Month: February 2015

What You Think About You Bring About

Hey guys! I’m not dead! I have seriously hated everything I’ve written in the last 20 days so much that I couldn’t bring myself to post it for you to read. I’ve been lacking in creativity and bemusement! What a bummer, eh?

As a bit of proof, here are the titles/synopses of some of my posts from the last few weeks:

“Bummer to the Max” about how I feel stuck and lost in shitty, cold Cleveland.

“Silver Lining?” about how maybe there’s hope in Cleveland.

“What the Fuck, Tinder?” about the app and it’s ridiculosity.

“Big Girls Don’t Cry” about how stupid that statement is. And how I cry.

eh, those are about the only ones with any potential at all. And they were awful. I mean, really, really awful. Mostly because of how damn negative they were. And you know what? As soon as I stopped thinking about how shitty I feel, and started trying to push positivity into each of my posts, the happier I got. Last week I didn’t write any at all, which is a bummer because I’ve failed on the 100 solid days of writing posts (still not on Facebook!) but it was really awesome to try and get my shit together and happy(ish) again.

My sister has been reading all of the self-help books available at our local library and she said to me the other day what my mother has always been telling us: what you think about, you bring about. Although easily pushed aside as new-age hippie mumbo-jumbo, that crap is super true.

I can’t worry about all the negativity in my life because that will only breed a negative response to the rest of the things in my life. I can’t live like that! I need to think about the positives and change my attitude to treat each obstacle in my path as a challenge I can face and overcome. I’m stuck in Cleveland, but I have great people here. I hate the weather, but… actually there’s nothing positive about this March of the Penguins bullshit, but you get the idea!

Is there something going wrong in your life? Tell yourself it will get better- and guess what? It will.

My mom is such a wise woman, and although I dreaded her one-liner self-help statements growing up, I’ve come to appreciate them as really damn good advice.

Thanks, mom!

Until we meet again, folks.

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How I Caught My Wanderlust

Before high school, I had never really traveled much. We went to Pennsylvania to visit my dad’s older sister, we went to Maine once to see my brother, and I went to Texas a couple of times. I had only ever traveled to see family; it seemed there was no other reason to travel.

Freshman year of high school I joined Key Club. It was one of the best choices I’ve ever made for so many reasons. One of the best perks of KC was the international convention  hosted annually in one of many awesome cities in the U.S., Aruba, British Colombia, and other assorted countries affiliated with Kiwanis which I can’t remember. That year, it was going to be in Orlando, Florida. I had never been to Florida, I had never done a lot of service or volunteering, and I had certainly never traveled for that purpose. I was intrigued. When I learned that those who went on the service trip to the convention got to go to Disney World, I was hooked. I begged my mom to let me go. It was a pretty sizable fee to go, but she caved and funded me.

I am so incredibly grateful that she did.

It was the first time I was on a plane, the first time I had traveled without my mom. It was a lot of firsts. I was a little bit anxious but mostly I was thrilled. I was asleep on the plane in ten minutes. I fell asleep during takeoff. Who does that on their first airplane ride? Apparently me.

When I woke up I was in another world. It was hot, there were palm trees, and it looked nothing like Ohio, Texas, Maine, or any other state I’d been to already. It was incredible. There was a tingle in the pit of my stomach and it didn’t leave the whole time, it just grew and grew until I nearly burst with excitement, happiness, and general astonishment.

It was a four-day ordeal. I had almost no money, but I didn’t care. I was able to attend so many cool workshops at the convention and I participated in some pretty bomb service projects. I was in my element- an element I never thought I would have. I was discovering a passion. Uncovering desires I would never be able to sate. I remember it so vividly- that first service trip.

I returned in a tizzy. I was more excited about just being somewhere different than I was about being in Orlando, staying in a super swanky hotel, or even going to Disney World (gasp!). I was in love with discovery. Exploration was my inclination.

(Now, before I finish, I want to point out that I love to travel with my family. I love visiting new places and seeing family members who live far away. I adored my trip to New York with my mom, Chicago with my dad, etc.  I dig traveling with my fam- but this post is about how I caught my own strain of the travel bug, and my experiences without la familia)

I didn’t travel without my fam again until college. It was the summer after my sophomore year and we went to the Texas-Mexico border to teach and support the youth in border communities. It flared in me again, that old flame. The one that says, “go somewhere new, learn a new culture, meet new people, and breathe air a little different than the air over here. Go. Do. Be.”  We were there for a week, but I wished it could have been longer. I made incredible connections with people I had never before known. It was so amazing.

That’s also when I learned how peoples’ true selves come through when traveling- another curious insight I love about going new places with people I don’t know; the kindred feelings of trepidation and adventure on which our bodies soar when traveling somewhere for the first time.

My junior year of college I flew my happy ass to Spain. Across an ocean. The longest (and furthest) I had ever been from home. On occasion I did miss home a little. I missed the physical comfort of my high-school sweetheart. I missed my mother’s embrace, her kind words, my sister’s quirkiness, my father’s comforting voice. I missed home a lot. But it never bogged me down. I happily discovered a new side of the world and a new side of myself in tandem. I loved being away from home. The independence I felt was mind-rattling. I had to rely on people I had never met before to make sure I was safe, happy, and taken care of. I met some wonderful people and forged incredible relationships. I yearn to return to Spain, to walk the streets of Los Remedios, my neighborhood, one more time. To see the torre del oro or the bullfighting ring. I ache for the smell of roasting chestnuts on busy calle tetuan while I briskly walk to school.

You see, Orlando, Florida was the kindling for a much, much larger fire. I found out while in Spain how I thrive on being out of my comfort zone, in an alien land with things so familiar but just a little bit off. Spain was another first for me- the first time traveling on my own, without the end goal being service. My trip to Florida and my trip to Texas were both service trips. Spain was my first taste of actually living somewhere else. It was astonishing every single day.

I then went on a service trip my senior year of college to Jinotega, Nicaragua. I taught English in a church the size of a common garden shed. I taught children on dirt floors and a gravel front yard. For one week.

It changed my life.

I was surrounded by a community so vastly different from anything I had ever encountered. On top of that, I was enveloped in kindness and embraced with smiles and kind words at every turn. I remember telling Profe, one of our chaperons, that I was “SO HAPPY” to be there. All the time. I said it every day. She grinned each time I did. My adoration of our adventure was palpable in every comment, movement, and breath of mine. I was smitten with our service trip.

As soon as I had returned to the states, I had to go back. Just freaking had to. So I did. Less than three months later I was back in Nicaragua for twelve more weeks. I blogged about it all the time on here. I loved the people, the culture, the children, the food, nature, beauty- everything. I was in my very literal “happy place.”

But I’ve found that wherever I travel tends to be my “happy place.” As long as I’m learning something new, meeting someone new,  or doing something meaningful to leave behind, I am perfectly content with myself. I am truly at peace when doing good for others or when learning from others.

Hi, my name is Jessica Reed, and I am addicted to traveling. It’s an expensive addiction that I just can’t appease. I itch all of the time for a new trip, a new discovery. Even going to a new section of Cleveland is enough to keep me sated for a day or two- but I’m always thinking about my next move. I’m always planning the Next Great Trip.

I hope I can take it soon.

Thanks for reading, folks! Until tomorrow!

On Writing

I used to write all of the time. Like, seriously, all of the time. I wrote every day. I’d write confessions in my journal, poems, stories, really shitty songs… I wrote because I felt like all of my ideas would just disappear if I didn’t write them down. I was a written word hoarder. I kept all of my notebooks, journals, and scraps of paper to read at a later date, because when I read them I’d want to make more.

And then I forgot about them.

I got wrapped up in my relationships. I got involved in the psych-out that is the summer before college. I moved across the state to attend a university. I got swamped with classwork and assigned reading and joining a sorority.

I forgot about writing. I forgot about the thrill sent through me as I touch a pen to paper, the titillation that clicking keys gave me as my thoughts poured into a blank Word document.

I forgot.

Even this blog hasn’t sated my hunger for writing- although I’m sure you all wish it had by now. There’s something missing in my writing that I can’t explain. Words used to flow from me like a stream through a broken dam. I was able to sit down for ten or twenty minutes and write something that I at least found meaningful. I could easily articulate my thoughts with the perfect words.

Now I sit down and write ten drafts a day on WordPress and can’t even find something good to post from that. My poetry is wishy-washy bullshit, and I haven’t finished a short story in almost four years. Something has changed and I don’t know what it is. One of the reasons I decided to write 100 posts a day was to increase my creative output and maybe get me back into the groove of writing.

It hasn’t. I am nowhere in sight of the groove. I hope to find it, or something similar, through my 100 days of blogging.

Until tomorrow, folks.

My Week in Review

Posts 27, 28, 29/100

A quick-and-dirty compilation of my posts from last week.

Wednesday& Thursday: 

Yeah, totally didn’t write anything on these days because I was dying. I was in the ER and then in a pain-killer comatose sleep for two days.

Friday:

Highlights of my night at Family Restaurant include:

  • 70+ year old woman wearing leopard-print, see-through leggings. Oh yeah. Let that sink in.
  • “I, uh, er, um. I would like, uh, er..” “..I can give you some more time if you’d like!” “Oh, I know what I want, I want, uh, errr, um, give me, ummmm…” “…..” “….” “….I’ll have a burger.” “How would you like it cooked?” “Uhhhh…..um…” “…Medium well?” “Yeah,sure, that. And uh…er…um….fries. Thanks.” (This took eight minutes. Eight! And then he called me back and ordered salmon. What the fuck, dude!?)
  • The lady who was “in a real hurry” and demanded the check immediately, but then camped out for an extra thirty minutes after paying.
  • The oldest people I’ve ever seen in my life ordering bloody marys and shots of vodka like freaking winners.

Saturday:

Worry

Remember when I talked about dating being like the bus and how hard it is to know where you stand with people when everyone is either “talking,” “texting,” “dating,” “seeing each other,” or  “in a relationship?” So, I text with this guy every day. Which means we’re talking. And we’re going on dates, which means we’re dating, right? And we’re even seeing each other like two times a week. Sooo, what the hell does that mean?

I’m in a strange state of mind. I really, really dig this guy. I have been single for two years, now, and I’m feeling things I haven’t in a long time. That’s so freaking weird to me. But it’s exhilarating, as well. I’m this big old ball of emotions that I don’t understand and am not entirely comfortable with.

Which leads me to the title of this post. Gosh darn it, guys, I worry all the time that I’m too much me for anyone to really, truly enjoy. I don’t know where that incredible sense of self-doubt comes from, but I am always afraid that I’m annoying as hell. I don’t know how to shatter that idea. I am legitimately afraid to message him sometimes because I don’t want to be annoying or overbearing in this strange dating-but-not-“dating” phase we’re in.

This is the guy that makes me laugh louder and longer than anyone I’ve ever known. He makes me feel like I’m interesting and worth his time and attention. He is pretty stellar.

What if he just thinks that I’m some girl to have grown-up sleepovers with and then only takes me out on further dates to be nice? Wouldn’t that just be terrible?

Any advice for my crazy?

Sunday:

Camping

I really just want to go camping as soon as possible, guys. I want to be out in nature, cooking with cast iron over an open flame. I want to be back with the trees, hearing the music of the forest, the creek, the wind keep the world alive. I love to be outside. And I adore camping.

There’s a possibility I’m going to a music festival this summer with some very close friends of mine. Although there will be  hella people there, camping is totally involved and I yearn for that. I really hope it becomes a reality, because it would be great.

Does anyone want to go camping with me when the weather is steadily above 50 degrees? 😀

The Eulogy I Would Have Given

Last Tuesday I attended the funeral of a very close childhood friend of mine. He and I weren’t that close in our adolescence or adulthood, but he is a pillar of my childhood memories. I would be a very different person today had I never met him. For a few reasons I left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth after a pastor delivered his eulogy. This is how it would have gone down if I were the one giving my tribute to my dear friend’s life:

Alex was one of the most genuinely kind people I have ever met. I regret not spending more time with him growing up, but this speech isn’t about me and my life’s regrets, it is about our friend Alex.

Let me tell you about the first time I met this man. I can’t legitimately remember it because I was less than one year old when it happened. His mother brought him to my family’s house, knocked on the door, and said to my mother, “My son, Alex, also known as the spawn of Satan, wants to know if he can play with your daughter.” No, she wasn’t talking about me, she was talking about my sister, the four-year-old future first wife of her son. Of course the boy and girl who lived two houses apart became fast friends. They played together all the time. By the time I was old enough to play, Alex was already there. From the beginning of my childhood, he was an active part of my life. I even witnessed their 8-year-old wedding in our basement, complete with rhinestone hair-tie on my sister’s left ring finger. They took their ceremony seriously.

Alex was an incredible individual who had the ability to compel and comfort others. He was driven, funny, and so very kind. He left this world far too early due to circumstances we could not have prevented, but is survived by so much positivity and inspiration. It is no use for us to agonize what could have been done to prevent his death, all we can do now is grieve and heal with time. We are here to celebrate his life.

The strength exhibited by his family in this time is absolutely beautiful. In such a hard time you have managed the harrowing process of moving your lives forward, as Alex would have hoped you’d do. You are all inspirational in the fortitude of your love and grace. We are all here to support you, but you are supporting all of us in return through your strength, and that is remarkable. Thank you for your love, and for letting us all get to share in a world brighter with Alex.

We are all going to miss him. But he is always in our memories. We all have one or two very special memories of Alex, and it’s time to focus on those. Time to live as he would, and spend every day trying to make the world a little more beautiful.

It’s time to share our stories and our grief. Our laughter, as we remember his humor; and our tears, as we recognize the void in which his humor used to stand. It is time to let ourselves be human and let our healing begin. We love you, Alex, and we see the world a little brighter because we have you in our hearts.