Category Archives: guest posts

This Messy Thing Called Love

Sara Brink is a girl who spent her whole life living within arm’s reach of me, neither of us knowing it. She’s also probably Taylor Swift’s biggest fan and writes her stories in a way that has you sure this was your memory, not hers, flashing onscreen. If you haven’t already, find her on Twitter + keep up with her on her own blog, where she’s making her way toward an editor’s life, love lettering the streets of Philadelphia and NYC along the way.

My first kiss was unexpected.

I was leaning against the giant sink basin in the basement of our youth group center, washing baby blue paint from my hands when he reached for my hips, spun me around, and planted his lips against mine. Just us two, in our faded tee shirts and paint splattered jeans, surrounded by bare concrete walls with only the sounds of a gushing faucet and faint footsteps overhead. Instinct kicked in and I surely kissed him back, but there was a solid marquee of “I have no idea what I’m doing” rattling through my head. My thirteen-year-old heart was caught completely off guard.

hands-boy-girl-paint-edit

But his fifteen-year-old mouth wasted no time in saying “I love you.” He wasted no time before slipping his hand into mine, before stealing glances across the room, before calling me “baby” through instant messages on school nights. And I wasted no time in returning that sentiment, because it tasted so sweet lingering on my lips and it seemed like the right thing to do.

You don’t know the animal of love when you’re thirteen. You know the simplicity of “like.” You know that you like the boy who plays center field for the community baseball team, and you like that he wears his favorite hockey jersey as if it’s the only shirt he owns, and you like how he meets you at the swim club in the middle of Saturday afternoons, because it’s the halfway point between your houses.

But you don’t know love. You throw that four-letter word around thinking it’s so simple, that it encases exactly how you feel all tied up in a pretty package with a pristine white bow. But when you’re thirteen, you don’t realize that love is complicated, and powerful, and messy, like the mud puddles you splash in on your way home from the bus stop.

And you especially don’t know that people can so easily throw that four-letter word around. Like that hockey-jersey-wearing, sweet-smile-giving, center-field-playing boy, who breaks your heart a mere two weeks later by saying, “I love you” to your best friend.

Love can take you from sailing through the clouds to plummeting to the ground in mere seconds. It can break your thirteen-year-old heart with just a phone call. It can make you laugh, cry, sing, scream, spend hours on the telephone, smash a vase on your kitchen floor. It is the almighty emotion that some people spend their whole lives searching for. And you were naïve enough to think you’d found it at thirteen.

I eventually forgot about that boy. My wounded heart healed, I moved on to better things, and I used that four-letter word again. I learned more about love, and how it can unexpectedly wind and twist its way through your bloodstream to your pumping heart, how it can knock you off your feet for both the good and the bad.

And even ten years later at twenty-three, I still don’t know all the facts and figures about that dangerous four-letter word and the emotional avalanche that comes with saying “I love you.” But I can assure you that I “like” it.

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For The Swing Set Souls

If you shoved me in the DeLorean and Scrooge’d me into my ten-year-old self, I’m not so sure my side of the playground would be buzzing with activity.

Or swimming with sticky fingers from flavor ice pops. Crackling with sneakers scrubbing pavement.

I’m not so sure you’d run up to me with a jump rope and ask if I could hold one end.

“Please, oh please,” you wouldn’t have said. “We absolutely need your help. Come with me.”

More likely, you’d find me scraping my shoes against a pile of woodchips as I swung back and forth, back and forth, so close to those smiling faces and churning backward all the same.

That go-to interview question pops into my head: “What’s your biggest weakness.”

“Well, sir, you see it’s, um, kind of a funny story. Have you been to Home Depot lately?”

“What?”

“Home Depot, sir. You know those swing sets with striped overhangs and monkey bars? I’m kind of like a swing.”

“You are,” he might say.

Because I am sure that if it were a woman, she would already be pulling her wallet out of her purse and unfolding a photo gallery longer than my forearm. Pictures of her own children pushing each other at the neighborhood playground in her hands.

“A swing,” I’d say. “Yes. I’ve been waiting for too long now like one of those rusty swings cracking and weathered, hoping the store employee might brush his forehead with his orange apron pocket and drag me inside. Out of somebody else’s rainstorm. Away from the back of the pile. Into somebody’s backyard.”

He might not follow, but maybe he will. Maybe he had some swing days of his own, back on the playground, hands tucked inside overall pockets.

I am sort of hoping his childhood years weren’t categorized by foursquare games and knockout championships and getting presidential on the mile run in gym class. I am sort of hoping he got an X for that portion.

Because just like I learned to lace up my sneakers and round a 400-meter track four times, I am ready to stop sitting and pausing and shuffling and waiting and hoping and praying some swing set lover comes over to sit on me. Learning how to take Rooted In Place less metaphorically.

I hope the rest of you Swing Set Souls are, too.

Introducing Claire Biggs: The Moment-Shattering Crises and the People Who Get Me Through Them

I cannot say this enough: there are pretty wonderful people in this world. Claire Biggs is surely one of them. I asked her to guest post knowing she’s a much taller, more fashionable version of myself with so much to offer you all. I can always count on her to send me videos to watch and people to admire, and this post of hers is no different. I’ll be back on Thursday with one of my own, but for now, here’s Claire.

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” –  Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist

As a 22 year-old Southern transplant living on my own in New York City, I have my fair share of moment-shattering crises. The minor ones are always comical in retrospect – oh, I forgot to pack a pair of socks and a hair tie to go to the gym, that’s brilliant – or at least reminders that I don’t have everything figured out (I’ve lived in the city for five months and still manage to get on the wrong subway once a week).

The major ones are slightly more complicated. These crises have me locked in their vice grips, threatening to squeeze me into non-existence unless I act NOW! Feeling compelled to make a decision, any decision, I leap, falling to my knees and wondering why I still have no idea what I’m doing here.

I’ve spent the last week grappling with the latter type of situation, and so much has happened in the last 72 hours I can’t sit down to think without my head swimming with options and decisions to be made.

If you re-read my first sentence, you’ll notice I said moment-shattering crises, not life-shattering crises.

If I’ve learned anything in the last ten months since I graduated from college, it’s that there are very few life-defining moments; most decisions I made, make and will make are hardly irreversible or permanent markers for the path I’m on.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am type-A to the extreme. I make lists in my head, weighing the pros and cons of every single decision I make and am prone to occasionally (read: often) second-guess my decisions.

Over the past few weeks, though, I’ve tried to remember exactly how much control I have over the moments I’m currently experiencing. If I’m not happy doing something, I stop. It’s about recognizing exactly what I want or need in one moment in time and going after it, with no regrets.

I struggle every single day to do this, so I wanted to take a minute to share with you, Kaleigh’s faithful readers, the people who keep me on the right track.

The person who gives me hope that the best kinds of love really do exist: Naomi Davis of Rockstar Diaries.

The person who shows me how beautiful life is when looking through a different lens: Rachel Thurston, photographer.

The person who proves one person really can save the world, if only she believes in her dream: Hannah Brencher, The World Needs More Love Letters.

 The person on Twitter who makes me laugh out loud, often, while still holding firm to her beliefs and opinions: Carina MacKenzie, Zap2It writer.

The person who inspired me to spend money to get my a** kicked so I’m always prepared to protect myself: Mac McClelland, human rights reporter at Mother Jones.

So while this week has been nothing spectacular, I’ve managed to celebrate my minor victories – hey, I found lipgloss at Sephora that I love! – and the major ones too – oh look, tons of new responsibility at work.

I hope you, whoever is reading this, trust yourself enough to know that you really do know what is best for your life. Keep that in mind when making decisions, and you’ll have fewer moment-shattering crises – trust me.

Introducing Kerry From I’ve Got Roses: What It Takes To Say Hello

I am beyond blessed to have crossed paths with the wonderful Kerry DeVito back in the summer when be both guest blogged for our friend Hannah. Kerry is the kind of girl who makes me feel like I’m going to handle post-grad life, even if I am the biggest mental mess on the face of the planet. She’s just inspiring and authentic and you can’t help liking her. I asked her to guest post, knowing she’d bring a bit of sunlight with her. And she did. I hope you enjoy.

What happened to the days when we could talk to anyone we met? Or hadn’t met, for that matter? Do you know what I mean when I say that?

I’m sitting at this little local coffee & bagel shop (it’s called Bagelz, cleverly enough), and there is little three or four-year-old girl walking around from table to table clutching half of a plain bagel in her tiny paws. She just came over to me and sat in the empty chair across from me and said hello, a little cream cheese smear on her cheek.

And I? I got real nervous real fast. I felt her mother looking at me, waiting for me to respond to her adorably precious young thing. And I felt bad because, to be honest, I wasn’t in the mood for dilly-dallying. I had some serious lesson planning to do. All I wanted to do was chug my black coffee and then hide between the empty Styrofoam walls. You know—it was that kind of day.

It was, anyway.

I shifted in my seat and said hello back, smiling, white teeth with bad coffee breath, probably. I asked her what her name was, my face a little red because, well, now everyone in the tiny place was staring at us.Do you know what she said?

“Guess.” She smiled so big. So, so big. And that was that; I cracked. My bad mood packed up its miniature black suitcase and stomped right the heck outta here.

After wrestling her five-lettered name out of her, I watched her jump from the chair and run right on over to another coffee gulper, and I thought to myself, what I would give to have that kind of gall again. To be so daring without even noticing it. I imagined what a guy would say to me if I told him to guess what my name was, at a bar all dressed in black and smiling like a goon. “Guess.” The sheer brilliance of the kid, really.

So I’m wondering—where does that kind of courage go? Is it even courage to begin with? To run right up to a person who shows no signs of wanting to interact with the human race because she thinks she has too much to do and not enough time to smile and say a little hello? What would the world be like if we could talk to anyone, I mean anyone, at ease, without being so wrapped up in lesson plans?

She’s making a face at me now as she spills a little bit of her Nantucket Nectars apple juice down the front of her shirt, her mother giggling along with her. I think before they leave I’ll tell her thanks for making my day. Thanks for pulling a smile out of me today with just a quick hello.

Guest Post on Magic in the Backyard: Sorry, Shakespeare, but I am just not cut out for the stage.

I remember debating which was the lesser of two evils: playwriting or poetry.

Both seemed like foreign languages to me, dependent on one grammatical rule I simply didn’t want to follow: economical word usage.

It’s as if the poem and the play got together and made a pact against the prose writer.

“Don’t you dare splatter our clean white pages with any more of your crooked scribbles. Keep that mess to yourself. Don’t pick up the pen until you know what it is you want to write.”

Part of writing, for me, has always been figuring it out. The “it” that resides between crystal clear and awfully hazy. The “it” that keeps me awake at night and lulls me out of bed to tap-tap-tap away at a keyboard when everyone else in the house has long ago put head to pillow.

But last semester I chose poetry.

Sorry, Shakespeare, but I am just not cut out for the stage. I’d rather scribble a little mess on the page and let someone else find meaning in my line breaks.

[Read the rest of my guest post at Magic In The Backyard as part of Free Write Friday.]