Sunday, September 11, 2016

I'm so sorry I couldn't speak

I almost didn’t go to Flagstaff. 

My plan was to leave Sunday after I was finished working brunch at The Kitchen (roughly 5pm). But I sat down for a shifty-of-choice at the bar and one led to two and two led to three birthday shifties. And then I went home and had a glass of wine and let it all metabolize and thought about how much I loved Denver, and I told Lauren I’d be coming home because Denver feels like home now. This is not a lie and this is still true, which is important. But as I sat staring at the empty wine glass I knew that I had to go. If for no other reason, I was going to watch after Annie’s dogs for a few days. But I had more than that reason. I knew that. We all knew that. We all still know that. So I fled down the stairs to my basement and in true Kelsey fashion packed way too many clothes and not the clothes I actually wanted to take. 

My original plan was to make it to Durango and stay the night, and continue on to Flag the next day. Durango is roughly halfway, if you go through Southern Colorado, which is my (read: everyone’s) preferred route. However it was now 8:30 and I didn’t really want to do the drive from Pagosa Springs to Durango at night, or Wolf Creek Pass, so I went west first and opted for the Moab/Utah route which I knew I would regret in the morning. I also knew I would have to stop and sleep because I am not a human that can drive all night. In fact, I can’t do any type of thing all night. In college I never pulled all-nighters. If I stayed up until 5am I slept until 2pm. I need my sleep. Drew Crittenden knows this well, because I let Denver start to know me. 

I didn’t even make it to Grand Junction before I had to sleep. My plan was to sleep for 4.5 hours and I slept for 7, putting me a bit behind for my day the next morning. There is no surprise here – especially to Drew Crittenden. Driving through Moab is brutal. I know Moab is a cool playground and all, but everyone raves about it and every time I just end up shrugging and saying “I’d rather be in Sedona”. I missed the welcome sign into Arizona (How? No idea.) but I knew I was there in no time. That’s one of the beauties of true desert driving – you can legitimately drive 100 miles per hour. 
Shut up, please. 

There’s this moment, and everyone who has done this drive knows, you can see the Peaks on the horizon and you are so far away. I tried to take a snap (don’t snap and drive!) and you couldn’t even see them, though partially due to the bugs on my windshield that are still there. Dave Warner was also on his drive back to Flagstaff from far away during the same hours, and he texted me about an hour earlier with “I can see the fucking Peaks!” and my heart melted at just the thought. So when I saw them, I had an explosion of feelings that I did not think I would feel. I feel a lot, right, which I think is partly why I write so personally and so much, so to be surprised by the overwhelming mass of what was hitting my heart and my head and my tear ducts is really saying something. 

When I drove in to Flagstaff I rode an odd wave of calm, and I wasn’t expecting that. I stopped at Fry’s on the corner of 66 and Switzer Canyon and took in the view of Agassiz that I know so well, because for what seemed like forever I lived off of Switzer Canyon. I was after a Naked Mighty Mango juice and I got the sale price because I still have the Fry’s card on my keys. I sat at the light on 66 and San Francisco and texted Andrew that it was “really fucking weird to be back” and I couldn’t answer why, but I know now that it’s because I felt home, and I was expecting to feel excited. I was giddy, for sure, and happy to be there, but for the first time in months months I felt still and known. And I sank into that, and it almost made me cry. 

Annie and Billy were out of town, but I stayed at their house with their two Great Danes. In the middle of August Annie had randomly texted me and told me that her and Billy were renting out their guest bedroom, and to “Come home to Flagstaff, Kelsey.” I read those words and stopped in my tracks. I met Annie when she was my apartment manager at the place off Switzer Canyon. I had Cohen and had just moved and we bonded right away, as she had a Dane as well. She now has two, and the younger of the two is built and moves exactly like Cohen did. 
It took me a few moments to add the word ‘did’ on the end of that sentence. 

I took a much needed shower and headed straight to Dark Sky. For those of you who are reading and don’t know me, Dark Sky is the greatest brewery in the world and I used to work there, and I love the owners more than I love most people. I had plans to meet Nick and Andrew for beer but I went early and stopped abruptly as soon as I walked in the door. To my left was the new addition, which I knew and had seen plans for before I left, and pictures of after I left. The door was propped open and I remembered what a pain that was to do with the plant and it made me smile. There was a bartender that I don’t know behind the bar that carded me which took me by surprise, because sometimes you forget when you leave that the world keeps going. I sat down next to a guy who tried twice to make conversation with the bartender and got shrugged off, and I was about to ask him what he was drinking when he beat me to the question. I quickly learned his name is Billy and I asked him if he knew the story of Dark Sky and he said no, and I spilled my love for the brewery, with details from how I donated to it when I randomly saw it on indiegogo via Facebook when I first moved to Flagstaff, meeting Amanda on the mountain, not recognizing Nick at NPA, and my Sunday shifts that were great extra cash but really came from the love and wanting to support and sell such a wonderful product and story. Billy asked where I had moved to and I said “Denver”, and a smile spilled over his face as he exclaimed “No way! I just moved from there!” and I felt sick with jealousy. I looked him dead in the eyes as I assured him he made the right choice. He had been in town for three days. 

I ran my hands over the bar that everyone comments on and looked over at the starry counter and became excited as I recalled all of the questions I used to answer for people regarding this place. I watched two people come in and taste one beer and leave without the bartender saying much and I wanted to grab their wrist and say “No! Wait! This is our story, this is what’s happening, try this beer instead, I think you’ll like it.” But I was on the wrong side of the bar for that. I remembered how the Dream Team (Anthony and I; self-proclaimed but true) would tend the shit out of that bar, and Alex and I have been all over Denver and Boulder this summer talking about Dark Sky and how people here “just have no idea”. Before Shift had opened, Joe and Dara did a collaboration dinner with DSB and Anthony and I worked it, and it was one of the best nights of my life. I love the service industry for several reasons, and one of them being the familial aspect. After all of the guests had left, me, Anthony, Nick, Ryan, Joe, Dara and two or three others (I’m so sorry I can’t remember your names) sat at the bar and got a bit sauced in celebration. And I was sitting in the seat two down from where I was, and I distinctly recall laughing so hard I might die at this incredible conversation that we all had going, and it was one of the most powerful senses that I have felt. Shift was about to open and it was going to be amazing, Dark Sky was taking off and going to reveal their addition, and we had just done our first wine collaboration which was fucking awesome. I never wanted that night to end. I used to wish I could go back to it, but now I want more like it. I also remembered one of my very last nights in Flagstaff, after I had put Cohen down, Anthony and I were closing together and I didn’t want to go home because I was so sick of going home and dealing with the fact that my dog was dead, and waking up from nightmares where the injections didn’t work and he didn’t end up dead in my arms on that Wednesday night. So we sat at the bar and listened to old Taking Back Sunday and Rebelution and talked about everything from life philosophies to fingernails. I don’t think anyone knew how badly I was hurting at that time in my life, and perhaps more on that later. But I sat at that bar and healed a little, because I really needed to. (Actually, I sat at the counter on a stool in front of the iPad, but, you know. Details.) 
I was one half of a beer into the evening on 5 September and knew I was coming back, if for no other reason than to dedicate myself to the things I believe in – the first being Dark Sky and everything it encompasses, not just for my own reasons, but because it has a meaningful place in the world of beer, food and business – especially in that town. 

I drank through the night with Andrew and Nick and talked a bit of business but mostly soaked in absolutely everything I had missed. I’ve been flirting with the idea of moving back to Flagstaff for a long time. We all know that. But I had been a bit worried I was just missing people and not the town, and Andrew knew this because between Whiskey Chai I told him “You can’t make homes out of humans, though, right? Because – who taught us that?” And I don’t know if either of us truly cited the source in conversation but it is Warsan Shire – a beautiful piece of writing that you all should read. It’s a moving quote, “You can’t make homes out of human beings/someone should have already told you that” for when you are sad after he breaks up with you. But I think it’s kind of bullshit. You can make homes out of whichever you want – mountains, people, breweries, train tracks, trails, snow days and monsoons.  

My birthday was perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing about the day, except for perhaps my raging headache and I should’ve had dessert at dinner. Every person I spent time with means a significant amount to me, and I ended it at Dark Sky (shocking). I sat down to cheers away 27 and welcome 28 and noticed my new friend Billy was there as well, sitting with these wonderful people I get to call my friends. Sometimes the world is small and Flagstaff is even smaller, and I’m quite alright with that. The restaurant Shift opened right after I left Flagstaff, and after meeting Joe and Dara (and eating food they had prepared) I was stoked for them to open. I was super happy to see Joe on the night of my birthday, and having read and heard him talk about the concept(s) of Shift I was shocked but not shocked but jaw-dropping, coincidentally shocked to learn that he used to work where I currently work – The Kitchen. And just so we’re all on the same page: I absolutely love working at The Kitchen (Denver). I’m all about everything from their concepts to community actions to execution of service and knowledge, but more on that in my love letter to Denver. 

I laid in bed for awhile the morning after my birthday because I didn’t want to leave. I was sandwiched between two Great Danes and in the town my heart pulls for. But I got up, packed my things, and went for a run. As I was leaving town I threw my hair in a side braid and tried to lift my eyelids that were already weighted. One of my (irrational?) fears I had voiced about moving back was that I wouldn’t fit in with the people I’d be going back to, and that was quickly met with “Make new friends.” And here I was, after not even 48 hours of a visit, leaving with two (of many) very different things: a new friend and missing one more person than I drove into town missing.

I was driving out 89A and was listening to the song “Arizona” by Frances Cone and it brought me to tears as I had the backside of the Peaks to my left and the sun to my right. There’s a line “I’m so sorry, I couldn’t speak,” and that’s how I feel when I reflect on leaving Flagstaff to move to Denver. I was in rough shape, and I know that next to no one really knew that. The only person I could ever speak one hundred percent of everything to was Giselle. She listened to me cry and be lost and wonder why my life had unfolded the way it had and what I did to make it to that. My life fucking sucked, and I’m sure some reader is thinking “You privileged, middle-class white girl, your life did not suck. There are tragedies happening every day.” and I hate when people make that argument. I think it is equivalent to saying “You can’t be that happy, because someone else is happier.” It is bullshit. You can feel however the fuck you want to feel all of the time, at any time. And I felt beat the fuck up on April 8th as I drove away from Flagstaff and I couldn’t wait to get to Denver, because I knew the front range was scattered with people I love and would make me laugh. I knew I would feel good here. And I do. I love my life here, it is a fantastic one, and it will have it’s own blog post in a bit.

Giselle and I had over an hour phone conversation on my way back to Denver as I drove through Colorado. Every time we have conversations they are of my favorite, and people like that are truly hard to find. We covered several areas of topic, but she said, “You sound so rejuvenated!” And she’s right. (…Again) 

I think that people will say (have said) that all signs are pointing me to Flagstaff, and that it’s “obviously meant to be” with having everything fall into place as soon as I felt like I wanted to go back, but I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think things are predetermined at all, and I don’t believe in much of anything – not even karma. I think people make their own choices, and use phrases like “ it was/wasn’t mean to be” just to make them feel better about making the choice they made. I want to move back to Flagstaff so I’m making it work. (Except Annie telling me I can rent a room in her house and to “come home”, I’m simply chalking that one up to coincidence ) 

I propped my left elbow on my window and leaned my palm against my face to let my head rest a bit as the sun set in Colorado and I was 150 miles from Denver. Ocean Eyes (Astronomyy edit) by Billie Eilish was playing and I was overcome with sadness. Sadness to be leaving the life that I can’t wait to get back to, but a stillness with knowing I’m going to continue it soon.


At the end of October I’m going to on a climbing trip to Joshua Tree with Giselle for her birthday. En route to California I’ll stop in Flagstaff and drop my stuff off in my new bedroom, and on (or around) 1 November, I’ll be back in the 928.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

On Monday, 15 August 2016

I stared at myself in the mirror at 17:30 on a Monday evening. My hair is the longest that it’s been in my entire life. I leaned onto my forearms and brought my nose an inch from the mirror to inspect the face that I should know so well and had a thought. When you repeat a word over and over and over and over it starts to sound foreign and will lose its connotation or even meaning. Eventually you’ll dissect the word by sound and by letter and realize there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet and no more. You cannot make another letter, and you cannot make another sound in the English language and actually you cannot even imagine it. It is like trying to imagine a color you haven’t seen before. I stared at myself over and over and over until I didn’t know what I was looking at. Past the long hair, past the blue eyes that seem as if they’ve paled, past the thin upper lip that I share with my sister, the uneven eyelids and the forever sunned skin. I meticulously scanned my face and noticed creases by the corners of the eyes of my mouth. Am I nearly 28 and getting wrinkles? Is this why I should apply sunscreen? I twisted my face until the wrinkles were more prominent and immediately stopped when I realized they correspond with my smile. This is pleasing and it makes sense. I used to really hate my laugh. It is loud, probably obnoxious and very much ‘ha’ heavy. But between The Office marathons, the get-rich-quick ideas, the cheap booze and the expensive Ubers I had forgotten to hate that. I wondered what else I had forgotten, as I was starting to remember. I dissected every single part of my face until I didn’t know it anymore, and I didn’t know what was behind it, either. I stared at my eyebrows and raised them so there were wrinkles on my forehead. I tried to picture my brain behind it and I told it that I hated it and that I wanted to break up. I lowered my stare back down to my eyebrows and then my eyelashes and then my pupils and I stared at a stranger. I let my eyes relax and go out of focus for an undetermined amount of time, as they had grown tired from paying so much attention to the detail. I brought them in and out of focus and felt like I was exercising my vision. I leaned in a bit closer and found the clear contact rings around my irides and I hate you, I thought. If I keep up this exercise will it make you stronger? Can I, one day, wake up and be able to see correctly? I raised my eyes back to my brain and wondered Can I, one day, wake up and have some sort of clarity? My phone vibrated and I glanced down at a text. My spine was hurting and I straightened myself, brought a cup of wine to my lips and asked myself how I could be near 28 years old and still wondering “Are we done here, yet?”

I started pacing around in the one-bedroom apartment I was cat-sitting in Boulder. I let my feet slide far apart on the laminate flooring as I didn’t pay attention to the Olympics I had streaming on the TV. I watched my feet as I tapped the edge of my phone on that space between your upper lip and nose while I slid in and out of waves of deep contemplation. I thought about what it would be like for someone to know that about me – the ‘kelsey’isms. The tiny, intricate things that each individual has or does that they generally notice but sometimes have no idea of. For most people it becomes the things that you love about another person, and for me it has always become things I hate about them. My mother calls this intolerant and I don’t let that bother me.

There were a lot of things that Andrew said that I was thinking about, but particularly his comment “It seems like you’re caring about what other people think,” kept ringing between my temples. Was I? My phone vibrated and it was Giselle saying “It sounds to me like your heart is calling you back to that tiny mountain town,” and before I had time to respond, she following it up with “I know there was a reason you moved, but just for the record: you’re allowed to change your mind.” I went back to pacing and tapping my phone and damned Giselle for always saying the right things.

As I started my second cup of wine I was in the middle of a gif-off that was becoming evident I would lose. I let the acid burn in the small cracks of my chapped lips as I let the time click by with laughter and searches, until I realized time had clicked by quite quickly and I was late for a conversation that I didn’t want to put energy into.

Forty-five minutes later I was sitting in a dark speakeasy sipping (downing) the Grapeful Dead cocktail(s) and having to tell someone why I wasn’t interested in them –a conversation I’d never choose to have in public, but Williams & Graham is a fun place to be. I tried to be truthful and delicate with what I was saying, but he said the words “I guess I can stop trying to impress you now,” and I almost rammed my head into the table four times. My phone buzzed and I looked down and it was someone that was teetering on importance in my life and it was in that moment that I blurted out that I was going to Flagstaff for my birthday. I had a plan to visit Flagstaff at the end of September to race, but I felt the rush to go sooner and when I said it out loud it became real, and in that real moment my heart fluttered and I smiled and the skin on my forearms tingled. The person across from me told me that often it’s not the places you miss but the person you were when you were there. I twirled the garnished grape in my drink and thought it was annoying how someone can know so many facts about you but have no idea who (more accurately, how) you are. It was a true statement, yes, you can’t be who you were, but I would never chase that. I don’t miss who I was because I like who I am, and I don’t hate who I was in the least but I sure as hell am not trying to go back to that person.  I traced the outside of the cocktail glass with my eyes slowly and thought rapidly about knowing the happenings instead of the facts.

I returned back to my two-week retreat in Boulder and rehashed my night to Sarah via text and after an explosion of laughter she replied with “I think you find it easier to be yourself even in stranger’s company than a lot of people.” I gave myself a huge stretch and a loud groan and reached over to give Peyton a pat. “It’s going to be a long drive,” I told that fat cat, and promptly fell asleep on the couch.


And it was a long drive.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

a 100% success rate for part one

When I reached the second waterfall crossing on my way back down I dropped to my knees and let the frigid water rush over my bloody hands. I looked out across the vast mountains and felt the dried salt on my eyelids with every blink and every move my eyeballs made. I looked down and tasted salt as the ends of my hair fell into my mouth, soaked from slapping between my sweaty shoulder blades for the last hard hour. I felt my ribs rise and fall together as my lungs burned from trying to bring in the thin air. I cupped water and brought it to my face and gasped a quick “Fuck!” at the temperature. I put my cold hands on the back of my neck and closed my eyes as I swore I could feel my body temperature coming down. I moved my feet into the water with me and felt the familiar sting across my toes and arches. My feet were bloody, too, which is nothing new. The best part about bombing down the side of a mountain is crossing your fingers and hoping that your feet will land exactly where your eyes are looking, but I don’t exactly have a 100% success rate with that. I looked out at the Indian Peaks and thought about how grateful I was for this water right now in this exact moment. You don’t get that in Flagstaff You also don’t get this hot in Flagstaff. I wondered how, in a place like this, sitting on the edge of treeline in a waterfall staring out at mountains that stretch for the rest of the state, my heart can still be pulled back toward that small town nestled at the base of the San Francisco Peaks. I rested my left cheekbone on my left kneecap and wondered what was wrong with me. How does anyone ever make any kind of decision? With a sigh that I’m sure sounded exaggerated I watched the water take away the stones that were embedded in my palms. I rolled my eyes upward and started to watch the dark clouds roll in, accompanied by the low roll of thunder. I didn’t exactly have time to waste.

Two hours later I was standing in Boulder’s Safeway staring an ex-coworker in the eye as I was trying to fulfill the dare “If you chug that entire thing right now I’ll buy it for you.” After roughly 12 ounces I could no longer hold back a small cough and had to come up for air. "I tried," I gasped. [And isn't that a fucking beautiful metaphor for the entirety that is my life right now] I’m absolutely wild for Naked’s Mighty Mango juice but I have yet to successfully drink all 64 fluid ounces of it without break. I have exactly a 0% success rate with that.

I drove to the Flatirons Vista or Vista Flatirons to do an easy four mile shakeout jog because I could feel my muscles having a little less than a billion rips in them. At least that’s what I'd rather you think, but my hands are still bloody so I’ll go ahead and pour the truth. I went there because I’ve been having anxiety about wanting and needing and flirting with the idea of moving back to Flagstaff and the last thing I wanted to do was go home and think about it and watch another episode of Girls for the third time and ask people their opinions only to have them reply with "Do what feels right." I enjoy this area because it has a view without having to work for it. I got a mile in and stopped and stared out at Eldo. I put my hands on my sweaty hips and winced at the sting of my wounded palms and with a deep breath exhaled a soft and understanding “Yeah” to myself and my thoughts and the empty space in front of me.

Last Christmas my sister bought me a leather-bound blank notebook because she knew I wanted it and I had the goal of writing in it every day. I wasn’t going for a “Dear Diary,” work but I felt like my life was going to change a lot in 2016 and I wanted to keep track of how I felt about all of it. I didn’t write every day and I still don’t because it’s too hard. I recently reread it (which was against my own rule) looking for a definitive answer as to why I moved here and why I should stay and also why I can't go back. 
And there is nothing written because I do not have a 100% success rate with that.

But I looked out at Eldo from that vista and recalled my first multipitch, before I lived here. I was lucky enough to do Bastille as my first and have the route be (for the most part) quite empty. I didn’t understand that rarity until I started to spend time in Eldo regularly. Eldorado Canyon is where I placed my first piece of pro with confidence and thought, finally, I could lead trad. And these surrounding mountains is where I learned to love mountain running again. I have been here for four months and nine days, and I'm going to visit Flagstaff in less than a month. 

So in that moment of my “Yeah” I found my appreciation for where I am. But that still doesn’t change the feeling of a relentless restlessness. I’d move back to Flagstaff in a heartbeat for one of two reasons, and in a dream world, two of two reasons.


But I don’t exactly have a 100% success rate for anything in my life. Sometimes you have to take 50, and sometimes you have to take 0.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

For SE and CM.

This post has a soundtrack. It's the song 'Landslide' by Oh Wonder.
No, it's not the 'landslide' song that everyone knows and painfully covers.

Having your heart ripped to shreds is one thing that you forget how horrible it is until you see someone close to you go through it. Right now I have two people going through it, so I tapped into my painful, bleeding memories of 2012 and I wrote these sappy words for them. I’ll try my best to sum it up for those of you that have forgotten it or never experienced it (you lucky bastards).

There’s a moment of pure disbelief when someone is standing in front of you, saying they don’t want to be with you. It’s almost as if you’re staring at a white, blank wall. Unfortunately this slips into denial, because you’ve spent years together and have planned out your lives and you’ve gotten through fights before, and surely they’re going to come around and say this is a mistake and they’re so sorry and they panicked and it’ll never happen again, and in the end, this will make the two of you stronger. But your texts go unanswered and in that silence there is a sense of finality*. You’ll walk in to a half-empty living room and only one toothbrush in the bathroom, and grief eventually floods in.
*This is a quote from my older, wiser sister in 2012 that I’m passing on to you.

And oh, my, how that is the worst. You won’t sleep because in your dreams you’re back together and you wake up and the pain is worse than when you first closed your eyes. You don’t eat, and it’s not because food doesn’t look delicious, it’s because you’re consistently half-nauseated and you look like you’re strung-out from a three day bender but really your eyes are red and half-open because you can’t sleep and you can’t stop crying.

I’m really sorry that you have to go through that stage, but sometime after that things begin to get better. You’ll realize you can’t bury yourself in your pillow and you get dragged to the bar by a friend or two or seven, and surrounding yourself with friends feels good. It’s a taboo subject for a short bit, but after a few drinks your laughter is genuine and smile wide, and everyone will start to bash him because you’re way better off and who needs a significant other, anyway? But, my dear, between the 6th and 7th double vodka soda your fake glass pedestal of self-assurance will start to crack and eventually shatter, and then you’re left with one friend at the after-party around 3a.m. crying on the balcony because you can’t be happy, it’s too hard and you’re not good at it and you’re going to be emotionally fucked forever. Have a panic attack about how you won’t ever be able to get to know another person the way you knew your ex-lover. It takes too much energy, it takes too long, it seems far too hard. What is the point of getting to know anyone, anyway?
In that moment of desperation you can call me and I’ll answer and I’ll quote my own mother and tell you that “You have to fake it until you make it. And that’s a cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason – they’re true.” My heart will be aching with yours, and I’ll quote my mother again, and tell you that “This is making you a better person” because I swear to God, it really is, and if I got through 2012, you can get through this, too.

Then you rebound. It sounds shitty, but it helps. Drink more, dance more, accidentally have sex with someone that you’re not really interested in. Maybe cry about it. Realize that you should be laughing about it. Laugh about it. Laugh the most ingenuine laugh you can possibly spurt out, but laugh about it.

And as you go through the motions of building your life all by yourself, you heal. You have a good day. And then you have a great day. And then you have a bad day. And then you have a few okay days in a row. And then you should absolutely cheers yourself to that with a drink at 11 in the morning.

Sometimes there’s this back-and-forth dance with your memories because for some reason villainizing someone that you loved so deeply is hard, even when they’ve wrecked you. You should know that it is normal to miss them, and to feel like you still love them and want them to love you back. You’ll be prepared to see pictures of you two together but when you stumble across a forgotten memento it is absolutely okay to cry for what feels like a little too long. But eventually all you’ll have are faded memories and Facebook TimeHop reminders (lucky you!), and they’ll either be looked upon with a simple smile or a stone-cold face and heart. I chose the latter, but you’re a better person than me, so I’m sure it’ll be the former.


Someday, months or (and) years later, you’ll realize that you now know how to deal with heartbreak. You'll see why the relationship wasn’t right in the first place, and you’ll have a more definitive idea of what you want in a partner. And I think you should spend some time being selfish. Only do things that you want to do, and that make you happy. If someone is boring, don’t bother. If you’re annoyed, walk away. Spend some time not wasting your time and focusing on a sort of relentless forward motion. I promise that this will be an important time in your life, and that you’ll love and known yourself much more. And someday you’ll be standing with your hand on your hip while sipping a cocktail and realize that you can’t remember the last time you felt hurt, because life had happened and you weren't looking.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A sunburn's what I needed


For the first time in a long time I’m on a plane right now headed back to the West and I won’t have a two-hour-10-minute drive up to Flagstaff. I’ll have a 30 minute drive to the basement that I sleep in.
I can’t bring myself to call anywhere but Michigan ‘home’, and that’s rightfully so. This was a last-minute trip, and I went back to try to find a piece of myself that I thought I had maybe lost. I’m not sure if I found it, or if it was lost in the first place, or what that piece really was or is but I left feeling smarter, more loved, and that I love more. This is, undoubtedly, due to the people I was able to see – the people that I will always make the effort to see.

On this trip I met Ian. Ian Matthew Wittenberg is a perfect six-and-a-half-month old human that has spawned from two of the most incredible people I’ve met in my life. Katie Wittenberg was my first running partner. She taught me how to cure a side-stitch, she gave me my first gel to eat, her rambling stories are what have gotten me through several painful long runs, and a way of talking that I have fully adopted over the years. She was the first person to believe in any athletic ability I had in the sport, ran my first race with me, and has continually helped remind me that the root of the footsteps must come from the love for the sport – otherwise it is empty. She has heard my relationship problems and baked me an oversized lemonade cake when I graduated and I remember when she made her final car payment.
Matt Wittenberg is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and we’ve exchanged several glances in social situations which we perceive awkward (read: all social situations). As I grew as a runner I watched Matt push through injuries and mental battles that, to this day, still help me through my own. I still don’t know anyone with as many pairs of running shoes as him or lists on their iPhone Notes. Branching off of that, he’s the only other person I know who writes their grocery lists on their phone and gets satisfaction from erasing the items. Matt taught me there is only one way to car dance to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and that is with your whole heart. I feel like I was at Matt and Katie’s wedding because I know the day through Katie’s words. I will also never forget their anniversary, because it is 6 September.
Ian was born the day after I left Michigan this past Christmas. And as I listened to all of the details of him being born I got goosebumps and my eyes filled with tears of love, because these two beautiful humans now have Ian. And Ian has no idea how rad his parents are.

And there’s Nick Chard. Until this trip home I haven’t been able to catch up with him while he’s not working. Nick taught me to laugh at customers that pissed me off as a server. This has transferred effortlessly into a significant way I live my life. He taught me (and Emily) to tornado kick, to be patient while building a gingerbread house, to tactfully leave behind friends that aren’t really friends, and that making people laugh is truly the best gift one human can give another. I have countless, vivid memories of Nick over my four years at Bravo and they all involve the most genuine kind of laughter. He’s now a husband and a father of three, and as I become a more critical beer drinker after working in breweries, he continues to impress me as a brewer. 

And there is Amanda, who has beautiful blonde hair and an even more beautiful soul, complete with the most infectious laugh. Amanda planted the love for stouts and porters in me years ago, and for that I am forever grateful. She is one of the most driven people I’ve ever met, and I am inspired truly inspired with my own career after hearing her speak about hers. After every conversation I have with Amanda, I’m left missing her more but with a certain kind of excitement about life. Amanda is one of those (very few) people that makes my life significantly better.

And I remember the day I met Gayle Gracia. It was a Monday and the previous day was the day that Joe had left me for the last time. I met her and immediately purged all of my events of the day before to her (indirectly – I was talking to Val, who was with Gayle at the time, standing at the host stand at Bravo). I remember Gayle nodding and shaking her head along with my story, and as I walked away Val said “You’re better off, baby.” And without turning my head I shouted “Yeah, fuck him,” into an empty dining room. This was the beginning of Gayle being my relationship counselor for the next five(+) years. Rightfully so, because this fall Gayle is starting her PhD in Counseling at OSU. I stand by my offering of her to use my atrocious lack of patience and effort in relationships in her classes or with fellow patients. Gayle also has the coolest fucking glasses ever, and no one besides her could ever pull them off. Her husband, Nate, is the perfect compliment. He also once cooked me a breakfast to die for.

No matter which version of me you or I have known in the past 27 years, all know that my mom lives on a lake, and I think it’s the best place in the world. It is my home, and it is always where I’m most comfortable. I sat on the deck looking through the trees and as the forever familiar breeze brushed my sunburned legs I thought about all of the people I’ve been on that deck. I’ve been a child, an angsty teenager, a smoker, a drug experimenter, a Graduate student, a runner, an ultrarunner, a climber, drunk, sober, high, a writer, a server, a bartender, broken-hearted, commited and a heartbreaker. And they all matter. I cannot tell if one is more important than the other, but some are forgotten, whether that’s due to time brushing away the edges or choosing to leave parts of life behind I can’t ever really be sure.  

I woke up in Colorado finding myself confused as to why I was waking up in Colorado. A part of me can’t even remember how I got there or why, or what the hell I’m doing. So I freaked out. And I came home. And I spent time with people that I find inspiring and that I miss so much. And I went tubing with my brother and may have damaged my vocal chords because at age 27 skipping across water towards manmade waves is absolutely terrifying. And as I screamed to my brother “Mom is trying to kill me! Mom is seriously trying to kill me!” He shouted back through laughter “You climb the fucking Rocky Mountains! What are you scared of?!”

And Giselle said it best right before I went back to Michigan.
“We don’t travel and move places to ‘find ourselves’. We do it to create ourselves and become the people we always wanted to be. At least that’s how I see it. So who do you want to be, Kels?”
(-Giselle Fernandez)

Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of Frontier Airlines we’d like to welcome you to Denver, Colorado. The local time is 5:27p.m. and 80 degrees. Whether this is your final destination or just your connection, we hope you enjoy your time here.


I’m trying to enjoy my time here. And I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m struggling.