Mainely on the Nubs

I am so completely in love with my friends. Even when I don’t get to see them regularly, it’s like no time has passed when we get together. They are the best group of people I could ever know, and on more than one occasion, have saved my life both physically and mentally.

My grad school girlfriends in particular kill me in the best way possible. When we are together, we experience the most side-splitting laughter, tears of empathy, and emotional connection that leaves us so fulfilled at the end of our time together. Those are the kinds of friendships that sustain you, leave you excited to see each other again, but independent enough to need our own lives…because let’s be honest, living our own lives gives us better stories to share the next time we see each other!

In the past, we’ve visited Charleston, Colorado, DC, San Diego, and any trip we take that one of us is unable to attend, we will simply print out a picture of their head, attach it to a stick, and take pictures with our absentee floating head of a friend. Our trips aren’t as often as they were when we were in grad school, but now we definitely don’t pile 9 people into a 1 bedroom place anymore. We’re grown ass women now after all.

We planned our trip to Maine nearly a year before because Mel was pregnant and ready to get the hell out into the world with adults. We actually end up planning many of our trips WAY ahead of time because our group is filled with type-A planners, whom many of which now have children. And we all know I love a good plan, so I was down immediately. We planned it the weekend after Labor Day, which was excellent timing since I hadn’t really gotten too deep in my doctoral program yet. However, my full time job was a different story, and by the time this trip rolled around, even though we were only 3 weeks into the semester, I felt ready to drown.

Once I landed in Boston, I was of course, the last one. And I mean like 1 am, last one. Nidia, Handy, and Lauren were all waiting for me, and once I got in the car, it was a freaking sitcom of a shitshow watching us try to get out of Boston. I swear, that city and its roads have been under construction for like 25 years. We at one point were seriously driving in a circle trying to find an exit, and at some point, we ran over a skunk, which should just sum up what driving in the Boston area is truly like.

We decided to take a few day trips while making our homebase in York, Maine. It didn’t hold any special meaning, other than it was 1 hour from Boston, and about 1-2 hours from other sites we could do in a day. We had originally thought up a plan to drive to Acadia National Park, which would’ve meant nearly 7 hours of driving in one day. See, this is what happens when you plan things far ahead AND you still think you’re 18 years old. When we got together that weekend, we all immediately were like, WHAT THE EFF WERE WE THINKING, and decided on another idea quickly.

All in all, we made as much of the weekend as we could, while also taking the time to relax, sleep in a little bit, and enjoy each other’s company. We rented two cars and had assigned seating in those cars the whole weekend (not intentionally, but it worked out well). Mel found the house in AirBnb, and it was completely amazing. Enough bedrooms and bathrooms for 7 women, 2 of whom were sick, so we quarantined them in the upstairs, pirate-themed bedroom. Lauren and I shared a room and our view was beautiful! It was walking distance to the Nubble Lighthouse and the quaint little town of York.

Our first day, we just explored York. It’s small but oh so freaking cute. I have to say how proud I was of myself when we went grocery shopping and I guessed our total amount so closely that I was only off by 75 cents! Go me! We visited the Lighthouse, which we didn’t know you can’t actually get to. So we looked at it from afar, and got some yummy lobster because duh, you’re in Maine. We also took a walk along the coast, and you gotta love a New England coast. So incredibly different from Florida, but beautiful nonetheless.

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The next day, we drove to Portland, ME. Our first stop was a bathroom, and we ducked into a tea shop for it. It was crazily enough, one of the most memorable places we’ve ever been, because if there’s ever been a tea shop with its head up its own ass, it was this one, Dobra Tea. We had to ring a bell to get service at our table, we couldn’t order a tea for the table then ask for it to go because the sizes were somehow different, and honestly, I didn’t know what the hell 75% of the teas were anyways. I just got chamomile and a cookie.

We ended up at a sandwich shop, Sisters Gourmet Deli, right around the corner, and it was DELISH. Highly recommended. We walked around for a bit, went to the Liquid Riot brewery, an outside gallery, and then tried to go to Portland Head Lighthouse right before it closed. Only half of our group made it, the other half (my half) went into a private neighborhood, snapped some pictures of the lighthouses we could see, then went to dinner at Bao Bao (again, highly recommended as well). This is also how many of our trips go: we base our walking on food and drink stops. Isn’t that how everyone plans their vacations??

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Our last day, on our way back to Boston to catch all our flights, we stopped at Portsmouth, NH. I feel like I had been there in college, but I can hardly remember anything (thanks antidepressants), so even if I had been there, it was a brand new experience this time around. We were only there for about an hour, but man, I just can’t get enough of these little New England towns. The history, the bricks, the sights…just too beautiful. Our first stop was a coffee shop, and I was so confused when I saw that the  names of all the pastries in the display case were in German. Once we walked outside and I actually read the name of the GERMAN coffee house, it all made sense (and clearly I needed that coffee for reals).

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We all left on our flights that afternoon, and it was done. Our trip we’d planned so well and efficiently was over, and thankfully I have these amazing photos to remember it by.

Some of these ladies discovered Marco Polo a few years ago, which is a video chat app that allows you to record yourself, send it to one person or a group, and the video waits for the person in the app until they can get on and see it. I resisted. And resisted some more. I refused to download one more app that required me to figure out how to use it. Then during this trip, I acquiesced and it’s been one of the better choices I’ve made (I’m looking at you, stupid Snapchat). Since we left Maine, we’ve been in constant contact, and it makes it that much better when you can see each other’s faces regularly.

I can’t wait for our next trip. This being Thanksgiving week and all, man am I grateful for amazing girlfriends who only make my life better. Thank you ladies, I love you so much.

♥, VB

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Setting of the Sun

Last weekend, I was driving back to St. Pete from Orlando after spending a lovely time with Timmy. Our situation is still working quite nicely, and after a break from living together (which was SUPER needed), we are now missing each other enough to want to live together again. Which is such a great feeling. Absence and heart and fondness…that saying is so true.

As I was making the almost two-hour trek home, I realized that I had enough time to make it to the Gulf Coast to see the sun set. I don’t always get that chance since the beach is about 20-30 minutes away, which is of course totally doable normally. But I’m usually too tired to get out of the house again once I’m through that front door. And with work being as completely crazy as it has been right before school starts, I haven’t the energy to think about plans beyond my normal work hours.

As I sat on Indian Rocks beach, I fell a little bit more in love with this town I’m calling home. This place seriously rocks my socks off.

Warning: super overload of sunset pictures to commence, thanks to Timmy’s amazing gift that keep on giving–my super duper camera.

i was able to catch a little playing of strangers in the water

i was able to catch a little playing of strangers in the water

an accidental shot which I love

an accidental shot which I love

♥, VB

Sad Today, Sad Tomorrow

Today I am sad. The kind of sad that fills up every space in your body and mind, the kind of sadness you can’t let go of unless you cry it out. When I cry, it feels like I’m unplugging a full tub, and the water slowly starts to empty out until it begins to rush out.

Jake, our friend, our guest of honor for “30 Years, 1 Wish“, the man I knew since the 6th grade, passed away on Friday night from colorectal cancer. At 31 years old.

I keep going back and forth between emotions, between disbelief and just pure sadness, sadness for the life he won’t have now, sadness for the dad his son Aiden won’t get to know, the husbandly love he won’t get to show, the son and brother he won’t get to be. I’m sad for Timmy, who just lost another best friend. And I’m sad for myself.

This is now the 5th friend I grew up with that is gone. Saying things like, “Gone too soon” or “They were so young” just don’t quite capture the true tragedy that their losses have been in my life and in others. When Kyle, Lindsay, and Tommy passed away over the course of 8 months when we were 20 years old, I was of course sad. When they passed, it was devastating. I had never experienced death that close before, and their deaths were quick and totally unexpected.

Shortly after Lindsay, one of my best friends, passed away, I began experiencing debilitating panic attacks whenever I had to fly. I was convinced I was going to die, and any hint of turbulence would cause me to white knuckle the arm rests and cry until we landed. I was unprepared to deal with grief, and when it manifested as panic attacks or long spells of complete lack of concentration, I felt lost and confused. And I felt alone, at NYU, experiencing loss by myself.

I was sad because I missed them, especially Lindsay, who I will never ever meet another one like her in this lifetime. It wasn’t until 2 years after her death when it occurred to me that I hadn’t thought about her on a daily basis. It was knowing that they were done with life, already, and we hadn’t even graduated college. They weren’t going to explore their 20s and figure out who they are and how they want to affect the world. They weren’t going to fall in love again, then fall out of love again, get their first sucky entry-level job, and make mistakes, then make memories. They weren’t going to eventually figure out that their parents weren’t that bad and that they were more blessed than they had ever given thanks for in the past.

When Clay passed away a few years ago, it was clear a long time ago to many of us that it was the path in life that he had been destined to go down. Having battled addiction many times over the years, he unintentionally overdosed. I had known Clay since the 2nd grade and he was my boyfriend during that amazing memory of my life, also known as getting kicked out of school. When the rest of us turned our lives around, he was stuck and never quite got free. When I heard of his death, I was sad that he wasn’t able to fight his demons and come out victorious. I was sad for his family who had tried to help and had failed. I was sad because his life was also over, already, and we were all really just getting started.

But Jake passing, at 31, is a completely different story for me.

At 30 years old, I get life in a way that I didn’t get when I was 20. I’ve lived an extra 10 years than they did, and I experienced so much. I’ve experienced things I never thought I had in store for me and was able to accomplish nearly every single goal I had set out for myself after that year of hell at 20 years old. At 30, I understand my place in life, what I’ve been put here to do, and who I ultimately answer to at the end of the day. I have a sympathy for people that I didn’t necessarily have when I was a selfish 20 year old, and I see now that what I do has to affect others in the most positive way possible. My parents and I are close friends, which at 20, was a laughable notion, if not completely hopeless.

I understand the good qualities I have and the ones that I want to have. I see myself as a future mother and am proud of myself as a partner to an amazing person, committed until the end, having been tested more than I thought possible. I still have another lifetime to live, and I have lived what I got so far to the fullest ability.

I am sad because Jake won’t get to fulfill more goals. I am sad that he had to live in such pain, for so long, which no one deserves. He doesn’t have any more time to get shit done, and see how his amazing legacy affects his son. How his son will take the best parts of Jake and be an even better example of humility and strength than Jake was (even though I don’t know if that’s possible). How we will take what he taught us, how to be strong, how to shut the fuck up and stop complaining, how to be humorous when all humor is gone, how to work your ass off even in the midst of complete pain and agony, and pay it forward. How even though he stayed out of touch for so long, those 3.5 years we had with him meant more to us than he’ll ever know.

I am thankful that our party gave him another boost, another chance to reconnect with people and touch their lives the way he touched ours. I’m thankful that seeing him at our party is the last memory they may have of Jake, one that is strong, fighting, and respected. I’m thankful that we were able to give his family another network of people who supported them in this fight, who wanted to help them any way they could.

We may not be able to attend the memorial services this Saturday because my family and I have a trip to Spain coming up to celebrate my grandmother’s 100th birthday. That’s right, her centennial. It’s a hugely big deal, 1) because she’s the last grandparent standing for both Timmy and I; 2) I missed her 90th birthday because I missed my flight in college; and 3) that’s an effing long time to live. I’m trying my best to remind myself to be present on Sunday, mentally and emotionally, as we celebrate an amazing milestone in an amazing life.

Because of this though, I’m sad that I won’t be able to pay my respects to the family who included us in every major part of Jake’s journey these last few years. Even though I know they know we love them, that we loved Jake, and would’ve done anything we could, it still means the world to be there at the very end.

I’m sad that loss exists at all. I’m sad that I have to see my blessings through the prism of death, knowing that I am truly grateful for being alive because they are not. I’m sad for these lives that could have been, the lives that could have changed so many more, but won’t get to. And I’m sad because I don’t understand it, any of it, why it has to happen to the best people, and why the pain of loss never ever goes away.

I’m writing this down because I have to get it out, the words that are cluttering my head and my heart. I want others to know that tragedy happens to us all, and what we have to do is make the best of it. Turn those downfalls into uplifting futures. Tell their stories and share them far and wide. Never forgetting that our time here is limited and it’s what we do and how we treat others that matters. In fact, the only thing that matters in the end, the only thing that people remember, is whether you were nice or not.

I’ll never forget what these people taught me about becoming a better person, a better friend, a better human being. I hope they know that. I hope they knew that they were loved, and they are still missed.

Jake, I know that you knew that we loved you. We would have done anything, and we tried, to make your life better because you deserved it. You should have been here for a long time because you were just awesome. You fought as hard as you could to stay here, and Aiden will know that. We will make sure he knows that you were amazing and that if you had had a choice, you would’ve stayed. We will tell him that you cursed perhaps worse than us, that you were funny, dedicated, loyal as hell, and that you were the definition of a good friend. We will make sure he doesn’t go to UF, that he respects his mom, and that he wants to grow up to be just like you.

♥, VB

You will always be missed.

You will always be missed.