Salem: Part One

I always think about traveling. A lot of times, just for fun, I hop on Expedia and plan trips that I know I will never be able to take. I plan out the flights, the hotel, and the activities. I look at restaurants and I deep dive into the history of where “I am going.” There are so many places that I could only dream of going to when it comes to international travel, and there are places within my own country that I have always wanted to explore. So when the opportunity presented itself for my very first solo trip, I jumped on that quicker than a cheetah going after its prey.

The good news was this: I was finally going to be able to go on a trip! But the dilemma was this: I am literally the most indecisive person that has ever existed, so choosing a place to travel to put me in distress. (Wow, what a problem to have you spoiled brat.) I briefly thought about the pacific northwest, but ultimately decided to pass on that. If I were going to go on a domestic trip I wanted to make sure that I chose a place that I have always wanted to go. I then narrowed it down to three choices: Washington DC, New Orleans, and Salem. I decided that I wanted to save Washington DC so that one day I could go with my dad, so now it was between New Orleans and Salem. New Orleans has always intrigued me, and during my time in Texas, I always wanted to go on a road trip there. My husband had been there many years prior to our relationship and wasn’t a fan, so he never wanted to go with me. Salem is a place that I have often thought about. Its deep and morbid history always seemed to have some sort of calling to me, so I finally made the decision to make my way east.

I had been to Massachusetts once before, and it was probably the best trip that I have ever been on. A week after my twenty-first birthday my best friend and I went to Boston to visit her sister, and it was such a memorable trip. We saw the Freedom Trail, we went whale watching, and we drank like fish. It was incredible and I remember it fondly. I always talked about making my way back to Massachusetts, so when I made my final decision about traveling alone to Salem, I was beyond excited. Like, embarrassingly excited. The moment I booked my flight and my hotel, my body became mostly adrenaline and I couldn’t stop telling my family and friends about the plans that I had just made. After a couple of hours of nonstop talking, jumping, and screaming, “I’m going to Salem!” I finally wore myself out and needed to go to bed. It is safe to say that I made the right choice.

When I woke up I was still massively excited, but for another reason other than the vacation aspect of it. Of course, I was incredibly eager to visit a place that I have always wanted to visit; however, I was also excited because I saw this solo trip as an opportunity to explore self-love. You see, as independent as I like to think that I am, I still think that there is a part of me that relies on others for certain things. Take New Orleans for example. I never road tripped there because my husband never wanted to go with me, and I honestly don’t think I ever thought about going on my own. When it comes to big things such as travel, I have always had it in my head that if I can’t find someone to go with me then I just won’t go at all. But after thinking about that mindset, I started to become upset with myself. This is my life. This is the one chance that I have to learn and to explore and to do things that will bring me happiness. So why have I always thought that I couldn’t do something as incredible as traveling on my own? Why have I put aside the places that I wanted to experience just because I couldn’t find another person to experience it with me? So when I booked this trip to Salem, a place that I have always wanted to go to, but no one else that I was close to was interested in, I started a new chapter in my life. The chapter where I actively make an effort to do things for myself that will bring me joy.

I think that there is a difference between being selfish and making sure that you are being kind to yourself. So far in my life, I have never seen myself as a priority. My husband, my animals, my family, and my best friend have always been the most important to me. I became so used to being shut down when it came to experiencing things with the people that I care about, that whenever I asked someone to do something with me I became numb to the feeling of my desires being put to the side. But the funny thing is, I never had to do that. I have had the power all along to follow through with the things that I have wanted, but I guess I just never saw it that way. I suppose I thought that experiences such as traveling would be more meaningful or special if it was experienced with someone you care about, but then that made me think, “Wait a minute, I care about myself. I could do with some quality time alone.” And the moment I had that epiphany was the moment that I changed my life for the better.

I didn’t really have any fears about traveling alone. Although my family, my husband, and my best friend were worried about my safety, that was never a concern of mine. My two biggest concerns were being away from my animals and, as silly as this may sound, eating alone at restaurants. Yeah, the thought of possibly getting hurt in a freak accident or being sliced and diced by a stranger never crossed my mind, but eating alone… Frightening. I am proud to say that I conquered my fear of eating alone like the true champ that I am, but leaving my animals and not having control over their safety is still anxiety-inducing. But whenever I get too worried, I just have to remind myself that they are safe and are in good hands and that I am allowed to enjoy myself while I am away.

I booked my trip pretty last minute, so the seven days between booking the trip and leaving were filled to the brim with buzz and eagerness. I spent hours upon hours planning out the areas that I wanted to explore, looking into tours, browsing the shops, and researching nearby restaurants. I wrote out everything that I wanted to do and figured out how far it was from my hotel. I made an organized list of each place with the addresses, hours, prices, and what kind of activity each place was. (Everyone, meet Brookana. She is type a.) The more I planned, the more ready I was to start this new adventure.

I woke up at four in the morning the day that I left, and all of my excitement turned into anxiety and sadness. I couldn’t believe that I was going to go to another state all by myself. What if something happened to the animals? What if something happened to my husband? What would I do if someone got hurt and I was a thousand miles away? What about eating alone?! I looked down at my dog, Luna, as I was about to leave and just saw betrayal in her eyes, and I felt immediate guilt. All these fears and insecurities crept back in, and they kept intensifying the closer I got to the airport. While I was sitting at the gate, I spoke to my husband on the phone as he was driving to work and all I felt was longing for him. I missed him and the furbabies already. For a moment, just a brief moment, I thought about leaving the airport and going back home. But then I realized that I was allowing my fears and my doubt to control the amazing thing that I was about to experience, and I shut it down as fast as I could.

When I boarded the plane I was feeling pretty confident and I felt my excitement starting to creep back in, but I was still slightly worried. But with that being said, the moment the plane started to accelerate down the runway and I felt that we were off of the ground, I caught myself smiling.

Plane Picture 1

Conquer the Fear

I have always had a funny relationship with dreams. Not the kind of dreams where your mind tells you stories while you slumber, but the kind of dreams that you wish you could make happen. The goals that run through your mind constantly. The kind of dreams that make you think “it would be so cool if this could happen for me.” I have had a couple of those dreams, the kind where I constantly say “I wish” to, and I always wondered if I would be brave enough to try to make my dreams become a reality.

I have spoken about this before, but for as long as I can remember, my biggest dream was to become a writer. I don’t even need to be an extremely successful writer, but a writer nonetheless. I wanted to share stories, life lessons, and informative pieces. I wanted to be able to write something that someone out there could relate to. I wanted my words to start a dialogue between strangers, bringing all of us together in some sort of way. I wanted to come up with fictional stories that could captivate an audience and have them asking for more. I have longed for my imagination to take me to a place in my career that I could be proud of, but there was one thing standing in my way. Fear. 

I take that back. Fear wasn’t the only thing keeping me from trying to accomplish my dream, but it definitely was the biggest factor. I always told myself that if I were to ever try to make something out of myself through my writing that I would put every ounce of energy into it. Everything that I have would be dedicated to this one massive dream of mine. However, the circumstances that I was in both financially and mentally would prevent me from being able to do that, that is, until recently. 

Finances have been a strain for Stephen and me for many years. It seemed like every time we were able to save money and feel like we were finally getting to a place of financial stability something would happen that would wash that sense of security straight away. “It’s just a part of life.” “Welcome to being an adult.” “No one ever said that growing up would be easy.” That is what people would tell me about the unfortunate cost of being alive. Also, let’s not forget the worst day of the year for people who rely on medications to live: January 1st. Being a type one diabetic is incredibly expensive, and January 1st is the day that your deductible resets. It always feels like a slap in the face when you have to worry about paying for an insurance premium, a deductible, and the medication that you need in order to keep breathing. A major thanks to my pancreas for adding that stressor to my life. Anyways, I had to work at jobs that I absolutely loathed in order to get by, much like the majority of our society. While I would work, I would fantasize about one day being able to write and have my words be read by the world, but by the time that I would come home from work I had little to no energy to put into my dream. It was a vicious cycle. Work. Dream. Fantasize. Go home. Crash. Repeat.

When it comes to my mentality, I always wanted to have the energy to just make my dream happen. I knew that in order for my writing to flourish I had to put in the work. I knew from the beginning that if you want something in this world that it won’t be handed to you, and if you want it bad enough one day it could be yours. But you have to work for it. I never wanted anything to just be handed to me, but I was too emotionally drained to be able to work towards my goal. As I said, I HATED all of my previous jobs, and they made me feel worthless. I felt like such a disappointment, and it sunk my self-worth to basically nothing. I was already dealing with depression and anxiety, so feeling down on myself for my career left me with nothing. And when you already lack any sort of energy, when you feel like you are sucked dry of everything that you are, you just go into survival mode. I was a walking zombie, just living life on autopilot. When you are in that mode, you just don’t have the extra energy to put into “extra” luxuries, such as accomplishing a dream. You’re just trying to stay alive. 

Eventually, finances started to become better, and with a ton of work, so did my emotional stability. I entered the unexplored territory in my life where I had an option to quit my paying job in order to try to make my dream come true. I never, ever imagined in my entire twenty-six years on this planet that I would ever have this opportunity as an option, and now that it could be a possibility it scared the hell out of me. I started second-guessing if I could actually afford to quit my job, I wondered if it was the responsible thing to do, and I worried that my husband might end up resenting me for not going into an actual job every day as he does. I had developed all of this doubt to the point where one day I would talk myself up and say “I am just going to do it.” Then the next day I would say “I can’t do this. What was I thinking?” I was driving my husband insane with my doubt and fear, and finally, he just told me to quit my job and focus on my writing. It was kind of a “now or never” type situation. It is odd to me that after spending years imagining, hoping, and fantasizing about this moment that suddenly I was pumping the breaks. I think it is one of those things that you never think is in the cards for you, and when you finally have an opportunity to make it happen it puts you in a state of shock. And then that state of shock turns into doubt, and then that doubt turns into fear. But after talking to my therapist and doing some major introspective work, I made the decision to quit my job to attempt to make my dream come true.

It was scary. It still is scary to this day. As it stands, I am two months into what could be a life-altering choice that I made. But with that being said, I don’t think that I have ever been happier about myself. So here is the thing. I am not oblivious or naive to the fact that there is a high probability that nothing will come from this. I know that I am asking for a lot from the universe to give me the success that I desire from my writing, but I just want it so bad. I live for my writing. I live for my audience. It brings me so much satisfaction whenever I push the “Publish now” button on my website. It warms my heart whenever someone messages me about a piece that I wrote. I am thriving. I feel alive. My spark is growing larger and larger with each day that passes. Yes, as per usual, the unknown is terrifying. I do not know where this is going to take me in my life. But do you know what sounds even more terrifying to me? Not knowing if my dream could have been a reality. Always pondering the idea if I made the right choice by not running towards my lifelong dream. I will never regret the choice I made to try to improve my life by chasing my dream, and I will continue to thrive on it until the moment I draw my final breath. 

Fear was one of the strongest internal opponents that I have ever had to face, but man does it feel amazing to conquer that monster.

Please Don’t Ask Me When I am Going To Have Kids

One of life’s biggest questions is “what are we doing here?” Some people think that they are here to help others, while others think that they are placed on this earth to follow through on a prestigious career path. Others might think that they are here just because their parents decided to fornicate one night and then BOOM. The evolution of cells that would eventually multiply and turn into you commenced. Correct me if I am wrong, but at some point in our mundane lives, we have questioned what we are meant to be doing. What is this big job that we were assigned to when we were given passage to life? You see, I indeed have asked that question myself, but I have known that answer for as long as I can remember. I was put on this earth to be a mom. 

I don’t know how to describe this feeling that I have had for all of these years. It has just been an overwhelming feeling of maternal love that flushes through my body and soul. I remember being incredibly young and playing with baby dolls just pretending to be their mom. I know a lot of young children do that, but I would get really into it. I would love those babies like they were really there. It might have been odd, but back then it gave me a taste of happiness. I was eleven when my youngest brother was born, and I cried the moment I saw him and held him in my arms. He was one of the greatest gifts that I have ever been given, and my love for him is strong. I used to love holding him, singing to him, taking care of him. And while at times he would drive me absolutely mad with his incessant and inconvenient crying, I still loved and continue to love him so incredibly much. I used to take him for walks around the block and imagine what it was going to feel like to be doing this with my own baby, and the thought would bring a smile to my face. 

When I was thirteen or fourteen I started losing a lot of my hair. I would be taking a shower and I would watch as clumps would wash down the drain. I thought it was odd, but at the same time I had really thick hair so I didn’t think too much of it. Then my periods started becoming incredibly painful. I remember crying in hysterics because I was paralyzed from the pain. It felt like someone took a metal rod and stuck it in a fire and then shoved it inside of me. The pain always traveled to my back, and the only thing that would give me temporary relief was the bathtub. My periods starting becoming irregular, and I just knew this was not a good sign. 

Every three to four months I have to go to an Endocrinologist for my type one diabetes, and at the beginning of each appointment they always ask me about my periods. So I informed the nurse about the irregularity of my periods and how incredibly debilitating they have been, and she informed the nurse practitioner of that information. When my NP came in to see me we dived into everything that was going on, including losing my hair. After talking for a bit she informed me that she thought that I had PCOS, and to go see a gynecologist to get an official diagnosis. So off I went to the gynecologist, and a couple of weeks later I got the call confirming the diagnosis. After the doctor told me that I had PCOS, my first question was “Will I be able to have children?” To which they said something along the lines of “The likelihood of you being able to conceive naturally with having PCOS, as well as type one diabetes, is unlikely. With medical assistance, you still might not be able to conceive, and if you did it would be considered high risk.”

That crushed me. I wasn’t even sixteen at that time, and finding out that I was most likely infertile stole every ounce of hope from me. The one thing that I have wanted, that one dream that I had held on to for years was ripped from me. I understood that they said that there was a chance that I could become pregnant naturally, but to a young girl, all I heard was that it was unlikely. I was immediately placed on birth control to help balance out my hormones, and I just continued living my life. It felt like such a slap in the face at the time having to go on birth control. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for another life at such a young age, but the idea of my body not wanting to give me the one thing I had always wanted and then being placed on a pill that would also prevent it just felt cruel. But that one phone call, that one diagnosis, and every gynecologist appointment haunted me. 

I had, and continue to have, these reoccurring dreams of me being pregnant, or having children, or me being in labor. The older I became, the more these dreams would play out. In my dreams, I am happy. I am embracing my pregnant belly. I am holding, sniffing, and staring in awe at my baby. I excitedly scream “my water broke!” to my husband. It is such an incredible feeling, and then I wake up and realize it wasn’t real and I just break. Every single time. My heart is just broken. I hate my mind for putting me through that torture. 

Now that I am twenty-six and married, starting a family is at the forefront of our minds. I am prepared to start taking the medications to help me conceive, and if need be, I am willing to try IVF. But IVF doesn’t guarantee a child, so fostering and adoption might be my answer. At the end day, I really don’t care if the baby is related to me biologically. My dream and my desire to be a mother could still be a reality to a child who I didn’t grow inside of me, and I know that I will love any child with every ounce of my being. I want to help shape and mold another person into a wonderful human being, I want to help them explore and find their individuality, and I want to help figure out what their dream is so I can help them achieve it. I want to show them what it feels like to be loved and I want them to see how special they are and how much value they bring to this world. I know that one day I will be a mom regardless of how that child falls into my arms, and I have never been more ready for anything in my entire life.

There is one point that I want to make clear in this piece. The fact of the matter is, yes I am getting older and I am at the age where I could start having babies. But unfortunately, my reality is that it is going to be extremely difficult to conceive on my own. Like I stated before, I might not even conceive with medical assistance. For someone who wants children as badly as I do, imagine how it must feel when people ask me “when are you and Stephen going to start having babies?” In all fairness, it is not like I wear a badge that says “I have fertility issues,” but I also don’t think it is acceptable to ask me when we plan on expanding our family. If I had it my way, I would have two kids by now. Just because I am a woman and am happily married doesn’t give anyone the right to ask me something as personal as when I am having children. What if I didn’t want kids? What if I just had an abortion? What if Stephen was infertile? You never know what a person or a couple is going through, and having them feel the need to explain their situation is so damaging and hurtful. 

I want nothing more than to be a mom. I truly feel like that is why I am on this earth. The reality is I don’t know when or how that is going to happen, but I hold on to the hope that one day my dream will become true. But in the meantime, please don’t ask me when I am going to have kids.

The Magic of Holidays

This holiday season was the first time in four years that I was able to spend it with all of my family members, and it truly was spectacular. When I was younger I would always correlate joy, happiness, love, and peace to the holiday season, and that was mostly because that meant that I was going to be able to spend quality time with my family. The number of laughs that we all share, the conversations about past stories that kept me completely enthralled, and just spending time with my loved ones always felt so special. The magic of Christmas was never about the gifts for me, it always stemmed from the love that I felt when I had my loved ones around me.

When Stephen and I made the decision that we were going to move down to Dallas we didn’t even think about what the holidays were going to be like. We had a dream to move and we were willing to sacrifice everything to make that happen, but little did we know that the cost of the dream of moving was exorbitant. We knew that leaving home and everyone else behind was going to be sad, but nothing prepared us for how truly soul-crushing and lonely that whole experience was.   

Being away from family was always difficult, but nothing made you realize how alone you truly were until the holidays would come around. I went from having an immense amount of excitement starting at the beginning of October to being filled with sorrow and dread. I am already a severely depressed person, so the thought of being alone during the time of the year that I used to crave just made me even more devastated. I had Stephen and my furchildren, with whom I cherish more than my own life, but sitting alone watching movies while everyone else was enjoying one another always made me sink into another low. Perhaps being alone made me realize as much as I always loved spending the holidays with my family maybe I also took it for granted. I missed the magic, I missed my family, and I missed that wholesome feeling that I felt whenever it was the holiday season. 

When Stephen and I made the decision to move back home to Chicago in March one of the first thoughts I had was “I can’t wait for the holidays!” The thought of being with all of my loved ones and feeling all of that love fueled me with eagerness and excitement. When the beginning of October came around, I started to feel that magic that I always used to feel growing up. When Thanksgiving finally arrived, it felt superb to actually get in the car and drive forty-five minutes to my grandparent’s house. Seeing my dad making mashed potatoes and having my Mema squeeze me the moment she saw me filled my heart with so much happiness. This is what I have been missing. This is what I have been wanting. This is what I have been desperate for. Then it was Christmas time. I have been filled to the brim with that magical feeling for a few months now, and this was the moment I have been waiting for. Christmas Eve and Christmas day was the happiest I have been for a very long time. I was with my parents, my grandparents, my husband, my in-laws, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Hell, people who I didn’t really know. But it was incredible being surrounded by all of these people just celebrating one another. When I was with everyone I found myself laughing again, telling stories about the past that kept me completely captivated and spending quality time with the people who I love so incredibly much. This year, the holidays felt exactly like I remember them feeling before we moved away, and for that, I will always be grateful and appreciate this time of year. 

The magic of the holidays doesn’t stem from the gifts you receive. No. It stems from the love that you feel when you are with the people you adore and cherish.

Friendships

Do you find your self worth by the number of people who are actively involved in your life? Does the number of phone numbers in your contact list define how likable you are? I used to question this frequently, but the more I have grown as a person, the more I have realized it isn’t about the amount of people I have in my life but how special my relationships are with the people that I value. 

I have never been one to have a lot of friendships. I wouldn’t say that I am necessarily a “loner,” but I do think I enjoy solitude more than the average person. I have this tendency of feeling overwhelmed when I am with people for a large amount of time, to the point where I almost feel suffocated. I find it incredibly uncomfortable and awkward to try to maintain conversations with people who I don’t know well or strangers, or even family members who I don’t have a relationship with. I know this is going to sound terrible, but I also find it anxiety inducing and off putting when people start asking me personal questions. I have recently been informed that I come across as cold to people who I don’t see very often, and although I was slightly insulted at first, after some self-reflection I have realized that that is true. I have put myself in an internal barricade that prevents others from getting in, and boy is it industrial strength.

With that being said, there are a handful of people who I cherish with every ounce of my being. Caille, my best friend, is someone who will always be a significant part of my life. We have been close for well over a decade, and I truly feel like we will be best friends until we are grey-haired sassy old ladies just counting down the days until our eventual death. She knows every little thing about me, including the number of times I defecate in a day, and I have never felt so close to anyone in my entire life. (Other than Stephen of course.) Joel is another really good friend of mine, and he is also Caille’s fiance. I have known Joel for eight years and I am so grateful that he and Caille are together because they both bring each other so much happiness. Joel is incredibly funny, logical, and I love our debates and talks. I also can fart in front of him which brings me a lot of bliss. Then of course there is Stephen, my husband, who I love so incredibly much. Stephen is my partner, my absolute best friend, and the love of my life. We laugh so hard together, we tackle hardships together, we stare in awe at our animals together, and life is just good when I am living it with him.

My friendship “group” is minute, but words cannot describe how fulfilled I am. Caille, Joel, and Stephen all bring different things into my life that fill my heart with joy. When I think about the people in my life I am able to sigh with relief because I truly don’t know what I did in my past life to deserve the friendships that I have. With how amazing these people are I have a slight suspicion that I saved a town or even a city from destruction. If you can sit back and reflect on the relationships that you have and feel like you don’t need anything else from anyone, then you know that you are fulfilled. That is how I feel. I love my family, I love and cherish my friends, and I don’t feel lonely. All the love that I could ever need is being given to me every day, and for that I am grateful. 

Now just because I am happy and fulfilled by the few people that are in my life doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek out a large amount of acquaintances or friendships, but what I think is important is to figure out who lifts you up, who you can trust, who is genuine, because those are the people that bring value and light into your life. Friendships with people who don’t value you as much as you value them should be given a second thought, because at the end of the day we involve people in our lives who have a huge impact on us and I would rather beam with joy than sulk in sadness. 

Just remember: quality over quantity.