You Are Where You Need to Be

So, there’s this thought that I have every so often that never fails to both amaze and terrify me. There are so many people in this world that I will never get the chance to meet. There are people that could have been my best friends. Best friends torn apart by distance and language among other things. It truly baffles me that the people I am friends with today are people who live in the same area and speak the same language as I do. What would happen if I was born in Jamaica or England or Russia? What if my birth parents hadn’t given me up when I was born? What if I spoke Spanish or Sign Language instead of English? The fact that my life went in the direction that it did and put me right where I need to be is truly amazing.

Unfortunately, this thought often occurs to me in the dead of night as I lay staring at my ceiling after my eyes have adjusted to the darkness of my room. This thought completely escapes me when I need it most: when everything is going wrong, when I can’t seem to figure out exactly what I’m doing, when nothing feels it is going the way it is supposed to.

When things are going well, its easy for me to sit here and tell you, and myself, that the reason you are where you are in life right now is because it is exactly where you need to be. Its easy to say that the thing that happened yesterday needed to happen in order for you to get where you are today and that the things that happen today have to happen to get you to tomorrow. Its crazy how easy it is to be optimistic when things are going right; when everything is all sunshine and rainbows. Unfortunately, we need to remember this all the time; especially when things seem to be going wrong, when the world feels like its spinning out of control.

I’m not writing this to make you feel bad for being pessimistic when things suck because, let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. I’m just saying that, as hard as it is, sometimes things just have to suck for a bit to get us where we need to be. Maybe it’s teaching us a life lesson, maybe we’ll meet someone who will turn out to be really important in our lives, maybe its just our turn to experience the sucky for a little bit. Whatever the reason, I promise there is one, even when – especially when – we don’t know what that reason is. In this moment, you are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to be doing. Try to remember this, if for no other reason, for your own peace of mind.

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Slow Down, Take the Chance

It blows my mind how little we truly pay attention to the world around us. We see things constantly around us and never seem to truly recognize them. That is, until we have to. More often than not, we don’t recognize the beauty of people we see and interact with on a daily basis until that routine changes. We are more likely to notice the absence of things than we are to notice the presence.

Let me give you an example. Exactly two months ago, on Sunday, April 22nd, there was a shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch, TN. Most of the time, we see shootings on the news and recognize the tragedy of the situation. We recognize that change needs to happen. We pray for and send healing thoughts to the families of victims and move on with our days. Or at least that is what I typically do. However, this one made me pay attention. This one hit far too close to home. This one changed my life.

I hate admitting this, but it’s only fair that I do so. Before this tragedy, I obviously knew that I saw the people in my cohort on a daily basis. There never was or ever will be a doubt in my mind that this group of people is made up of beautiful souls who I care about quite deeply. However, I never sat down to think about this. I never took the time to tell them that seeing each of them brought joy to my life each day. I never looked at each of them individually and came up with a list of what specific qualities they possessed that I felt made each of them a good social worker, friend, and person. In the back of my mind, of course I knew all these things, but, despite the fact that I was reminded of these things every single day, I never took the time and energy to express them.

That is, until we were missing someone. One of the victims of this shooting was someone I saw every single day. If I was on campus, I was spending time with her. When DeEbony passed away, we all started talking about our favorite things about her. We spoke about memories of her, some from in class and other from out of class. We talked about her personality and what it was that made her the girl we knew and loved. It got me thinking about all the people in my cohort. It possessed me to make sure each and every one of them knew exactly how much they meant to me and that they brought something important into our cohort. Into the world. I was not about to let anyone else leave my sight without knowing how loved and cherished they are.

There are so many things going on in the world around us. It is easy to get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle. There are so many things that we let slip right by us. We rarely take the time in our busy lives to recognize the beauty of the world around us. We rarely take the time to slow down the pace of each and every day to notice the details surrounding us daily. Before the shooting, I never realized how many Waffle Houses there are in the Nashville area. Now, however, I pass them on a regular basis and I’m reminded of DeEbony each and every time.

Seeing a Waffle House may not be an important part of your day. In fact, its probably something you will drive right by and not take a second glance at. You won’t think anything of it. But, for the love of god, please don’t do that to the people you are surrounded by. Don’t let yourself get so caught up in your busy life that you can’t see the amazing people you see on a regular basis.

Stop and notice the beautiful people around you. Notice everything about them. Observe the way they enter a room, their personality, their likes and dislikes. See their bright smiles and the way their eyes light up when they talk about their passions. Detect when they’re having an off day and be proud of the fact that you have been paying enough attention to know what to do to help them feel better. And, please, please, please, don’t let anyone leave your sight without making sure they know how much they mean to you. Tell your friends you love them, remind your coworkers to drive safely, let your classmates know that they are appreciated. Take the extra bit of time to appreciate those around you. As morbid as it sounds, you never know when it may be your last chance to express your love and appreciation for those around you. Please don’t let that chance slip through your fingers. And to you, yes, you, the one reading this, you are loved and appreciated and I am so glad you are here in this world.

Let’s Get One Thing Straight…I’m Not

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a people pleaser. For as long as I can remember, I have been terrified of hurting others’ feelings, getting rejected by those around me, or disappointing those closest to me. I guess that’s why this post has taken me so long to write. You see, I’ve started writing this multiple different times in the last year and a half. However, every time I’ve started a post on this topic, I find myself talking in circles. I end up making little to no sense or just not getting to the point at all. So, this time around, I decided to keep it simple. No restrictions or trying to phrase things in a way that will please everyone. Just me myself and I.

 

If you’re someone I’ve met in the last 2 years, or someone who goes to Belmont, chances are, this post will probably lead you to think “well, yeah, no shit. Why’d you wait so long to post about it?” or something like that. If you’re just now starting to figure out what this might be addressing, well, welcome, and I hope I don’t blow your mind too much.

 

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not straight. Surprise! I identify as asexual, ace for short. This is one of those things that can mean a variety of different things depending on the person, so the definition I’m about to give you is purely my own and does not apply to any other asexual person you may meet. For me, being asexual means that I do not experience sexual attraction. I have no desire to have sex with anyone in any way, shape, or form. I can recognize that certain physical features of a person make them look beautiful, but when someone labels someone as “hot,” I have pretty much no idea what that means. I don’t see people as “sexy.”

 

However, before you go getting your panties in a wad, just because I am asexual does not mean my dreams of someday getting married and raising a family with my best friend have changed. Those are very much still some goals in my life. And, yes, asexual people can still fall in love and get married.

 

Keep in mind that sexual attraction is completely different than romantic attraction. So, while I am asexual, I still experience romantic attraction. Meaning I still want to have a romantic relationship with someone. The cuddling and kissing and loving parts of relationships are indeed possible without sex. Sex is not the end all be all to a relationship.

 

Romantically speaking, I’m not sure how I truly identify. I have had romantic crushes on females, males, and non-binary people. Knowing this means I’m pretty open to dating just about anyone as long as they’re not a total asshole. The gender of the person I’ll end up sharing my life with remains a question that we probably won’t know the answer to until it happens. You’re guess is as good as mine. I don’t feel like this is something that needs to have a label on it just yet and, in all honesty, I’m not too worried about it.

 

Don’t ask me why I decided to say something publicly about it right now. The short answer, its pride month. The long answer, well, that’s a whole other story. Bottom line, the people who I feel most “needed” or “deserved” to know, knew pretty much as soon as I knew. Some people have speculated for a while and this will be the answer to all their unasked questions. For others (and, no offense, but if you haven’t been at least a little bit curious about my sexuality you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last 2 years, if not longer), this is a complete shock and you may need time to process this.

 

If you’re completely against this for whatever reason, and I know some of my family and friends may be, that’s fine. It can be something we never speak of again. After all, what I do (or don’t do) in the bedroom is none of your business. I won’t ask you what you do, you don’t ask me what I do, and we can all stay in the little “everyone is straight” bubble that so many people like to be in. If you don’t care, cool. We’ll move on business as usual. If you’re supportive, awesome. Having allies on my side is always appreciated.

 

If you have questions, ask them! I’m more than happy to answer them as long as you ask them in a respectful way. For example, don’t ask me if I’m a plant. Yes, you are right, plants reproduce asexually. Good job, you remember basic science. However, if you ask me that, I’m pretty likely to ignore you and every other conversation you may try to have about my sexuality. Also, don’t tell me to get my hormones checked. I’ve heard this time and time again and I promise my hormones have nothing to do with this. Telling me this is just simply invalidating my identity and, again, I’ll be likely to ignore you. Ask me things like what being asexual means to me. Ask me what my ideal relationship looks like. Ask me about otters. No, otters have nothing to do with being ace, but I love otters and will talk your ear off about them.

 

So, no, I’m not straight. I’m not gay. I’m ace. And darn proud of it.

Dear Mimi

It’s been 21 days. In some moments, these past 21 days feel like the longest of my life. In others, it seems they’ve flown by.  21 days of unexpected grief. Unexpected tears. Unexpected loss.

When I got the phone call that you were in the hospital, I responded with a panicked “why?” and held my breath. I calmed down as my mom explained that you had fallen but were going to be okay. My response was “okay, good. Because I have decided that 2018 is going to be the year no one dies. It will be the year I don’t lose anyone.”

Less than 24 hours later, I got the news. After a multitude of missed calls and texts from my dad between the hours of 6 and 7 in the morning, I got a text that said “call me when you get a minute before class.” Well, I don’t have classes until 11, so I had plenty of time. Or so I thought. He called me again and, in my half-awake state, I answered. All I heard was “I just wanted to let you know, Mimi passed away this morning”

In all honesty, I don’t remember much of the rest of our conversation. It was like I was underwater trying to make sense of the world above water.

At first, I didn’t believe it. I still don’t want to believe it. When I talked to my mom all I could figure out to say was “its too soon.”

And it is. Its too soon for me to accept the fact that you and Pawpaw are both gone. Too soon for me truly see that this is what you wanted and that you were more than ready. Too soon to think about next Christmas Eve – the first one I will spend without you.

Since I was 12, you’ve been telling me every time we say goodbye that “this could be the last time” and that I need to be a good girl and make you proud. Over the years, I learned to brush off that final comment. I took advantage of the fact that, no matter how much you said that, I did, in fact, always see you again.

I can’t help but think that I should have called you. I should have called over and over again until you answered. Even if I thought I didn’t have anything of value to say.

I wish I told you more often how much you mean to me. I wish I hugged you more. I wish I had the chance to tell you I love you just one more time.

I hope I’m making you proud. I hope you know how much I love you. And I hope you know I miss you more than words can say. I love you, Mimi. Forever and always.

Merry Christmas, Pawpaw

I saw a picture of your grave for the first time the other day. It’s weird to see your name on that stone. I wish I would have known our time together was limited. I wish I would have talked to you more, although I know how much you hated talking on the phone. it’s the first Christmas Eve I’ve ever spent without you. I know you’re still watching over me though. I see those chocolate covered cherries you love just about everywhere I go. It’s kind of funny to see them on display at everywhere now that I don’t have anyone to buy them for. Kind of sad too. They definitely get my attention every time I walk in a store though. it’s weird that I won’t see you tonight at dinner. I won’t be able to tell you about how I got all As this semester or how I finally figured out the path I want to take for the rest of my time at Belmont. I won’t be able to hear your sassy remarks or see your eyes roll when Mimi says something you don’t agree with. Your chair won’t be the first time I see when I walk in the room. This Christmas Eve without you will probably be the hardest, but I know you’ll be watching over us tonight. Merry Christmas Pawpaw. I love you.

To my first college friend as she graduates

Dear Emily,

It seems like just yesterday that we were meeting in the caf line during orientation. It seemed like fate when you said you were doing the 4+1 program too (of course things have changed since then). Spending that night together and going through our first registration hunger games together truly started it all.

People say that you usually don’t stay friends with the first friends you meet in college. Somehow we made it through though. We made it through the first semester drama, the switching of majors, the moving out of the same building, the summers apart, and, now, your (extremely early) graduation. You have been one of my biggest supporters the last two and a half years and I truly don’t know what I would have done without you. You never fail to cheer me up when I’m upset and you always know just how to make me laugh (or at least groan at your immature jokes). I’m so so happy you will still be in Nashville next semester because I don’t think I can handle you graduating and moving on to the big kid world in a different state.

Seeing you walk across that stage tonight sparked nothing but joy. Em, I am so unbelievably proud of you. You have accomplished so much in your short time here and I have seen you grow so much since that first day in the caf. I am so lucky to be able to call you one of my best friends. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for me. Know that I will always be here to support you in anything and everything you do.

Congratulations, Em, you’re done with college!!

Love,
Cass

Thanks Universe

Have you ever made a decision knowing it was the right one to make, but still found yourself questioning it for weeks? That was how I felt about moving to Nashville. Throughout the summer I found myself switching between feelings of excitement and pure anxiety of the situation. I knew this was where I needed to be and where I felt happiest, but leaving behind everything I had ever known was absolutely terrifying to me. Was I picking the right time in my life to do this? Was I really ready to move away from everyone I know and love?

Well, as it turns out, the world has some crazy ways of showing you how right you really are.

My best friend and I have come to the conclusion that, as much as it might suck to not talk or see each other as much as we used to, we always pick back up right where we left off. We’ll always be family and there’s really nothing that could prevent that from happening. She is living in South Carolina and I’m in Tennessee and as much as the distance may suck sometimes, we are both so unbelievably happy. So, while it may still suck to not live within walking distance, I know that she’s just a phone call away when I need her. And having that reminder was the only closure I really truly needed.

Being attached to a restaurant is probably one of the weirdest things. However, when you spent more than half your life going to a place every single week and then the other half going at least once a month, you build relationships with people. I watched one of the owners of the restaurant grow his family through adoption and came to love his sweet little girl. Him and his family watched me grow up from a tiny little kid who brought in my own vegetables to heat up as a side to go with my grilled cheese to the 20-year-old working in his restaurant every week. I was affected by his dad’s death and now by his brother’s cancer. He has had my order memorized for 16 years and never fails to come out of the kitchen to say hi when he hears the order get called in. This restaurant was more than just the food for me (because to be honest, the food wasn’t all that special). it was the people, the family. Just under a month ago, the restaurant had its last night. It stayed open until all the food ran out and all the alcohol was served. Working there this summer and knowing that I took the opportunity while it existed was closure. Knowing that this restaurant is no longer there, oddly enough, is closure for me.

Working at the YMCA last summer was probably my favorite job ever. The people I worked with have become like family to me and we still talk almost daily. My last day involved a lot of tears and hugs. However, I managed to get a job at the YMCA in Nashville not even a month after my job back in St. Louis ended. I am now having opportunities to replicate the program I worked in last summer at the YMCA down here and having this continuing family has made the transition so smooth.

Most recently, the radio station that I grew up listening to had a major shift. The main host, Guy Phillips, left the show just a few weeks ago. The show is literally called the Phillips and Company Morning Show, so him leaving is kind of a big deal. Every morning on my way to school for 15 years, that was what I listened to. On my way to work all summer, even though it was only a 3 minute drive, I listened to it. This show does not do change. Kevin, one of the 3 co-hosts, has been called Kevin The Intern since he started there, despite the fact that he has not been an intern for over 10 years. I wouldn’t necessarily call this change closure, but it was definitely another sign that I made the right call in my timing.

One of my biggest fears about moving was leaving behind my church family. These are people I saw almost every week since I was two. The building we were in had become a second home where I knew I would always be welcomed with open arms. Since I made the decision to move to Nashville and set a date, I was dreading the last Sunday I would attend that church. Leaving the people who have watched me grow up and the kiddos that I had seen become actual functioning human beings was a terrifying and extremely dreaded experience. Little did I know, the universe had plans of its own for our church. The last Sunday I would be attending SEC was July 31st. Just over a month before this date, we received an announcement that church would be closing because the building would be bought out. Our last day at SEC would be none other than July 31st. How perfect is that? The last day at SEC for me was everyone’s last day. It didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye, but it truly was the closure that I needed.

The universe is a funny thing. If you’re right, but don’t have the most faith in yourself, it is pretty persistent in showing you just how right you are. And, if you’re wrong, it will not shut up until you figure it out. I’m not saying all this to say there aren’t days where I miss St. Louis, because there have definitely been days where I just want everything to be 100% familiar again. There have been days where I feel like if I have to go through something new one more time I might throw something out a window. However, those days have been pretty few and far between. I love Nashville and the family I have created for myself down here. The closure I got was really all I needed for me to understand that the universe is on my side on this one. Finally.