I Hope You Found Wonderland, Gabs.

My best friend died yesterday.

Typing it out loud hurts. It feels like it makes it real and I don’t want it to be real. I want it to be a joke or a cruel prank or a dream because I don’t understand.

She was only eighteen.

I first met Gabi through Musical Theatre Workshops. We both liked Alice in Wonderland and Panic! At The Disco and horror movies. I couldn’t tell you our first conversation because I don’t remember all of the details. It kills me a little bit to know that I can’t even recall the first thing I said to her. But, honestly, the first day wasn’t what mattered. Gabi and I clicked from the second we talked. I remember that much. We ended up hanging out a few days later and roaming around bookstores and malls until our feet hurt from walking and our sides hurt from laughing.

Gabi was one of those people that just loved with her whole heart. Once she cared about you, she wouldn’t stop. She never gave up on people, even the ones she probably should have. She was convinced that she could turn the worst people good because she wanted to believe it. I think part of her needed to. I remember every time a boy broke my heart or hurt my feelings, she would be completely prepared to go beat him up or text him something that was sure to make him cry. She was the kind of person who would protect the people she loved with her life.

We had so many adventures, too many to count. From sitting in the parking lot at Lady A and just talking about life and drinking energy drinks to being camp counselors for MTW and bursting into tears when it was all over. From sleepovers and that time we dyed my hair bright red and made the bathroom look like a murder scene to watching the first three Saw movies because “Molly, they’re not even that bad.” Spoiler alert, they were that bad and I still have nightmares about Jigsaw. But it was worth it because Gabi was there to hold my hand and let me break her fingers on the scary parts, a.k.a. all of them. It didn’t matter that I was at college for the last half of our friendship or that we both got super busy. We still found time to talk and catch up. I remember that time we took dozens of photos at your birthday party and even though most of them were blurry and ridiculous, they’re still my favorites.

Gabi, I have enough memories with you to fill at least three scrapbooks, but right now all I can think about is that we can’t make anymore and it hurts. I keep racking my brain, trying to figure out what happened and what I could have done to help. I knew that you were sad and in a bad place, but I thought it was getting better. I just keep thinking that I talked to you the day before you did it and you were fine. Or, maybe you just said you were because you didn’t to be a bother. I don’t know.

You were never a bother, Gabs. Every time we talked, it made me unbelievably happy. You were always beautiful. You were kind and you were sweet and you were special. You deserved to be here and you deserved to be deliriously happy. I’m sorry that life got in the way and you felt that you had no other option. I know you felt like no one would care, but I had to leave class because I was crying so hard this morning, so I want you to know that you were wrong. I’m sorry that you didn’t realize how loved you really were. You’re forever my best friend and you were supposed to be the Maid of Honor at my wedding. I don’t know what to do because you’re just gone and this was never supposed to happen.

I snapchatted you today because for a few seconds I forgot. I waited for you to open it and then it all came crashing down again and I couldn’t breathe. I just sat there and tried to understand. I’m a planner. I always have been. But I never planned for this and now I don’t know how to act or what to do or what to say. All I know is that it hurts and I don’t like it.

I feel like part of my heart is missing now and I can’t find the words to say and that’s not normal because I’m a writing tutor and an English major and words are supposed to be my thing. But you’re not here and that’s not normal either, so I don’t know if I even know what normal is anymore.

I love you, Gabi. I’m sorry that wasn’t enough. And maybe it’s pointless to think about what-ifs and what-could-have-beens, but that’s really the only thing I can do right now.

I’m sorry.

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What I Really Mean When I Say No

(Because there can never be enough blog posts about consent.)

When I say no, what am I really saying? Clearly there must be some hidden message for you to decode. Obviously I cannot actually mean no. Right?

Wrong.

There is an astounding number of people who don’t actually know what consent is. It’s one of those things that should be common knowledge, but, for some reason, isn’t. And, honestly, that is a terrifying thought.

Let’s look at how Merriam-Webster defines consent.

consent

noun | con·sent

Simple Definition of consent

  • : permission for something to happen or be done

  • : agreement about an opinion or about something that will happen or be done

As you can see, this definition really leaves no wiggle room. Consent is permission. It is the agreement that something will or will not happen.

That means that if you ask me something and I say no, you do not have my consent. For instance, let’s say my boyfriend asks if he can kiss me. I say no because I’m just not feeling it. Because I said no, he is not allowed to kiss me. Even if he really wants to, he has to keep his lips to himself until I give him consent.

Consent is an extremely simple concept, but there are a few things that need clearing up.

First of all, consent is not permanent. 

Just because someone has agreed to something once does not mean that they are agreeing to it forever. If I give you permission to hold my hand, that only applies in that one instance. You can’t just hold my hand whenever you want after that. You need to ask every time because my answer may change.

Second, consent is not implied. 

You cannot assume that you have someone’s consent. You have to ask them outright because the answer might be different than you think. This sort of goes along with the first point. You can’t assume that you don’t have to ask just because it’s happened before. People are allowed to change their minds.

Third, you are never entitled to someone else’s consent.

I cannot stress this point enough. There is such a thing as sexual assault by spouse or partner. You are not entitled to someone else’s body because you’re dating or married to them. Consent belongs to the individual and it is always required, no matter the circumstances.

Let’s go back to the example about my boyfriend asking for a kiss. Now, obviously, he doesn’t pause before he kisses me to ask every single time. We’re dating and I like to kiss him. However, if I tell him no, he respects that. He doesn’t get to kiss me anyway because we are dating or because we have kissed before. Consent doesn’t work like that.

Consent equals communication. You can’t assume consent, no matter what the situation is. You can be married to the person and that does not mean you get to decide what physical activity you get and when. That’s a joint decision that both parties have to agree with.

Consent is black and white; it is not gray. It is simple and people need to stop trying to change the definition of it. Consent is a verbal exchange in which two people agree to a certain action or activity.

There is a lovely little video that compares tea to consent. I highly suggest that everybody watches it because it is precious and cute and explains things very well.

Bottom line: Consent is a prerequisite, not an luxury.

How To Be Happy

Happiness is not the easiest thing to obtain. It is also not the easiest thing to hold on to. This makes for a difficult situation.

For me, one of the key factors getting in between me and happiness is other people. I am well aware that I put too much trust, faith, and pixie dust in the people around me. People that honestly don’t have a right to dictate my happiness.

It’s hard to not listen to what people say about you, whether it be behind your back or to your face. When someone calls you ugly or fat or stupid, you tend to listen. There is a quote that says, “Call a girl pretty, and she’ll forget it in an hour. Call a girl ugly, and she’ll remember it for the rest of her life.” When you compliment someone, it will make them smile, but if you insult them, they’ll hold onto that and think back to it whenever they get a compliment in the future.

You should never base your happiness off of someone else’s. Do what makes you happy. One of my biggest pet peeves is when parents try to force their kids to go into fields that they don’t find enjoyable. There is a difference between being concerned that your child will not earn enough money to sustain their lifestyle and making your child feel like their dreams and desires don’t matter.

If you want to be an artist, go for it. If it makes you happy, do it. But be practical when you do. The idea of a “starving artist” is romanticized when it definitely shouldn’t be. Embrace your inner artist and do what makes you smile, but find a way to support yourself at the same time. Whether it’s freelance jobs online or working part-time at a local restaurant, it doesn’t matter. Find a way to support yourself enough that you can become independent and then focus on making it as an artist or a musician or an actor or whatever you aspire to be.

Are you happy? If the answer is yes, then clearly you’re on the right track. If the answer is no, change something. Look for damaging people or stressful situations and remove them from your life. You can’t keep people that hurt you around because you feel guilty or obligated. You are entitled to your own health and happiness. If someone is compromising your goals, you are allowed to drop them. You are allowed to walk away. It does not make you a bad person. It does not make you mean or cruel or wrong in any way. If having someone in your life causes you stress or sadness or anger, why are they still present? Why are they still a part of your life? Clearly, they don’t deserve the privilege of being there. Being in your life is not a right. It is a privilege and you will meet people who don’t deserve it. You shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed because trying to please someone else is making you miserable and compromising your own happiness. You have the right to kick someone out for your own benefit.

There is not a magic formula for being happy. But I have come up with some tips that should aid in the process.

1. Never go to sleep angry. 

Figure out why you’re angry and solve it. If you go to sleep angry, you’ll wake up angrier. Work it out with yourself or someone else and then get a good night’s rest because emotions are exhausting.

2. Enjoy the little things. 

Watch the sunrise or the sunset. Count the stars every once in a while and see if you can pick out constellations, like Orion. Listen to your favorite song a few times. Smile at a friend. Stop to smell the roses.

3. Spend more time outside.

Nature is scientifically proven to improve moods and lessen stress. Find a trail and go hiking with someone you love. Walk through a tiny town. Go on a scavenger hunt to find different types of plants and animals.

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4. Fake it til you make it. 

I’m not saying fake a smile every time you’re upset. You don’t have to pretend to be happy. But, sometimes, the best plan is to put on a grin and act like you’re having the best day in the world. If you act like you’re miserable, chances are, you will be. You might miss out on having really great experiences and laughs by being too lost in your emotions.

5. Exercise. 

Do some push-ups. Go for a walk. Find something fun to do that will get your energy up and make you work. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands; they just don’t.” I think Elle from Legally Blonde definitely had the right idea.

6. Stop worrying. 

I know that I’m guilty of this to the extreme. It’s something a lot of people do and it’s definitely not healthy. We worry so much about things that have no chance of happening. I worry about getting to class late, so I leave thirty minutes early, even though I live four minutes away. I worry about embarrassing myself so much that I keep my mouth shut in public because I’m too scared to talk. Worrying is an epidemic and it’s absolutely horrible. It makes people change their entire personalities and go to ridiculous extremes to avoid situations that may not even happen. Take a deep breath and stop trying to find the bad in everything.

7. Do things that make you happy every day. 

If you love drawing, draw. Even if it’s just a stick figure in the corner of your history notes. If you love singing, sing in the shower. If you love exercise, run around your neighborhood once or twice. If you love animals, YouTube some cute cat videos. It doesn’t have to be something huge that takes hours. Just do something that you genuinely enjoy every day.

8. Keep challenging yourself. 

Always be striving to be better, whether in skill or behavior. Never stop learning new things and perfecting things you already know.

9. Let yourself be happy. 

You deserve to be happy. Even if you’re not perfect. Even if you feel like you’re not worth it. You are and you deserve the world, darling. You are special and beautiful and you are something to be proud of. Smile, because happiness isn’t a privilege. It’s a basic human right. Repeat after me: I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be proud of myself. I deserve to smile.

Happiness isn’t black and white and it isn’t easy. You might not have it right now, but you will before you know it. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to feel like the world is against you. But it’s not. The only thing against you is yourself. Buck up, buttercup, you’ve got the world at your fingertips and you will find happiness.