girlfriend by that time and, obviously, I chuckled and said, “Nope! No luck here!” That’s when our talk blew up into him giving me loads of advice and, buried within that advice to me on how to find a love interest, was a goldmine on how to make more friends that, honestly, I never considered or realized before.

That was the fix to cure my feelings of “hitting a brick wall” and feeling stuck in this weird state-of-mind that I still, to this day, can’t explain exactly how I felt. I will talk about this further down on this post.

Thanks to Twitter and my new appreciation for how it had connected me to so many wonderful locals, I knew about a monthly event called a “#cstweetup” where locals that have formed connections online could meet in person, get drinks or food, and talk. So, I finally built up the social courage and desire to go to one.

My first #cstweetup changed my life.

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Now, before I go into the whole thing about the #cstweetup, I want to talk about how I viewed my own life, in regards to the social aspects of it.

Before I moved to Indiana, I was feeling a weird sense of “hitting a brick wall” here in Colorado. I hadn’t developed a connection to this city at that point and was extremely unhappy with everything in my life in terms of where I stood here on Earth, my social life, and so much more. I was depressed, to put it simply. Nothing I did would make me feel legitimately happy about life. That is why, when I was laid off from my good job, I decided to take a bad situation in life that turned worse and refused to let it lower me down so I jumped on the opportunity to move to Indiana. It ended up changing my life. I learned so much about myself, made life-long friendships with people that I’ll never forget, grew so much as a person, but experienced many, many hardships. The biggest being the passing of my father.

Indiana will always, always, always have a special place in my heart, especially the city of Fort Wayne. That’s a chapter of my life that I cherish deeply and will never forget. I even plan on telling my future children and grandchildren about my time there. That place, while not my home, will always have a special spot in my heart because I do think it’s a truly wonderful little city and it was basically the first thing in my adult life that changed my life drastically in a positive manner. If I moved back to Colorado without the experience and effects Fort Wayne had on me, I’m pretty sure I would be seriously depressed and just sad all the time. My love for Colorado came about from my prior experiences in Fort Wayne and throughout the Midwest.

Yet, my experience in Indiana only changed my life to a certain point. That experience did give me a good taste of the potential I have as a person and of what I could be enjoying every day of my life.

The Midwest started the building of the foundation for the future to come.

I ended up moving back to Colorado Springs because my father had passed away and I felt this immense desire to be here for my mom. When she called me and told my dad had passed away, it absolutely killed me that I was 1,200 miles away and couldn’t even give her a hug.

I forced myself to make my move back to Colorado a “refresh”, rather than a sign of failure on my part for not being able to stay in Indiana. I was so intent on staying in the Midwest, as I had even looked hard into getting a job in and moving to Chicago, that I had a hard time accepting that I was moving back to a city I once despised. So, I moved back and knew I needed to make myself force this sudden change of plans to work. But I was completely and utterly lost on how to make this happen.

For the first two years, it was okay. Got back in touch with some old friends and had fun when I could. Some amazing memories were created and I’ll never forget those times but it wasn’t what I was ultimately seeking and it wasn’t fulfilling that eventual desire I had. Of course, I hit that “brick wall” again and immediately became frustrated and annoyed. It eventually started feeling like, despite being in a room with friends, I was still alone. I was feeling invisible again. Most of my old friends had moved on to other cities and better things and I felt like I was stuck in the same old place.

This all happened before I decided to move downtown.

Then, March 27th of this year happened. It was my first #cstweetup. I almost backed out at the last minute on going to this one because I didn’t know if I had the social ability to just ignite conversations with people I hadn’t met in real life yet. I convinced myself to finally suck up my fears and go since the place was easy walking-distance from my apartment and, if I wasn’t having a good time, I could easily slip out and just walk back home.

Oh, how wrong I was. It was easily the best night I had downtown since moving and I already felt roots of genuine friendships being planted with several of the people I had finally met in person.

The most important thing I experienced that night is that I felt… wanted. Not in a romantic manner, obviously, but people cared to hear my thoughts and people cared to have a conversation with me. For once in my life, people were excited to meet me! I’ll never forget the moment when I walked in and a woman, Carrie, who has the kindest soul I’ve ever known saw me and jumped in excitement and ran over to give me a hug. To remind you, she is someone I’ve never met before in real life at that point, only on Twitter. Everyone made me feel so at home with them that my nerves immediately went away and even my speech impediment mostly went away. It’s honestly really hard for me to describe the feeling I felt that night but it was something I hadn’t felt for a long time and it just felt so good. I remember walking home from the event and the moon was incredibly bright and lit up the night sky with it. I marveled at what is usually a familiar sight but it was something else that night. That is exactly the moment I realized that moving downtown was the right choice to start this refresh of my life that I so desperately sought after.

And all of that was just from the one and first #cstweetup I attended. Little did I know is how things would get better, how the countless extra people I would meet would enrich my life even more, and how I would develop strong friendships with several that I absolutely admire and look up to now.

I haven’t missed a #cstweetup since then and, barring any crazy scheduling issues, I don’t plan on missing any future ones. I have gained so much from each I’ve attended and from the people, old and new, that I talk to during each one.

Then, the Black Forest Fire happened. It was a strong reminder of how close this community is and eager we are all willing to help when so many are in danger of their lives and losing their homes. Even after the destruction of the Waldo Canyon Fire, the Black Forest Fire decided to take the place of the most destructive wildfire in Colorado’s history. I found myself, once again, glued to Twitter and the news on TV every minute possible to stay updated on the situation. It also didn’t help that my mom was under a pre-evacuation notice for most of the endurance of the Black Forest Fire. Still, once things calmed down and the fire was under control, I felt a sense of joy seeing so many out in the streets supporting the firefighters and showing much-deserved love to these public-service workers. I was reminded for the second time in a year’s span of how much this city, this community, absolutely rocks and why I am thankful to be living here.

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Moving on to more positive things!

An absolute favorite thing to happen out of the #cstweetup was meeting Bob and getting to go on his monthly group hikes. I finally experienced hiking like I’ve never experienced before and discovered new areas of this city and state that I never knew existed. These hikes have pushed me to be in better shape and to go farther and harder every time I hike, either with Bob and his group, or on my own.

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Another one of the best things to happen this year is that, once again, thanks to Twitter, I re-connected with someone that I now consider one of my best friends. Our history is funny and weird. We were once connected then lost touch for a few years after I moved to Indiana but, eventually, she happened to find me on Twitter and our friendship has grown to be something I really truly admire and appreciate now. Plus, her family, especially her child, have been immense joys to me this year. She won’t let me take pictures with her so the best I have is this! Yes, I’m doing that face on purpose.

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An event that happened this year that was very important to me and one I had been looking forward to for a long time was the wedding of Larry and Patricia. Larry asked me to be a groomsman at his wedding and I was so unbelievably honored. Okay, a little backstory first! Patricia is Rhonda’s twin sister. Rhonda is one of my best friends. We’ve known each other since we were 14 years old and freshmen at Sand Creek High School. I had a HUGE crush on her and would awkwardly stare at her from across the classroom in our social studies class until I finally had the courage to, nope, not ask her for her phone number, but to look her number up in the phonebook and call her. I made plans to hang out with her at the mall but then canceled because I got way too nervous. I eventually worked even more courage to randomly buy her a teddy bear from Target and give it to her while she was on her way to the bus after school. She thanked me and gave me a hug and I immediately fast-walked away. My heart was pounding so hard afterward and I was giddy with joy. I continued the awkward too-afraid-to-make-complete-sentences-with-her conversations for a while until we actually eventually formed a real friendship during sophomore year of high school. From that point on, we became very close which caused me to become close to her family. Fast-forward more than a decade, it was time to witness the wedding of her twin sister, Patricia, with an awesome guy, Larry. I couldn’t even sleep the night before because I was so elated with joy for their wedding and sure-to-be long-lasting marriage. The wedding was an incredible and emotional event and a time I’ll never forget. Also, I looked really damn good in a tux.

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Rhonda and her entire family, with the wonderful addition of Larry, are pretty much a second family to me. They are all some of the most loving, caring, inclusive, and greatest people I’ve ever known and I will always be thankful they are a part of my life and they’ve all allowed me to be a part of their lives. 2013 was a momentous year for them all and I still can’t believe I got to be a part of it with them.

Now, a major part of my 2013 was taken up by Ryan. We met in the 7th grade and instantly became best friends. I’ve known this guy since I was 12 years old and our friendship continues to get better and stronger every year. He’s my brother and nothing less. He moved out here to Colorado Springs in hopes to find a job and get established here because he has always viewed this place as his home. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with the job search and he was forced to move back to Indiana. Thankfully, he has found a great job out there in Fort Wayne and I hope he’ll eventually be able to make Colorado his home a few years from now. We went on so many adventures, hikes, great times with friends, and memories were created that’ll last a lifetime. I got so used to having my best friend here that his sudden departure still bums me out. I miss him but I know he’s out in the Midwest doing great things and making a name for himself.

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Okay, back to the Twitter stuff! Got a little sidetracked there…

Anyway, I’ve met countless others on Twitter and have developed legitimate friendships with them regardless if they are here in Colorado Springs, in other areas of the country, and even a handful around the world. Through these friendships, I’ve met even more people and made even more friendships that I am so thankful for.

I’ve also started dating again since moving downtown and partially thanks to Twitter. I went more than two years of basically having no dating life. That changed and I’ve had some fun and interesting times. Haven’t found that lasting “connection” yet with someone, but this is still far more progress I’ve made in that realm than in years past. It feels good to finally have the confidence to put myself out there and see what happens and just go where the wind takes me.

I’ve even lost 25+ pounds this year!

I’ve finally become settled and comfortable with my political and non-religious/spiritual beliefs and have really enjoyed being challenged by others that I’ve met in regards to how I view the world and those around me. I’ve grown so much and have met so many wonderful people that I previously would have never met or even had a chance to get to know. Many of these people really helped me change my views on religion and those who are on the opposite end of me on the spectrum of politics. For many years, I was very “with the flow of things” when it came to my politics yet nothing I stated as what I believed was what I felt 100% comfortable in. That finally happened this year as I found belief systems that sits well within my heart and I finally know people that I can relate these views to.

Which leads to my newfound appreciation for life. Life in general. For the appreciation of life and the lives around me. I live in a beautiful state. A beautiful city. And am surrounded by beautiful people. I want to be a part of this city forever and eventually be a part of why it grows into an even better place to be. I finally have an emotional connection to this city thanks to the people in it. You’ve all helped me realize how wonderful life can be and how the potential I have is unlimited. You’ve all helped me quit with the stupid, teenage-mindset of cynicism about the world around me that I used to possess. This is why I’ll occasionally push the “death to cynicism” mantra, including the hashtag of #DeathToCynicism in my online posts. Despite all the negativity, despite all the horrible things to happen in this world around us, you’ve all helped me realize there is still beauty to be found in everything. There is always beauty to be found in life. Cynicism is the absolute worst and I have set my mission in life to minimize or absolutely destroy it.

2013 was the year that I finally felt I could establish myself as finally comfortable with who I am and with my surroundings. 2014 is the year I feel I can finally build upon that foundation and grow as a person even more and move my life forward to even greater and better things.

I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings for me. I can’t wait to see what I can cause to happen in 2014. Like I said previously, 2013 is my foundation so 2014 will be what I can build upon it and I. CAN. NOT. WAIT.

Thank YOU all for being a part of my life this year and for helping me be better at life.

This upcoming year will be good to me.

I leave you with this quote:

“I love being horribly straightforward. I love sending reckless text messages (because how reckless can a form of digitized communication be?) and telling people I love them and telling people they are absolutely magical humans and I cannot believe they really exist. I love saying, “Kiss me harder,” and “You’re a good person,” and, “You brighten my day.” I live my life as straight-forward as possible.

Because one day, I might get hit by a bus.

Maybe it’s weird. Maybe it’s scary. Maybe it seems downright impossible to just be—to just let people know you want them, need them, feel like, in this very moment, you will die if you do not see them, hold them, touch them in some way whether its your feet on their thighs on the couch or your tongue in their mouth or your heart in their hands.

But there is nothing more beautiful than being desperate.

And there is nothing more risky than pretending not to care.

We are young and we are human and we are beautiful and we are not as in control as we think we are. We never know who needs us back. We never know the magic that can arise between ourselves and other humans.

We never know when the bus is coming.”

— Rachel C. Lewis

Faith In Humanity

Seeing how my own city of Colorado Springs came together and did amazing things while we were going through the Waldo Canyon Fire last summer, and reeling from the loss of two lives, 350+ homes burned down, and massive loss of natural beauty to our landscape, reignited the flame of love for the good in humanity around me.

Seeing how all of the Denver metro (just 60 miles north of us) and the rest of the state of Colorado reacted to the theater shootings in Aurora and the utterly massive outpouring of support and help for the victims and their families kept the flame of hope I have for humanity alive.

Seeing the love, the help, the emotions, the everything good that is ALREADY happening in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings is just strengthening that flame and getting stronger by the minute.

Yes, the world is a terrible place at times and far too many are content with being okay with that. With accepting that as the default reality. Events like the above, while initially horrible, have shown, time and time again, that they are great avenues for the best of humanity to really fucking shine and show how beautiful we all are.

Don’t ever fall back with the status quo. Recognize the good in the world and take action to make that good grow.