Last week, I took a trip home to Indiana to visit some old friends and family. It had been 18 months since I’ve been back, and I was really looking forward to it.
I had three big things on my to-do list during my six-day trip: 1. Honor my friend Cheryl by participating in a Crohn’s Walk with my mom, 2. Get answers for a romantic relationship in-question, and 3. Visit my friend and her son.
Item #1 happened basically as planned, although there seems to always be secrecy and planning that happens behind my back and then – SURPRISE! – I arrive and it’s not what I thought it would be. Whatever.
Item #2 is a toughie. You see, I have had a little bit of a crush on this person for, well, half of my life. I am really lucky to call him my friend, first, but I know things were starting to inch toward the gray area and I needed to know where we were headed.
Long-distance relationships are difficult, and I have no intentions of getting involved in one unless there was a clear means to an end. One thing I wanted to know was if he planned on staying in Indiana forever.
If so, that would be something I’d have to seriously consider: would I move back to give this thing a chance? I’m happy to report we talked about this right away. I’m not-so-happy to report that his answer was yes, he’ll be staying in Indiana foreevvverrrrrr. Ouch.
Now let me say this, I’m definitely not married to the idea of staying in Austin, Texas forever. In fact, I’m already considering my next move. But I know I’m not equipped to move back to Indiana. I haven’t done all I need to do!
There were other wrenches thrown into the mix as the week progressed – things that showed me, clearly, a romantic future is just not in the cards for me and this guy. I don’t want to say much more than that; I do hope he’ll still be my friend for years to come.
It’s sad, in fact I’m still pretty bummed out about it, but I’m glad I saw things for myself and got the answers I needed before we traveled too far down the rabbit hole.
If you’ve been reading around these parts for awhile, you know that I’m kinda (ok, really) bad at dating. I have a history of ignoring red flags and getting myself stuck in some sticky situations. So, even though this didn’t end in love this time, I have to say I’m really proud of myself for standing up and not just “going with it” when I know something doesn’t align with my values. I know what I want for myself, and I’d much rather be single than try and force something that isn’t right.
So, it’s a bittersweet win.
Now, item #3 just plain didn’t happen for reasons I’m not really sure of.
I’ll say that as much as it pains me to admit it, sometimes people just grow apart, no matter how long or deep a history they have. And maybe that has happened here.
Regardless, my heart is still hurt, and I have been on the mend (read: sleeping way too much) since my return. Loss, of any sort, isn’t easy.
Aside from those things, I spent some quality time with another friend – we got some good laughs, drank delicious wine, and we endured some interesting challenges along the way.
We joined up with some old friends from high school and I laughed until my cheeks hurt over inside jokes that possibly only we think are funny. We went to see Guster and Dispatch in concert, and there were literally fireflies dancing above us, and it was the Indiana I’ve romanticized since my departure 14 summers ago.
As I always say, Indiana will always (!) hold a special place in my heart – I went through a lot of things growing up there. But when I boarded my plan to Texas last Thursday morning, every ounce of me knew that things just weren’t quite the same. Even if Texas isn’t my forever home, I know Indiana isn’t.
I spent 12 years in Louisiana, and although it didn’t necessarily feel like “home”, I accomplished so much there, and it really shaped who I’ve become. Texas, well, hard work got me here, and it gave me a fresh start. It’s an opportunity that I still sort of can’t believe I have.
So, cheers to old friends, but also, to looking ahead, wherever that may be.
On Tuesday, my mom delivered the news to me that a dear family friend of ours had less than a 10 percent chance of surviving.
I wept behind the closed door of my office. This was not just any person – it was Cheryl, my mom’s best friend, a woman she’d known for 34 years, and someone who had influenced my life in many great ways. I wept for my mom, for Cheryl’s daughter, for her husband, for her family, her coworkers, and for anyone who’d ever knew her – even if just for a short moment.
Cheryl was a ray of light in the darkness – she always found a way to laugh at pretty much any situation, which is a trait I’ve always admired. I can recall so many fun times with Cheryl and her daughter, Sarah – times I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I know Cheryl meant so much to my mom, and to her family. To me, Cheryl was South Carolina sweet grass. She took her daughter and I on a rode trip one summer, from the middle of Indiana to the shores of South Carolina, where we stayed, for what seemed like a month.
It was my first time really discovering a new culture – we went to the market, bought handmade jewelry, tried homemade ice cream, walked cobblestone streets leading to plantation homes, and chased crabs in the sands of Folly Beach. It was heaven.
I’d nearly forgotten that Cheryl and Sarah had also joined my mom, dad, and I for a trip to Disney World when I was 10. Sarah and I met as many of the Disney characters as possible, having them all autograph pages in little journals we kept.
Although Cheryl divorced from Sarah’s father when we were very young, later she rekindled with a high school sweetheart whom she married and he became an integral part of the family. I always admired their love story – it was a fairytale.
But the entire time, Cheryl was battling Crohn’s Disease, which affects the digestive tract. The cause of Crohn’s is unknown, and even determining if you have it can be a complicated process. There is also no cure.
Personally, I know very little about Crohn’s, and have only known two people who’ve had it, including Cheryl. I know it affects each person differently, and I know I often forgot that Cheryl was fighting the symptoms of her illness.
But Crohn’s is eventually what took her body from this earth too soon – a move I know she didn’t let happen without a hard fight.
Yesterday, her body was laid to rest in its final place, and my mom was able to say her goodbyes to her dear friend. I couldn’t make it to Indiana for the funeral, which I feel terrible about, but I’ve already had a few talks with Cheryl’s spirit and I hope she understands.
I plan to honor Cheryl in a few ways, aside from just daily “What’s ups” and singing along to some John Mellencamp (she LOVED him). I have registered as a team to do the “Take Steps for Crohn’s” event in Austin at the end of May, so if you’re in the area and would like to join my team – Cheryl’s Southern Belles – or donate to my personal goal of $500, I would really love that.
I have also set up a GoFundMe campaign for Cheryl’s immediate family, as they are stressed about covering the costs of her funeral and her remaining medical bills. Although she had insurance, we all know that isn’t going to cover everything.
I am offering homemade baked goods and free blogging and Twitter courses for the higher donors, but if you would like to donate any amount, or share the link, it would be greatly appreciated.
I know the next few months will be emotional, and that we all deal with loss in our own ways. I wish my mom peace, and I hope everyone that loved Cheryl finds comfort in the fact that she touched so many lives and that we are all better people because of her.
Life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.” -John Mellencamp, Jack and Diane
I’m not necessarily a fan of “Year in Review”-type things, but man, I feel like 2015 was pretty CRAZY for me! Looking back at all of my ‘Pic of the Week’ photos, I recall, that not only did I move a solid 7 hours away to a new city, get a new job/career, and a new apartment, I also flipped the script when I got an iPhone (still miss my Blackberry at times, won’t lie), I made a Halloween costume, went to Hangout Fest, traveled to Kansas City, rocked gold sequined pants, made my own Valentines, got hooked on protein shakes and House of Cards, and survived an Escape Room, among other things. It was really a fantastic year!
WordPress, my blog platform, also sends us stats at the end of every year, and this year’s stats got me feeling pretty good. In short:
- This blog was viewed 30,000 times in 2015 (up from 21,000 times in 2014), from 114 countries
- Top posts of the year were:
- 1 The heart at home. (February 2015) – My post about a Columbus North High School senior whose brave battle made me realize just how great my Indiana hometown is.
- 2 Pic of the Week. (September 2015) – The end of my 10-month search for a job, an emotional post on my first day of work (password: finally).
- 3 Baring it all, in business? (March 2015) – How a sext-message haunts me, 10 years later.
- 4 Me & my bullshit, part two. (April 2015) – The daily struggle of being a creative in a corporate world.
- 5 Dads ‘n Daughters. (June 2015) – The crumbling relationship with my father.
I want to sincerely thank you all for reading The Bitter Lemon in 2015. I’m so happy with the places this blog has taken me, and I know we’re not at the end of the road here. I’ve got tons of fun things planned for 2016 and I’m so excited to share them with you all, right here!
Late last year, I entered a blogging contest for Cosmopolitan.com. The prompt was about the most important relationship you had in college, and what you learned from it. I hated to give a guy that title, yet I probably would have won the contest if I had, because, you know…Cosmo. Either way, now it’s here for the world to see.
She answered the dorm door wearing plaid boxers, a men’s t-shirt, and an Obagi facial mask.
“Hey,” I said. “I’m your new roommate!”
My entire life was packed in bags and piled behind me in the hall. She opened the door a little wider.
It was the start of my second semester, freshman year. I’d moved 15 hours south of my hometown to a place I knew no one. My first roommate and I were too different, so I moved out. Now, I was moving in with a girl who was used to living solo.
It was awkward and quiet as I unpacked my things, until she caught a glimpse of my extensive DVD collection.
“You like Sex and The City?” she asked.
“Oh yeah, I’ve got all the seasons,” I said.
Her eyes widened, and in attempts to offer an olive branch, I told her she could watch them whenever she wanted.
I came to know my new roomie, Michelle, over the next week, and things were going as well as they could. That is, until I came home late after a night of studying to find a hand-written note from Michelle taped to our door:
“I took a nap this afternoon and woke up covered in termites. I am staying with a friend. They sprayed the room, but you should probably stay somewhere, too.”
As I opened the door, I could smell the stale bug spray. Dead termites covered the coral rug I’d placed a week before. The bug-eaten wall beside Michelle’s bed looked as if it’d been hit with a sledgehammer.
I crashed with a friend in another dorm that night, and met Michelle and residential life the next day. I asked Michelle what happened.
“I was asleep, but I kept feeling something on me,” she said. “I woke up and just saw them on me and flying around.”
I shuddered. Ew.
Residential life had trouble finding an open room for us; even sending us into a few rooms that were already occupied. It was getting late and Michelle and I had nowhere to stay. So I did what most college students do in a time of need—I called my dad.
He, of course, was mad that Michelle and I had paid for dorms and were essentially homeless. He told us to go to the nearest hotel and he would take care of it.
Michelle didn’t have a car, so both of our belongings were stuffed into the backseat of my tiny Daewoo. We hopped in the front and I drove off-campus to a Hampton Inn. When we walked in the lobby, it was obvious we’d made a name for ourselves.
“You didn’t bring any termites with you, right?” asked the guy at the front desk.
We shook our heads, got our room keys, and headed upstairs. Compared to our dorm room, the hotel felt luxurious.
As we got ready for bed, we just had to laugh at the situation. After just knowing each other for a week, we’d had something crazy happen to us, and we were now living in a hotel together.
By the weekend, the university had found us a dorm room in an entirely different building. Just as new roommates do, we claimed our sides of the room and unpacked our things, hoping the past wasn’t a sign of our future.
Part of me felt guilty. While I didn’t trigger the termites, I felt like I barged in on Michelle’s peaceful life, settled in her dorm room alone, relaxing in her clay facial mask.
But Michelle didn’t see it that way at all.
Michelle became more than my roommate, she was my friend. During the remainder of the semester, we watched plenty of Sex and The City, went out for sushi dinners, and even made martinis in our dorm (which resulted in Michelle puking in the communal bathroom sink).
Late one night, Michelle told me about her family. She said they weren’t fully supportive of her studying English and theatre. They wanted her to study something more “serious.”
In that moment, we grew even closer. Without realizing it, Michelle made me appreciate my situation, my parents, and their support.
When the semester came to a close, I was sad to say goodbye to Michelle. Although we got new roommates, we still met up for movies or sushi on occasion.
I have only seen Michelle a few times since I graduated six years ago, but we still keep in touch. Looking back, Michelle was one of the best roommates I had, but she was also a great friend.
It’s a friendship that proves first impressions aren’t everything, and that bad situations can evolve into something really, really good.
I talk a lot about losing relationships—the romantic ones—and how difficult they are to move past.
This weekend, I lost three friendships faster than I could ever imagine.
Losing friendships, I am learning, is part of life. You meet people, they spend time in your life, and perhaps they stay, or maybe they go. These friendships I lost have left me hurting. But I know good things will come in due time.
“Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn’t have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves… for growing up.” —The Wonder Years