It’s Not the Same Without You

“Welcome to another exciting edition of Writer’s Flow!”

Edition? We’re not a TV episode or a series of books, but if we were, I’m certain we’d be a comedy.

I always thought he meant “meeting,” but all of us always laughed.

His enthusiasm was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

He was our fearless leader.

And then he left. Not by choice, but I guess all things have their time and place.

But it was the equivalent to letting the air out of a balloon – everything went flat.

About a year ago I was looking for a place to share my work and grow as a writer. I had been writing since I was in the second grade. It started as a hobby, but then I started becoming serious about it. (Not too serious of course, but serious enough to want to publish my work.) And I wanted to meet new people and make new friends along the way.

That’s when I found Writer’s Flow – a group of welcoming writers.

Each week we post, read and critique each others work. I can see in my own writing how much they’ve helped me (and I hope I’ve helped them in some way too).

I’m proud to call each one of these fine writers my friend. But these relationships have had to grow over time (and they will continue to do so).

On my first day I walked in not knowing a single person. Then this guy comes in talking about his eye and how its all red and puffy.

“Look at it,” he said with more enthusiasm then I anticipated.

I wasn’t sure what to think. Maybe he was crazy? I mean, I’ve heard stories of crazy writers.

Turns out he was the group leader.

Really?

This was our fearless leader? The horror writing ginger? (Which he was known as for at least the first two weeks, since I can be horrible at remembering names. Faces? Yes. Names? Sometimes they come and go until I really know a person.)

It also turns out, in fact, that he was a great leader. Each week he brought an indescribable amount of energy to the group. He always had something positive to say about a person’s story. He always wanted to help people if they needed it and I’m fairly certain that he had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve met this far in life. The fact he was super literal was simply a perk. I won’t go into the details, but he always made us laugh.

And he’s a fantastic writer. I’m not just saying it because he’s my friend. I mean it. If you don’t believe me feel free to check out his first novel, Talisman, for yourself.

This horror writing ginger appeared to be the backbone of our little writing group. We all seem to be decent leaders, but not one has been able to match his level of…I don’t know. He had a special something that we all fed off.

As much as we wanted him to stay (and he wanted to stay too), he was destined to move away.

I suppose nothing can stay the same forever. It’s inevitable that things are going to change as time moves on. That’s the way of life.

Sometimes I’m afraid we’ll lose touch. But then I think about my best friend who lives in The Netherlands and how we’ve stayed in constant contact for the last seven years. So clearly I can stay in touch with a friend who still lives in the same country. And on the same coast too.

It’s true that nothing’s the same without him, but change is good and we’ll make it over this road bump. (If that’s what you want to call it. I’m actually, for once, at a loss for words.) Change is how we grow. Change is how we learn. I mean, think about how boring life would be if things were always the same. Change might be difficult at first, but, in the end, it’s never as bad as we initially believe.

So listen up Mr. Horror Writing Ginger, “If you need anything from us here at Writer’s Flow please don’t hesitate to ask!”

We’re here for you.

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Boston Road Trip: Day 1 – Tour de Compadres with One of My Best Compadres

It was one of those quick road trips. You know, the ones where you drive to your destination, stay over night and drive home the next day. It was planned, but still had a spontaneous vibe. I’ve come to realize that even the best plans have room for the unknown.

And that’s alright with me.

My friend and I had been planning this weekend for months. Alright, so, maybe I was the one planning. He seemed like he was going to go along with whatever I said (short of base jumping off a cliff), but a hotel reservation had to be made, concert tickets had to be bought and other tiny details had to be settled. It was during this time that my excitement began to die and stress filled the void.

Then, at a certain point, I thought, “Forget it. I’m done. The important things are done.”

And I figured we would just wing it the rest of the time.

That’s when my excitement came back.

A little background. My friend and I have know each other since high school. I’m fairly confident in saying that he knows my hopes, dreams, fears and pretty much everything about me. And vice verses. But I also think the saying holds true – “You never really know a person until you’ve lived with them.” Or, in this case, until you go on a road trip and spend the weekend with them. (Seriously. Spend three hours in a car and all weekend with one of your best friends and I guarantee you’ll find out something about them you didn’t know). I know I found out a thing or two about him. And I know he probably found out a thing or two about me. But this isn’t a post about any of those things (and there will never be one either). I merely thought it was a fun segway into the rest of the post.

The Tour de Compadres (with Needtobreathe, Switchfoot, Drew Holcomb and Colony House).

An epic concert.

The first band of the evening was Colony House. This is the third time I’ve seen them

Colony House

Colony House

live and they blow me away each time. For such a young band, I find them very talented. There are so many ways they could grow as both a band and individual musicians. I can’t wait to see how their career progresses. My only hope is that they continue to stay humble, as they are some of the nicest guys I’ve meet in this industry.

Next up was Drew Holcomb. He wasn’t bad and there were a few songs I really got into, so I enjoyed his performance. And I can definitely respect him as a musician.

Switchfoot was next to take the stage. This was my tenth time seeing them. And if you’ve ever seen them live, then you might understand why I’ve seen them so many times (and since I’m young there are still plenty of shows in my future). Anyway, Jon did his thing where he jumped into the crowd. And when he wasn’t in the crowd, he was onstage rocking – being expressive, getting into the music and sweating after the first song. There is one

Switchfoot

Switchfoot

last thing I must mention about this set. They played “Your Love Is A Song” (which has always been a favorite of mine) and halfway through Jon and Drew did an awesome harmonica and guitar collaboration. It felt spontaneous (which it might’ve well been) and sounded beautiful. I loved it.

The last band of the night was Needtobreathe. You can tell they’re from the south because a lot of their songs have that down-home southern feel to them, which I enjoyed. They very much get into the music and put on a great show.

This tour was a blast. Each of these bands is guaranteed to rock your socks off. Even if you’re not wearing any.

I know the possible irony in my next statement – the fact that I knew my friend was having a good time just by looking at him, even though I kept asking anyway. But I’m glad he had fun. I love this guy with all my heart an I’m so excited that I had the chance to share this experience with him. I couldn’t be happier that I was able to see the Boston edition of the Tour de Compadres with one of my best compadres.

If you would like to see more photos from the Tour de Compadres you may do so by going here.

A Test Of Friendship

Think of the person in your life who you call your best friend.

Now imagine they’ve moved away.

They’re no longer close to you. They no longer have the ability to call you up on a lazy summer night and ask if you would like to go out for ice cream. They can no longer come to your house for sleepovers, nor can you go to theirs. They’re no longer available for last minute phone calls or quick crisis calls when you just need to talk to somebody. The days where you could drive or walk to their house ended in a few short months, more swiftly then you ever imagined.

So what do you do now? Do you continue the friendship, even though long distance is difficult, or do you let time slowly pass, the friendship and memory of that person fading away? The choice is yours, but I’ve learned that the best things in life rarely come easy.

About six years ago my best friend moved away. You may recall me writing about her in a previous post, Some Bonds Can’t Be Broken. She boarded a plane and flew across the Atlantic Ocean to Holland. I was left here to finish out my college years without her while she journeyed to a new country to start school and continue her life.

Holland is about 3,600 miles away. The first few months were difficult, for both of us, because we were used to having the other around. Although I’m not a mind reader, some of you may be thinking that’s not very far. After all, there’s cars and trains that take people miles and miles to their destination. However, even driving cross country from Maine to California is a shorter distance then flying from New York to Holland. (It’s 3,173 miles to California from Maine.)

The thing is…any distance seems far when there is an ocean standing between you and where you want to go.

Emails, Skype, letters, and packages are the things keeping us in contact. The fact that we seem to share a brain and she is more then a best friend (she’s like a sister) are the things keeping us together. While we haven’t seen each other in person since she left, we are still friends. If it’s possible, we’re closer then we’ve ever been.

A couple weeks ago I was having a really rough time. It was life in general that was beating me down and not having my best friend in the house down the road wasn’t helping. It wasn’t bad enough that I felt like we were drifting, growing apart in our own ways. (Of course I realized later that it was never true and my bad week(s) weren’t helping how I perceived things). I thought that being so far apart would’ve become easier over the years, but, if anything, it’s just grown harder. Now we not only think about all the things we used to do together, but we think about all the things we could be doing together.

One of the things I love most about her is that I can tell her anything (and she can tell me anything too). So, I wrote her an email. I poured out my heart to her. And afterward I felt horrible. I felt like I shouldn’t have told her all my troubles and thoughts about us drifting. After all, she was the one who picked up her life and moved. Yet, at the same time, best friends should be able to talk freely and that was one of the things we prided ourselves on; that we could talk to each other without guilt.

Turns out she was feeling the same way.

At the same time, we both know we’ll never fade from each other’s lives.

We mean too much to each other.

I think life tests you. Constantly. It throws different situations in your direction just to see how you will react. It tests us to see if we’re really as strong as we think we are, as kind, as compassionate, as smart, as happy (and the list goes on and on). The way we behave in these situations brings to light what kind of person we truly have become. At the same time, we are constantly growing, changing, maturing. Experiences help us grow, and while the soul of a person never changes, I’m not sure we are ever really done growing.

So, yes, our friendship is a bit different these days, but we’re still there for each other. We still use each other for “girl talk.” We’re there when the other is having a crisis, to share in each other’s happiness and sadness, or when we simply want to talk.

I’ve learned that distance is one of the true testaments of friendship. If it’s true friendship, then, nothing care tear you and that person apart.

In the end, I think it’s simple. I can’t imagine my life without her.

Can you imagine your life without your best friend?

I Still Remember You (And Everything You Taught Me)

When I was in college, I had a journalism teacher I will never forget.

He was a little old man (old enough to be my grandpa) who walked around campus with nothing but a jean jacket and a baseball cap, even in the middle of winter. Actually, he shuffled. He shuffled around campus and I often wondered how he made it anywhere on time.

So began the mistakes of first impressions.

I would soon find out that he had more spunk then I imagined.

Going in on the first day of class I was in the same boat as everyone else; we didn’t know what to expect. When I walked into the classroom there were only three other students (out of fifteen) sitting around two long tables and the teacher was sitting at the head of the class. He had his eyes closed and his head resting on the back of the chair.

I thought he was dead. Seriously. I thought my teacher was dead.

I’ll never be able to say why this was my first thought, because I don’t know. All I know is that he wasn’t moving and I was surprised by his age and the fact that he was still teaching, but I would soon realize that he could, and would, teach me more then I thought possible.

This was the hardest class I ever took in college, even harder then any math or science class (which were never my strong points). I wrote every essay and journalistic article assigned and always made sure I was handing in my best work. So when the first paper came back with a glaring red C staring at me, I felt disappointed. I worked even harder on the next paper; a B. He kept giving me Bs and I became increasingly frustrated. I often wondered, “What do I have to do to get an A?” The day I chose to talk to him about a paper, he told me I could do better.

Do better? Do better? How could I do better when I was already handing in my best work? I didn’t see it then, but I see now that he believed I was a better writer then the assignments I handed in were reflecting. So he was pushing me, challenging me, and I accepted that challenge. (And if you’re curious, yes, I did finally receive that A I was after).

He sat at the head of the table like a king on a thrown. He ran the classroom like a real newsroom, calling us by our last names with a “Mr.” or “Ms.” in front. He sent us out on, what most of us thought were, silly and ridiculous assignments. We would spend ten or fifteen minutes in a parking lot counting cars, looking at license plates and car colors as well as make and model. Then we would go back to the classroom and he would ask us questions about what we saw in the parking lot, or wherever it was he sent us that day. If we didn’t know the answer, he sent us back out. Sometimes he would give us almost impossible assignments or just tell us to read the newspaper.

Yes, he was old. He was soft spoken (until someone was rude or disrespectful and he kicked them out of the classroom). He was rough around the edges and, even though I continued getting my As, I spent most of my time wishing I could slap him. Disrespectful, I know, but if you knew this man then you may have felt the same way.

To be honest, I thought he was a complete asshole and wondered what I could really learn from him, but this would be yet another mistake of first impressions.

As time went on, I was able to get to know him better. He sent us on these so-called silly assignments because he was trying to teach us to pay attention to details. So they weren’t really silly at all. They were learning tools. Everything he made us do was a learning tool and he was anything but a conventional teacher. He made us read the newspaper so we were informed, but somehow assignments always came from what we read. He wouldn’t let us hand papers in late because he was teaching us about deadlines (you can’t hand in a article late to a news editor). He pushed us because he cared.

Once I figured him out, I realized I liked his style and he really was a great teacher, so I signed up for all his classes. Although, you can’t really figure a person out, not completely. They always have untold stories, but I was about to hear some of his.

Turns out this man was brilliant. He was a reporter and editor for newspapers all around the country. He had seen and done things that made me realize he was a reporter during a very different time. (Somehow he reminded me of those real gritty newspaper reporters you see in old black and white films. The ones you see with a press card sticking out of their hat, a cigarette hanging out of their mouth, always keeping cool under pressure.). Once he retired (or was pushed out of the business due to his age, so the story goes) he started teaching.

I’m thankful I realize this man was a wealth of knowledge and I could learn from him. Other students made fun of him because of his age, calling him a dinosaur behind his back. Sure, he was old enough to be our grandpa, but he knew what he was talking about. For years he lived what he was now trying to teach us and, to me, that was worth more then a PhD professor.

I didn’t talk to him again until my last semester. I would wave to him in passing and saw him shuffling around campus almost everyday. In the winter I would see him with his jean jacket and baseball cap and wonder, “How can you not be cold?” It made me smile because I would have on boots, gloves, a coat, a hat and a scarf (and sometimes still be cold). On the day I talked to him, I was making my way back from a class and saw him sitting in a classroom, alone. I stopped in the doorway. He looked up from his newspaper and we started talking. I told him I was super stressed because of this one class. He asked if I wanted to talk about it and I told him him it probably wouldn’t do much good.

We agreed to meet Tuesday morning for coffee, even though I don’t drink coffee. Neither of us had a commitment to a class until about eleven and, honestly, besides reading or writing, what else was I going to do?

I didn’t know this Tuesday coffee meeting was going to turn into a weekly event, but I’m glad it did because I enjoyed them tremendously. He had his coffee (black, no sugar or cream) and I had my tea or hot chocolate. We talked about the news, life, books (I suggested some he might want to read and he gave me books to keep), he told me stories from his past (about when he was growing up, how and why he chose journalism, about when he was a reporter and then an editor) and I told him stories too (about my goals and dreams). He encouraged me on my writing and the idea that I wanted to write a book one day (something I am still working on). Once he found out I was a photographer, he wanted to see some of my photos, and encouraged me with that too (even gave me a photo book). In so many ways it really was like talking to my grandpa.

Once I graduated and found my first job at a newspaper, he was constantly in my head every time I sat down to write an article or went out on assignment; ask the hard questions, the most important information goes in the front, what’s your angle?, keep it fresh, it’s ok to ask them to repeat themselves if you don’t understand, pay attention to detail, did you know obituaries are the only full story in a newspaper because they have a beginning, middle and end?, always ask ‘why,’ chase the story.

I wonder what he would think of me now; I worked at a few newspapers (don’t anymore), I’m working on a book, I’m working on being a concert photographer and I will live my dreams.

The sad part is, I’ll never have a chance to tell him. A year ago, in early January, I was reading the newspaper and saw a picture of him on the front page below the fold, followed by a rather lengthy article. I don’t know why, but I had a bad, scary feeling. As I started reading, my fears were confirmed. He had passed away.

Cancer’s a bitch. There’s no doubt about it. Cancer’s a bitch. I didn’t even know he was sick. It was like the cancer came and just ate him in one gulp. That’s how fast it was, and I heard he had no chance of surviving. Colon cancer. Yes, it’s a bitch. So the man I remember as spunky and feisty had to stop teaching and, instead, ended up in the hospital. I can only imagine how much he must have hated that, not being able to do anything when he was so use to always being on the move. I don’t know a lot of the details and, honestly, I don’t want too. I don’t know if he was in pain or how much he suffered. I would like to think that even in the end he was still feisty (because that would be just like him).

He was indeed a fireball, a firecracker, a feisty little old man who I wanted to slap but ended up teaching me so much. He taught me more then just the ins and outs of journalism. He taught me about life. He pushed me because, I believe now, he saw an untapped talent and wanted me to reach my full potential. My only regret is that he won’t be here to see it, to watch when I finally make my mark in this world. He won’t be here to see me publish a book or go on tour with nothing but a backpack and my camera or any other dream that I am currently chasing, but I’ve always been ambitious and determined so maybe he already knew I would accomplish all these things.

I’m not ashamed to say that he was one of the greatest teachers and friends I had the privilege of knowing. I think we all have those teachers who become our friends after we are no longer their students, the ones who have always pushed us to be greater then we think we are because they believe in us more then we believe in ourselves.

Some Bonds Can’t Be Broken

I’m fairly confident saying that we all have those people in our lives that we can count on. Those people outside of our families. Those people who are like sisters or brothers. Those people who we laugh with, cry with, fight with, but always make up with because we can’t imagine our life without them.

They are our best friend.

I met my best friend during junior year of high school and I’ll admit, it was a lot easier to navigate those halls having a friend like her by my side. So imagine how I felt when, a year later, I found out she was moving after graduation. It felt like I had been blindsided, hit by a truck. Now, I’ve never actually been hit by a truck, nor do I want to, but I can imagine the pain it would bring. All the broken bones. All the scattered limbs. And possibly death. That’s how it felt. I didn’t want her to go. She didn’t want to go. Even today I can’t imagine how she felt. After all, she was the one packing up her life and moving.

That summer, on the last day I saw her, I was still partially convinced it was all a dream, but the boxes piled in an almost empty house, the moving truck in the driveway and the “For Sale” sign stuck in the lawn told me otherwise. I waited until I was in the car, driving away from her house, away from her, away from high school memories and all the thing that could have been, to breakdown and cry. I cried off and on for a week every time I thought about her. Sometimes I still cry, but it’s different now because I’m crying for the all the things we’ll never be able to do together.

I miss her.

Maybe I should have mentioned this before, the reason why the move was so devastating. She wasn’t moving further down the road or across town. She wasn’t even moving to a different state. No, I could have dealt with any one of those better. No, she was moving to a different country. She was moving to Holland. Holland. That’s 3,600 miles away. That’s why the news was so devastating. I kept thinking how we would never see each other again, how our friendship would last for about another year before we slowly drifted apart and stopped talking all together.

I was wrong. I was so very, very wrong.

It’s been six years since my best friend flew across the ocean and started building a life in Holland and we are still close. Maybe even closer, if that’s possible. Those who know us best say we share a brain. I won’t deny it…and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t either. We read the same books, listen to a lot of the same music and think similarly on many topics. This might sound boring, the fact that I’ve painted us as, essential, the same person, but as much as we are the same we are different and it’s those differences that keep our friendship interesting, among other things.

Don’t let the ease of our like-mindedness mislead you. Our friendship, like any friendship, takes work, but it’s work I’m willing to do.

It crossed my mind when we talked over Skype before the new year; distance means nothing. Maybe it’s something I’ve know for years, subconsciously, and just now realized. For years I’ve been afraid of us drifting apart. Even though we’re adults, we’re still growing up and we happen to be doing so in two separate places on two different continents. For years I’ve been afraid of losing my best friend, the woman who is always willing to talk and help me though difficulties. In the game of life, she is my cheerleader and I am hers. For years I’ve been afraid of losing one of the only people, other then my family, who means the world to me (you could say she’s like a sister).

But not anymore.

I see now that distance makes no difference.

Some bonds simply can’t be broken.

We are truly lucky if can find that one person we can count on; a best friend. If you ever find this person, put in the work the friendship deserves and hold on to them. A best friend is precious.

It’s true there are a lot of things we’ll never be able to do. We’ll never be able to call each other up for a quick chat or grab a spontaneous ice cream in the summer, but I look forward to seeing her again one day. I look forward to visiting her in Holland, to her coming to visit me and to all the new adventures we will share. I’m thankful for having her in my life. Even though she lives so far away, I wouldn’t change a thing because at the end of the day she’s still a part of my life.