A Thought-Provoking History

Think of all the things you love – your family, your friends, your house, your country.

Now imagine you had to leave it all behind. Everything. Imagine it was a matter of life or death – and your life is precious. So you leave everything, take only what’s needed. Or maybe you’re only a child and your parents send you away to a place they believe to be safe. Either way you lose your home, your possessions, and your country. You’re separated from your family and spend half your time wondering if they’re still alive while the other half is spent trying to survive.

Recently I read Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys. It takes place during WWII. Thousands and thousands of people are making the long trek toward the port in the hopes of being cleared and placed on a ship that would take them to safety. The ship focused on in this book was the Wilhelm Gustloff, a large ship carrying about 10,000 people and destined for an ill fate. The events, as well as the ship, were real, but I hesitate to say much more since I highly suggest you read this book.

We can learn from history, even if it’s in the form of historical fiction. To think that these events actually took place and to think of what these characters went through is almost chilling. The characters themselves may not have been real, but they were based off real people. I can’t imagine leaving my home, fleeing my country and being separated from my family. I can’t imagine living in fear every day and constantly being on the run. Although, if your life is on the line, it’s really the only choice.

This is a time in history that has always fascinated me. I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around all the brutality. I’ve never been able to understand how humans could be so cruel to each other. But the one thing that’s always struck me in history, as well as in this book, is that somehow there is still a beauty and a lot of times that beauty is transformed into hope.

When I read things like this it makes me think that I have no right to complain about anything in my life. I still have my family and friends. I’m not being forced to leave my county. When winter comes I won’t risk freezing to death. I don’t have to fear for my life because of who I am or because of my ethnicity.

Again, I highly suggest this books goes on your reading list. It’s eye-opening and thought-provoking in many way. Not only that, but it’s simply a good read.

Hope and Faith

Call me a child.

Call me a child who still has a sense of innocence.

Call me a fool.

Call me one of the hopeful.

My heart bleeds hope.

My soul sings hope.

My being, most days, radiates hope.

To hope is to put your faith in something you can’t see. To hope is to believe that there will be better days, that things will work themselves out. Hope may come in many forms – a calm feeling, confidence, a positive attitude – just to name a few. I’ve heard it said that “it’s all in your attitude” and that “a positive attitude can do wonders for a person’s outlook on life.” After all, things can’t stay bad forever.

I’m sure there’s others out there who feel the same way.

And that’s good.

Maybe it’s the hope, the faith, in our souls that keep us afloat. Maybe faith is the other side of the metaphorical coin. Maybe hope and faith go together.

When I look back on things that have happened to me so far in my life, I realize that it was my hope and my faith that got me through. Whenever I started thinking things were taking a negative turn, I would be given a sign that proved otherwise. Maybe not everyone believes in signs, but I do. Sometimes the smallest things, the smallest gesture, can restore hope.

Hope can be a fickle thing. As humans we’re fragile. If life beats us down too much or continuously tears us apart, then, we can start to lose that hope. If everyday is the same, then, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that anything will every be good again. I think those are the times we have to fight. Those are the times we have to hold onto hope, hold onto the good and realize that, sometimes, the things we’re fighting against are the things that we need in our lives. The truth is, we don’t always get what we want, but we always are given what we need. At least, I consider that to be true.

I believe hope and faith are a beautiful thing. From the chaos of life is born beauty and from that beauty we are given hope in even the darkest of times. Hope lives in the dark places. At times it might be difficult to see it, but I think it’s at those times that we have to have faith.

Now, once again, I find myself in a position where my hope and faith fill me. There are moments where it’s an overwhelming feeling, but it’s a warm feeling that also gives me confidence and a sense of calm. It builds be up, wraps me in the comfort of it’s arms and I believe everything will be alright.

The song at the bottom of this post is entitled “Hope Is The Anthem” by Switchfoot. This song is from their most recent album, “Where The Light Shines Through.” It’s a powerful one and I think it fits the topic of this post well. Feel free to give it a listen.

The Final Letter

It’s difficult for me to write this – real, deep, personal. I usually keep these things to myself. So why am I putting it out there for the world to see? I’ve decided to share because I believe we’ve all been in similar situations and experienced similar feelings at one point in our lives. Not only that, but I believe we can all learn from one another.

For the last week I’ve been trying to find closure. I think finally, finally, I’ve found it – in my writing. This is the last letter that I’ll ever write to him, at least for now, or possibly ever. I know he’ll never see it. Well, never say never, but the probability is pretty low. I debated giving it to him, but no, he’ll probably never see it.

Dear Handsome,

This is the last letter I’ll probably ever write to you, at least for now, possibly ever. As I write this I’m sitting in the park, on the bench where you first kissed me. I’m not sure what brought me here. Maybe I was looking for closure. Maybe I was searching for a safe place. Maybe I just liked the irony – to end where it began.

That day you kissed me was special. It was magical. I never told you, but, when you kissed me that night, as the sun was setting, I saw fireworks. Not real fireworks like the ones on the 4th of July, but fireworks in my head. My heart skipped a beat. That’s why when you wanted to kiss me again and again and again I stayed snuggled close to you and said, “In a minute. I’m enjoying the moment.” No one had ever given me a kiss that made me feel that way, but I felt an instant connection with you the first time you hugged me.

Things were always different with you. I should’ve realized that even more once I started having sexual thoughts. I never entertained those thoughts with anyone else, but with you…you were different. It felt right. Everything felt right. I’m not sure how else to explain it. I just knew I wanted you more then I’ve ever wanted anyone else, every part of you. And I don’t regret it.

That’s one thing I hope you know – I regret nothing. Although, if I was forced to name a regret or two, then, it would have nothing to do with the things I did or we did or even the things I said. No, my only true regrets lay in the things that went unsaid and were left undone. But all the things I did said, I meant. And all the things I did, I acted with my heart.

I truly believe you’re a wonderful person. You’re smart, sweet, kind, funny, affectionate, playful, sarcastic and a million other things. (And you’re the only person who has almost, almost, always been able to keep up and match me in banter.) You’re not without your flaws, no one is, but I liked you for everything you are – flaws and all. Remember those lists I gave you of all the things I liked about you? Well, those still hold true. Even #14…the one you seemed to keep reading over and over and over again. (Yes, I’m smiling just thinking about it.) I just hope that one day you’ll see all those wonderful things that I see in you.

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” Don’t let people take away your self-worth. Don’t believe the horrible things they tell you about yourself. None of it’s true. The truth is, those people are insecure and are just looking to bring you down to their level so they can feel better about themselves. You’re the smart, strong, confident, wonderful one. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen you be a man, a real man, and that’s sexy as hell. So be the man that I know you are.

So, you say you’re unhappy, that you need a major life overhaul. Well, cutie, only you can be your change. Only you have the power to change things in your life. And if you don’t change anything then nothing will change. It’s not going to be easy, but you can do it. I’ve always believed in you. I still believe in you. Sometimes, when it feels like you’re losing control you just have to stop and ask yourself, “If I died tomorrow would I be happy with the life I’ve lived?” If the answer is no, then, do something about. You’re capable of so much more then you think. You are so much more then you think.

Time. So much could be said about time. If I could turn back time and find you sooner, I would. I’d go back three, maybe four, years, before life sunk its teeth in and ripped you apart. But that wasn’t our time. This was our time. And even if I knew how it was going to turn out, I still would’ve done it. All of it. I still would’ve given every smile, every laugh, every hug, every kiss, every touch. I still would’ve given myself – every single part of my being. As I said before, cutie, I’m so, so glad it was you. At times, things between us might’ve been a little screwed up, but it was our beautiful chaos and it was some of the best moment of my life.

Life is short. If you don’t live while you’re alive, then, you’re already dead. And that’s probably the worse part – “…the slow, daily death of living a life of fear and hatred. What a dark tragedy: to be dead even when you’re alive.” Don’t be afraid of living, of taking chances, of feeling something, of holding on, of risking it all. After all, scares are the stories that proved we lived. We only have one life, one story. That’s how I think of it – like a story with a beginning, middle and end, and a whole bunch of stuff in-between. The thing is, I think we’re all stories waiting to be told. Some people’s stories intertwine – sometimes for a moment, sometimes forever, sometimes they fade in and out. And I’m so happy that I was able to be part of your story and you part of mine, if only for a moment.

I’ll admit. personally, I believe these last few months you handled everything wrong. If you were having doubts or if there was a problem you should’ve talked to me. I never pushed you. I always flowed with you, ebbing in and out like the tide. I know you trusted me, that you still do, and I know you’re not a big talker, but you can always talk to me about anything and everything. You had that choice. But you chose not to talk and, instead, we ended up here.

Despite everything, I want you to know that I’m not mad at you and I certainly don’t hate you. I hope for and wish you nothing but good things and happiness. So laugh, love yourself, let go of the past, open yourself to others (like you opened yourself to me) and simply live.

Always,
Nicole

The Beginning of The End

Life isn’t always easy.

As wonderful as life can be, sometimes, it can also be cruel.

Life gives us opportunities, choices, and forces us to choose. It’s the Queen of giving and then taking away. It gives us the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

At this moment, my heart feels like it’s being torn, broken, scattered. It feels like I’ve been sliced open, exposed, but that’s what happens when you choose to be vulnerable. When you choose to put your heart on the line, to open up, to embrace, to live, to risk it all.

And I risked it all.

For him.

The truth is, we can’t foresee the future, therefore, we never know how things are going to play out. At least, we never know until we experience them for ourselves. Even if I would’ve known how this whole thing was going to turn out, even if I would’ve known the ultimate ending, I still would’ve done it. I still would’ve given every smile, every laugh, every hug, every kiss, every touch. I still would’ve given myself – every single part of my being. As screwed up as it was sometimes, it was my, our, beautiful chaos and it was some of the best moments of my life.

And I regret nothing.

But if pressed, the only things I truly regret are the things I didn’t say or do. And, to me, that’s worse then regretting things that have been said and done because in this case I’m left with the thoughts of all the things that have been left undone and all the things that have been left unsaid. I’m left with “what-ifs” and never knowing.

At the end of the day, at least I know how I felt. At least I know I truly cared. At least I know that I did everything I could to keep us together, to fight for what we had because I believed in it.

California: A Bittersweet Farewell

Sunset on Moonlight Beach IIIt happens every time.

I never want to leave.

I never want to go home because part of me already feels like I’m home.

I always cry a little, but they’re never sad tears. They’re happy tears.

That’s part of who I am. I’m the woman who cries happy tears and then people look at me like there’s something seriously wrong. They wonder what’s wrong, but tears are not only meant for sorrow and pain. They’re an emotion, a way of expression. I’ve cried happy tears many times before. They’re tears of joy, of having been part of something that I never thought possible, of wishing there was more time because I don’t want it to end, of experiencing and living. They’re tears of such an overwhelming joy that maybe there aren’t any words to describe it.

So on my last night in California I walked down to the beach and watched the sunset. I dug my toes in the sand and sat on the beach. I listened to the ocean and closed my eyes as the breeze came off the water. I breathed in deep the smell of salt. I walked down to the edge and let the water wash over my feet before wading in further and further. Time seemed to disappear, to stand still, as it always does when I’m by the ocean. Reluctantly, I walked the shoreline back to the hotel.

That night I sat outside in the dark for awhile. I listened to the ocean and watched the clouds drift over the moon as it lit the sky. I closed my eyes and fought back tears. I didn’t want to go home, not when it felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart behind.

But then I remembered I’d be coming back. It made it slightly easier to leave knowing that the promise of a return was in the future.

To view more photos of California please click here.

California: Surfing and Music

It was the perfect day on the beach – full of surfing and music.

SwitchfootAfter breakfast, I made my way down to the ocean where the surfing events were taking place. (I wasn’t part these events. At least not in the sense of actually surfing. No, these guys, even the kids, could surf circles around me.) I surveyed the crowd, picked out the surfers and finally found a good place to set up camp. (And by camp I mean a good place to stand and take pictures.)

The sun warmed the back of my neck and bare shoulders as I watched the surfers ride the waves. (Not always all the way to shore. Sometimes they took a spill.) I raised my camera constantly to captures some action shoots, silently yelling at myself for not bringing a longer lens, but was still happy with the pictures I ended up with. There were times I was so captivated and focused on what I was doing that I didn’t realize how far I was wading out into the ocean. Well, I didn’t realize until the next wave came and sent water up my shorts.

I followed the surfers out of the water, along the beach, and finally found where they wereSwitchfoot all standing. As much as I enjoy a good action shot, I love candid pictures. These are the moments that can’t be made or recreated. I believe candid moments capture the soul.

It’s the same with music. When I photograph an artist, I feel like I’m capturing a moment that shows how in touch they are with the music they’re playing. I’ve photographed a lot of bands over the years and Switchfoot has always been one of my favorites. When I watch them live, they seem to have the music running through them. They believe in the songs they play and the words they sing. For me, not only does it make for a great show, but great photos as well.

Switchfoot put on one heck of a show. Actually, I should say shows. First there was Auction Night where they played a short set after raising money for local charities. There were multiple items people could bid on and win with the six charities splitting the money. The guys played a tight set, including three songs from their new album, Where The Light Shines Through.

Switchfoot at the Switchfoot Bro-AmThen there’s (what I like to call) beach day. This is a day full of surfing and music. I’ve already mentioned the surfing portion, but the music is equally as entertaining. Once again, the guys played three songs off their new album, which was released that week – “Float,” “Where the Light Shines Through,” and “Live It Well.”

During the show they brought several children up on stage from an area school and let them sing “The World You Want.” They were part of VH1 Save the Music, which brings music back into schools.

Over all the band preformed a tight set with Jon making his way through the crowd. In order to get back on stage he laid back as if getting ready to crowd surf and let the crowd Switchfoot at the Switchfoot Bro-Amraise him. Drew did what he does best on stage – shred. Tim showed off his bass skills. (Especially during “Float,” which is a very bass heavy song.) Chad kept the beat going and Jerome played some very lovely piano parts.

I captured so many great moments with my camera and was thrilled to be right in the thick of it and part of this amazing event. So, yes, a day on the beach with surfing, music and my camera – perfect.

To view more surfing pictures please click here.

To view Auction Night picture please click here.

To view beach day concert pictures please click here.