The Blog: On Second Thought

jackson

Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Photo source: Caitlin Jordan)

They say rain symbolizes change in movies. Well, I think snow does the trick for me.

I remember scrolling through Facebook statuses at the beginning of 2016 and rolling my eyes at all the lofty and hopeful new year resolutions.

Been there, done that, doesn’t work.

Why set some dreamy goal that will simply remind you why you’re stuck? Who wants to create high expectations only to have them laugh in your face every time you look in the mirror?

You really thought this year would be different? Ha.

Is this you this year?

 I totally get it. Letting yourself down can really suck. So, instead of writing a few goals for yourself, or letting others know what you’d like to work toward in 2017, you avoid it altogether. #NewYearSameMe


Instead of writing a few goals for yourself, or letting others know what you’d like to work toward in 2017, you avoid it altogether.


I’ve been there multiple times. I’ll occasionally get a bright idea about a hobby I want to pursue, or even the book I want to write, and excitedly share it with my husband Ryan or a friend. Then, months later I feel silly and a little embarrassed that I hadn’t taken a single step toward my goal.

Maybe it’s best I keep those things to myself, you know, to save face.

In fact, I almost decided not to set any goals this year for that very reason. The few weeks leading up to the holidays were hectic and I was walking in a bit of a haze. I was just going through the motions and I really wasn’t in the “dream big” mood.

Luckily, Ryan had planned a trip to the mountains for us months before, so we left Texas two days after Christmas for a short vacation to Wyoming. Thank goodness.

Somewhere in between the mountains covered in white, laughing and running down vacant streets in -4 degree weather, and being the only ones on the dance floor in a crowded room, the kid woke up in my heart.


The kid woke up in my heart.


The kid that believes she can do anything she puts her mind to. The kid that isn’t jaded due to failed endeavors. The kid that wants to change lives.

So, instead of keeping my big dreams to myself, I shared them with Ryan. I’ve also shared them with a few friends. And you know what? It felt really good to dream again.

One caveat: I’m hesitant to tell you that “feeling like a kid again” encouraged me to dream. I know a few of you will immediately dismiss this idea because “you’re now a mature adult with serious responsibilities” and “childish dreams lead to nowhere.”

But think about it, what is the one thing you didn’t have as a kid that allowed you to learn how to jump off the diving board or how to ride a bike? Fear.

See, I think that’s why we have stopped setting goals for ourselves. We’re afraid. We’re afraid of being a failure. We’re afraid of letting others down. We’re afraid that we may not be able to prove someone wrong. Fear has kept us in our nice, little comfort zones. And where does that lead us?

Donald Miller said, “Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.”


“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.”


Look, I’m not asking you to come up with a solution to change the world. Heck, you don’t even have to change your diet. But surely there’s a hobby you’ve always wanted to try, or an organization you’ve wanted to volunteer with, or maybe it’s a habit you’ve always wanted to quit. Perhaps this is the year you finally lay down the pain you’ve been carrying and find out who God really is.

Don’t let the fear of your past failures keep you from dreaming again. Don’t settle for #NewYearSameMe.

They say rain symbolizes change in movies. Well, I think snow does the trick for me. What will wake up the kid inside of you? Maybe you should go do that. Ditch the fear.

Cheers to change in 2017. What are your goals?

Caitlin Jordan is the digital content writer and editor for I Am Second. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@caitlinr_jordan).

Me and my siblings at Christmas this year. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

Me and my siblings at Christmas this year. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

It was a year ago that I had an encounter with a homeless woman that changed my perspective on giving. I witnessed her doing something for a fellow vagabond that made me envious of her: She gave with zero expectation of anything in return — and after, the recipient even rejected her overture. She didn’t get angry or depressed. Instead, she smiled.

To be honest, I had forgotten about her as the months passed and the days got warmer. But exactly a year to the day after I wrote about her, something incredible happened: She showed up in my family’s living room as we were celebrating Christmas.

Let me explain.


My oldest sister started crying.


A few weeks ago, my sister asked me if I was interested in doing any gifts for our family’s Christmas. I said no.

See, my wife, daughter, and I live 16 hours and 1,000 miles away. Every other year we trek from Dallas to Wisconsin for Christmas, and trying to do gifts and travel with a toddler just wasn’t something I thought we could do. So we all decided to forgo any type of presents and just be with each other.

That was until my little brother Josh, who at 22 isn’t so little anymore, changed everything.

As we were sitting around the living room after Christmas dinner and my mom was giving the younger grandkids some small gifts and my siblings some envelopes, Josh started passing out cards of his own. Every sibling — and there’s four of us — their spouses, and my parents got a gift card. Every one.

We were floored.

“Josh, we said no gifts!”

“I know, but I still wanted to get everyone something.” He left it at that.

My oldest sister started crying.

What happened next is something I’ll never forget. My 10-year-old nephew, Noah, slipped upstairs. When he emerged a few minutes later, he had one of his prized possessions: a large, laminated Aaron Rodgers poster. He skipped over to me and presented it.

“I wanted to give you this as a present, Jonny,” he said, using the name that only my family and wife are allowed to use. He then proceeded to present others with “gifts,” which were really items he already had but treasured.

My oldest sister started crying again.


The beauty of what happened with my family over Christmas was that it all happened so naturally, so beautifully.


But the giving didn’t stop there. A little while later, there was a mixup with one of the gifts that was supposed to be for Noah and we couldn’t find it. Out of nowhere, my niece, Lilly, slipped my other sister Jenny $20 out of the envelope she had just gotten from grandma.

“Don’t worry, auntie, I got you,” she said quietly.

It continued. Two days later, my oldest sister pulled me aside and gave me a present. The next day, my brother took my family out to lunch and paid. Following their lead, I decided to buy breakfast for a friend and my sister.It felt like some sort of 50s Christmas classic.

That’s when I remembered what I had written last year:

So when you give this Christmas season, don’t give with an expectation that the person receiving has to act a certain way, or that they have to meet a certain threshold of thankfulness. Don’t give because you’re looking to get something out of it. Give out of joy. Give because it’s the right thing to do. Give to honor the ultimate gift that the season is named after.

That’s what the homeless woman taught me.

Those words were published December 23, 2015. Our family Christmas happened on December 23, 2016. Exactly a year to the day that I told the world about the homeless woman, it’s as if she was right there with us. We gave just like she did. We gave just like the giver who sent the first Christmas gift. We gave because we love, and not even with the command to “pay it forward.” No strings attached. The beauty of what happened with my family over Christmas was that it all happened so naturally, so beautifully.

I’m still in awe.

And while I hope the homeless woman shows up again next year, my bigger hope is that this time it doesn’t take a year.

27Dec, 2016
(Photo source: Ian Schneider via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Ian Schneider via Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

Five.
Four.
Three.
Two.
One.

The ball drops and fireworks. Resolutions are made.
People scream and people kiss and is it possible to change?
Is it really truly possible to leave the past behind?

Welcome to Midnight.

Another year comes to a close. Another year begins.
With a moment in between.
Why the fuss?
Why the fame and fireworks?
Is it more than hype? More than something else to sell us?
Is there something to this holiday? Something true inside it?
Because isn’t there something inside us that aches for change…
Dreams it to be possible…
To let go.
To hold on.
To leave it behind.
To start again.
To be new.
Is it possible?

If you’re reading this, if there’s air in your lungs, then you’re alive today tonight right now.
And who can know how long we have here…
And is it a gift? Was it ever a gift? Did that ever feel true or could that one day feel true?
Are there things to fight to live for?
Moments and people. Weddings and children and all your different dreams.
Love.
Is your life more than just your own?
And are there broken things you were made to fight to fix?
Broken families, broken friends… Injustice.
Will you move for things that matter?

Wouldn’t it be nice if change took just a moment?
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy?
Midnight and we’re new. Midnight and the past erased. Midnight and we’re free.

It seems to come slow. It seems to be a surgery.
Forgiveness. Healing. Sobriety. Letting go. Starting over.
It seems to happen slowly over time.
One day at a time, the choice made new each morning.
Will you fight?
Will you fight to be healthy?
Will you fight to be free?
Will you fight for your story?
Will you fight to get the help you need?

Change takes more than a moment, but maybe there’s also something to this celebration of a moment, something to the way it speaks to us, something to the way we fear it, and dream it to be true. Maybe it’s the most honest moment of the year.

It’s possible to change.

Welcome to Midnight.

Here’s to the possibilities.

Peace to You.
jamie

(Photo source: jeshoots.com via Pexels.com)

(Photo source: jeshoots.com via Pexels.com)

“Caitlin, I’m not okay,” Caroline forced the words out over the phone through tears and exhaustion, “I need to get help.”

I cried with her as I stumbled through a few semi-encouraging sentences. I’ve never had a close friend go to rehab.

Over the last year and a half, I have been learning what it looks like to be a friend to someone who is recovering from addiction. What began as me committing to being the superhero friend that saves the day and wins “Best Friend of the Year” has actually turned out much differently than I would have ever imagined.

I slowly started realizing that I was wrong to think I was going to be her save-the-day friend. As time went on and my understanding of recovery deepened, it became clear that I was learning far more from her than I could ever offer in return.


It became clear that I was learning far more from her than I could ever offer in return.


She would walk me through the ridiculously intense temptations she faced every day, the new friendships she was forming at AA with complete strangers who were totally different from her, and her commitment to attending 90 meetings in 90 days.

She may not know that she was actually teaching me something in our long-distance phone conversations. But now that I’m reflecting back over the year, I’m extremely grateful for what she has shared with me. I’m now equipped with life lessons about self-control, about commitment, about independence and dependency on others. I learned about transparency, and trusting your friends with your darkest secrets.

Though, there is one thing that Caroline shared with me two weeks ago that really stands out, and with Christmas around the corner, I do not think her timing was a coincidence.

We were about to attend a wedding rehearsal dinner with all of our closest friends from college, and there was going to be alcohol there.

Before we headed to the restaurant, Caroline had panic written all over her face and asked if she could follow me to the bathroom. Once we were in there, she pulled out her phone and began to read out loud.

Something happened to me when she finished reading. It’s hard to explain, but it’s as if a pile of bricks hit me and a light turned on in my head all at once.

Here’s a bit of what she read:

“Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful.” … “Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough.”

Her sponsor suggested that she read these passages from a book she received in an AA meeting before entering into social settings. Caroline explained that she now has to ask herself, “What’s my purpose for going to this event? How can I be of service?” In recovery, going to events where there’s alcohol is not a time to throw a pity party, but to soberly seek out conversation, to be present the entire night, and to support her friends. This is actually an act of service to those she loves. While she may have lost years in self-consuming thoughts during the depths of her addiction, she can now offer herself as a sober, listening ear. A safe place. A refuge.


This is actually an act of service to those she loves. 


Why did I want to share this with you before Christmas, you ask? Over the next week, most of you will be attending holiday parties with your family, your friends, and maybe people that don’t fall into either of those categories. Can I ask you to do something?

Will you read that passage to yourself before you grudgingly wrap your Christmas presents or groan about the conversation you’re stuck in with your annoying aunt? See, I believe that what Caroline shared with me isn’t intended only for recovering alcoholics.

If we have committed to “living second,” then helping others is the foundation of our lives. And this lifestyle extends beyond volunteering at the soup kitchen and giving to the poor. Yes, that’s extremely important, but it also includes how we interact with our friends and family. It means listening to others for their benefit, not for our own. That’s the life we’ve signed up for. We are to be of maximum service to others always.


It means listening to others for their benefit, not for our own. That’s the life we’ve signed up for.


I understand that this isn’t always easy to do. So, if you do find yourself struggling to selflessly serve those around you this Christmas, take a moment to reflect on why you are celebrating Christmas in the first place.

God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to live among men, to be tempted just like we are tempted, and to live a life of total and complete service to God and to you and me. Absolutely none of His time on earth was spent living for selfish reasons. He lived to be of maximum helpfulness to others. And because of his selfless life, we are now able to truly live. And that’s the same life I’ve signed up for, I’ve committed to living as He lived. And that’s why I love Christmas.

Thank you, Caroline, for teaching me this invaluable lesson through your recovery. This year, I hope to celebrate Christmas by putting all those around me first, far before myself, in any and all circumstances. Will you join me?

Caitlin Jordan is the digital content writer and editor for I Am Second. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@caitlinr_jordan).

Read Caroline’s story of addiction here.

21Dec, 2016
(Photo source: I Am Second)

(Photo source: I Am Second)

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Leicester, England. Club Urban Beauty. Clipse performed. In the front row was this girl who was absolutely radiant and stood out from the entire audience. Her skin was like porcelain, long dark hair, and long dark eyelashes with bright, baby-blue eyes. She wore a white, loose-fitting dress with a black belt at the waist. She didn’t walk; she floated like a character in a Spike Lee Joint.

I was on stage, but the spotlight was on her. After our performance, I went backstage to dry off, and then proceed to the VIP area where I bumped into her.

“Hello,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“It’s Carrissa,” she said in a thick English accent, “but don’t try to ‘chat me up.’ I don’t trust men and you can have any of these ladies here you want.”

“I just asked your name,” I said, “I don’t want any of these chicks, I’m not at all thirsty. And like you, I don’t trust women. Besides that I’m married.” But after a few more sips of Brandy, we exchanged emails.

A year later. Carrissa came to visit me for my birthday in Finland. Once the show was over, we did an after party. After a night of drinking and partying we headed back to my room. Drunk, and in the middle of getting to “know” Carrissa, she turned over and right on the small of her back there was a tattoo in remembrance of her sister, Leila, who had passed on from cancer. On the left of the tattoo was Leila’s birthday, and to the right of the tattoo was the date she died: Aug. 18th, my birthday. Instantly, I sobered up. It wasn’t just what I saw but it was how I saw it; with the moonlight piercing through the blinds perfectly framing “8/18.” It presented itself just like a dame in a Bogart black and white with the lighting solely fixated on her eyes and with the rest of her face in silhouette, adding mystique.

It wouldn’t be the last time something I did haunted me.


It wouldn’t be the last time something I did haunted me.


About three weeks later, Clipse had a performance in Herndon, VA. On the way there I called over to my boy: “C.J.,what happened to that girl that was supposed to come with you to the show?”

“Ah man, forget that B*&@H I told her to stay home!” C replied.

“Why?” I asked. “Long story,” C said. “How you mess that up?” I asked.

“Tell you later,” he said.

When we reached Herndon, we checked into our rooms. After I got situated I walked to C’s room. He was ironing his shirt for the night, but once he saw me he blurted out: “Oh! This is what I had to tell you earlier. That girl that I was gonna bring to the show said she was at a party and the cousin of some girl you messed with said you gave her AIDS and she’s dying right now. She also said she has a brother that is going to put a hit out on you. Then I said to her: ‘Then why he [Gene] ain’t dyin’ or sick?’

“‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘I’m just telling you what the girl told me.’ I didn’t wanna say that in the car around everybody, but forget that hoe,” C said, “I hate when the haters start rumors and s#!+.”

“Call her right now,” I said, “and put it on speakerphone.” I had to hear it for myself. He did, and I heard her say, “You didn’t tell him, did you?”

“I told you I wouldn’t say nothin’, just tell me again,” C said. Suddenly, though, she couldn’t remember exactly what was said or exactly who said what,except for the fact that the cousin of the girl I was supposed to have infected had a baby.

I frantically tried to make sense of it all.

“If this were true, this rumor would have spread like wildfire, especially seeing how I’m Malice of the Clipse,” I blurted out. “The streets would have quickly propelled this info!”

Nevertheless, I couldn’t just simply deny a rumor of this magnitude. Just so happens that I did “know” a girl in the biblical sense by the name of Chelle who fit the description. She had a cousin who had a baby and a brother who was a knuckle head. Now, Chelle was cool and I’ve always known her to be healthy and happy.There were some uncanny parallels between Chelle and I: She was born in New York like me; her birthday was in August (a Leo like me); she sucks her thumb (a habit I’ve never been able to fully break); she lost her grandmother who was on dialysis like mine; and by the luck of the draw her nickname was Mookie, just like me, spelled the same way and everything. She was a good girl, believed in Christ, constantly read her Bible, only listened to gospel music, and hardly watched TV.

“Her ONLY vice was that she dated a married man,” I said to myself sarcastically.

With all that swirling in my mind, I still found a way to go on to do the Herndon show. I returned home late the next morning to dogs barking, an immaculate house, towel and wash rag laid out. I took my bath and got comfortable. But right before dinner I received an email. It was from Chelle’s brother asking for my address.

“Gene, I wanna send you my demo and I want you to give me your honest opinion,” he said.

Oh Hell No! I thought. The rumor was true! This dude doesn’t even know me like that to ask anything of me! I had given his sister AIDS and he was coming to kill me.

I called Chelle. Ring, ring, ring, but no answer. I call again. Ring, ring. Still no answer. I called anonymously, and she picked right up.

“Didn’t you see me calling you?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said, “I was gonna call you back. I’m just trying to get my life together!”

“What does that mean?” I asked curiously, looking for any hints or signs of ailment. She didn’t let on to any sickness but I did notice her disposition towards me was as if I got on her nerves, which was a total deviation from the norm. Something was on this girl’s mind and I was determined to keep her on the phone until either she admitted a problem or her mood lightened up.

After an hour of prying, she turned back into the jovial, good-spirited Chelle I used to know. Before we get off the phone she asked, “Did my brother email you?”

“Yes,” I said.

“He wanted your phone number but I wouldn’t give it to him,” she said. “Pay him no mind and don’t talk to him.” The little relief I had received from her now-pleasant demeanor was ruined by her “don’t talk to him” statement. To me, it was a warning: I was right back to where I had started from. My investigative prying was in vain.

Later that night I was in my bathroom “Googling” on my Blackberry, which I often do. I looked up symptoms of HIV: “Sometimes within two to six weeks after exposure to the virus you may experience fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, headache and rash.”

I began to worry.

Was it really the ceiling fan that brought on these flu-like symptoms that night? Or was it “The Monkey?”

This is adapted from the book, “Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind, and Naked” by Gene “No Malice” Thornton. The full book can be purchased on Amazon. To see how the story ends, you can watch “The End of Malice” the full-length documentary about Thornton’s life, on Netflix. You can also purchase the film as well as the discussion series, click here.

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

Several years ago, while I was getting my bachelor’s degree at a (not-cheap) private liberal arts university of my choice, I learned that my mom’s monthly paychecks were being deposited directly into an account I didn’t know about.

The account was set up specifically to pay my tuition, and nothing else.

I remember feeling a little taken aback when I found out, for a moment unworthy of the gift, and for another moment shocked that it would be given so quietly. No fanfare. No parade. No “look-at-what-a-good-mom-I-am” search for acknowledgement. Just my mom, showing up diligently to her job everyday, so I could go to college.

“This is what moms do for their kids.”

That’s what I remember her saying when I asked her about it, while she stood in the kitchen chopping vegetables.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about what an extravagant act it was, and yet how invisible. I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I can tell you with certainty that I’ve never done anything that selfless for anyone, and when I do anything selfless at all, I usually I want the credit.


When I do anything selfless at all, I usually I want the credit.


I have to admit: I’m terrified of being invisible.

In some moments I find myself tiptoeing around people, trying to protect feelings and relationships, never willing to be too loud or take up too much space. At other moments, probably when I get tired of being so quiet all the time, I feel like I’m slamming around in my life just to get someone to notice.

And to be perfectly honest, I’ve always wanted my story to be kind of loud too, to go down in the history books. I’ve dreaded the thought of being too quiet, wanting instead to be worth noticing, to make a splash.

But as I think about this story about my mom, and as I think about at least a dozen other quietly generous and beautifully simple and seemingly-invisible stories I’ve witnessed over the years, I can’t help but realize that a quiet story is not a bad story.

In fact, it might be the best story of all.


What happens in secret in our life is really the most important work we do, anyway. 


What happens in secret in our life is really the most important work we do, anyway. We don’t usually think of it like that. We think of those “in-the-spotlight” moments as being the most important. And while maybe they are the most glamorous

The most challenging, most complicated, most terrifying work we do in our lives happens when nobody is watching. It’s all terribly unimpressive and quiet. And yet this is the work that takes real courage and strength.

  • Forgiving ourselves and others
  • Growing in faith and grace
  • Centering ourselves and staying present
  • Redirecting our negative thoughts

This is all the hard, behind-the-scenes work.

I’m starting to keep my eyes open for people who are living silent but beautiful stories.

Some of them are connected to my own, others are not. But all of them are connected to the broader story, the story we’re all writing together. All of them are valuable. I’m starting to celebrate them in a way I couldn’t have before.

And the weirdest things happens as I celebrate the quiet stories of others.

I’m not scared of being invisible anymore.

This post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

(Photo source: Brook Cagle via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Brook Cagle via Unsplash.com)

Confession: I’m afraid. I don’t know how to get my life started again. I’ve put it on hold for some months now, it seems. I’ve been drifting, like a piece of a ship broken in the midst of a storm, just following the whims of the ocean and seeing where it takes me.

Can I make another confession? I’m a Christian that hasn’t been to church in a month; I haven’t prayed in eons; I haven’t even cracked the spine of my Bible. I’ve wallowed. I’ve survived by working, sleeping and watching TV or reading books.

Back at the beginning of October, I ran out of antidepressants and wasn’t able to get an appointment to see my doctor for a refill immediately. And for a few days I was fine, so I convinced myself I didn’t need meds. Then I wasn’t fine at all, and I couldn’t bring myself to care about trying to be better.

I sunk into despair, giving way to my depression, allowing suicidal thoughts to take root and grow in my mind. I picked out a few things to focus on — my stalling academic career and my lack of a love life — and I let those two failures completely overwhelm me. I focused on them constantly, ruminating on them in the dark and in the light and in the hours in-between.


I sunk into despair, giving way to my depression, allowing suicidal thoughts to take root and grow in my mind.


I let them fuel me even deeper into sorrow. I focused on one boy whom I’d loved and who had chosen someone else, and I let the hurt of that “rejection” fester in my heart. I was mad at him, mad at me, mad at God. And I wanted to die. I knew I would never be anything more than a tragic heartbreak story.

Somehow (read: through friends who talked me off the edge) I survived that phase, and what came next was a little over a month of numbness.

It’s almost like, when I was faced with the suicidal thoughts and the depths of despair, I just tucked my tail between my legs and tried to make myself invisible.

I stopped creating, stopped dreaming, stopped trying. I just…survived.

Around this time last year, I was hospitalized and released and I wrote a blog post about how I wasn’t just going to “survive” depression, I was going to thrive through it. I haven’t done such a great job of that.

I’m so scared to start again. I’m scared of what happens when I dig myself out of my hole, when I let myself hope for something. Even this…even these paragraphs that I’ve written, it’s like just the act of typing these words is unleashing something in me, unstopping a tide that’s going to wash over me. It feels good to write again, so good, even as terrifying as it is.


It’s like just the act of typing these words is unleashing something in me, unstopping a tide that’s going to wash over me.


Maybe that’s how it starts. Maybe I restart my life by going back to the beginning, going back to what I love.

Maybe I read my Bible, go back to church, hang out with friends, and I write.

Because as terrifying as life is, as comforting as numbness can be, it’s not going to bring me any joy, and it’s not going to serve a purpose.

But neither is death.

I’ve got to live. Life is hard, guys. So friggin hard. There is so much ugliness in the world — disease, natural disaster, poverty, cruel men taking advantage of people. There’s mental illness and physical illness and illness of the heart.


But there’s beauty, too.


But there’s beauty, too. There’s beauty in the elegance of a mountain peak straining to reach the heavens, in the way the sun’s rays stretch across the sky at sunset, trying to give us a few more seconds of light. There’s beauty in the curve of someone’s mouth as they laugh and the way our hearts beat just a little more erratically when we’re happy and the way we can take what we’re given and create something unbelievable.

So I’m gonna live for that. I’m gonna live so I can experience the beauty, so I can try to add to the beauty, so I can grow closer to God and my friends and maybe, maybe someday I’ll be in love with someone who will love me back. He’ll hold me close, run his fingers through my hair and kiss me and it’ll be just like it is in the books, except better.

But I’m gonna live so that even if that doesn’t happen, even if my whole life is just me and God, I can die and know that I lived a full life.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not just another tragic heartbreak story, and I’m not just another broken girl. I feel like my mind is beaten and battered and bent but that’s not the end of me. I’m lonely and sad and unrequited love sucks, it really sucks, but it’s not the end of me. It can’t be.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.

(Source: Pexels.com)

(Source: Pexels.com)

There’s this boy, you see …

Isn’t that the way all tragic stories start, the way all hearts get broken?

There’s this boy, and even though I love him he loves someone else. And even though I would give anything to be the one he chose, I’m not. And even though I prayed so much that God would let it work out this time, just this one time, please, God, can you act like you care about me … it didn’t work.

There’s this boy, and I think he’s beautiful and our personalities just mesh and I want to be his best friend for life. But he loves someone else.

And the hardest part of this isn’t that a boy loves another girl more than me.

The hardest part is that I’ve had this odd thought: God, I guess, must love this other girl more than me.


The hardest part is that I’ve had this odd thought: God, I guess, must love this other girl more than me.


For a long time that’s the only explanation I had, the only reason I came up with for why she got the boy and I didn’t. God shone his light on her life and not mine, he decided to favor her and not me, that she’s blessed and I’m not.

Unlike her, I’m a little overweight, I struggle with depression, I’m not confident, my face lacks beauty, I’m a few sizes too big, and my mind is broken in ways unimaginable.

I’ve been told that if I work out and eat well I’ll be happier and I’ll be prettier and someone will finally be able to love me.

In my darkest moments, those are the thoughts that accost me.

But I don’t think they’re actually right. There’s this part of me that rebels against all those voices – others’ voices saying I need to change, and my own voice saying God loves me less.

That’s the part of me that still believes, that still raises my hands in joyful worship and gets “He is here” tattooed on my forearm to remind me that I am never alone.

I’ve been so lonely lately. I’ve taken to wandering through Manhattan after work at midnight, crying and letting loneliness wash over me. Any time I’m not with people, I am crushed by the awareness of my solitude.

But I’m not. Alone, that is. That’s the whole point of my tattoo, is that I’m never alone. That God is with me.

And maybe the boy didn’t choose someone else because God loves me less. Maybe it’s just that God wants me to focus on Him right now.

Maybe this is a season for me to realize the overwhelming and constant presence of God in my life and bask in that.

I want someone to love me. I want to stop being depressed, stop feeling like I’m in a box that only death will release me from. I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts again lately, because I’m lonely and overcome.

And something stops me every time. A friend, or overwhelming weariness, or the simple fact that I want to live, dammit.

I want to live.

I want to love.

I think that’s what I’m supposed to focus on right now. Not a boy. Not his girl. Not my lack of being her. I need to focus on living for something greater and loving someone greater.


I need to focus on living for something greater and loving someone greater.


That’s not me trying to oversimplify it or saying it’s gonna be easy, or that I’m gonna be happy from here on out. I’ll probably still call my friends crying at 1 am (shoutout to Chi) or have the urge to hurt myself or wonder if God really loves me. But despite all that, I am still gonna try.

Because I want to live. I want to love. And I’m refusing to be just another tragic heartbreak story. I’m not just another broken girl. I feel like my mind is beaten and battered and bent but that’s not the end of me. I’m lonely and sad and unrequited love sucks, it really sucks, but it’s not the end of me. It can’t be.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.

(Source: Unsplash.com)

(Source: Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

Sorry. 

Sorry. 

Pardon. 

Excuse me.

Sorry.

With the onset of my depression and anxiety, “sorry” became my favorite word. Sorry for bumping into you, even if you hardly noticed. Sorry my hair sticks up on one side and I’m not wearing makeup. Sorry I’m so thin when you’re trying to lose weight. Sorry for thinking about how hard it is for me to maintain weight when you’re trying to deal with your own problems. Sorry the gift you bought me doesn’t fit. Sorry.

Sorry. 

Sorry. 

Sorry for being as smart as I am but not pursuing a career in medicine or engineering. Sorry that my leg bounces up and down and it distracted you. Sorry you feel you need to stop wearing your perfume because I’m having breathing problems.

Sorry for taking up space. Sorry for being sad or scared. Sorry for not smiling as brightly as you expect me to, or for not paying you the attention you deserve when you tell me about your day. Sorry for needing a ride instead of growing up and getting a license. Sorry for finally getting a license and not always parking perfectly or taking turns smoothly. Sorry for drawing instead of looking at you because I’ve become too anxious for eye contact.

I didn’t realize how much I was doing it until my dad said, “Stop apologizing for existing.”

“Sorry,” I said, proving his point.

Depression and anxiety told me I was worthless. They told me that I was responsible for fixing everything wrong with the lives of my loved ones. They told me I needed to stop making mistakes. They told me I needed to participate in conversations and get a social life (but they also told me not to hog the spotlight). I always needed to become better or smarter or something. Depression and anxiety told me I was never enough.

They’re still telling me that. And some days, I still believe them.


But on those days I remind myself that depression and anxiety are lying. 


But on those days I remind myself that depression and anxiety are lying. No one is perfect, and even if I’m not good enough (or so they tell me) I still have value; I can contribute in a positive way to the lives of those around me.

If depression and anxiety are lying to you, that’s OK. Just remind yourself what’s true. And most importantly, don’t apologize: for taking up space, for living your life, for being you.

You are worth more than that. You don’t have to be sorry.

(Source: Kate Williams via Unsplash.com)

(Source: Kate Williams via Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

Tomorrow morning I’m going back to therapy. For me, it is one of the hardest decisions I’ve made, perhaps even harder than choosing to ask for help the first time. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in the last several years. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and will continue to become. I’ve learned to show myself grace in the process. But I’ve also learned nothing is static.

I wrote about my story for TWLOHA around a year ago and called it “Growing Into Beautiful” because I was. Everything in it remains true. I’ve learned to recognize my own worth. I’ve learned to find healing in the touch of the man I love and to not expect his fingers to leave bruises. I’ve learned to love myself enough to forgive a lot of people for a lot of things, including myself. I’ve watched time march onward and me march right along with it. I’m so alive these days, and I’m unafraid of that fact. But my growth process does not and cannot end there.

It took me time, but I eventually worked up the courage to share “Growing Into Beautiful” with a few of my closest friends. Most were supportive, having already known my history. After reading it one friend asked me if I thought I was “better now.” The answer is both yes and no.


Recovery is not a one-stop shop. 


Recovery is not a one-stop shop. I wish I could tell you it happens in a linear fashion: You go to therapy and then you stop when you’re all better. But that isn’t life. Recovery is the ebb and flow of an ocean. You may never see the whole thing; sometimes it will feel vast and overwhelming, and other times it will seem like the most calming thing in the world. For me, with every new panic attack or trigger, I understand a little more of what my first therapist told me: Sometimes things happen to us and we simply aren’t the same. I am not the same person I was before I walked this road.

Please understand me. I am still growing into my beautiful. This is the whole point of my previous post: to say that I am still growing into the story I’ve lived. But I also recognize that I’ve not yet learned to wear my stories and my scars with all the grace that I could. It’s easy to write posts that end with victory and recovery. It’s not easy to write follow-up posts that shed light on the reality that life is nuanced.


Your life doesn’t have to be falling apart for you to get help.


That’s why going back to therapy is the hardest thing for me right now. Because I could make a decent argument that I’m in a really good place, that I’m healthy. And maybe my return to therapy is a result of being in a healthy place: I know my own limits, and I respect myself enough to ask for help when I begin to push them. Yet, even knowing all those things, it is hard to fill out a form asking what areas I’m struggling in, to rate them on a scale of 1-10, and not feel like I somehow failed.

My friends: If you are like me, and you’ve been through some dark things and come out on the other side, please hear me. Your life doesn’t have to be falling apart for you to get help. It is not shameful to still need help. It was not shameful to ask for help the first time. It is not shameful that the struggle doesn’t fully eradicate itself even after all this time. I am speaking as much to myself as anyone else. It is not shameful to still be growing. It is not shameful to go back to therapy because even though you’re stable, you’re not as whole as you thought you were. Me filling out these forms is the furthest thing from me failing; it’s me winning before a battle even begins. It’s me taking preventative measures because an ounce of prevention is far easier to swallow than a pound of cure after I’ve already relapsed.


 It is not shameful to go back to therapy because even though you’re stable, you’re not as whole as you thought you were.


So much of what happened in my life was out of my control. Asking for help is not one of those things. I am ending cycles before they even start. I’m going back to therapy. I’m letting that be a victory instead of a failure. And if you still need help I’m hoping you’ll have the courage to ask again as well. You deserve to know your story isn’t over yet. You deserve to know that healing takes time and that no one is expecting you to rush this process. You deserve to know how much you are loved, how much you are worth it. I’m walking this road with you, believing in better endings.