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.

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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.

Dear Anxiety

I haven’t posted on here in almost 2 months because school is utter insanity. However, with today being National Mental Health Day, I figured it was time to shed the light on something once again. I wrote this about a year and a half ago and it is even more relevant today. It may be long, but if you are battling your brain, it truly can help to put it in it’s place.

Dear Anxiety,
Let me be clear on one thing: I don’t hate you. I hate the way you make me feel, the abrupt overtaking of my mind that paralyzes me with panic, and the way you keep me up at night. I hate that you consume me with doubt and fear on a daily basis. But I don’t hate you. You make me who I am.
You made me stronger. Because of you I have seen the lowest days and I know I never want to make anyone feel that way. Because of you I will never let anyone get away without knowing how much they mean to me and how important they are to the world.
Our relationship didn’t just show up one day. It was a gradual change that, at first, made me think I was crazy. 12 year old me sitting in the bathroom having my first panic attack. At school. You really couldn’t have eased yourself in a bit more nicely?? I guess I can’t complain since that was the only time you decided to give me a break. After that, I didn’t hear back from you until the start of high school. And I didn’t even realize you were there until I looked back on those years. Every time I turned a corner I doubted myself. Was my uniform in check? Did I talk enough in that class? Did I talk too much? How stupid did I sound? You slowly took over my thoughts. The only class I thought I was doing great in became my most feared class when I was told to speak up more. I wanted nothing more than to please my teacher, but you took over telling me that everything that came out of my mouth was stupid and a waste of time. Our relationship continued like this for years. You created a campground in my mind. And, any time you gave me a break, you were quick to make up for the lost time when you came back.

And here we are tonight -or this morning, rather- at it again. An endless battle against you. Against myself. You use everything you can think of against me: flashbacks, old mistakes that shouldn’t matter anymore, test grades (even the ones I should think are good enough), friends who reality tells me are trustworthy. Anything you think of, we battle. And here I sit, awake for 24 hours straight, because asking to fall asleep before 1am for once was too much to ask.
All of these things, though annoying to say the least, don’t make me hate you. Because if I hate you, then I hate me. And as true as that may be on somedays, it will not be allowed in my day to day life. So instead of hate, I bring you acceptance. I don’t like that you consume me the way that you do, but we’re just going to have to work together to get through life. You’ve brought me compassion and patience, the 2 things I value most about myself. So, thank you for that. You’ve made me stronger and resilient. Thank you for that. You’ve taught me how to pick up the shattered pieces and work through udder exhaustion after a 3-hour anxiety attack. But you do not leave me defeated. I pick up and move on and for that I am grateful.
If you leave, I’ll have a party. I’ll be happy you’re gone and will help you pack your bags. But I will not regret your stay because it’s made me who I am.
So here I sit at 4:47am waiting for you calm down so I can sleep saying thank you for teaching me that I am so much stronger than you make me feel.
Sincerely,
Cassidi

Standards to Uphold

I’m a person who throws myself 100% percent into every relationship I have. Friends, family members, coworkers, etc. I will drop everything for the people I care about. You want to talk tonight? Great, I’ll stay up as late as I need to in order to make that happen. You need my help with something? Okay, I can finish my work later. You need to reschedule the plans I based my week off of? Okay, I can rearrange my schedule to make something work.

In my mind, these are just things that good friends do. These are things you do for the people you care about.

Many of you know that I have been extraordinarily frustrated with a lot of people around me. People who I considered to be my best friends, my family. Here’s the thing. I moved to Nashville at the end of July. Officially. As in, I’m not going back to St. Louis except for occasional visits. Because of this, it was crucial to me that I saw everyone in St. Louis over the summer before I left.

Let me just give you a summary of how my summer ended up going… The day I got back into town, I sent out a message to everyone I wanted to see before I left. Some friends, some family. I explained when I would be working, when I would be out of town, and any dates that absolutely would not work for me. A few people responded saying things like “I’d love to get together” and “let me check my schedule and I’ll get back with you ASAP.” Then a month would go by and I wouldn’t hear from anyone. So, I sent out another message with the same information. People said they’d check back in by a certain date with their schedules. But they didn’t. I saw three people (all in the same family) on my list of almost twenty.

I made excuses for all these people. Boy oh boy did I make excuses. I spent hours defending these people that I care so much about. Saying things like “well, she’s working so many hours this summer” or “I bet she has a lot going on.” The truth is, that most of these people had time to spare. They were constantly on social media. I even had one friend who posted a multi-paragraph essay about her life on Facebook, but couldn’t send me a text stating whether or not she could meet up.

Here’s the thing: I don’t get mad or hurt or upset over someone telling me they can’t hang out or don’t want to. You had a really busy week at work and would rather just relax? Great, you totally deserve that! You made plans with your other friends? Awesome, have fun! You don’t have any set plans so you can’t commit to anything? Okay, just let me know if you have time to meet up! However, when someone constantly says they’ll get back with me and then never do, I get a little frustrated.

I feel like being a good friend is pretty simple. Only make promises you can keep, remember that communication is key, and love each other unconditionally. It’s not that hard. The problem is, when the first two of these three things are broken, the third one gets questioned. All summer, I had people who I truly trusted and cared for break promises and stop communicating. Which made me question their love for me.

The people who have hurt me most in the last few years are people I have known for my whole life. So, the bottom line here is that being friends with someone doesn’t get easier over time. It’s not supposed to. Being friends with people is a full-time job. It’s a job full of understanding, caring, love, communication, honesty, and respect. And it has to go both ways.

Being a friend is a full-time job. It’s my favorite job in the world. A job I take seriously. So I want to be the best at it that I possibly can be. So, this is my invitation to anyone reading this: if you feel like I have not upheld my own standards of being a good friend at any point in time, please talk to me about it. I want to make sure I am being the best friend I can be. Because the people who have stood by me as good friends, 100% deserve the best.

To those of you who have been, and continue to be, amazing friends, thank you. My world wouldn’t be the same without you.

Kitty Motherhood

For those of you who don’t know, I got a kitten this week. His name is Charlie and he’s the cutest thing ever. Within the first 24 hours we had together (8.5 of which spent in a car), Charlie taught me a multitude of things. So, here’s a list of the top 5 things I discovered within the first 24 hours of kitten motherhood.

  1. No matter how pathetic the tiny meows are that come from inside the crate, do not, I repeat DO NOT, remove the kitty from the cage while you are driving. Why? Because, you see, if something such as a semi truck, motorcycle, or, just for a random example, a minivan that makes way too many horrifying sounds to be considered safe to drive decide to drive past, soft fluffy kitty will become not so soft and fluffy. This little ball of fluff will turn into a ball of fluff with dagger-like claws that he will use to scale your body and dig himself into your shoulder to feel slightly more secure about life in general. And you will bleed. And it will hurt. And you will regret listening to that adorably pathetic meow that begged you to release him from the crate.
  2. When driving long distances, stop frequently. Stopping every 2-3 hours was the best choice I could have made. I pulled into a gas station and hooked Charlie’s leash up to one of the hooks on the back seat in my car so he could walk around for a bit. I had a litterbox set up in the back for him and gave him food and water. After he did his business, he got to play for about 10 minutes before he had to go back in his crate. Letting him run off that energy every few hours made the next few hours in the car so much easier because he fell asleep within 20 minutes of driving.
  3. You will wish for something I never thought I’d ever wish for when going on a long road trip: traffic. Because, if you’re like me and don’t like using your phone when driving but also have an obsession with taking far too many pictures of adorable fluff ball, you will require traffic to occur before you can take said pictures.
  4. As soon as you do hit traffic, every part of you will regret ever wishing for it because, as it turns out, it was the moving of the car that was keeping tiny fluff ball asleep. So, the second your car comes to a stop, tiny sleepy ball of fluff turns back to pathetically meowing ball of fluff.
  5. You may call yourself a dog person. Or you might be a person who loves all animals, but, when given the choice between a dog or a cat, you would choose a dog. Well, let me tell you this, the second your cat falls asleep in your lap while holding your finger between his paws after an almost 9 hour drive, you will officially become a cat person. Or, at the very least, it will equalize your love for cats and dogs.