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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bittersweet Memories & Living on Dreams

Well, I know it's been a while since I've posted anything, but I'm a big believer of blogging only when something of value happens--and something interesting enough for people to want to actually read. My days are pretty routine; I work all the time--and still love it--and spend most of the rest of my time at home reading, cleaning, chatting, or occasionally out shooting pool with work buddies. There is very little variation in my day-to-day, and that's typically how I prefer it.

Every once in a while, spicing it up a little is nice though--and thus my trip (with my parents--gulp) to visit my brother in North Carolina over Memorial Day weekend. I had a ton of fun, but surprisingly I didn't think it ended too soon. By the time we packed up to head back to Chattanooga, I was ready to get back to work and my friends...and my boring day to day. The first and last days of the trip were travel days (the trip was about 10 hours one way), but luckily my Dad actually let us all rotate driving, so we each drove roughly 3-4 hours of the trip each way. In the past few years, I've developed motion sickness I just didn't have in the past, so it was nice to not be confined to the back of the car for the duration of the trip. Plus, both times I drove, we cut major time off the trip. Once we arrived on Thursday, we had 3 full days to visit, and we filled them up with beach time, a good meal out and a different place for dessert, deep sea fishing, shopping, lounging...and just hanging out together. My brother lives with his girlfriend, Hannah, on North Topsail Island--a little more than an hour outside of Wilmington. Let me just tell you--Hannah is the coolest person ever. I met her at Christmas, but that visit was very schizophrenic as they only stayed a couple of days and I had to work a lot during the holidays (naturally), so I didn't get to really hang out as much as I would have liked. Also, Hannah's dog Mizzie, who spent a very excited white Christmas with us, had to be put to sleep as she kept getting sicker and sicker seemingly without cause (most likely cancer). This all happened just days before we visited, so it made it sad in a way, but I'm glad we were there to keep her mind off of it. Besides my brother's happiness, I selfishly hope they end up getting married just so that I will have a totally kick ass sister in law. Most of the weekend, she was the one who kept me sane.

Until I got back from NC, I hadn't really thought of how long it has been since we had a family vacation of any sort. The soccer trips that occupied much of my childhood ceased to play a major role in my life starting when I got involved (heavily that is--I've played sports most of my life, but the importance of soccer to my brother didn't find a place in my life until I joined the cross country team when I was 15) in my own activities and branched off into those worlds. My brother graduated high school in 2001, but we stopped going on a large number of soccer trips when I was about 11 or 12, or when he was around 15 and played Baylor soccer instead of on the traveling teams. So, in all honesty, my family hasn't spent a lot of time together somewhere other than Chattanooga in a pretty long time. When I was growing up, we went to Jamaica, Cancun, the Bahamas, Florida (soccer related and not)...all before I entered high school. In fact, the trip I took to California is March marked the first time I ever went on a plane both as an adult and by myself; it had been more than 10 years since I'd been on one period. Family dynamics are different when the children are not yet in their teens (or just entering them) and when they are in their 20s. I love my family, but they absolutely bring out the worst in me. As I've gotten older, my temperment has evened WAY out compared to how I acted (and reacted) in my youth. Partly, this happened as my hormones evened out, but working in customer service for 10 years also has a lot to do with it. My parents--and now my brother it seems--don't see this at all. I spent a large chunk of the weekend being reminded of the flaws I've spent a lifetime trying not to beat myself up over, only this time my brother sided with my parents instead of me. Like I said, thank heavens for Hannah. I imagine we would be friends regardless of her relationship with Brent had we met randomly or whatnot. What a relief. Of course, I can't be too hard on my brother. We have the same parents, and we both have depression, anxiety, and ADHD issues whether my parents choose to believe that or not. It's tough to never feel good enough, and I think that played a big role in him taking their sides of many arguments. At least, I hope that's the case.

The vacation itself was amazing, with great food (and some shopping!) and company and sunshine and lots of time to sleep. I needed it more than I realized, and I think the extra rest made me that much more eager to put the extra energy to work. Which reminds me--THEY DON'T HAVE A COFFEE POT. W.T.F. Anybody who knows me totally knows that I'm not exaggerating when I say I drink the equivalent of at least 8 shots of espresso everyday (I blame the fact that the cafe is right beside me). It was wonderful overall though, and I have a cute shot glass and magnet to remind me. Also, the new grown up Kelly has already sent them a thank you card--THANK YOU VERY MUCH. ;)

As eager as I was to get back, and as happy as I became the second I walked in the door at work on Tuesday morning, I knew changes were fast approaching. Riley, my favorite current manager--and probably my favorite one of all time--is moving (to NC oddly enough, though a different part) and it makes me so sad I'm not even sure how I will react once it sets in. He was very much the reason I was hired to begin with, and I have countless memories of inside jokes, late night clean ups when a corporate visit was imminent, trips to play pool, singing along with whatever random song came into his head (and sounding awful by comparison as he has an amazing voice), after work Steak 'n' Shake visits, pep talks, smoke breaks, laughter, bear hugs when I was sad or frustrated or both, and so much more that could never adequately be put into writing. He is an incredible person, and a great boss, and he will be missed more than he will ever know. I only hope that he stays in touch, and once in a great while pays us a visit. There are some people that you just have to know for the rest of forever. And he is definitely one of those people. His last day is tomorrow, and a few of us are trying to think of a good going away present. Fingers crossed we come up with something perfect.

As if that weren't enough, I only have a few weeks to recover from Riley's departure before Brandi also moves away. She is headed back home to Oak Ridge, so at least she is much closer and therefore highly likely to visit--and often (I hope).'s going to be very, very hard to see her go. When you spend as much time at work as I do, and build the majority of your friendships around that environment, there are certain things that can only be understood by the people who live it day after day, year after year with you. Brandi had only been working there for a few weeks (or maybe a couple of months) when my 24th birthday rolled around. After they closed that night, she and Riley came out to buy me a drink and sing some karaoke with me--or so they thought. I was so sloshed by the time they arrived that I was a heaping mess of sobs instead of the party I'd been--oh--45 minutes earlier. Riley made sure I was okay and got me water and sprite, and went in to sing. There are few things I remember from the later part of that evening, but I heard his booming voice for sure--though what he was singing I can't recall. Brandi, who had only intended to drop by to wish me a happy birthday and buy me a drink, ended up staying for well over an hour as I poured my heart out to her--to this day I don't know entirely what all was said but she's never told a soul any of my secrets--before making sure I had a ride safely home. After that, she became one of my closest friends, though knowing my past and the number of things I could have--and probably did--say, she would have every right to, at the very least, avoid becoming uber close to me. Instead, she gained respect for me and what I've lived through and learned. Even now, there are few people who go above just acceptance and actually admire who and what I'm becoming even still. She is such a special person, even though on the surface it seems the only things we have in common are a love of Friends (ie the TV show) and a shared obsession of all things Harry Potter. She never shies away from talking politics and she is a firm atheist, and I avoid political discussions at all costs and am very much a Christian. None of that matters somehow, because we both seem to unconditionally love our friends and are deeply fascinated by people in general. For some reason, our friendship totally just works. Going from seeing a friend around 4 or 5 times a week to maybe that many times in a year is never easy, and it will be especially hard when she leaves because I'm certain I'll never meet anybody who so easily and completely accepts and loves me for who I am and not what she thinks I should be. Sure, we disagree, and there are topics we simpy avoid all together, but the things that matter most in my life--trust, honesty, hope, faith, respect, love, friends, and fun--seem to matter in hers too. What's more, most of our conversations happen in the little "window" between the register and the cafe when we used to work together at night--our schedules actually made it pretty hard to meet up outside of work to hang out and chat, and I could probably easily add up the number of times completely un-work related hang outs even happened. Of course, that's even more incredible--so few words, and so much understanding. I'm so blessed to have her as a friend, and even more so that she considers me one, and I know that we will stay in touch for years to come--but it doesn't make the immediate sadnes disappear. I'll miss her just the same.

I used to fear change with such intensity that it made me physically ill and threw me into a state of depression for days. As I've grown up, I seem to be able to take it a little more in stride. Perhaps it is because I had once feared I would lose touch with my high school friends only to find out that the bonds of those friendships are far stronger than I ever even dreamed. Knowing that I'm still close to them--in San Francisco, DC, Ohio, and Conneticut--gives me hope that I'll keep in touch with these friends too. Friends are very important to me, and Riley and Brandi are no exception. There won't be a day that goes by that I won't think of them; I know initially it will be in sadness, but I hope that one day it will be through laughter and warmth provided by those precious, hilarious memori

Top Right: North Topsail Beach
Top Left: View of the sunset from the back porch
-->Hannah giving a smooch to our dinner
-->Hannah, Brent, Dad, Mom, and me (The George on the Waterfront)
-->Hannah and me: Pink Sparkle Drinks at The Little Dipper Fondue Place
-->Me, Riley, and Brooke (Riley's Daughter): BAM Farewell Dinner @ Taco Mac
-->Me, Riley, Brooke and Brandi making silly faces @ Taco Mac