The feeling after a swim. The smell of chlorine. Blowing out candles. Breaking down walls. Telling secrets. Keeping secrets. Falling in like. Fitting playlists. Pure blue sky. New dresses. Walking arm in arm. Smiling at strangers. Eating family style. Waking up because you want to, not because you have to. Homemade cupcakes and the people who make them. Flowers that make your room smell like heaven. Cheek kisses. Forehead kisses. Being warm. When someone puts their arm around you when you’re cold. The first sunburn of the year. Elephants in the room. Summery color schemes. Brothers. When people laugh at my jokes. Goggle marks. TOMS tans. Rolling fog. Rolling tides. Walking and talking. Hand written cards. New friends. Old friends. When “I love you,” means “I’ll always love you.” When you walk into a room.
You rained last night but I didn’t mind. When I woke up my friends asked me if we should still hike your tallest peak and I said of course, and when we reached the top we all laughed at the idea of abandoning our plan for the day. We were taller than the clouds. The sky was grey but there’s no such thing as an ugly sky when you live in such a breathtaking town. Even grey looks good as the fog dances with the peaks of your mountains. It makes the greens a little greener. The rocks a little more slippery, but that’s okay too.
You have an uncanny ability to feed my sense of adventure. I could be scared but I know you’ll take care of me. You’ve brought me to some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. To the ones who keep me safe and the ones who crack me up. I owe you one, SLO.
The sun always seems to shine a little brighter with you. And my summer shadows feel longer and my heart skips a beat — sometimes two — once I cross your county line on the 101. Because I know, there’s only 32 more miles until I exit and we’re reunited. You’re my best friend. Or at least, you’ve brought me to some of the best friends I could ever ask for. Thanks for that.
And thanks for making sure Avila’s always sunny on my birthday. Birthdays by the ocean were too good to be true until I met you. I hope I’m not jinxing it by telling you this 20 days before my birthday. Consider this my sun dance.
Oprah didn’t need to tell me you were the happiest city in America. I knew when I was in fourth grade and I wrote a poem about my favorite place. I told Nana all about it. Most days I wish I could still tell Nana. Write more silly limericks about it. But I don’t need to write a limerick. I see it through the window when I wake up in the morning. I feel it when I finish a tour and people applaud. Or when I run into someone and they hug me like they haven’t seen me in ten years. Or when I go to a class I love. Or when I come home after a long day and my apartment smells like freshly baked banana bread.
Or when I’m at the top of a mountain with new friends and we YELL AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS. Because we can. Because we’re at the top of a mountain and we have the lung capacity to do so and we hiked to the top of this mountain and we’re together. Glued by our love of YOU, San Luis Obispo. Glued by the fact that you put a smile on our faces.
I wanted to write you a letter because most of the time I’m pretty good with words. But I guess I didn’t really need 500 words to tell you how I feel. But I wanted you to know, San Luis Obispo, that I love you. It’s more than a crush. It’s more than a “I want us to be better friends.” I love you. And I owe you one. I can’t thank you enough.
Thanks for the rain and the sun and the mountains and the ocean and the family and the thousands of reasons to wake up every morning. You’re the best.
But GOSH I can’t even find the right words to properly articulate how blessed I’m feeling these days. It was a rough few weeks, and I’m stressed out of my mind, but as I sit here in the library I’m across the table form Aaron, my Poly Reps mentee. I have a mentee! And I’m surrounded by love.
I wanted to write to you all last weekend when I three of my favorite people in the same place for a whole weekend. I hit this point where I was sitting in the car with all of them and it occurred to me that I really didn’t need anything else. I was so perfectly content. And two of my worlds had collided and meshed together. And it was perfect. And I went to bed happy and the anxiety I had felt all week had dissipated and I knew that no matter what happened, it didn’t matter because I was safely nestled between my friends. And nothing bad can happen there.
And then last night as we screamed and yelled in Mission Plaza to welcome our new Poly Reps I was so re-energized. I was suddenly reminded of why this organization is my family. All night it was all I could do not to just throw my arms around everyone and tell them i loved them. Because good gracious I do.
My soul sister put it so perfectly, “Sometimes when you see how much people love you, you cry because it’s just so sweet. Not because you’re sad anymore.” Dre is right. I wanted to cry last night because we were so unbelievably surrounded by love. Love in its purest, most genuine form. Like kindergarten love. The best kind of love. Real love.
Someone asked me the other day if The Happiness Project was still happening and it broke my heart a little because I know I’ve been terrible about posting lately. I’m still me, still full of joy and outpourings of love and an unquenchable thirst for smiles. I haven’t gone anywhere. I’ve just been trying to maintain the joy in my life. Once I feel confident in that again, I’ll bring it to you.
I love. So, so much.
Go on a walk with no destination. Flip a coin when you get to a corner to decide if you’re going right or left. You’ll know you’ve reached your destination when your head finally quiets down. Sit down on a park bench and soak up the crisp winter air and think watch as life and death become one – the last brown leaf dancing in the wind as the first pink buds on the cherry blossom trees sprout.
Go to a concert, but don’t stand in the pit. Grab a seat and a greyhound and listen but more importantly watch. Live music from afar is something everyone should experience. It’s less claustrophobic and more out-of-body. Watch the people around you. Spot the couples. Figure out which song is “Their song.” Spot the singles. See the looks on their faces when the band plays their big breakup song. Find the oldest and the youngest person in the audience. How magical is it that music brings them all together? You couldn’t have seen that from the pit.
Make a to-do list for the year. Fall in love, land a job, tell him/her how you feel, save more money, buy a car, clean out your garage, face a fear. . .fill your list with the things you’ve wanted to do but never had the time. If you write it down you commit it to memory. Commit it to memory. Cross something off your list every month. Every day.
Sit at your desk and turn off your airport and write. Say see ya later to Netflix and Facebook and whatever the fuck else you seemingly “need.” You don’t need to be connected to your 500 facebook friends. You don’t need to watch another episode of How I Met Your Mother. The second you admit it is the second something great will come to mind. Spend the day in your room doing nothing but writing. Take breaks to pee and eat cheese and make some tea but other than that you don’t need much. Put on your favorite playlist and write. You’d be surprised by all the words you keep hiding in the back of your head, and how quickly your fingertips pound them out.
Take a picture every day. Your favorite coffee mug. Your best friend. Your textbook that you’re pouring over (while you’re disconnected from the Internet). Capture your life and then in 20 years you can show your kids what life was like back in the old days.
Read. Voraciously. Read the news, read the Bible, read a textbook, re-visit your favorite book. But read. The more I read the more I want to write. The more I want to explore the world of the written language. The more I forgive myself for not being a lyricist or a poet or a painter or whatever. Because I realize that not everyone was meant to be those things. Some people were meant to soak those things up. I’m one of those people.
Laugh. But also cry. Cry at a movie or alone in your room or on a walk in the rain or in the arms of someone you love. Crying is good for you. Let it out. And then laugh. Laugh so hard that it hurts your abs to sneeze the next day.
Listen to your friends when they say “hey you should listen to this cool new band I found.” You’re probably not going to regret it. If you do, it’s three minutes of your life. Three minutes. Life is precious, but I’ll bet whatever god you do or don’t believe in will tack those three minutes on to something great. Like a great movie or a perfect date or a prolonged kiss on your front porch. These things even out.
Say I love you at least once a day. But when you say it, mean it. Say it to someone you really do love. If it’s heavy on your tongue then you’re probably not used to saying it which means you probably have some catching up to do. Call your mom. Your sister. Your grandpa. The L-word is one of the few four-letter words that we should use more often. Replace it with hate. You probably don’t hate tomatoes, you just don’t like them. But you probably love your best friend. And you should probably tell him.
Go for a hike and when you get to the top of the peak yell like Leo in “Titanic” that you’re the king of the world. Because in that moment you are. Soak up the view and inhale the air and bottle up the feeling of accomplishment and save it for a rainy day and think of all the things you’re capable of.
You. You’re brilliant. You’re stunning. You’re talented. And you probably need to hear that more often. So go. Go adventure. Go explore. Go make your list and cross things off of it. Because at the end of it all, you’ll look back and you’ll sigh and you’ll smile and think about how after all that, life got a little lighter. And your smile got a little wider. And you feel a little bit more infinite.
Good hair days are good days in general.
listen to this:
I’ve always loved being home for the holidays, but it’s only Dec. 14 and I’m already home, which means I’m here while everyone else is taking finals/catching up with old friends/working/not hanging out with me. Not a bad thing — I’ve had some nice alone time. And a lot of time with the cast of How I Met Your Mother.
But today was a good one. I think what I love about home is that everyone here is so different. In the same room you have a kid who was raised in an extremely religious home, one who’s openly gay, and four different ethnicities. And what I love about being from Sonoma county is that everyone hears everyone out. Everyone wants to get to know each other and everyone is respectful. It’s refreshing.
Also, I know this may be odd, but I love knowing that there are people in my life that I could spend every day with and never get bored. I mean, of course, I believe in “the one” in the romantic sense, but I don’t think I’ve ever, until now, had friends who I could see every single day and still have something to talk about. I guess some people find their platonic soulmates in elementary school, high school, on the soccer team, but I found mine in college. Call me a late bloomer, but I like this feeling.
Other things I love: Running into old friends, finding the Christmas gift someone doesn’t know they want, music that sets a mood for your whole day, running in pretty places, puppies, when someone swell brings me coffee and says “oh no, it’s on me,” eating food that feels good, dark chocolate, hair cuts, feeling pretty, cuties (the boys and the clementines). . .
There are a few very good things about today that I felt compelled to share with you.
The first being my hometown. Often I take the beauty of this place for granted, but all week I’ve been reminded of the things I love about Santa Rosa. I don’t think I’ll settle down in Santa Rosa, but it’s a good place to be from. Swell people, pretty hiking trails, and history. My history, things I’ve done over and over again but never get old…and then so many things I’ve still to do. It’s a nice feeling, knowing that there will always be something to do around here that has yet to get old.
The second is good conversation. When you’re with someone and you don’t run out of things to say and you’re constantly delving deeper into life and the words coming out of your mouth are almost unexpected and you surprise yourself by your ability to carry on this talk you’re having for hours and you leave feeling happy about life and about the friends you have. That was a run on sentence but clearly, that’s not my concern tonight. I am just full of gratitude for the people around me.
The third is FEELING pretty. Not looking pretty, or having someone tell you that you look pretty, but FEELING pretty. When your insides match your outsides and vice versa. I’ve had a few days like that this week and it makes me happy on multiple levels. Happy because duh, who doesn’t want to feel pretty? But also because it’s always a beautiful feeling when I realize that i LIKE myself. That’s a good day. One where you feel pretty.
The fourth is Pablo Neruda. Love poems. Oh, I could die. He’s perfection in written form.
The fifth is when I hear my friends gush about how happy they are. How lovely their lives are. Nothing gives me chills like hearing about how wonderful my best friend’s day was, because I should hope that all her days are wonderful. But if one was particularly good, so good she had to call me, then, well, that’s a damn good day.
The sixth is swimming. The water. The way it makes me feel and how mornings in the pool once defined who I was. I wish they still did, but for now, remembering days like that will be enough.
I had a good day, and it’s far from over, because tonight is a long overdue sleepover with my best friend. And as high school as that may sound I’m okay with it. Because sleepovers will always be fun. And so will my best friend.
Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist. Keep loving, keep fighting.”
Santa Rosa’s sultry summers never cease to amaze me. Early mornings, long nights, the heat lingering into the early morning, rustling my sheets as I toss and turn, incapable of finding a cool spot on my pillow. The heat lingering long into the night so we can sit outside in our summer dresses as the warm breeze carries our laughter. The heat lingering so that an icy cold touch sends an incomprehensible shiver down my spine.
The heat comes with the smell of sunscreen which contrasts with the fog that comes with the smell of sea salt. A windy drive accompanied by loud voices singing to the radio. Taylor Swift sings so we don’t have to. But we do it anyway. A fog so dense that we often can’t see the seagulls perched on the rocks that stand but 100 yards away, but we see them as they grovel for pieces of our fruit salads on the sand. A fog that paints the sky grey and traps us in a blanket of the loudest quiet one can find. One that can’t be found anywhere else.
The sand is pebbly and coarse but it warms my feet and goes straight to my soul. Each trip out here is a reminder of why I love it here and why I don’t think I could ever leave for good. The crisp cool air of MY beach can never be replicated by the white sand and warm waters of tourist attractions. I like my shark infested sleeper waves. My tidepools. My warm pebbly sand.
Home is where my beach is. The smell of the ocean enstills a happiness in me that cannot be found anywhere else. Ocean salt ocean air ocean plants and the mystery that comes with the horizon. When you can’t see where the water ends and the foggy sky begins. But you’re okay with it because you know you’ll never find that place. The world is round.
The ocean makes me nostalgic. It makes me long for a day that doesn’t even exist. One where this pebbly paradise was my backyard. Where I would walk in the mornings before school and find seaglass and shells and sand dollars. Where I could watch sea lions on the shore and whales breaching in the distance.
The ocean makes me weak in the knees. I believe in love because I believe in the ocean.
The ocean makes my heart beat. Because the waves lap at the shore and because as I breathe the salty air I know it will always exist. I will always exist.
When I find love, I hope he finds me at the ocean. My arms stretched wide awaiting the shock that comes when the seafoam toys with your ankles. A grin slapped across my face because there is no place happier than my ocean. Than my beach. My childhood friend. My home.
[watch that — before you read, after you read…just watch it.]
Weird right? But kinda nice. After nine months of never being alone, I’m soaking up my time in my own fortress of solitude. So when I returned home from a fantastic day of camp yesterday, I played guitar, ate some ice cream, gave myself a pedicure and watched “No Strings Attached” in bed. Sounds a little lame without a partner in super cheesy middle school crime, but it was relaxing.
The moral of that story is that sometimes alone time is magical. You get a lot of thinking done. and if it weren’t for the bits and pieces of alone time I got throughout the school year, I never would have made all the self discoveries that led me to the Happiness Project.
On a totally different note, I’d like to point out how magical it is when you reunite with an old friend and pick up right where you left off. It’s as though nothing’s changed and you just saw each other yesterday because your friendship is so natural and organic and . . . well, awesome.
So thank you, old friends, for never faltering. It’s quite nice.
If you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Get back to me in three days when you finish it. Think about how it made you feel. I think my life really started when I got sucked into the pages of Charlie’s story.
Sometimes, the thought of someone thinking about you is enough to get you reeeling.
sometimes, you hear music and can’t help but giggle because THAT is how you feel.
And it makes you happy. and it makes other people happy. because seeing someone reeling from all the butterflies tied up in their stomach is smile inducing. Don’t you think? I do.
And I haven’t got enough of it.
So while I can, I’m going to soak up all the Sally Loo’s lounging, Yanagi’s eating, sisterly bonding and sunshine I can before I leave SLO. Before 21 members of my newly established family graduates.
Because THAT’S what makes me happy. And I don’t know how I feel about having to say goodbye to so many people who make me so happy.