The Light Shines Through the Darkness

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I am overwhelmed with gratitude over the spiritual transformation that has been percolating in my life over this past year. I finally feel that after a torturous relationship with a master manipulator I am strong enough in my faith to stand alone. The past six months have been a train-wreck of emotions and hard learned truths that have lead me to where I am today.

My relationship with God started coincidentally around the time I started seeing Ex. I will be referring to him by Ex, as he does not deserve recognition as anything other than a past thought, a person I chose to forget. Despite what I perceived as his stronger relationship with God, his questioning of my own faith challenged me in ways I never could’ve imagined.

In the beginning with Ex, I falsely attributed my growth in faith due to meeting him. I was inspired by his faith and thought he was part of the divine plan for my life. As I started to get to know him, cracks in his facade began to appear.

To start, he was a cigarette smoker and chronic pot smoker. He said he couldn’t get things done without the creative edge marijuana offered and would often wake up in the middle of the night to smoke himself back to sleep. He didn’t have a paying job, although he convinced me otherwise. There was always talk of some deal that was about to happen, or a potential client that he was about to bring in. His days consisted of “working” from his cluttered bedroom, ash tray overflowing and empty beer bottles, or wine glasses, or a cup with melted ice and liquor nearby.

Because of Ex I now understand what it is like to be manipulated. I know how it feels to live in a constant state of nausea for months at a time. Amazingly my body knew before me that something was very off. He put me in a stress ridden situation that created endless anxiety in my life. Details aren’t important, but every-time I would voice a concern to Ex, my anxiety was reverberated back with, “pray more, you just need to have more faith.”

I tried. I read my Bible. I did my devotions. I went to church with him. I praised, often crying during the services. I tried to believe it was going to be ok. I hated myself for not being able to push through the nausea. Something was wrong but I didn’t know what. The person inflicting the pain on me was the same one that was comforting me. I couldn’t sleep at night, but I let myself go to sleep next to him. My friend died. I kept trying to believe it was going to be ok. Things increasingly got worse.

I realize now my biggest mistake was putting the anxieties he created for me back onto him, instead of trusting my soul, instead of trusting God.

I was too scared to tell my parents what was happening. When I finally had the courage to speak up to my mother, Ex found out and tried to turn me against her. He said the devil was speaking through her and that she didn’t understand anything. He told me to trust him instead, to further surrender and put my trust in his “God”.

My life shattered in front of my eyes as I spent weeks in anxious fits with only uncertainty and oblivion. My parents finally understood what was happening and I was ashamed for not telling them sooner. I blamed myself for being too stupid to realize until it was too late. I blamed myself for accepting his lies as truth. I was angry at him, but more angry with myself for letting this happen.

All my inspiration I had for life disappeared as I felt myself sinking into a dark hole. There was too much anger in my heart to even think of feeling sad about lost memories. Too much confusion over why things turned out the way they did. Everything I had worked so hard to accomplish was gone. I questioned my worth. I couldn’t figure out why I had let myself become misguided by a monster.

It’s taken a plethora of love from friends and family to remind me that I am not at fault.  Over the past couple months I have slowly built myself back up. I have gotten down on my knees more times than I can count. I have howled and bawled at the top of my lungs in the car. I’ve screamed till my throat hurt and cried hysterically to be saved. I don’t know how many times it takes to surrender to make everything ok. All I know is I am done torturing myself.

I’ve prayed and forgiven Ex a hundred times over. I’ve forgiven and then forgotten and let anger boil through my veins at the remembrance of the situation. I’ve prayed for him more than I have myself. I pray for his soul to be healed, I pray for mine too.

Today I made a promise to myself, to God, to not let Ex affect my life from here on out. That little blip in time we spent together was just a small lesson in the grand scheme of life. I’ve learned to Trust No One except myself, my intuition, my soul, God. We live in a fallen world with darkness waiting to envelop at any second. But through the darkness is the light, and the only way to move forward is to be the light. My only purpose, our only purpose is to be the light, to love, to heal and be healed.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

Lollapalooza

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Earlier this week someone I used to see asked me if I wanted to join him at Lollapalooza. His brother’s band was on the lineup so backstage passes were complimentary. The festival was in three days. My answer was an immediate yes. He bought our plane tickets later that night.

Taking a look at the lineup I was ecstatic that so many artists I loved would be playing: Illenium, Rezz, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Vampire Weekend, Tycho, The National, Odesza just to name a few. I carefully handpicked a lineup of artists for everyday, planning out who I would see and which ones I would miss due to time conflicts. My excitement was out the roof as I started reaching out to friends to see who was going. I never dreamed of actually being able to go to Lollapalooza and the idea of being backstage was too much to even comprehend.

There was less than 24 hours till our flight when I noticed a familiar itch. With closer inspection I realized something terrible was happening. I was experiencing the beginning of a herpes outbreak.

My bags were packed, my outfits picked out. The Westin in downtown Chicago had been booked and I had a pit in my stomach knowing that something was bound to happen. I contemplated how to kindly approach the subject of “I won’t be able to have sex with you.” I came to the conclusion that the only option was to tell this guy flat out what was going on.

I sent a text, telling him straight up that I was having a herpes outbreak. I was a tad nervous, but figured I would get a reasonable response back. Hours went by. Nothing. I decided to give him a call to make sure he got the memo. No answer. As the hours ticked by I contemplated whether I should just show up at the airport and fly out without a response. I was already on the guest list for the entire festival, why not?

4pm rolls around and I send him a text,

“I am not apologizing for telling you the truth. But making sure you still want to go.”

I could see his little “read at 4:32pm” notification underneath.

Three hours later,

“I’m completely fine with not going, just please let me know before I drive to the airport.”

Slightly annoyed that a couple texts and a phone call didn’t return any response I decided to check into my flight on my phone. I had a screenshot of my ticket number and confirmation. I entered the information and received an,

“Oops! We could not recognize your itinerary. Please Try Again”.

I tried the number again subbing the 0 for a O. Same error message. I tried a couple more times before I realized that my flight no longer existed, it had been cancelled.

Excitement about Lollapalooza was replaced with the realization that Herpes is a BIG DEAL. A big enough deal to “ghost” someone and then cancel all plans to go to one of the best festivals in the entire U.S.

Which leads me to this conclusion.

Herpes is still incredibly stigmatized Even though almost everyone will be exposed to herpes by the time they are 50 years old, people are still freaking out about it. Herpes is still the butt of jokes, and the most feared STD possibly ever. Until this post, I haven’t spoken publicly about having it. And yes, I am often nervous telling a new partner.

But Why?

The Herpes virus is pretty much the least harmless out of all STDs, other than the fact it sticks around… forever. Unlike other STD’s like Chlamydia, you won’t go infertile if left untreated. An actual herpes outbreak is like a coldsore, just elsewhere, thats it. In fact 90% of people with herpes don’t even know they have it/ have never shown symptoms.

Since I was diagnosed with Herpes I have found that a majority of my past partners are completely fine with the fact that I am living with an incurable virus that will stay with me forever. Most of the time I am not contagious, and it is only with a plethora of stress that an outbreak occurs.

Living with this terrible, horrible, omg how can I even write a blog post about it because everyone is going to KNOW?!? disease, I have realized I am so much more than a stupid virus. If someone wants to try and rain on my parade by cancelling plans to my dream festival SO. BE. IT.

I am happy to be alive. Happy to be here. And happy to tell you that I have herpes.

 

My Life Is Better Than Yours

At the near end of my trip to Portland something hit me with more force than anything I’ve ever experienced. I was sitting in a hipster filled cafe in Portland across from Jacob, a new friend I met recently.

Jacob is one of the eight or so identical faces sitting with a scruffy beard and plastic framed glasses. We are having a conversation about a new app that he found that helps you gain instagram followers by following accounts and then unfollowing them shortly after they follow you. He is ecstatic that for $50 a month his social following has increased tremendously, which in turn has given him a successful ego boost and helped him seem more legitimate online.

Across the table I am steadily losing hope. My frustration over my unsuccessful job search is intensified by a $7 cappuccino that tastes like acid. Any excitement about Portland has subsided and been replaced with crippling anxieties about my worth. I try to verbalize my situation to Jacob, but emotionally we are on completely different ends of the spectrum. It is an uncomfortable see-saw ride of me trying to confide in someone, while his excitement about making Portland a forever home radiates accidental guilt. It is mid conversation about his successful roommate search that he hits me with a sentence that sends me into an existential crisis.

“I feel bad talking to you right now because my life is so much better than yours.”

My immediate reaction was disbelief and anger. But my usual uncensored tongue disappeared into a quiet stillness of complete surrender. I spent the rest of the day in contemplation not of a rebuttal, but of what his words meant in a broader sense of today’s world.

We live in a society that often times measures worth based on how successful you are for your age, or the places you’ve traveled to, or how well a particular season of your life is going.  In order to measure success we must have something to compare it to in order to determine success. But pushing all that aside, there is a fundamental similarity between everyone’s lives.

No ones life is better than yours.

Your life is the only life you will ever have. There is no amount of dreaming, time traveling, or instagram posts that will make your life better than someone else’s. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, regardless of how awesome it is, because you are the only one who has the honor of living out your life.

Even though it has been a dark and stormy season in my life, I am still marveling at the beauty of being alive. We are so blessed to be here on this earth regardless of our circumstances. We cannot forget how special it is that we are living on a baby speck of dust in the this giant universe. There is no time to waste letting ourselves be broken down by other’s perception of our life.

Next time you try and compare yourself to someone else, remember how thankful you are for the combined memories of your life. Whether good or bad, every second of each day has brought you to where you are today.

I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s. My life is my best life, because it is the only one I will ever get a chance at.

Road trip to Portland

The road trip to Portland started from Mammoth Lakes, CA. My friend Jacob invited me along to help with the driving; he is planning on moving to Portland and this trip determines the logistics of his move. The agreement is that once we arrive we will spend one day together before we go our own ways in order to fully experience the city on our own terms. I am ignoring that last statement in hopes that isn’t the case. I prefer the company of others to being alone, who doesn’t?

Monday July 9th, we embark, two days of driving will ensue before we arrive at our final destination. The vehicle is Jacob’s 2008 firetruck red Volvo. The road towards Reno is curvy alongside barren tan mountains. Reno can be spotted in the distance by the alien grid of green trees that clearly do not belong in the particular climate. From Reno up towards Northern California it changes from tan desert to dark green evergreens littering the mountains.
Seven hours of driving later we arrive at Castle Crags to camp for the night. The camp spots are nestled between tall trees and the sound of clicking cicadas overhead sound like electricity. We catch the end of sunset at the overlook of the crag and meet Kye, a surfer nomad from Hawaii. He recommends Indian Springs trail to hike in the morning. The rest of the night is spent in the tent drinking Pineapple cider, reading inspirational quotes, and laughing at old blog posts.

In the morning we climb 1000+ elevation to the base of Castle Crags. I struggle with the elevation, letting Jacob press ahead without me. Arriving at Indian Springs it is just as Kye described, magical. The springs are quietly trickling under foot. Looking up, moss covered rocks make a gentle tinkling waterfall.

The second day of driving continues, halfway through the speakers unexpectedly go out. Considering both Jacob and I are heavy music lovers this is a serious issue. We stop at the nearest Auto Zone and Jacob checks the fuses, nothing seems to be out of place. We turn the car back on and by the grace of God everything is fixed.

Portland, OR

36648331_202575530429155_4852942217003663360_n(1)The first thing I notice about Oregon are the yellow tinged hills. Everything looks like it is basked in a Sepia filter. The closer we get to Portland, the greener it gets. Sepia turns into luscious greens. It isn’t quite mountainous, instead rolling hills of evergreen trees.

We arrive at the first Airbnb in Richmond, a neighborhood in Southeastern Portland. Oddly enough it reminds me a lot of Richmond, VA. The street we are staying on is full of hip coffee shops and bustling restaurants. We choose Pok Pok for dinner, a Thai restaurant with a long line of people waiting to be seated. Somehow, we get a table right away.  The papaya salad is delicious, so is the mango sticky rice, a Chang beer finishes off the meal nicely. Exhausted after a long drive, we skip cocktails at one of the many lively restaurants and instead drink Kava tea and watch a movie.

The next morning, we explore Richmond a little further. Sitting at Heart coffee for some quality interneting, I start to come to the realization that despite Portland’s trendy neighborhoods, every city is the same. So far it reminds me of Boston, or perhaps Brooklyn, or as I said earlier Richmond, VA. I am internally bummed that I thought Portland would be different. I am annoyed with myself for thinking this new location could make me feel at home.

Leaving the coffee shop, we make a last-minute decision to spend the rest of the day driving to Hood River. Within minutes of the drive I am feeling eternally more relaxed at the sight of trees and the roaring river. We cross from the Oregon side to Washington, heading over the Bridge of the Gods. Our drive from there is nothing short of breathtaking; the road is right next to the river and Mt Hood is peeking out in the distance. We wander around the town of Hood River for approximately 30minutes before hopping back in the car to head back to Portland. I secretly wish we could explore more, but Jacob seems annoyed with my company. The drive from Hood River back to Portland is a quiet one.

Montavilla, OR

Arriving in Montavilla, an odd feeling of abandon induced by having no idea where I am going, or what I am going to do, creeps into my brain as we pull up to my Airbnb. This time I do not have the comfort of knowing that I will have someone with me to endure the unknown. After saying a solemn goodbye to Jacob, it hits me.

I feel incredibly alone. Like the deep sinking you get in your bowels after realizing you have no one but yourself to hang out with for the foreseeable future. The title of the Airbnb I booked, “Cozy Oasis for Lone Traveler” couldn’t have felt more spot on. The chic coffee shops and sleek apartment buildings that accompanied the vivacious neighborhood of Richmond is replaced by a sad looking duplex on the corner of a crumbling gravel road surrounded by a tiny yard of brown dried grass.

Despite the outside of the house lacking in appearance, inside it is nicely furnished in a rustic chic fashion. My bedroom is a twin bed with a faux white sheepskin throw and a world map on the wall. Little bible verses and inspirational quotes are tucked away in different parts of the house. The tea collection as mentioned in the welcome book is amazing. I brew myself a cup of tea to calm my nerves and let myself settle.

The constant go-go-go! I’ve been experiencing arrives at a splintering halt as I realize I am now completely and utterly alone. Upon walking into this foreign haven, the familiar bubbling of words about to spill out of my fingertips meets my loneliness. I sit in silence at the small kitchen table with a steaming hot cup of tea to keep me company.

There is an urgency as I start to write. It comes choppy at first. My first sentence that jumps out on the page is “I am writing this this to test myself.” My writing mind has been in a deep slumber for the past nine months. This is the restart. Nine months of waiting for something exciting enough to happen to feel as though it was worthy of writing. Nine months of percolating thoughts left simmering on low, while my life zombied on in a direction I thought I wanted to go. In this deep loneliness I find comfort in the ticking of the keys on my Macbook. I feel like I have a purpose in recording these heavy hitting emotions. I let myself get sucked into the simple act of reflection that is so often forgotten in the busy day to day. I spend the next seven hours typing away, making memories into written form. To be continued.

 

Mammoth Hot Springs

IMG_5997Mammoth Lakes California is a small town located an hour south-east of Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. In the summer, Mammoth Lakes is a hiker’s haven, in the winter Mammoth Mountain is a snowboarder’s dream. As you can probably guess, the town is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Besides beautiful mountains, Mammoth is also home to more than a handful of hot spring courtesy of the volcanic geography. To access the springs, head out towards Mammoth Airport on Green Church Rd, and you will find most of the popular sites just a short drive from town.

Syphon

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My favorite hot spring is Syphon because of its large deep tub, serene views, and camping nearby. My recommendation is to catch a meteor shower from the tub until you can’t keep your eyes open any longer, camp a couple hundred feet away, and then wake up to watch the sunrise from the warmth of the tub.

One of my favorite memories at Syphon was during Super Park 21. I showed up at the springs only to find the Thirty-Two Snowboard van parked out front. The tub was packed with snowboarders that were riding in the event. There was barely enough space for another person but I made sure to squeeze right in next to Scott Stevens. As if it couldn’t get better than that, he almost left his phone next to the tub. I kindly told him before it was too late, although looking back I definitely should’ve stolen it and added my number.

Wild Willy’s

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One of the other most popular hot springs is Wild Willy’s.  Unlike Syphon, Wild Willy’s is a natural tub with a creek feeding directly into it. The appeal of Wild Willy’s is the size of the tub. It is probably triple, if not quadruple the size of Syphon. The best way to enjoy Willy’s is with the addition of floaties to keep your buns off the natural pebbly rock bottom. It is also the most picturesque because of the natural grass surrounding it and mountains in the far distant.

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My favorite memory at Wild Willy’s was when I accidentally met Shaun White. It was a pitch black night, so dark you couldn’t see more than a couple feet in front of you. I thought I was seeing things when I saw a small dog on the side of the tub. Swimming closer I realized it was the cutest dog I had ever seen, some kind of Yorkie mix. Paying attention only to the dog, I shouted in the direction of who I thought was the owner, asking the dog’s name. The guy I started a conversation with said the pup’s name was Leroy. I didn’t bother asking the guy’s name because I was frankly too preoccupied with this cute little fluffer.

I kid you not, this dog was too perfect to be a normal dog. If you’ve already followed the link you may notice that this dog has 42,300 followers on Instagram. Well… I didn’t know this at the time, so I continued to baby talk this dog, and then joked about stealing him because he was so cute. At this point I noticed a woman saunter over in my direction while I continued my conversation with this man. After a solid conversation I swam back over to my friends in the opposite corner of the tub.

“How was your conversation with Shaun White?” my friend asked with a smirk. At first I thought he was joking, but it took me a second to put two and two together. Besides it being dark, the guy I was talking to did not look anything like the Flying Tomato I remembered. His hair was far from red, not that I could tell in the light, and it was short and slicked back. During the entire conversation I was completely unaware I was talking to a multiple winning Olympic gold medalist.

Well, if things couldn’t get any more ridiculous, I realized after doing a little snooping on Instagram that the lady I saw saunter over was Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel. Aka, one of my favorite bands in college that I’ve seen perform various times. She also seemed to have undergone a makeover because her usual black hair with bangs that I remembered was instead a short blond boyish pixie. Sarah is dating Shaun, and Leroy is Sarah’s dog, hence her hovering when I mentioned stealing her dog.

I still laugh at myself for letting that entire scenario happen without having a clue of who I was talking to. But that’s the beauty of Mammoth. Mammoth Mountain is home to many pro snowboarders and skiers, and no one is exempt from enjoying the natural beauty. If you get the chance to visit, check out the hot springs because you never know who you might meet.

 

 

How Did I Get Here?

Have you ever loved a place so much it hurts your heart? That’s how I feel about Mammoth Lakes, California. I can feel every memory from my time spent there radiating through me. I want to pinch myself to remind myself it was real. Up until now, I still consider my move out to Mammoth as the climax of my life, peaking there among the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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The journey to Mammoth started before I even knew my destination. Attending college at James Madison University, I was surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. Although I never did much exploring outside of JMU’s campus, it was during my Junior year of college when I discovered Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the effortless lifestyle surrounding Snowshoe Mountain. Everyone I worked with had one thing in common, a desire to spend as much time as humanly possible shredding the gnar. I spent the next two winters of college commuting on weekends to the powdery mountains. I graduated college in the spring of 2016 with dreams of finding a lifestyle that matched what I had found in Snowshoe.

Fast forward a couple months after college and I accepted my first real job working as an ESPN Live Event Operator. Despite my job literally consisting of getting paid to watch sports, I quickly realized a fancy job title was not enough to keep me satisfied. Pushing my nonexistent dreams of moving up with ESPN, I quit my job to find something better.

I let my heart lead me back to the place I fell in love with the winter before. I returned to Snowshoe in January of 2017 to work full time as a retail supervisor. Living at Snowshoe full time meant more time to spent shredding, and an intensified appreciation of an outdoor lifestyle.

IMG_3014It was nearing the end of Snowshoe’s winter season when a couple of friends mentioned they were trying to move West. I took the opportunity seriously, and within a couple weeks I accepted a job as a retail supervisor at Mammoth Mountain Resort. My friends didn’t get jobs, but that didn’t stop me. I gave myself one week at the end of Snowshoe’s season to pack up my entire life into a giant green body bag and head out West.

On April 1st 2017 I arrived in Mammoth Lakes without knowing anyone or anything. It was a record season of snowfall and the roads were like tunnels, with snow banks as tall as houses on both sides. I spent the next five months shredding every morning, working in the afternoons, and skateboarding till sunset.

Mammoth Lakes was my first real move. The first big step towards creating a life I was proud of. In September of 2017, everything changed.