Simple pleasures and banana pancakes

I am obsessed with the simple pleasures life presents. People often become distracted by the big things that we are supposed to love, such as money, work, the way our lawn looks and the way we dress… and I’ll admit that I have been a victim to that type of thinking too. However, I am writing now to remind you all, and myself, how incredible the smallest things around us can be.

Imagine this: you are young again, around ten years old, just waking up. As your senses come alive, you begin to smell one of the most incredible things in the world: bacon. You spring out of bed and sprint downstairs to find your dad making banana chocolate chip pancakes and your mom placing a plate of bacon on the table. You eat until you feel as though your stomach might explode. You curl up on the couch and watch Tom and Jerry and slowly fall back asleep…

You are in high school again, it’s your junior year. You had been up all night finishing a lab report for your chemistry class and doing book work for your precalculus class. As you walk into your first hour, you realize that you had completely forgotten the fact that you had a test today. You hadn’t studied at all and you feel extremely unprepared. You go into the test blind… and come out with a 92%. You and your teacher have no idea how you pulled that off, but you did, and you couldn’t be happier.

You are in your late twenties and you are trying to catch a cab to work. Yellow taxis seem to be taunting you, quickly switching lanes as they come near you. Then the person next to you catches one and asks if you’d like to have it, since you seem to be in a greater rush than them. You couldn’t be more thankful, since it was only your second day at this new job.

You are in your late fifties or early sixties. Your father has just passed. You decide to take a walk to clear your head a bit and get some fresh air. As you walk past the endless houses filled with families, you come by a park. As you go to it, you decide to sit on one of the swings. You reminisce how your dad used to push you on swings just like this and how you would scream with joy… and as you are thinking, you notice a single tulip had grown next to the swing set. As you look at the lavender colored flower, you also notice that it is the only thing in the park that is illuminated by the sun and you smile. Your dad knew how much you loved tulips.

Now stop imagining, and realize where you are right now. Go through all of your senses. Recognize that you woke up today, you are breathing, you are able to find food to eat, there are people around you who love you, there are flowers growing somewhere and you can find happiness everywhere. Let go of any obsession with money or work or whatever it may be and instead, go outside. Enjoy the fact that you live on this beautiful planet. Look. Smell. Touch. Taste. Listen. Let your senses guide you to happiness.

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20 things I will do

I had a teacher last year who forced us to write 20 things we will do in our lifetime. Looking back, it was one of the best assignments I had ever completed. It was a list that made you really think about what you aspire to be and what you truly want out of the life you were given. I still have the sheet of paper that I wrote my list on – it hangs above my desk so I can read it each and every day. It is my inspiration to keep going; because of that, I decided to share my list with you. Here it is:

1. Ride an elephant

2. Eat a meal that I don’t think I would usually try, such as escargot.

3. Swim with sea turtles (COMPLETED!)

4. Study abroad

5. Be able to say “I made it – I’m accomplished.”

6. Change someone’s perspective

7. Have a son and name him Luke

8. Have a daughter and teach her what it is like to always love

9. Get a tattoo

10. Visit every continent, including Antarctica

11. Write a short story

12. Learn how to dance

13. Win an award

14. Fall in love with a man and have a ridiculously happy wedding

15. Have a chalkboard wall in my house and cover it with quotes that I love

16. Give my time to those less fortunate than I

17. Have a conversation with someone who is homeless; make them laugh

18. Go on a spontaneous trip with someone I love

19. Make enough money to take my Dad on a trip with me

20. Find a way to prove to him that I love him, and make him proud of me.

21. Adopt a dog from the humane society (multiple dogs are okay too)

22. Buy my mom and stepdad a very expensive bottle of wine, then sit down and drink the entire thing with them

I know I had a couple more than 20, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a lot of goals! I encourage you all to write your own lists, and if you do, send me the link! I would love to read them. This truly is one of the best ways to really reflect and get to know yourself a little bit better.
  

Letter #1

For those of you who do not know, I am moving to Chicago this fall. With that, I have decided to do an installment of letters to members of my family. They will be somewhat personal, but I believe that many of you will be able to relate. So, here we go.

To my dad, the one that currently resides many, many hours away.

Thank you for teaching me the pain of distance. I know that sounds a bit aggressive, but I don’t mean it that way. Although you were not exactly there to raise me, your absence was able to teach me many valuable lessons.

After the divorce, I became aware that love does not always last, and therefore I should be cautious of the relationships I am in.

During our brief tradition of Wednesday night dinners, you taught me to never work in a job that makes me unhappy. It creates awkward silences and stress – a combination that no one should have to encounter.

When you left for the first time, you headed out to Thailand. You taught me that sometimes people need to get away to find out who they really are, and you showed that it was okay.

You went to Thailand a few times. Each time, I learned how to create a relationship with someone very far away.

When I told you I was in therapy during one of your trips home, your silence taught me that you don’t have to speak in order to understand.

When you left the second time, you moved to South Africa. That was when I learned that it is very easy to become disconnected with someone you were once very close with. I also learned that time zones are kind of a b*tch.

When you came back, I learned that it is possible to pick up broken pieces and put them together again. Certain relationships can withstand the test of time.

When you left for good, you moved away to California. When you broke the news, I learned what it felt like to have your heart shattered into millions of pieces. I learned that even when you are surrounded by people who love you, you can still feel alone.

Now that I am older, I know that it is not your fault that you had to leave all of those times. I understand that you needed to leave in order to discover who you really were and you needed to do what was best for you.

I know that you needed to hear this a long time ago, but I am proud of you. Both of us are human, both of us make mistakes, and I hope to see you back home one day.

Thank you so much for everything, even though you did not know what you did for me.

I forgive you.

Love,

Katelyn

PSA: You’re not gonna “catch the gay”

I go to a high school with over 6,000 students. This is great in the way that kids are able to make many new friends each year and there are hardly any of your classic “cliques”. It is not so great however, in the way that it gives room for many kids to feel pushed to the side, forgotten, or out of place. Until I became comfortable with myself and found my core group of friends, I was one of those kids, so I know what it’s like to feel as if you are just a walking body with no way to engage yourself.

It is my senior year now, so I have spent four years watching kids close themselves off from the world around them. I have found this to be especially true with students who have come out to be gay or transgender. As they gained courage to come out or went through the very difficult transition of publicly stating which gender they want to identify with, people around them quickly shut their eyes and walked away. Maybe it has something to do with my generation or the age of high school kids, but I simply don’t understand why so many people who are so close to me choose not to accept their peers. What are they doing that offends you? I’m aware that this argument is one that has been repeated too many times, but it is still extremely valid. If two girls are holding hands, does that somehow make you any less of a person for having seen them? Does it make you any less straight? Does it make you any less religious? In case you can’t answer those questions, I’ll do it for you. No. It does not do any of those things.

If someone has the courage to come out as gay, then there is absolutely no reason for someone else to ridicule him or her. Using the word “fag” in a derogatory way or treating him or her like he or she is not truly a man or a woman is the epitome of immaturity. If a boy decides that he is more comfortable as a girl, then you have two options: either stand by her and support her or pass by without saying anything. You have NO right to look down upon her or verbalize hatred towards her. With that, I don’t see why anyone would want to do so. How can someone else’s actions cause you so much anger that you feel the need to act aggressively towards them?

This rant was fueled by comments I heard today during class:

“He came out as gay?”
“Why would anyone wanna hang out with a fag?”
“I’ll beat my kid if he comes out as gay.”
“Is he going to start talking like a girl now and wear short shorts?”

I’m sure most of you can see the unbelievable amount of ignorance in these comments. Actually, I was so angry that these words actually came out of someone’s mouth that I got up and left the room. I feel bad for people like this. It is obvious that they have chosen a life of immaturity and stupidity. You do not have to support an act to accept it. All you have to do is end your negative comments.

If you have come out as gay or transgender or anything else and have a story to share, feel free to do so. I am open to listening and responding. I promise that you will have my unconditional support. If you read this post and realized that you may have been acting homophobic or transphobic or just plain mean, I suggest giving the person a simple apology. Sometimes that is all it takes to make up with someone.

I cannot stress enough how much equality is necessary in our world. We cannot achieve peace unless we all work together, so please, help me to help all the people around you and end the constant bullying. Speak words of love, not hate.

Troo Kidd Pan

Story time! I have had quite a few major events occur in the past couple of days. However, if you know the slightest bit about me, you’d know that great events lead to great stories to share. So that is what I’m doing today, giving you a piece of what I have been able to experience.

So to begin, let me tell you about this girl I recently befriended.

To me, her name is Troo, because that is how she introduced herself. Troo Kidd Pan. The first conversation was exhilarating; I had never spoken to someone filled with so much excitement. She was like a bottle of champagne, waiting to burst into happy bubbles. She is spontaneous – she’s one of those girls that refuses to let silences occur. She fills empty space with irrelevant words that lead to hour long conversations.

I should probably explain how this Troo girl and I met. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was accepted into DePaul University – my dream school. A group chat flared up and quite a few people were swallowed by the flames. Two of those people were Troo and I. We have been talking constantly for weeks now. It’s incredible how close two people can become in that short amount of time.

You see, Troo lives a lifestyle much different than mine. For one, she is dating a girl who is deployed halfway around the world. They hardly get to talk, and she’s in love with her. Second, she has an autistic little brother. She was forced to grow up much more quickly than I in order to help take care of her family. She had to push her own emotions inside and throw herself out into the real world.

Troo stands for “trooper”. I cannot think of a better name for this girl. In the past few weeks, I have been taught that distance does not mean a thing – love can exist over oceans and mountains if you have faith in it. I have seen her strengths and weaknesses, I have supported her through a break down and I have committed myself to at least four years of true friendship.

I find it quite humorous that we have become so close without meeting each other – it’s interesting how face to face contact does not mean as much as it used to. Troo knows that much more than I though, because her superwoman and her can only talk via the internet. I love learning more and more about their relationship – it is definitely one that requires trust and strength.

This girl is going to go far one day, because at 17 years old she has life experiences that some 40 year olds don’t. I can’t wait to become better friends and to learn from her because Troo Kidd Pan has so much to share.

The excitement of new environments

We all become so used to the environment we grow up in. We grow close to the people around us and we get to know the community we live in. It’s hard to think about one day packing up your bags and leaving it all for something completely new. One day, however, that time will come. For me, it’s coming up much sooner than expected.

As my American readers will know, nothing moves you away faster than college. It’s a sudden shock that you must decide what you want to do for the years to come and where you want to spend at least four years studying. It’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

I was recently accepted into my dream school: DePaul University in Chicago. As soon as I got my acceptance e-mail, I joined the Facebook page for accepted upcoming freshman. That’s where my story begins.

I have always been an outgoing person. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. So I became extremely excited when I was placed into a group with over 200 brand new people. I noticed quickly how open everyone seemed to be – everyone started introducing themselves and commenting on each others posts – connections were forming from nothing.

Those posts turned into a group chat, which led to even more connections. It is an amazing experience to make so many new friends in such a short period of time. It makes the transition of dependence to independence so much easier when you are joining hundreds of people in the same situation.

I didn’t understand how college could bring people so close together until now. I mean really, what’s a better way to push people together than throwing a huge group of 18 year olds out on their own? It’s a game of survival, and to thrive you must find a group of people that will support you through your struggles, as you will do for theirs. Which is exactly what college gives opportunity to. With this excitement, I have allowed my fear to dissipate because I know that I will not be alone in my journey.

My specific group has already talked about our support for all ethnicities, LGBT, and international students. We’ve talked about our similarities and differences and how crazy it is that some of us are in California and others are in Boston. We are slowly becoming a family as we all are tossed out into the unknown. I am grateful for this new environment and the relationships that will come out of it – I am for once excited to explore on my own.

Walls

Walls I had built up

to keep you distanced, the hurt

I had been scarred.

You never had seen, never had noticed,

the pieces of me falling apart.

Crumbling fast, with each fallen tear.

Running was all I could think of,

Fast, faster, fastest.

I left, my trail silent,

Invisible to your eyes.

To myself I kept…

for a long time I could not immerse myself in the beauty of the world.

Not just yet.

One day, I will. I told myself constantly.

Once I don’t hurt, once the pain vanishes.

The ghost of you followed me,

the haunts of my past were haunting my present and future.

Again I ran. Faster than before.

Stares grasped my body, but my mind was sure.

I had to get away from you,

Or never would I let you go.

Moving on is hard,

distancing the closeness.

My walls now have cracks, holes;

from the cannons you had shot on them.

I am now strong, stronger than before.

The walls are not needed.

For i have brought them down with your surrender.

You are gone. And I am okay.