a letter

There are a lot of things I wish I could tell you, and wish I had told you sooner or often enough. And you’re still here and I can still talk to you but you wouldn’t understand or know what I’m talking about, really. So I just tell you about my job and about school and help you choose your dinner. You don’t remember many things now, like my name.

But I remember a lot.

I remember when you paid for my first viola lesson, and for six years after that. I remember when you took me to your own voice teacher once because you didn’t approve of mine but wanted me to be as good as you someday. You never missed a performance. You made sure I could stay in symphony and go to camp and get the books my teacher asked me to get. You stood behind me while I practiced and made a noise every time I wasn’t quite in tune and it made me so mad, but you just wanted me to be better, I know.

I remember when my boyfriend and I stayed at your house and you ground your teeth to stubs every time you saw us cuddling on the couch. I remember when you caught him sneaking into my room for a kiss at night, and told my dad that I needed to get on birth control. I know you just wanted me to be safe and proper and good, in the way that good means to you.

I remember you taking me to my first opera, and to many after that. And when we saw Hansel and Gretel in San Francisco and the sets and costumes were minimalist and weird, you made me see it again with you in Sacramento so I would know exactly how it should be done.

I remember you disapproving of most of my personal hygiene until I grew into myself. You would tell me I smelled and make me wash my prepubescent armpits in the bathroom with a washcloth so I would be presentable. Up until very recently, you often told me I looked fat in certain outfits or that it would be good if I could lose a little weight. That hurt sometimes, but I know you were just being a person who had a filter and chose not to use it, because there was no time for that. Now you have no filter, but kinder nonsense comes out of your mouth for the most part.

I remember splitting a mini ice cream sandwich with you because that was a normal dessert portion for you, ya weirdo. But I would rather eat two bites of an ice cream sandwich with you than a hundred sundaes by myself.

I remember watching you chair just about every committee at church, and hand energy bars to the homeless folks on the corner. I remember you buying a certain kind because someone told you it was easier on their bad teeth. I remember you telling us that your greatest frustration in your old age was that you needed to help people, because that’s how you’ve spent your whole life. I have told people, all of my life, that you taught me what it means to be a Christian.

I remember wanting nothing more in this world than to make you proud. When you approved of the way I performed, or forwarded something I wrote to your email list, or played my CD of original songs for the family at a holiday, that was the most wonderful feeling in the world, because you didn’t just hand out praise for no reason. I always knew you meant it. I’m still telling you all of my accomplishments eagerly every chance I get, trying to lap up all the pride you might have in me.

I remember you never wanting to watch a movie more than once, always immediately asking an employee where the item you wanted was, going 80 all the way home from Tahoe. You’re the most impatient person I have ever met, but I fully believe it’s because you have learned that life has so much to offer, and there’s no sense in wasting time on mundane things.

I say these things in the past tense, not because you are gone. But you are a different person now. For the longest time, you took care of me. You gave me rides to rehearsals and appointments and lessons and fed me and gave me a room to sleep in any time I needed it. But now, we who you once cared for are taking care of you. And I keep remembering all of the ways you took care of me and made me the person I have grown up to be and I hope that, while you could understand, I showed you how grateful I am for that.

Now, you’re in a bit of another world, and you’re a little looser and a little sillier, and I am enjoying a few of the ways in which you have changed. I try to see the good parts, where there is a lot of bad to be found. I don’t blame you for trying to escape from your assisted living community all the time, because I know your brain can no longer judge between your desires and your needs. You are still an independent, defiant woman who cannot stand to be cooped up, and I understand that. We must simply try to wrap you up safely, if we can.

I hope you knew what I was trying to say when your brain still had the space for it, and that you’ve been able to tuck it away somewhere. So, even if you don’t know me someday, you’ll always know how much I have loved you.

 

 

 

Graduation

I am graduating tomorrow. It feels weird, and a little anticlimactic since I’m going back for the credential program next year. But I know that a lot of things that have been the norm for me for the past six years are coming to an end, and that is big and strange and hard to comprehend. I won’t do any more juries or complain about how over repertory class I am, or not show up to music history, or lie in my practice logs. It does feel strange.

When I first graduated high school, I knew I wanted to do music and kind of that I wanted to teach, but I wasn’t completely set on my career path yet. I applied to a bunch of private colleges because I felt like that was the way to make people proud of me. My first choice rejected me based on my audition (rightfully, in hindsight) and my second choice did not offer me enough financial aid. I had applied to two CSUs which shall not be named. One of them looked terrible when I visited and the other was extremely rude to me about my audition and I decided I did not want to work with them. As enrollment deadlines approached, I had no idea where I wanted to go.

At the last moment, a friend suggested I apply at NDNU. I was quickly accepted. I honestly didn’t save much more money than I would have at my other option, but I felt that things were clicking and meant to be. (What I didn’t realize was that the school was simply really small in a way that would not be beneficial to me.)

Ultimately, NDNU really has no programs in place for Music Education. I hadn’t had opportunities to do theatre in high school, but I quickly discovered at NDNU that I hated the process. I was miserable in tap dance class and got mad when brilliant performers couldn’t sightread as well as me. Some wonderful teachers tried to tailor a program to suit my needs, but I just wanted something quite different. I wanted a choir, an orchestra, conducting class, more music theory. This was just not the place for me.

I stayed for two years. The second year was sort of a floundering year for me, in which I tried to figure out how to transfer, failed, and tried to make NDNU fit better. I finally decided to go home to Sacramento for a year to attend the junior college and get my ducks in a row. I got my Associate of arts in Social Science while I was there. (That’s right, not music. NDNU just had me take a lot of history and social justice type classes that ended up fitting the bill for that degree really well.)

I am grateful to NDNU for many experiences I did have, to be fair. I made a few lifelong friends and loved the community I was a part of. I learned how to audition really well and had a wonderful voice teacher, so I felt totally prepared to transfer with confidence. I also was allowed to do some really ridiculous things in our chamber music class, like perform a song from World of Warcraft with a chorus of banshees behind me. Everyone at NDNU knew I wrote music and most people supported me and gave me opportunities to perform, whereas I haven’t really had the confidence to make that known at SSU. But, ultimately, I knew this was not the place for me. I honestly just wish it had been a less expensive mistake.

My year at home was probably the worst year of my college career. I felt completely cut off from the community I had found at NDNU and found myself nearly friendless and painfully lonely in Sacramento. I felt like a total failure. I stayed with a couple from my church, who I felt gradually came to resent me and the way I was handling myself. After a particularly rough morning, I cried all the way through my P.E. class, got on the bus home early, and then had to jump off to puke on the side of the road because of my anxiety.

This was the year I started taking antidepressants. I’m really glad that happened. I didn’t know this was how normal people felt, and that wanting to curl up in a ball and cry at the slightest inconvenience did not have to be my norm.

I hadn’t yet decided where I wanted to transfer, but I was choosing between Sonoma and Sac State. I felt it would probably be more reasonable for me to go to Sac, stay close to home, work, and get my driving going. I had already had the experience of going away to college. This was the logical thing to do, probably. I decided to audition at Sonoma anyway and see what kind of financial aid I got from each school.

My dad took me to my audition at SSU. And, wow, the Green Music Center completely took our breath away. We took pictures in Weill and ogled the organ in Schroeder. The draw of having Ruth Ann Swenson as a voice teacher was big for me at the time, too. The faculty was incredibly nice and the music education program sounded like exactly what I had had in mind. I finally felt like I had found my place.

So I didn’t do the logical thing and that was probably more logical of me anyway. (And I have only fallen a little behind. I do have a real college kid job now and I am getting my driver’s license next week and I’m renting instead of living in the dorms, so I am taking steps out of my arrested development. ) I transferred to SSU for my fourth year of college. I lived in the beautiful dorms for my first two years there and tolerated my roommates. I really didn’t have any friends my first year and struggled to overcome my insecurity and my paranoia about how much everyone probably hated me. Turns out they all thought I actually hated them, so it was all pretty silly.

I attended the California All State Music Educator’s Conference my first year at SSU and it inspired me to no end. I also got to help organize CMEA festivals, watch young musicians perform, and meet teachers from all around the area. The more I finally learned about teaching music, the more I knew that this was the career for me.

My mental health proved to be a stumbling block for me my first two years of school. I had a hard time leaving my house, or even tearing myself away from my position on my bed staring at the wall in fear and depression. The first semester, my attendance was so bad I failed a class. That was a huge low point for me. My second year, my attendance was also rough in one of my classes with the main music education advisor, and he made me come to his office to discuss my future. He said if my mental health was such an issue maybe I couldn’t hack it as a music teacher and maybe I should consider changing my major. Part of me was indignant, but part of me knew he had a point. But I didn’t want to be beaten. I increased my medication and tried to find myself a therapist. My attendance is still rough sometimes but I haven’t ever had that fear again. I can do the thing I want to do. Of course I can! I just needed some help.

During my first year, I got pneumonia and had to miss my jury and final recital. I also had to vocal rest for the whole summer, which was incredibly depressing. To settle my incompletes, I performed a junior recital. I felt great about it and was glad I had an excuse to do it. Ruth Ann, who I had been ecstatic to work with, left the next year and I was switched to another voice teacher. This was truly one of the best things that could happened to me. My teacher, Jane, has helped me improve monumentally in such a short period of time. She is the best teacher I had in all that time of instruction and I think fate helped it all fall into place.

My second year, I met Elizabeth, who is now one of the bestest friends I have ever had. This year, in a turn of destiny, three friends I had hung out with separately formed a group chat on Facebook with me, and now they are three of my best friends in this world. I feel incredibly lucky.

That second year, I also applied for a job as a church choir director. I had completed all of my conducting classes but I knew I was as green as they come still and I really doubted my abilities. However, after an interview and a trial rehearsal, they hired me on the premise that they knew it would be a mentoring experience and I would learn. It was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life to date. I have become pretty secure in my singing now, but when I felt I had done a good job as a director, that was a new and incredibly proud feeling.

I chose to leave that job that summer. The church was in transition and the situation in the choir had gotten unpleasant. However, I had the good fortune to be hired again at another church. This was an Episcopal church, my own denomination, in a church very similar to my own! This church and group of people was completely different and a much better fit for me. It also helped to start the job able to project some authority and confidence, instead of the fear I had at my old job. Respect helps a lot! I was hired as an interim director, knowing the position would only go through Christmas. But I enjoyed absolutely every second of it and was honestly crushed to leave it. I am not directing now and I miss it awfully. But these jobs proved to me that this career will be the joy of my life.

Last semester, I did my proficiency jury for the Music Education degree. Throughout the program, we learn the basics of all of the families of instruments in order to be well rounded teachers. To graduate, we must perform a very long jury on the instruments of our choice from each family. I was far more frightened about this than about my senior recital. I played flute, trombone, viola, snare drum, xylophone, guitar, and taught an elementary music lesson. It took an hour and a half and was incredibly grueling. I was honestly surprised when I passed!

My senior recital, the next semester, was far more fun for me to prepare. I loved the program I put together and felt great when I was memorized and ready weeks before the actual performance date. I could relax. I got to put on my gorgeous dresses and go out on stage and sing my favorite songs to 50 of my favorite people. Having my friends and family there to hear everything I had been working on and have a fun party with me afterwards was truly an unforgettable experience. It could not have asked for more.

I have now been accepted into the credential program for next year. It will take a year for me to get my credential and then I will be able to go out into the world and teach, hopefully! I also have landed myself a phenomenal student teaching placement with one of the more prominent choir teachers in our area. She is well loved and has some highly respected choirs. I know I will go on to learn so much.

I think back to the miserable, depressed pit of that year in Sacramento, and I can’t believe I finally made it to the end of all of this. I went through that horrible year so that I could keep going towards my goals. And tomorrow I will finally get my Bachelor of Music in Music Education. Even if more school awaits, it feels unbelievable to know that I went through these six terribly challenging years and finally I will have my degree and no one can take that away from me, whatever happens.

I complain about small things at SSU sometimes. Sure, I wish it wasn’t so cold all the time and that we had more practice rooms. But I feel fortunate that my bad experiences before my transfer allowed me to see that SSU is exactly the school I always wanted and this is the program I had dreamed of. This is precisely where I was meant to end up!

I’ve never been one for school pride, though I sort of tried in high school during my short stint in marching band. But, especially as an usher at the GMC, I feel an incredible sense of pride in my school, my music department, our beautiful hall, and all of the things I have come to call my own.

This is the longest I’ve lived in one place since I started in college. This now feels like home. This town, this school, these people, these friends, this life. This is the life I want. I feel so fortunate to have found it and to be able to cling to it as I walk the stage tomorrow and accept my symbolic diploma holder. You are looking at a future music teacher. And I’m gonna teach the shit out of your kids.

My Stepdad

My stepfather passed away this week. I am not sure how to go about introducing this any other way, but he is gone, and I am ready to talk about the relationship that we had.

When my mom and I first moved out of our family home at the time of my parents’ divorce, we moved into a small, one bedroom apartment. We slept on pallets on the floor at first, before finally upgrading to real beds. My mom was my world, so nine year old me had no problem sharing a room.

I don’t remember the exact time or details of when my mom first met Mike. They met online while he was living in Canada, and their relationship quickly blossomed despite having not yet met in person. I remember us both becoming quickly enamored with his sense of humor and his easy British charm. He and my mom would talk on the phone in the wee hours of the morning (given the different time zones) and my mom would laugh until she cried as he told silly stories and teased and flirted with her. Sometimes, I would try to contribute, and sometimes I would grumpily tell my mom to hush up because some of us needed to sleep for school tomorrow.

Mike paid a good deal of attention to me as well. We talked on MSN messenger and he would play board games and Oregon Trail with me. He enjoyed playing with me in an entirely innocent way. He had a very childlike silliness which made him get along with a kid my age perfectly, and I always laughed at his groan worthy jokes.

At the time, photo scanners weren’t yet a common household item and phones didn’t just take pictures and send them immediately. So, Mike mailed us an expired driver’s license. For a while, that was the one image we had of this man we were both so taken with. He had a shaggy, outdated haircut and some rather unattractive sunglasses. Since it was a license photo, we didn’t get to see that mischievous smile we would come to know and love.

Soon, it was decided that we needed to meet this guy. My mom and I traveled to Canada to meet Mike in person. The moment they saw each other, Mike and my mom embraced tightly and kissed. It was very much like a romantic film, except for the nine year old impatiently waiting on the sidelines for a chance at a hug.

The three of us had a wonderful trip in Canada. My mom even called in to work and extended our trip because we were having so much fun. I wish I remembered that trip better, but one of my favorite memories is of a dinner we had at Red Robin. We caused quite a scene as we began an intense war, flicking water at each other with our straws. I raced around the booth, flinging and dodging and giggling raucously. Water was dripping down the window behind our booth. We were total children, and it was delightful.

Mike eventually came to the U.S., and he and my mom got married. I came to the courthouse with them and got to be their witness, and then we later had a beautiful outdoor reception where I sang more than anyone actually asked me to.

Simply because of how our complicated lives and relationships were, I didn’t see a lot of my dad at the time. Mike filled an empty space in my life, and I’ll always be grateful for that. In the beginning, the three of us loved playing games, eating together, going on picnics, and being a little family.  But between the two of us, our favorite past time was going to the pool.

Mike didn’t know how to swim, so I took great satisfaction in teaching an adult how to do something. We eventually started racing each other across the length of the pool. I always won. But mostly, we caused trouble. He would pick me up or put me on his shoulders, and then without warning would hurl me into the pool, as I screamed and giggled. I would pretend to be mad, and then cry for him to do it again. We both ended up with more than a few aches and pains, and a lot of water up our noses, when we got back from the pool.

I remember one afternoon, we came back from one of my softball games. He suggested the three of us walk over to the apartment office to get the mail together, which was odd but not entirely unreasonable. As we neared the complex pool, he swept me up in his arms and hauled me, kicking and screaming, to the pool, where he threw me in, completely clothed in my softball uniform. Whenever he played a joke on you, he would laugh like he was going to cry, and his grin was like a mischievous child.

We had to break him of a few habits when he first moved in with us. Firstly, he had an injured index finger on his dominant hand and couldn’t straighten it out all the way, so he had gotten in the habit of pointing at things with his middle finger. In the UK, this is not as commonly used as an obscene hand gesture, and we had to quickly discourage him from doing this. He also loved to crack his knuckles, something my mom and I despised. We started giving him a flick on the cheek whenever he did it. Unfortunately, at a point, he started doing it just for the whole game of the thing. He would crack his knuckles, and then freeze in midair as if he had been caught stealing. He would screw up his face like he had just tasted something sour and await the swift “thwack” of my little fingers.

We often had to translate for Mike at restaurants, as waiters often couldn’t understand what he was asking for. His accent and strange lingo were an especial draw for a kid like me. Some of his silliest British phrases were “cream crackered’ when he was tired, “lovely jubbly” when he was pleased, and two exclamations: “gor blimey!” and “Gordon Bennett!” (That one was my favorite.)

Mike was never one to abide by bad service at a restaurant or store. Usually, my mom and I were humiliated as he tore apart an innocent kid working at a pizza joint, though we never turned up our noses at the coupons he usually got out of it. When I was particularly upset about a godawful recital gown I had ordered and which could not be returned, I sheepishly asked him to help me out, and boy did I get that refund.

Mike and I grew apart as I got older. Life happened, and as a teenager and young adult, I had less patience for our differences and his temper. I still came back to visit, though. One of my former boyfriends recalled a stay we had with my mom and Mike, where Mike challenged him to an onion eating contest. To no one’s surprise, Mike won. Matt recalls Mike looking ashamed at him for failing, and me looking ashamed at him for even participating.

I had to move in with my mom and Mike briefly during the summer of 2014 while I finished some work at the community college. Mike seemed to enjoy having me there. He seemed suddenly nostalgic for the way things used to be in our little family, and he made many efforts to recapture some of that happiness. We discovered that one thing we could still do together was go to the pool. He asked me nightly, and while I often refrained due to not wanting to get my hair wet or being too lazy, we did go several times that summer. I’m much too big now to throw around the pool, but we hit a ball back and forth to each other and often devolved into simply splashing each other viciously. It reminded us both of the days when he was a second dad to me, and I really appreciated that we were able to reconnect in that way. He really wanted the two of us to go have sushi together sometime since my mom wouldn’t eat it with it him, and we often joked about that sushi date I owed him. I still owe him, and I wish now that I hadn’t put it off.

The last time I saw Mike was Christmas day, when he and my mom and I had Christmas dinner together. We’ve never had Christmas dinner on our own, because it has always been a large family affair. But this year, Mike finally got his wish of a family dinner at his own house. He and my mom worked together in the kitchen, and he commented on how nice it was for the two of them to cook together. I showed him how to change his ringtone to Feliz Navidad, which made him light up with clever glee. We all sat down and ate together, before he started falling asleep in his plate and headed to bed.

With all the turmoil we had in our family, I’m so glad our last meeting was a pleasant, warm memory I can keep with me. As I got older, Mike and I were not always kind to each other, but since he passed I can only think of the wonderful memories we had as a little family when I was young, and all the times he made me laugh as an adult. I love him for being a dad to me when I needed a little help, and for taking care of my mom when I found myself grown up. I know I will always think of him when I go swimming, and most all, will miss that clever, mischievous smile.

 

Your Stupid Plant

The plant you gave me is dying in the corner
Haven’t watered it since you left
Looking over my shoulder every time I turn a corner
Haven’t seen you since you left

I wonder if you’re okay
I wonder how you’re doing sometimes
It’s hard to remember
It’s no business of mine
You don’t want me and I don’t know why

The plant you gave me is dying in the corner
Just as I thought I could fit somewhere
And I look over my shoulder every time I turn the corner
Hopeful but afraid that you might there

Everyone was feeding me false information
I felt so many things with no reciprocation
And just as I finally could breathe again
You thought we’d be better off as friends

The plant you gave me is dying in the corner
I don’t want to be your friend
I think I could have loved you but you left me in the corner
Alone without a word all night
And didn’t even have a decent lie
Well, your plant is gonna die.

Valentine’s Day (Which I Know Isn’t For 3 Weeks But You Know That Shit Is Already All Over Target, So Allow Me My Musings)

It occurred to me the other day that this Valentine’s Day will be the first one I have spent Valentine-less since my first year of high school. And that’s not to say that I was always with my true love or anything, but I always had someone who thought I was special to them.

It isn’t a huge deal. I’m not wallowing in loneliness, but I am lonely. And you can imagine why, since if I really haven’t spent a Valentine’s Day alone in years, I might be what you’d call a “serial dater.” Finding myself suddenly…less serial is strange and it is lonely. There have been periods of life where I was single where I felt empowered and cool and like I didn’t need no man. And I wouldn’t say I need someone now or I probably would have let myself be swept up by any of the mediocre options in my OkCupid inbox by now, but the feeling of empowerment and independence lasted for maybe two months. And now I just feel a bit like an island. And not an awesome tropical one. Just a sort of lonely one.

I could be cynical about it and say Valentine’s Day is all a big scam, but I’ve always been a fan of the holiday. I have no big issues with commercialism, sue me. I’ve always liked an excuse to shower my significant other in all of the cheesy things I might not normally get away with, to take an extra long moment to show them how much they mean to me. So, I could be cynical about Valentine’s Day, but I’ve never really been like that, and I won’t pretend it isn’t a bit sad that I don’t have someone who makes me feel the fuzzies and the butterflies and makes me want to hand craft them an extremely over the top themed gift which makes them fall madly for me.

So, that is where I am at. I’m not weeping into my pillow every night due to loneliness, but I am weeping into my pillow some nights due to loneliness. And I might feel a little sad on Valentine’s Day, and I might eat chocolate and watch You’ve Got Mail and cry some, but that is probably long overdue for me anyway. Such is life, which I actually just typo’d as “love” which I guess says something. Sometimes you’ve got someone on Valentine’s Day and sometimes you don’t have someone on Valentine’s Day. And I could say that my friend is my valentine or I’m my own valentine or some shit, but the reality is that I would like a valentine who is a man in a button down shirt who smiles and makes me feel like the sun literally exploded inside of my stomach, and I won’t pretend that’s not the truth.

So that is my truth, and I won’t pretend I’m not sad this year, so just leave the chocolate at the door and let me know if Sleepless in Seattle is on too loud. I probably won’t turn it down, but I’ll text you an apologetic emoji.

The end.

 

My 2015

In 2015, I…

-Turned 22

-Drove to Texas with Cammie and David and epically surprised my best friend/enemy

-Ate a Texas shaped waffle

-Had pneumonia for like three months and a brief crisis when I thought my voice might be damaged and I’d have to become a lawyer

-Rekindled my love for viola after some repairs and lessons

-Got a job as a church choir director, which has brought me immense joy and pride

-Ended a long term relationship

-Had a major crisis spurred by my mental health, resulting in increased meds, therapy, and overall improvement in life

-Made some amazing new friends, something worth noting as I rarely make new friends and very rarely find them amazing

-Spent my summer in Texas and did some research on a potential future

-Got my first credit card and haven’t effed it up yet

-Lost a decent amount of weight, then gained most of it back over the holidays

-Started casually dating and discovered that it can be very hurtful, but am continuing to learn from my mistakes

-Drove past the Alamo, big moment

-Saw Audra McDonald live, best concert of my year

– (Other secret thing not for mentioning publicly)

-Level capped six characters on World of Warcraft

 

Top Five Albums of 2015:

  • Some Feelings by Julia Nunes
  • What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World by The Decemberists
  • Kintsugi by Death Cab for Cutie
  • Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
  • Dark Bird is Home by The Tallest Man on Earth

Thanksgivings

It is Thanksgiving, a holiday which is totally my jam, because I love giving thanks for how amazing people, things, life, and the universe are. Sometimes I show specific appreciation and sometimes I get lazy and do something more artsy and vague. But I think specificity should be given some energy at least once a year. However, so as not to overwhelm myself, I am going to choose one wonderful thing that each person has done for me since last Thanksgiving, whichever thing really stuck with me, and mention that. Know that the million other things you have done for me have not gone unnoticed. I am incredibly lucky and you, friend, are a blessing.

I give thanks for Mindy, who tucked me in, dimmed the lights, told me she loved me, and made me feel safe when I was having an anxiety meltdown. Unfortunately for her, she understands this insanity well and I wouldn’t be here without her.

I give thanks for Cammie for sharing her summer, her snacks, her cat, her state, and her car (for three horrific days) with me, along with basically everything else in her life, including the rude things she says about me. She will always be my other half, no matter where she is.

I give thanks for David, for putting an iPhone in my summer stocking and making Mindy sooooooooo mad her face almost exploded. It was classic. He is my favorite brother, which is saying something, because I have MANY. (That no one else knows about so…keep it on the D.L.)

I give thanks for Holly for picking me up, feeding me, nerding with me, making me laugh, and loving the heck out of me when I’m at my loneliest. She is the best best friend a person could ask for, and I lucked out because she’s my sister and nobody else’s, unless you’re reading this and your name is Cammie, in which case… GO AWAY, CAMMIE SMITH!!!

I give thanks for Nora, for being the best friend I can come back to after months away and feel like no time has ever passed. I feel like we’ll always be made for this friendship, no matter how much things may change in our lives, and a time will never come when I can’t text her about my hilarious farts. Unless maybe it’s her wedding day or something. But that could be negotiable. We’ll talk.

I give thanks for my Dad, for helping me move twice since last Thanksgiving, and many, many times before that. Plus, countless other adult things I still need Dad to help me with. He is the reason I’ve made it through this insane college journey and, when I graduate, he can have visitation rights with my diploma.

I give thanks for my Mom, who always goes above and beyond to help me when I need it, like driving me everywhere in tarnation and calculating postage for me. She is my most loyal right hand woman and I’d be entirely lost without her. Plus, I’d have so many boring hours of my life not spent with us both hopelessly trapped on the phone, neither able to stop talking long enough to sleep or eat.

I give thanks for Mike, for sacrificing his living room this summer and sharing his snacks with me. (As you can see, I really appreciate it when people share snacks with me. It feels like an ultimate show of love, and my family knows that.)

I give thanks for JoAnn, for always giving me the most darn thoughtful gifts, whether they be for Christmas or care packages. She definitely listens and I really value that.

I give thanks for my grandma, who is possibly my favorite person on the planet. During the time I spent in California this summer, I tried to see her as much as I could and I’m glad I was able to. My desire to make her proud can probably be credited for most of my successes in life.

I give thanks for my aunt Nancy, who helped give us a beautiful week in Tahoe this summer. I got to talk to her and spend some time with her and remember how lucky I am to be her niece!

I give thanks for Evan, who has way too often been my sugar mama without complaint so we can do all the fun things, and who I will repay one day with all the handsome men she deserves. But I am also thankful for her being the most hilarious and loyal friend I could ask for. Even if she deserted me for LA.

I give thanks for Elizabeth, who brought sick supplies and comfort brownies to my door the other day, because she is the sweetest person on the planet and wants everyone she loves to be good. And so she is very, very good.

I give thanks for Laura, for being my first new friend this year, and probably the first one I’ve made in Sonoma County who isn’t generally the fair weather type. She is an incredibly thoughtful, compassionate person and everyone deserves a friend like her.

I give thanks for Sara, who lovingly forces her boyfriend to drive us places and I love it, and her!

I give thanks for Nick, who I’m really glad is still my friend.

I give thanks for Dexter, who I will forever consider my cat, even if he lives in Texas and doesn’t remember who I am or love me at all, and just wants to puncture my air bed repeatedly until I haul my nasty ass back to California where I belong. I will love you forever, you surly, uncaring dolphin.

And I’m thankful for anyone who has ever said something kind to me or laughed at one of my stupid jokes, especially when I had social anxiety and thought they probably hated me. Or someone who said my selfie was pretty or my song was good or liked a post I posted somewhere. I am probably weirdly appreciative of that sort of thing, because people are just so lovely and I have needed extra loveliness over the last year.

Some other things I am thankful for:

Rain, pasta and cheese in a blessed union, my amazing new job and the kind people I’ve been connected with as a result, sweet wine, cozy blankets, therapists who aren’t afraid to use four letter words, antidepressants, understanding teachers, vocal health (when I have it…), beautiful music, hot cocoa with mini marshmallows on top, nice boys I have kissed even if they didn’t text back afterwards, the strength to move on from boys who don’t text back, good TV shows, Lake Tahoe and other mind blowingly beautiful snapshots of nature, comfortable sweatshirts, World of Warcraft, naps, hot showers, and warm cats who entrust their little heads and paws to your lap.

I am thankful to God for all of these things.

And I am thankful for you.