Got Privilege? : A Response to What People Aren’t Saying About Black Opinions on White Privilege

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My friend posted an article on his facebook. Now I know right now is a very sensitive time for racial issues and I’ve tried to completely avoid all post and statuses about them up until this point. After reading this article this morning via my bed with my morning jar of spicy lemonade (I’m doing a cleanse, themastercleanse.org check it out), I have decided it’s time for there to be another side voiced about the points made in this extremely one-sided, bias blog:

The Article Under Scrutiny

First, please read the article. Second, please understand in no way, shape , or form am I discrediting this woman’s experiences with racism and/or sexism.  I feel for her pain and the times that she was treated lesser because of her external appearance. Matter of fact, I feel for her so much because I can relate to every single numbered point that she made. “What?”, You may find yourself asking, “I thought I was reading a blog written by a Caucasian, Blonde Female.” Yep, you are. And that is the exact attitude I am trying to dismiss with this response. So, please read her article, then continue below.

“The white privilege in this situation is being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.” When I was younger, my parents got divorced. My mother was left with full custody of myself, a 3 year old, and my sister, a four year old, with a biological father who didn’t believe in paying child support.  As a single mom, she did what she could to provide for us.  I remember living in less than desirable apartments once we were too old to share rooms and my mom was probably sick of sleeping on a pull out couch in the living room after a few years.  In order to live somewhere we could all have our own bedroom in a place she could afford, we moved to a neighborhood mostly made up of other singles mothers and lower class families.  Due to whatever factor or conspiracy or other bullshit reasoning behind it, that made us a minority.  I remember fearing the bus stop because of how the other girls that we didn’t look like would pick on my sister and I.  My actual first fight happened at one of these bus stops, when we were beat up by a group of about 4 or 5, all while they said things like “You’re too rich to live here” and other ridiculous comments based on our caucasian appearance and the stereo-types that comes with it. We were in fourth and fifth grade, like are you kidding me!? After that, my mom left her day shift and took an overnight shift where she worked from 8 pm til 3 am, so she could drive us to and from school, all so we didn’t have to take the bus.  So.. Is black privilege in this situation being able to live in a neighborhood that is all you can afford, and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of <VIOLENCE> and hostility?

“If you’ve NEVER had a defining moment in your childhood or your life, where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have white privilege.”  In grade school I played lacrosse. I was really into it and pretty good. I remember going to UCDavis in Sacramento, California one year for a Nike Lacrosse camp.  While we were there, we stayed in the dorms for a month and had 3 a day practices, 7 days a week. It was amazing and really helped me develop my skills in a thing I was passionate about.  About a week into camp, we were divided and picked by captains, who were from the UCDavis college lacrosse team, and we began scrimmaging every Friday. I was pretty good, and became  leading scorer of my squad. The second Friday round of scrimmages, I remember the girl I was guarding and throughout camp we had developed somewhat of a rivalry.. I’m not sure why really. We were both really good and I’m a very humble person, but she just didn’t like me, on or off the field.  So anyways, it came down to a tied game and we had the face off which would probably be either teams last opportunity to score. I won it, passed it to my second hole, who then passed it back up to me, and I scored using a behind the back, between the legs trick shot (which I had just learned and was super stoked about it).  When we lined up to clap hands and I got to her, she slapped my hand down and called me a “cracker ass bitch”.  just out of no where. Nothing about my skill level was to do with race; me being better that one face off and having good communication with my teammate  had nothing to do with race. For the rest of the month, her and her friends called me Barbie or some other appearance and race based nickname. So.. If you’ve NEVER had a defining moment in your childhood or your life, where you realize your skin <AND HAIR> color alone makes other people hate you, do you have black privilege?

“If you’ve never been ‘the only one’ of your race in a class, at a party, on a job, etc. and/or it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation – you have white privilege.”  I used to work as an ESOL tutor in Jacksonville when I lived there.  I helped students who didn’t have parents who spoke English very well, or sometimes at all, because they had no support at home.  This obviously involved more in-depth relationships with them and their families, and I often made home visits on the weekends to help with projects and homework.  I grew a lot of respect while working there with their communities. But at first? Oh hell no. They hated me, their families hated me, and they called me more spanish, racial slurs I can even remember or spell.  That isn’t even the point of this though, after they dropped their pre-conceived notions and stereo-types based on my outward appearance and race, I was pretty accepted into their community, homes, and church.  One day, I went to church at their local community church.  The Pastor actually called me out to thank me for all the help and time I spent educating their children and going beyond just what I was paid for.  I felt honored… except how I was called out. He said, “Is Miss Cam, here? I heard she was here. Does anybody see the only white, blonde woman here?” Not even lying. I brushed it off, because he meant nothing by it and then praised me. Also, I was the only white, blonde woman there. So.. If you’ve never been ‘the only one’ of your race in a class, at a party, on a job, etc. and/or it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation- do you have black privilege?

“If you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it”that is white privilege.” I remember my senior year in high school entering a school-wide essay contest that the prize was a $1000 grant to use for college. It said to write an essay of your choice, gave us the requirements and format guidelines, and then we were left to our own to participate.  I remember working really, really hard on that essay. I needed the money for my transition from Maine to Florida to attend college, and out-of-state tuition was killing me. Long story short, I won the essay contest. They announced second and third place, although I don’t think there were any grants or prizes.  The day it was announced, I got guilted by some of my friends and a lot of the rest of the school, because the girl who got second place needed the money more.  Now, how did anybody in my high school know who needed and didn’t need the money? I don’t think any of them knew my financial situation, my mom’s, or the cost of the college I was attending. And I don’t think anybody knew hers either.  It was decided I won the essay contest and shouldn’t have because I was a star lacrosse player who was white and blonde, so my family must have money right?  Also I was selected out of favoritism, not out of my own hard work.  Which I spent weeks on that essay and revisions.  Then, it was also factlessly decided that because she wasn’t white and blonde, that her family must need the support more. So.. If you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a <other race> person who “deserved it” – is that black privilege?

“If no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, that is white privilege.”  I’m not going to spend much time on this because I have a thousand different experiences throughout my life questioning my intelligence.. why? Because I am a fairly good-looking, white, blonde female.  Now I do not think anybody can accurately say that there is one stereo-type in the entire world of different appearances that is more commonly written off as unintelligent and ditsy, than pretty, white, blonde females.  I remember being at the top of my Latin IV class and the results of our midterms being hung outside the teacher’s office.  We all stood around waiting for him to post them because they were released that afternoon and that weekend most of us were traveling home for the holidays.  I scored the highest. Every single person gave me a surprised look, and a few made comments asking “how did you cheat” or “smarter than she looks”. This is one of thousands of experiences throughout my entire life as an honor student, a girl who graduated at 16, and scored higher than you (most likely) on my SATs.  So.. If no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin <or hair> color, is that non-blonde privilege? 

“If you have never experienced or considered how damaging it is/was/could be to grow up without myriad role models and images in school that reflect you in your required reading material or in the mainstream media – that is white privilege.” I fully am not wasting to much time on this either for a few quick reasons.  All mainstream media “role models” for white, blonde females have been basic AF and viewed as sexual objects.. Seriously. I loved history and cant really recall any super strong influential lessons on strong females really at all- the ones there aren’t, haven’t been blonde. Also, Thoreau, Emerson, Malcolm X, Joseph Conrad, Dreiser, etc- are all males, so this argument is kind of hypocritical to begin with because there aren’t any females represented. A quick example I will use is that I’m Christian, I believe in the bible.  I’ve never been allowed to read that as assigned reading in school because all kinds of people have objected and “disagreed” with it. I quietly accept and respect their opinions, without letting my feelings get hurt or feeling targeted. Last example: every school celebrates black history month. We had to, every year, do multiple projects, essays, and other assignments on a certain race for an entire month. Is there a white history month? Nope. If there was, how many protests do you think there would be?! For the record, I think all months dedicated to specifically one group is ridiculous, learn about it all in chronological order and leave it at that.  But really, a whole month is dedicated in schools to just one race and their accomplishments, and researching that. So.. If you have never experienced or considered how damaging it is/was/could be to grow up without myriad role models and images in school that reflect you in your required reading material or in the mainstream media- is that black privilege?

“If you’ve never been blindsided when you are just trying to enjoy a meal by a well-paid faculty member’s patronizing and racist assumptions about how grateful black people must feel to be in their presence – you have white privilege.”  This statement is just ridiculous. I think people need to stop associating money and pretentious people with racism.  I have been a server at a country club and I have also been a guest at one. I have gone to a lot of up-scale events with friends.  I have also served at a bunch. This experience of her’s had nothing to do with race, it had to do with the host’s pretentiousness.  I have been serving and been told I was blessed to be in someone’s presence because they were going to do great things and one day I would be thankful I can tell the story of waiting on them to my children! I have also been a guest and had a host make a comment like that to the people waiting on us, which immediately blindsided me and ruined the meal. It had nothing to do with race- but with money.  Most rich people are ignorant- white, black, brown, yellow – money changes people. And that’s all I will say on this topic. So.. If you’ve never been blindsided when you are just trying to enjoy a meal by a well-paid faculty member’s patronizing and racist assumptions about how grateful white people must feel to be in their presence – do you have black privilege?

“If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a boss’s prejudiced, uninformed “how dare she question my ideas” badmouthing based on solely on his ego and your race, you have white privilege.” Umm.. do I even need to re-state this point? I’m a white, blonde, pretty female. Almost every job I’ve ever had has assumed I was an idiot when I first started.  I cannot name one job that I’ve had where my bosses – black, white, male, female- didn’t question my intelligence in the beginning because of their prejudice and uninformed assumption based on my appearance.  I’ve worked hard to prove my intelligence, drive, and usefulness at every position I’ve ever held.  I have always been badmouthed until they like me, which happens because the ideas I question are because I know a better, and more efficient, way to do it.  When they try them, they usually work, so I earn their favor through hard work. So.. If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a boss’ prejudiced, uninformed “how dare she question my ideas” badmouthing based on solely on his ego and your <APPEARANCE>, do you have black privilege?

“If you’ve never had to mask the fruits of your success with a floppy-eared, stuffed bunny rabbit so you won’t get harassed by the cops on the way home from your gainful employment (or never had a first date start this way), you have white privilege.” I’ve dated all kinds of guys. Fully tattooed guys were a big stage of mine for awhile.  I cannot count the times that these big, tatted guys were targeted by police, door guys, and any other authority while we were out on a date. People assumed they were like biker gang thugs or trouble makers I guess.  I’ve also always hung out with people who go to music festivals and have grateful dead stickers and such on their cars.  Most of them are white guys with long hair.  It would be impossible for me to recount every example of when they were targeted by police and pulled over and assumed to have drugs in their care because they were a white kid with a deadhead sticker on their bumper.  It has nothing to do with race, it has to do with stereo-types, and there is one for almost every color and appearance.  Police play off of it, and unfortunately, they are usually right and that’s why it still continues to happen to everyone.  So.. If you’ve never had to mask the fruits of your success by not putting one of your favorite band’s stickers on your car so you won’t get harassed by cops on the way home from your gainful employment (or never had a first date start this way), do you have black privilege?

“Not having to rewrite stories, headlines or swap photos while being trolled by racists when all you’re trying to do on a daily basis is promote positivity and share stories of hope and achievement and justice – that is white privilege.”  Ok so this one time I had a website called Good White News and I was shocked at how many racist people trolled it.  No just kidding, but seriously, with that title every other race besides the one that is being reflected is going to have people troll it and make stupid racial comments.  My instagram used to be public and I put a Lil Wayne quote under a selfie once, and hashtagged his name. I got repeated black women calling me a cracker and telling me I can’t listen to hip hop and know nothing about it.  All of which I deleted. And on a side note, I lived at the beach so I believe I can relate to “Life is a beach, I’m just playing in the sand” way more than some chick from Chicago.  But seriously, since when didn’t the internet have trolls offering their expertise on everything and being racist and ignorant? So.. Is not having to rewrite statuses, captions, or swap lyrics on a selfie while being trolled by racists when all you’re trying to do on a daily basis is promoting positivity and share selfies of happiness- is that black privilege?

So ok, Ms Lori Laken Hutcherson of good black news, I’m exhausted. I am sorry for your experiences of being singled out by your appearance.  I am also sorry for mine. And his. And hers. And theirs.  So let me just re-iterate what I think it’s time we all realize in 2016:

Stereo-types, prejudice, and privilege are things that happen to every race, religion, skin type, hair color, etc.  APPEARANCE BASED JUDGMENTS ARE NOT SOLELY HAPPENING TO ONE SPECIFIC TYPE AND ITS TIME WE ALL OPEN OUR EYES. We can all be victims and capitalize on that divide, or we can all shut up and stop making it about us.  Because guess what- it isn’t all about us.  Once we start pointing out injustices based on them happening because of race, we are incorrect.  Everybody has it hard, everybody has been singled out, and everybody has been judged.  That’s society.

I’m not downplaying one instance for another, I’m just strictly not playing.  It’s all what you make it, be a target or don’t be. Just stop trying to influence people to see your suffering more than anyone else’s.

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Alive

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I told Nick once that I was going to get a tattoo of a compass, with the arrow pointing north, and only the “N” labeled.  I told him I was going to get it because it would symbolize him, that he was the “N” that I was heading towards. This was during our “weird time” as I call January-April. He told me not to and laughed at me for wanting to do that. Looking back, I question that laugh because I wonder if this conversation happened before or after he slept with someone else. Then came back to me, again.

I would have thought things would be much different than they are right now, even just a few months ago. I would’ve guessed that Nick and I would either be back together or that I would have pretty much moved on.  Well, I guess that last part would be me lying to you.  You know when you absolutely just know that someone is going to change the rest of your story, no matter how many chapters they show up in? I felt that immediately with him. I guess we all hope for the best, being humans and dependent on love whether we like it or not.  That’s one thing that always makes me laugh and want to yell out bullshit in the middle of people telling me about themselves.  We, as humans, are all hopeless romantics- men, women, cynics, realists, the whole lot of us. I don’t care who you are or what you say, there is not a single one of us that doesn’t wake up wanting to find that feeling that just makes us scream in liveliness.  We are all just searching for a purpose and, for many of us, that feeling of life and being alive is found in another person.

See, “love” as a whole is overrated to me.  Mostly a word used falsely by children in high school or people who just don’t know how to say that they just want company.  It’s used by a whole bunch of people who are scared to admit that it would be wrong to just want sex, so they tack on a whole bunch of stresses and pressures under the mask of love just to get the nod along from society. Love has become so commercialized and holds so many expectations that it has been essentially ruined.  I don’t think the divorce rate is going up because people are falling out of love.  Quite the opposite actually, I believe the divorce rate is going up because people never fell into love.  That a couple had been together having fun for such a long while that people and family and friends and movies and country songs and society as a whole began to pressure and push and pick at the relationship, until the two involved in it felt that they had to take the next step.  Now the next step for many people is moving in together, but sometimes that is even frowned upon without an engagement ring or being married.  Soon, that couple who was completely happy in each others arms has been forced into a house they don’t want, with a ring on her finger, and a general feeling of uneasiness if this was really their own choice or just what they are supposed to do. Some people don’t even realize this isn’t what they wanted until after a wedding, which tragically eventually will lead to a divorce.

So, “love” is not something I truly believe in.  Finding your kindred spirit is a completely different story though.  I believe that there are people that you will meet in your life that will teach you things that you will never forget, that their presence will nudge you towards the path that you are supposed to be on, and that being with them, even if it is only temporary, will leave lasting memories and flashbacks that are activated randomly for the rest of your life.  These people you are immediately drawn to.. as if some stronger force was pushing you and saying “this one, pay attention! they’re right there!”.  Sometimes you end up in a relationship with yours and sometimes they just become just a teacher and a friend.  The thing about it is that you love them regardless.  Your soul delights in them, it finds so many things in common that you can’t contain your excitement at the fact that someone just gets it, gets you, gets everything.  I  don’t know how else to explain it, I guess if you’ve ever met yours, you’d understand.

Not a lot of people read these days, like really read.  Not just shit books either, like Tucker Max and whatever that damn shades of grey book was, but like real books.  Books that make you feel something with authors that have talent and such a voice that you can put yourself in that exact setting, picturing that exact character, feeling those exact feelings they have put down on paper for you to feel. Steinbeck, Wolfe, London, Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Bukowski, Orwell, and the rest. There are hundreds of thousands of amazing books out there by amazing authors, and it is almost impossible to find someone who reads, like really reads.  Not just to read so they can say they read it or take a picture of them reading for instagram or to improve their “hipster” image they pride themselves on.  I wanted to find someone who read, and enjoyed reading, as much as some people enjoyed television and movies. I remember my soul cheering when I went to Nick’s apartment for the first time and saw a bookshelf in his living room with actual titles on it that meant something. I remember the volumes of national geographic that were thrown about his bedroom.

In my profession I get to eavesdrop just about every second of every shift I work. I’m a bartender, its part of the territory.  I have come to notice that the majority of my generation is just plain stupid.  Now that’s not exactly the nicest thing to say, I’m sure I have conversations from time to time that if they were overheard people would immediately question the intelligence of me and my friends as well. But there is no lack of dumbasses coming into the bar talking about absolutely nothing or things so completely vapid and shallow and just bullshit it would almost be better if they said nothing at all.  I see everything from couples filling in the silence with ridiculous, trivial conversations about this piece of gossip or that article in void to groups of friends commenting on “did you see her facebook status?” or amazing one liners like “when we’re all old and gross, we’ll be happy we have these” after taking fifteen group pictures in a row with multiple duckfaces and poses. I’d hate to be one of the girls that peak in high school or college, but apparently a large part of the population is becoming just that.  Their bodies are so tired, beat, and worn out with pores full of makeup and cells full of alcohol, nicotine, and other party substances, that I guess they really do need the multiple pictures of themselves now. I laugh because I find myself starting to like my age and how it looks on me; I finally feel like my external and internal selves are catching up to each other.  I sit there often and I question if this is really what people have become. Just so superficial and shallow and just the complete opposite of deep in any form.  There is no meaning behind anything, its all for show and social media and to fill in the “awkward” silences. Maybe I’m just getting too old for it all.  I like silence. I like real conversations that don’t include judging people or trivial gossip. I remember once, in the toyota, when Nick told me he thought we didn’t talk enough. I never thought we needed too really. I think some of the most meaningful conversations I have had in the last few years were with him. I also think some of the most comfortable silences I have ever had were with him. I didn’t want or need to fill the silences with bullshit and stupid stuff, it was nice just to be around him. I was content in our silences because between the silences I was content with our conversations.  I felt like he taught me a lot when he talked, and I felt like I taught him what I could when I talked.  Silence is amazing, it is far under-appreciated and often covered up with bullshit that just dumbs down its glory.  I still cherish a lot of memories I have of us, just sitting in silence on the couch or in the woods, passing a blunt back and forth, and thinking our own thoughts quietly to ourselves. I get scared to think that maybe he looks back at it as a weakness while I still see it as a strength. We fit together without words, and in a world so filled of meaningless ones, my soul was ecstatically wrapped in the comfort-ability of our silence.

Sometimes, it’s hard to convince yourself things are over. Sometimes, it’s not. I don’t know where I really consider myself with Nick. I can only hope he is out there hanging out with all the duckface-selfie-taking vapid girls at the bar and occasionally finding himself question if this is all there is left out there; and maybe, just maybe, looking back at the very untypical, deeper-than-most bond our spirits formed. Maybe pride will stop him from admitting it, or maybe he’ll be too drunk and easily replace me with some pretty, stupid girl that either will or won’t matter in the morning, or maybe the fleeting memory of a real connection will discourage him from being like all the other dudes at all the other bars. Maybe I took an amazing, deep, intelligent, handsome guy and transformed him into some kind of bar fly, image-prizing, womanizing asshole. Maybe that’s all he was ever going to be, or maybe that’s all he ever was and I just couldn’t see it. Or maybe, his spirit attracted another intelligent, pretty girl who sees through all the superficial bullshit and he’s happy with her like he was with me. Maybe she won’t screw it up. Like I said, I don’t really know where I consider myself with Nick. I know, right now, we don’t even speak. [His call and choice and I respect that]. I do know that yesterday I finished a Steinbeck novel and my soul longed for his the entire time I read it. I can’t say if we’ll ever talk or see each other again, but I find it hard to swallow the large lump in my throat when I think that we won’t. I do think that our paths will eventually meet back up, one way or another, regardless of if my spirit will still cheer for his, I’m not sure. I do miss his friendship and advice often.

And I do know that I got that tattoo of that compass pointing towards the N. Fuck it, I’m from Maine anyways. Should be easy enough to change the story behind it to being based on being from up north one day if the hope and longing for Nick is ever officially dead.  I don’t know if I would bother lying about it’s history though. He taught me enough that he deserves to be commemorated in ink regardless of the questionable future of us ever meeting back up. I mean, not everyone gets to meet their kindred spirit these days and I’ve seen worse, more meaningless tattoos.

12 months

When you sign a lease, you never really know how many things can change over that year. You make plans and you try to map out your life, but usually, it turns out nothing like what you planned. We signed the lease to our first place together and he had plans to propose and I had plans to accept if he ever asked. I spent a lot of time decorating and trying to make it feel like a home.. building a “nest egg” most of my customers called it. I started planning a wedding, he started planning our financial future. It was planned, everything was mapped out. The date, the venue, his job path, all planned and ready to go.

What you never seem to include in your plans are: the fights, the speed bumps, the social media lusting, the time apart that separates two people who called each other best friends, the temptations you get presented with by being a bartender, the friends who have terrible intentions for your relationship, the distance, the stress, and the toll all these take on you. Nobody ever plans a break up, especially to an engagement. When you’re caught in the spiderweb of it, you don’t even really see it coming. Maybe because it’s too close, ya know? Maybe it was just so much focus on the future and some day and a year from now that you get blindsided by the present. Maybe it was all the times that we didn’t say what we thought, that I didn’t ask for help when I started noticing other people, that he didn’t ask for help and tell me he used instagram to stare at other girls. Maybe it was pride or a lack of a true feeling of protection in our relationship that stopped us from addressing our weaknesses and struggles in our present and covering them with plans for our future.

The first night we had the keys, we had a mattress on the floor of our room, a record player and a modest mouse album, a bottle of champagne, some vodka and orange juice. We were happy. We drank to our plans. Enjoyed our new, empty house and slept in each other’s arms on the undressed mattress.

It’s funny how one year, twelve months, can change everything. I walked around the empty house, drank a bottle of champagne to honor our failure, and slept on the floor. I woke up and took one look around. Left the keys on the counter, locked the door, closed it, and left. Called the office and told them everything was out.

12 months. Huh. What a fucking difference.

“You could replace that for free”

“You know in Florida you get free windshields, right Cam?” My friend commented as he jumped into the front seat of my SUV.
“Yeah, but it’s not broken.” I immediately replied.
“I guess it’s not, but it’ll splinter soon for sure.”
“It’s been like that since December and it hasn’t. I don’t think it will.”

This is the conversation that I seem to have often with friends when I drive my car on our outings – which is very rare because my air conditioning is currently broken and we live in Florida, so I’m usually riding shotgun in their cars with the windows up while nice, cool, refreshing air streams out of their vents. There’s apparently a law in Florida that if your windshield has a crack or – in my case – a small ding from a rock flying into it, that you can get it replaced for free as long as you have car insurance.

This law really frustrates me. My windshield is completely functional. There is a ding in it that resembles a tiny bullet hole, but it doesn’t even go through the thickness of the glass. If you run your finger over the inside of the glass, you can’t even notice that it is there. The windshield is perfectly fine and still does the job that it is designed to do: it stops the wind, it prevents bugs from hitting me in the face, it blocks rain, and it protects me from dust and other little flying rocks from harming me. It has been completely reliable; the ding is proof of it doing it’s job protecting me.

See the whole ding incident happened back in December. I decided that I was going to fight for my relationship to work regardless of the foolish mistake I made to put it in jeopardy. I reserved a hotel room in Bayton Rouge, packed up Christmas presents, loaded up the dogs, took off from work, and drove ten hours straight through by myself until I arrived. I sat in the room that I had given Nick the address to, set up a Christmas tree, put his presents under it, and waited… Just waited to see if he would show up or if now my Christmas would be me and our dogs alone in a hotel room in Louisiana instead of at home in Florida. He did. We were fine like we always seem to be when we can actually just be together, in person. It’s like when we’re apart we listen to our brains and our friends and just everything negative and evil that has always tried to break us; and when we are apart from each other, all that stuff succeeds. We let everything and everyone convince us to fall out of love. Then when we see each other, it’s like all that stuff gets quieted and our hearts and all the good things in the world prevail and we are right where we left off. We feel at peace together and it’s even more than that, it’s like nothing can break us. Anything that was hard or we were angry about or worth ending over gets dismissed and it’s just us, together, peaceful, happy, and in love. I have a theory that we could make it through anything, which people don’t understand because we don’t even talk right now. But I just don’t think that they get it or I guess maybe I don’t. I’m still pretty sure it’ll all be okay.

So we spend a great week in Louisiana for Christmas. We were driving back to the room after the bonfires on the levee on Christmas Eve when a truck on the highway threw a rock into my windshield. It left this tiny crater on the outside of the glass on the passenger side. Nothing big. It hasn’t been an issue and I don’t even notice it because I don’t sit in the passenger seat.

Everybody says I should replace it. When I ask why they usually respond with things like “it’s free” or “it’s easy, they can do it in your driveway” or something about convenience. The other reasons I usually get are all about the possibility of it getting worse, that it’s past fixing and will definitely get worse so I should replace it now before it does.

These are just a few mentalities of my generation and this day and age that drive me insane. I don’t hate many things (anymore) but I do hate this way of thinking. This huge thought process of getting rid of something on the possibility of it getting worse. This annoying habit of throwing things away that are still performing and functioning perfectly fine because you can get one for free, without dings, easily. That windshields in Florida are so plentiful that as soon as even the most miniscule problem or default or difficulty pops up, just get a new one that has nothing wrong with it, and then replace that one if anything else dings it.

I’m not replacing my windshield. It’s still performing it’s job without any issues. Yes, it may not be perfect, there may be a ding. I could get another one and start over, without any dings. I don’t care how many other windshields there are here.  Mine wasn’t perfect, but is it broken enough to quit, throw away, replace? I don’t think so. I think that ding gives it character. I think that ding shows something we conquered together. I think that ding symbolizes a memory. I think that memory might not be a perfect, happy one but that I’d rather continue making more dings and risk the possibility of it spidering and eventually breaking than giving up on something that still wants to perform its part of our deal. Replacing it with a new one may be easy and convenient and there are tons of companies to choose from, but I’ll stick with what I’ve got. I have no interest in predicting a possible failure based on one imperfection. I have no interest in throwing something away that still has so, so much life left in it.

But hey, that’s just me I guess.

Aside

Moving

“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it. But you laugh inside – remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.” [Charles Bukowski]

Moving is a very monotonous thing. Tape up one box; edge to edge a few times, then across the opposite way once, then edge to edge once more, flip it over. Fill with belongings. Tape the top closed. If you’ve moved a couple of times you’ve probably learned to label it so you know what’s in there when you arrive at the new place. Repeat. Do this until all the stuff that you’ve collected is all in boxes. Most of the stuff you’ve collected you don’t even need. At moving time, you don’t even really want it. At least I don’t. Especially this move. It’s just junk. Stuff keeping me stuck here and weighing me down. Multiple little reasons in boxes why it’d be so hard to move across the country or take that job in Italy. Multiple little reasons that I needed to make this house feel like a home. Multiple little reasons that are essentially memories. Reminders. All of it. Just reminders of a lot of things that are constantly in my head everyday plus the million other ghosts that seem to live inside me now.

I decided when I was moving to try to sort out all the stuff that reminded me of what had been and to put it in its own boxes. I told myself that I was going to get rid of it all: the notes; the pictures; the flyers from North Carolina; the hotel room keys from places like Milledgeville, Georgia and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the maps of all the state parks; the hanging tags for the rearview mirror of the truck from our campsites; the cards; the bible verses on pieces of paper that used to be hidden around the house; our marriage license; our pre-marital packets; the magnets from little stores in little towns we would stop at and make friends with the owners. We were always so good at making friends together. People liked us and they liked seeing us together and strangers would often talk to us. They’d hear we were engaged, smile, probably think things in their heads about how we really were a good couple, and shake your hand and wish us well for our future. Ha. I wish I knew where half of those strangers were, so I could send them what became of our future, all perfectly packed in little boxes.

The thing about separating everything into a stack of boxes that reminded me of our life together and the other stuff I’d keep was that I soon noticed everything in this fucking house reminds me of you. The five million coffee mugs all either immediately flashed scenes of breakfasts together or thrift store shopping trips where we picked out mugs from different states. The pots were mostly yours. The Pyrex pans had been used to cook you baked ziti. The baking pans had been used to bake you stuff to take with you on all your drives. The measuring cup was yours. We picked out the oven mits. You gave me the tea kettle and it used to come camping with us. We had sex on the counter and on top of the cutting board. I quickly became completely fed up with the kitchen. I headed to the library. It didn’t get better. The couch in there is the one from the apartment you lived in when we first started dating, we sat on it on our very first date. It’s been in every place we’ve been since. The books were no better. This one you bought for me when I had my surgery, that one we both said was our favorite growing up, this one I used to read on the beach and it reminds me of you. I found two bottles of scent cover body wash on the shelf, your hunting stuff. Then a box of bullets and the shotgun plug you whittled out of wood yourself. Fuck the library, I headed back out into the living room to start packing random decorations. Then I started taking stuff off the shelf that you built. I started pulling stuff off the mantel. It took about ten minutes to be over that – all the knick knacks were from stuff we bought together. Things that we put up there together, when we moved into this house, together. Then I got hit with the worst flashback yet. I was sitting on the floor of the living room taping up a box, and I realized I was in the exact spot you proposed to me in. Packing is done for the day.

I spent weeks while you were out-of-town, making this and that. Making a headboard. Sewing curtains. Hanging this picture. Getting these candles. Not because I even really wanted that stuff, but because I was making this house our home. I was making a place for you to come home to after three weeks on a tugboat. A place you would look forward to and rush home to be in and enjoy it. I thought we’d be here for a while. We didn’t even make it our full lease. We moved it all in together, and now I’ll move it all out alone.

It is not fair sometimes. How hard I get to have it and how I get to deal with cleaning up and packing all this shit. I get why you made the clean break. Why you just left everything. Because it sucks. Every single goddamn thing in here just reeks of us, of failure, of pain, of anger, of shit. Of a waste of time and emotion. I sit here surrounded by worthless shit that means the world to me, just crying. Not even sad tears anymore really. Just tears of frustration and jealousy actually. I’m jealous you just got to leave, that you don’t have to deal with any of this, that you somehow shut off all the thoughts of us. I’m frustrated that my heart isn’t stone like yours, that I can’t just shut off the memories and the ghosts that are forever haunting my thoughts. I’m frustrated that I can’t just go to the bar and get a drink and meet a dude and not be looking around wishing you’d walk in. Wishing that every single guy there was you. Not because I even know what I’d do if I saw you- right now its somewhere in-between pouring a drink over your head, ignoring you, crying in public, or just nodding and continuing on with my night as if we were strangers- but because I still pathetically miss you. Your stupid laugh when you clench your teeth and your underbite shows, your stupid walk because your arms are longer than your torso so you kind of do this swinging thing, your stupid humor, your stupid intelligence and the way we’d just get drunk and make fun of everyone there together. Your stupid eyes, our stupid sex, the stupid way you could just put your arms around me and make everything feel better.

Fuck I hate moving. Fuck I hate you. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Dammit I miss you. Being a girl sucks.

Back to Me

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

 

Today was the first day in a long time that I realized that I am slowly becoming more like the old Cam, and I am extremely excited about it. What spawned this realization? I was talking to my friend who moved to California and just telling him about what I did today. Towards the end of my list of today’s events, he just started laughing. I am a very hilarious person, but at that particular point in the conversation I hadn’t used any humor, so I questioned what spawned his roll of laughter. He paused and said, “I missed you. It’s good to have you back. Ole happy, hippie Cam!”.

We talked for a little while longer, said our goodbyes, and hung up the phone. I really started to think about what he had said. I noticed that I had to fight the urge to laugh as well. “I am back,” I thought to myself, smiling. I knew, and felt, exactly what he had meant.

It’s hard to put your past self into words. So I’m just going to act like I’m describing a stranger who wasn’t me because it’s easier for me to articulate my former qualities that way. I’ve changed so much that looking back to the past on who I used to be is kind of like observing another person anyways.

She’s a health freak- I’m talking 100% external and internal. She doesn’t drink any alcohol or smoke cigarettes. She grocery shops in the organic section and at farmer’s markets. She makes her own almond milk, peanut butter, vegan cream cheese, and mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. She is a fantastic cook. While everyone else is sleeping, she’s at the gym. When she gets home, she meal preps. She reads a lot because she enjoys it. She doesn’t have a television because she doesn’t enjoy it. She spends as much time outside as possible. She walks her dog and talks about her like she’s a person. On the back of her dresser, which doubles as a headboard, she has hand written a million different quotes in different color markers. They range from “Live, Laugh, Love” to “Don’t waste your time and energy on feeling envy or jealousy. The race is long, and in the end, it is only with yourself”. She has the most brilliant smile and strangers often stop her at the grocery store or the bank to tell her how happy she looks. She holds the door open for people. She pulls over and helps old ladies on the side of the road carry things. She has conversations with bums about why they shouldn’t smoke when they are digging in ashtrays for stubs, but then tells them that if they are going to, to at least smoke their own and hands them money to go buy some. She is kind. She doesn’t judge or think mean thoughts towards strangers, remembering that everyone is fighting their own battle and that she honestly believes a chain of kind events towards people who need them could help end the world’s problems. She’s religious and a Christian in her heart and actions, but has no idea of that yet because a boy hasn’t given her a bible hidden in a stack of books, so her brain hasn’t learned it just yet. She glows with happiness, inside and out. It’s not an act, it’s just her. She’s fun, spontaneous, and a genuine good listener. She is a loyal friend and will get out of bed at 3 am to give her drunk ones rides, they call her the Cam Cab. She’s never in a hurry. She isn’t worried about money [which let me explain the thing is that I had way less then, I just had this weird/awesome way of knowing and trusting that everything always worked out]. She inspires people and teaches them things, and doesn’t know she’s doing it until they tell her, sometimes weeks or years later. She has plans to move to Italy to teach English. She has been applying for a volunteership to build the National Park of Patagonia and thinks that she will finally be accepted for that 6 month program this year. She believes in soulmates. She doesn’t believe in looking for them. She’s hard to tie down to one place, one person, one job, one life. Traveling makes her feel more at home than anywhere she’s ever lived. She wants to do great things; not like be famous or rich great things, but like make a difference and help people great things. She has no idea how to accomplish that.

I guess that’s the most of it. It’s crazy how far away from yourself you can become. You change one thing for one person, then you sacrifice this thing for another, then you stop doing this because of that… next thing you know describing who you used to be is like looking at a stranger. I don’t point fingers and I don’t believe in regrets. I changed because I made choices that led to decisions that lead to actions that caused these changes. It was totally under my control. It’s funny how when you stop concentrating on yourself and start focusing on someone else, how easy it is to become a ghost of the person you once were.

But today, that ghost must have jumped inside me. Here’s the events I was explaining to my friend that made him point this out.

I woke up at 5 am to drink a protein smoothie made with fruit & veggies in my blender and go to the gym for spin class at 6. After spin, I worked out more and came home. I made breakfast which consisted of eggs cooked with cottage cheese on protein toast with avocado. I walked my dogs down to the preserve and back, which is about a four mile loop. I showered, threw on a bathing suit, and went and laid out at the beach for a while. I went grocery shopping at this place called Fresh Fields Farms [amazing!] and publix. While I was there, an old man told me that I looked like one of the happiest people he’d ever seen [I was visiting fantasy land in my mind and day dreaming about some happier memories about a year ago involving an old couple, grilled cheeses, and a past publix trip]. On the way home, I saw a lady with her 3 young kids waiting at the bus stop looking hot and aggravated, so I gave them a ride. It turned out being quite the ways away, about an hour longer than expected, so when I got home I spent some time cleaning where my ice cream melted all over my car. I cleaned my house and put some laundry away. I practiced Modest Mouse “Ocean Breathes Salty” and Willie Nelson “Always on my Mind” on guitar. On Tuesdays, I started a new routine of giving myself a facial from a mask I mix up of a bunch of stuff [activated charcoal, tea tree oil, rose-water, European clay powder, honey, and aloe- try it, it makes your skin so so so smooth]. Then I started meal prepping for the week, so I made cauliflower stirfry [no rice, you use the grated cauliflower as the rice], egg fritata, peanut butter protein waffles, 7 seed protein granola bars, salad with homemade guacamole for the dressing, baked chicken stuffed with homemade spinach pesto, and some gluten-free protein donuts for a treat on my high carb days. When my friend called I was reading The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was having a bad day so the phone call started with me telling him some advice and a cheesy “Old Cam quote” to back it up. I haven’t used a quote paired with some advice in a long, long time. It even felt familiar and happy to do it; and it was awesome to remember one after so long too. Then came the laughing.

Sometimes, things happen for a reason and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. You can’t change the past. You can’t force people to love you and be with you. Today I realized that I can only look forward. I can go back to working on myself and being the person I loved and the friend I am called to be. I picked up a few new tricks during my relationship and they’ll come in handy, but it’s mostly time to revert back to the old, known, tried, and true methods. Hello, Happy Hippie Cam. Peace out negativity and fighting for things that just don’t deserve more efforts at this current point in time. Maybe one day they will, or maybe they never really did. The fact of the matter is, it’s all behind me now and all I can do is smile, accept it, and see what happens next.

Damn, I missed me.

Love Does or Doesn’t It?

Sometimes you read a book and it resonates deep, down inside you somewhere. You aren’t really sure why, but it touches your heart and soul in such a way that it seems as if the author wrote what they wrote because of you. That the connection you feel couldn’t possibly be meant for any other reader besides you; that whatever sentence or paragraph that you just read was specifically formulated for you to read, whether the author knew it or not. I read a lot (I don’t own a television and haven’t for years) and it has been awhile since I have read a book that did this to my heart. Then I was given the book Love Does by Bob Goff. I don’t know if it was the timing, or the person that gave it to me, or just the book itself that made it touch me so deeply, but it did.

I think it’s very important in life to surround yourself with people and resources who will keep you in check. Who are not afraid to tell you their opinion about what you’re doing or how you’re living without sugar-coating it or being scared to cause an argument about it. You need to have faith in and respect their wisdom, experience, and their motives. You need people around you that love you so much they will tell you when they think you are fucking up and that they believe that you need to stop. More importantly, you need people in your life who will tell you this but still stand by you while you continue on your own path and don’t follow their advice. That is why a few years back I made some changes in my friend circle; correction, I abolished pretty much 90% of it. I realized that the people who surrounded me didn’t care enough to tell me when I was fucking up, and encouraged it by doing it with me. When they did give me advice about what to do or not to do, it was almost always motivated by their own personal schemes and what benefits they would get from it. So I changed. I dropped more people than I can say without sounding like a cold-hearted person, but sometimes its ok to be selfish and this is one of the areas that I encourage selfishness.

I repeat a quote to myself often and it helps me evaluate the surroundings I’m in and the people I allow to surround me while in them. I think it’s important to stop yourself from falling back into old habits, and this has helped me stay moving forward and out of old ruts that I really have no desire of revisiting. “If you are the smartest person in the room, it is time to move on”. Some people will probably think this is stupid, but I don’t. I think that if you really think about it, it’s actually an amazingly true and accurate life motto to take on. You want to surround yourself with people who are constantly inspiring you to be better, who are teaching you new things about life, and who challenge you. Nobody knows everything. If you are ever in a place where you either think you know everything or you have learned all there is to learn from it, it is time to move on. We should all be constantly improving upon ourselves.

“I once heard somebody say that God had closed a door on an opportunity they had hoped for. But I’ve always wondered if, when we want to do something that we know is right and good, God places that desire deep in our hearts because He wants it for us and it honors Him. Maybe there are times when we think a door has been closed and, instead of misinterpreting the circumstances, God wants us to kick it down. Or perhaps just sit outside of it long enough until somebody tells us we can come in.” -Bob Goff, Love Does

I have had a lot of people who I respect, who I value, who teach me things and inspire me, who have motives that are true, and who are in amazing relationships that I one day hope I can have one similar to, tell me it’s time to move on. That I shouldn’t place any more hope in Nick or us ever seeing each other again.  That I’m a pretty girl and I’ll be fine and it’s all apart of a plan that I don’t understand yet. That continuing to stand outside this closed-door will eventually just make me miss out on other opportunities I really am supposed to take. Then I read this book. That quote. I found myself torn in-between a bunch of things: their advice, my heart, my doubts, my hope, Bob Goff’s advice, God’s subtle hints. Love is a funny thing. So is pride. So are the hints we receive from God, or the universe, or whatever it is you believe. I lived a lot of my life ignoring coincidences and I realized maybe that’s where I went wrong. Maybe they aren’t coincidences, maybe they’re important signs you are supposed to pay attention to. Maybe I was supposed to open this book that was given to me, read this very paragraph, and go with what I feel is what I’m supposed to do: believe that one day, Nick and I will get another chance. I’m not supposed to date or get numbers or sleep with other people. I’m not necessarily waiting around; my life has been filled with new experiences and adventures lately and I can say I’m very happy. I just think that the dating area in my life should be off for a while. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone else anyways because I don’t even have my heart to give to a new person, I never got it back.

The thing that I realized the other day is that I am also supposed to be teaching the people who have decided to include me in their surroundings. I am supposed to be beneficial to their lives as well and it is a 50/50 type of deal. So when I decided to turn down their advice and counsel, I realized that that really is ok. Maybe it’s my turn to teach them a few things about loyalty, faithfulness, determination, and hope. Maybe that’s why I was placed on their path, as a reminder of unconditional love and devotion. I feel like in the world we live in today it’s all about quitting and giving up and getting new things to replace broken things. I want to be an example to them that that isn’t the only way to do it. That maybe, if you try hard enough and have enough faith, it will work out. That if you stay hopeful and understanding, things that you once thought were lost or broken or destroyed can be found, repaired, and rebuilt. I know what most of you are thinking and I’m ok with it. In a world where I hardly agree with anything anybody thinks, I’d rather be looked at as foolish/naive/stuck in the past/pathetic. Maybe Nick and I will never talk again. I can’t make him come back, I can’t make him miss me, and I can’t stop him from dating and meeting someone else. I can only control my own actions and my own hope. I can have faith it will all work out. I can continue to love him and hope he finds whatever it is that makes him happy, and maybe that’ll include me.

 

Yes.

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There’s one three letter word in the English language that has a lot more power than people tend to give it. I realized this back in April when I decided to make that word a much more active part of my life. That word is “yes”. Simple enough, right? It’s a pretty common word that most people tend to use everyday. When I sat down and decided to start saying “yes” more often and more purposefully, I realized that I had been using it wrong for years. The problem is that most people use it as an answer to a question, which is what I often did. The thing about “yes” is that I think it is supposed to be used much more as an action; a promise to do something when the question is asked, and not just as a brush-off or acknowledgement of a request like it has turned into.

I realized that after being in a committed relationship that lead to an engagement for a few years, that at some point “yes” followed by an immediate action stopped existing and was replaced with saying things like “soon”, “let me check with Nick”, “let’s plan to do that”, or “definitely, I’ll call you when he gets back in town”. Before I knew it, I had done something which is very out of character for myself: absolutely nothing. I stopped working on myself. I stopped improving myself through new experiences and traveling, which is the way that I feel I grow and learn the most. I stopped being the impulsive, jump-in-the-car-and-go, down-for-anything, just-ask-and-she’s-in girl. I started waiting around. I started turning down things. I started making plans, 90% of which never happened because we never happened. Eventually, I lost my spontaneous reputation and people stopped asking me and inviting me on amazing adventures and to join in experiences. The calls from my friends became fewer and further between, then eventually stopped. My invites and questions asked became much more easier things- like a night out at the bar or a beach day drinking, which I’m at a point in my life where I really just dislike drinking as a social activity. It has lost its’ fulfillment and fun and appeal to me, so I eventually even said no to that, and became bored. Bored and waiting, all the time. I do not like to regret things, and I don’t regret very many things about our relationship, but I do regret the time I wasted and the things I said no to, for what turned out to be nothing. So after this parting of our ways at the end of April, I decided to get back to that girl I used to be. How? By saying yes and acting, not planning, but doing immediately.

The things that have happened in a little over a month have really opened my eyes to why I used to be so happy before. Yes is a very positive word, especially when it is acted out. I believe that positivity attracts positivity, I always have. One of my best friends approached me right at the end of April. A few years back I had driven across country randomly, a trip which started out as a 2 week visit to Memphis and became a 6 month long road trip coast to coast [that is the girl that I am trying to get back to.. if you could feel my heart ache for who I was back then while typing that sentence I think everyone would understand me much, much more]. Wes looked at me and said “Cam, you should drive with me to Cali and pull my last trailer of stuff out there. I’ll pay for everything and give you some money for missing work.” He moved out to Lake Tahoe in March and was back in Florida to pick up his dirt bikes and four wheelers. I immediately said “Yes”. Wes didn’t believe me, which kinda hurt to be honest. There was one time when my acceptance to the deal on the table wouldn’t have been a shock or misinterpreted as a joke. I told him yes again, and asked him when we were leaving. I got my shifts covered at work and we left 3 days later. “Yes” was as simple as that, it was a response, followed through with an action. The trip was great, not quite as long as my last coast to coast adventure, but it reminded me of a piece of myself that I had long buried and ignored.  I saw new things and met new people and got to travel. It was deep down good for my soul and began to bring back an older Cam that I wish I had never changed for anything.

The funny thing about saying yes is that once you do it, you seem to get more invitations to do new, fun, and exciting things. Which, thank my luck, have for some reason all been offered to me for free. In the last month and 13 days of changing my perspective of yes, I have: been on a cross country roadtrip, started professional guitar lessons, went to TPC at sawgrass, started violin lessons, been hiking in North Carolina, went on a camping trip to the springs, been wakeboarding, been off-shore fishing, got an amazing trainer and nutritionist, recieved an opportunity to live in Italy for a year with a job [which I haven’t exactly said yes to because that one unfortunately does require a little more planning but I am getting closer everyday], am going on a week long vacation to the Keys and staying in an amazing house in Marathon with boats & harleys, have been to the art museum downtown known as the Cummer [which I have wanted to do for a year but we never seemed to have time], and started this blog. All those things sound amazing, right? Well, ready for the real amazing part? I have actually done that entire list and have still made more money than I have spent [thank you Wes].
My advice for you: start saying yes and following through with an action and you might just be surprised at the chain of events it leads to!

 

One last thing.. for the person who I hope maybe one day is reading this, but probably isn’t. There have been a lot of hard questions I have said yes to too. Do you miss him? Do you know he’s slept with someone else already? Did you hear about St Patty’s day? Do you know he was on a date at European Street already? Do you really still love him? Do you really plan on not dating anyone for a year still? Do you honestly forgive him? Would you take him back if he showed up right now? You know that he probably is never going to show up again, he already moved on, right? You still plan on waiting?

Yes.

Life Lessons Taught by Two Dogs

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I have two dogs. As weird as it might sound, at some point in time, they became my best friends. They teach me things everyday and continue to amaze me with their understanding of my moods and needs. I don’t mean to sound like one of those crazy dog fanatics that tells you their dog’s thoughts, or their favorite toy, or their favorite treat, but I guess I am. At some point I became that lady who leaves the radio on for them when I leave, who grills them their own bones because all the ones at the store are unnatural and filled with preservatives, and who feels guilty if I don’t take them to the beach for an entire day once a week. I even celebrate their birthdays with them; which means they get a cake and ice cream [made gluten/dairy free and puppy approved], a trip to the pet store where they can pick anything out, and usually an extra long day at the beach followed by walking their favorite trails along the river.

Bear is the baby of the two, he just celebrated his 2nd birthday in March. He is a black lab and lives up to the typical lab traits that anyone who has ever had one can attest to- Bear loves two things: food and people, in that order. When Bear was picked out, his dad told me the story of how he selected him. Bear was born on a farm, where his litter lived in the barn. When his dad went to pick out the puppy he wanted, the other young puppies were out wandering around close to the people selling them. They had this big bowl and began to pour some puppy chow into it. The puppies gathered around the silver food bowl and began eating. That’s when Bear apparently came sprinting as fast as he could in his clumsy, uncoordinated puppy gallop from the barn; no doubt because he had already learned to associate the familiar ting-tinging sound of the kernels hitting the metal bowl as meal time. Once he got to the bowl, he pushed all his brothers and sisters out of the way and started feasting on the puppy chow from inside the middle of it. That’s the reason his dad picked him out of the litter. I shortly thereafter entered Bear’s life when he was about a month and a half old, and can tell you that in these past two years his personality has not changed. He is a very entitled dog; he believes he deserves everything that you have, especially food, and will head butt you, whine, or even bark at you until you share it. To say it in the most loving way possible, he’s kind of an asshole. He wants what he wants when he wants it, or he tends to whine and cry and get upset with me when I don’t allow him to partake in something. The other day I was eating a chocolate brownie [the healthy kind of course] and he began gently nudging my leg with his nose. As the remaining piece of brownie grew smaller and smaller, Bear knew his odds were growing less and less, so he began to whine and nudge harder. Now I’ve known him since he was a puppy and he is pretty much the most handsome dog in the entire history of any dog that has ever lived, so it breaks my heart not to give him a piece. I know that the brownie isn’t good for him and I don’t want him to get sick. As I finish it, he goes and lays down with a huge sigh, pouting, and ignoring me. “Bear, that would’ve made you sick and hurt you buddy,” I say to him, a reasoning that he wants nothing to do with, and he continues to whine under his breath. That’s when I learned a super important thing about life- from a dog. Maybe we want stuff that will hurt us, but we don’t know that it will hurt us and we still want it. Maybe God or the Universe or whatever your beliefs are, keeps it from us and doesn’t give it to us because they know that it will hurt us and cause us pain. Maybe we get all sad and pout when we don’t get who or what we want because we don’t understand that it’s in our best interest, that someone or something is really looking out for us by keeping them or it from us.

Reef is the dog I had first and she will be 6 years old on July 2nd. I’ve had her since she was 6 weeks old. What amazes me about Reef is how much she still loves me. I’m now 26 and I’d honestly say a somewhat put together and responsible person: I have a clean house, I rarely go out to all hours of the night, I go to the gym almost daily and feel that they deserve the same luxury of exercising often, and I do not remember the last time that I ran out of dog food without having another unopened bag in the pantry as back up. Well, 20 year old Camren was a completely different story. There were times Reef was definitely inside for 15 plus hours. There were multiple days where she ate what I ate- which sounds great except it was probably pizza or Ramon noodles or something along those lines of a broke college student’s budget. There were weeks that I didn’t walk her besides a quick bathroom run around the block. I know that almost every single set of parents out there tells their college kid not to get a dog [and parents don’t get too excited if any of you are reading this], but they are 100% right. Reef was shorted the first 3 years of her life waiting on me to grow up. Do you know what is mind blowing and amazing to me though? Reef never held a grudge. Reef was never mad at me. Reef never became bitter. Reef never acted like she forgave me and then in a fight a month later brought up the fact that I forgot to come home after work and in-between the bars to walk her or some other action she felt scorned over. She never remained angry at me although smiling and talking about how great everything was going to be only then to do some vengeful, hurtful stuff to get me back. I mean maybe she chewed up a few pairs of shoes or sunglasses when she felt she wasn’t getting attention, but that’s about it. Most importantly, Reef never left. She never even thought about leaving. She understood without questioning, she knew she loved me and she knew deep down embedded into the grains of her soul what that meant: that she was to stand by me through the good and the bad and to love me, no matter if in that moment I did or didn’t deserve it. Some people say that dogs are like their owners and they pick up certain traits from us. I believe that this is true, but sometimes I also think that the owners learn from their pets. I may have used to be selfish, hold grudges, never really understood what it meant to truly forgive someone, and been vengeful; but I can honestly say that because of Reef I am different. She taught me how to love even if the person doesn’t necessarily deserve it; she taught me how to forgive without ever being asked for forgiveness; she taught me that you never leave someone; and she taught me how to put myself second, to understand that my purpose here isn’t to make myself happy, but to live to make someone else happy.

Now, let me just reiterate that having a dog is great, having two dogs is a handful. It makes moving a pain because I’m a renter. They are expensive. I have to put their needs before mine. Both of my dogs were the bi-products of failed long term relationships. The first one, where Reef came into the picture, the boyfriend’s name was Nick. The second one, where Bear came from, the fiance’s name was also Nick. I used to have a lot of hope about maybe one day writing the x-fiance Nick back into the story, but Bear recently taught me the lesson which made me realize that probably won’t happen. I’m still on my way to accepting that and I’m okay with that. Reef and Bear will continue to teach me things about love, friendship, loyalty, and life which will hopefully eventually help me heal that wound and understand why I deserve better. In the meantime, ladies I do have some solid advice for you: do not buy puppies with guys named Nick.