Reclaiming One Sock and One Hoop Earring

Dear Family and Friends,

I am low-key, slightly, and embarrassingly, obsessed with socks. There are some people who have a variety of colorful, creative, and artistic socks. I’m not one of them. I buy the pack of socks that come 9 to a bag from Target. I have 28 pairs of white socks and 2 pairs of colorful socks. And somehow, unknown to the laws of the universe, after I wash laundry there are always 4 white socks that don’t match up with one another. It irks me to death because it makes no- and I truly mean it- it makes absolutely no sense why I end up with so many unpaired white socks.

 

My earring collection is different. There is way more variety and some of the earrings represent places that I traveled to or the special occasions I bought them for. It takes a long time for one or both of the earrings to go missing. What usually happens is that I place both earring in a purse or my backpack because I intend to put them on once I get to my destination. I forget to put the earring on, and then one of the earrings clandestinely sneaks out of my bag- never to be seen again.

 

Or, I step on the earring. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

 

Recently I lost one of my favorite earrings. It’s a big hoop earring, wrapped in ankara fabric, that I bought from my friend’s business. This time, the way I lost the earring made no sense. I took the earring off while I was sitting my car. I watched it fall in-between the seat and armrest. I reached down to get it and then it was gone. POOF! It was nowhere to be found when I went to retrieve it beyond the blind search with my fingers. I searched high and low and the earring just vanished. There are enough things that happen throughout the day that make me question my sanity, but this was the last straw. I saw it fall. And then it was gone. I searched for the earring on different days. I just couldn’t find it.

 

Then, one day I went outside to move my car so my roommate and I can switch places. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that the earring rolled (or was placed) next to a pole and safely tucked away from the disastrous fate that would have surely ensued if my earring had become acquainted with a tire.

 

In honor of my two favorite collections, I’m re-claiming lonely socks and hoop earrings this month.

 

Lonely socks and hoop earring are the things that add value to our lives- in a small way when they are present- but they leave a palpable deficiency in their absence.

 

Lonely socks are the things we take for granted. I was watching ‘Dear White People’ and there is a scene where the main character reflects on how she felt she rejected her dad. There was no animosity between the two of them, but she felt that her actions towards barred him from filling a more significant and present role in her life. While there was clearly love between the two of them, she underappreciated him like a dependable, plain, white sock.

 

A couple of ‘lonely socks’ I’ve been thinking about recently are the undefinable unfolding of situations and relationships: people who taken a blind first chance on me, the times I’ve been given a second (or many more) chances, and what I learn about myself as I grow through conflicts. I’ve been thinking  about ‘what if’ I had pursued a different path or those other aforementioned situations didn’t pan out the way they did.

 

Let’s say the missing white sock represent the ‘what if’ possibility. For instance, say you went camping and lost one sock somewhere at the campsite and the lonely sock came home with you (which has happened to me). But, what if you stayed at the campsite with the ‘lost’ sock and never went home with the ‘lonely’ sock. Your life would be really different, right?! By now you will be able to run with a pack of wolves, sing with the bluejays and know which berries will give you diarrhea. Oh, the limitless possibilities of the ‘what if’ scenario. Instead, you went home with only one lonely, plain, white, sock.

 

Hoop earings are the things that make you stop and re-evaluate what you have and don’t have. Do you ever feel like you are more concerned about what other people have? Or more specifically, what another person has that you don’t. I’ll just pause right here so you can evaluate your life as I sip my tea.

 

Even though my earring was lost for about a month, I kept the other one in hopes that it’s pair would just show-up. And it did. It was returned back to me whole and complete. I just have this unyielding belief that the universe will return everything back to you. Not everything comes back exactly as you sent it out; my earring was dirtier and a little bent out of shape. Not everything comes back to you immediately, but everything you put out into the world will eventually be returned to you.

 

Hoop earrings are symbolic of the things we knowingly/ unknowingly, willingly/ unwillingly put out into the world. I saw one of my old nurse preceptors recently. She said one of the things she remembers most about me was a  story I told about my family trying out for ‘Family Feud’. Of all the things to remember about me, she chose… *shrugs shoulders* Everything you put out into the world will eventually be returned to you.

 

Hoop earrings are what we value. Hoop earrings are what we will search the ends of the Earth for. They are the things what we hold out a little bit of hope for when it seems as if it is all is lost. Hoop earrings represent your not so obvious loves, desires, dreams, and hopes.

 

Alright, Im done. I love hearing from you! Let me know what your one sock and hoop earrings are. Also, all of my old letters are here at: fearwaslastseason.wordpress.com

 

 

Advertisements

Reclaiming My Fire

Dear Family and Friends,

In general, it feels as if many things that I thought were all going to come together decided to take a left and B-line straight to Crazytown. Now that I’ve had some time to sit with the confetti of hopes and dreams that have spontaneously combusted and are falling like hail, I’ve had some time to look at things from different perspective.

I like to believe I’m a nature-y tree hugger type of person. But the truth is, I sit in a chair (usually in front of a computer screen) in a box (usually the library)- sometimes that box doesn’t have windows (usually an interior classroom)- and I really actually never experience more than 15 minutes of nature during my walk from one box (school) to the next (home) and vice versa. Instead, I look out window when they are available and write about the nature that I have no time to enjoy.

Today, I send you my ode to the fire within.

History teaches us that hundreds of years ago forests had fewer, yet larger, healthier trees. Forests today have more trees than in the past, but they are not as large or healthy. Established trees have to compete with undergrowth for nutrients and space. Fire clears the weaker trees and debris and returns health to the forest.

So what does this teach us about fires?

  1. Fires are cleansing. There are people, things, and circumstances that intend to compete and steal from you in subtle and obvious ways. I wish every toxic person and situation revealed themselves before the drama and hardships occurred. But that is not always the case. Sometimes there are things in our lives that slowly and clandestinely block the good that is due to us- and we tolerate it because you are just used to the undergrowth. It doesn’t hurt and you never thought about life without it.
  2. Fires reveal who you are by refining you. Have you ever watched a paper or a piece of wood burn. A fire will turn that piece of paper or wood into ash. It may provide warmth, it may provide beauty. If you ever sat by a campfire you can attest to how mesmerizing the flames are. However, it ultimately reveals how weak the paper and wood are to the transformative power of fire. On the other hand, there are certain substances, usually metals, that can withstand the heat of fire and be refined by the process. Unlike smelting and cancilning which change the chemical form of the metal, refining by fire leaves the metal in its original chemical state while only removing the impurities. The refinement process doesn’t change the core or the essence of the object, but it makes it stronger.    
  3. Fires help you reach your potential. I don’t think trees of today ever think, ‘Could I have been possibly be taller?’ I don’t think trees think at all. But you, my human friend who is reading this, are stuck with ambition and hopes and dreams and all of the possibilities of what you life could be like or should be like. Unless you are a Kardashian. Don’t be a Kardashian because there are some trees that are smarter than all of the TV Kardashian’s combined. Back to you though. In order to get to where we hope to achieve in life, we have to go through a couple * cough, or more, cough* of fires. Embrace the natural fires that occur when there is too much undergrowth sucking away your nutrients.
  4. Fires help mold. If you ever tried glassblowing you would be amazed by how little piece of glass you start out with can turn into something quite artsy fartsy. With patience and a steady hand you can create something beautiful. The best part about glassblowing is that it is really hard to mess up. During the process you can continually manipulate the glass in the fire until you have something you like. I promise you, you are the glass and life is fire. Keep on turning in the fire until you have a creation that looks somewhat decent, kind of wonky and still beautifully unique.
  5. Fires prove that power is not always destructive. As a society we are so disconnected from nature. Our obsessive consumption and lust for destruction interferes with natural processes and harmonious balance. I think many things in society are no longer functioning the way in which they were originally intended to function. It makes no sense that millions of tons of food are wasted each year, yet we have millions of people who are starving and living in power. The list could go on. I don’t know where I’m really going with this, but the point is: we that have power have to choose to be destructive.
  6. Fire ignites and compels you to move. May you never get stuck in a burning building.
  7. The light of a fire can illuminate your path. I’m thinking about the scene from Indiana Jones when he is in some cave doing some adventurer stuff looking for some treasure or hidden stuff, and he has that torch for extra theatrics. Think of your soul/ intuition/ God/ spiritual guide as that torch that is lighting your way in the cave. When everything all around you is pitch black, and a boulder or colony of bats can come out of nowhere to get you, let that fire light your way. Take one more assured step by the light of the fire. Even though you cannot see what is 5 feet in front of your face, trust in the fire will reveal enough… until the next step.  

This is where I finish. I’m done. I’m tired of writing. 

I hope you are still singing “I’m reclaiming my time”.

 

Brianna

Offering

What is it that you have to offer?

Earlier last month I proposed that we all reclaim something… anything actually. I thought I was being  super philosophical and deep by compelling everyone to reclaim their offerings. However, at the time I had no idea what that really meant.

I still may not know what that really means… but I’ll try.

I remember when I was younger there were some people who belong to a certain generation that would put these thick plastic covers over their couches. I didn’t want to move while I was sitting on the couch because it would make a loud awkward noise whenever I would slightly shift.

The other day I realized something in my parent’s home that I never thought twice about. We have this cabinet of glassware that I have never even thought about touching. I think, maybe, I’ve seen my mom open it once in my lifetime. My parents own fancy glassware only to be used when they host a fancy adult dinner party for fancy sophisticated people.

If you met my parents you know that will never happen.

I cannot understand why people would buy fancy, expensive, valuable things that they never have any intention of every using for their intended purpose or could never fully enjoy. I don’t say this lightly, I truly do not like sharing. I am not a hospitable, generous person. I don’t even wish to be one. However, I have a deeper enjoyment of stuff when I share things. I rarely offer to share, but I don’t mind the community and bonding that comes along with sharing. I just don’t initiate sharing. There are things that have a special purpose and only made available for special occasions. However, all of my stuff gets used and worn out.  

This is what ‘reclaiming my offerings’ means to me.

My offering is my best. Its pulling the fancy plates out of the fancy glass cabinet to eat avocado toast on the fancy couch (without the plastic covering).

My offerings are the things I put out into the world that I hope to get back. This is not the same as giving something with the expectation of receiving tit for tat. It is akin to putting good karma out into the world.

A true offering is something that has a life of its own. It gives, it returns, it multiplies, it takes on its own purpose and meaning, and it meets a need and fills a void. It lives beyond the moment of transaction between giver and receiver. It is a couch that never gets worn and torn no matter how many butts touch it. It is the fancy glassware that never breaks and is passed down from generation to generation no matter how many times it has been used.

My offering are what I’m willing to let go of. Offerings are not trash or old and worn out things. This isn’t about things that no longer hold any value (I don’t care how expensive the purse was. If it has lived in the back of your closet for 5 years it no longer holds the value you thought it was worth. ) I can easily hand you trash or something that holds no value to me. Do you want my old band shirt? A pair of socks with holes? I can do that because that is not my offering- its my junk. My offerings are the things that make me slightly cringe even at the thought of getting rid of it. My offering is important and meaningful. They hold stories, memories, and emotions.

My offering is an honest expression of me. All of the above examples were tangible things. I don’t think offerings are things, per se. It’s the things that you can’t quantify. You can’t always touch it. You can’t ask for it back.  Your time, energy, attention, words of encouragement, and sacrifices are offerings. Sometimes those intangible offerings are are packaged in stuff (i.e. you are offering love through a thoughtful gift, or appreciation through an act of service).

Offerings aren’t always obvious. One of my favorite quotes is, “Someone once gave me a box of darkness and I had to realize that too was a gift”. Offerings that come in a ‘box of darkness’ only come from a giver who who truly loves the receiver. This type of offering is rare and shouldn’t be confused for ill will. This type of offering doesn’t always feel good, but it never breaks the receiver’s spirit. Offerings do not destroy, undermine or take advantage. Some offerings are the essence of tough love. They correct, guide and protect.

Lastly, I think it is just as crucial to acknowledge the offerings you receive from others as you contemplate the offerings you have to give to the world. We are never just a giver. We are also receivers; and, sometimes being a receiver is harder than being a giver.

Reclaiming 2018

Dear Family and Friends,

 

The New Year is a time to look forward. I’m going to get that dream job. I’m going to lose that last 15ish/ 30ish/ 50ish  pounds. I’m going to raise my credit score 150 points. I’m going to eat healthy, you know, vegetables and kale and stuff. I’m going to get my life together and get up at 5am everyday… even on the weekend. Its time to run that 5k; let me start training to get to that 7 minute mile. I’m going to achieve all my NYE resolutions from the past 10 years.

 

I was talking to my friend, Denisse, and she reminded me why I started writing these (often long) letters about my thoughts. A few years ago, on New Year’s Eve, my niece and nephew made a “Best of 2k14” list highlighting all of the good in their life instead making a list of how they (7 years old and 10 years old at the time) would change their lives. It struck me that I’m not really grateful, I don’t take time to reflect, and there is so much in my life that I take for granted.

 

Instead of resolving to do better, my niece and nephew expressed gratitude.

 

This year I will make no resolutions. Well, more like, I won’t resolve to do the things I’ve been resolving to do over the past 10 years.

 

In honor of Aunty Max (a.k.a. Representative Maxine Waters of California), this letter is dedicated to her glorious proclamation, “Reclaiming my time”.

 

Reclamation:

  • To recover (substances) in a pure or usable form from refuse, discarded articles, etc.

  • To bring back to a preferable manner of living, sound principles, ideas, etc.

 

What is it you need to reclaim? What acts of reclamation do you need to make?

 

Reclaim your time. This is for the “I’m too busy to do anything with anybody” person, and “It’s too late for me to go back and pursue XYZ” person, and the “I’m going to get around to doing that one thing that is good for me one day” person. Time is funny because you truly always have enough of it, until you don’t. It never feels like that when you spend more time thinking about what you should be doing- or should have done- with your time. We fill up our time with mindless thing (as of this moment I’ve watched 4 seasons of Little Women: LA, 2 seasons of Little Women: Dallas, and I’m on season 3 of Little Women: Atlanta over the past week); we spend our time pursuing busyness for the sake of being busy; and, we spend our time replaying the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve of our lives.

Reclaim your time by moving forward. Reclaim your time by putting your priorities first. Invest in yourself. Don’t do that thing that you ‘have to do’ and see if your world falls apart. Most likely the world, or any significant aspect of your life, won’t fall apart or even make a difference. Or, do the thing that seems completely impossible. For example, I decided I need an extra $85k this year that goes specifically to my student loans. Yes an extra $85k. In order to achieve this I’m going to have to say ‘no’ to some old things and ‘yes’ to some new things. I might get close or I might not. (I found this quote that said, I would rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocre). This is how I’m reclaiming my time. I’m getting rid of $300,000 debt I accumulated in 4 years so I can move forward with a clean slate by 2022.

 

Reclaim your offerings. Have you ever negotiated a salary? I haven’t. I took the first nurse practitioner job that was offered to me and accepted the pay without negotiation. I was warned not to do that. My nursing school adviser warned us soon-to-be graduates that we could and should negotiate our first salaries even though we were (and still are to some degree) inexperienced, not confident in what little skills we poses, and we would require extra support for 6 months *cough* or more *cough* as we on-board into our new positions. She shared that even though she had 30+ years of experience, and she was highly regarded in our occupational nursing field, she never negotiated a salary for herself that she was proud of. She was trying to instill in us that we were worthy of asking for and receiving what we deserved for providing a medical service.

 

In 2018, I’m reclaiming my offering (and hope you do, too). And by that, I have to figure out what it is I’m offering. So, I’ll process what that means in next month’s letter.

 

Reclaim your ancestors. We spend so much time working on the ‘what’s next’ that we rarely appreciate how far we’ve come and the sacrifices that were made in order for us to be here. By reclaiming my ancestors I’m claiming all of the opportunities that they fought for, bled for and died for.

 

I was at a talk the other day and the speaker said something along the lines of, “I grieve because we are living on stolen land”. We live on stolen land built by stolen people. As I move forward in different places and spaces, I feel obligated to do my best to rectify the wrong to my ancestors and this country’s ancestors. I’m reclaiming their unfinished battles. I’m reclaiming their faith. I’m reclaiming their strength.

 

Reclaim your journey. There is real life. There is what you think your life should look like. There is what other people think you should be doing with your life. There is the illusion of what you think other people are doing with their life. (You are probably wrong.) There is the illusion of how people perceive your life. (They are probably wrong.)

 

How we go about our journey is a mixture of all of that plus all of the associated emotions. I’ve been on enough flights (literally and figuratively) to know that the landing is bumpy and you are going to hit some turbulence in the air. However, I’ve safely arrived to my destination 100% of the time despite the crazy thoughts I had while I was suspended in the air.

 

So I’m done writing this letter. I’m done. Awkward ending. I hope to hear from you soon. What do you want to reclaim this year? Make sure you hear the remix of ‘I’m Reclaiming my time

 

Brianna

This Is My Last Thanksgiving

Dear Family and Friends,

Let me tell you about Betty Jean Smith. (see pictures here)

This is my lasssssttt Thanksgiving,” my Grandma boldly declared a couple of weeks ago. The thing is, she may be right. She was just diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that metastasized to her brain.

I’m going to outlive all of you,” my grandma boldly declared a couple of weeks ago. The thing is, she may be right. She was just diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that metastasized to her brain… and she really hasn’t slowed down (relatively speaking).

(If you would like to learn a little bit more about the life and times of Betty J. Smith, you can read this beautiful article about her here: https://mayramacedonolan.com/2017/11/13/why-i-
rubywoo/
)

 

I was telling my friend, Jhia, this is the best case scenario for letting my grandma transition from this life to the next. She isn’t scared. When we broke the news to her (we did this about 5 million times because her short term memory was faulty after her seizure) she always responded the same, “Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m o.k. I’m going to be with my mother.” She was o.k. with the decision to not treat the cancer. She is slowly accepting that she won’t be able to live on her own.

Maybe it was her last Thanksgiving, or maybe she will outlive us all. Truth is, we never really know how families and extended friendship circles will change from year to year. Now that Thanksgiving (or, awareness of indigenous and turkey mass genocide day) is over, and you had your fill of food that only comes out on Christmas and Thanksgiving, what and who are you still actively thankful for?

I was going to write more about my grandma, but it feels too soon.

Before my grandma got sick I was going to write about my roommate, Faith. If you like me, you would probably like her 10x better. I didn’t write that to put myself down. I consider it a blessing to have someone in my life that I admire so much…. And that will put up with my passive- aggressive living behaviors. Really, truly, and honestly, how many people do we know who make us a better person just by being in our lives?

 

We ended up as roommates because at the same time I was getting kicked out of my other apartment she was moving up north to start the same nursing program I was accepted into. I can write a million things about her, but there are 3 things that really stand out over the last 4 years living with her.

  1. She broke her leg on Valentine’s Day. That set off a series of events that dramatically changed the outcome of when she would finish school. If it were me, I would have cried and been miserable all day everyday for the last 3 years. I still would have been bitter- just to be bitter- to this day. Faith isn’t like me. She made the most of the situation and set herself up for better things. I witnessed her deal with several setbacks and she push through them all. I’ve learned so much by watching how she deals with the ups, downs, and unexpected plot twists with so much grace and faith.

  2. She gives really good advice. Like, she should get paid for fixing people’s lives in one or two conversations. I’ve gotten good advice from her even when she wasn’t talking to me. I sometimes overhear her phone conversations of her fixing people’s lives without them realizing she is fixing their life. I find it amazing that people still know how to talk on the phone. (A phone conversation with me sounds like uh-huh…uh-huh… yeah… uh-huh…uh-huh…
    yeah… it was nice talking to you… bye). There was also a short period of time where someone moved into the apartment temporarily to cover Faith’s rent as she figured out what to do with her life when she took a year off of school. I was ready to kick the temporary roommate out of the apartment. Faith talked some sense into me and helped me see the situation from a different perspective. One of the things I admire about Faith is that she consistently gives
    good advice and she lives a life, rooted in her faith in Christ, that backs it up.

  3. I can’t tell you what her Kenyan name is (I think the phonetic pronunciation is Ooo-keta). Ok., I lied. I really truly don’t know. I should know, but if she reads this she will text me the answer and I can save it in my contact list. But I do know the meaning of her name: One who is hospitable. She told me that each child, depending on gender and birth order, is named after a quality of a grandparent. I never met her grandmother, but Faith truly embodies ‘one who
    is hospitable’. Not just ‘welcome to my home’ hospitable, but ‘welcome to my life’ hospitable.

I feel like there is a lot more I can say, but the letter is getting long. Plus, I’m writing this from the library computer and I don’t want to start boo-hooing like a baby.

I’m curious. Who in your life are you grateful for and why? And then tell them!  I look forward to hearing from you.

California Fires

Dear Family and Friends,

 

What comes to mind when you think about natural disasters in California. Earthquakes? Most likely. I recently found out that California has more fire-related disasters than any other act of nature.  This year, both Northern and Southern California made national news when 42 people died in (or because of) the fires, countless more people were harmed or became ill due to smoke and flames, the blazing inferno destroyed over 80,000 structures and over $1 billion of damages accumulated because of two major fires.

 

I could smell the smoke and the ashes fell heavily for a week where I lived (and I was nowhere near the danger zone). Then my coworker reminded me of something that I had long since put in the depth of my random (usually useless) alcove of things that I heard from other people.

 

Fires are a natural and necessary part of life. Its when humans start changing the ecosystem that fires (which are healthy for the environment) become destructive to human civilization.

 

People’s natural tendency is to try and force life to be perfect by getting rid of things that are unpredictable or potentially dangerous. It makes intuitive sense to prevent all fires and potentially adverse circumstances from entering our day-to-day lives. The disconnect between the purpose of natural fires and the rare times they can destroy life causes most people to (reasonably or imprudently)   fear fires.

 

The fires we face in life aren’t always literally real fire. Sometimes ‘fires’ are things that come along, shake things up and forces you to start over, or at very least, re-think things. Yes, I know, it is uncomfortable and causes anxiety. But it is also healthy.

 

Fires are necessary for life to grow. In a natural setting small fires help prevent big fires. According to the California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection, “Established trees have to compete with undergrowth for nutrients and space. Fire clears the weaker trees and debris and returns health to the forest. Clearing brush from the forest floor with low-intensity flames can help prevent large damaging wildfires that spread out of control and completely destroy forests.”  

 

In other words, even if you were perfect and did everything right in life some things need to be cleared away. Or, (metaphorically speaking) you can live with parasitic elements that will eventually take root and steal your nutrients until a fire comes along.

 

Nature shows us that small fires will self-extinguish once it is done making the soil healthy. However, the events of this past month show us that big uncontrollable fires will cause destruction (and you better call for help).

 

So, it’s the end of the month. The letters are always shorter when I send them out on the last day of the month because I’m scrambling to get something out. I’m still trying to figure out what to write about for my theme, “to make love is to make life.” Maybe it will hit me for next month.

 

As always, I love to hear back from you (especially if I haven’t seen your face in a while). Also, I keep all of my old letters posted here: fearwaslastseason.wordpress.com.

 

Until Next Month,

Brianna

Do You Know Rebecca and John Kurtz- September Letter

Hello Family and Friends,

 

Good news! Whenever you get a letter this late in the month you know it’s going to be short. For those of you who are new to my email list and don’t know why you are on the list you should just keep reading.

 

This month I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the role Rebecca and John Kurtz played in my life. FYI, I’ve never met them before. I don’t know what they look like, what they do, or where they live.

 

I do know they used to live in my apartment. Four years after they moved out my roommate and I still regularly get their mail. Infinity always sends John offers for internet deals. Rebecca apparently had some animal because Petco regularly (tries) to dissuade Rebecca from shopping at other pet stores by offering her ubiquitous 20% coupons.

 

I never really thought about the people who inhabited this apartment before Faith and I moved in. With the exception of this letter,  I don’t really care.

 

Last night I began thinking about how this was their home first. They built many memories in the same space. They probably fought each other and had tasteless decorations. It made me ponder the places we inhabit and what we leave behind.

 

The Places We Inhabit

 

Your home. Your job(s). Your favorite chair at the dinner table. Your favorite chair that only you sit in. The driver’s seat of your car. Public buses. Open highways and rush hour traffic.The same seat at church that would make you act unholy if someone was sitting there.The window or aisle seat on a plane (because no one likes the middle seat). Your therapist’s couch.

 

Your favorite grocery store. Target. Your favorite piece of clothing. The highly coveted position as the middle child. Your assigned locker at the gym. The places you volunteer.

 

That horrific photo of you. The picture of you with someone that is no longer with us. Your best friend’s shoulder.

 

The places where you are a leader. The places where you are a supporter. The alone places. The lonely places. Places of influence. The places of hope and faith. The places where you are other people’s hopes and dreams and aspirations. Places where you are the answer and solution. The places of desperation and uncertainty.The circumstances when you intervene on someone’s behalf. The memories of good times. The memories of bad times. The places in people’s heart.

 

Your name resides on someone else’s junk mail. Your name is on my email list.

 

What we leave behind

 

Shoes and clothes we’ve outgrown. High school varsity jackets. Blue eyeshadow. Bell-bottom pants. Childhood. Adolescents. Early adulthood. Late adulthood. Your favorite lunch pail (unless you’re my friend Dawn). Jerry Curls. Jazzercise. Insane collections of trolls, beenie babies, baseball cards and pogs.

 

Best friends forever and first love. Toxic people. The one that got away. The one that wouldn’t go away. The first times. The last times. Fears and anxieties. Missed opportunities. That one job that would have/ actually had changed your life. Regret. The hope that you will one day become_________.

 

The fear of losing hope.

 

And so what?

I don’t know. I really don’t know. If I had to give an answer- or some conclusion with a pretty silk bow- I guess the point is that we are never really stuck in one place.

 

A patient last night was telling me her life was in disarray. Yeah, it was pretty bad. Even with her hallucinations she was able to get herself together enough to get herself to clinic and ask for what she needed.

 

If she could do it, you can do it too.

 

You are never completely stuck. You are never your worst failure or biggest mistake. You are more than what you do for work. You are worth more than what you make. You are not beholden to debt forever.

 

All of that is just one aspect of your life because the places we inhabit now will all eventually be the places we leave behind.

 

As always, I love to hear back from you when I haven’t heard from you in a while. Every month I like to stop and contemplate something that I’m grateful for. Ever since 2014 I’ve been writing these letters when I realized that I don’t stop to be grateful for life.  

 

Love Brianna

How Far Can You Go

Dear Family and Friends,

 

I like to believe that I am an expert in the utilization of public transportation. In the last 16 months, I have mastered  ( *snobby bragging voice* in addition to my  extensive knowledge of MUNI in San Francisco and the Bay Area Rapid Transit), Metro in Washington D.C.; Los Angeles, California; and Medellin, Colombia*. I am also quite familiar with public transportation systems in Hawaii*; Minneapolis, Minnesota; New Orleans, Louisiana;  and Denver, Colorado. I even had a very brief stent (a 10 minute ride) on Iceland’s* public bus.

 

How hard could it be to use the Masivo Integrado de Occidente (MIO) public transportation system in Cali, Colombia?

 

I take the T31 on the Troncales line from Capri Station 9 stops to Estadio Station. Very simple. To get to the mall, I can take T31 on the well-defined Troncales line 2 stops going in the opposite direction from school. Or, I can take the P10A bus on the Petrotroncales line for 4 stops. If I choose to take P10A, it’s a little bit harder to navigate because the stops in between my house and the mall aren’t always well defined, but my destination is clear as day. Also, the P10A bus drops me of closer to home and I can avoid crossing this really busy street. The first time I went to the mall, my friend dropped me off at home. The 2nd time I went to the mall I took T31 back home because I couldn’t find the bus stop for P10A (the bus stop are on two completely different sides of the mall). The 3rd time I went to the mall I was absolutely determined to take P10A home- you know, to try something different.

 

It was dark, but it wasn’t late. It was only 4 stops, and by taking P10A I would avoid crossing the busy street in the evening. Also, I knew the bus route was a straight path home; I was confident I would get off at the right time even though the actual bus stop is not very visible. I got on the bus and there were only 4 other passengers. I took out my book to enjoy a quick leisurely read because the bus was moving very slowly in traffic. I was enjoying my book- knowing that I would be home soon- until the bus made a turn. Now, sometimes busses turn, and then turn again, because some parts of the road are not conducive for the size of a bus. However, the bus usually returns to the same street further down the road.

 

But this bus didn’t. The bus that should have been driving along the periphery routes (Petrotroncales) was now along the trunk route (Troncales).

 

I kept riding further away for a couple of stops because I was hoping that the bus would eventually start heading towards my house. When I finally accepted the fact that wasn’t going to happen, I got off the bus and waited for another P10A that was going in the opposite direction.

 

So why did I tell you this long story?

  1. For posterity’s sake. 20 years from now I’m going to look back at these letters and remember that I was in Colombia at this point in my life.
  2. How often do we knowingly head in the wrong direction… and just keep going. Once the bus made the left turn, even though I knew at that moment I was 86.34% sure I was going the wrong direction, I still stayed on the bus for about 10 more minutes. It’s like when you have an argument and you know you should apologize or forgive the other person but you don’t. Or, you are doing something with your life (an un-fulfilling relationship, a stagnant career choice, a co-dependent relationship, or you’re building someone else’s dreams as you neglect your own) because something is holding you back from changing. How much longer, and how much further, can you keep going until you are ready to change paths?
  3. Escalation of commitment is real. Escalation of commitment is when you realize that all of the time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, resources and energy you put into something is all for naught… so you put in more time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, resources and energy because you are hoping that all of the previous time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, resources and energy wasn’t as worthless as you know it to be.
  4. It isn’t always as clear as getting on the wrong bus as to when you first start heading in the wrong direction. Maybe it started the first time you were asked to work overtime- but you really didn’t want to- but now you feel as if you are expected to put in 50-60 hour work weeks, or worse, work for free off the clock. Big problems usually have a subtle beginning; that’s why you are left wondering, “How did I get here? When did this start?”
  5. I believe that we should all move towards reconciliation and getting back on the right path with yourself, with people, and with circumstances.
    1. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for being beautifully human. Sometimes we really screw up and the only thing you can do is love yourself despite your mistakes. Being kind to yourself is more than enough. I found this quote that I’m going to leave right here for you: I do more acknowledging my emotions than policing them.  
    2. Sometimes you can’t rectify issues with some people, but if you try hard enough I’m sure you can with 98.723% of the people you will deal with in a lifetime. When I said, “try hard enough” that means sincerely admitting you were wrong or you were wronged.  I found this other quote that I’m going to leave right here for you: hurt people hurt people.
    3. One of the reasons I chose Christianity is because I see it as this love story of Christ loving people and rectifying all wrongs. As a Christian, I see my obligation on this Earth is to rectify all that I can. I feel like we should all try to leave things better than what we found them and put as much as we can back into right standing.  
  6. Don’t let how long you’ve been away decieve you into believing you can never return. You’ll will always make it home. I don’t know where/ what/ who/ when/ why is  “home” means to you, but I don’t think we ever really get to far from it. You know the feeling. You go away, or somewhere new, and it takes forever to get there. Somehow, magically, coming back home the same distance doesn’t feel as long as it took to get there. I find it deeply troubling to fathom the idea of not being able to go back to the place (or person, or thing) you feel at home… unless you have a brand new niece and your dad is changing your room to accommodate her and her needs even though she doesn’t live there- then you are like me: homeless, replaced, and orphaned.

 

As always, I love hearing from you- especially if I haven’t seen you in a while- whether or not you can make it to the end of these long letters. You can also find all of my old letters here; fearwaslastseason.wordpress.com. When I get home I’m going to update the site with some of my favorite pictures from Colombia.

 

Brianna

 

*Truth: I only rode the public transportation system for 1 day; because I didn’t get lost that makes me an expert.

Every Moment Has to Matter, but Then They Don’t. June Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

 

The other day I was listening to a Death Sex and Money podcast about different people’s experience with being near death. One woman was in an airplane accident. Another woman was holding her sister’s hand as she took her last breath. Another woman had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The host of the show asked her guest all of the big questions. “Do you fear death?” “Is it scary knowing you are going to die?” “Do you have any regrets?” “Does it change you?”

 

You asked, if it changes you. And for me, it definitely did. And not always for the better. I’d say for me, it’s made me more impatient. Every moment has to matter, but then it doesn’t.

 

Something about the line ‘every moment has to matter, but then it doesn’t” stuck with me. I think it’s because of the timing. I recently applied for a national fellowship that I thought I was a great fit for and would have been a tremendous opportunity for me. And I didn’t get it. It didn’t feel like the world was over, but it really, really, really sucked. It sucks just as much today as when I first got the denial letter. It really sucks now. Being rejected from this opportunity only conjures up all of the feelings in which I feel rejected from so many other things. But this letter isn’t about that.

 

I was thinking about the last time something sucky to this magnitude happened to me. I had just gotten the last of several rejection letters from multiple nursing schools and I was stuck at a abusive dead-end job.

 

Every moment has to matter… I don’t believe in wasted time; how you spend your time is either beneficial or not. I don’t believe that life has a waiting period before you get to the important part. There is no magic age to when you have to act like an adult and get yourself together. Today matters. Nothing just gets better simply by waiting for time to pass.

 

…but then it doesn’t. You already know the end of the story. I no longer work at that sucky job (I have an infinitely better one now that reflects my values of being part of the community and serving people who need it the most) and I’m now working on my third graduation from the same nursing school (that is 50x better than the ones that originally rejected me).

Cali Colombia 794 1

I took this picture in Cali, Colombia

I think why that quote has profoundly impacted me is because you can simultaneously encompass a single space with two very opposing viewpoints. I guess it’s because big things and small things are equally important. They can equally shift the projection your life at any moment. I think I (or maybe we) put more value and weight on the big changes and opportunities and overlook the small things. I placed a lot of value on getting the fellowship because, in actuality, it is a prestigious organization that is offering a unique opportunity that very few people qualify for. The intention is to create a think tank of doctoral students from minority backgrounds to help create innovative solutions for alleviating the health disparities in our communities. Apparently they didn’t want me, but whatever. What I don’t appreciate is that my friends and I do that all the time. Not to the same level as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, but we are still doing the same thing.

 

Every moment has to matter, but it doesn’t.    

 

It has been all of the little things that have gotten me to where I am. It’s the little things, the relationships, the volunteering, the friendships, the consistency, the  places you show up, the impression that you leave on people, the things you do in your spare time and your reputation that matter. And to some degree, none of that matters. They add up and they subtract. They open and close doors.

 

The big things matter, too. We all know that. But the big things are rarely the end all, be all. Big things matter, but they don’t, because there is this thing call the future that eventually equalizes things out (or at least puts things in perspective).

 

In conclusion, just keep it pushing. This is what life’s all about. You win some, you lose some. Ebbs and flow. Mountains and valleys. There is really no point in over analyzing everything and writing it down in a monthly letter and sending it out to not so random people. I’ll probably keep doing this until I find a therapist who will listen to my first world problems.

Something Beautiful

Hello Family and Friends,

As some of you may know, each month I send out an email to all of you about something that has been on my mind. This monthly expression of gratitude was inspired by my niece’s and nephew’s “Best of 2K14” list. Before the close 2014, they wrote out a list of all that was good in their life; I, on the other hand, was thinking of all the things I wanted to fix and make better in 2015. Their moment of gratitude and reflection profoundly touched me and inspired me to clutter your inbox once a month.

I try to keep each letter linked to this year’s theme: Be like water: Fluid, reflective and always tending towards stillness. I didn’t have much to write about this month, so I decided to share the lyrics of “Something Beautiful” by NeedToBreathe.  

In your ocean, I’m ankle deep/ I feel the waves crashin’ on my feet/ It’s like I know where I need to be/ But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure out

Just as there is no clear defining point where the land ends and the ocean begins, there is no clear defining point as we transition from one state of self to another. For instance, I’m not sure of the exact moment when I became an adult (and I’m pretty sure that I’m an adult now) because I know it didn’t immediately happen the day I turned 18. Maybe I have been fooled to believe that there is a rigid dichotomy between “State of Being A” and “State of Being B”. Being grounded and rooted in a firm foundation is, perhaps, not  mutually exclusive from being swept away with dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

Just how much air I will need to breathe/ When your tide rushes over me/ There’s only one way to figure out/ Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

I like plans. I like lists. I like schedules. I like a maximum of 48 hours of vacation away from plans, lists and schedules before being without plans, list and schedules scare me. Of course, sometimes all of that is necessary. Other times it’s an anchor holding me back. For you, it may not be plans, lists and schedule, but it may be something else. Can you recognize your safety blanket.  How do you let go of  trying to control life and letting all of its uncertainties overwhelm you with new possibilities? (In “Christian-ese” what areas of your life are the manifestations of having  “let go and let God”?) I love the line “Just how much air will I need to breath?” I understand it as as important  as air is, you only need just enough. “Air” is the stuff we can control. The “tide” is the good, the bad, the unexpected. The stuff that makes you cry, doubt, and laugh until it hurts. Tides come and go with variable strengths- pushing and pulling your life- determine by the natural rhythms of Earth.

And the water is risin’ quick/ And for years I was scared of it/ We can’t be sure when it will subside/ So I won’t leave your side, no I can’t leave your side

The tattoo on my foot says, “Where Faith is fear isn’t”. I’m not saying I never doubt anything in life. I’m just saying that I always have faith that when the troubles and hardships come I will get through them, relatively intact, eventually.

In a daydream, I couldn’t live like this/ I wouldn’t stop until I found something beautiful/ When I wake up, I know I will have/ No, I still won’t have what I need

What is it that you truly desire? Not a $15 million dollar home. Not a porsche. What is it that your soul truly yearns for? That gentle whisper that motivates so many of your decisions. I don’t think the writers of this song intended “something beautiful” as something tangible. I was just thinking to myself how lucky I am to be surrounded by people I love. There is no malice or ill-will. Yes, there are disagreements, hurt feelings, and disappointments every so often. But, there is not a single toxic person in my life. I rejoice when you rejoice. Many of you celebrate when I celebrate. I may not always be the kindest person to you, but I do feel awful when I think (or know) I’ve hurt your feelings. How lucky I am to have full agency and hope for the future and gratitude for the moment. Now, isn’t that something beautiful.

Hey now, this is my desire/ Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful/ To touch me, I know that I’m in reach/ ‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful/ Oh, something beautiful

I’m curious. What does this last stanza mean to you?

So this letter is getting on the long side, so I’m just going to end it here. As always, this is my way of staying in touch with you. It really and truly does mean something to me when I see an email from you. It also really and truly means something to me to know you read it even if you don’t respond all of the time.
Brianna