I found a song that used to be my anthem back in 2010.
Almost ten years ago.
Oh, if only I could go back and whisper words of wisdom to myself back then.
I think I would whisper to her the words of this song:
“If I made my bed in Hell,
You’d come stay the night.
It matters not how far I run,
I’d still find You by my side.
If I used ten thousand words to
convince you that I’m through
You’d just call my heart a liar.
Cause I’m sick with love for You.”
Now that I’ve been alive for close to thirty years (oy vey) I’m noticing patterns in my relationships and in my spirit. I push people away. I always wrestle with an urge to leave, or escape. I’m often cold and selfish and independent. Defense mechanisms, you might say. Personality traits, perhaps. They help me in some areas in my life, but I’ve grown to know them to be flaws. They keep me from truly letting people all the way in. I can only imagine how much love I’ve missed out on in this life by just being a standoffish spirit.
But this song, (and the Psalms its written from), are a hug from my Mom telling me that I’m perfect, ya know? I can push God away as much as I’d like, but He will never stop being jealous for me. I could take up residence in Hell and He would still come to my rescue. He knows me better than I know me, and loves so completely and unconditionally. It’s overwhelming.
You are better at redeeming me than I’ll ever be at running from you.
Imagine with me that you are six years old. Your hair has never been more healthy because you aren’t in charge of caring for it. The same can be said for the rest of your life. It’s wonderful and carefree because it’s not your own.
Not to say that you don’t dream of what it will look like when it is your own. You do. But what do those dreams look like?
They’re boundless, right? The only walls around your dreams are really just your preferences, which are still being shaped, so calling them walls may not be fair.
But how do you achieve them?
Your mom, your teacher, Disney originals and the like all tell you:
Great. You’ve got that down.
Now, you’re eighteen and faced with a sudden thrust of reality. You have no idea what the rest of the tactical plan looks like. Your preferences are still not brick-and-cement-strong, but they’re at least drywall. You know you want to do something in X and that the plan is still to “believe” and “dream big.”
Life starts to move more quickly. The friendships that kind of just happened to you all of your life start to disappear. You didn’t know that you had to nurture them because you’ve never had to do that before. They just came to you and stayed and were great. Now they’re gone.
College, or the workforce, or whatever you’ve chosen at far too young of an age or brain-development-standpoint, is far different than you were told, as well. Now, it is more than studying and showing up to take tests and glue things to poster boards. (Or maybe letting your parents do your work for you.) Now it is learning how to think for yourself. How to think critically. How to make decisions for yourself with long-term implications. And it’s work. And no one told you that it would be work. Because it was never work before.
Now, you’re twenty-six. College didn’t work out. Your parents got divorced. Your hair could not be more unhealthy. The phrases “just believe” and “dream big” mean nothing to you anymore. If anything, they are your sarcastic and satirical response to your significant other when they ask how you’re coping with stress. Oh, you’re also engaged.
Like… to be married.
You’ve never been that far in a relationship before. Any type of relationship, really. Even your friendships, which have mostly disappeared at this point. Because, again, you didn’t know you had to water them. And when you figured that out, most of them were dead. Luckily, there are a few succulents in your life that survived. But your fiance, somehow, always had that figured out. You resent him for that.
“College” has shifted to “career.” You weaseled your way into something you semi-enjoy. (Maybe you dreamed big enough?) But, alas, this is also “work.” And not just, “water-once-a-week” work, but “wring-you-out-to-dry” work. (You’re also super dramatic.) When you leave your “career” at the end of the day, you are so drained that you struggle to find things that make you happy. Disney originals from your youth don’t even do it anymore.
Where are those dreams, now?
When you close your eyes before you fall asleep, your mind instantly grabs a few low-hanging fruit. Hitting the lottery so you don’t have to “work,” anymore. Or maybe writing a best-selling novel that gets adapted into a movie. That’s work you’d enjoy.
But when you’re on the precipice of actual slumber, you feel safe enough to uncover your actual desires.
And there you are, standing in front of a mirror, rubbing a protruding stomach. Your chin is glued to your chest, your eyes to your womb. There’s a life in there. One that you have the glorious opportunity to set up for success in all the ways that you feel you were cheated. One that will be so much greater than you’ve turned out to be. Smarter, savvier, more resourceful, with a stronger, harder work ethic.
You’re getting closer to unconsciousness when you see the six-year-old version of the aforementioned baby-bump. He/she has super healthy, perfect, curly hair. You are asking him/her what they want to be when they grow up. They are rattling off a wild list.
You grab their precious cheeks that you had a hand in creating in your slightly aging hands and say,
When you reach a certain age, in my case 26, you wake up early for things like a new bag of coffee and community garage sales.
It’s 8am on a Saturday. I am in an empty home coming off of a night of intense self-care. (Hair masques and face masks and teeth whitening and lots of water.) I am eager to be picked up by my married friend in her new SUV to hop around our neighborhood with another friend, scouring through other people’s things. I’m careful to dress myself casually, in my favorite long sleeve t-shirt and some leggings. I draw on my eyebrows so I look…. let’s say, approachably effortless. Manicured nails around a leather-bound thermos.
We go from house to house, street to street, in our semi-bare faces and artificially whitened smiles and tempered “Well, good morning!”’s. Most homes we encounter are raising money for charity, and not their own profit. We donate to these houses. It’s all baby clothes and kids’ toys and VHS tapes and very tired looking shoes that are no one’s size. And, of course, books.
Lots and lots of books.
My friend, Kara, whom I associate with reading among other noble, “I wish I did more of that” things, is the first of us to appreciate the books. As she is picking up works and scanning their back covers, I picture her on her blue sofa with a coffee (Even though I’m not sure she drinks it. This is my imagination, okay?) reading something she just cannot tear away from. The way I cannot be torn away from a makeup tutorial on Instagram or The Handmaids Tale on hulu. (I was able to be torn away from the book, however, well written.) The thought makes me want to rifle through the books as well. Makes me want a blue sofa. And more coffee.
I flop through the titles. Mostly hardback books. They seem sturdy and interesting. Some seem nostalgic with their turquoise type and 90’s fonts. As seems to be the aesthetic of garage sales. An homage to “a time when.” Some are familiar, only because of the movies I chose to not see made in their likeness. Most are obscure. I ask the homeowner how much for the books without looking away. “$0.50!” she shouts back. I’m wide eyed with astonishment and reach for the obscure.
“Fifty cents,” I say in my mind, imagining myself shaking my own head. They wanted ten dollars for a vase that I would have to clean and spray paint and thirty for a shoe rack. But the books are of no value to them. Perhaps they’ve already been read, or perhaps it is understood that they will simply never be read. Maybe they’ve already been downloaded onto a tablet or the audio version has been already worn out on their last road trip or during their commute. Maybe they purchased these books at another garage sale giving their profits to charity in an attempt to soothe their guilt ridden conscience. `
Maybe they were just desperate to be rid of these books. Maybe they’re all just terrible, terrible works of literature.
Either way– they’re mine now. All four of them. For two dollars. The only other thing I was able to get for fifty cents were candles, which, by contrast, are menial. Burnt and then gone forever. Lit once and then invisible after that. Their fleeting sense (scents?) of tranquility nothing but disposable.
But can the same be said for books? I’ve only reread a few books. All C.S. Lewis works. All essentially self-help in some way. But they exist, still, on a shelf somewhere in my house. I call on them when I can find nothing else to call upon. Oh, and of course, The Bible. That gets reread with every wave of spirituality that overcomes me. Usually once every few months. Never sequentially. Both works are parachutes in some crevice of my mind that get pulled in times of despair. Never for leisure. Never for recreation.
So would I ever forfeit my Bible or my Mere Christianity or my Problem of Pain at a garage sale? For two quarters? Never. But perhaps my Eat. Pray. Love. or my In Defense of Food. Actually, you could just have those if you wanted. No charge. They’re taking up space at this point….
I know what happens at the end of both of those…
It’s 8:30am on Monday. Today. I am combing through Twitter Moments as is my source of relevant news. I come across two trending articles. One, a work of devastating beauty by Ta-Nehisi Coates about Kanye West. The other, a piece on how Barnes & Noble is heading for Blockbuster status. Both are TL;DR, but, alas, I read them. A sacrifice I make for the sake of feeling superior. For being able to publicly praise them accurately. For being informed. I read them for free and with the click of a tiny “x” in an upper corner of a browser, dispose of them.
The Ta-Nehisi Coates essay inspires me to no end but also makes me feel so inadequate as a writer that I stopped writing this very post about three times. The Barnes & Noble headline evokes little emotion, but does makes me say, aloud:
“Well of course they’re going under. I can get a book for fifty cents at a garage sale.”
What a year we just had. I’m happy that the entire universe hasn’t declared 2017 a dumpster fire like they did for 2016. It was pretty eventful for me, in retrospect. I started it in a far different place than I ended it, and there were more than few constants. Sit down, grab some coffee/tea/water/liquor and lets dive into the year that was 2017. (Well, for moi.)
The Best of January:
2017 started the right way, I would say. I spent it my first New Year with Derek, at the house the he still technically “lived in.” My brother and his friends and even Brittnee came to the party and we had an epic send off of the crazy year that was 2016. This month, I also began rehearsals for A Date 2 Remember which was a charity event that featured me singing and acting. (Ha! More of that in February.) So every Sunday for about 2 hours, I drove to a yoga studio downtown and practiced becoming and actress and singer. (And made some new friends.)
I also dove into the Bible, began my love affair with La Croix, and found out I’d be going to SXSW in March. I was featured on the cover on Ready Publications, interviewed Wendy’s Social Media Team for the podcast I was co-hosting. (Hey Meredith!)
The Worst of January:
I presume, it was cold. Can’t pin point anything turrible about January. Thank God.
The Best of February:
February’s highlight was the A Date 2 Remember charity event I participated in. As previously mentioned, we put on a bit of a stage show at Hollywood Casino where I was “the Female Lead” and had a solo. The charity part came to flourish through selling tickets to this event, in which I sold the most out of everyone participating. My ENTIRE crew came, Derek’s parents came, even my brother and his friends showed up. I felt so loved and supported and special that night– it was a true standout for me.
Also: Derek’s goddaughter turned one this month, and I spent 8 hours in a hair salon getting my hair braided. LOLZ
The Worst of February:
I had a random, really fun night out with some old friends, Lauren and Nola, that actually bummed me out because I think this is the last time I hung out with them. 😦
The Best of March:
This was a big month for me. I went to Dallas and Austin, TX for the SXSW conference and ended up getting a tattoo, hearing some talks that just inspired the shit out of me, and doing a live podcast panel during the conference. Derek and I also celebrated one year together, so that was a big deal.
The Worst of March:
This was the month I had the epiphany that… I wasn’t going to be a fit for the job/culture/environment I was in anymore. The next few months would be a lot of just feeling uncomfortable, panicking, and doing everything I could to make some changes, career-wise.
The Best of April:
APRIL was crazy. Hello spring. Derek and I were lucky enough to be a part of our friends’ surprise engagement in Athens, OH. (Video and blog post here.) We celebrated another friend’s pending nuptials with a bridal shower. Easter was spent in Perry County, and TRONFEST ruled the month. We spent 2 days in the wilderness, in a sweet-ass cabin, with all of our friends, having the GREATEST time ever. (Hot tub, anyone?)
Also, I got back into modeling part-time. Shoutout, my calf muscle.
The Worst of April:
I was still struggling, internally/silently, at work. Add to this that Derek and I had made the decision to move in together and started actively looking for places to live. In GRANDVIEW. I was stressed, stressed, stressed.
The Best of May:
It seems as the temperature increases in Ohio, so does our schedule. May was a good representation of that. I had my first, legitimate Athens experience for our friend Marie’s bachelorette party. That was an AMAZING weekend and one of the highlights of the summer, for sure. (I got introduced to my new favorite drink: the Hot Nut.) I attended The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio’s Keyholder event, I tried to start doing lunges with Derek (ha!), and I moderated a panel for the American Advertising Federation – Columbus Chapter. Oh, and more modeling, spent Lauren’s birthday exploring my old stomping grounds, and Derek and I found our current home! (Which we’re obsessed with!)
The Worst of May:
This was the month that my career frustrations came to a head and I made the decision to leave my job. That was the best and hardest part of the year for me. I was terrified of transitioning but unable to continue to properly function under 24/7 stress. Happy to report that I’m back to being a normal human since leaving.
The Best of June:
Ready? Me too.
I dropped $80 on Hot Nut shots at a bar in Polaris for Steph’s Birthday because, for some reason, I thought Athens prices just transferred? (Lol, they don’t. But totes worth it.) Derek and I move in together, officially. My not-so-little cousin Morgan graduates high school. MARIE AND DENNIS GET MARRIED! (She was seriously the most gorgeous bride I’ve ever seen.) I get ombre braids, and the baby fever starts to bubble up.
The Worst of June:
I started my new job like on June 1, I believe, and was still transitioning out of my old job, so that was just a chaotic and stressful time. And during those times, I write.
The Best of July:
July meant lake days, grilling out, and the first party at our new place! I hopped on a pedal wagon to celebrate Rachael’s bachelorette party, went to the Columbus Commons to see Common perform, and continued with the modelling stuff. I also dove head first into my new job and was really starting to enjoy it. I realized this month what work/life balance actually means (thank God) and prioritized the things that make me happy.
Can’t forget the other most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen in my life, Rachael. Their wedding was amazing and beautiful and Derek even swallowed his 6-month-long-nerves and gave a Best Man toast.
Also, more modeling.
The Worst of July:
My lease at my old place expired this month, so Derek and I had to clean that place out, which absolutely sucked butt. But it also meant I was done paying rent at two places, so that was kinda good? Oh and we sold the kayaks. RIP.
The Best of August:
The modelling things starts to pay off when I get featured in an art exhibit called Ten by Three, that ultimately ends up in 614 Magazine. Wedding SZN continues with The Russel wedding. My brother and Derek both turned 29 this month. Derek’s birthday was spent at the Lake and also at Pins, which was a lot of fun. I think we may have attempted a Zoombeezi Bay trip this month, as well, and ended up getting rained out.
On the Brand-of-Kelsea front, the modelling continued and I ran a giveaway on my Instagram with some other Columbus bloggers that really ramped up my Instagram game.
The Worst of August:
Game of Thrones ended.
The Best of September:
Did you know that Wedding SZN never ends? Lol, jk. Had a great time at another friends wedding where Jackie and I low key peeped that Rachael was pregnant again, when she passed on the free wine. (We were right.) Speaking of weddings and Jackie, I decided to third wheel it to a wedding expo with her. That was very overwhelming but also very fun. But onto the pinnacles of September: The First Annual Grandview House Crawl which you can read all about here, and my trip to Santa Monica, CA, which you can also read all about here.
ALSO: DEREK AND I STARTED OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL!!! Our first, very cringey video is here.
Also ALSO: The modelling game went into overdrive in September. I did a stylized shoot with my friend Stef, continued working with Nuts for Ohio, and more! I even got invited to a blogger event hosted by Columbust Stories and Bexley Yoga. (It was legendary. Yes I have a video of it, here.)
The Worst of September:
I attempted to eat the ketogenic diet and 100 Days of Yoga. Why is this in the “worst” section of this month? Because I sucked at both. I did keto (and felt amazing) for probably around 2 or 3 weeks, which is just a little shy of how much time I devoted to my 100 Days of Yoga challenge. Ugh. I can’t commit to anything.
Also: as modeling and YouTubing ramp up, blogging dies a slow, painful death. That makes me sad.
The Best of October:
October was brought to you by an early birthday present from Derek: my Canon Rebel! This meant random photoshoots with my favorite photographer, Derek, and more YouTube videos than our very small channel could handle.
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I also spent an entire weekend at a pumpkin patch. (Yes, really.) I did a photoshoot for Balm Skincare at Lynd’s Fruit Farm and the following morning went back to the same spot to have some fun apple picking and pumpkin picking with friends!
Derek and I go Axe Throwing and I suck so bad at it, it’s unreal.
The Best of November:
My Birthday Month! Thanksgiving! The greatest month of the year!
Derek and I take our first vacation together and hit up New Orleans, Louisiana. Here’s the details on that trip: blog and vlog. We spend Thanksgiving with both of our families, which was great, and went HAM on Black Friday.
The Worst of November:
Derek and I both going blonde. (Actually, I kinda pulled it off. Derek on the other hand…)
Oh and I’m closer to 30 than I am 20. So, that blows.
The Best of December:
Girls Night in the Buckeye Vodka party bus, an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party, speaking at Tonnisha’s Respect the Hustle Event, and, oh yeah, Christmas! December was lit, for the most part. I had an amazing holiday season that was topped off with Derek and I hosting our first New Years Party together. It was a raging success, and, of course, we vlogged it all here.
The Worst of December:
We celebrated my birthday on the first weekend of December, and I was conscious for maybe 20 minutes of it. Let’s just say, I don’t think I’m allowed back in Grandview Cafe anytime soon. Yikes.
Speaking at OSU PRSSA, ALL of the great TV Derek and I consumed this year, including Homeland, Vice Principals, Stranger Things, Breaking Bad and WAY more, volunteering at TedX Columbus event (meeting Piper Kerman), joining the Bad Bish Netowrk (again, kinda), Tegan’s first birthday, The Girls on the Run 5k, passing out candy on Halloween, my Peer to Peer group, and all the new friends I made.
Here’s the biggest lessons I’ve learned during my 25th year, and will carry with me into Year 26.
I do not get to tell anyone else what should or should not matter to them.
This is kind of an abstract idea that is hard for me to articulate. I think the very divisive political climate brought this epiphany onto me. Actually, the political climate brought a lot of these ideas to my forefront. I saw a lot of “groups” (That I would consider myself a member of. Political groups, race groups, gender groups, religious groups, etc.) clinging to causes/ideas that they saw as THE most important– or at minimum, more important than others. Obviously, moving through the world as a black woman, the sexism and racism happening in the world were paramount issues to me. But to others, those were not important issues at all. Do I get to run into their face and tell these people that they need to start caring about something because it is negatively impacting me? No. I can hope that they would see my struggle and empathize, but I cannot make someone, or even be angry with someone, for not walking through the world the same way that I do. Further, I would be livid if someone demanded I adopt their worldview.
It seems silly and simple, but it’s about identifying someone’s capacity to empathize. And vice versa. And recognizing that I cannot argue or force someone to empathize with me. (And vice versa.) I will continue to be as vulnerable as possible, so that you all can understand my worldview as much as possible (if you want to). And I would implore you to do the same.
We all have a choice in this, is what I’m saying. Which is what is so beautiful about it all. About our country, about our world, about this period of time. We all get to decide which hills we’re going to die on, for which causes. Freedom to decide. Freedom to investigate. Freedom to be vulnerable. Freedom to empathize.
Choosing to live an unhealthy lifestyle is a selfish delusion.
This is a new revelation. I’m not a healthy person, at all. I’m lazy. I’m often tired. I eat out for every single meal. I’ve often saw this as “my” thing, and actually kind of funny. (Oh, I eat baconators everyday and I’m still skinny! Tehehe!) But here’s the reality of the situation.
There are a TON of diseases that I am genetically predisposed to that a healthy lifestyle will protect me from.
One day, in the distant future, I am going to have to pay for all of these baconators and drunken nights, and lack of exercise.
That same day, in the distant future, someone else is going to have to take care of me. Whether its my future kids, future grandkids, Derek, or whomever. It’s not going to be me.
So, making some lifestyle changes today, (I’m not committing to anything here. Like, minimal stuff. Like actually cooking my food sometimes, yoga a couple of days a week, drinking water, not drinking as much, not smoking, etc.) is an act of love to a bunch of people that don’t even exist yet.
Mental Illness is crazy.
I don’t think I’m like swimming in the waters of a mental illness, let me be frank about that. I do believe I’ve put on the bathing suit and taken a dip, though. And I hated it. But I also now understand how freezing cold that water is and can empathize better. Which is all i want to do in this life: empathize. Now, when someone openly admits to me about their depression, or their ongoing struggle with anxiety, my mind does not shut an imaginary garage door and say “Oh well idk bruh, sorry. Take a nap or something.” Now my brain flashes back to crying on our sofa, and Derek trying as hard as he can to make me feel better and it just ultimately making me feel worse, and this seemingly endless cycle of darkness and sadness and crying– and I kinda know what they’re going through. And I can say something a little more meaningful or offer a tiny sliver of advice or comfort. Now, I can empathize!
Saying “I’m sorry” is more important than being right, 99.9% of the time.
I haven’t learned this fully, yet. I’m aware. Derek has been involuntarily beating this into my head our entire relationship. I’m realizing that being in a relationship with me is a sacrificial, thankless job. He swallows his pride a lot, apologizes a lot, bends over backwards, etc., just for me to be pissed about watching The Cavs for the 18th night in a row. But, legitimately, every time we find ourselves disagreeing about something, every time my mind is going through the maze of how RIGHT I am and how WRONG he is… his mind is already on “I just want to not fight anymore” street. He apologizes first. I feel like an asshole, first. We get over it and that’s that.
As I’m trying to peel back my stubbornness to be more like Derek and less like my father, I’m wondering what other areas of my life would benefit from saying sorry first. And to tie into the above lessons, perhaps to those who see the world differently than I do, to those I’m quick to judge for their lifestyle choices, and to those who are suffering from illnesses that none of us can see.
My identity shouldn’t be wrapped up in this exterior.
I was taught a lot of important lessons without my parents or teachers actually plainly laying them out. I don’t think my mother every explicitly told me “Go out into the world and knock it on its ass and be independent.” But the way she lived her life said that to me, everyday. In the same way, when I came home from 4th or 5th or whatever grade, crying my eyeballs out, because I realized I was ugly– she taught me that there was nothing ugly about me. That the things I hated about myself, I should be proud of– even if no one in my life looked like me.
This lesson isn’t to say that I should ignore the above lessons, or not be proud of my exterior. This is just to say that they shouldn’t define who Kelsea is. I am proud of being black and of being a woman and of being an American and of being a Christian. But I am more proud of my creativity and spontaneity and integrity and compassion. And if I focus, too closely, on the outside, the inside falls away.
So how do I combat that? Vulnerability. Empathy. Trying to see every person I encounter for the things I’m not supposed to see them for. What is this person’s intent behind what they’re saying? Why does this person like me? Why does this person not like me? What makes this person unique? How can I help this person? What’s the best way to love this person?
All of those answers will never come from anything on their outside.
Columbus, OH is the greatest city in the world, and my forever home.
I spent some time in Santa Monica, CA, Austin, TX and New Orleans, LA this year. All wonderful cities. All cities that made me wonder a lot of stuff. Questions like:
Should I have moved away from Columbus at some point in my life?
Will I regret having never lived somewhere else?
What have I missed out on by staying in the same city for my entire life?
Let me clarify that I lived in Lexington, KY for a year– but that kind of doesn’t count because I spent the entire time on UK’s campus. But, outside of that, this city has been my home for 25 years. I know it like I know the back of my hand. I remember what it used to look like, I remember desperately wanting to leave, and I remember falling in love with it again when I turned 21. Most of my family is here, my memories are here, and I believe my future is here.
How did I come to this conclusion/decision?
At the end of the day, Columbus, OH is a lot of things: inclusive, optimistic, gorgeous, exciting, thriving, fun. But it is one thing that no other city is: it’s mine. I drive past the hospital I was born in, weekly. I have memories from every stage of my life in this city. This city made me. It’s woven into the fabric of my DNA. And no other city could ever beat home.
I’ve been in a weird place, content wise, lately. Have not been the least inspired to write. (Which… ya know… is not normal.) Possibly because I’ve been expending all of my creative energy on our new YouTube Channel! Derek and I have grown this thing from the ground up and I couldn’t be more proud of it. It is insane how many people support us by watching, subscribing, commenting and liking our videos. We’re having a lot of fun being a part of the YouTube community — but, like I said, it’s come at the cost of this little ol’ blog.
I’m going to try to stay true to my first love, writing. I promise.
Which is why I’m here, now. Derek and I recently took a four day trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was our first get-a-way together, and my first time in the city. We filmed a video about our trip that you can watch here:
But, here, on my sacred blog, I wanted to talk to you about what really happened in New Orleans: where my emotions were, what my heart was telling me, the electricity of the city and the sparks that continue to fly between my beloved and I.
Let me begin by saying that I am a nervous flyer. Flying in my adult life has always meant being alone or with coworkers. Never with someone I care about. Never someone whose presence comes with peace. Those were the souls I was frantically trying to text before I lost service.
“Taking off. Love you so so so much. Call when I land. Love you. Did I say I love you?”
But, this time, my Fortress of Strength and Peace was sitting next to me and playing Migos to get “pumped up” for take-off. Being suspended in air above God-knows-where still put my stomach in knots, but instead of imagining how terrified I would be if the plane went down, I was imagining Derek heroically finding parachutes for the two of us and busting out a window or something.
So, that was nice.
If you watched the video, then you know we didn’t have a set plan for our time in NOLA. It was more-or-less just wandering around, being tourists and enjoying not being cold. My free-spirit enjoyed this lack of structure, but I think Derek wanted an itinerary, as he kept making short-term ones. He’s the yin to my yang.
We spoke a bit in the video about the house we stayed in, and even incorporated a tiny tour, but I’d love to speak more about it, here.
It was a small house, and everything about it told you it was old. The very weird layout, the tiled porch floor, the narrow front door, the ivy fashionably inviting itself to every corner. Oh, and the smell.
Derek will tell you that he didn’t think our Airbnb was the cleanest place in the history of the world, but I will tell you that things like that don’t bother me as much as they probably should. The house, I don’t believe was dirty or in poor keeping, but just old.
It smelled old. It smelled like my Nana’s house in West Virginia. Like someone had built it out of necessity a long, long time ago, and it had been passed down. A lot. And everyone that had ever lived in it had just made the best of it, adding special things to it and taking some “freshness” with them when they left. It smelled like it had memories and stories and parties and sleepy Sundays. It smelled lived in. It smelled like someone’s home.
It was a smell that you got used to, but that poked you in the face every time you went out into the world and came back inside. Derek thought it smelled wet. Maybe that was it.
Regardless, that place was our home for four days and three nights. My favorite part of it was the porch.
The first thing that caught my eye was the porch swing, which, I consider to be a sign of my relationship with D. You know how some people see a penny on the ground and consider that a sign from a dead relative? Or how anytime I see a giraffe, I instantly think of my Mother who collects everything with a giraffe on it?
Porch Swings = Derek and I, in my mind.
Why, you ask? Simple answers there.
Derek’s home for a many number of years had the most ballin porch of all time. And before I even knew who Derek was, our mutual friend Colin would tell me about their porch and this porch swing. And how he would come home from work and his friends would just be on the porch having porch-beers. Or about the time he came home and there was a swimming pool inflated on his porch.
Once Derek and I were knee-deep in love, the porch swing was where I’d chill and eat sushi on weeknights while he ate something healthy and we talked about God-knows-what. Or it was where we sat on Saturday mornings and sipped coffee after spending the night together. It was where I got to know his roommates and where I wiggled my way into conversations his friends were having while we were all pre-gaming.
One coffee-filled morning on that porch, perhaps on that porch swing, I told Derek that if he was ever going to propose to me, he should do it on that porch.
Of course, as it regards proposals, I was expecting one at every turn of this trip to New Orleans. I had rationed it all out in my head. That was why he wanted to go to that restaurant, or why he packed that shirt or why he kept leaving the room when he was on the phone with his parents. It was coming. I felt it in my bones and in my heart and in the gloriously warm Louisiana air.
But then, it wouldn’t be a surprise, right?
Would I cry?
Omg, what if I don’t cry?
My nails aren’t even looking that good…
When Derek convinced me to rally on Sunday night so that we could go to the bar that EVERYONE was telling us we had to go too… my suspicions began to rise.
When he changed out of his casual apparel for a button up and khakis, my suspicions grew even higher.
And when we reached the top floor of the Pontchartrain hotel and saw the jaw-dropping view… I was convinced.
It’s going to happen.
He’s going to propose.
We ordered proseccos and breathlessly took in all of New Orleans, Louisiana on that comfortably warm night. Derek looked pensive and I was making comments on how romantic all of this was.
And then he turned to face me and made soul-piercing eye contact like only he does. Before I knew it, my hands were in his hands and his gaze was shifting to his pocket.
It’s totally happening.
I felt blood rush to my face and I started to lose control of my jaw. But just before I could commit to tears, Derek started to smile… and then laugh… and then hit me with a “I’m just kidding.”
The day Derek and I spent intoxicated on Bourbon Street was definitely the most fun. Obviously. You know how porch swings are my symbol for our relationship? Vodka Diets might be another symbol. I know my Mom’s not gonna love reading that, but, I mean, it’s the truth. We had a lot of fun. And I think it was because we weren’t worried about anything except for having fun. And nothing says “I just want to have fun” like vodka mixed with anything.
If you caught the video, you saw me failing at riding a mechanical bull. I barely remember that. You also caught us talking about the random girls we ended up hanging out with. They approached us on the dance floor of one of those popping-at-four-PM-dance-clubs to tell me that Derek looked like a hot Huck from Scandal, and to tell Derek that I was gorgeous. Flattery got them everywhere, obviously. I told them I looked gross, because I did. I was wearing an Homage sweatshirt and Nike cropped workout pants and tennis shoes. They contested and I don’t really remember the rest. But I do remember ubering home that night and ordering Subway from Uber Eats and talking to Derek about every thought that floated into my mind, and vice versa. I remember staring into his eyes and just thinking, “this is all I want.” Subway and Derek.
Leaving NOLA was bittersweet, obviously. I wanted to be in our own home, so badly. There’s nothing like going away to make you love home. And, usually when I travel, “home” just means Derek. His arms and his smell. But this trip made me realize how much I love my actual house. Er… townhouse. The concrete walls and the cold wooden floors and our leather couch and the way our TV sits on the non-functioning-fireplace-mantle. I just wanted to exist in my space. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time. Not since I was little and lived at home with both of my parents and my brother. I thought that was noteworthy.
However, leaving vacation meant facing my bank account and work the next day and alarm clocks and… worse of all… not spending all of my time with him.
Luckily, I guess, our flight got delayed. We spent our Monday in Louis Armstrong airport, taking turns watching the bags and running around to get food or stretch our legs. I tried to pretzel myself in one of those bus-bench-like chairs in the terminal. It obviously did not work.
The flight home was cold and even more nerve-wrecking than the flight there. Derek dozed off but I was too scared to fall asleep.
His parents met us at the airport. They were third in a long line of headlights waiting to take someone home. His mom opened the door and sort of squealed when we got close enough to the car. They lovingly drove us about 25 miles back to our neighborhood and insisted on taking us out to eat.
I fought off fatigue with a hot dog and chilli cheese fries that I split with Derek’s dad. Comfort food. We talked little about the trip and instead decided on things like Christmas presents. (We’re getting them a coffee maker.)
And that was it. They took us home. To our candles and our shower and our normal smelling house and to each other. Where we belong.
My relationship with coffee, is, what I would assume to be, the same as one’s relationship with cigarettes.
Sure, my head aches in withdrawal and my mind is foggy before I consume– but it’s really my heart that hurts without it. Coffee is my favorite ritual. Its hypnotic scent casts me into a spell of invincibility and opportunity. Just holding it in my manicured fingers is the same comfort level of my fuzzy bunny slippers or a back massage after a Tuesday full of conference calls.
It’s my biggest, little pleasure.
When Derek and I first started dating, he would make us coffee to drink together on his all-too-picturesque front porch. We’d sit there and sip and smile and just talk. Still so in love with finding out everything we could about each other. We were morning breath and bedhead and oversized clothes.
And we were perfect.
Coffee, like cigarettes, (I imagine), is an acquired taste. Obviously. No one is born with an affinity for South American whole bean dark roast. (At least, I don’t think they are? Maybe that explains all of this…) I discovered coffee early on, like you did, I’m sure. My mom drank it. My grandmother had a half-consumed pot in her kingdom of a kitchen that I spent endless after-schools in. It smelled weird and I knew I wasn’t allowed to have it… which just made me want it more.
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In 7th grade, Kelsea The Teacher’s Pet Wiggins as I’m sure my classmates must’ve called me behind my back, was summoned to run errands for certain teachers. “Because I could be trusted,” I would tell myself.
Because I’m better. I really thought.
Regardless, my pretentiousness led me to the teachers lounge on more than one occasion to fetch afternoon coffee. (Something I’d learn a LOT about during my time at advertising agencies.) During the stillness of the forbidden teacher’s lounge in the middle of the afternoon, I’d concoct an extra cup of “coffee” (if you can even call 4 month old pre-ground Folgers that) for myself. It was really 1 part coffee, 8 parts sugar, 15 parts creamer.
And it was delightful.
When I joined the workforce at my first “big girl job” I would make coffee as an excuse to be away from the isolation of my cubicle. My whimsical mugs were the ultimate social ice-breaker. I’d stop by my coworkers desks and ask them if they’d like to accompany me to grab a “pick me up.” And, like cigarette smokers, (I assume), we’d have precious conversation that unveiled to me the nuances of office politics. So and so doesn’t really work after 2pm, she’s just on amazon, shopping. IT knows this because they have access to all of our computers. So and so is getting fired soon. Can you believe so and so wore THAT to work today? Did you see so and so on their phone during that meeting? RUDE!
But I was still just a social coffee drinker.
Coffee was just something I did to feel older and look cool and pass the time.
Like cigarettes. I’m assuming.
Then, one day, you know, you blink and you’re in your mid twenties, and your job is no longer a meaningless social game and your life is no longer a barrage of blacked out nights on Park Street and blowing your rent money on brunch and club clothes. You have a career that you care about and ambitions you’re nurturing. And there’s this human at your apartment after your day full of over-grinding at your career who like for real loves you. And you need something to legitimately drug you into motivation in the mornings because you’re legit giving 10,000% daily. And the 8 packs of Spelnda slowly turn into one or two teaspoons of stevia. The french vanilla creamer turns into a baby-splash of almond milk.
At least that’s how it happened for me.
Our first Christmas together, Derek and I, was magical, to say the least. I was in my tiny one-bedroom apartment on the Scioto River. We put up an all white Christmas Tree, aka the tree of my dreams. We made our first “holiday” plans as a couple. Derek spent Thanksgiving with my family, so I would spend Christmas with his. We exchanged gifts before making the snowy trek to New Lexington. It was a song and dance of anticipation and excitement and “do you like it?” and “you can exchange it if you want” and “omg babe you shouldn’t have.”
That was until I opened a large box that he had gifted to me.
It was a coffee maker. Stainless steel. But not any coffee maker. It had a built in grinder and a timer and a digital clock and everything.
And it was perfect.
I could buy that $60 6lb bag of black gold that I drank every day (and into the evenings) at the ad agency I worked at. I could pulverize coffee beans and make excessive amounts of my favorite delicacy whenever I wanted. Derek and I could go back to sleepy Saturday mornings outside, nursing piping hot mugs and talking about everything and nothing.
Cause that’s what coffee is to me.
It’s stupid and it’s important. It’s food for my soul and a death sentence for my teeth. It reminds me of who I am and who I want to be, but also what I wish I could change about myself. It starts me and ends me. It fuels and crashes. Soothes and irritates.